Reckless Plan: Full Steam Ahead
Well. Darn. My Democrats Embrace Election Integrity praise for the King County Council was premature. According to Garth Fell and Bobbie Egan, King County Elections (REALS) still plans to buy the new Diebold, VoteHere, and Pitney-Bowes gear and use it in the presidential 2008 election.
How did this happen? The council's motion 2007-0402 says that it prefers REALS used our existing equipment for the 2008 presidential election. It didn't disallow the use of new equipment, as I had thought.
We attended yesterday's Citizen Election Oversight Committee (CEOC) (Wed Aug 8th) meeting. Below the fold is my recap.
Garth Fell reaffirmed REALS's commitment to the Executive's reckless plan to completely overhaul every aspect of our elections. Just in time for the presidential 2008 election. Last I heard, Fell is in charge of mail ballot processing, though there was a rumor he got promoted.
Laird Hall, our county's computer guy, repeated the lie that using our existing equipment is very risky. The CEOC, the peer and expert reviews (commissioned by the council), we citizens, common sense, and reality all disagree with REALS/Hall.
The council's motion does stipulate some additional conditions must be met before new gear is bought. Expert security reviews, testing, and certification. Fell stated they're doing these things.
Peer and Expert Reviews
They state that making any changes during a presidential election year is lunacy. Meaning Diebold or not, we shouldn't be having this debate until 2009.
The tabulator review concludes this new gear hasn't been used anywhere else, hasn't been independently reviewed, that counting ballots before election day is a very bad idea, and that electronically modifying ballots in the database sounds bad.
The ballot tracking and accountability review concludes that doing the sorting of the returned mail ballot envelopes is a good idea. Otherwise, everything else proposed is a bad idea, including automatic (computerized) signature verification and the web interface for ballot tracking.
Diebold's stonewalling is also noted in the reviews. (Which must be why we're rewarding them with more business.)
Regional Voting Centers
Monica Tracey also served on the committee locating and designing the regional voting centers (RVC). She reviewed that committee's recommendations. (I'll link when I can find that report.)
There will be 17 RVCs and lots of ballot dropoffs. 4 of the RVCs will be open for 20 days prior to the election. The rest will be open 5 days. The dropoffs will be community centers in Seattle and King County libraries outside of Seattle.
The report included the costs of the RVCs and dropoff locations. With some careful omission of some costs, and I think inflating the current poll site costs, the report states the reckless plan's "hybrid system" will cost about the same as today's "hybrid system".
Paul Guppy asked if the ballots (batches) from the Regional Voting Centers and drop boxes would be tracked so they could be traced back. Our election officials agreed that'd probably be a good idea.
Upcoming August 21st Primary Election
The primary date has been moved forward. To allow more time to handle mail balloting.
Alas, schools, which host many of our poll sites, are not open during the summer.
Sandy McConnell (?) of REALS said they aggressively consolidated poll sites. I think we went from 508 to 407 locations, but I need to confirm.
Fell and Egan detailed the efforts to educate everyone about the new primary date.
They already sent out the 615,000 mail ballots.
They're projecting a 29% voter turnout.
VoteHere & San Juan County Lawsuit
A major part of the reckless plan to overhaul our elections includes buying VoteHere's Mail-in Ballot Tracking system.
a) It's huge expensive, the most expensive part of the reckless plan. With sky high recurring costs.
b) It doesn't work. Hence the San Juan County lawsuit.
c) We already have a mail ballot tracking solution that works pretty good.
Michael Alvine, council staff who is tasked to the CEOC, presented Tim White's data showing some of the problems they found in San Juan County. Using VoteHere's tracking stuff, we voters are supposed to be reassured that our ballots were received and our votes counted. Only it doesn't actually work. For example, reporting that a ballot was counted before it was received.
(Tim White and I spoke at a joint house and senate panel on ballot tracking a few weeks back. I need to blog about that. It was our two voices of reason vs a bunch of election officials.)
Paul Miller of the Secretary of State's office stated
Paul Guppy wryly observed that only the publicly visible portions of VoteHere (the web interface) caused concern for the voters.
Michael Alvine asked a very good question. According to state law, reconciliation (crediting voters with voting) is a function of tabulation. Tabulation systems must be tested and certified. Counties are using VoteHere for reconciliation. So why doesn't the VoteHere system require testing and certification?
Paul Miller's answer was a long narrative about the Sec of State's firm support for adding unique barcodes to ballots, so that voters can know that their mail ballot was counted. (Or, and here's an idea, voters can vote at a poll site.)
Garth Fell stated that King County wouldn't use VoteHere for reconciliation, which is done by other systems. (If that's the case, I'm not real clear why we're buying it. We already have ballot tracking. For a few thousand bucks, we can modify our web site to add a pretty user interface to the mail ballot tracking information that's already published online.)
Like I said at the top: Well, darn. I don't even know what to write any more. And I have no idea what to do next.
As I've said before, there's almost exactly no way to dissuade someone who's determined to fail.
Just to clarify, the Executive's reckless plan to completely overhaul our elections can be summarized thusly:
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Related Links+ Democrats Embrace Election Integrity
+ motion 2007-0402
+ Citizen Election Oversight Committee (CEOC)
+ Reckless Plan
+ Executive' s reckless plan
+ highspeed tabulator
+ ballot tracking and accountability
+ More on Election Integrity
+ Also by zappini
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