And how to maximize the likelihood of your vote actually being counted and counted accurately...
By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2013, 12:30pm PT  

These tweets are from Col. Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor at Gitmo, on how things went for him today as he was trying to vote in Virginia...

In another tweet, Davis notes that he "voted in Buckland Precinct in Prince William County, Virginia," and then noted to others that he "Hope[s] voters will double check their ballots before pushing submit to make sure they're right."

Good advice, of course. But, unfortunately, given the 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems used in Prince William County (and across much of Virginia and most of New Jersey), even checking the onscreen "ballot" for accuracy is no guarantee that the vote will be counted accurately, or even at all, unfortunately.

The same is true on systems that have so-called "paper trails" that print out for voters to examine before "casting" them. (On those systems, the "Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" or VVPAT, is largely to make the voter feel better, somehow. In truth, those "paper trails" are almost never actually tallied. The internal computer numbers are used instead. And, even if the VVPATs were to be tallied by humans, there would be no way to know for certain that they actually reflect the intent of any voter.)

For the record, Prince William County uses touch-screen systems made by Sequoia Voting Systems, which is now owned by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting. To get an idea of the many problems and concerns over the years with Sequoia touch-screen systems, see this article detailing the day that Barack Obama early voted on one of them in Chicago last year. Those are also the same systems which managed to flip Oprah Winfrey's Presidential vote back in 2008. (The Obama piece also includes links to our articles detailing things such as Sequoia's "yellow button" on the back of each touch-screen system which, if pressed correctly, as an election official explained to us back in 2006, allows a voter to "vote as many times as you want. You won't ever have to stop until someone physically restrains you from voting.")

[Update: VA voter David Hutchinson reports similar problems with touch-screen flips today in BRAD BLOG comments below.]

Want to maximize the possibility that your vote will be counted and counted accurately? Try to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot where available. We were told today that, for the first time, some locations in Virginia are allowing voters to vote on paper if they like, though Charlottesville, VA voter David Swanson reports than when he voted at the precinct today, "Most people chose not to."

Of course, paper ballots are also almost always tallied by computers, instead of humans, so those are causing big problems for voters as well today...

In New York, for example, the Post is reporting that "Many of the city's 'optical-scan' voting machines were reported broken - or simply would not boot up - on Tuesday morning, forcing voters to toss paper ballots into overflowing baskets, according to frustrated Twitter posts." The Gothamist confirms that report with Tweets from all over the city complaining of scanners malfunctioning. "At PS 32 in Carroll Gardens this morning, Awl co-founder Choire Sicha reported a wait time of 20-30 minutes because of malfunctioning scanning machines," they report.

Many of New York state's systems are also manufactured by Sequoia/Dominion, though the city itself uses systems made by ES&S, the nation's largest e-voting company, and one with its own long and storied history of failure and inaccurate counting. (See a brief history of ES&S failures here.)

We've got some more tips on how to avoid problems or report them if they happen, right here. Those tips are from last November, but still largely on point for those of you trying to vote around the country today.

Finally, for now, here again is our short animated video from 2010 --- unfortunately, it's still accurate as well --- explaining why it's important to vote on a paper ballot however possible, if you want to try and maximize the possibility of your vote actually being recorded accurately...

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