Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 1, 2007

STUMPTALK: Save our ballot system

By Phil Billington / Chronicle contributor

Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything — Josef Stalin

Those words could never be applied to American elections. Or could they? The foundation of self-government, whose main purpose is to promote the ideals of liberty, is an honest voting system. In order to provide an easy and uncorrupted system as possible, early election organizers applied sound economic theory, i.e., a division of labor. That is, the three functions of a secret ballot system, (1) registration, (2) voting, and (3) counting, were made separate and independent. Sure, there has been voting scandals in the past, but conscientious citizens keep working out the bugs.

The 2000 presidential election fiasco, however, exposed some troubling mechanical difficulties with current voting methods, e.g., hanging chads. The universal solution across the country was to replace the old systems with those dangerous voting machines which combines both voting and counting in one machine, thus providing absolutely no accountability. This bad decision has put the entire election system in jeopardy. Software engineers testified before congress that these machines are very vulnerable to vote rigging without anyone the wiser. In fact, there is evidence that an Ohio election in 2006 was rigged by a hacker to reverse the results. The American people should be outraged and demand these machines be abolished.

But wait, all is not lost with the touch screen voting machine. These devices are convenient, fast and easy to understand. However, the voting and counting functions should be split between two machines that have no connection other than the election official passing a ballot copy from one machine to the other. Physically separating the voting and counting functions - as they previously were - makes corruption of the process much more difficult. Furthermore, it is important that the private companies contracted to build the two individual machines must have absolutely no connection.

The voting machines should be modified to provide only two functions: voting and printing a copy of the completed ballot. The voting machines should have no ability to manipulate data. After voter review, the hard copy is handed to an election official who then feeds it through an optical scanner. This machine scans, counts and compiles a final tally. The hard copy is then archived in the event a recount is necessary.

Opinions expressed in “Stumptalk” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff.