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SHOCKER: “Glitches”: Indiana, Pennsylvania elections once again show risks of computer voting.

The solution is paper ballots. So why aren’t people moving on this?


I’ve been writing about this since 2002.

THERE’S NO MENTION OF PAPER BALLOTS, SO THIS IS ALL FOR SHOW: Democrats make renewed push for election security.

BALLOT INTEGRITY: Tennessee hits roadblock requiring paper trail voting.

Related: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back.

FLASHBACK: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back.

PAPER BALLOTS, PHOTO ID, AND A CRACKDOWN ON FRAUDULENT ABSENTEE BALLOTS WOULD BE A GOOD START: Harris on election security: ‘Russia can’t hack a piece of paper.’

Related: Study Finds Voter ID Requirements Don’t Repress Minority Votes.

SETH BARRETT TILLMAN ON THE DOWNSIDES OF PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. “Did you think the ballot design in Bush v Gore and the 2018 Florida elections were complex…too complex for the voter? In first-pass-the-post elections, the voter picks a single candidate for each election. But in proportional representation with the automatic transferable vote, the voter has to rank order all the candidates. That makes ballot design more complex. The Irish can do that because they tend to only have one set of offices on the ballot paper–the national parliament, or local councils. But in the U.S., we have multiple federal, state, and municipal executive and legislative positions (and sometimes judges) on the ballot. Our ballots would have to grow in size and complexity, or we would have to hold more elections. If we go down the latter route, voter turn out may be a problem, particularly where national races are not on the ballot.”

PAPER BALLOTS HAVE FAILED. It’s obvious that our election “system” cannot be trusted with either paper ballots or hackable computer voting machines. I have a solution: mechanical voting machines. 1. You can’t steal them, as they are huge and obvious. 2. You can’t hack them (without a machinist) and you certainly can’t hack them systematically. 3. It is hard to miscount with them – you literally look at the wheels on the back at the end of the night, add them up with a calculator, and call in the numbers. Done. Want a recount? Have someone else grab a calculator and look at the wheels. And don’t give me this “but they can break” stuff – if we can put in odometer in every car, I think we can handle this, and it’s not like the scanners and electronic machines aren’t breaking all the time.

UPDATE: Commenters are right that they cannot absolutely be protected from fraud committed by the actual election authorities. Even minimal procedures would make this pretty difficult, but yeah, I was probably not cynical enough here.

HMM: Early vote totals in at least 17 states already surpass 2014 turnout at this point.

In some cases, early and absentee vote totals are on track to double since four years ago. The numbers are so high in some states that early voting may exceed total vote counts — including Election Day tallies — from four years ago.

The heightened participation reflects in part a surge of interest among Democrats, who stayed home in large numbers in 2014, when Republicans took control of the Senate and widened their control of the House.

But data from several battleground states with marquee Senate or governor’s races show Republicans are also very engaged — as much as they were four years ago — suggesting many hard-fought races could be even closer than surveys are predicting.

That’s fine, but if I were king for a day, in no particular order I’d:

• Require photo ID to vote
• Outlaw early voting/voting by mail
• Absentee ballots only in case of travel or medical necessity
• Paper ballots only
• No same-day voter registration
• Purple fingers
• Mandate nationwide purge voter rolls every five years — if renewal is good enough for drivers licenses, it’s good enough for voter registration

Did I miss anything?


Voting machines and election equipment in use across the United States are prone to a “staggering” number of vulnerabilities, including bugs that could be harnessed by hackers to potentially interfere in a U.S. presidential race, security researchers warned Thursday.

A report summarizing the results of the “Voting Village” held at this summer’s Def Con, the world’s largest hacking conference, said that attendees discovered dozens of vulnerabilities upon conducting a rare, hands-on inspection of 30 pieces of various election equipment currently used throughout the U.S., including an electronic ballot scanner deployed in more than half the country.

For years Glenn’s been advocating a return to paper ballots.

ROD KACKLEY: Election Cybersecurity Looms Large in Toss-Up Georgia Governor’s Race.

If only there were some kind of hack-proof ballot.

CYBERSECURITY: U.S. states demand better access to secrets about election cyber threats.

Switching back to paper ballots seems like less of a hassle. More secure, too.

PAPER BALLOTS CAN BE FAKED, BUT THEY CAN’T BE HACKED FROM A BASEMENT IN MINSK — OR BEIJING: Devin Nunes calls for ban on electronic voting systems.

I’ve been calling for a return to paper ballots for over 15 years.

SORT OF LIKE PAPER BALLOTS: Google’s Secret to Protect Its Employees From Hacking Is Physical Keys.

BRUCE SCHNEIER: American elections are too easy to hack. We must take action now. “The computers we use in the voting process are vulnerable at every level. We need a system resilient to threats – and in many cases, that means paper.”

I’ve been proposing this for over 15 years.

STATE OFFICIALS IN MANY PLACES returning to paper ballots.

I’ve been proposing this for over 15 years.


I’ve been proposing this for over 15 years.

ONLY THE LONELY: One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—and It’s Not About Guns.

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can’t think of anyone to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

Read the whole thing.

HAVE THEY BEEN READING GLENN REYNOLDS? New bill could finally get rid of paperless voting machines.

Computer scientists have been warning for more than a decade that these machines are vulnerable to hacking and can’t be meaningfully audited. States have begun moving away from paperless systems, but budget constraints have forced some to continue relying on insecure paperless equipment. The Secure Elections Act would give states grants specifically earmarked for replacing these systems with more secure systems that use voter-verified paper ballots.

The legislation’s second big idea is to encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Many states today only conduct recounts in the event of very close election outcomes. And these recounts involve counting a fixed percentage of ballots. That often leads to either counting way too many ballots (wasting taxpayer money) or too few (failing to fully verify the election outcome).

The Lankford bill would encourage states to adopt more statistically sophisticated procedures to count as many ballots as needed to verify an election result was correct—and no more.

We talked to two election security experts who praised the legislation and urged Congress to pass it quickly.

All is proceeding exactly as Glenn has foreseen.

IT’S LIKE NOBODY CARES: Hacking the vote: Threats keep changing, but election IT sadly stays the same.

I have an idea. But I’ve been proposing it for 15 years with no success.

SPANISH GOVERNMENT “DISMANTLING” CATALAN SECESSION VOTE’S INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS: That’s what Fox News reported within the last 90 minutes. Spanish authorities had threatened to do this. They seized paper ballots earlier this week.

Authorities have already confiscated 10 million paper ballots in the last few days — which will make it much more difficult for Catalan officials to carry out an effective vote.


The Catalan government has pledged to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of Sunday’s vote if the `yes’ side wins, no matter what the turnout is.

Is the vote illegal? I think so.

From The Economist:

The Catalan regional government of Carles Puigdemont is preparing to hold a unilateral referendum on seceding from Spain on October 1st, which it says will be legally binding. Catalans will be asked whether they want to form an independent republic. But there is a problem: Spain’s democratic constitution of 1978, which was approved by more than 90% of Catalan voters, gave wide autonomy to the regions but affirmed “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. Only the Spanish parliament can change the constitution. Mr Puigdemont’s referendum is therefore illegal, and Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, is determined to prevent it taking place.

(If you’re blocked by The Economist paywall the quote contains the gist.)

I’ve previously linked to this column I wrote on Catalan and Kurdish secession referendums. Though it was published last Tuesday evening when the Kurdish vote wasn’t official, it adds some perspective.

GOOD! Paper ballots are back in vogue thanks to Russian hacking fears. Even though there’s no actual evidence that the Russians changed a single vote, this is a good idea.

As I’ve noted before.

PAPER BALLOTS: Stunning testimony: Voting machines can be hacked without a trace of evidence.

COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF: Michael Barone: Let’s go back to paper ballots.

ALL IS PROCEEDING AS I HAVE FORESEEN: Why one of the largest counties in Texas is going back to paper ballots. “Denton County is planning a complete return to paper ballots. The move is in part a response to voter distrust of electronic voting machines.”

Well, paper ballots aren’t immune to fraud, but they can’t be changed by some guy sitting in a basement halfway around the world.

USA TODAY EDITORIALIZES: On Independence Day, U.S. elections remain vulnerable.

I made that same point in my paper ballots piece.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back. “Perhaps it’s time to mandate paper ballots, and to also legally require other steps to ensure election integrity. Vote-counting systems should be transparent, and regularly audited. Voter ID should be strictly enforced, as it is in all advanced democracies to ensure that only eligible voters vote. And voter registrations should be audited frequently to ensure the removal of voters who have died or moved away. Maybe we should even dye voters’ fingers to prevent revoting, as is done in many other countries. There’s no way to hack that.”

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back. “In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that’s recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that’s connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you’re very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren’t fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they’re beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world. And there are well-known steps to make Chicago-style fraud harder.”

MORGAN CHALFANT: Election hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security.

Growing concerns about threats to U.S. election systems have put the heat on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its efforts to boost national cybersecurity.

Homeland Security officials testified this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they have evidence that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states as part of its wider effort to influence the presidential election.

Now, lawmakers concerned about future foreign interference in U.S. elections are pressuring the department to offer more help to states and provide more details about what happened in 2016.

Two thoughts: First, we never got to the conclusion on charges that DHS itself was hacking state election computers.

Second, if you use paper ballots, you don’t have to worry about some guy in a basement halfway around the word.

ANALYSIS: TRUE. Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back, Glenn Reynolds writes in his latest USA Today column.

Read the whole thing, to coin an Insta-phrase.


Earlier: DNC chairman’s race deadlocked. “The leading contenders, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Tom Perez of Maryland, President Barack Obama’s former labor secretary, failed to clear the 50 percent-plus threshold among the 427 eligible voting members of the Democratic National Committee who voted on first ballot.”

Presumably intense Islamophobia led to Democrats rejecting Ellison. Though to borrow Henry Kissinger’s joke about the Iran-Iraq war, it’s a pity they both couldn’t lose.

As Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, “The mainstream media have followed the race with great intensity. It’s a little hard to fathom until you pause to reflect. They have a deep professional interest in the selection of their new leader.”

Related: ‘Because the Russians’? #DNCChair vote quickly switched from electronic to paper ballots.

Gee, why can’t the rest of us have those as well?

I DON’T TRUST THE “INTERNET OF THINGS:” Hotel ransomed by hackers as guests locked in rooms.

Lesson learned: “We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys. Just like 111 years ago at the time of our great-grandfathers.” Real keys and paper ballots — appropriate technologies for the 21st Century!

DO TELL: Ex-MI6 Boss: When It Comes To Voting, Pencil And Paper Are ‘Much More Secure’ Than Electronic Systems.

I’ve been writing about this for over a decade.

QUESTION ASKED: Are We In a New Era of Espionage?

The release of the surreptitiously gathered information, either to tip an election in one direction or just to sow disorder, is novel—especially in the context of American elections. During the 2008 and 2012 cycles, political campaigns came under cyberattack, but if anything was stolen, it was never shared with the public.

Despite the unique nature of this intervention, the 2016 cyberattacks square with Russian intelligence techniques reaching as far back as the Cold War. It’s an evolution of the Soviet Union’s “active measures,” a tactic favored by the KGB that involved covertly spreading politically damaging fictions in order to seed discord in an enemy. Houghton pointed to an example: Operation INFEKTION, a Soviet misinformation campaign in the 1980s that claimed the U.S. Army had created the AIDS virus at a research facility in Maryland. The Soviet Union pushed the story particularly hard in Africa, where AIDS epidemics had broken out in several countries, and where the Kremlin was wrestling with the U.S. for influence.

“What we’re seeing, essentially, is a long-running, old, traditional struggle, perhaps being conducted in new ways with new technology,” said John Hughes-Wilson, a former British intelligence officer and the author of The Secret State, a history of espionage. “Do you not think the CIA is working hard—I bloody well hope they are, actually—to try and do stuff in Russia? I mean, why do you guys pay your taxpayer dollars?”

There’s very little that can be done to save hubristic politicians and their enablers from themselves. And there’s plenty of evidence now that the DNC emails weren’t hacked by Russians, but leaked by Democrats.

We can and should however hack-proof our elections by requiring photo ID, paper ballots, and ink-stained fingers.

SO, I WAS WRITING ABOUT THIS PUTIN STUFF BACK IN JULY, but nobody seemed to care then.

Meanwhile, if you want to do something about Russian interference going forward, we need to (1) get serious with cybersecurity and not give divas like Hillary a pass because they’re divas; (2) go to paper ballots and other forms of enhanced election-integrity protections. I’d go full-bore with the kinds of standards used in many other countries: Photo ID, dyed finger, paper ballots counted in a big open room in front of many witnesses, etc. U.S. elections aren’t run according to accepted international standards, and that should be fixed.

And remember, anyone who doesn’t want to fix things is obviously a big ole Putin stooge.

PAPER BALLOTS ARE THE ANSWER: Merkel fears Russian meddling in German election.

Also, if you don’t want your email about doing illegal stuff hacked, don’t do illegal stuff.

YOU DON’T SAY: “‘A DDoS attack could certainly impact these votes and make a big difference in swing states,’ Dr. Simons said on Friday. ‘This is a strong argument for why we should not allow voters to send their voted ballots over the internet.’”

Who knew?

(Via Sissy Willis.)

THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA: Senator wants nationwide, all-mail voting to counter election hacks. This just removes the possibility of hacking in exchange for the certainty of fraud. People should have to vote in person on paper ballots, after showing ID, and then get their thumbs dyed blue. You know, like they do elsewhere in the world where standards are higher.

WE SURE ARE HEARING A LOT ABOUT THIS ALL OF A SUDDEN: How Hackers Could Send Your Polling Station into Chaos.

If only we had some sort of voting system that was immune to foreign hackers.

CONGRESSMAN WHO BELIEVED GUAM WAS IN DANGER OF TIPPING OVER DUE TO OVERPOPULATION CALLS FOR DHS OVERSIGHT OF ELECTION SECURITY: “Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said Congress should give the Department of Homeland Security authority over the security of the nation’s voting systems to prevent the ‘destabilization’ of democracy.”

There’s a far simpler and much less invasive method, of course.

YES: A Close Election Could Expose Risky Electronic Voting Machines.

You know what can’t be hacked from overseas? Paper ballots.

PAPER BALLOTS ALL THE WAY, BABY! Hackers have attempted to gain access to elections systems in 20 states.

Actually, if I were a foreign hacker trying to disrupt an election, I’d try to crash the EBT payment system on the last payment date before the election in swing state big-cities. That would probably produce disruptive riots and chaos.

A TERRIBLE IDEA: The Internet Is No Place For Elections: It’s not safe to connect our voting infrastructure to the Internet, but some election boards are doing it anyway. “Nevertheless, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow at least some absentee voters (in most cases just voters who live overseas or serve in the military) to return their completed ballots using poorly secured e-mail, Internet-connected fax machines, or websites. In the most extreme example, all voters in Alaska are allowed to return their completed ballots over a supposedly secure website. And there is a danger that Internet voting could expand.”

Paper ballots all the way, baby.

PAPER BALLOTS AND OPEN, MANUAL COUNTS: Hacking the election is nearly impossible. But that’s not Russia’s goal. “Elections authorities and cyber security experts say a concerted effort to alter the outcome of November’s elections through a cyber attack is nearly impossible, even after hackers gained access to voter registration databases in at least two states. But some of those same experts say hackers with ties to Russia aren’t aiming to change election results; instead, their goal is to create a perception that the results are in question, and to undermine confidence in American democracy.”

I suppose it was Russian agents of influence spreading the Diebold conspiracy theories in 2004.

MISTER, WE COULD USE A MAN LIKE CHARLES HABSBURG AGAIN: Austrian election re-run comes unstuck in postal ballot setback.

The country’s constitutional court scrapped the result of the first election in May due to irregularities in counting postal ballots.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the re-run, scheduled for Oct. 2, had also been postponed.

“The reason is a defective envelope,” he said, suggesting a return to ballot forms used in previous elections after some postal voters complained the glue on their papers was not working properly.

Asked at a news conference if the double setback might damage Austria’s reputation, Sobotka said: “The laugh is always on the loser.”

The postponement refocuses attention on an election that had already set alarm bells ringing among Austria’s European Union peers.

In May, Norbert Hofer of the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPO) came within 31,000 votes of a far-right victory that would have resonated widely on a continent where mass migration driven by war and poverty threatens to polarize political debate.

In a twist on the classic E.U. tradition, Austria continue postponing the vote until they’re assured of the desired result in which the scary “far-right” doesn’t win.

ANOTHER REASON WE SHOULD NEVER HAVE IT: George Soros wants on-line voting. (Hat tip Drudge.) The article notes Soros made this a priority two years ago. Breitbart got the info from a leaked Open Society Foundations’ document. As Glenn says, paper ballots, please.

I’M BEGINNING TO THINK THIS IDEA IS GETTING TRACTION: To Avoid Vote-Counting Fraud, Use Paper Ballots.

USA TODAY’S EDITORIAL BOARD COMES AROUND TO MY WAY OF THINKING: Old-fashioned paper trails can make digital voting less vulnerable. But I think we should go all the way to paper ballots. Counted by people in a big room where the public can watch.

UH OH: FBI says foreign hackers penetrated state election systems. Remember, you don’t have to swing an election. You can do more damage by undermining confidence in the results in key precincts and states, then letting partisans fight about it.

Happily, there’s a solution. But is there time to implement it?

PAPER BALLOTS, AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME:  And none of that vote by mail machinery of fraud, either. Princeton professor easily hacks voting machine in seven minutes flat.

INTERNET VOTING IS STUPID, REASON #LXXVII: Maintaining the secrecy of ballots returned via the Internet is “technologically impossible,” according to a new report.

Bring back paper ballots.

CYBER SECURITY: U.S. government offers states help to fight voter fraud.

The government is offering to help states protect the Nov. 8 U.S. election from hacking or other tampering, in the face of allegations by Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump that the system is open to fraud.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told state officials in a phone call on Monday that federal cyber security experts could scan for vulnerabilities in voting systems and provide other resources to help protect against infiltration, his office said in a statement.

Paper ballots, anyone?

WAIT, I THOUGHT TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF WAS IRRESPONSIBLE FEARMONGERING: These States Are At the Greatest Risk of Having Their Voting Process Hacked.

But anyway, I have a solution.


Donald Trump is casting doubt on the prospect of fair elections come November, criticism that could prompt his supporters to reject a Hillary Clinton victory in the fall as fraudulent.

Trump has predicted at almost every rally this past week that the election could be “rigged” against him. He’s labeled the numerous polls showing him trailing Clinton as “phony” and warned that voter fraud could steal the election from him.

The new tack comes days after a top Trump confidante warned Breitbart News there would be a “rhetorical bloodbath” if the powers that be denied the GOP presidential nominee a fair election and laid out a plan for Trump to begin to delegitimize the election results months before the first ballots are even cast.

“First and foremost is the inoculation, which is what Trump is doing, to put people on notice that if there is substantial evidence, or minor evidence, of voter fraud, and it’s a close race, he will challenge the results,” Trump ally Roger Stone told The Hill, adding that Trump could do so by either filing a lawsuit or encouraging “mass protests.”

“Trump is a fighter. Trump is a brawler. Nobody is going to steal this election from Trump and have him go on his way.”

Those warnings have sent a chill through both sides of the aisle and among independent observers alike, who have expressed concern about the implications of sowing distrust in America’s democratic system.

If you’re worried about distrust, work to make the system trustworthy. Neither American voting systems, nor vote-counting systems are up to international standards.

ROLL CALL: Recent Breaches Raise Fears of Voting System Hacks.

In an already topsy-turvy presidential campaign, the recent breaches of Democratic Party computer networks have fueled fears about potential foreign meddling and raised questions about how secure the electronic systems that record and tally votes across the country are from sophisticated hackers.

For years, computer security experts have warned that electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking that could alter vote tallies and theoretically swing an election. The intrusions that compromised the Democratic National Committee and the House Democrats’ fundraising campaigns’ systems — both of which cybersecurity experts have blamed on groups linked to Russian intelligence agencies — have only heightened those concerns.

Even a minor breach could wreak havoc by undermining the public’s faith in the integrity of the balloting, particularly in a campaign as contentious as this year’s presidential race.

Paper ballots are the answer. I’ve been saying it for years, but has anybody listened?

TOM MAGUIRE: If you are not nervous about the impending Presidential election I envy and applaud you.

Oh, brother. Florida 2000 becomes Florida/Ohio/Pennsylvania 2016? With a 4-4 Supreme Court unable to swing the result to Hillary? And who among us honestly believes that Obama, Lynch and the establishment Republicans running the FBI could investigate an election-tampering scheme and conclude that Hillary was the beneficiary and Trump won the election? Well, never ask a rhetorical question – I am confident that Democrats and establishment Republicans would insist that their investigation was fair and balanced, but in a close election, the half of the voters that went for Trump won’t buy it.

Of course, if Russian manipulation secretly swings the election to Hillary this will get as much attention from the DoJ as Lois Lerner of the IRS. And whoever wins, the hint of Russian meddling makes it possible that the losers will not accept the legitimacy of the “winner”, leaving our next leader in charge of an even-more divided country.

Our leaders and institutions have lost their credibility and the Russians may be inclined to exploit that. Yike.

I raised some related concerns, and proposed a solution, here.

And note that if the Supreme Court is involved, it will only be 4-4 if Ruth Bader Ginsburg declines to recuse herself in light of her Trump remarks. I had some thoughts on that, too. The real risk of cyber-interference isn’t even swinging an election one way or another — it’s fomenting chaos. And that only requires doing enough damage to inspire doubts.

MIKE LOTUS EMAILS ABOUT MY PAPER BALLOTS PIECE that it ties in well with this scary electoral scenario from John Robb.

See, when your infrastructure is vulnerable — and that includes politico-social infrastructure — there are all kinds of ways things can go wrong. And while most of them never wind up happening, sooner or later, some do.

LESSON FROM THE DNC HACK: Forget About Internet Voting.

Paper ballots are the way to go!

WELL, THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S NOT: More than 30 states offer online voting, but experts warn it isn’t secure.

I say, go back to paper ballots.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Futuristic Data Security With A Pen And A Pad. “If I were running an intelligence agency, I’d have all my important stuff done in handwriting or on mechanical typewriters (the old kind that type over the same fabric ribbon multiple times) and distributed in sealed envelopes. If I were setting up a voting system, I’d use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines. And if I were running a hospital, I’d seriously consider doing everything on paper.”

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Futuristic Data Security With A Pen And A Pad. “If I were running an intelligence agency, I’d have all my important stuff done in handwriting or on mechanical typewriters (the old kind that type over the same fabric ribbon multiple times) and distributed in sealed envelopes. If I were setting up a voting system, I’d use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines. And if I were running a hospital, I’d seriously consider doing everything on paper.”

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Futuristic Data Security With A Pen And A Pad. “If I were running an intelligence agency, I’d have all my important stuff done in handwriting or on mechanical typewriters (the old kind that type over the same fabric ribbon multiple times) and distributed in sealed envelopes. If I were setting up a voting system, I’d use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines. And if I were running a hospital, I’d seriously consider doing everything on paper.”


We have less than five months before the primary voting begins and, perhaps more to the point, less than 14 until the general election. The clock is ticking for the candidates, of course, but it’s also counting down for the infrastructure which will handle the tedious chore of counting all the votes. In many states, election officials are taking a very worried look at the no longer newfangled electronic voting machines which were put in place after the hanging chad debacle of the 2000 election and finding them unready for the task.

As the Professor is wont to point out, perhaps it’s time to go to back to the future: “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the paper ballot: An idea whose time has come again.”

IS THE GROUND BEING PREPARED TO CRY FOUL IN OHIO’S VOTING? Betsy Newmark spots this story in the Politico:

Meanwhile, Ohio leaders are largely ignoring what a bipartisan federal panel called an “impending crisis:” voting equipment that’s at least a decade old and in need of replacement. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted sounded the alarm two years ago in testimony before President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration. “The next time we go to the polls to elect a president, these machines will be 12 years old,” he said. “That’s a lifetime when it comes to technology.”

As the Professor might note, perhaps Ohio’s solution lies in a well-proven, long-lasting technology that has best served the test of time.

AMID ALL THE HACKING AND EMAIL-DESTRUCTION STORIES, this piece on paper ballots is worth reading again.

BARACK TO THE FUTURE: “Until the new mega-fixes are in place” at OPM, Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club writes in a post appropriately titled “God Help Us All,” “proposals have been floated to return the entire system to paper,” such as this one:

The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have figured out how to keep the security clearance process going while the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system is offline for cybersecurity fixes.

Under the new interim procedures, OPM and ODNI said the applicant must provide hard copies of forms SF86, SF85, SF85P to the sponsoring agency, but not to OPM or ODNI.

“When the e-QIP has been restored, the applicant will re-enter his or her personal information history into e-QIP so that the required investigation may be completed through the regular process,” the memo said. “Agencies shall maintain a list of all investigations initiated using these interim procedures and the subsequent date the investigations are processed through e-QIP when e-QIP service is restored.”

“Reverting to paper may actually improve security.  Consider why this might be so,” Richard adds:

The great benefit of paper clearance forms (and one might add, paper ballots) is that it limits the ability of bureaucrats to play games with data.  The lower tech medium puts the kibosh on all the plans, mandates and improvements they are just dying to implement. All that gender stuff is hard to implement when you’re faced with a stack of paper reaching to the ceiling, besides making the information harder to leak, misuse or steal.  It disempowers the bureaucrats.

The fact that reverting to lower tech may actually improve security suggests that lack of money isn’t the problem, nor are the shortcomings of computer hardware. The biggest shortage plaguing the elites today is a deficit of intelligence. They are a menace to themselves and to the public; and are not even smart enough to know how dumb they are.

The reason why reducing OPM to low tech paper may help things is akin to why taking the Bugatti keys away from an irresponsible teenager prevents an accident from occurring. “Just take the skateboard kid. It’s really all you can handle.”

In the meantime, the Democrat operatives with bylines at CNN know where the real blame in this scandal lies:


The MSM is there to help ensure that the buck never stops on Obama’s desk — unless it’s good news.

UPDATE: Just as a reminder, in 2013, “Hispanic groups threatened the GOP, if they should filibuster the unqualified walking Security Risk Katherine Archuletta:”

MAX BOOT: Rightfully Reversing Decades of Secessionist Rehabilitation:

But there is a big distinction to be made between remembering the past — something that, as a historian, I’m all in favor of — and honoring those who did bad things in the past. Remembrance does not require public displays of the Confederate flag, nor streets with names such as Jefferson Davis Highway — a road that always rankles me to drive down in Northern Virginia. Such gestures are designed to honor leaders of the Confederacy, who were responsible for the costliest war in American history — men who were traitors to this country, inveterate racists, and champions of slavery.

In this regard, honoring Jefferson Davis is particularly egregious, or, for that matter, Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan. But I believe even honoring the nobler Robert E. Lee is inappropriate. True, he was a brave and skilled soldier, but he fought in a bad cause. Modern Germany does not have statues to Erwin Rommel even though he — unlike Lee — turned at the end of the day against the monstrous regime in whose cause he fought so skillfully. Thus, I don’t believe it is appropriate to have statues of Lee, or schools named after him, although I admit in his case it’s a closer call than with Jefferson Davis.

This is not “rewriting” history; it’s getting history right. The rewriting was done by Lost Cause mythologists who created pro-Confederate propaganda (such as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind) to convince their countrymen that the South was actually in the right even as it imposed slavery and then segregation. This required impugning those Northerners who went south after the Civil War to try to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. They were labeled “carpetbaggers,” and their memory was tarnished while the actions of the white supremacists they opposed were glorified.

Boot is exactly right. I wasn’t kidding when I said before that I am glad to see Nikki Haley get the Stars and Bars removed from government buildings. Eric Foner and other historians like James Oakes and Richard Sewell are to be credited with correcting the historical record from the pro-Confederate revisionism that is still accepted by all-too-many on the right. Where the “Lost Cause” fable might once have been justified as a useful fiction to unify the country, lying about the Civil War and Reconstruction now only serves those who wish to sully the reputation of those who opposed slavery and promoted the civil rights of blacks when doing so took real courage (as it did for the civil rights activists of the ’50s and ’60s). In this way, like the Southerners of old, they can claim that there is a moral equivalence between North and South, between the USA and the CSA.

MORE HERE: I highly recommend the books I link to above about the men who opposed the pro-slavery reading of the Constitution before the Civil War, and who established the Republican Party to see their vision of the Constitution affirmed in its text. You can also read my articles on antislavery constitutionalism here and here. The more I learn about the history that has been concealed by pro-Confederate revisionism, the more I find to admire in our past.

Cross posted on The Volokh Conspiracy.  h/t Eugene Volokh

BECAUSE THEY LIKE HIM!:  FIFA members reelect president Sepp Blatter amid league corruption charges.

Afghanistan kicked off the voting as delegates handed over secret paper ballots in alphabetical order at the meeting Friday. The winner needed a two-thirds majority but Blatter was one vote shy of that, receiving only 133 votes, to Prince Ali’s 73 of the 206 valid votes.

In a second round of voting, Blatter won another four-year term by receiving a simple majority of the votes. Forcing the ballot to a second round represented a victory of sorts for Blatter’s critics, denying the incumbent president an emphatic mandate in his next term.

Yeah, I’m sure that was a fair election.


States have abandoned electronic voting machines in droves, ensuring that most voters will be casting their ballots by hand on Election Day.

With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace.

Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting.

“Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,” Smith said.

All is proceeding as I have foreseen. I was just 12 years ahead of the curve.

OBAMA’S HOME TOWN: Chicagoland voting machine casts candidate’s vote for his Dem opponent.

Admitting his confidence in Cook County ballot integrity is shaken, State Representative Candidate Jim Moynihan (R-56), was shocked today when he tried to cast a vote for himself and the voting machine cast it for his opponent instead.

“While early voting at the Schaumburg Public Library today, I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast the vote for my opponent,” said Moynihan. “You could imagine my surprise as the same thing happened with a number of races when I tried to vote for a Republican and the machine registered a vote for a Democrat.”

While using a touch screen voting machine in Schaumburg, Moynihan voted for several races on the ballot, only to find that whenever he voted for a Republican candidate, the machine registered the vote for a Democrat in the same race. He notified the election judge at his polling place and demonstrated that it continued to cast a vote for the opposing candidate’s party. Moynihan was eventually allowed to vote for Republican candidates, including his own race. It is unknown if the machine in question (#008958) has been removed from service or is still in operation.

Hmm. Well, that’s why I’ve been pushing paper ballots since 2002. Not that the Chicago crowd couldn’t cheat with them, too. . . .

UPDATE: Illinois poll workers break law, tell Obama to “vote Democrat.”

WHY WE STILL DON’T HAVE FOOLPROOF VOTING MACHINES. I think we need paper ballots, photo ID, and purple fingers. Of course, as this post from Ed demonstrates, you’ve got to control the people involved, too.

GROUND GAME: Paul Caron reports from Ohio: “Wife and I voted in Ohio when polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Campaign worker was there handing out Republican sample ballot. No one was there handing out Democratic sample ballot.”

UPDATE: Craig Hildreth reports from St. Louis: “29 minutes after the polls opened at 6:00 AM and the line is fifty people deep. The good news is I don’t see any broken glass.” Well, that’s a comfort.

And reader Daniel Richwine writes: “I live in a high percentage minority area in New jersey. Normally it takes me 5 minutes to vote. 4 years ago it took 1 and a half hours. Last governors race, 5 minutes. This time it took about 15.”

Reader Charles Gallo writes: “Never before seen a line to vote at 6:30am here on Queens NYC.”

And reader Steve Gregg writes from Vienna, in Northern Virginia: “There are three hundred or more voters here. Another fifty joined the line since I took this photo a minute ago. The line snakes out of the gym, down the hall, down another hall, around the corner, into another gym. I’ve been voting here for ten years and this line has about a hundred more voters than the biggest line I’ve ever seen.” Let’s hope they’re broken-glass voters. Here’s the pic he sent:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Kazazes sent this from Greenwich, CT at 5:45: “This is my third cycle voting at this location and I have never seen a line like this 15 minutes before voting commences. Meaning, who knows, just different than in past in a state which is a ‘lock’ for Obama.” Maybe somebody forgot to turn the key.

And reader Mike Collins writes: “Hello from Arlington VA, where our choice for local races is usually between a Dem and a Green. Anecdote from this morning: in 2008, my wife and I arrived at the polls at 5:30AM and were around 250th in line. Today we arrived at 5:50 and were around 40th in line. Take it for what it’s worth, but I think it’s a hopeful sign re: enthusiasm.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Carter reports from Chicago: “At Instapundit, they show lines in several places. In Chicago at my polling place there wasn’t a long line. I waited five minutes.”

And reader Jacques Vilar sends: “I was in line at my polling place (Gainesville, VA) – at 5:30am with 30 people in line. At 5:45, there were near 100. By the time the doors opened at 6:00, at least 200 people in line. By the time I voted and walked to my car, at least 500 people were in line.”

And Jim Gordon emails: “Here in White House, Tn in Sumner County, 70+ people Were in line before the doors opened at 7. Although this area’s ‘Redness’ is given, I find it encouraging that voters have come out this wet, cold morning to have their say.”

Plus, from reader Jon Prichard: “I’m hoping for ‘breaking dawn’ over twilight today. I always appreciate your ‘Don’t get cocky!’ admonition, but today is the time to go out and get it done, with confidence and high spirits. So I hope to pass along this message: ‘Today, don’t rest easy in the comfort of your echo chamber. Venture into the breach and be a megaphone!’ Thanks for the greatest blog in the world!” Thank me by voting.

Another Chicago voter, Sarah Fredricks, writes: “In my Chicago suburb, there was a line in 2008 when we arrived at 6:30 and it took about 30 minutes to vote. Today, no line and it would have taken 5 minutes, but there was a problem with the voting machine accepting ballots. The poll workers were professional and corrected the matter in a few minutes. There has not been the enthusiasm in Illinois this election cycle, very few Obama signs.”

And reader Doug Deal from Georgia reports “extremely long lines” in his precinct: “I decided to go to the polls first thing today and arrived at 7:05 AM, 5 minutes after they opened. I counted and I was about 120th in line. . . . the people in front of me did have a bit of a certain broken glass look to them. It is a fairly Republican precinct and it looks like that even in a non tossup state the GOP is turning out.”

Pittsburgh reader Roland Hess emails: “Voting in suburban Pittsburgh was easy. Decent line. Our precinct usually goes R, so that says not a lot. Was very disappointed in the lack of broken glass on the bridge between the parking lot and the polls though. It was too easy. After the last four years, I felt like I at least deserved a soundtrack, some slow-mo and a bit of drama as I pulled the lever. While watching election returns I make a point to drink whatever my preferred candidate drinks. So what do I drink tonight? Milk?”

It’s Tullamore Dew for me all the way. Loyalty has its limits.

Reader Mark Ludolph writes: “Reporting from a redish area in Blue Illinois. Longest wait I have ever encountered – an hour+. Not a single close race on the ballot, but huge turnout. Can’t imagine many Obama voters here.”

And reader Eric McErlain emails from Northern Virginia: “Got on line at 6:12, didn’t get out of polling place till almost 7.”

Plus, from Pitsburgh: “Take it for what it’s worth, but there was no line this morning at 8 in East Liberty, a heavily democratic area of Pittsburgh (probably 90+%). Four years ago, there was a 30+ minute line to vote there. Please don’t add my name if you print this, as I work there.” Perhaps one day America can have politics without fear. Easier if Obama loses, I suspect . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Kirkham emails: “Lines are 1 to 1 1/2 hours here in Utah. I have never waited anywhere close to that long. I think the entire state is going to vote for Romney. I predict Romney has very long coat tails in Utah which will help Mia Love unseat Matheson. It will be a tough day for Democrats in Utah (and, I hope, across the USA).”

Jim Ryals writes from Mandeville, Louisiana: “For the first time since we moved to Louisiana we had to stand in line to vote. The volunteers, most of whom have been doing this for years, said they’ve never seen anything like it. One person told me that normally, they would open up at 6 and get their first voter in about 7:15 or so. Today, people were line up into the parking lot when they opened. They got another wave at 7:30 that had people lined up out the doors. This is the most conservative parish in a red state, but if this is any indication, there is big, big momentum for Mitt.”

The redder the area, the longer the lines, it seems. But not always. A reader sends this from deep in the heart of machine-controlled St. Louis where turnout is heavy:

Here in the (heavily-Democrat, machine-controlled) City of St. Louis, the polling places are JAM-PACKED. All that reporting about Obama voters being discouraged and not showing up turns out to be hooey here. Republicans need to show up today and fight them back! Though, reports are that (conservative) St. Louis County polling places are also packed. I suspect many are there to vote in the Senate race, which is VERY heated in Missouri thanks to that idiot Todd Akin. If Obama manages to win Missouri, I think you can thank Todd Akin for that. He gave lackluster Claire all the ammunition she needed to get her base fired up and enthusiastic. Even my incredibly conservative rural family (evangelical Christians all) are waffling on voting for Akin because of the embarrassment of it all.

The other issue many people are citing re: their enthusiasm today? Marriage equality. It’s not on the ballot in Missouri, but nobody believes that Republicans won’t continue to work on oppressing gays; and a vote for Romney is a vote for social cons. (My sample may be skewed because I have so many gay friends, most of whom will disown me if they find out that I cast my Romney vote today.) If the GOP expects support in the future, if they expect to make ANY inroads into the under-35 crowd, they have got to get on board the marriage equality wagon, stop worrying about what everyone is doing in the privacy of their own homes, and just get the government out of the way so the economy can work. But of course, I’m pretty libertarian so I would say that.

If you publish this, don’t use my name because I’m a government employee and I need to keep sucking the taxpayer teat for a few more years, til my law school loans are paid off!

Praying for a Romney victory and a Republican Congress,

Well, we’ll see soon enough.

Meanwhile, reader Dan Koblosh sends this from Redondo Beach, California, one of Los Angeles’ redder areas: “Long line waiting for polling place to open. Can’t wait to vote for Romney and against Gov Moonbeam’s (Brown) tax hikes.”

Here’s a pic he includes:

And from Colorado, Mike Weatherford writes:

Just a bit of anecdotal data on voter turnout here in Colorado Springs, CO. My wife and I voted when we dropped off our youngest child at school, also the polling place. We were number 51 and 53 to vote. There was a line of at least fifteen people down the hall. The last time I voted, I voted at 4:30PM, and was number 120-something. Our district is mostly older families that have lived in the same neighborhood for 20-30 years, and are mostly staunch Republicans or Independents. I expect the number of voters in our district to reach the 200 mark, something I haven’t seen since Clinton won re-election.

Stay tuned. And reader Bob Sanders emails: “Longest line I’ve ever seen, Forward Township, Butler County. North of Pittsburgh. As I was casting my vote I overheard the man across from me talking with the Assistant who was helping him, ‘I don’t give a damn about the instructions, I’m voting straight Republican this time. Where do I click?'”

From reader Matthew Teague, who doesn’t give a location:

Today at the polls I met a “ground glass” voter.

He was in his early 50’s, and as he stood in line he was asking the election workers what documents he needed to vote. He said he hadn’t voted “since they started requiring all this annoying paperwork”. I asked him why he had let such a low hurdle trip him up, and his response is one I will never forget: “I didn’t really have a reason to vote before, everything was going fine and there was no reason to change it… until now”.

I’m hoping for a lot of this. reader Brad Scheidt sends this Oklahoma report:

Voting in South Tulsa County, Oklahoma is like nothing I’ve ever seen – ever. Waits over an hour, limited parking, lines out the door and down the sidewalk, etc. This is an area that will go Romney 3-1 easily. Can you say “enthusiasm”?

Like I said. Diana Sherlock writes: “Am in Studio City/North Hollywood area and never seen lines like this – around the bldg.” I assume that’s an Obama area, though I don’t really know. Jerry Pournelle lives around there. . . .

From Berks County, Pennsylvania, reader Eric Shelton reports:

At 7 am this morning there was already a 65 minute line in 25 degree weather. In 08 this County went 8.5% for Obama, given the number of Republican voters in line and Indys/Dems who freely admitted they were switching their vote this time, Berks isn’t looking good for the Prez.

People seem impressed with Mitt’s intelligence and kindness.

As they should be. From Manhattan, reader Meryl Levavi contrasts government with the private sector:

I went to vote at 9:15 this morning at the polling place on West 70th Street. The lines were moderately long. It took me 35 minutes to vote. A few blocks from Lincoln Center and Zabars the process was amazingly inefficient. Instead of posting a sample ballot or having someone walk the line with instructions the poll workers explained the ballot to each person individually. If I were on a line that length at the Trade Joe’s on 72nd Street and Broadway I would have my groceries packed and be out the door in 10 minutes.

Well, NYC isn’t looking especially efficient lately.

From southern New Hampshire, Nathaniel Jensen reports: “I just voted in Amherst – a staunch republican town of 10,000 in southern NH. Massive turnout at the high school unlike anything I’ve ever seen on election day. I take this to be a very good sign for Romney. May God and the people save our country!”

From Colorado, John Walker emails: “I voted this morning in southwest Weld County, Colorado (a heavily Republican county). I got there at 7:12 and waited 40 minutes to vote. The line was longer when I left than when I went in.”

From Arizona: “Orangewood precinct in NW central Phoenix volunteers told me that *already* more have voted by 10:30 am that voted in either the primary or the last general election.”

John Torbett writes from Santa Monica: “I just voted at my polling place in the Peoples’ Republic of Santa Monica and it took me about 45 minutes to get through the line. In 2004 and 2008, I only had to wait about 5 minutes. The 50 something, gray haired hippie in front of me in line asked how to ‘write in’ a candidate. I don’t know what it means since Obama is supposed to win California by 15% and in my precinct Roseanne Barr will probably get more votes than Romney, but the turnout was heavier than I have ever seen it here.”

HEH: Hackers Elect Futurama’s Bender to the Washington DC School Board.

Hey, I’ve been pushing paper ballots since 2002 for a reason. . .

SUSPICIONS OF FRAUD IN NEVADA: “Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid’s name was already checked. Ferrara said she wasn’t alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen.”

North Carolina: “Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said.”

Related: A pattern of fraud?

And more thoughts from Stephen Green: “It’s going to be a long week when the first two stories you see reflect just how big the ‘margin of cheating’ is going to be this year.”

People need to pay attention. Desperation is going to lead to a lot of corners being cut. Make an example of ’em so they won’t do it again next time.

Also: New ACORN effort is mobilizing voters, run by woman indicted for violating election laws.

UPDATE: Dallas.

Hey, I’ve been pushing paper ballots since 2002 for a reason.

LAS VEGAS SLOTS vs. Electronic Voting Machines.

UPDATE: Reader Pierre Honeyman says this is wrong:

I used to work for Diebold Elections Systems/Premier Election Solutions. I’ve been through the entire certification process with them and I’m quite familiar with it. Anyhow:

1) Software:

For all certified (certified by the FEC) software the source code is submitted for review to a certified independent testing authority. When software is tested by them the ITA uses a “trusted build”, that is, they use a build from the source code that they’ve reviewed, that they’ve built from vendor documentation, and digitally signed (signatures are kept on file with the FEC). It is this software, and only this software, that is considered to be certified by the FEC.

2) Spot Checking:

It is certainly possible for election officials to spot check vendor equipment. Hardware and software signatures are available with the certification documentation. Only hardware/software that meets that configuration is considered certified by the FEC.

3) Background scrutiny:

I don’t know what federal law requires but all software programmers at Premier had to undergo a background check, including criminal records check, before being hired.

4) Equipment Certification:

Equipment and software certification is done to standards set by the FEC, using test plans approved by the FEC, at test facilities independent from the vendor. For profit? Please. Is “For Profit” suddenly evil?

5) Handling disputes:

That will vary by jurisdiction and is, for the most part, out of the hands of the vendor.

I still like paper ballots.

STONE AGE CENSUS? The 2010 US Census Is So 1990: Lack of an On-Line Option Is Embarrassing. I take the point, but — although the case isn’t as strong as the one for paper ballots — I can see why there might be good anti-fraud reasons for not doing this online.

I STILL PREFER PAPER BALLOTS: In Industry First, Voting Machine Company to Publish Source Code.


To begin with, let me share an interesting telephone conversation I had several weeks ago, plus two more that followed. On June 23, I received a call from someone at #%$*^# Law School [name redacted, but it is a public law school ranked in US News’s Top 25]. The caller, an employee of that school, asked me if I could provide him with the names of the chair of our faculty hiring committee and the most recently tenured professor (“MRTP”). I asked him why he wanted these names, and he told me that his school planned to send promotional literature to these two faculty members, and also to the dean and associate dean for academic affairs.

For those who haven’t already figured this out, these are the four faculty members who will soon be receiving ballots from US News in connection with next year’s law school rankings. Soon after I had this conversation, two other law schools called me to ask the same question. . . . o, what do you think we might want to send to prospective US News voters? Simple but warm congratulatory notes to every MRTP in the nation? Flowers? Gift cards? ITunes cards? Don’t laugh about that one — at least one other law school has reportedly been sending ITunes cards to would-be law students as a way of improving its student selectivity numbers.

Or just cash. . . .

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Hi Prof. Reynolds:

As you can tell by my e-mail, I work for —- Law School. I am one of the faculty assistants; we sort the incoming mail for the professors. We get a LOT of mail from law schools looking to advance in the U.S. News Rankings – and I’ve worked for both faculty hiring committee chairs and new professors, so I know that this is a lot of mail, everything from postcards and brochures to law school alumni magazines.

If I could say just one thing to all law schools who do this, and the deans who think it’s a good idea: STOP. It is a bad idea. It has no effect on your rankings, and in all likelihood it’s hurting them. The professors who receive this pile of extra junk mail call it “law porn.” Every professor that I know of who gets these instructs us assistants to put it all straight into the trash. They call it a waste of paper – very expensive glossy paper. One told me that it’s actually a negative – the more law porn a school sends him, the more he marks it down on the rankings – and I’m not sure he was kidding. Most of it is academic conference brochures for schools on the other coast in subjects the professors receiving them do not teach in. 50+ page alumni magazines are probably the biggest wastes. But one law school went the extra mile and actually sent separate postcards announcing each of its new faculty hires for the last year, four or five in all, which particularly annoyed the professors here. If these schools want to improve their US News rankings, it’d probably be better to take the money spent on this law porn, which nobody will read, and use it for something else that does improve rankings – more library volumes, for instance. Or better professors.

If you post this (and I hope you do, you’re our only hope), please leave out my name and the school I work for.

Okay, but if I’m you’re only hope, well . . . .

SPEED OF IRAN VOTE COUNT called suspicious. “How do you count almost 40 million handwritten paper ballots in a matter of hours and declare a winner? That’s a key question in Iran’s disputed presidential election. International polling experts and Iran analysts said the speed of the vote count, coupled with a lack of detailed election data normally released by officials, was fueling suspicion around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory.”

CHARGES OF fraud in the Minnesota Senate race. “Mountain Iron uses optical scanning, so the Coleman campaign asked for a copy of the tape documenting the ballots cast on election night. St. Louis County responded by providing a tape that includes the newly-added 100 votes, and is dated November 2–the Sunday before the election. St. Louis County reportedly denies being able to produce the genuine tape from election night, even though Minnesota law, as I understand it, requires that tape to be signed by the election judges and publicly displayed.”

UPDATE: Reader Joshua Dixon writes:

I am a small town newspaper editor in a purplish part of Minnesota. Based on what I’ve read and observed, the Coleman/Franken election recount fails the smell test many times over.

With Minnesota election rules and the optical scanning system, each ballot must be checked, rechecked, accounted for and re-accounted for by a number of election judges. Each judge’s tally must match the others’, and with the scanning machine’s tape produced the night of the election. The machine prints out three copies of each ward’s results on a single tape, which has to be signed in triplicate by the judges, and sent to the county seat. A day or so later, each town or township gets back a third of the tape it sent in on election night for convassing at an open meeting.

According to the city clerk I talked to just a few minutes ago, the election night tape is considered public record, and anyone who wants to can walk in and ask to examine the tapes. When I asked if I could take a photo of the relevant part of this town’s results of the Coleman/Franken contest, she not only allowed it, she straightened the tapes (Ward 1 and Ward 2) so I could get a better picture (attached).

The Powerline story brings up some legitimate questions. Here are a few more: How can St. Louis County deny being able to produce the genuine tape from election night? They were provided with one tape containing three copies of the results, one of which was required to be sent back to the town of Mountain Iron for canvassing. Did they send Mountain Iron its copy of the tape for convassing at an open meeting? If so, why not just provide the town’s copy of the tape instead of the county’s? Were the county and city’s copies of the tape treated as public record? If not, why not?

In short: the explanations for Franken’s new votes just don’t work.

Perhaps the Department of Justice and the FBI will take an interest?

BRAD FRIEDMAN IS RIGHT: “As an Election Integrity advocate recently noted rather eloquently, the front-end voter suppression issues and the back-end voting machine failures are two sides of the same coin. You can’t worry about one without worrying about the other.” I’ve made this point myself.

Plus, fighting over paper ballots in Philadelphia. I’ve written about those before, too.

SO I’VE BEEN PUSHING FOR PAPER BALLOTS SINCE BEFORE THE 2002 ELECTIONS, but now we’re seeing some real movement in that direction:

Maryland will scrap its $65 million electronic system and go back to paper ballots in time for the 2010 midterm elections — and will still be paying for the abandoned system until 2014. In Virginia, localities are moving to paper after the General Assembly voted last year to phase out electronic voting machines as they wear out.

It was just a few years ago that electronic voting machines were heralded as a computerized panacea to the hanging chad, a state-of-the-art system immune to the kinds of hijinks and confusion that some say make paper ballots vulnerable. But now, after concern that the electronic voting machines could crash or be hacked, the two states are swinging away from the systems, saying paper ballots filled out by hand are more reliable, especially in a recount.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. But I said it earlier! Related items here and here. Plus, Ed Cone interviews Bruce Schneier on voting machine security. Schneier also has a new book on security; I haven’t read it, but I’m a fan of his in general.

ERIK SOFGE on Internet Voting. Sorry, but I still favor paper ballots. . . .

UPDATE: More reports of voting-machine problems from Brad Friedman. Paper ballots!

THE EXAMINER: FEC Should Start Obama Audit Now.

Turns out that “Doodad Pro” and “Good Will” are not the only phony contributors to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The New York Times finally bestirred itself to apply some basic investigative journalism attention to the Democratic presidential nominee’s donor list. The Times found nearly 3,000 other questionable donors like “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj” and “Dirty West” after what the paper admitted was just a cursory look at the Illinois senator’s September financial filings. But then Times reporters Michael Luc and Griff Palmer revealed an incredible level of naivety by stating “it is unclear why someone making a political donation would want to enter a false name.”

Unclear? What other motive could there be for using a phony name and a nonexistent address to make multiple small donations using a single credit card than to evade U.S. election laws? Such journalistic gullibility may explain why bloggers have been on this story for months and the Times is only now noticing. . . . The FEC’s primary job is to protect the integrity of our federal election process. With this many red flags flying and barely three week left before election day, there’s no time to lose if voters are to have all the information at hand before casting their ballots.

The whole deal does seem rather shady. But it’s amazing what you can get away with when the press is totally in the tank.


A TRIUMPH FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY: Mostly smooth debut for paper ballots.

Can I say “I told you so?” Yes, I can.

UPDATE: First link was bad before. Fixed now. Sorry!

I’VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT THIS for a long, long, long time, and now something seems to be finally happening:

Gov. Charlie Crist announced plans on Thursday to abandon the touch-screen voting machines that many of Florida’s counties installed after the disputed 2000 presidential election. The state will instead adopt a system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election. Voting experts said Florida’s move, coupled with new federal voting legislation expected to pass this year, could be the death knell for the paperless electronic touch-screen machines. If as expected the Florida Legislature approves the $32.5 million cost of the change, it would be the nation’s biggest repudiation yet of touch-screen voting, which was widely embraced after the 2000 recount as a state-of-the-art means of restoring confidence that every vote would count.

Much of the unhappiness with electronic voting was mere conspiracy-theory sour grapes, as demonstrated by the fact that we suddenly didn’t hear much complaining once the Democrats won an election. But the underlying point that I’ve been hammering for years, that elections must not only be trustworthy, but must be obviously trustworthy, is a good one. Electronic machines are a black box, and harder to trust. Easier to trust systems are inherently good.

THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: “Voting machines began wreaking havoc the minute the polls opened Tuesday, delaying voters in dozens of Indiana and Ohio precincts and leaving some in Florida with little choice but turn to paper ballots instead.”

Should’ve just started with the paper ballots and saved themselves the trouble.