In Memory of Andy Stephenson
A good man, a tireless activist, and for too short a time, a friend.
I have seen email after email warning Obama supporters that if they wore their "Obama Gear" to the polls, that they would be blocked from voting. Or they would be told they could stay and vote if they "turned their shirts inside out" or other rubbish.
None of those rumors are true, but please don't take my word for it. If you wear your Obama t-shirt, McCain t-shirt, Bob Barr t-shirt, or Cynthia McKinnie t-shirt, will you get turned away from the polls? To clear matters up, I emailed Don Wright, the General Counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections today. He replied in a matter of minutes:
From: Don WrightTo: Joyce McCloySubject: RE: electioneering questionDate: Sep 24, 2008 3:16 PMThis rumor has been circulating for several days.
We allow voters to wear items inside the polling place in North Carolina. But other
states may differ (I understand Tenn. does not allow it)
A NC voter may enter a voting place to vote wearing political items as long as they...
No eligible voter will be denied a ballot if they have anything to say about it: North Carolina's State Board of Elections issued a recommendation to all 100 counties: have a 4 hour supply of emergency paper ballots available at all any touch screen polling places. All optical scan counties should have one ballot per registered voter. All states should follow this example.
Don Wright, the General Counsel for the NC State Board of Elections provides this disclaimer as well as this August 14 memo sent to all counties:
Please sign this petition opposing IRV!
Chris Telesca, a Wake County voting activist who led that county's push for 100% optical scan, has set up a petition to deliver to our state legislature. Chris writes:
North Carolina's General Assembly approved a pilot program that allowed communities to test the use of the so-called Instant Runoff Voting, a form of ranked-choice voting.
The pilot program was supposed to be managed by the NC State Board of Elections, but our legislature didn’t appropriate any extra funding. In that funding vacuum, non-profit advocacy groups “assumed” a great deal of responsibility for the IRV pilot program. Two non-profits even paid for an SBOE staffer to travel to
Scotland to observe their IRV elections. No one kept track of the value of all that in-kind “volunteer” support.
The political parties were not allowed to participate in the planning of the IRV pilot. Before the elections, Democratic leaders asked for but were not provided with information before the election about how the program would be conducted and evaluated.
Many communities were asked to participate. 4 voted NO, but only
Cary and Hendersonville participated in the IRV pilot in 2007. One single contest in Cary involving a little more than 3000 votes went to the instant runoff. Supporters claim the pilot was a success, but no counties volunteered to participate in the 2008 pilot. NC passed some of the nation’s toughest election laws in 2005 after paperless DRE touchscreen voting machines lost thousands of Carteret County votes in the 2004 General Election. Our highly praised election laws implemented tough standards are key to protecting North Carolina voters from harm caused by uncertified software, counting errors, and unscrupulous vendors.
But now those standards are under attack from IRV because it is being misrepresented as election reform. IRV advocates want IRV to be an option for the future, and are asking the General Assembly to extend and expand the IRV pilot.
IRV advocates make many claims about IRV that are simply not true once you look beyond the hype and the sophistry. IRV does not ensure majority winners without expensive elections. The winner of our single "instant runoff" contest took office with 1401 votes – less than 50% plus one vote (1512) of the 3022 votes cast. Our state’s current election equipment won’t tabulate IRV ballots, so those votes had to be counted by hand...
IRV only saves money if you consider nothing more than a single IRV election being cheaper than two elections (original plus runoff). But runoff elections are needed rarely. IRV would require new & more expensive programming, additional voter education and training for poll workers and election administrators, and increased ballot printing expenditures. Candidates would need to spend time and money educating voters. We might need to purchase new voting machines.
IRV supporters claim that we could have avoided the June 24 statewide runoff by using IRV in the May primary. But our own State Board of Elections considered IRV too risky to use in the May primary do to heavy turnout in the Democratic primary and the use of the new Same Day Registration at Early Voting sites.
IRV supporters claim that many people support IRV, but how many of them know both sides of the issue? Here in NC, 4 communities - Asheville, Atlantic Beach, Raleigh and Rocky Mount - voted not to participate in the IRV pilot once they knew about the risks. Only Cary and Hendersonville voted to participate in the pilot voted to do so without knowing the risks – or asking their constituents for their opinions.
The delegates to 4 US Congressional District Conventions in the North Carolina Democratic Party passed Resolutions Opposing IRV – and two of those districts include
Wake County – one of the counties where IRV was used in 2007. Only two Districts passed a resolution Supporting IRV, but they both originated in counties that did not use IRV in any elections.
What do those 4 districts know that the other two don't know about?
Please go check out my Petition to Restore Election Integrity in NC by opposing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and sign if you are so moved.
The risk to our tough voting system standards is real. It is already happening in other parts of the country. Pierce County Washington recently adopted IRV and had to seek a waver from their states standards for voting machines. Ellen Theisen writes about it happening in Pierce County Washington at Bradblog on 5/27/08:
Patty Murphy, Voting Systems Support with the Washington Secretary of State's Office described the manual counting of IRV as a daunting process:
Regarding the complex algorithm used to tally RCV ballots, Murphy pointed out that software, of some type, would be needed to tally such ballots correctly. She explained how they tried hand-counting just 14 RCV ballots with seven ranked contests and found that it was "horrendous." Using software to tally this sort of balloting was absolutely essential. She found that it simply couldn't be done any other way. In other words, if this system weren't approved, it would be impossible to comply with the mandate from Pierce County voters. Quite a problem to present to the Board.
They also found that the optical scanners couldn't count accurately, but they think the DREs/touch screens can.
First, Patty Murphy presented information about the system and the county's testing and findings. (Here's where the "transparent" part of this article's headline comes into play.) Patty thoroughly described the problem that had occurred, the discrepancy in the results, and the possible workarounds proposed by Sequoia — which involved "patching" the software in both the scanner that falsely reported a blank ballot box and in the WinEDS software that counted ballots from the "stuffed" ballot box.
Then she added a new thought we hadn't heard before: the possibility of using the Sequoia Edge touch-screen machine, the central count optical scanner, and the WinEDS tabulating software without using the flawed, precinct-based Insight scanner. I thought that sounded like a possible solution.
Ellen Theisen explains why Washington State gave Pierce County a pass on meeting state voting system requirements:
However, no state-certified system had the software needed to tabulate RCV ballots. So Sequoia developed their software specifically for Pierce County. They had applied for "emergency" provisional certification from the state, which would allow them to bypass state requirements for independent testing to the federal standards.
But Sequoia's voting system couldn't count votes:
John and I both wrote up testimony, which we immediately sent to Patty Murphy. As you can imagine, we objected to having a system certified when, in testing, it reported that there were "zero votes" to start, but actually had 56 votes already in its secret, unobservable "ballot box"!
North Carolina has enough trouble counting votes the plain old vanilla way.
In May 08 Wake County double counted 37,000 ballots.
Mecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws
News 14 Carolina, NC -
May 8, 2008
In Wake County, early and absentee ballots were counted as part of the individual voters precincts and again as a whole. -- Vote tallies are changing in the state’s two largest counties, after certain ballots were counted twice in Mecklenburg and Wake counties.
Brad Friedman of www.bradblog.
"Until America is able to assure that every vote is counted and counted accurately, in the plain old vanilla winner-take-
all system, and develop protocols and a citizenry to own it, and make sure that it's 100% transparent such that we can all have confidence in the results, we do not deserve any of the perceived benefits that may come from alternate forms of voting and tabulating such as IRV, etc.
If all of those, such as yourself, spent as much time on ridding the country of unusable voting systems such as DREs and inaccurate, uncounted, unaudited paper-ballot systems such as op-scan, as we do on other perceived improvements to the voting system, we might be at a place where we could consider such things.
As I see it, we are nowhere near that place."
Please go check out the Petition to Restore Election Integrity in NC by opposing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and sign if you are so moved.
Congress has a chance to make sure that votes cast on Election Day in all 50 states will not be lost or stolen. The House is now considering a bill that would make electronic voting both more reliable and less prone to fraud. A key requirement - that every vote be backed up by a durable voter-verified paper ballot. But one NC Election Director - George Gilbert - paid servant of Guilford County taxpayers - has launched a war against this legislation. Meanwhile, the public is getting inaccurate information.
HR 811, "The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007", will not cost North Carolina taxpayers or Guilford County Taxpayers anything. In fact, it could save Guilford County taxpayers money.
Not quite. North Carolina State law did not mandate electronic voting machines. Instead, it banned paperless voting systems, such as had been in use in 40 counties in North Carolina, including Guilford County and in Carteret County (where one machine "ate" 4,400 votes in 2004).
This was completely unneccessary. Thank George Gilbert for that. Guilford County had the option of not spending one cent. The county received a federal grant that would have paid for new optical scanner machines. But George Gilbert wanted the more expensive and impressive "toys" , i.e touch-screen machines - so taxpayer's had to pay the extra cost. Gilbert ignored locals including a social worker for the blind who opposed touch-screens and instead wanted optical scan systems with ballot marking devices for the disabled. See Guilford County Commissioners Vote ?Yes? on DREs and also see A Loss and a win in Guilford . Only 23 of 100 counties chose touch-screen machines, the rest listened to their citizens.
The iVotronics do not produce a reliable "paper trail", as George Gilbert himself has said. (See NC: Printers Fail on Touch-screens ). It is because of problems with touchscreens' printers, that Congress wants to require that all systems provide a "durable" ballot. Optical scan systems do not have this problem.
Gilbert is extremely "allergic" to voter verified paper ballots. He fought North Carolina's Public Confidence in Election Law as well, but lawmakers passed it with a unanimous vote.
No, it would require "Durable, scannable, accessible paper ballots".
No, Guilford (and the other 22 touch-screen counties) can use their current machines until 2012.
By that time, the machines would be old by touch-screen standards and need to be replaced anyway.
This way, federal funds will pay to replace the machines. Our 77 Optical scan counties would keep their current machines, which are known to have a much longer lifetime of 10-15 years.
HR 811 is not asking for all ballots to be counted by hand, it is asking that there be some manual checks by hand, to ensure that the computers are counting correctly. North Carolina already does this.
"Some people include "The Association for Computing Machinary", one of the largest organizations of computer scientists in the world supports paper ballots. They state on their website: "Voting systems should also enable each voter to inspect a physical (e.g., paper) record to verify that his or her vote has been accurately cast and to serve as an independent check on the result produced and stored by the system. Making those records permanent (i.e., not based solely in computer memory) provides a means by which an accurate recount may be conducted. "
These National and State Organizations also support HR 811 -
The Brennan Center for Justice
Electronic Frontier Foundation
National Election Data Archive
People for the American Way
Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (MN)
Coalition for Peace Action (NJ)
Concerned Voters of Centre County (PA)
Defenders of Democracy (GA)
Election Reform Network (PA)
Gathering To Save Our Democracy (TN)
Georgians For Verified Voting (GA)
Iowans for Voting Integrity (IA)
North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting (NC)
Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (FL)
SAVE Our Votes (MD)
Southern Coalition for Secured Voting (VA)
Voting Matters/Oregon (OR)
That's too bad. I have the feeling that they too were not told the facts about HR 811.
Here are the HR 811 Fundamental Provisions provided by Rush Holt's office:
Fundamental Provisions of H.R. 811
The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007
· A voter-verified paper ballot must be produced for every vote cast beginning with the November 2008 elections.
· Paper-based voting systems (including thermal reel-to-reel systems and systems accessible to voters with disabilities that also used or produced a paper ballot) used in 2006 can be used until 2012; only systems that used no paper ballots at all must be replaced or upgraded by November 2008. Durable, scannable, accessible paper ballots must be used by 2012.
· Upgrade requirements mean that, by 2012:
o where ballot marking devices are used, they must be able to deposit the ballots “automatically” into a “secure container” for mobility access, and
o where direct recording electronic machines (DREs) are used, a mechanism must be provided that allows disabled voters to privately and independently verify the contents of the paper ballot printed by the DRE printer.
· The paper ballot is the vote of record in all recounts and audits, as a check on electronic tallies.
· In 2008, all voters are entitled to vote by paper ballot if the voting machine in their jurisdiction is broken, and in 2010 and after, for any reason.
· Routine random audits must be conducted by hand count in 3% of the precincts in all Federal elections, and 5% or 10% in very close races (but races decided by 80% or more need not be audited).
· Wireless devices, Internet connections, uncertified software and undisclosed software are banned in voting and tabulating machines.
· $1 billion in funding is authorized for system replacement and upgrading in FY 2008, with additional upgrades authorized in FY 2009.
· $100 million each fiscal year is authorized to fund the audits.
· An arms-length relationship is established between test labs and voting machine vendors.
· The bill is silent on re-authorizing the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and does not address military and overseas balloting.
The forgotten Democrat: Rory Blake tries to ride blue wave into red territory
...Blake pokes his head around the corner and summons his campaign staff - Smith and Gaddy - into a back room. In front of him sits a pile of sample ballots lifted from several 6th District precincts. His race tops the ballot, but his name doesn't appear on the paper.
"You can either choose Howard Coble or Howard Coble," Blake says, his temperature rising.
He's heard secondhand that a Democratic observer at Edgefield Baptist Church encountered the same non-choice during the actual touch screen voting and he's livid. Guilford County Board of Elections Director George Gilbert assures Blake the mistake had been taken care of and does not appear on the screens, but Blake doesn't buy it. The candidate is on his cell phone, trying to bend the ear of sympathetic journalists and gin up some last-minute support for what he now thinks might have been a stolen election.
FL-13 - Group petitions for District 13 revote:In a petition drive launched Monday, MoveOn.org said Sarasota County's electronic voting machines "appear to have flat-out lost 18,000 votes for Congress" in what it called an "election meltdown" that can be corrected only by a new election.
"There's no way to recount the votes short of holding a new election in Sarasota," the petition states. "In the wake of Florida's electronic voting machine meltdown, Congress should call for a re-vote and repair our nation's elections."
FL-13 - State withdraws motion to dismiss lawsuit in contested race:
Democrat Christine Jennings' lawsuit claims ATM-style touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota County lost up to 18,000 votes in the congressional contest to replace U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris. State officials declared Republican Vern Buchanan the winner of the 13th District seat by a margin of just 369 votes.
Director of Elections,George Gilbert's long battle against Voter Verified Paper Ballots
Gilbert has fought Voter Verified Paper Ballot legislation at the federal and state level,
Gilbert tried to amend S 223 to allow "paperless verification" (a black box on top of a black box),
Gilbert's choice of voting systems are the most expensive, least suitable.
Gilbert changes story to media frequently about purchase cost of voting systems,
Gilbert cited incorrectly that optical scan voting costs more than touchscreen voting,
Gilbert follows the Election Center (organization that accepts donations from voting machine companies) talking points that paperless voting is safe.
Tuesday, November 8. 2005
Thwarting democracy in Guilford County
As I mentioned last week, I attended the meeting of the Guilford County commissioners in an attempt (my third) to get them to wake up and reel in George Gilbert, the county election director.....
Buncombe County voters will cast their ballots using optical scan machines when they go to the polls in November.This is a great victory for NC. The state is now 76% OpScan, which is a severe drubbing for the pro-BBV election officials.
County commissioners Tuesday approved a recommendation from the Board of Elections to purchase the new voting system.
The county also will return touch-screen machines used during the primary and runoff, and will instead use Automark machines for those with disabilities.
“I think what is best for the (election) workers and what is best for the voters is one system,” Trena Parker, elections director told members of the Elections Board on Tuesday.
The county is working to comply with a new state law that requires a paper trail that voters can verify when they cast their ballots.
Election Board members originally recommended the county purchase touch-screen machines, but county commissioners rejected that recommendation.
Commissioner Carol Peterson predicted the optical scan system would boost voter confidence and voter turnout.
“I hope you’re right about turnout,” Jones Byrd, chairman of the Elections Board told Peterson. “I really do.”
Update: I took this report down for a few days because of objections about my having taken this job in the first place by unnamed individuals in Raleigh. A dustup has ensued in that some people were angry that I stated my opinion of DREs. Now my opinion of DREs is the same as it has always been and is not going to change. Why this shocks some folks in the establishment I have no clue.
In view of these objections, I will not be taking ANY compensation from PrintElect, even though I had planned on donating the money to charity. I doubt it will be possible for me to work with them in November given the hue and cry.
That said, I am proud of my state and its election officials. They deployed a brand new system with VERY few problems, none of which were more than minor wrinkles. I also commend PrintElect for the hard work they did in making things run smoothly. Rather than follow the tried and true Diebold formula of denigrating your critics, lying and keeping your actions cloaked in secrecy, PrintElect let someone like me in to observe, creating greater, MUCH NEEDED transparency in our election process. I am disappointed that some election officials find this openness intolerable, but that's their problem, not mine.
While many states (Ohio comes to mind) were pulling their hair out with machine failures and the fruits of poor training, North Carolina came through with flying colors.
Problems with ES&S hardware were identified BEFORE the election and remedial actions taken. Why did that happen? Because our law, the law the voters helped pass, REQUIRED that the state be made aware of such problems as soon as they occur. In the past, vendors would have been allowed to hide such problems, which they often did.
In short, our law worked, and we are leading the nation in how it should be done.
Kudos to the voters, the voting activists and our election officials in Raleigh and locally (even the cranky ones). Congrats to PrintElect (but I still don't like DREs) for being open and remembering that "it's the transparency, stupid!" Special thanks to Linda Mundy and her very fine staff in Taylorsville. I appreciate them taking time to show me elections from their side of the table.
Disclosure: All funds I receive for my efforts will be donated to charity, and documentation posted to certify this. My intention was to get a close look at ES&S systems and procedures as a citizen activist and to provide competent technical assistance if it was needed, not to make money. I was reluctant to take this job on since I knew it would give ammunition in some quarters that "David is in the pay of a voting machine company" and I really don't need THAT headache.The training session was divided into two classes, one for OpScan and one for DRE. When I arrived, I didn't know this and walked into the first room with lots of ES&S people. I got through most of the I-Votronic class, before they realized I was set to work in an OpScan county.
However the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I am risking it anyway.
I would welcome suggestions on who to donate the money to. I am leaning toward a cancer Charity in memory of Andy.
The bad news first:
The Guilford County Commisioners voted 8-2 to sepnd $7.5 million of the taxpayer's money for the privlege of being guinea pigs for ES&S' untested TS system. While a few commissioners did bother to question the issue, several who shall remain nameless were so solicitous of the Gilbert and his gang, I thought they were going to offer to massage their prostates.
Despite providing hard evidence that Gilbert had cooked the numbers, the commissioners never bothered to ask about this. Most were just content to accept the BoE's "expert" opinion and agree with whatever they proposed. The only sticking point was the issue of voting centers.
As you know, we have been mentioning the stupidity of shutting down 40, or so, precincts in favor of large voting centers that voters would have to travel to in order to cast their vote on election day. We have made a point to include criticism of the plan in our communications with commissioners about DREs versus OpScan. Our scorn for voting centers seems to have found a receptive audience, even if our concerns about DREs didn't.
Commissioners Alston, Yow and Cashion made it clear that they were prepared to vote against the BoE on their plan to buy DREs if they didn't drop the voting centers idea. Several other commissioners made similar noises without saying it outright. Faster than you could say "Voting centers? What are voting centers?" the BoE jettisoned the plan. It was removed from the agenda by a vote of 10-0, a rare display of unanimity for these folks.
What next? I am mulling this over. I have a few avenues to pursue and see what I can turn up. The issue is far from over.
I am concerned and bewildered with the decision making process Chatham County is going thru in preparation to purchasing new voting machines. I am no stranger to how we vote having been a Chief Judge at a major polling site. Nor am I unfamiliar with the technologies involved having worked in computer systems product development for over 30 years.The op-eds and last minute rallying by activists seems to have helped some. Chatham County avoided wholesale folly, but still insisted on throwing good tax-payer money in the trash.
The bottom line is that DREs (touch screen/computer based machines) are a bad solution fraught with risks and problems while the latest optical mark machines, supported by a HAVA compliant machine for the disabled, is the current best choice. How do I know this?
Some of the technical reasons for not trusting the DRE results are evident in what has already happened in their use in elections. Note these problems have occurred without the responsible election officials having any idea they were happening at the time.
DREs have lost valid ballots
DREs added inappropriate ballots
DREs have provided the wrong ballots
DRE tabulating has failed to count properly
DREs have handed votes to the wrong candidate
DREs are prone to breaking down during the election
DRE printer results are not usable for a manual recount
A DRE is required for every 150 to 300 eligible voters, which results in a large number of DREs required for every polling site. This increases the time, effort, and complexity of pre-election testing, polling site setup, need for backup machines, security of machines, and associated materials.
DREs require additional poll workers. In some cases, it takes one poll worker for every three machines. Already, Chatham County has had difficulty in obtaining polling place workers. If DREs are used, it is obvious that this situation is made worse and/or the polling sites are under man'd to the disservice to the voters.
DREs require far more training for both the poll workers and the back-office election staff. Contrary to expectations of simplifying the election process, DREs significantly increase the front-end load on both groups. Further, this load is experienced during every election since the setup for each election is unique.
DREs life expectancy is not well understood and could result in the necessity to replace them within a few years. It is commonplace with personal computer system technology, that is the basis for the DRE, that such machines are obsolete roughly every two years.
It will be a sad day if we trust our democracy to these DREs. We can do much better with the opti-scan.
Our BOE decided last Friday to propose a system of pure DREs, based unbelievably) on the rationale of cheaper cost. We found tons of errors, omissions, and bias in their cost estimates. After a flood of hurried grassroots lobbying over the weekend, and a helpful letter from Al McSurely, the BOE backed down tonight and proposed a compromise which was approved by the BOC.It seems that pro-DRE election officials around the state are flat-out fabricating numbers to support their bogus claims that OpScan is more expensive than DRE. We must call them on every lie they tell.
It is the Durham Co solution: Both OptiScans and DREs. The DREs will be used for early voting at 3 or 4 "One-Stop" sites. The OptiScans will be used for precinct tabulation of paper ballots on Election Day only. A number of ADA-DREs will be purchased for use by the disabled in the precincts on Election Day.
Somehow the BOE came up with this complicated proposal that has us buying somewhere between 38 and 45 additional DRE machines, a separate software system, and accompanying long-term support for both, yet it is said to be $12k cheaper than a pure OptiScan system.
Using numerous justifications long on "truthiness", short on logic, the Guilford County Board of Elections nailed their colors to the mast of George Gilbert's ship, S.S. Titanic II.
Among the "truthy" assertions:
• Forcing poll workers to go back to OpScan equipment would be like telling fighter pilots that since we can't trust computers to fly jets, they must go back to flying Hellcats, a 1943 propeller-driven fighter plane.
This is retarded on so many levels.
First, the avionics package of fighter aircraft undergo debugging and quality testing several orders of magnitude greater than any such testing on voting machines. As computer scientist Justin Moore pointed out, 500 Boeing programmers spent $5 billion and five years on the avionics code used in its 777 aircraft. The annual sales for the entire voting machine industry is less than a fifth of that number, meaning that far, far less money has been spent on debugging TS voting machines.
Second, training people to use a simpler system is more complicated?
Is the concept of "pen and paper" now beyond the ken of poll workers?
• We have had some problems with OpScan ballots, and this results in situations like Florida 2000, where we had to determine "voter intent". When the scanner can't read a ballot due to a "technical glitch", election officials must "re-mark the ballot".
First, this is an "apples and oranges" comparison. Problems in Florida involved punch cards, not OpScan ballots. The problems are NOT the same.
Second, could someone explain to me why OpScan systems are subject to "technical glitches" but DRE's aren't?
Third, why is ANYONE re-marking a ballot? If the ballot is marked OK, but the scanner will not record it, it is set aside with other ballots with similar problems and those ballots are then hand-counted. The results of that count are then manually added to the vote tally. Why in God's name is ANYONE re-marking a ballot?
• DRE's are more reliable than OpScan and have fewer undervotes.
The basis for these claims were George Gilbert's numbers (the man who has never given the same cost estimate for DREs twice) and a 9/05 working paper from the Cal-Tech/MIT voting project. So far, I have been unable to locate this paper, but I will keep looking.
I can tell you that DREs having fewer undervotes than OpScan is not supported by the evidence I have seen. I also pointed out to the BoE that a "working paper" is not a "peer-reviewed" paper, and subject to correction.
In the end the BoE sided with DREs using words like "easy", "less expensive", "what we are used to" and tired claims about the greater accuracy of machines versus hand-counting which brings up the paradox that humans are too stupid to handle simple addition, but are absolute genuises when it comes to writing hundreds of thousands of lines of complex computer code.
The fight now moves to the Guilford County Commisioners who must approve the expenditure. It will be interesting to see how many of them will be willing add their fingerprints to this crime against the voters.
At today's meeting of the Guilford County Board of Elections, board member Jim Pfaff took me to task for referring to him on this site as "Mike Pfaff" while engaging in "personal attacks" against him.
I apologized for the error, as it is my responsibilty to get names right no matter what. I just sat down and reviewed the three postings Mr. Pfaff appeared in and determined that I did indeed refer to him as "Mike" once out of the nineteen times I mentioned his name. For the record, I do apologize to Mr. Pfaff for the error.
At the time Mr. Pfaff brought this error to my attention, I afforded him an opportunity to apologize to the hundreds of votings activists across the state who he maligned as "spammers" and "Luddites". While calling computer professionals and people who build sophisticated web sites "Luddites" is silly, calling people "spammers" is a "personal attack" and damned insulting.
Mr Pfaff flatly refused to apologize.
So be it.
Before this post, I commented about Mr. Pfaff in three posts, here, here, and here. You may read these posts and judge for yourself whether he has been subject to "personal attacks". In these posts I quote from a news story about his views on voting machines and point out why his views are wrong or lacking in authority. At no time do I call him any names. I did publish his email address, which is publicly available (and he is allegedly a public servant) and asked people to try and illuminate this man's viewpoints. I did so thus:
Folks wishing to express their polite opinions of this base slander should drop Mr. Pfaff a line at:
Mr. Pfaff complained to members of the press earlier about impolite emails which he received on the issue, and made the same assertion today, yet has declined press requests to show us these emails. This is important if we are to judge whether the emails are in any way abusive, or whether Mr. Pfaff simply classifies people who don't agree with him as abusive.
Mr. Pfaff's behavior in this matter both last week and today tempt me to use words such as "arrogant", "pompous", "assinine", "prig" or even "tin-plated, over-bearing dictator with delusions of godhood" to describe him, but such comments would reasonably be construed as a "personal attack", thus I must refrain.
Mr. Pfaff seems to be unable to differentiate between legitimate criticism from his constituents and personal attacks, which is odd given that he is a lawyer and a public official. This flaw in his perceptions indicates to me that he might be better suited for less stressful pursuits such as organizing a quilting bee, sheep herding or the professional Scrabble™ circuit.
Voting snafu fix creates its own problems
High Point Enterprise
It seems efforts in North Carolina to prevent a repeat of the 2004 voting machine snafu in Carteret County are turning into about as big a fiasco as that equipment malfunction was initially.The OpScan system may work fine, but the laws, federal and state, have rendered the old systems out of compliance. The vendors, as always, have provided no upgrade path for the older systems and are telling election officials that they must buy new equipment. This is part of the gravy train they have been riding for years.
With the filing period for the May primaries and the November general election just a few weeks away, commissioners and elections officials in counties all across the state are rushing to select new voting machines with only hopes that the equipment will be in place by May.
Disputes between State Board of Elections officials and voting machine makers over requirements, restrictions and the release of information about machines has resulted in only one company being interested in selling new voting equipment in the state.
And now, some counties – such as Randolph County – are being forced to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for new voting machines to replace voting equipment that has been reliable and verifiable and hasn’t yet worn out.
The kind of voting equipment Randolph County has been using for several years – optical scanners that tabulate specially designed and marked paper ballots – really ought to be the voting-method standard for the state.
Optical scanner systems offer the speed and convenience of electronics while providing the reliability of a paper ballot that a voter can hold in his or her hand, mark and insert into a scanner. Then, after results are tabulated, paper ballots remain for recounting by scanner or by hand in case there is some question about an election’s outcome.See above comment.
But, because of a State Board of Elections decision to decertify all existing voting equipment in the state, Randolph County commissioners reluctantly voted Monday to spend almost $600,000 to replace all of its voting equipment with new optical scanners. The only up side for Randolph County taxpayers in this deal is that the county’s existing machines are 10 years old and federal funding set aside for buying new voting equipment across the nation will cover the entire amount. But Randolph County folks are federal taxpayers, too, and if new equipment wasn’t needed, Randolph officials should not have been forced to buy it.
In Guilford County, elections officials are nearing a decision on what type of equipment to buy to replace outdated touchscreen machines. New touch-screen machines that produce a verifiable paper trail will cost about $5 million. An optical scanner system would cost around $2 million.We'll see, we'll see...
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: For the sake of Guilford County taxpayers and voters, the county elections board should pick optical scanner equipment.
Hello. ... Is anybody home?
Optical scanner systems offer the speed and convenience of electronics while providing the reliability of a paper ballot.
Last night's demo of ES&S voting hardware before the public and the Guilford BoE was well attended (about 100 people)m, with officials and the vendor peppered with questions by the voters.
Of the 14 people who signed up to comment of the issue, OpScan was favored 11-3.
Today's vote will be very illuminating.
A New Voting System for Guilford County
Date of Forum: January 12, 2006
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Place: County Commissioners Meeting Room
Old Courthouse building
301 W Market St
This will be ES&S showing off their TS and OpScan systems. George Gilbert has made it clear that he will disregard the voter's wishes and buy the more expensive TS systems rather than the cheaper, more reliable Optical Scan systems.
This will be your chance to express you opinion to the Guilford Co. Board of Elections who can overrule Gilbert's folly.
Mike Jim Pfaff, the board member who has viciously attacked voting machine activists as "spammers" and "Luddites" might be present, but is a lost cause being just as determined as Gilbert to embrace pricey and unreliable technology. The key to this vote are the other two board members James Turner and Thaddeus Warner.
We would like to use only OpScan in Guilford Co., but unfortunately, vendors (including ES&S) have crippled their OpScan systems so that they can only handle a limited number of ballots. This means that during early voting (which makes up about 30% of Guilford voters) it would be impossible to use OpScan since they cannot handle the over 400 ballots styles that are needed for early voting.
There are long-term solutions to this problem, but we are stuck with dealing with this NOW. The short-term solution is to use TS systems that produce a paper ballot in early voting, and OpScan on election day. I wish we could do it another way, but this is the only realistic scenario for Guilford County at this time.
This compromise limits the harm and expense of TS systems, while building a base for OpScan which will allow us to seek other solutions to the limitations of the OpScan system in the future, and phase out the TS systems.
Please take the time to come over and express your opinion on this matter and endorse this compromise solution.
While the big dog & pony show is Thursday, the actual vote will take place on Friday, January 13th, at 12:00 noon. If you can get away for this meeting, a show of support would certainly help. This meeting will be held at the BoE offices (same buidling as above), so it may, or may not, be open to the public. Regardless, we will be there, even if we have to stand in the corridors.