We're just back in town, with lots of catchup work to do. But with Wisconsin's Recall Elections tomorrow, here are some important actions that folks (of any party!) who care about accurate election results can do to help protect the election results.
Remember, WI mostly votes on paper ballots. Unfortunately, however, most of those paper ballots are tabulated in secret inside of computers systems similar or identical to ones which have failed time again elsewhere, as seen most recently in places like Palm Beach County, FL and New York City. In WI, there is no mandated manual examination of paper ballots after the computer tabulates them in order to make sure they were tabulated accurately. That's a very bad (and dangerous) system.
In Palm Beach, several candidates incorrectly declared to be the "winners" by the Sequoia Voting Systems optical-scan tabulation computers in a March election this year had, in fact, been the losers of their races. The failure was discovered during a manual post-election spot-check of a tiny percentage of the paper ballots. WI does no such post-election spot-check of ballots to test the accuracy of their computer systems. Only a full hand-count of all the paper ballots in the Palm Beach elections revealed the correct winners. The identical tabulation system are used in WI's very Republican-leaning Waukesha County, as well as elsewhere in the state.
In New York City, it took nearly two years, but finally last month, ES&S, the company which manufacturers the paper-ballot optical scanners now used there, admitted that it was a flaw in their scanners which led to thousands of votes going uncounted during the 2010 elections. The company admitted to the system failure after the New York Daily News confirmed an error rate of 70% during the primary election and 54% in the general election in just one precinct in the South Bronx after a public records request and hand-count of the paper ballots. Those same flawed systems, the ES&S model DS200 paper-ballot op-scan system, are used in much of Lincoln, Portage and Wood Counties in WI.
There are many other systems used across the Badger State which have similarly failed in election after election. As always, "Democracy's Gold Standard" is a full public hand-count of ballots by actual human beings on election night, at the precinct, in front of all parties and video cameras, with results posted right there before ballots are moved anywhere. Unfortunately, that is rarely, if ever, done in Wisconsin. So it's up to you to try and help ensure the results on Tuesday are as accurate as possible, at least until those paper ballots are actually hand-counted and confirmed to have been tabulated accurately --- if they ever are.
To that end, here's a few things you can do tomorrow in Wisconsin (and one thing you can do even if you're not in Wisconsin), to help cover at least a few of the bases where computer tabulation systems can either be gamed or might simply malfunction to report inaccurate results...