A Damaging Paper Chase In Voting
By Timothy J. Ryan
Saturday, September 8, 2007; Page A15
When early jet aircraft crashed, Congress did not mandate that all planes remain propeller-driven. But this is the kind of reactionary thinking behind two bills that would require that all voting machines used in federal elections produce a voter-verifiable paper record. These bills -- the Ballot Integrity Act (S. 1487), and the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 811) -- are understandable backlashes to the myriad problems encountered in the implementation of electronic voting.
Paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines, those where votes are entered into computers and stored only in computer memory banks, have encountered numerous failures and no longer inspire public trust. The response proposed in these Senate and House bills is for all such machines to produce paper receipts that voters can examine to ensure that their votes were correctly cast. The goal -- a double-check of the machine tally -- is worthy. Unfortunately, paper records are no panacea for the shortcomings of machines, and mandating paper removes the incentive for researchers to develop better electronic alternatives.
This sort of reasoning is why Ryan is still a research 'assistant' at Brookings. They no doubt require him to wear a large 'L' tee-shirt while he researches.
It is not the business of election technology to create incentives for industry. It is the business of elections, Tim, to provide reasonable assurance of legitimacy and honesty in the procedure. This is why election judges have not yet been replaced by machines. It accounts for why the scandals in both Florida and Ohio (which quite possibly seated two unelected presidencies) are of concern to earnest Republicans and Democrats who do not currently work at Brookings.
We struggle to remain a representative form of government--a republic.
That struggle forms itself around the core issue of accountability. It would be hard to find a greater irrelevancy to that struggle than "providing an incentive for researchers to develop better electronic alternatives."
Nice try, though.