As many of you who have been staying
informed on the looming voting machine issue know, the current dilemma our commissioners are facing is outrageous. They are
being forced, threatened, and bullied by our federal and state governments to make a rushed and ill-thought-out decision that
will affect us for many years to come.
Even a cursory study of how different
systems work, in theory and in nightmarish practice, should make anyone realize that to conduct any election on a Direct
Recording Electronic (DRE, or touchscreen) system is to make a mockery of democracy. We as citizens have the right to transparent
elections—to have the election open and viewable from the casting to the counting of our vote. This is impossible with
elections conducted inside computers, on private software. Why would anyone seriously entertain the idea of using a system
that allows no recounts, no way to detect fraud, hacking (foreign or domestic), or even innocent errors, is extremely expensive,
unnecessarily complex so as to invite breakdowns, and could disenfranchise large segments of the population? Secondary concerns
of cost, initial and ongoing, and ease-of-use also overwhelmingly favor the optical scan system, in which a voter fills out
his own ballot, which is read, tallied, and kept as tangible evidence of his intent.
is a no-brainer decision for citizens, no matter how you look at it.
The vast majority of democracies
in the world use paper ballot systems, finding them reliable, accurate, and easy. The U.S. won’t even let “new” democracies
hold elections on electronic systems because they are so rife with fraud possibilities. Our own federal Government Accountability
Office says the touchscreens are prone to major problems, and cannot recommend they be used. Nonetheless, we have made a strong
effort to educate our local and state officials and the public, in case ignorance of these facts could be a factor in picking
Jurisdictions around the country
that purchased the touchscreen systems years ago may have an excuse for believing they were making the right decision
then. For any to buy them today, with all the documented problems, proven
deceptions from machine vendors, huge cost overruns, elections thrown into chaos, ad infinitum, would be mind-numbingly
irresponsible. Many counties and states are currently rethinking their positions, and at great cost dumping their systems
and going to optical scans. We can learn from recent history (and new revelations come every day) and completely avoid a huge
costly mistake. We don’t need to join the ranks of counties now trying to defend their poor choices, still expounding
the virtues of their DRE systems, rather than admit they made a mistake that is actually costing taxpayers heavily in dollars
and vote integrity.
In spite of all this, we are witnessing
county after county succumbing to pressure and voting for touchscreen systems, with little choice and limited time to explore
better options. Ignorance of objective facts and reliance on vendor (mis)information may play a part, though our own commissioners
will not be able to claim this avenue should they pick a non-transparent voting system. We are realizing that something even
more alarming than simple ignorance of facts may be going on. For some politicians,
this whole issue is not about picking what is right for voters and preserving democracy, if it ever was to begin with.
If that were the case, touchscreens would not even be in the running.
This issue is purely political.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why is the government intent on “fixing”
our election system, when most of it was running fine, and the problems could have been solved at state levels or locally?
Why is there an element of threat
and coercion by our government, from the federal level to the state level to the local level, to pick electronic systems? Why do we keep hearing outright lies spread by upper-level officials to scare our
officials into complying with non-existent HAVA rules?
Why is there such an arbitrary deadline
to implement HAVA before the 2006 elections, whether we are ready or not to make reasoned choices for our voting systems?
Who stands to benefit from having
even more voting systems that can literally “fix” elections, and allow no way to verify what we actually intended? Who are advocating using machines that conduct elections on private software, which
makes it impossible to ever prove the voters’ intentions?
Who benefits from the sales of millions
of dollars worth of voting systems and their upkeep?
We are a non-partisan group. We started
our crusade to educate people about this issue, feeling the facts could more than speak for themselves. Apparently the facts
were not enough. It seems that forces out of view of the citizens are at work,
since there have been no credible reasons given to support DREs.
Could this be solely about
power and money?
It seems logical to conclude that
some in powerful positions are abusing their influence, for additional power and/or material gain. A cynic may say that isn’t anything new. However, the
stakes here go light-years beyond the average political scandal. If the power of our vote is taken away, if it can be “fixed”
by someone else—foreign, domestic, willfully, or by accident---then we literally have no democracy.
Any other issue will be moot. We
will have no say on how our country is run, no voice to elect representatives, no power at all. Our ability to vote is literally being sold to the highest bidder, while a good portion of the nation is
not paying attention. They are already confident that they can do as they please,
with no repercussions. Is this what we want for ourselves, for our children?
Are we to lose any semblance of the America we thought we
So what can we do???
At this point, our own commissioners
seem to be giving this matter their most urgent attention, and certainly do not deserve the strong-arm tactics we have seen
coming out of Harrisburg and above. They
need to know that we have confidence in their ability to advocate for us, to not allow the overt stealing of our votes’
integrity from us. They can show us that they will not be enticed by misleading price quotes and swallow dubious claims from
touchscreen vendors, who have nothing to lose by using such tactics and millions of dollars to gain. The commissioners can
prove they won’t be coerced, bribed, threatened, overwhelmed, or enticed to purchase a system that is so obviously wrong
for ANY citizen to be forced to use. Our commissioners can show vision and wisdom
and lead us toward a stronger democracy, and continue Bucks County’s
tradition of conducting elections unmarred by scandal, abuse, and serious problems.
We can avoid the stupendous step backward other jurisdictions have fallen into, and there would be no possibility of
questioning hidden agendas that would most certainly arise if the touchscreen system were chosen.
Call them NOW, and let them know
you fully support the optical scan system. Adding a VotePad, which is a non-computer aid for ballot marking that is extremely
affordable, easy and reliable, is an option to satisfy the handicapped-accessible requirement of HAVA. Let them know you will remember their valuable contribution to Bucks
County, that choosing correctly and sanely on this issue will be
a lasting legacy for all of us.
Mr. James Cawley
Ms. Sandra Miller
Mr. Charles Martin 215-348-6426