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Guam's Razor-Thin Caucus Vote Shows the Need for Paper Ballots PDF  | Print |  Email
By Verified Voting Foundation Press Release   
May 05, 2008
The extremely close vote in Guam's Democratic Presidential caucus shows the need for recountable and verifiable voting systems, the Verified Voting Foundation said Sunday. Only seven votes separated Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama out of over 4,500 cast.  The caucus used voter-marked paper ballots, and a recount was ordered.

“Since the election was conducted using voter-marked paper ballots, they can do a recount,” said Warren Stewart, Senior Project Director for Verified Voting.  “If the caucus had used paperless touch screens, all they would get would be a reprint,” Stewart said.  “Imagine the Electoral College this November is hanging on the results from one state – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia – where the winner is determined by a razor-thin margin and there is no way to conduct a meaningful recount. Add to that inevitable machine failures in a handful of precincts in the state that will have resulted in long lines or anomalous results, and we have a constitutional crisis.”

Prominent computer scientists have warned strongly that all electronic voting systems are vulnerable to error and tampering. Verified Voting estimates that over 30 per cent of the ballots in the November Presidential election will be cast on paperless electronic machines.  In Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee, most votes will be paperless, and in Georgia, New Jersey, and Maryland, electronic systems with no paper record will be the only voting method at the polls.  In all, 14 states will have some paperless electronic voting on November 4.  “Unfortunately, over one fourth states are not as ready for a close Presidential race as the Guam Presidential caucus,” said Stewart.

Most states have taken steps to make their elections verifiable.  Florida and Iowa are moving to statewide systems of optically scanned paper ballots in time for the fall election, and approximately 60% of the nation's registered voters live in jurisdictions in which of votes in this November election will be cast on voter-marked paper ballots.

Paper ballots are not a guarantee of accuracy or integrity, but rather the foundation of a transparent election. “Every student of American history knows that paper ballots are also vulnerable to mischief – but security procedures can protect the chain of custody of the ballots. With paperless electronic voting, a corrupted result would not necessarily be detectable,” said Stewart.

At the very least, Congress needs to provide funding for emergency paper ballots and audits in case of equipment failure. “The current generation of voting machines was designed to meet standards that allow a 9% failure rate. With that potential for error and the expectation of a close election and a historic turnout, it is reckless not to provide the minimal safeguards of emergency paper ballots and audits for the fall elections.”
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