It’s about the “recount” in the AG race

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    Check out this article on the Brad Blog:

    http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10354

    He claims that most of Virginia uses touch-screen voting machines that do not leave a paper trail.  is this correct?

    I’m an election officer at a precinct in Northumberland County.  We have a touch-screen machine at each precinct but they essentially are not used.  In my five years as election officer, I’ve seen ONE vote cast on the tough-screen machine.

    We use paper ballots counted by an optical scanner.

    In case of a recount, we can go back to the big stack of paper ballots and count ’em out, one at a time.

    Is the rest of the state voting on touch-screens?  Are we the only people using paper ballots?

    • in Arlington.  

    • YelowDawg

      We have only touch-screens.

    • DonInVA

      First, to answer ir003436’s query, paper ballots are being used in more VA precincts every year. The process of change is slow, much slower than I would like, but it is happening. For instance, Charlottesville, where I vote, now offers a choice to voters — our old Hart non-touch-screen DRE machines, or paper ballots and a scanner. On Tuesday I chose paper.

      Second, this DRE problem was heavily discussed circa 2006-7 in Virginia, with a joint legislative committee collecting testimony. The subject was absolutely non-partisan: the bill to make the change was introduced by Tim Hugo of Fairfax, a Republican, and also had Democratic backing. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians all testified in favor.  I testified before that committee, arguing for paper ballots. Many VA registrars opposed this change. Changing all DREs in VA would have been expensive, so the legislature ultimately decided only to require that new purchases be scanners or equivalent. So, the replacement of DREs is in progress, but it is slow.

      Why did Tim Hugo introduce the bill?  Well, in a school board election circa 2005 in Fairfax, Republican party leadership became convinced that mis-calibrated touch screen DRE machines had cheated them of a school board seat, and they resolved to get DREs out of Fairfax.  

      Third, there is an issue which is not always mentioned when this DRE problem is discussed, and that is audits.  Those of us who advocated in favor of paper ballots 6-7 years ago also advocated for a policy of auditing those ballots. The concept is that, after an election is over, some fraction of all precincts statewide, such as 1 of every 8, would be selected at random, and the paper ballots from those precincts would be counted by hand, and reports would be produced and made publicly available. If there is any probability of error in the scanners or any fraudulent activity in precincts, the audits would disclose such problems.  Of course, this random audit policy would also discourage fraud of all kinds.

    • Ron

      We used to have just the optical touch screens (which were super easy to use), but switched to the paper ballots that are optically scanned last year.

      I agree with DonInVa’s comment entirely. Paper trail with random audits is the way to go. Especially for races like this year’s AG race. Amazing it will be so close.