Re: Re: Emergency Measures To Protect The 2004 Vote Count (EM2004)

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Sat Sep 04 2004 - 14:11:09 CDT


> There are well developed procedures in counties that count paper ballots
> hand every election. In fact, counties that occasionally do manual
> by hand have procedures for doing them. While they may not do them often,
> they have established ways of doing them when they need to. I have spoken
> with several election directors of the paper ballot counties. One said the
> procedures were so simple and obvious her county didn't even have written
> versions. While the procedures for using electronic voting are very
> complicated and need a great deal of training, showing people how to read
> the vote on a ballot, or mark a tick mark on a tally sheet really goes
While this may be simple for a county to implement, the whole proposal is
complicated by its scale. There are thousands of counties. In order to be
effective, you need virtually 100 percent participation.

The act of congress you are proposing would be extraordinary to say the
least. You would need to get it introduced almost immediately (like next
week) and ramp up support very rapidly.

There are significant hurdles. The Constitution gives the authority to
conduct elections to the states. From article I:

     Section 4. The times, places and manner of holding
     elections for Senators and Representatives, shall
     be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof;
     but the Congress may at any time by law make or
     alter such regulations, except as to the places of
     choosing Senators.

While what you are proposing in not particularly difficult or expensive, it
is not entirely obvious and the cost is not zero. It is addition expense
and additional work for election officials already straining to cover all
the bases with a lot of new technology and procedures.

What is the number of ballots that need to be printed? I believe there will
be over 100 million ballots cast for these federal offices. But you need
more than that. Let's say it's 150 million and they cost 10 cents each.
That would be 15 million dollars. Who pays for that? In the overall scheme
of things, this is not a large amount of money but the exact source would
need to be identified. There is competition for that money and there are
people that would rather spend it on something else.

You are looking at 435 different ballot styles (one for each congressional
district). What is the maximum number of candidates that will be listed?
What paper stock will be used (size, weight, etc)? Will the printing be
centralized? If centralized, who be in charge of collecting the data for
these 435 ballot styles? If not centralized, who will oversee compliance in
the 50 states, 4 territories, with the thousands of counties?

While in theory congress could override state laws, what are the
implications of doing so? Are some states likely to challenge the act you
propose? Do you sweep aside state laws that may be applicable to printing
these ballots? For example, different states have different rules about the
manner in which ballots are printed. This includes things like type size
and ballot rotation. Would you respect state laws regarding these things,
or just ignore them? For example, in Florida the order of candidates
depends on how their party fared in previous election(s). There are a
variety of formulae for ballot rotation within states, counties and
districts. If you centralize printing these ballots, who knows all these
rules? If decentralized, to what level? States? Counties? If
decentralized, how many states or counties will say they can't afford it?
Since an act of congress would be required, it seems to me it will have to
be federally funded.

What is the date of no return for election procedures that include federal
candidates presented in the way now planned? For example, DREs will be
programmed to present federal candidates. If your emergency act is put in
place, federal offices should be suppressed from the on-screen selections.
Otherwise, you'll confuse some voters. They'll think they have a choice to
cast their vote on the DRE or on paper. Do we want people going in and
re-programming tens of thousands of DREs at the last moment? If you don't
reprogram them and simply rely on a message like, "DON'T MAKE SELECTIONS FOR
BALLOT." Such an approach may introduce an opportunity to intentionally
disenfranchise voters. Suppose in a precinct where you know voters are
likely to vote in a way you don't like, you make this notice in small print
and leave the impression that their vote will be counted either way. I
suspect that this date of no return varies from state-to-state and county to
county. In order to work, I think federal offices would need to be
suppressed 100% from the voting systems election officials are now planning
to use. Can you achieve 100% suppression?

Political acceptance: How likely is it that your proposal would be seen as
a Dem v. Rep issue regardless of how non-partisan you try to make it? It
seems to me you have to sell Republicans on this and quick--especially since
all three branches of the fed gov are Republican-owned currently. I saw an
interview recently with Bush 41 where he was asked about the possiblity of
another election debacle. He said something like, "I don't think that will
happen with the new procedures that have been put into place." How typical
is this attitude among Republicans? It may be wrong, but you have about one
week to convince them they are wrong. Buy-in from GWB would be an absolute
requirement for this to fly. If GWB says he'll veto it if passed, no one is
even going to begin to try to get it through the House or Senate. Given
that endorsing the emergency act is tantamount to saying that the voting
machines made by his close friends at Diebold, ES&S, Hart Intercivic, etc
are not sufficiently reliable, do you really think he'll support it?

I am sympathetic to your cause and I will support it (OVC support is a
different matter) if you can answer all the questions satisfactorily. In
order to sell this, you will need to have all this worked out in detail.
Saying that it's so simple the procedures don't even need to be written out
just won't fly. You need to identify who does what and who pays for what
and by when. The schedule is already very tricky. If you can do all that
and sell some Republicans, then you may have a chance to sell GWB. Looks
like a massive effort to me. Good luck.

Alan D.

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Received on Thu Sep 30 23:17:02 2004

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