Bysiewicz Prepared To Eliminate Manual Recounts

Update: The word “prepared” does not not necessarily imply “will”.   Apparently no decision has been made.  However, we now have a member of the GAE committee who has suggested machine recounts, the Secretary has mentioned it before, and the GAE leadership mentioned the possibility at the press conference announcing public hearings.  This remains a bad idea which we hope will be quickly rejected.

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The Secretary of the State of Connecticut is prepared to discontinue manual recounts in close races. In an e-mail to advocates, good government groups, and the leadership of the Registrar of Voters Association, Deputy Secretary of the State Lesley Mara wrote:

From: Lesley Mara [Deputy Secretary of the State]

Subject: Memory Card audit report

I have received questions from some of you regarding recounts. As you all know, our regulations regarding optical scan machines call for a review of every ballot in the event of a recount. Where all parties agree that a ballot is clearly and properly marked in a way intended to be read by the scanner, that ballot is put in one pile. All “questionable ballots” are placed in another pile and, of course, are hand counted. Those properly marked are run through a new scanner. This procedure was used most recently in the Courtney/Simmons recount.

The Secretary exercised her authority to specify another procedure this past November during the first statewide use of optical scan technology, given that we had not finalized all of the pieces we now have in place with [the University of Connecticut] UCONN (e.g., post-election audits of memory cards). Since November, we have spoken to legislators and election officials and UCONN and we are prepared to return to the original procedure. Of course, we welcome your thoughts on this issue as well when we meet tomorrow.

The fallacy in recounting by machine, is that the most likely error or fraud would be incorrect programming of the memory cards. All memory cards and optical scanners in a district should be identical, that is the basic assumption of the random memory card testing by UConn. Running ballots through a sister machine with a sister card would only prove that machines do only what they are programmed to do. The results of the recent post-election audits <read> demonstrate that despite separating questionable ballots, the machines may frequently overcount or undercount the voters intent even on unquestionable ballots.

Last spring, advocates pointed out many flaws in the proposed election law. Among those were the lack of an independent auditor, the exemption from the audit of districts where any race is contested or is recounted, and the lack of a requirement in the law for manual recounts. We were assured by the Secretary of the State’s Office that such a law was unnecessary because they would use regulations and procedures to make those recounts manual.

Perhaps most baffling is that the UConn memory card report <read> which contends that half of Connecticut registrars were unable to follow pre-election testing procedures is implied as justification for this change to recount by machine. Unfortunately, even law and procedures are not always sufficient.

Despite many significant unexplained discrepancies found in the recent post-election audit, <read>, to date, no investigations have been undertaken. On Jan 18th, The Secretary of the State’s Office requested that registrars return memory cards to LHS. Here is the relevant law and procedures. The audit law is a bit ambiguous, but the procedures are quite clear:

Public Act 07-194: If the audit officials are unable to reconcile the manual count with the electronic vote tabulation and discrepancies, the Secretary of the State shall conduct such further investigation of the voting machine or tabulator malfunction as may be necessary for the purpose of reviewing whether or not to decertify the voting machine…

Audit Procedures: If the results of the audit reveal any unexplained deviations or errors, The University of Connecticut (UConn VoTeR Center) shall examine the machines that apparently produced incorrect results to determine if such errors were caused by the optical scan voting machine.

Of course the procedures apply to audits not recounts. Audits by law must be manual, however, expect calls for weakening of the current law in this legislative session, including calls to eliminate the manual counting requirement.

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One response to “Bysiewicz Prepared To Eliminate Manual Recounts”

  1. The BRAD BLOG : 'Daily Voting News' For January 29, 2008

    […] CT: Connecticut: Bysiewicz Prepared To Eliminate Manual Recoun http://www.ctvoterscount.org/?p=139 […]

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