Harftord Courant: Vote Recounts Prove Tedious, Time-Consuming

We are likely to see more articles like the one in the Courant today: Vote Recounts Prove Tedious, Time-Consuming, <read>.

General comments on the article:

We arrived at this point by knee-jerk reactions in Washington, resulting in the Help America Vote Act and little heed to advocates in Hartford when the audit law was written this year. We do not need to determine the future of a critical piece of democracy by further off-the-cuff assessments followed by further knee-jerk reactions.

We need a rational process to determine the most accurate and efficient process to actually perform the recounts and audits. Several states in New England have such experience. PEW is funding research on best practices for manually counting ballots. Just like highway inspections, building inspectons, bridge inspections, and functioning parole boards, we need to pay a small price for insuring integrity of our elections.

In Connecticut we have seen a flurry of reactions to electronic voting, along with reactons to the costs and work of recounts and audits – let us hope that the result will not be a knee-jerk reaction by the legislature resulting in weakened audits at a time when we need stronger audits. The costs of recounting and auditing are much lower than one would gather from the flurry, the value of preserving our votes and insuring democracy, priceless.

My further comments on some of the statements in the article below.

“There just has to be a better way,” said Mastrogiovanni, a Republican whose apparent two-vote victory in the Farmington school board race became a six-vote defeat after a recount last week. “This system absolutely has to be tweaked.”

A candidate whose win was reversed can hardly be considered unbiased. We vote by machine which can be expected to be off slightly from the voters’ intent, so an accurate recount can be exptected to be off by a few votes. This is precisely why we do paper recounts when an election is close. What would that better way be? Accept the inaccurate machine totals and ignore the voters’ intent? Go back to lever machines which have been made illegal by the Help America Vote Act championed by Senator Chris Dodd? Go to all paper and count it all by hand? (I am not an advocate of all paper, since obviously you have to count it very very carefully as we have proven in the last few days).

Over the last few months I have been lectured by registrars and convinced by research that it is hard to count paper. <read> Yet, suddenly they seem surprised to find that counting paper takes some planning and effort to do it accurately and efficiently.

“Obviously, recounts are a good idea,” said State Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven. “But the way they did it seems totally unnecessary.”

He and many others said they do not understand why optical scanners were not used to tally the results during the recount, once all ballots were visually inspected to ensure that they had been properly filled out.

“You could even use different machines to make sure you got the same result,” said Lawlor, noting that ballot checkers could then focus on the relatively few ballots that raised questions about voter intent.

Let me help Rep Lawlor and others who do not understand: 1) The risk is that the machine may have been programmed incorrectly by error or fraud and using another machine with a copy of the memory card does not remove this risk. 2) Since we vote by voter intent and the machine cannot assess that precisely occasionally the election result will be incorrect based on the inprecise machine counts. Also please note that this is the same Rep Lawlor who was able to determine that ballot clerks were to blame for the East Haven miscount without evidence, disputing the claim by the moderator which was also made without evidence <read>

If the audit and other cross-checking exercises go well, Bysiewicz said, she would support pursuing changes to state law that would allow machines to be used during recounts as long every ballot were at least visually inspected.

Is this the same Secretary of the State who said on Sept 13th that she was in favor of more audits, but that it would have been politically impossible? <read>

“A couple of my people said to me, ‘Can you keep those guys from hanging over my shoulder?'” said Janenda, who noted that by winning that last seat, Republicans earned control of the board — and thus the right to name the mayor — for the first time in almost 20 years.

Hopefully Janenda handled this on the spot and made sure that both the observers and her staff functioned responsibly within the law.

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