Original ballot-marking device is best

Dear Editor,

Warren County Commissioners are intent on buying new voting machines (ballot marking devices, or BMDs) that are praised for being “most similar to what we’ve been using” [“The results are in,” Times Observer, Aug 21]. They are too similar, unfortunately. These BMDs come with the same liabilities of the old machines: vulnerability to hacks, power outages, glitches, and malicious code. The one so-called advantage is that voters are supposed to re-check their votes on a small paper receipt created by the machine. This may sound encouraging but – unlike a hand-marked paper ballot – the voter reads one thing and the scanner reads another (a bar code) which cannot be read by any human. Can you see the added vulnerability there? Computer and election security experts certainly see it and have been warning about this security hole along with the other problems.

Despite my providing Warren County Commissioners with this information, they never seriously considered hand-marked ballots, though that is the gold standard for election integrity. I was also told their decision came down to cost, which was confusing since I had provided them with documentation about the 66% cost savings in elections using hand-marked paper ballots.

BMDs are not just a poor choice, but these new machines — and all the money we spend on them, again — may need to be scrapped once their faults are more widely understood.

This very same Dominion system that we are poised to buy is being challenged in court in Georgia by the Coalition for Good Governance. The plaintiffs write, “The new barcode balloting voting system is fundamentally flawed, cannot meet Georgia’s Election Code and violates voting protections of the US Constitution.” Further, they go on to say that “Handmarked Paper Ballots are the gold standard according to every cybersecurity and election integrity expert” and recommend the new system is abandoned.

I know it’s hard to walk past the temptation of shiny new technology. But it turns out the best ballot-marking device is still the humble pen or pencil: unhackable and glitch-free, it will work even in a power outage to create original-document ballots that are readable by voters, scanners, and hand-counters alike. All done at a fraction of the cost for BMDs which can’t boast the same.

I hope you agree about the importance of a secure, verifiable election and will voice your opinion on the matter to our Commissioners. It’s never too late to get it right.


Thomas Paquette,