Monday, October 04, 2004

The Franchise

Over at The Electronic Frontier Foundation, they're reporting that a Riverside County, CA Superior Court has ruled that a recount challenger is not entitled to see audit logs, security videos, and other evidence pertaining to paperless ballots. She has to be content with printouts of the totals.

An MSNBC article written before the ruling provides some background:

Traditionally, the registrar publishes results on printouts and online, continuously updating them as new data arrive.

In the first printout, at 8:13 p.m., three-term incumbent Bob Buster had 47 percent of the vote — shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Updates from the Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreens then stalled for more than an hour. During that time, Soubirous supporter Art Cassel spotted two Sequoia employees typing on a county computer.

When updates resumed about 9:15 p.m., Buster’s lead had widened to 50.2 percent of the vote. After 49,196 votes were logged, Buster finished by 49 votes above 50 percent, narrowly avoiding a runoff.

Sequoia spokesman Alfie Charles said the Sequoia employees were given identification badges and access to the computers on Election Day simply to ensure that the vote tabulation proceeded smoothly. The original vote count was accurate, he said.

“As a technical matter, the election went very well,” he said.

Soubirous, a registered nurse, paid more than $1,600 for a recount — but says she didn’t get her money’s worth. A re-examination of paper absentee ballots found 276 more votes, narrowing the margin for avoiding a runoff to 36 votes. But most of the voting took place electronically, and Townsend reproduced only the vote total delivered by each machine.

E-voting critics consider such numbers meaningless because they don’t show whether software glitches or hacks resulted in misrecorded votes. They say a voter-verifiable paper ballot, missing from the vast majority of machines being deployed across the country, is a better way to prove voters’ intentions.

Soubirous demanded to see audit logs, computer diskettes, internal memory cards, surveillance tapes from polling stations and other data Townsend touted as “checks and balances” that ensured the accuracy of paperless systems.

Attorneys representing Townsend responded that most of the items requested — including some electronic data from the voting machines and tabulation software — “do not exist” or “do not constitute "relevant materials" according to California election law. The registrar handed over only paper provisional ballots and some absentee ballots and envelopes.

Hey I sure would like to get me one o' them 'identification badges and access to the computers on Election Day' gizmos. Only to make sure the tabulation goes smoothly, of course.

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