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Wait, who supports paper ballots now?

I have three things to say about this.

Following repeated allegations by Republican Donald Trump that the election may be rigged to ensure a win for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Texas lawmakers are actively considering ways to boost confidence in the state’s elections during next year’s legislative session.

Among the ideas drawing interest: adding paper trail backups to thousands of electronic voting machines.

The idea was brought up in a tweet Saturday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“That’s a great idea & we are considering it as an election reform measure. Election integrity is essential,” Abbott tweeted in response to a voter who tweeted that he wanted printed proof of how he cast his ballot.

Over the last decade, several Texas lawmakers have filed bills to require paper trails on electronic voting machine. The proposals often include adding a printer in a sealed case to the state’s electronic voting machines so voters could check their votes against the receipt. The paper trail could be consulted in the event of a recount.

During the 2007 legislative session, interest in the idea stalled following estimates that adding the printers to all of the state’s voting machines could cost $40 to 50 million, according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from the time.

One of the 2007 bills was authored by then-state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. Now a state senator, she said she may re-introduce her previous legislation.

“I agree with Governor Abbott’s call for election reform,” Kolkhorst said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “I have personally spoken with his office about re-introducing my legislation from 2007 to strengthen ballot integrity by requiring a paper record be printed of a person’s vote on an electronic voting machine. Texans have the right to inspect and verify that their vote was accurately recorded.”

[…]

The move toward election reform comes amid an election season in which Texans have expressed concerns about election rigging and voter fraud. Last week, Trump highlighted reports of voting machines in Texas changing votes for president from voters casting straight-ticket ballots. Those reports, however, have been largely debunked by election officials, who have stated that alleged instances of “vote flipping” were the result of user error.

1. I’m old enough to remember when suspicion of electronic voting machines and faith that only paper ballots could ensure the integrity of our electoral system was a shibboleth on the left, largely having to do with dire conspiracy theories about the Diebold corporation and vote counting in Ohio in 2004. Here’s a little blast from the past for those of you who have blocked this out or weren’t there for it the first time. Who knew that a sociopathic sore-losing narcissist could spark such an interest in voting machine integrity among Republicans? For that matter, who knew that so many Republican voters could be that suspicious of the electoral process in a state whose elections they have been dominating for over 20 years? Clearly, all these Republican County Clerks and Republican-appointed elections administrators can’t be trusted.

2. Travis County has already done a lot of the heavy lifting on building a better mousetrap. Maybe we should just emulate their work and save us all a bunch of time and effort.

3. Putting aside the question of paper ballots for a moment, perhaps we should take a moment and contemplate the fact that the electronic voting machines we use now are all a decade or more old, and are generally past their recommended lifespan. If we do nothing else, spending a few bucks to upgrade and replace our current hardware would be an excellent investment.

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10 Comments

  1. brad m says:

    Abbott…all tweet no action.

    I am not going to hold my breath that the Guv does anything on this matter.

  2. voter_worker says:

    The paper trail sounds great until you start considering the logistics. What size paper is envisioned? Is it multiple pieces of standard 81/2 X 11? A long, narrow strip such as cash register receipts? This is something the voter has to be able to clearly read while still at the machine, so add x number of minutes for each voter to peruse the receipt. Then each voter deposits said receipt into a container, whereupon the County Clerk must from that point forward maintain strict chain of custody until such time determined by law for their destruction date. Every day of voting will require reloads of paper and ink, fixing jams and other breakdowns, etc. Or maybe there’s some miracle process of which I’m unaware that will make it all easy peasy.

  3. Mainstream says:

    If the paper trail involves a receipt which the voter keeps, which shows how he voted, I would be concerned about compromising a voters’s ballot secrecy. Whoever drove him to the polls, his employer, his union leader, his family member, will be trying to see how he voted.

  4. Joel says:

    “I’m old enough to remember when suspicion of electronic voting machines and faith that only paper ballots could ensure the integrity of our electoral system was a shibboleth on the left, largely having to do with dire conspiracy theories about the Diebold corporation and vote counting in Ohio in 2004. ”

    by “dire conspiracy theories” i assume you mean statistics and analysis of the lines, poll access, and other events at the time?

  5. Joel, no, I’m talking about the belief that votes cast on Diebold machines could not be trusted because the Diebold company was totally in the tank for Bush and would change votes as needed to ensure he won Ohio. The things you reference were real and were problems, but they were political problems caused by unscrupulous elected officials like Ohio’s then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. The Diebold conspiracy theories had to do with the voting machines, for which the only solution was paper ballots.

  6. Joel says:

    IIRC, the Diebold CEO actually said as much.

  7. brad m says:

    Voter W,

    Who said electoral integrity would be “easy peasy”?

    But I don’t think a chicken little sky is falling attitude is necessary without knowing the details of paper or other trail to ensure backup and failsafe options for our elections.

    I guess your “miracle” you want is a voice recognition ballot choice selection you can send in via a text message from your car at the stop light.

  8. Neither Here Nor There says:

    If humans are involved there will always be problems, if it was such an easy way to alter the Republicans would not be trying so hard to keep certain people from voting.

    If the Republicans are thinking about changing it, I don’t expect it to be more voter fraud proof. They see the writing on the wall and want to find ways to keep the power they have. Not that Democrats would not do that they would, last time I check they were human.

  9. voter_worker says:

    brad m: I was being sarcastic; none of this is easy. Retrofitting the E-Slates this late in their useful lifetime would not be a good use of resources in my opinion. Do we know what the County Clerk is looking at for 2020? Could a new system with ironclad auditing capabilities be in place in Harris County in time to run the City of Houston 2019 election and be ready for 2020? A lot rests on Mr. Stanart doing the right thing.

  10. matx says:

    voter_worker: “A lot rests on Mr. Stanart doing the right thing” LOL