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December 06, 2004

Stupid as all get out: recounting touch screen votes by hand

This may be the stupidest act you'll ever read about. Two Washington counties will be printing out their touch screen votes on 8 1/2" x 11" pages in order to recount them by hand.

Most counties bracing for a statewide hand recount of the governor's race have boxes upon boxes full of ballots.

Not Snohomish and Yakima counties, the only two in Washington where people voted on touch-screen computers.

Before their recounts can begin, Snohomish and Yakima counties will have to print out paper ballots to record tens of thousands of votes cast at the polls Nov. 2 on the computer-voting machines.

"It's going to be a long, long process," Carolyn Diepenbrock, Snohomish County's election supervisor, told The (Everett) Herald.


Snohomish County has to print out more than 96,000 ballots to record the votes of those who turned out at the polls on Election Day. Yakima County will have fewer ballots to print, since it had about one-quarter as many participating voters.

Each touch-screen vote was recorded on electronic data cartridges, technology that speeds up machine counting. A hand recount is another story.

Starting Wednesday, election officials will begin downloading the data to create a computer file for each ballot, saved in portable document, or "pdf," format, Diepenbrock said.

The ballots will then be printed out, each on its own sheet of 8  1/2-by-11-inch paper.

"We are going to have five different computers with five printers, and they are going to be printing for five days," Diepenbrock said.

Posted by Jeff on December 6, 2004 at 09:34 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink


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The illogic here is unbelieveable. If the only way votes are recorded is on the data cartridge (probably not very securely at that!), then there is no such thing as a meaningful hand recount -- in the sense of a recount that could possibly find an error.

This is just one more argument in favor of voter-verifiable paper trails for all electronic voting machines.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Dec 6, 2004 10:40:50 PM

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