Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Protecting Tennessee's vote:Rebutting Giannini's "Optical Scan Voting Insanity" rhetoric

The facts are NOT on the side of partisan election official Chairman Bill Giannini of Shelby County Tennessee. Mr. Giannini uses the same misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that we in North Carolina had to disprove when special interests tried to thwart our paper ballot law.
Jul 21, 2009 Optical Scan Voting "Insanity," Says Election Commission Head
The Voter Confidence Act passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 is a creation of "the liberal wing of the liberal party" and a "bad idea," according to Bill Giannini ...The paper costs by themselves would be “astronomical,” said Giannini, who argued further that to carry out the mandate next year requires state-of-the-art optical-scanning devices certified by both the state and federal governments and that” no such animal” exists.

Here are several points for Tennessee voters to consider:

1. The top state election officials is a partsian and is elected by the system that he overseas, this is a conflict of interest. Elections should be overseen by non partisan officials.

2. Mr. Giannini may be a nice person and good administrator, but he clearly has an overtly partisan background and should not be overeaing elections for "the people". There are many qualified people to run elections, and they should always be servants of all of the people, not 50% or fewer.

3. Mr. Giannini is using rhetoric that is easily disproved - using paper ballots is NOT insanity.If you treat elections as you would treat business transactions, then you would expect to have a paper backup in the event of computer failure or else fraud.

It is crazy to have democracy depend on paperless voting machines.....North Carolina saw one voting machine lose 4,400 votes in the Nov 2004 election. This caused the outcome of a statewide contest to be undecided. It took about 1 year to get that contest settled, and it was thanks to one candidate dropping out.
If North Carolina had paper ballots (as used with optical scan) that contest would have been decided in a matter of days.

4. Mr. Giannini misleads the public in saying that paper ballot elections would cost too much. The truth is that Mr. Giannini's paperless DRE/touchscreen machines are far more expensive to own and operate than the paper ballot system. (The reason is that with the touchscreens, you need one voting machine per voter while voting, and this means needing multiple machines per polling place.)
The NC Coalition for Verified Voting, in 2005 - completed a study of annual expenditures of the election departments of four North Carolina counties. The study covered a 6 year period. We found that the cost of using touch screen voting or direct recording machines in Guilford and Mecklenburg county was about 30-40% higher than the cost of using optical scan equipment in Wake and Durham county. This means that not only are touch screens more expensive to acquire, they are also more expensive to operate year after year.

One factor that may explain why having touch screens cost so much more than optical scanners is because the county has to own and maintain so many more machines. We estimate that one optical scanner can count handle six voter?s votes a minute (or 360 per hour) as they are cast but because it takes a voter at least three minutes to vote with touch screens, it would take 20 touch screens to perform per hour as well as optical scanners. Additionally, touch screen machines use thermal paper ballots - both require special handling and climate controlled storage. Justin Moore, of Duke University Computer Science Department found that counties using touch screen machines required 20% more poll workers, and about 10% more precincts.
A true cost comparison of voting machines cannot focus just on ballot printing costs. All of the Boards of Elections costs must be considered. This includes staff salaries, staff benefits, training expenditures, equipment programming, maintenance, storage, advertising, printing costs, postage and storage.

See the cost per voter per year comparison for a 6 year period report here
5. The argument about the voting system standards is a matter of opinion and I believe a distortion of the intent of the lawmakers.

6. North Carolina implemented its paper ballot law within 8 months of passing the law. This included certifying voting systems, inviting RFPs, evaluating those RFPs, reviewing bids, accepting bid and vendor's bond plus CEO affadavit, bringing new voting system to central location for testing, then sending machines to counties for further acceptance testing. Law passed end of August 2005, new machines used in Primary in April 2006.

7. Paper ballots/optical scanners produced a lower residual rate for President than did DRE/touchscreens in the Nov 2008 election according to this study of vote data:

So voters and taxpayers both are better off with paper ballots optically scanned.
Getting the law implemented boils down to obeying the will of the people and also to the competency of TN election officials..

North Carolina has highly competent and skilled election officials. Does Tennessee?

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