Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Submitted by Kathy Dopp, Park City

On election day, Jill Sheinberg voted early in the day and poll workers could view her paper ballot choices when they tore off the ballot stub. I voted late in the afternoon and was told to (and did) put my entire ballot into the ballot box, along with the stub on it. The stub has an identifying number that is the same number as is recorded next to my name on the poll books, so any staffers at the county office can afterwards look up my name from my ballot and know how I voted.

Utah’s touchscreen voting machines provide no ballot privacy under any circumstance because the poll books record the order of voters signing in; the paper-roll ballot records are stored in the same order that voters vote and are time-stamped; the electronic ballot records are time-stamped; and people using wheelchairs have no privacy when casting touch-screen ballots and often cannot cast the ballot themselves. Any poll worker observing the order that voters use the machines or any election office staffer can afterwards compare the poll books with the paper or electronic ballot records and figure out exactly how a majority of voters voted. This was proven recently by James Moyer, a Franklin County, Ohio, resident who matched two sets of records to accurately figure out how people voted, as reported in several media outlets, including The Other Paper (Oct. 18, 2007). Ph. D. computer experts who have examined touchscreen voting machines report that there is "an easy mechanism to link voters with their votes".

Is there a solution? Redacting the paper time stamp for the public does not prevent county staffers from knowing how voters voted. Eliminating the paper time stamp does not prevent the electronic ballot records from being used to reveal how voters voted. Reducing the information shared with the public, as Utah has done, only reduces public verifiability of election results and gives insiders the freedom to tamper with election outcomes.

Absentee ballots in Summit County are wide-open to inspection by county staffers because no secrecy envelopes were used and the same staffer who verifies the voter’s validity opens the envelope and can view the ballot.

How can we achieve the ballot secrecy required by Utah’s constitution? Answer: scrapping the touchscreen voting machines and using paper ballots on Election Day and either shielding the ballots with a piece of paper or privacy envelope while poll workers tear off the identifying stub or asking voters to tear off the identifying stub themselves prior to casting the ballots.

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