How Voting Machines Should Work

I left this as a comment over at Ruminate This.

Here’s what people mean by a paper backup:

The voting machine makes the voting easy and the new technology ensures that there are no invalid ballots. After you vote the machine prints out a paper backup of YOUR vote, for YOU to examine. Then YOU take that paper ballot to the desk where the voting officials are sitting, and you deposit that paper backup into a LOCKED BALLOT BOX. All the officials at the table watch you do it and watch each other to make sure everyone keeps their hands out of the ballot box.

At the end of the night that locked ballot box is opened and the ballots are counted. All the officials are watching and verifying this counting. They compare this count to the count shown by the machine. THEN the machine is allowed to transmit its totals to election headquarters where computers are able to quickly tabulate election results. The election officials write down the results of their own counting, lock the ballots back in the box, and take the box AND their written records to headquarters for use in case of a recount.

This is a foolproof system. It does not rely on accurate machines, instead using human verification of every step.

I’ve worked in polling places in San Mateo Country, CA, and this is similar to how it is done now, except for the improvement of technology making the voting easier and ensuring that there are no invalid ballots.

Update – Question – “…as I see it, your entire audit procedure relies on a separate but equal paper voting system. If that is your deal, why bother with the machimes at all?”

Answer: Because good touch-screen machines make the voting easier, prevent invalid votes and confusion (like Palm Beach Jews voting for Buchanan), report reliable counts to computers at headquarters so the election is over in a few hours, and the paper trail ballots they print out are uniform, evenly marked, valif, and verified by the voter.