"... I am having a hard time convincing myself that I should care about it."
These are reactions to my Friday and Saturday posts about Northampton County Elections Commission Chair Walter R. Garvin. The Home Rule Charter bars political party officers from the election commission. Yet our elections commission chair is not just an elected Democratic committeeman, he's also a regional chair. And he hosts a partisan radio show under an assumed name. Why should we care? We should if we care about the integrity of our voting system. And this has been complicated by new and highly controversial touch screen electronic voting systems.
Northampton County purchased its little black boxes from Advanced Voting Systems while Lehigh County uses a Diebold innovation. Both systems have the same two problems. First, there's no paper trail. That's too expensive, we're told. Second, they can be hacked. Diebold reps call this internet hysteria. But a group of Lehigh University computer science and engineering professors are convinced there's “a wide variety of threats, many of which could be carried out by a single perpetrator or a small group needing only a modest understanding of computer security.” Pennsylvania's new voting machines already face a legal challenge as well as a House Bill to require paper trails.
In addition to worries about a paper trail and hacking, Jon Soden of the Lehigh/Northampton Progressive Alliance points to problems with our very first use. In the last election, a "glitch" turned Northampton County's ballot upside down, so that Democrats were voting in the Republican primary and vice versa. "If this was done in the 2004 election anyone voting for Kerry would have really been voting for Bush if the problem was not found and corrected."
Could you imagine how any election irregularity, no matter how innocent, will be interpreted if party honchos are allowed to sit on the election commission? And should the chair of an elections commission host a radio show promoting party propaganda from either side? When vote counters get political, public confidence in new requirements HAVA (Help America Vote Act) requirements is jeapordized.
Much ado about nothing? Ask the folks with hanging chads in Florida. Ask Ohio Democrats. I suppose the answer depends on whether you like your vote to count.