Common Sense Election Integrity

Note: This is the first post in an occasional series on Common Sense Election Integrity, summarizing, updating, and expanding on many previous posts covering election integrity, focused on Connecticut. <next>

One of the benefits of using optical scanners for voting is the requirement for voter marked paper ballots. They are much more reliable and useful than the paper records produced by some DRE (touch screen) voting machines:

  • Marked by voters, paper ballots, should accurately reflect the voters’ intent. Voter verifiable paper records (produced by DREs) are actually reviewed in detail by very few voters, providing an opportunity for fraud and for significant errors to go undetected.
  • Compared with curly, poorly printed, closely spaced DRE records (usually similar to store receipts), paper ballots are relatively easily preserved, organized, and recounted. They can be carefully reviewed for voters’ intent in the case of very close elections.
  • Properly tuned and programmed optical scanners can quickly and accurately count large numbers of ballots with many contests.

However, obtaining these benefits depends on the details surrounding the use of optical scanners and paper ballots. At a high level the requirements are:

  • The integrity of the paper ballots must be guaranteed by a trusted, reliable chain-of-custody.
  • There must be a trusted, reliable reporting process for accumulating results from multiple polling places and jurisdictions.
  • There must be a trusted, reliable post-election audit process that will detect and correct errors or fraud in ballot accounting, optical scanning, manual counting, and reporting process
  • In very close elections there must be a thorough, transparent, and adversarial recount.
  • The entire process must be effective, followed uniformly, enforceable, and enforced, along with a maximum opportunity for public transparency and meaningful observation.
  • The risks of error and opportunity for fraud should be minimized by: non-partisan and opposing party election management/oversight; security, testing, and controls over optical scanner programming and chain-of-custody; and extensive training and certification of election officials.

To provide true election integrity, Connecticut, like most states, needs to do much better in every one of these dimensions.

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