Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Arguing Over The Biggest Threat To Fair Elections

KCRW's To The Point brought together for people with different expertise on elections today.  I was struck by Steven Rosenfeld's rather churly tone and lack of concern about voting machines being manipulated.  Panelist Victoria Collier rebuked him for a recent alternet post claiming election machine activists were alarmists. (link below) He kept putting down the voting machine skeptics by saying it was old news and there were bigger threats.  To me, it seems voting machine fraud may have been on the radar a while, but that the problems haven't been addressed.  Because the proof of tampering is hard to get, and doesn't make good television, we're not getting compelling coverage. Is all this simply headline inflating to get more readers?

By the end of the show, though, I got the sense that he wasn't dismissing voting machine problems as much as saying there are bigger threats to the election - voter suppression, for example - than rigging the machines.

My sense is that it all depends on which jurisdictions are targeted for which type of election manipulation.  Are the voting machines a real threat in this election or just a potential threat?  Without transparency, we really don't know. 

For those who know nothing about the concerns about voting integrity, the show is a good place to start.  For those who know more, it raises questions and possibilities.  I thought Ion Sancho offered some reassurance, given the work he's done in his district, but that there are so many other places that aren't anywhere near there.  The key point he made - I think it was him - was that you have to have objective, non-partisan election officials.  A bad system with good people will work, but a good system with bad people won't.

Here's a link to the show.  It follows the piece on Sandy, seven minutes in. 

Could Voting Machines Steal the Election? (1:07PM)

In the year 2000, "hanging chads" on Florida's paper ballots put the presidential election in doubt. Two years later, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which provided federal subsidies for states to buy electronic voting machines that don't use paper at all. Dispute is raging over what it could mean for the integrity of next week's election. Both campaigns and many political pundits say Ohio could decide the election.  How secure are its voting machines?


What I got out of this is:
  1. Voting machine tampering is still a serious issue
    1. 1/3 of the machines do NOT use paper backups that can be verifiable
    2. tampering with the machines is invisible and while there are ways to identify problems - ie discrepancy between exit poll results and actual results -  these things have to be followed up on.  
    3. as I said in a recent post, most people are skeptical about voting machine "conspiracy theories" and reluctant to call for hand counts
  2. There are better systems for keeping the machines accountable - listen to Ion Sancho on the audio - but you also need better people
  3. Other issues - voter suppression - may be a bigger threat in the election next week
  4. All of these are important issues and arguing over which is the most important is probably counterproductive

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