Tennessee is Poised to Move Backwards Again

Governor Signs TN Voter Confidence ActWhile the rest of the country is moving away from the kind of voting machines we use in 93 out of 95 counties in Tennessee – 100% unverifiable and unauditable touch screen electronic voting machines – after tomorrow our state may be stuck with them for good.

Tomorrow, a regular Senate Session will be wedged into the day in which the Special Session on education will start. Wedged. Between Noon and 2pm. The regular session will have a sparse calendar [pdf] of only 5 bills.

The last item on tomorrow’s regular calendar is SB0872, a bill that would delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA) until 2012.

Please take the time today to contact your State Senator and ask them to vote “no” against SB0872.

The TVCA – which would give Tennesseans fair and accurate elections in the form of verifiable and auditable paper ballots by the November 2010 election – was passed almost unanimously in the State House and State Senate in 2008. It was a bi-partisan effort and ceremoniously signed into law by a supportive Governor Bredesen.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will still be voting on machines that break easily, don’t tally votes correctly, vote for you, and count votes and issue vote totals using software we can’t see.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will have no way to do a meaningful recount.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will have no way to audit their voter to make sure they were counted correctly.

Again, please take the time today to contact your State Senator and ask them to vote “no” against SB0872.

When you call or email, please:

  • Ask your Senator to vote against SB0872 – the bill that would delay implementation of the TVCA until 2012.
  • Tell your Senator that fair and accurate elections are fundamental to our democracy and that all Tennesseans deserve fair and accurate elections.
  • Remind your Senator that by replacing the 100% unverifiable paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines we use now with paper ballots, you would be giving us elections that could be monitored, recounted, and audited – in other words, fair and accurate.
  • Tell your Senator that the new paper ballot system is cheaper, faster, and more secure than what we are using now and if their concern is saving money, the best thing we can do is implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

More info is also available if you’d like to be prepared to argue against reasons for the delay.

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13 Responses to “Tennessee is Poised to Move Backwards Again”

  1. [...] Tennessee is Poised to Move Backwards Again [...]

  2. eldano says:

    Thomas, I’ve been trying to argue the point of not focusing on a recount, but on random quality testing. The problem with the current system (as I see it) is the lack of a voter-verifiable receipt. These receipts would allow the voter to confirm their votes, and could be compared to the electronic results for certain periods, or at certain locations. This should ensure the integrity of the vote.

    But Mary brings up another point: throughput. You can move many more voters through a location using optical scan ballots. Having used many kinds of voting system, they do seem to be the fastest and easiest to use. I’m sure many voters have been dissuaded because of the time commitment required to vote at busy times of day.

    And I promise you, she is no conservative.

  3. [...] No paper trail. Lost votes. Stolen Votes. Or the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act? [...]

  4. Thomas says:

    And just to clarify, there is no open source option I’ve seen in Tennessee yet. There are plenty of open source voting solutions available, but given how conservative you have shown yourself to be, I’m betting you will denounce them without doing any real research into their benefits or cost.

    Just in case you happen to want to check it out I’ll start you with one link: http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/

  5. Thomas says:

    Mary, are you sure you’re not a Republican? You can’t seem to answer easy questions and only hear what you want to hear. Do you or do you not have an answer to my questions regarding cost? Asking another question is not an answer.

    As for your questions (notice how I keep answering yours), you are correct that there is no open source option. So why not create one? As long as we shun all progress like you want, then there won’t be an open source option by November. If people would quit complaining and actually do something then we could easily make it happen by then. As for the reliability, audits and recounts I’ve already explained how paper is NOT any of those because it’s all based on biased human actions.. but you don’t want to hear it so you’ve ignored it yet again.

    As long as you remain 100% focused on moving backwards, you will never move forward.

  6. Mary Mancini says:

    I understood your “cost” question. My response was to let you know that the people who should be answering the cost question are the ones who are using cost as an excuse to continue to use the unverifiable and unreliable electronic voting system we are using now instead of following the law and implementing a paper ballot system.

  7. Mary Mancini says:

    Thomas, There is no open source option. None. There will not be an open source option by the November 2010 election. There is however, a paper ballot option that will be counted electronically and used for audits and recounts. The paper ballot option is the most reliable and it is what the law requires. It’s the only way for all sides/parties/viewpoints to be able to verify that there was no mistakes or fraud in the election.

  8. Thomas says:

    Mary, I don’t think you’re reading for comprehension here. I said specifically that electronic voting machines are more expensive up front. I posed my cost questions to you and anyone else who gives cost as a reason for going back to paper ballots. I’m still waiting for a response to those..

  9. Thomas says:

    If the software is not open source then THAT is the problem. Not the machines. Why would you completely abandon a more advanced and more accurate solution when you hit the first problem? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t make any sense to me. If that’s how we always handled things that didn’t work the way we expected them to, then we’d still be living in caves and no progress would ever be made.

    As for software being buggy, that means it has not been thoroughly tested. Code is very precise. If it doesn’t work right then it’s because it’s not coded right. It doesn’t just randomly work sometimes and not work other times. If proper testing is done then it can truly be 100% accurate. But like you said, that requires the source to be open. All sides/parties/viewpoints need to be able to verify and test so there is no chance for mistakes or fraud.

  10. Mary Mancini says:

    And by the way, the people arguing to keep the system we have now are arguing that the move to paper would be more costly. It’s not true, of course, but its what they’re saying so you might want to ask Sec. of State Tre Hargett and State Election coordinator Mark Goins your “cost” questions: But if that’s your reason for not using [paper ballots], then how much is too much? At what point is it more important to save money than to have an accurate election? What if legislators negotiated a 50% discount? Would it be worth it then? How much is a fair and accurate democracy worth to you?

  11. [...] Liberadio: While the rest of the country is moving away from the kind of voting machines we use in 93 out of 95 counties in Tennessee – 100% unverifiable and unauditable touch screen electronic voting machines – after tomorrow our state may be stuck with them for good. [...]

  12. Mary Mancini says:

    Thomas, And I have to disagree with you. Asking for paper ballots that would give Tennesseans the fair and accurate elections we deserve is not a “knee-jerk” reaction. It’s a carefully crafted opinion developed from following the story of these disastrous touch-screen electronic voting machines since they were introduced in 2004.

    Anyone who uses computer software knows that it can be buggy, i.e. not work the way it should. If we were allowed to see the code that was counting our votes I may agree with you that we might be able to have electronic voting and have it work properly.

    Unfortunately, the companies that make the touch-screen electronic voting machines we use now say that their software is “proprietary” and that we aren’t allowed to see how it works.

    So what we use to vote on in Tennessee is a “black box.” Meaning, we vote on a touch-screen, the vote gets recorded on secret software that we can’t monitor, and at the end of the day we get a total. As long as the total matches the number of voters, the precinct captain can say that a fair election was held. But that precinct captain – nor anyone else for that matter – know how the software counted the votes.

    What you describe above is a perfect electronic voting system with open source software that voters can monitor. What we have now doesn’t even come close to that and no one has been able to offer it.

    So, what would you rather do, go back to paper or continue voting on a system in which your votes are counted by secret software that may or may not counting correctly?

  13. Thomas says:

    I have to disagree. Paper ballots and biased human counting are very much backwards, out-dated and prone to error. I’m quite shocked to find this type of argument on a site that claims to be liberal. Actually I wouldn’t expect to see this anywhere other than Fox News. Conservatives are usually the ones who like to throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. If there are problems with electronic voting, fix the problems. Don’t abandon the method completely.

    Anyone who has developed software knows that it always works exactly the way it’s coded. If a voting machine doesn’t tally votes correctly or is confusing to use, the fault lies with the developers and testers, not the machine itself. If electronic voting machines are implemented correctly with THOROUGH TESTING, then they are accurate. The problem lies (as always) with humans who want to rush things or are just too lazy to do the proper testing. Investing the time up-front to test even the most unlikely of scenarios ensures that the machines are accurate.

    So coservative-style, knee-jerk reactions aside, what are the arguments for moving backwards to paper?

    - RECOUNTS: Simply put, electronic voting eliminates the need for recounts. The purpose of a recount is to catch human error that made the first count inaccurate. It makes perfect sense as long as we remain stuck in the past using paper ballots and relying on humans to count votes. Once we move into the future and use a reliable, accurate method of voting that takes out the chance for human error, we no longer need a method of catching that human error.

    - AUDITS: Auditing is far more accurate, faster and easier to perform with electronic voting. All votes should be stored in a database and queries (which should already be written prior to the machines being used in an actual election) can easily display total a plethora of stats about those votes. Again, why is it “backwards” to trust a machine’s count more than a senior citizen manually counting pieces of paper? How many times have you been counting money and had to start over because you think you might have skipped a number or had 2 stuck together? Machines don’t do that, humans do.

    - COSTS: Yes, right now electronic voting machines cost more up front. But if that’s your reason for not using them, then how much is too much? At what point is it more important to save money than to have an accurate election? What if legislators negotiated a 50% discount? Would it be worth it then? How much is a fair and accurate democracy worth to you? It costs me far more to put gas in my car and drive to work, but I’m not going to waste hours each day walking 35 miles round-trip just to save money. It doesn’t make sense, and neither does the cost argument against electronic voting machines.

    The bottom line is, when implemented correctly, machines will ALWAYS be more accurate than humans. Always. To pretend that it’s more accurate for 75-year-old voting precinct volunteers to count paper ballots than letting an electronic voting machine do it, is about as backwards as you can get. I for one am glad Tennessee finally moved into the 21st century and for the sake of our democracy I hope we stay here instead of reverting back to the old, backwards way of doing things.

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