The 2004 Election: “the ultimate possible audit”

Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz has sent a letter to King County Council members, urging them to approve Executive Ron Sims proposal to purchase additional ballot tabulating machines, and in it he makes an important point about the integrity of elections in King County and throughout the state:

In 2004 ballots were tabulated by the existing Diebold-based system. Subsequently there was a machine recount, followed by a manual hand re-count – the ultimate possible audit. In each case the accuracy of the present Diebold – based system was confirmed. While the vote did change between the original tally and the machine recount and the hand re-count, changes in the vote totals were always attributed to ballots added or subtracted to the mix, such as the “voter intent” ballots ruled on by the Canvassing Board. In fact, the current system has experienced numerous recounts over the years, with no identified failures by the hardware or the software.

I wouldn’t trust Diebold touch-screen voting machines as far as I could spit, but even the most paranoid election watchdogs must admit that our statewide hand recount was indeed “the ultimate possible audit” of the paper ballot tabulating machines. And the audit found that there was absolutely, positively no tabulating fraud.

Read the full text of Pelz’s letter here. (And check out my nifty new plug-in.)


  1. 1

    Puddybud Who Left The Reservation spews:

    You mean those wascally Diebold machines worked? Awww, I could almost feel for poor Voice of Asses Wiping.

    I thought the Diebold voting machines were biased per the commentary of your most RABID ASSWipe fans?

  2. 2

    Thomas Trainwinder spews:

    Not quite…if Rossi had been declared victor, your post (and hundreds before this) would have been finding the exact opposite conclusion.

    Partisanship trumps facts, logic and reason….to the detriment of citizens.

  3. 3

    Daddy Love spews:

    You mean that the massive voter fraud of 204 didn’t happen? How could such a thoroughly not-established fact based on thousands of not-occurring cases of incredibly blatant non-fraud be just swept under the rug?

  4. 4

    Daddy Love spews:

    Diebold is susceptible to hacking. That alone does not mean that any particular machine was hacked or that the machines of any particular state were hacked. It does mean that machine security is important and that their results should not be accepted without question, particularly if they are at odds with other evidence.

  5. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I don’t share Pelz’s confidence in Diebold’s optical scanners. Those machines don’t read all the ballots. A frayed ballot edge, a stray mark, a smudge, a mechanical defect — all can result in uncounted ballots. The vote totals kept going up because the machines didn’t count all the ballots.

    A completely foolproof voting system probably doesn’t exist, but one thing is clear: You can eliminate machine failures and machine errors by eliminating machines! If voters hand-mark paper ballots, and election workers hand-count the ballots, you won’t have to worry about whether your vote is being read by a machine — or changed inside a black box!

    The manual recount showed there is a foolproof method for hand-counting ballots. You have a counter from each party independently count a stack of ballots, and the two counters’ tallies have to agree. If they don’t, one or both of the counters made a mistake, and you make them count ‘em again. If their tallies still don’t agree, you take the ballots away from them and give them to a different counting team. Having watched this system in action, I’m convinced it’s accurate. I feel completely confident that the 2004 manual recount in King County was not off by even 1 vote!

    If King County purchases more Diebold optical scanning machines, we’ll continue to have the counting errors experienced with the county’s existing Diebold opotical scanning machines. These errors invariably are undercounts. That is, some voters’ ballots won’t be counted. You can argue that doesn’t matter except in close elections where you get a recount anyway. I say it does matter, because I want to know that my vote counted, even if my vote didn’t change the outcome. (How often does 1 vote change an outcome, anyway?) And I’m sure every other voter feels the same way.

    As for whether rabbits should be allowed to vote in the first place — fuck you!!! We rabbits were here long before you humans showed up, and we’ll be here long after your self-destroying species is extinct! So why shouldn’t rabbits vote? We’re going to inherit what’s left of this planet from you humans after you’ve fucked it up so bad your species can’t survive anymore. After humans are gone, rabbits will run this place, and I’ll be their fucking king! So, of course I should vote.

  6. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    1, 2 – OK, you 2 asswipes are against Diebold optical scanning machines … so tell us what you’re for. Your solution is — ?

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 I wouldn’t say the optical scanning readers are susceptible to hacking. Yeah, they have chips in them and count the ballots electronically, but the circuitry is simple … they don’t really have software as such … and to “hack” these machines someone would have to swap out the circuit boards in each machine one by one. Not very practical. The way someone would rig King County’s ballot count would be to mess with the computer that collects and tallies the totals from the counting machines, not mess with the machines themselves. And that vulnerability is the same regardless of the voting or counting methods used, unles and until you get rid of the computer and do the tallying by hand, as I’ve long advocated.

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The only reason to use a computer to collect and tally vote counts is to speed up the counting process. The only people who benefit from getting the election results at the speed of computers is the news media. I say screw the media, we don’t need to know who won on election night, it’s more important to get an honest and accurate count — so, I say do it by hand. If it takes a week, then it takes a week! We don’t need to know who won 15 minutes after the polls close.

  9. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 Touch screen machines are far more controversial than optical scanners, and justifiably so. There have been widespread reports of touch screen machines changing votes, not recording votes, and other crazy things — things that lead to strong suspicion that the software running these machines has been either rigged or hacked. There are literally thousands of complaints from individual voters of the machines changing their votes before their very eyes — and you never hear of these machines changing votes for Republican candidates to the Democratic candidate. 100% of the complaints are that they change votes for Democratic candidates to the Republican. Something stinks in Diebold!!! And ES&S, and Sequoia, and the other vendors. Touch screen machines should be banned, period. They’re not only unreliable, there is strong affirmative evidence that they’re just plain fucking crooked!!!

  10. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Installing a paper printer in these machines doesn’t increase my confidence in them, because 90% of the voters never look at the paper receipt to see if the machine properly recorded their vote. And the printer will print out whatever the machine decides the voter voted for, so you can’t determine from the paper receipt whether the machine changed the voter’s actual vote. The “paper trail” installed on these machines does nothing to prevent hacking, and doesn’t reveal whether hacking has occurred, unless the voter happens to notice his or her vote is being changed. And as I said, over 90% of the voters using these machines don’t even look to see what’s being recorded on the paper receipt. They don’t get a copy of the receipt to take with them; it’s on a roll that winds up inside a locked cannister inside the machine.

  11. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 FYI, Puddy, there are different kinds of Diebold machines. While the public controversy has been over Diebold touch-screen machines (and similar machines made by other vendors), Diebold also manufactures the optical scanner counting machines used by King County to tabulate the paper ballots used here. There is no resemblance between the two types of machines, except the fact they’re made by the same company. The scanners have their own set of problems, though. Mainly, they don’t read all the ballots. They may fail to read and record a ballot if the timing marks printed on the edge of the ballot are damaged, or if there are stray marks or smudges on the ballot, or if the ballot is torn or has water or coffee stains on it, or is physically damaged in some other way. And, being “dumb” machines incapable of interpreting what they read, they often simply don’t read votes cast by voters whose intent is clear but who filled out the ballot with a pencil instead of a pen, or the wrong color pen, or marked the ovals with an X instead of completely filling in the oval, etc.

    Yeah yeah, I know how you rightys feel about voters who don’t follow the instructions. You might want to rethink that position considering how many of the stupid people in our society are in your camp … but that’s a different topic. The answer to this specious argument is simply this: The law — and the principles underlying our democracy — doesn’t condition the right to vote upon following a fairly complex set of instructions. Rather, it is incumbent upon those administering elections to find ways to make the process as simple, understandable, easy, and foolproof as possible. Having to use a pen of the right color and completely fill in a very small oval on a piece of cardboard meets satisfies none of those criteria. I think the current ballots AND the counting machines should be eliminated, and King County (and every other jurisdiction in America) should go to a paper ballot with the names of the candidates printed in large type and large square boxes next to each candidate’s name that voters mark by drawing an X or a slash mark in. Then count them by hand. Like they do in PTA elections and gardening club elections. It works.

  12. 13



    I thought the Diebold voting machines were biased per the commentary of your most RABID ASSWipe fans?

    Thomas Break-winder:

    Not quite…if Rossi had been declared victor, your post (and hundreds before this) would have been finding the exact opposite conclusion.

    Typical stupid wingnuts. They can’t even comprehend the immense difference between electronic voting machines and vote tabulators. The former — in particular, the easily corruptible but unverifiable touch-screen variety — are a blight upon society, easily manipulated by sinister criminal Republicans bastards. The latter merely count the marks on paper forms, and can always be checked for accuracy by the best and most accurate means available — human beings working in collaboration and cooperation.

  13. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Huge Chinese Tire Recall; Dangerous Tread Separations Reported

    When is our government going to acknowledge the Chinese are selling us shit? When is U.S. business going to stop buying this crap and foisting it on American consumers?

    We need to stop selling our debt to China.
    We need to stop buying goods from China.
    We need to stop outsourcing American workers’ jobs to China.

    Is there any part of this scenario that you righty trollfucks don’t understand? Your Republican politicians and Republican businessmen are responsible for this mess. We Democrats know what to do to change it — do you? It’s time for new management in America … both in government, and in business.

  14. 15

    Harry Tuttle spews:

    The 2004 recount was complete and accurate in King County, but the recount was of only one election on the ballot.

    Some ballots have had fifty elections (offices, proposals, intititatives) on them. Those kinds of ballots would be extremely tedious and time consuming to count. In addition, hordes of public minded citizens, motivated to do good for their community would not do so on a routine basis.

    So, if manual ballot counts are to be done, get prepared for simplier, shorter ballots. That or three to five times as many permanent elections workers.

  15. 16

    Harry Tuttle spews:

    I take back fifty elections on a ballot. The Nov 2006 ballot had about 29 elections for a Seattle resident to vote on, and that was a very large ballot.

    It would still be a massive undertaking to count all those elections by hand.

  16. 17

    Spike spews:

    This thread is circling around an interesting subject. RR comes close to nailing it, when he argues that manual counting of paper ballots is easily the safest and most accurate method. There is really no compelling reason for machine counting other than speed. He is right when he points out that the media wants speed; the rest of us want accuracy. We have seen major abuses of electronic machinery. Now we need to go right back to basics. I would add another issue. We need to do our voting at polling places, not by mail. Absentee ballots should be for people unable to go to the polls. We need to remove the US Postal service from its central role in voting. We need to have our candidates chosen by people motivated enough to go out to vote. The shift to absentee voting completely destroys the privacy of the ballot and does huge damage to the participatory democracy that should be central to our political lives. I would like to see a major retrenchment in both these areas: Paper ballots, Polling stations.

  17. 18

    eridani spews:

    I observed the current ballot duplication process in 2005, and it is very well controlled. The central scanners reject ballots for obvious reasons like visible stray marks, and sometimes for no obvious reason at all (possibly printing registry problems or non-obvious stray marks). All such ballots are duplicated by hand, and the number of the old and the new ballots recorded by hand in a bound notebook. Two people do the duplication; one reading the votes and the other marking the ballot. Then they trade, and the other person reads the duplicated ballot which is checked against the original. If they make a mistake, that is recorded and the spoiled ballot saves as well.

    This may be tedious, but it is CHECKABLE, unlike the proposed new system which stores images electronically, and voter intent changes would wipe the original image and substitute a new one. This is a fundamentally unauditable process, and should not be allowed.

    I’m glad that Dwight is stepping up here. We don’t have problems with our current system that can’t be fixed by adding more machines and buying more memory for the current tabulation software. In addition, the new system is ILLEGAL–we are not supposed to be using equipment that has not been certified and that has not been used in other elections.

    The worst part of all is that some of the users who have tried the new system report that it DOESN’T WORK WELL WITH BALLOTS THAT HAVE BEEN FOLDED AND MAILED. The Diebold demonstration only used ballots that had not been folded.

    I sympathize with advocates of hand counting, but with ballots as complex as we have there is no alternative but optical scanning. Unauditable direct recording is flat out unacceptable–there is no reason why touchscreens used by disabled people could not be designed to print ballots that can be scanned along with everybody else’s.

    That doesn’t mean you should trust the process–that’s why we need random hand count audits. I depend heavily on computer software as an analytical chemist, but with every sample set I submit a hand calculation as a check against bit rot. Usually everything checks out, but last year I discovered a random error that occasionally multiplied my final results by ten and had to wipe my drive and reinstall everything. As Alastor Moody always says “Constant vigilance!” BTW, Boeing and Weyerhaeuser CEOs never whine about “Why don’t you trust us?” when their shareholders continue to demand independent auditing of their books even though no hankypanky was uncovered last year. The Elections Department could learn from this.

    That scanning and hand counting are very different methods is in itself a check and balance. Paleontologists who count tree rings and then submit samples for carbon-14 dating are very happy campers indeed when dates derived by these two different methods are in reasonable agreement.

    As Dwight pointed out, the 2004 recount was the ultimate audit. Given the outcome, naturally the Repubs are still whining and encouraging the ignorant jackasses that form their voting base to keep whining loudly and often. They’ve made a lot of political hay out of the fact that their base doesn’t understand anything about method error.

    The fact is that we don’t know (and cannot in principle know) who “really” won, because you can’t measure the difference between two tallies when the difference between the two final numbers is equal to or less than the method measurement error. Hand recounting has been tested and found to have an error rate of 0.1%. Optical scanning has a slightly higher error rate when a single race is counted, though it pulls ahead when three or more races are being counted at once. The difference between Gregoire and Rossi in all three counts was less than the error rate and about equal to the percent difference in the counts.

    So we were confronted with a problem analogous to measuring to 1/32″ accuracy with a ruler having only 1/4″ divisions. The hand count was analogous to a ruler with 1/8″ divisions. Since no available tool could have done the job, the law says use the best system you have (in this case hand counting) and live with the result.

    Dwight didn’t mention that all three candidates had votes added to their totals with the hand count. This in itself is highly reassuring, because the most common mistake central scanners make is a slight undercount, for the exact same reason that your computer printer occasionally picks up an extra piece of paper. If even one candidate had had a lower vote total in the hand count, that would have been highly suspicious.

    The proposed new system is NOT checkable in this way, and should not be allowed. It’s not worth jack shit that it’s faster than our current system. The slow step is waiting for all the ballots to come in, and the slow step always determines the speed of the overall process.

  18. 20

    Right Stuff spews:

    Back to reality….

    According to you all business in the US is run by Republicans? Interesting bit of fantasy there Rabbit.

  19. 21

    Right Stuff spews:

    Interesting post and I agree with most of that.
    I do think that “vote tabulators” have another advantage other than speed. They are non partisan. I have confidence in the use of tabulator machines for efficiency and accuracy, with human backup (canvassing board) for rejected ballots.

  20. 22

    headless lucy spews:

    re 17: As we saw in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 2004, some individuals in powerful places are motivated to limit voting opportunities at polling places in districts that don’t vote in a way that the powerful individuals desire (the name Blackwell comes to mind.

    So, I think you need to reexamine your idea on “motivation”, or just admit that you want to limit voting because it favors Republican candidates.

  21. 23


    Once again Goldy points out that he really does not know what he is talking about when it comes to Diebold, voting technology, or Washington State’s recount. But hey your echo-chamber on here is with you so who cares?

    Two counties on Touchscreens were exempted in the 2004 recount, including Snohomish.

    The GEMS database is used in both the Touchscreens and the Optical Scans. So while nothing has been shown concretely in Washington state, the Optical Scan Machines were a big problem in other states:

    But hey as long as Democrats control the system, it’s allright if they shake the devil’s hand and say everything is a-ok.

    Goldy, I’ve got an idea, why don’t you have someone like Bev Harris, Jason Aaron Osgood, or myself on your radio show to debate the issue. We could say, go up against a panel of your chosing.

    Here’s a democrat on Washblog who would disagree with your lack of real analysis:

  22. 24

    Spike spews:

    @22: No, I don’t think I will admit that, as I don’t favor Republican candidates. On the other hand, I can live with their victories, if the ballot is counted fairly and they actually won. (And shame on you for seeing my post as a politically biased sentiment.) Of course, both of those states show abuse of the system, but because they dealt with polls the abuse was visible. That means it is capable of correction by a vigilant system. Abuse under mechanical manipulation is almost invisible and often beyond correction. That is something you should care about. We are lucky here that we don’t see the horrors of Ohio/Florida. We essentially trust our system, even our GOP politicians are not seen as cheaters (no matter how much griping we hear about the 2004 ballot.) Personally, I want an educated citizenry voting under privacy conditions and being counted honestly.

  23. 26

    Yer Killin Me spews:

    Now if you’d just fix your RSS feeds so they showed more than the last ten posts for any given topic, I could move toward my goal of world domination mwahahahahaaaaa a parser that would make it much, much easier to ignore posts from rightwing nutjobs as they come up.

  24. 27

    Pierce County Voter spews:

    Don’t need voting machines in KC. If the Democrat is losing, they’ll just keep counting the ballots until the Democrat wins!

  25. 29



    Your feigned ignorance and blind obedience is unhelpful. It’s only the bedrock of our democracy here, you know, counting the votes, so no biggie, right?

    Just a small part of Sims’ reckless plan is for brand NEW tabulator hardware and software. King County would be the first customer. It’s complete do-over. Everything changes. Right before an presidential election.

    You, Pelz, and everyone else already know all this.

    For other readers who wish to get up to date, I’ve posted extensively over on washblog (as “zappini”). Here’s today’s post.

    Reckless Plan: Diebold Dazzles Democrats

    Further, the WA Citizens for Fair Elections is having a meeting tonight at University Heights @ 6:30pm. Talking about the Executive’s reckless plan is on the agenda.

    Cheers, Jason Osgood

    PS- Eridani @ 18 is correct in all respects.

  26. 30


    Roger Rabbit @ 10 –

    Touch screen machines should be banned, period. They’re not only unreliable, there is strong affirmative evidence that they’re just plain fucking crooked!

    I don’t know about the crooked part, but all makes and models of computerized voting machines are indeed unreliable.

    My core complaint is that these systems cannot be redeemed. Because a fully computerized voting systems cannot both preserve the secret ballot and the public vote count. Can not be done.

    (Infatuated computer geeks like the fantasize about using cryptographic algorithms to ensure “end-to-end auditability”. Meaning you get a receipt can check that your specific ballot was counted correctly. Alas, that takes away the secret ballot, opening the door to coercion, vote buying, etc.)

    Meanwhile, here in King County, the plan is to have between 9 and 20 regional voting centers. The only option will be virtual ballots on Diebold’s AccuVote TSx computerized voting machines. There will be no paper ballots. Not even for provisional ballots. (I’m still waiting for the explanation for how that’s supposed to work.)

    Yes, our touchscreens have voter verified paper audit trails (VVPAT). That’s the toilet paper roll you referred to above. You are correct that usability studies have shown voters don’t check the VVPAT, casting doubt on their utility.

    Whatever the case, VVPATs are just a placebo. A charade. There’s no reason to believe that what’s printed is what’s recorded.

    I witnessed one of our post election audits of a random selection of VVPAT cannisters. 3 of the 21 paper rolls were damaged and not human readable. They had to be reprinted from the memory cards. So I’m not real clear what’s being audited.

    Fortunately, there are HAVA compliant alternatives which both preserve the secret ballot and the public vote count. The Vote-PAD is my favorite. LA County uses the InkaVote. I’m pretty sure Voters Unite ( has a complete list somewhere online.

    Cheers, Jason Osgood

  27. 31

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @15 Believe me, Harry, there ARE hordes of public minded citizens who are motivated to do good for their community at $12 an hour (which is what the ballot counters in 2004 were paid) — and even more who’ll do it if you raise the pay to $15 an hour.

  28. 32

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @16 So? It’s a massive undertaking to count them by machine, too. Would it take more work and cost more money to count them all by hand? Yes. Is it worth it to eliminate worry that elections are being stolen? I think it is.

  29. 33

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @16 (continued) What’s cheaper, counting all of Florida’s and Ohio’s ballots by hand, or paying for Bush’s wars and corruption?

  30. 34

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Make no mistake, I believe it’s a 100% certainty that Bush did not win either of those elections, and all of the rightwing shit that has happened in the last 6 years wouldn’t have occurred if we’d had honest voting in Florida and Ohio.

  31. 35

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @17 I’m not convinced that poll voting is superior to mail voting. King County, alone, has to operate over 400 polling places and find over 4,000 pollworkers to run them. These poll workers receive only 4 hours of training and make numerous mistakes. For example, last year some pollworkers “tested” the county’s new touch screen voting machines by voting on them! Which isn’t hard to do when you’ve got the key cards given to voters to unlock the machines to vote on them. This is only one example of the dunderhead boners that occur at polling places. Other problems:

    Machine breakdowns
    Not enough machines in polling places
    Lines at polling places
    People unable to find polling places
    Parking problems at polling places
    Pollworkers losing paperwork
    Pollworkers filling out paperwork incorrectly
    Ballots misplaced at polling places (it happens)

    And so on. Until you’ve actually worked as a pollworker, as I have, and personally witnessed just how complicated running a polling place is, you really don’t appreciate how many things can go wrong with poll voting — and what can go wrong, does go wrong. The first time I worked as a pollworker, we weren’t given a key to unlock our voting machine. The second time I worked as a pollworker, the key to unlock our voting machine broke in the lock. Something as mundane as the polling location not having an electrical outlet or your supplies bag not having an extension cord in it can put your voting machine out of business. Shit happens. A lot, in fact. Believe me, KCRE’s troubleshooters are busy on election days, all day long. There’s a thousand things that can wrong with poll voting, and all of them do go wrong.

  32. 36

    Yer Killin Me spews:


    My core complaint is that these systems cannot be redeemed. Because a fully computerized voting systems cannot both preserve the secret ballot and the public vote count. Can not be done.

    I have spoken out occasionally in favor of computer-assisted voting, in which you select your candidates on the touch screen, after which the computer prints out your ballot, you check your ballot for accuracy, and your vote does not count until the ballot goes into the ballot box. If implemented properly this could combine the best of both paper ballots (because it generates a paper ballot that is the definitive source for the count) and electronic voting machines (ease of use, automatic presentation of ballot in the voter’s preferred language).

    But unfortunately every time I suggest something like this I get shouted down because of the bad experiences we’ve had over the last eight years.

  33. 37

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    We need to build a liberal coalition to buy this Diebold company and take it out of Publican hands. Only then will we have a chance of free and fair elections in the USA.

  34. 38

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @18 There was nothing sinister or underhanded about King County’s duplication process in 2004, and similar processes occurred in every other county using opti-scan machines. This process is prescribed by state law, regulated by the SOS’s office, is necessary to count the ballots, and has been around for many years.

    Unfortunately, the mere fact of election workers copying ballots so machines can read them is all the fuel needed to kick the conspiracy machine into high gear and provoke extreme paranoia among ignoramuses who know nothing about how the election process works and have even less interest in finding out how it works. It is enough for them if the screeching monkeys on KVI scream, “MY GOD!!! THEY’RE DUPLICATING BALLOTS IN KING COUNTY!!!” The mere word “duplication” is sufficient to get visions of phony ballots dancing in people’s heads. Even today, many Republicans in our state believe the 2004 governor’s election was “stolen” by “duplicate ballots” in King County.

    That, by itself, is reason enough to get rid of the opti-scan ballots and machines.

  35. 39

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    It occurs to me that, instead of duplicating ballots the machines can’t read, it would be less work; less paperwork; and way less controversy if they simply counted those ballots by hand instead of copying them and feeding the copies through the machines.

  36. 40

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    It is also misunderstood by the general public, and misrepresented by screeching monkeys like John Carlon, that the voter didn’t do anything wrong in many cases where the ballot has to be duplicated. The fact a ballot isn’t read by the machine and has to be duplicated doesn’t always mean the voter didn’t fill in the oval correctly. In fact, most of the time, that’s NOT the reason the machine can’t read it. Mere scuffing of the timing marks printed on the edge of the ballot as a result of handling by election workers is enough to cause machine rejection.

  37. 42

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Having worked as a pollworker, I’ve seen many occasions when a voter would fill out his/her ballot and insert it in the counting machine, and the machine would spit it out, and you couldn’t get that machine to read that ballot no matter what you did. In fact, if the machine is calibrated incorrectly, it will reject ALL the ballots.

  38. 43

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @18 “I sympathize with advocates of hand counting, but with ballots as complex as we have there is no alternative but optical scanning.”

    I don’t agree. You can get enough temporary workers if you pay them a reasonable hourly wage. If you have 29 elections on the ballot, you count each stack of ballots 29 times. Is it a lot of work? Yes. But the way we do elections now is a lot of work, too. In fact, it may be MORE work, simply because of increased complexity and more things that can go wrong with it. Which is more work, hand counting a ballot, or duplicating it and doing the related paperwork and accounting?

  39. 44


    Roger @35 and @38

    The issue with Vote By Mail is the same as it is with Touchscreens with private vote counting systems. It is an isue of control, specifically who controls the process.

    In precinct systems, that are hand-counted on-site at the precinct. The people, that is the citizenry who are paid or volunteer to work the polls, control the system.

    Once the system of counting is removed from public hands, then someone or some entity that is not THE PEOPLE, now control the process. This is true when the voted ballots are transported for centralized vote counts, this is true when the 1st counts are made with proprietary computer code, and it is also true about Vote-By Mail.

    Sure there are many complications with Democracy, you point out that poll voting is not perfect. But no one has ever said Democracy is perfect, they usually just say it’s better than the other options on the table.

    Vote-By Mail is being supported by the very same snake-oil salesmen that sold the Touchscreen machines in the first place. Why is that? Why is it that Diebold is only a problem if they use one type of system? Where’s the rational tool of analysis that can be employed to determine which type of privitization of our voting system is better?

    My answer, there isn’t one. The only system that I’ll support will be one that remains firmly in control of the people. Washington State is on the verge of totally shutting the people out of the system, basically forever, by moving to Vote-By Mail. Once we’ve lost the precinct system of paid workers and volunteers, it will be damned near impossible to ever get it back.

  40. 45

    klake spews:

    Roger Rabbit says:

    Make no mistake, I believe it’s a 100% certainty that Bush did not win either of those elections, and all of the rightwing shit that has happened in the last 6 years wouldn’t have occurred if we’d had honest voting in Florida and Ohio.

    Yep you are right Roger we would have a different Govener and we would be saying our prayers five times a day.

  41. 46

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Every time you duplicate a ballot, that ballot is being “hand counted” numerous times. First, an election worker looks at it. Then a Democratic observer looks at it. Then a Republican observer looks at it. Then a Libertarian observer looks at it. Next, the election worker copies the vote to a fresh ballot. Then the Democratic observer looks at the new ballot. Then the Republican observer looks at the new ballot. Then the Libertarian observer looks at the new ballot. This ballot has now been hand-counted eight times. Then someone hand-carries it back to the election worker who is feeding ballots from that precinct into the counting machine and he sticks it into the machine. Counting the first two or three times the election worker tried to feed the original ballot, this vote has now been counted either mechanically or visually at least a dozen times.

    How is this less work than hand-counting it?

  42. 47

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Instead of saying “counted a dozen times” I probably should say “handled a dozen times” which is what I meant.

  43. 48

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    17, 21 It’s becoming increasingly apparent that neither of you has ever worked in an election or observed ballot counting.

  44. 49

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @23 And Snohomish County is now being sued for using those touch screen voting machines. The litany of complaints is too long to list here; suffice to say that in two-thirds of the county’s precincts, voters reported vote-switching from Gregoire to Rossi by the touch screen machines, and suffice further to say that Snohomish County’s 2004 totals for these two candidates demonstrated what some people politely refer to as “statistical anomolies” namely, in two-thirds of the precincts Rossi received unexpectedly higher percentages of poll votes than he got in absentee ballots from the same precincts, and the precincts where the statistical anomolies occurred happen to coincide with the precincts where weird touch screen machine malfunctioning was reported.

    You wanna hold up Snohomish County as an example of how wonderful touch screen machines are, you go right ahead! Anyone who knows anything about what actually happened would point to Snohomish County as evidence of what these machines should be banned.

  45. 51

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    All I want is count all the votes, and count ‘em honestly. Is that too much to ask? It is in Florida and Ohio, and lots of other places. We can’t do much about what happens in those Republican cesspools, but we don’t have to put up with their bullshit here.

  46. 52


    Oh, and since no one has yet made the point. The hand-recount flipped the election. And as I pointed out before the Snohomish and I believe it was Yakima, were on touchscreens and quietly exempted from the hand-recount provision.

    So no, most of the election integrity activists I know of do not believe that the 2004 hand-count proved the machines worked right.

    I’ve maintained all along that the election was statistically tied. That every time you recounted the ballots by hand you would likely get a different outcome, and that there should be a Washington law that reflects a real understanding of what “statistical rates of error” means in terms of an election. I would love to see a Washington Law that said, in the case of a statistical tie, a top-two run-off election would then occur. But for all the Republicans chanting for a “Re-vote”, which wasn’t on the books at the time, I keep waiting for the Republicans in Washington to actually step up to the plate and push for just this type of reform.

  47. 53

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 The rot in our voting system is both deep and multi-faceted. First and foremost, there has been a federal court injunction in effect against the Republican National Committee since 1986 prohibiting them from suppressing minority voters, and let’s start by enforcing that injunction against the Republican strategists and operatives who have been systematically violating it — starting with Karl Rove, who dreamed up the suppression strategies, and Tim Griffin, who ran the RNC’s nationwide caging operations. The appropriate remedy here is to drag these two gentlemen in handcuffs before a federal judge, find them in contempt of court, and give them each six months in jail on each contempt count, which multiplied by several million counts will keep them in prison for the rest of geologic time. Then let’s assemble a lynch mob and render some vigilante justice to a certain partisan election official in Ohio who kept voting machines locked up in warehouses so voters of the other party would have to stand 8 or 10 hours in line in a cold November rain to exercise their right to vote. I’m also for killing the low-echelon party operatives in Ohio (and other states where election day challenges are permitted) who loiter in polling places challenging the registration of everyone who comes into the place who even remotely looks like he or she might vote for a Democrat. And, in conducting our bloodbath, let’s not overlook the slimy lowlife bastards in the boiler rooms who carried out the caging operation against African-American soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan; the best option here is to turn these scumbags over to the soldiers, and tell the soldiers that torture is back on the table. Hey, just kidding! Ann Coulter would see the HUMOR in the above comments, even if you don’t! My point being, enforcing the laws and court orders already in place is the logical place to start, and will go a long way toward curtailing the abuses of the last 2 presidential elections that succeeded in putting a usurper in power. Of course, to enforce anything, you have to take the power to appoint prosecutors and judges away from the usurpers. So, what we need is supermajorities in both houses of Congress, so we can IMPEACH and REMOVE all the fake judges appointed by an illegitimate president who should never been allowed to approach the bench in the first place, except in handcuffs.

  48. 54

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @27 Give it up, Doofus! No matter how many different screen names you hide behind, you’re still the same idiot you’ve always been.

  49. 55

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @30 “You are correct that usability studies have shown voters don’t check the VVPAT, casting doubt on their utility.”

    Well duh! I didn’t need any scientific investigation to find THAT out. I’ve run the AVU machine (aka touch screen machine) in my polling place for the last 2 or 3 elections. In my polling place, I’m the election worker who explains to voters how to use the machine, and gives them the key card to unlock the machine. I sit on the other side, where I can’t see how they vote, watching them banging away at the screen. How do I know that less than 10% of the voters bother to look at the paper receipt? I’ll tell you how I know. There’s a hinged opaque plastic cover over the clear plastic lens through which you read the paper tape, and if they don’t lift the cover they can’t read the tape, duh! So how many times have I found that opaque cover in the “up” position after the voter left? So far, not once. That’s how many voters in my polling place have verified how their votes were recorded by reading the tape: None.

  50. 57

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @37 Why not just buy the voting machine division? It’s up for sale, and has been on the block since early last year. Diebold is tired of the controversies, tired of the damage to its company reputation, and is trying to get out of the voting machine business. I’ll bet they’d sell it to you pretty cheap.

  51. 58

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I should also point out that the Diebold executive who infamously promised to “deliver” Ohio for Bush is no longer with the company, and hasn’t been for some time; he left a while ago.

  52. 59

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @44 What’s the difference between paying volunteers $9 an hour (no benefits) to work 12 hours a day 2 or 3 times a year, or paying county employees a regular county salary + benefits (I don’t know what they make)? I would guess you have fewer errors and screwups with trained professionals than you get from citizen volunteers with 4 hours of training and two days a year of work experience.

  53. 60

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    No matter how you organize and carry out elections, you can’t do it without the professionals who make a career of election administration, and you’re going to be drawing from basically the same job pool of professionals for your election staffing.

  54. 61

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @45 The best response I can make to you, klake, is the same response I’ve always made to you:

    klake is a nazi

  55. 62

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @52 Your premise that the hand count flipped the election is debatable, at the very least. What happened between the first and final counts in ’04 is rather complex, but suffice to say there were enough mislaid ballots in King County alone to change the outcome, and misplacing these ballots and then later finding and counting them has absolutely nothing to do with the reliability of the counting machines.

    Ever since, the Wingnut Whine Machine has made much of the “incompetence” of KCRE. Unfortunately for them, this argument doesn’t work in their favor, because if KCRE had been more competent, Rossi wouldn’t have won either of the first two counts. Thus, the GOP progaganda effort was vastly helped by KCRE’s stumbles. A smoothly-running KCRE is, in fact, the GOP propagandists’ worst enemy and they know it.

  56. 63


    “@52 Your premise that the hand count flipped the election is debatable, at the very least. ”

    Really, wait… who’s in office?

    Read the rest of my post again, it wasn’t my point in the first place.

  57. 64

    GBS spews:

    Puddybud, Puddybud, Puddybud:

    The Diebold machines can be hacked, it’s been proven in a documentuary and on live TV.

    The issue isn’t wether or not the machines work: they do. The issue is the ability of anti-American conservatives being able to rig elections. That is the problem.

    Which party has a federal restraining order against them for “voter caging” violations that is still in effect from 1986?

    Yep, that’s right, the RNC!

    Who testifed before congress recently that Karl Rove’s Protege, Tim Griffin, was actively involved in voter caging in the 2004 elections?

    Yep, Monica Goodling.

    Who were primarily effected by the 2004 voter caging?

    Yep, black military people.

    So, how do you feel about your party marginalizing the vote of black soldiers fighting for our “freedom” in Iraq?

  58. 65

    Harry Tuttle spews:


    “In precinct systems, that are hand-counted on-site at the precinct. The people, that is the citizenry who are paid or volunteer to work the polls, control the system.”

    Where in Washington do precinct workers count votes? They count the number of ballots, in KC, but not votes.

  59. 66

    Laura in WA spews:

    The important thing here is, THERE’S A PAPER TRAIL! Very few voting machine manufacturers would be bold enough to commit a fraud that would be discovered during the first hand recount that takes place. But without the paper ballots to go back to, with no way to know whether the votes the machine claims were cast actually were cast…well, I wouldn’t place that level of trust in Diebold OR ANY OTHER COMPANY. Our democracy is too important for that.

    I have no problem with touch-screens. They’re intuitive and efficient. I would just insist that, at the end of the voting process, they print out a paper ballot for the voter to put in a box for verification purposes if an election is close or disputed. ATM machines will print out a receipt…how is it so hard for a voting machine to do the same?

  60. 67

    Harry Tuttle spews:

    @43 RR said

    “I don’t agree. You can get enough temporary workers if you pay them a reasonable hourly wage. If you have 29 elections on the ballot, you count each stack of ballots 29 times.”

    One statewide race took nearly two weeks to count (Dec 8 – Dec 20) with 80 three member teams (usually about 64, actually.) Let’s take that 240 persons from the three member teams and 50 or so runners and supervisors, 300 people, to count one race. How many teams do you propose to field?

    Since the voters of Washington WANT an all mail system, this centralized counting would be the replacement.

  61. 69


    Harry Tuttle, Roger Rabbit-

    re: hand counting paper ballots

    This is an important issue. It needs to be researched. We currently don’t have all the data we need to determine if that strategy would work in King County. Our elections are huge and complicated. So many precincts, so many issues per ballot.

    Here’s a brief overview of what I know.

    Germany hand counts their federal races. They have proportional representation. The count takes months. It’s mostly a formality, to confirm the official results, which are derived from the official exit polls. With PR, the accuracy isn’t crucial, unlike our “first past the post” election format.

    Canada hand counts the federal races. They also have simple ballots. They have results in a few hours. The key is precinct-based counts, where a person from every party is present and must agree to the count before kicking the results up the chain of command.

    New Hampshire has hand counting. Nancy Tobi champions their approach. They “sort and stack”, where you sort ballots into stacks (by votes) and then count the stacks. This is the fastest, most accurate form of counting for our type of elections. I haven’t read up on this strategy, to determine if it’d be appropriate for our elections. (Thanks for Bev Harris for educating me about New Hampshire’s approach.)

    John Washburn, an election integrity activists in Wisconsin, proposes a variant strategy called “sort and weigh”. You use scales to count ballots. Just like Columbian drug lords use scales to count money. Washburn is currently trying to marshal the resources for some controlled experiments using authentic ballots.

    I hope to some day have our own local experiments. But not today. First, we keep our elections from plunging into the abyss, stop the hemorrhaging, whatever metaphor is most appropriate. Then we figure out ways to improve things.

    Cheers, Jason Osgood

  62. 70


    Roger Rabbit @ 55-

    Coolness. Thank you for serving as a poll worker. Excellent observation about the VVPAT door.

    I too am a poll worker. During the last two elections, I timed a small sample of voters using virtual ballots and paper ballots. They took the same amount of time. Which surprised me, since computerized voting was supposed to be faster and more efficient.

    But, as you know, it’s worse than that.

    Voting on a touchscreen actually takes longer. Because, ironically, there’s more paper work. As you know, instead of getting a ballot, voters get an “AVU encoding slip”. Which then has to be walked over to “AVU judge”, the person nursing the touchscreen. Then then have to charge up a voting card. Then the voter has to plug the card in. Voting, voting, voting. Voter is done. Press “cast ballot”. Wait for the faked printer noises to stop. Press “okay”. Retrieve voting card. Hand card back to AVU judge.

    Using these !@#$%^!! touchscreens in elections requires many more procedures, cross checks, steps, etc., adding so much unnecessary complexity. It’s a class case of the inappropriate use of technology.

    Cheers, Jason Osgood

  63. 71

    David spews:


    As an AVU judge, I can tell you that the touchscreen voting was NOT put in place as a timesaver.

    Although the machines can be used by anyone, their main mission is to make voting accessible to every citizen as per the Voting Rights Act of 2001.

    The contrast and size of type can be adjusted for people who have a hard time reading the type on the ballots, there is a voice ballot for the blind, the machines are at the correct height for wheelchair-bound citizens to vote comfortably.

    King County has a very stringent process in place to make sure that every ballot from these machines is counted correctly.

  64. 72



    “In precinct systems, that are hand-counted on-site at the precinct. The people, that is the citizenry who are paid or volunteer to work the polls, control the system.”

    Where in Washington do precinct workers count votes? They count the number of ballots, in KC, but not votes.

    Ah see, what I wrote was a little word “That”, those that are hand-counted. I am against centralized vote counts. My argument is clear. I don’t believe anywhere in Washington is a county actually counting the votes by hand at the precinct. You are correct. I am fighting for voting integrity, it’s a wish-list, not a reality. There are many many problems with Washington’s current system. However, that is not an argument that should be used to support the total elimination of the precinct system with VBM.

    Washington centralizes the vote count in all of the counties I’ve looked into. I am against this. Is that clear yet?

  65. 73

    Harry Tuttle spews:

    This thread is long since dead, but the suggestion in the response by Gentry immediately above this post and RR’s count instead of duplicate desire are both at odds with Washington law.

    But, the biggest problem with both of them is that people don’t want to vote at the polls. The permanent absetee ballot is extremely popular, and it is doubtful that these worthy proposals would get much support in the legislature.