American "democracy": An illusion

Tens of millions of Americans vote on completely unauditable electronic voting machines owned and controlled by a few (mostly right-wing) companies. We have absolutely no reason to trust official vote “counts” on such machines because the software that runs on those machines is completely secret (and protected by law as “proprietary business secrets”). Even the election officials who nominally run our elections do not have access to the code that “counts” our votes. On this basis alone, American “democracy” is a sham.

But the problem is even more horrible. In theory, paper ballots of some kind could be quickly counted by computers and allow verification through audits and recounts. This is the promise of optical scan voting, which is much better than electronic voting machines. But optical scan is only superior if paper ballots are kept secure and audited and recounted as required. Sadly, this does not always happen.

In Arizona in 2006, optical scan was used, but many of those ballots have gone missing. Even worse, many of the official precinct tally sheets have also gone missing, and many of those that remain do not match the precinct vote counts as officially recorded by the state:

After many years of litigation, Election Integrity advocates have now finally been allowed to review the long sought-after poll tapes in question. What they’ve discovered is disturbing and, so far, without legitimate explanation.

Out of 368 precincts, 112 poll tapes are completely missing. Moreover, 102 of the “yellow sheets” —– certified precinct reports, signed by poll workers, detailing corresponding summary information, such as numbers of ballots received, cast and spoiled, as helpful for important auditing functions at the precinct level —– are missing as well.

Furthermore, of the poll tape records that are not missing, 50 of them do not match the results as recorded in the final canvas of the election, according to the Election Integrity advocates who have compared them to the original electronic database numbers.

Our election system is broken. We cannot expect honest government until we demand honest elections.

Posted by James on Thursday, July 15, 2010