Breakdowns of new electronic voting machines have already made news in St. Lawrence, Fulton and Lewis Counties. Official results in some races may not be known for a week or more, frustrating NY voters accustomed to results on election night. But fury may have been their response had they fully understood that with the state's new optical scan technology, the genuine results of NY's elections will never be known.
The optical scan machines mandated to replace all lever voting machines by next year count paper ballots electronically using concealed software that can undetectably alter the outcome, whether intentionally or unintentionally. "What you don't know can hurt you," said Andrea Novick, attorney and founder of the Election Transparency Coalition (ETC). "The problems seen by voters and election workers Tuesday are nothing compared to the problems that are invisible. In the counties participating in the state's early rollout of the optical scanners Tuesday where machines broke down, election officials are at least aware that there was a problem. Where the scanners appeared to run smoothly, election officials, candidates and voters are led to believe everything is fine. But either way, whether the optical scanners appear to be functioning properly or not, the true count is unknowable."
Because the working parts of a lever machine are visible, elections officials and observers can witness all critical steps and know the machine’s count is accurate. But under ERMA (the Election Reform and Modernization Act) the certainty of the election night count is replaced with an unreliable electronic count, subject to verification if a subsequent 3% manual count matches the computer tally. “We are abandoning our transparent, secure system for knowingly exploitable vote-counting computers,” explained Novick.
State Elections Commissioner Douglas Kellner confirmed the new computers’ untrustworthiness, stating, "The system in New York is not to rely on the machines, but to rely on the paper," referring to ERMA’s post-election night hand count of some paper ballots. Historically, NY, learned not to trust any step taken outside of public view after repeated Tammany Hall style elections. Now ERMA mandates reliance on paper ballots that have been removed from the public eye. "If we don't stop ERMA," says Novick, "elections will from this day forward become what a New York court has already declared to be 'a useless formality.'" The ETC is preparing to file suit to stop the changeover to electronic vote-counting on constitutional grounds.
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