New Jersey has 11,000 fully electronic voting machines, none of which produce any hard-copy backup of votes cast, of the kind that the old lever machines produced. Their continued use is highly controversial, and a North Jersey congressman has even introduced federal legislation to require that every vote, no matter how collected from the voter, be reproducible on paper.
This morning The Star-Ledger (Newark) pointed out the absurdity of the current position: the State’s electronic voting machines, built by Sequoia Voting Systems, record votes cast by all the more than five million registered voters in the State, but produce no verifiable and unimpeachable record that the votes reported to the tabulating agencies are the same as the votes actually cast. The Star-Ledger‘s objection is that a failure of the electronics in any given voting machine risks losing all the votes cast permanently. But a ruling issued last week by the New Jersey Superior Court illustrates one other concern: that a person or persons unknown might “hack” a voting machine and alter the totals, and the election judge, inspector, and other district workers on the scene would be none the wiser.
Voting the old-fashioned way, on paper
(Women’s International League for Peace
This Examiner has direct experience as an election inspector working Essex County elections as recently as six years ago, using the old Print-O-Matic lever machines first introduced in 1892. These machines produced a clear paper record at the end of the day, in the presence of every election worker and challenger. But with an electronic voting machine, this does not happen; instead the votes are recorded on magnetic media that no one present can read, and this is handed to the tabulating agency.
The court’s ruling in the suit brought in 2005 by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) and several other Mercer County plaintiffs requires that the new machines and tally transmitters never be connected to the public Internet, that anyone who works with such a machine undergo a criminal background check, and that the Division of Elections develop a protocol for inspecting the machines to ensure against tampering. But it does not require the actual paper record, which has been a staple of American elections since 1886.
The red lever of a Print-O-Matic
lever machine (Paul Joffe/Wikipedia)
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) is not satisfied, and neither is The Star-Ledger. Holt wants to make such paper trails a requirement of federal law.
Until New Jersey implements a paper ballot voting system, we will have faith-based voting.
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