Tag Archive: Election Integrity

Legislative Efforts to Engage High School Students Move Quietly Forward

by Erin Ferns

With an estimated 23 million 18-29 year old citizens turning out to vote in the 2008 presidential election, it is easy to assume that young people today have overcome the stereotypical image of “apathetic youth.” Yet, while the last few election cycles show an ever-growing interest in political engagement, young people are still underrepresented in the U.S. electorate-a problem that seems to have more to do with lack of access than lack of interest.  

Verified Voting to be Delayed Again?

Cross-posted at DKos.

The New Jersey Legislature passed a law to require voter-verifiable paper records in 2005. The state needs that law badly: the voting machines used in most of the state are unreliable, hackable, and have miscounted ballots in a Presidential primary. The Clerk of Union County actually encouraged voters not to use the machines and vote absentee in the November election.

Anyway, the law was supposed to be implemented by 2008. It wasn’t, and if lawmakers pass bills now moving in both Houses, the law may never be implemented. Click here to send a message to legislators opposing irresponsible delay.

When New Jersey gets an election ballot paper trail

…which is probably years from now, I sure hope we don’t go with optical scans after looking at these images of challenged Minnesota ballots (another two here). Try to determine voter intent!

While it’s easy to say that other people are morons, the fact is that with millions of ballots, numerous strange things will happen (the pen will slip, the voter will start on the wrong oval and switch, etc.)  Worse yet, the idea of filling out ovals seems so easy to those of us who grew up in Scantron-using schools that we discount the countless hours of training we have.  Different cultural backgrounds — say, the old, or immigrants — don’t have those experiences, but it doesn’t mean they are stupid or don’t deserve to have their vote counted.  

I’d like to see touch screens that print out the names of who you voted for.  What do you think is the best election system?

ps. I won’t complain if you call the guy who voted for Franken but also wrote in “Lizard People” a moron…  

Why Do Only Some People Have to Wait to Vote?

I live in a suburban North Jersey town that historically has been Republican-leaning. Even yesterday, McCain won the town over Obama by about 5%. Turnout was huge, as it appears to have been all over the state. I arrived at my poll to vote at 6:15a. I was done in less under 5 minutes. Having taken the day off from work to volunteer in town all day, I know the polls were very busy, and that turnout will end up in the 85%-90% range. Yet, nowhere in my town of almost 20,000 did anyone ever wait more than 15 minutes to vote.

When I arrived to work today, my friend who lives in Jersey City reported that she had to wait 3 hours to vote. I’ve read and heard of similar stories that happened elsewhere, invariably in urban areas, of up to 4 and 5 hour waits to vote. You don’t need to be Crazy Eddie to know that’s insane!!!  I’m not sure even I would wait that long.

Whenever I hear reporting or discussions about long lines at the polls, I hear talk of “enthusiasm” as the explanation. As if the 90% turnout in my suburban town isn’t sufficiently enthusiastic.

No. It isn’t enthusiasm that causes disproportionately long wait times for voting in urban areas – it’s too few voting machines! Here’s a solution: put more voting machines in places where there are 3 hour waits.

This kind of thing takes time, and sneaks up on election officials each year. So, like day after Christmas shopping for cards and decorations, I thought I’d take this moment to rant.

You may now return to your regular programming.

Casting A Ballot Proves Daunting For Former Felons

Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

“…Too many people do not understand or exercise their voting rights, and as a result, entire segments of our population – and especially formerly incarcerated individuals – are being underrepresented at the polls on Election Day.” – New Jersey Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark)

Quote of the Day

Speaker Joe Roberts, after his legislation to move the deadline for a voter-verified paper trail back to June 2008 passed committee:

“Voters deserve nothing less than an iron-clad guarantee that the integrity of their vote is our paramount concern,” said Roberts.  “It’s just going to take a little more time to ensure that guarantee is worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Printers for the VVPT/Ballot on the Sequoia voting machines

Finally 3/20/07 some news on these printers!  the NY Times “Suit Prompts NJ to Reinvent Voting Systems” by Ronald Smothers:


From this article it looks like NJ is on the verge of doing some really good things in time for May 07 primaries:

1-Having a paper record or ballot for the Sequoia voting machines used in most counties.

2-Random Audits, not yet required by federal law but the NJ State AG’s office wants them.

In addition to providing a reliable paper trail, the new certification process would require random auditing of the machines and testing to make sure they can hold up under intense use. Until now only the federal government has required such certification, and adherence is voluntary

And Ms. Milgram, first assistant to NJ State Attorney General, promised Judge Fienberg that the protocols for audits and certification requirements would be established the first week in April and that public hearings will be held in regards to the new auditing procedures and the new printer add on to the Sequoia voting machines.


Ms. Milgram said that the company currently providing voting machines had gone through four approaches to retrofitting its equipment (for paper trail/ballot), but that the state “was not pleased with them.” The latest and fifth version held more promise, she said.

Sequoia is on the 5th try?  Are these printers ever going to work right?
These machines need to work and work hard- I for one look forward to larger and larger voter turn-out.  If they can get the Sequoia to work with the VVPT and a system of audits we will be in good shape but if not we should consider another system all together.  And when our Officials start talking about price they should compare the expense of storing the voting equipment, moving it to the polls and what the costs of keeping these machines safe will be. This is part of the price. There  are other voting systems that are less bulky less costly and even less prone to tampering mischief.

Also reported in the Star Ledger last weekend,


  and  mentioned in the Times article, there is an investigation involving Essex, Bergen and Union counties in regards to the initial purchase of  the Sequoia machines.  This inquiry by the State Commission of Investigation may turn up other reasons to scrap the Sequoia machines ASAP before we invest in the printers and the new training to operate them.

Election Integrity — By Next Year

Thanks to the state legislature, New Jersey is already scheduled to require a paper trail by  January 2008.  The state’s plan has been to ‘upgrade’ the existing Sequoia machines with printers.  This week, a lawsuit aimed to get the machines thrown out now.  The Ledger reports that the ruling is in: Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg is not throwing out the machines now, but she has a lot of skepticism about current plans.  She said the state has to have a backup plan to replace the machines, and that she needs to see progress soon:

She scheduled May hearings to chart the state’s course, and admonished state officials to cooperate with voter-rights activists in the meantime. “This is a public issue with regards to voting. This should not be an adversarial proceeding. This is what we need to do to ensure the integrity of the voting system,” the judge said.

Update:  Perhaps I should say a bit more.  If you hoped that the electronic machines with no paper trail would be gone by your next election, then this ruling is disappointing.  On the other hand, if you’ve been worried about this loophole in the law:

A waiver of the provisions of this paragraph shall be granted by the Attorney General if the technology to produce a permanent voter-verified paper record for each vote cast is not commercially available.

The judge has shown she is very serious that the paper record will be available, and will be keeping a close eye on the state and Sequoia.

Rush Holt introduces replacement to HR 550, … HR 811

Already brewing a firestorm in the election reform cummunity, HR 811 is called the “Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007”. Introduced on Febuary 5th, HR 811 was posted @ Thomas earlier today, but preceding the posting @ Thomas were numerous scathing reviews. But the news is not all bad. HR 811 does not allow a voting system to have any WiFi:

No voting system shall contain, use, or be accessible by any wireless, power-line, remote, wide area, or concealed communication device at all.

The Diebold TSX touchscreen is available with a wireless option.

HR 811 does not allow a voting device to be connected to the net.

No component of any voting device upon which votes are cast shall be connected to the Internet at any time.

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