Election integrity not always upheld

September 26, 2006

Austin Daily Herald
Columnists: Sheila Donnelly

I was invited to attend my first League of Women voters meeting this past Monday at the Hormel Historic Home. The meeting opened my eyes to the way in which we vote in the United States and to how our votes are counted. The program for the evening was on election integrity. I had seen snippets about this topic when channel surfing news sites but I never thought about how it affected me. From the program I learned that this year all votes in Minnesota will be counted electronically. When I got home from the meeting I went to the Web site on election integrity and read this bit of informaion at the Web site www.electionintegritymn.org:

About 80 percent of Minnesotans already have used optical scan voting machines, according to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, whose office oversees elections. Experience has proved that theyre accurate, she said. But relying on computers creates a new problem, some say: making elections vulnerable to high-tech tampering. Nobody has discovered a U.S. election that was compromised by hackers. But critics of electronic voting have catalogued a long list of elections marred by faulty programming, mechanical failure or human error.

Because of past elections in 2000 and 2004 the accuracy of computers and voting machines is being questioned and tested. A new law was passed this year that all counties in Minnesota will randomly select two to four precincts to be counted by hand after the election. This review of the cast ballots is being done to assess the accuracy of the optical scan voting machines.

A DVD was also shown at the meeting explaining that during past elections, states such as Ohio and Georgia had faulty voting machines called DRE machines. These machines can easily be tampered with. They are not accurate and in the 2000 election it was discovered that these machines had a tendency to break down in hot weather. I lived in Georgia, and it definitely can have some hot sultry weather in September and November. Fortunately these DRE machines are not used in the voting process in Minnesota.

Another point that was brought up at the meeting was election judges. I really never paid that much attention to the election judges at the small rural township halls where I have voted at in the past. I saw the same men at the town halls year after year. One woman told how her stepmother, who resides in a rural township in Minnesota, registered to be an election judge at the DFL caucus this past year. The stepmother completed a training class to be a judge, but when she tried to become a judge in her township she was deliberately slighted by the other election judges and told that she had not completed her training. The other election judges were registered Republicans, drove big trucks and had been at the same polling place for over 20 years. These judges often had their wives as judges with them at the rural voting poll. State law requires a balance among the election judges from different political parties in each polling place. Also, state law says that an election judge may not serve at an election when his/her spouse, parent, child, or sibling is a candidate. In addition, an election judge may not serve in the same precinct with his/her spouse, parent, child, or sibling.

These laws are definitely not being upheld in this rural polling place.

At the meeting several women spoke of other inequalities among the good old boys in rural polling places in Minnesota. It became clear that it is not uncommon in rural polling places all over the United States that election integrity is not always being upheld.

This year when I go to cast my vote, I will be paying more attention to the polling place. I am learning that I have to be more alert to the goings-on in the world and not take for granted this great right we Americans have of casting our vote. All parties need to be aware of tampering with voting and fairness with who is an election judge at polling places.

I am just discovering the tip of the iceberg about the voting process and how votes are counted in the United States. Like most processes, voting is more complicated than it looks; but we all need to question authority and seek integrity in our elections.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this nformation for non-profit research and educational purposes only. Citizens for Election Integrity - MN has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article, nor is Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota endorsed or sponsored by the originator.