Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Humboldt Dems Call For Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

At 8:50pm this evening, after a 45-minute discussion, the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee (HCDCC) by a vote of 7-4 adopted a resolution calling on the County of Humboldt, CA to ditch Diebold by the June Primary Election and commence hand-counting paper ballots. The resolution, shown in full below, also resolves that the HCDCC "will commit some of its resources to educating the community about the benefits of this change, and to recruit registered voters to serve as pollworkers and/or voter counters."

The resolution, which I wrote and first posted here, was submitted following my presentation on behalf of the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) at last month's HCDCC meeting. The Communication and Education subcommittee took up the resolution a few weeks ago and unanimously approved it. From there, according to Chairman Milt Boyd, it went to the executive committee which then allowed it to the floor of this evening's meeting.

In accordance with Roberts Rules, Boyd stepped down from the Chair position in order to speak in opposition to the resolution. He called hand counting "tedious, lengthy and more expensive" than optical scanning, which he said was "effective and accurate." He claimed that Diebold's optical scanners are more accurate than scantron machines used to grade exams in high school, and as a teacher, he was certain he could not grade papers as accurately by hand as with the scantron.

The debate protocol allowed alternating speakers for and against the resolution. I think this is a topic that people really like to talk about, perhaps contrary to popular belief. I also find that there is a lot of misinformation, such as the suggestion that dead people voting is a real problem, or paper ballots are bad because the ink can run, or that in Humboldt you vote without a paper ballot.

We were at least 20 minutes into the discussion before one member pointed out that we all vote on paper ballots here in Humboldt. It was a little uncomfortable to sit through this, particularly in the few moments that devolved into cross-talk with more being said than I could absorb or write down. I was not sure if I would get to speak, but I was trying to listen carefully to what needed to be addressed. In the end, Larry Hourany requested that I be allowed to speak, but another member objected and the matter was dropped.

In one aspect of the discussion that I really liked, Richard Marks and Roger Smith both emphasized that this resolution was exactly the type of progressive leadership the Democratic Party should exhibit. "This is not radical," said Marks. "This would be a very positive thing for the Central Committee."

What was most glaringly missed in this discussion is the secrecy of vote counting. If you really want to get to the core of what has plagued our elections most, beginning with the 2000 presidential election, the crux is that we don't all agree on the outcome. Why is that? More than any other reason, it is secret vote counting.

Current elections require our blind trust, or faith, rather than providing us with a reason to believe the reported results, a rational basis for confidence.

Instead, inherent uncertainty is created, waters intentionally muddied to the point that we can't know for sure. This happens everywhere, not just with "elections." It is not an accident or unintended consequence.

Keeping citizens divided is necessary for a government to transform a society into fascism, as has happened here in what used to be the United States of America. Wedge issues such as abortion and evolution are one way to keep people divided. Censoring, stifling, and propagandizing climate change and other science is another divisive tactic and it shows how people can be divided about non-spiritual beliefs.

What we get is a rift in the perception of reality. Matters of fact become differences of opinions that can never be resolved, like paperless electronic voting and other secret vote counting systems that create unverifiable "elections," events that are not really elections but resemble them closely enough to fool most people.

When a society cannot even agree on what constitutes reality, it is very difficult to build community support and consensus for what constitutes progress. Hand-counting paper ballots is but one benchmark.

We're only closer to the goal if this resolution results in HCDCC members joining in the efforts of the VCC. We are attempting to demonstrate to the County that there is sufficient public support for the idea of hand-counting, and enough willing counters to get the job done on election night. There is a sign-up form at the VCC website, along with all sorts of resources for the Humboldt hand-count campaign. Some of this stuff could be really useful to other community groups working for hand-counting elsewhere.

And finally, a note about this blog, We Do Not Consent. It is largely an archive for my writing, but not where it is most often read. If you are reading this post on another website, or from an e-mail list, I invite you to stop by my blog. This post is exemplary of both themes I frequently cover, and my advocacy journalism approach, using the medium to report on and advance real world efforts for change. It is the only way I judge my success.

* * *
Resolution adopted by the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee

Whereas elections in Humboldt County rely on Diebold's (now Premier) precinct-based optical scanners, and Diebold's GEMS central tabulator program to combine all precinct results; and

Whereas computer security experts have repeatedly demonstrated and documented the ability to tamper with this equipment, changing election results without leaving behind a trace of evidence; and

Whereas academic studies have repeatedly demonstrated and documented that security flaws in this equipment exist by design, and cannot be remedied with "procedural mitigations," or new security methods; and

Whereas claims of "trade secrecy" prevent citizens, the media, and even elections officials from observing the inner workings of this equipment, denying everyone the right to see their vote counted as cast;

Whereas elections conducted under these conditions require blind trust, or faith, to accept unverifiable and inherently uncertain outcomes that provide no rational basis for confidence in the reported results; and

Whereas the County of Humboldt is free to choose not to use Diebold's equipment, and is likewise not prevented from choosing to hand-count paper ballots at poll sites on election night; and

Whereas hand-counting paper ballots provides transparency, security, and verifiable accuracy that creates a rational basis for confidence in reported results;

Therefore be it resolved, the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee hereby calls for Humboldt County to discontinue use of Diebold equipment and to introduce hand-counting of all ballots no later than the June 2008 primary election; and

Therefore be it further resolved that the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee will commit some of its resources to educating the community about the benefits of this change, and to recruit registered voters to serve as pollworkers and/or vote counters.

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