Marks provides important service
December 19, 2009
Litigation has been filed in Aspen regarding the issue of the public right to examine anonymous digital ballot images. This issue, of national importance, offers an important improvement to voting rights introduced by computerized voting machines, which conceal counting of the vote.
Computerized voting systems, whether they scan paper ballots or use paperless touch-screens, conceal counting from the public. Since public elections are the mechanism by which The People exercise their right of sovereignty over the government, if public controls over elections are transferred solely to insiders this represents a transfer of power – an alteration in our originally conceived democratic form of government, and violation of a high-level human right.
Concealed vote counting systems have been deemed unconstitutional by the German high court, which ruled in March 2009 that no public election can conceal any essential step in the election from the public. The German Constitution was formed according to requirements provided by the U.S. after WW II. Principles of public sovereignty over government are embedded into our Declaration of Independence (the document which provided much of the argumentation for women’s suffrage), and are also recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Computerized counting conceals an essential step in public elections and therefore violates the public right to know. Solutions have been proposed to alleviate concealment of the count here in the U.S.:
Public hand counting, which is still performed in more than 1,000 U.S. jurisdictions, allows the public to see the count. Another method is to let the public examine scanned copies of the ballots, as has been requested in Aspen. This approach was originally proposed in 2005 by Black Box Voting. It has already been implemented by Humboldt County, Calif., and also in Minnesota in the 2008 election.
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Aspen has scanned ballot images because they were produced as part of a complex IRV vote counting methodology. Forty-four of Colorado’s 64 counties use voting machines which produce ballot images automatically. Ten percent of all voting machines nationwide already produce ballot images.
Unfortunately, the city of Aspen is refusing to allow the public to examine its ballot images, so Aspenite Marilyn Marks filed an open records lawsuit.
By seeking judicial review of the public right to examine ballot images, Marks is providing an important service not just for Aspenites, but for all Coloradans and for U.S. voters. If the courts examine this issue within the context of inalienable rights – that is, the public right to examine and authenticate every step of its public elections – a precedent will be set which can alleviate some frustrations with computerized voting processes.