Vote an Absentee
Ballot in 2004


Editor's Note: We recommend voting an absentee ballot in 2004. These leave a paper trail, and are also available for a recount, should a problem occur. No problems with mis-aligned cards, hackers, etc. A better chance that your vote will actually count in this election.

America's elections should be sterling examples of representative government. But the Florida fiasco in 2000 was just the opposite, an embarrassment to our country. Unless we act now, we could see an even worse election disaster.

After the disputed presidential election, Congress allocated billions of dollars through the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) to improve America's voting machines.

Trouble is, many election officials are installing voting systems with touch-screen computerized voting machines that are vulnerable to the same problems as other computer technology, including crashes, power outages, viruses and hacking. Simple question: Has your computer ever crashed and lost important data? Now apply that lesson to our democracy.

The fledgling technology already has failed widely publicized tests. One hacker was able to open a locked machine and start changing votes. It took him less than a minute. Another hacker was able to intercept and change vote totals being sent to headquarters. Still other experts analyzed a computer voting software program and found serious problems.

Fortunately there's a simple, cost-effective, two-part solution:

  • All voting machines should produce a printout of each vote that could be used to audit the computer count, conduct recounts when necessary and otherwise serve as the backup system. You've heard "store a hard copy?" Voters are shown the printout of his or her vote for review before leaving the polling place, and the papers are saved by election officials. "Voter verified paper trail" is the fancy name for this simple safeguard.
  • Public election officials and their trusted technicians must be given full access to the touch-screen software and hardware to verify the sanctity of the voting process, prevent fraud and eliminate unintentional errors.

Last year, legislation was introduced to get Congress and President Bush to fix the obvious problems before the 2004 election. TrueMajority members sent 63,268 faxes supporting these bills, but the Congressional leadership refuses to grant even a hearing on the bills by Rep. Holt (D-NJ) and Senators Graham (D-FL) and Boxer (D-CA).

So, TrueMajority is directing a campaign at the elected officials who have the power to stop the use of computer voting machines this year or demand a verified paper trail: secretaries of state, who typically are in charge of state elections.

Showing the way, the secretaries of state of California, Washington and Nevada have protected their citizens by requiring touch-screen computer voting in their states to include a voter verified paper trail. Excellent start; now onto the rest of us.

We believe other secretaries of state, who are not used to hearing from citizens, will follow suit under grassroots pressure. And as each state signs on to these higher standards, the pressure will build on those secretaries of state who refuse. No one will want to be the last chief state election officer to protect his or her constituents.

All the secretaries of state will be in Washington, DC, on February 17 at a meeting, so we'll kickoff the campaign then with a press conference calling on them to protect their constituents. We've hired two organizers who'll then move the campaign into the states, targeting a handful at a time for local news conferences, op-eds, letters to the editor and meetings with the election officers. As more and more states sign on and the pressure builds, we'll move the campaign around the country until everyone is covered.

Here's some background on this issue
The companies that perfected touch-screen voting technology refuse to share it with anyone, including election officials. This prevents quality control, audits or just plain monitoring of the system to ensure it's working as planned. It also makes fraud easier to perpetrate by private-sector technicians and hard, if not impossible, to investigate. This is particularly troublesome because some of the corporations that make these machines, such as Diebold, have links to the Republican Party.

Taking the simple step of demanding a voter verified paper trail is both affordable and practical-and will allow our nation to use touch-screen voting for the benefits of easy accommodation of multiple languages, arrangements for people with disabilities and more. But currently, computer voting systems are too vulnerable to tampering and failure to risk using them in this year's elections.

TrueMajority is waging an organizing campaign because that's what we do. It's based on great substantive work by experts in computer technology and democracy protection. To learn more, check out or .

Thanks for helping to make this campaign possible,

Ben Cohen

President, True
Co-founder, Ben & Jerry's


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