By Brad Friedman on 8/18/2011, 5:57pm PT  

The Jones County, Mississippi, slogan is "A Great Place to Live." While this may or may not be true, and I've never been there, it's clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county's Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County's Board of Supervisors this week, has made that as clear as can be.

You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures --- such as e-voting machines that wouldn't start up at all and votes that were counted twice --- led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi's state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: "At this point there is no election...Everyone is baffled."

Against that backdrop then, behold what Jones County, MS, Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin is now calling for --- and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) --- as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline, "Improving the voting process" [emphasis added]...

The Jones County Board of Supervisors approved the removal of printers from the county’s voting machines at the request of Jones County Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin at Monday’s board meeting in Laurel.

Gavin told supervisors the printers are defective and have often slowed up the voting process.

“Removing the printers will make it easy for the precinct and poll workers to open up at 7 a.m.,” said Gavin. “At 7 a.m. on voting day, all machines need to be up and running.

“The poll worker, bless their hearts,” he added. “We can go over things with them and they still mess up. This way they won’t have to go in and put in paper to print out results. They will only use what’s recorded in the computer.

Before the vote, District Five Supervisor Jerome Wyatt questioned whether it was lawful to remove the printers. He said, as he recalled, the printers were authorized by the U.S. Justice Department, which compelled the state to use them to make sure votes and results could not be comprised [sic].

According to Gavin, the printed ballots were not a stipulation now. He said the voting machines record every vote and there is no way for them to be tampered with.

Gavin also told supervisors he has correspondence from state officials saying it is OK to do away with the printers. He added that other counties have removed them and are saving money as a result.

Not even sure where to begin with this mess.

"[T]here is no way for them to be tampered with"??? And Gavin is actually the election clerk in charge of actual elections and stuff, in this county?! Really?

I have no idea what party, if any, Gavin represents, and don't much care. That he would offer a statement so clearly absurd, so clearly inaccurate, so clearly misleading --- as revealed by lord-knows-how-many-scientific-studies at this point --- to his county's Board of Supervisors and all of their voters is nothing short of gob-smacking. That his county's Board of Supes would actually approve the request, unanimously, is only slightly less so.

Beyond referring Gavin to a few hundred (thousand?) pages here at The BRAD BLOG which contradict his ridiculous assertion that there is "no tamper" with the 100% unverifiable Diebold touch-screen voting systems used in Jones County, I'll just point him to our coverage of the study released by Princeton in 2006 (5 years ago!) demonstrating how results on those 100% faith-based voting systems can be easily manipulated, "in about 10 seconds," according to the study's lead author, in such a way that an entire election can be flipped without detection.

And just in case Gavin is unable to read, as could well be the case based on his reported comments to the Board of Supes, we're happy to share this video from Fox "News," of all places, demonstrating the Princeton Diebold virus hack of which Gavin appears to be completely unaware...

There is a reason that state after state, from CA to FL, has decertified the Diebold AccuVote touch-screen e-voting system. Apparently, the voters of Jones County needn't worry about those reasons, according to their top election official and the Board of Supervisors, who unskeptically support whatever he tells them.

As to Gavin's claims, if accurately reported by Graham (who obviously didn't bother to look into any of the facts behind the Circuit Clerk's blatant misinformation before reporting it), the assertion that the U.S. Justice Department had ever been "compell[ing]" the state to use paper-trail printers on touch-screen voting machines is similarly without basis to my knowledge.

While the DoJ is charged with preclearing (or rejecting) changes to election laws in areas covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act where there have historically been racial disparities in election administration (the entire state of Mississippi is subject to Section 5), they have never "compelled" a jurisdiction to add a paper-trail printer to a touch-screen voting system as far as I've ever heard.

Even if they had, however, I can't even imagine what he could be referring to when, as Graham reports, "According to Gavin, the printed ballots were not a stipulation now."

Huh? They were before but now? That's either sloppy reporting by Graham or Gavin was just making stuff up in his response to the Board.

The fact is, Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems like the Diebold AccuVote are no more reliable or even verifiable with a paper-trail printer than they are without them. There are a number of reasons for that which we've discussed here many times, but I won't bore you with them again for the moment. And yes, those crappy printers attached to the Diebold DREs --- as well as those made by other manufacturers for similar DREs --- are garbage and often fail during elections. They can, indeed, be a pain in the ass for poll workers to have to do deal with. However, with or without the paper-trail, or so called "Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT) printers, it is strictly impossible to prove that any vote ever cast on such machines during any election for any candidate or initiative on any ballot has ever been recorded accurately as per any voter's intent.

The fact is that these machines should never be used, with or without a so-called "paper trail," in any election, as they amount to 100% faith-based voting systems, antithetical to overseeable democracy and the self-governance envisioned by the U.S. Constitution...and mere common sense.

But to suggest that Diebold touch-screen "voting machines record every vote and there is no way for them to be tampered with" is so absurd, so laughably contrary to actual and scientifically-demonstrated reality, as to hardly be worthy of even responding to...had it not come from an election official who is seeking to make a terrible system even worse, if that's possible, while offering misinformation to the public in the bargain. (It may also be a potential violation of federal law in the bargain. Voting machines are federally certified as a complete unit. Removing one piece of that machine, the printer in this case, means it would no longer meet the federal certification it was approved under, though some states don't require that their voting systems meet federal certification guidelines.)

Want to save money, Mr. Gavin? Want to really "Improve the voting process" as ridiculously suggested by the Leader-Call's headline? Tell the truth about the unverifiable e-voting systems you use, to both the Board of Supes and the voters, and then switch to a hand-marked paper ballot system and count them all by hand, on Election Night, at the polls in front of the public. The system will be cheaper, verifiable, more reliable, actually representative of democracy and self-governance, and actually improve the voting process.

Good lord.

Emails sent by The BRAD BLOG to both Jones County, MS, Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin and Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham seeking more information to determine whether the article accurately reported what transpired at this week's meeting of the Board of Supes have not been answered.

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