Re: How LEGAL are DRE's in a hand recount?

From: Joseph Lorenzo Hall <joehall_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sun Dec 05 2004 - 13:41:11 CST

On Sun, 05 Dec 2004 10:56:52 -0800, Jim March <> wrote:
> What Snohomish county is describing is a "paper regurgitation" of the
> central vote tabulator records. That's not "recounting" anything,
> that's a giant excercise in computer aided electoral masturbation.
> California law says you have to do a manual recount of 1% of the ballot
> in ALL cases and broader hand recounts under specific conditions. What
> Snohomish is doing is rank idiocy and plausibly does NOT meet the
> standard in question.

It is ridiculous... but you have to admit, it's all ambiguous.

That is, "recounts" made sense when the process of counting actually
involved recontextualizing a codified record of voter intent... which
could cause numbers to change. That was the spirit in which most
recount laws are written. However, with modern DREs, of course,
"voter intent" has become a mysterious thing as the records DREs store
are not verified by the voter as to matching their intent. So while
they may actually be recounting something (they are adding numbers),
it's not clear that this process will do a better job at counting the
electronic records that the election management system did... and it's
not as if we can summon that voter intent back.

As Doug has pointed out in many fora, all that can be reasonably done
with DREs is to verify chain of custody information and totals at
various levels of the canvass. This will only catch fraud or error
made after the casting of the vote.

In a recent filing to the NRC/NAS Committee on Electronic Voting[1],
one point we tried to stress is that, on election day, the intent of
voters is intertwined with the election technology that they use.
With paper-based systems (although it's not the paper that's
necessary), often problems are recoverable... with DREs and lever
machines they're usually not. We're arguing for auditability
standards... that is a mandate from congress or the EAC that all
election technology keeps something along the lines of a: indellible,
independent voter-verified record of voter intent.

[1] All papers are here:

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
UC Berkeley, SIMS PhD Student
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Received on Fri Dec 31 23:17:03 2004

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