Hand Counted Paper Ballots
Counted @ The Precinct.
Hand Counted Paper Ballots in 2008
By Sheila Parks
Monday 10 April 2006
HCPB are an alternative to the current widespread and increasing use
of electronic voting machines. An HCPB system of voting has the
following major advantages over electronic voting machines: (1)
Counting of ballots is publicly done, observed and filmed by everyday
citizens who are registered voters in the precinct where the counting
takes place. (2) Security safeguards are much more easily built in to
protect against tampering. (3) The cost is far less.
There have been two recent efforts to promote an HCPB system in the
United States, and a third will take place later in 2006. In 2004, voting
rights activists Sharona Merel, Kaen Renick, Ellen Theisen, and
Kathleen Wynne proposed federal legislation for federal offices. In
2005, four voting rights activists (this writer and three members of
CASE Ohio - John Burik, Phil Fry, and Dorri Steinhoff) began work on a
protocol for HCPB. Some of this writing has been modified and is
included in this paper in the specifics for HCPB. In November 2006,
voting rights activist Joanne Karasak plans to promote a state
constitutional amendment for HCPB in Ohio. There are 18 states where
such constitutional amendments are possible.
The key elements of an HCPB system are as follows: (1) Electronic
voting machines are not involved in this process in any way
whatsoever. (2) Nothing used in an HCPB system is purchased from
companies or vendors who have ties to partisan political groups or
parties. (3) Each voter hand marks a sturdy paper ballot with a black
felt pen provided at the precinct. (4) The counting process happens at
each precinct immediately after the polls close. (5) Each ballot is hand
counted by registered voters from that precinct in full view of other
registered voters from that precinct. (6) The counting process is filmed.
(7) A chain of custody of the ballots and ballot boxes is specified. (8)
Ballot boxes are observed and filmed as they are opened and closed
and move from place to place.
Three categories of registered voters are included in this process: the
official counters, the official observers of the counters, and the public
watchers of the counters and observers. The hand marked, paper
ballots are hand counted in full view of the public in each precinct by a
specified number of registered voters in that precinct - e.g., four, six or
eight voters. Half of the counters will consist of one person from each
party on the ballot, chosen by the party itself; the other half of the
counters will consist of registered voters, chosen by lottery. The hand
counting is obse?ved by the same number of registered voters (e.g.,
four, six or eight), and chosen in the same way as the counters.
Counting is filmed by a video projection unit; a process will be set up
to determine how the videotaping unit will be selected. The videotaping
will be broadcast over closed-circuit TV and streamed over the Internet
while the counting is happening. All watchers may also videotape
and/or take photographs.
Each polling place must be arranged so that registered voters from
that precinct (in addition to the above mentioned official observers)
can easily watch the vote counting. These watchers are not to be
confused with the observers of the counters. Watchers will include two
registered voters from each party on the ballot, chosen by the party,
and eight registered voters chosen by lottery. The polling place must
be large enough to accommodate these numbers.
Even with all these safeguards in place, the chance for fraud still
exists. Therefore, immediately after the first count, there will be a 100%
hand counted audit of the vote, carried out in the same way as the first
hand count, but in the audit, the observers will be the counters and the
counters will be the observers.
Ballot boxes must be clearly marked and visible in plain view. Ballot
boxes will be sealed and locked whenever they contain ballots and are
not being actively used. Ballot boxes are secured from the beginning
of voting until the end of counting by a chain of custody procedure.
Ballot boxes never leave the precinct until after the vote is counted,
audited and certified. Each time ballot boxes move from the physical
control of or visual contact from one person to another, a duplicate
record signed by all counters and observers must be made
relinquishing and gaining control. There will be a documentation
process wherein each ballot box will have a record of its handling from
the beginning of the day to the end of counting. On the web site of
computer science expert Professor Douglas W. Jones, there is a very
clear and detailed protocol for "Ballot and Ballot Box Transportation"
and "Ballot Storage."
The call to action now is: HCPB for all federal races in the 2008
elections. This would mean hand counting just 1-3 races (the president
and vice president; your U.S. senator if s/he is up for re-election; your
U.S. Representative). Yes, we would need two ballots, one for these
races and one for all other contests and questions on the ballots.
Canada already uses an HCPB system for its federal races. Various
states and municipalities already have protocols for HCPB, and one
has been presented in this paper. These could easily be adapted from
one jurisdiction to another. Elections are governed by state rather than
federal statutes (HAVA notwithstanding). According to electionline.org,
a website that provides an ongoing analysis of election reform, "Each
state strikes a unique balance in allocating responsibility for elections
between state and local governments. A survey of all 50 states reveals
a wide spectrum of power-sharing arrangements." There is a
"Snapshot of the States" on pp. 11-14 of the Election Reform Briefing.
When you begin this work, call your local Secretary of State and get
the exact rules for your state.
It is time to make electronic voting machines a NIMBY (not in my back
yard and not in anyone else's back yard either) issue. To begin a
movement for HCPB, ordinary citizens, registered voters, must begin
organizing door-to-door with their neighbors to petition their local
election officers and demand HCPB in their city or town. Although
organizing could also proceed on a state level, going municipality by
municipality is a good way to start, depending on your state's laws.
Sheila Parks, Ed.D. is a longtime activist/organizer. She has been
working against electronic voting machines for four years. Please
contact her to get involved with other election reform activists working
for HCPB across the country.
Full citizen's tool kit is now available in a single document -
Citizens are concerned. They want to know what they can do. Here's your
chance to get started on meaningful elections reform action that will
make a real difference in November.
The above link contains all 20 stand-alone modules in one consolidated
(make sure you have Adobe Acrobat installed to read the pdf files. You
can download it for free at
SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONS TO TAKE BACK YOUR ELECTIONS:
1. Pick any module.
2. Choose any action within the module.
3. Then just follow through on it.
4. Every action in the Tool Kit starts another pebble rolling down the
NEW MODULE IS UP: Pertains to fundraising for local elections reform
people: ACTIONS FOR HIGH NET WORTH INDIVIDUALS
NEW MODULE IS UP: About ACTIVATING CELEBRITIES in the election
Candidates in three states have already notified us that they are
already making use of the module to help CANDIDATES protect their own
elections (The toolkit just went up a few days ago!):
THIS TOOL KIT IS A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FOR CITIZENS
It's time for you to recognize your own power.
You don't need us.
You don't have to find someone to follow.
When you use these tools things will happen.
Pick any module. Pick a single action in it. See it to its completion.
You've just opened the door to an unexpected evolution of citizenship,
the likes of which have not been seen for a long, long time.
"Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed." – Declaration of Independence
You may notice that the order of the Citizen's Tool Kit modules has
changed. Select actions from any of the following, depending on your
interests and skill sets:
Module 1: Have a House Party
Module 2: Organize a Town Meeting
Module 3: Give a Speech to a Group
CREATIVE & SPECIALTY MODULES
Module 4: Be the Media
Module 5: Adopt a Public Official
Module 6: Check Out the Money Trail: Who's Getting Paid?
Module 7: Find Out If Officials Following the Rules
HARD CORE EVIDENCE MODULES
Module 8: Get Public Records and Freedom of Information Documents
Module 9: Adopt Part of an Election: Watch the System Testing
Module 10: Adopt Part of an Election: Watch Voter Registration Lists
Module 11: Adopt Part of an Election: Become a Poll Worker or Elections
Module 12: Adopt Part of an Election: Monitor the Voting
Module 13: Adopt Part of an Election: Monitor the Counting
Module 14: Adopt Part of an Election: Watch the Chain of Custody
Module 15: Adopt Part of an Election: Audit for Accuracy
Module 16: Legal Actions
'PLAN B' MODULE
Module 17: Count the Votes Yourself
MODULES FOR CANDIDATES, CELEBRITIES, AND WEALTHY CITIZENS
Module 18: Candidates: How to Protect Your Election
Module 19: For Famous Voices (Action ideas for Celebrities)
Module 20: Actions for High Net Worth Individuals
* * * * *
Be part of the solution: Please sign up for the NATIONAL HAND COUNT
Black Box Voting is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501c(3) elections watchdog
group supported entirely by citizen donations. We refuse funds from any
vendor or vested interest.
To support Black Box Voting: click to
http://www.blackboxvoting.org/donate.html or send to:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
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* * * * *
FACT SHEET FOR HAND COUNT PAPER BALLOTS
Hand counts provide the most accurate vote count:
When the count is extremely close–they generally use a hand count, such as in the
Governor’s election in Washington State in 2004.
Paper ballots cost far less:
For 10,000 voters and 10 precincts:
Optical scanners with handicapped accessible equipment cost about $192,000 the
first year, and more than $67,000 in later years.
DRE’s cost $364,000 the first year, and unknown costs for repair, maintenance,
support services, environmentally controlled storage, constant power for batteries in
Most electronic voting systems do not comply with requirements for the disabled:
The HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT (HAVA) requires that electronic machines provide
means for both visually and physically impaired people to vote independently.
Diebold, ES&S, Hart Intercivic, Danaher, Sequoia, Unilect and AVS do not comply.
Paper ballots are less vulnerable to fraud:
Proper security procedures can protect paper ballots. The voting machines have
hidden and sometimes undetectable methods to count votes, total the votes and
determine voter intent
Paper ballots are far less complicated:
No staff computer training, no machine testing, no machine transport, no machine
security, no updating software, no machine breakdowns, etc.
Facts from http://www.votersunite.org
WHAT’S WRONG WITH OHIO VOTING MACHINES (EXAMPLES)
DIEBOLD DRE’s (TOUCH SCREENS)
2005 - After extensive testing, major, unresolved problems with paper jamming on
the AccuView printer module, and these problems remain unresolved. (CA)
November 2004 - Diebold machines under widespread investigation for election day
failures, including 12% failure in Montgomery County , unreadable memory cards
containing vote totals in multiple counties. (MD)
November 10, 2004 Diebold paid $2.6 million dollars to settle lawsuit for shoddy
equipment in California. Power surge caused touch screens not to start and the turn
away of voters. [Batteries used in Diebold machine batteries ran low] and caused
about a third of the 1, 600 polling places in San Diego County to open late.
(Associated Press) http://www.wired.com/news/evote/0,2645,65674,00.html
"Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Rice University in Houston say Diebold’s
touch-screen voting machines are vulnerable to vote rigging."
In 2004, Ohio officials sidelined Diebold in some counties after five private and
government-sponsored studies raised questions about whether their touch-screen
voting systems can be rigged to fix outcomes.
DIEBOLD OPTICAL SCAN
July 2005 "Diebold Precinct-Based Optical Scan 1.94w system is the mother of
security holes, and no apparent cure will produce infertility, or system safety." http:
Recurring problem with the AccuVote-TSX that freezes the ballot station and requires
it to be rebooted. . After extensive testing, these problems remain unresolved. (CA)
ES&S OPTICAL SCAN
November 2005: about 27 percent of all votes cast in Medford, Wisconsin were not
counted because a ES&S programmer improperly set the device that records the
An investigation of anomalies in the recount of the Washington governor's race led
county officials to discover, from ES&S, that a vote is counted incorrectly in
approximately 1 in 10,000 ovals read by their high-speed optical scanner. Since the
governor's race had four options, the estimate is that 1 in 2500 votes was counted
incorrectly. Votes counted incorrectly in Skagit County alone amount to half the
margin between the top two candidates.
ES&S DRE’S (TOUCH SCREENS)
November 2004: Miami-Dade: 1600+ more votes than signatures in some precincts;
2000+ more signatures than votes in other precints (Florida)
HART INTERCIVIC OPTICAL SCAN
March, 2004: Hundreds turned away when machine broke down (Orange County,
March, 2004: 7000 presented with wrong ballot; 21 precincts had more ballots cast
than registered voters (California);
February 2004: tabulating machine "fried" at one precinct - none of the optical scans
2003: machines would not work properly - pollworkers were assigning wrong ballots