New Jersey: A Vote for Optical Scan
By The Times of Trenton
December 15, 2008
This editorial appeared in The Times of Trenton.
Today, the state Legislature is expected to consider a bill to remove the requirement that voting machines produce voter-verified paper records by Jan. 1, 2009, and to replace that re quirement with a pilot program for adding printers to a few of New Jersey's voting machines.
If the results of that pilot program prove acceptable, the rest of the state's electronic voting machines will be retrofitted with the printers that would allow voters to see their recorded votes, but would not give them actual paper receipts. All that is expected to take years and cost millions.
The intention, to provide paper evidence that a vote is recorded as the voter intends, is admirable. The technology is not.
Computer expert Andrew W. Appel of Princeton University has testified
that it would take only about seven minutes to hack into the voting
machines now in use throughout the state. In fact, adding printing
capability to the present equipment would alter it substantially enough
to make previous state inspection moot. We would have, in effect,
voting machines that are uninspected in addition to being unreliable.
join a broad-based coalition, led by the Coalition for Peace Action, a
regional organization based in Princeton, in opposing the bill. We urge
the Legislature to, instead, take steps to implement an optical- scan
voting system, as so many other states have done.
optical-scan technology, voters mark ballots by hand -- in the manner
of taking a standardized test -- and the ballots are then fed into a
machine to be read.
Not only is the technology reliable, it's
also cost-effective. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, in
testimony at the hearing last week, reckoned that, "In purchase costs
alone, converting to an optical scan system would likely cost no more
than adding printer retrofits to New Jersey's existing touch screen
machines, and probably less."
Holt, who has long been a leader
on voting integrity issues in the House of Representatives, summed up
the matter nicely when he said: "Voting must not be an act of faith, it
must be an act of record, and independent audit records --
voter-verified paper ballots -- must be required."
national trend is clearly to move away from touch screen voting and
towards more reliable, less troublesome optical scan voting systems,"
Holt testified. "There are only seven states left in the country that,
on a statewide basis, use paperless voting systems."
New Jersey is still one of them.
the gubernatorial election less than a year away, time is running out.
This is a situation that was to have been taken care of years ago. But
the deadlines have come and gone, and come and gone again, and New
Jersey's citizens still cannot be certain that the votes they cast will
be counted and counted
We believe the optical-scan technology would offer the most reliable assurance of that.
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