Switch to paper bal­lots to help en­sure fair­ness, ac­cu­racy

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - NEWS - Greg Vell­ner Colum­nist Greg Vell­ner is a colum­nist for Mont­gomery Me­dia.

Just as your car goes nowhere fast when the ac­cel­er­a­tor is busted, Democ­racy doesn’t run if its es­sen­tial key, the vot­ing process, is de­fec­tive.

In other words, count­ing votes must al­ways be fair and ac­cu­rate, and the elec­toral sys­tem used be flaw­less.

To that end, Mont­gomery County has taken steps to have a new voter-ver­i­fi­able paper bal­lot­ing struc­ture in place for May’s pri­mary. The $5.8 mil­lion sys­tem re­places the county’s 22-year-old push-but­ton method. An im­por­tant el­e­ment of this process: the paper trail can be au­dited to en­sure votes are counted ac­cu­rately.

Has Montco thrown out the new for the old in a re­turn to pen and paper?

“Vot­ers will still be able to pri­vately cast their bal­lot, just like the cur­rent sys­tem, and the sim­ple paper bal­lot will give them the high­est con­fi­dence that their votes will be ac­cu­rately recorded and counted,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair­per­son, county com­mis­sion­ers.

The re­cent rush of elec­toral prob­lems — from Rus­sia tam­per­ing to voter count chal­lenges — de­manded vot­ing sys­tems ev­ery­where work with­out prob­lems. Tak­ing away some high-tech and re­plac­ing with hands-on makes sense. In most cases with the new Mont­gomery County method, vot­ers will use a pen to fill out a bal­lot and have the op­por­tu­nity to check it for ac­cu­racy be­fore sub­mit­ting it to a scan­ner that tab­u­lates the vote and keeps the bal­lot in a se­cure place for au­dit­ing. Polling lo­ca­tions also will have an ADA touch­screen for can­di­date se­lec­tion.

The county chose the new sys­tem with in­for­ma­tion gath­ered at last Fe­bru­ary’s Vot­ing Ma­chine Open House at Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Blue Bell cam­pus where more than 300 res­i­dents viewed, tested and gave feed­back on a range of sys­tems and ma­chines.

Said John Pou­los, CEO, Do­min­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems, the com­pany se­lected to set up the new method, “We are con­fi­dent that our elec­tion tech­nol­ogy will suit the di­verse needs of the county and its vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly in an age where qual­ity and se­cu­rity are para­mount.”

Para­mount, in­deed. Qual­ity and se­cu­rity — the unas­sum­ing knowl­edge vot­ing is fair and ac­cu­rate — is es­sen­tial. The huge and vi­tal vot­ing struc­ture, shown to be frail with tam­per­ing and fraud, must be a work­ing ma­chine of free­dom.

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