More Paperwork, Better Reliability

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-10-29 Print this article Print

At the end of the day, following 13 hours of voting, we will scan a special card that locks the AccuVote reader. The machine will print two copies of our precincts voting tallies, one that gets posted outside the polling place, which in our case is a residential garage. We will then account for every ballot assigned to our precinct and make sure the number of voter signatures we have matches the number of ballots cast.
Theres more paperwork to complete, but in the end the whole package is signed, sealed and delivered to one of several collection locations.
I spent most of the training time trying to find holes in the system or ways our election could be compromised. There are many safeguards, the most basic of which is that two of us must be physically with the ballots at all times. Our signatures will appear on all the documents and seals. There is also a memory chip locked into each AccuVote machine that can also be used to tally the votes if all the paper is lost. Click here to read why eWEEKs Scot Petersen claims e-voting underachieves. We wont be using the modem built into the AccuVote scanner. While this could speed getting the results into election HQ, California has—wisely, I think—decided that sending results via modem is too prone to spoofing. While any bogus modem results would quickly be discovered through cross-checking, why risk putting out bad numbers in the first place? Eventually, Diebold or someone will get electronic voting right, though I bet it will still involve some form of auditable paper ballot. Perhaps the touch screens will merely generate paper ballots, capable of being counted separately and providing a receipt for voters. But I really dont know what the hurry is. The AccuVote system we have is a vast improvement over the hanging chads generated by punch-card balloting and seems to work well. Our scanned ballot system is simple enough that an average voter can help run an election. It also lacks the fraud potential of an all-electronic system. For more insights from David Coursey, check out his Weblog.

Surveys find many Americans are concerned about Tuesdays election becoming a repeat of the controversial 2000 vote. Im concerned, too, so much that on Tuesday Ill spend 15 hours making sure that at least in my precinct everybodys vote gets counted. Sure, I can think of a better way to spend a Tuesday. But compared with the sacrifices many have made—and are making even as you read this—my contribution to democracy is a small one. Yours is even easier to make: Just brave the lines and go vote. See you at the polls! Check out eWEEK.coms Government Center for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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