Saturday, July 19, 2008

The need for ballot paper trails

It would be a pretty lousy for the American experiment to end with a crisis in confidence in the electoral process. The 2000 Florida debacle pretty much stretched the limits of our collective willingness to withstand that sort of thing.

In the process of supposedly cleaning up our voting mechanisms to create clear winners and losers, many jurisdictions adopted pure electronic vote counting machines with no paper trail for verification. This move has astonished me to no end, as it opens our political system up for endless claims of manipulation that can neither be proved or disproved. And now we have claims that the 2002 Georgia races of Governor and Senator were manipulated by Diebold, with implications for the 2004 Ohio Presidential ballot.

Once upon a time I worked for a private Republican polling firm that did work in Georgia in 2002. Our most dire scenario did not have Chambliss taking the drubbing that some of the public polls did, but we were a little surprised that the gubernatorial race turned in Perdue's favor. So I guess I'm saying that the numbers came in for us a little better than expected, but not totally out of whack like the article says.

Still, that is subordinate to the larger point. The point is that these sorts of allegations are simultaneously poisonous to American democracy and completely 100% preventable. Every election from now until our second civil war will be contested until results are verifiable beyond a reasonable doubt.

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