Citizen Audits/Parallel Elections
Candidates Advised To ‘Citizen Audit’ Race Before Conceding
Philadelphia, PA/Nov. 2/ — Candidates should ‘citizen audit’ at least some polls before conceding an election. They should ask voters to go public with their votes. That’s the advice of Lynn Landes, a freelance journalist who specializes in voting security issues.
“With the election essentially controlled by ES&S and Diebold, the stage is set for another easy-to-rig election,” says Landes. ES&S and Diebold will count 80% of all votes using proprietary software operating in both optical scanners and touchscreen machines.
Adding fuel to the fire, touch-screen machines are reportedly flipping votes from Democratic candidates to Republicans during early voting in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida, according to BradBlog.com. Democrats must be feeling deja vu, if not outright panic. Vote flipping has been reported in several races since the 2000 presidential election. And it always appears to favor Republicans over Democrats.
A Citizen Audit/Parallel Election is an idea that Landes first proposed in a January 2005 article. Its main purpose is to collect “hard” evidence of how people voted by asking voters to “go public” with their votes. Voters fill-out ballots that include their name, address, signature, and for whom they voted. Those ballots can then be used to verify or challenge election results. A Citizen Audit adds transparency to the voting process. It stands in sharp contrast to official audits which recount anonymous ballots, or traditional exit polls which rely on anonymous respondents.
Landes notes, “Most voters don’t realize that before the Civil War, voting was a completely transparent process. It was only after the Civil War, as the right to vote expanded to African Americans, that the voting process itself began to recede from public view and meaningful oversight. It started with absentee voting in the 1870’s, secret ballots in the 1880’s, and voting machines in the 1890’s. Today, 30% of all voting is by absentee or early, 95% of all votes are machine-processed, and 100% of all ballots are secret.”
Since Landes wrote her article, activists in Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, and Ohio have conducted Citizen Audit/Parallel Elections. And many have noticed interesting results. In a 2005 San Diego election, activists observed a shift of four percent of the vote from Democratic candidates to Republicans, when their results were compared to the official tally. On the basis of that evidence, a recount was ordered.
Democrats have considerable cause to be concerned about their candidates. Last spring, San Diego Democrats were flabbergasted when Francine Busby conceded the election to Republican Brian Bilbray before all the ballots were counted. She left thousands of absentee ballots uncounted, more than enough to win her the election. Busby should have taken a lesson from Republican candidate Steve Troxler from North Carolina, who rounded up affidavits from more than 1,400 voters who said they had voted for him in precincts where voting machines had lost votes. As a result, his Democratic opponent conceded.
If candidates don’t take steps to ensure the accuracy of election results, Landes predicts a complete collapse of public confidence in America’s voting system.
Lynn Landes, publisher