March 14, 2007
"Hand counted paper ballot" bill filed

From my inbox, the following is from VoteRescue:

VoteRescue in Austin, Texas is proud to announce the submission yesterday of HB 3894 by Texas Rep. Lon Burnam of Tarrant County, which calls for hand-counted paper ballots, and the elimination of electronic voting systems for our elections in Texas. The exception would be ballot marking machines such as Automark. Our founder, Karen Renick, had a major hand in crafting this bill.

Vote-PADS or Equalivote systems, both non-electronic voting systems, will be recommended for use with the disabled community to fulfill the Help American Vote Act mandate.

More info about the bill is here:

What does H.B. 3894, the Texas Hand-counted Paper Ballot Bill of 2007, do?

1. Repeals the use of any electronic "voting system" from the Texas State Election Code and leaves hand-counted paper ballots as the only voting method allowed by code in Texas.

2. Permits any interested citizen to observe the counting of Election Day and Early Voting ballots.

3. Makes the citizens of Texas the first to know the precinct results by instructing the precinct presiding judge to post them on the front door of the precinct's polling place.

4. Makes it a felony to remove, tear, deface or in any way alter the posted precinct results for 24 hours after they are publicly posted on the polling place door.

5. Permits a video recording device to record an unobstructed view of the ballots and ballot boxes from the time the polls open for voting until the final precinct totals are posted on the front door of the precinct's polling place. The video records are stored with the original paper ballots.

6. Reduces the maximum number of registered voters per precinct from 5,000 to 2,000.

7. Allows county election commissions to consider implementing alternate hand-counted paper ballot voting materials and methods to reduce counting times.

The text of the bill can be found here. I have to say, while I think this bill does some good things, I don't fully support it. I disagree with the conclusion that adding printers to electronic voting machines is insufficient. Among other things, as we learned from the Florida debacle of 2000, paper ballots in and of themselves are no guarantors of accurate vote counting.

What could overvotes yield, anyway? If a ballot is marked for two candidates, it's irretrievably spoiled, right? True, some people--including Bush lawyers seeking to discredit an "undervote-only" recount--raised the possibility that some overvotes might be salvageable if, say, voters actually wrote "I want Bush" on their ballots. But this possibility seemed almost theoretical. "There's nothing in the record that suggests there are such votes," Gore attorney David Boies asserted confidently when asked about the possibility in oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

We now know how wildly off-base Boies was.

We know because in Lake County the Sentinel examined 3,114 overvotes. And one-fifth of them contained exactly the "write-in mistake" that Boies had dismissed as nonexistent. More perversely, the majority (376) of these ballots were clear votes for ... Boies' client, Gore. "In each case, an oval next to his name was filled in with a pencil and the voter mistakenly filled in another oval next to a spot reserved for write-in candidates, writing in Gore's name or running mate Joe Lieberman's there as well," the Sentinel reports. Some 246 ballots contained the same Write-In Mistake, except that the voter both marked and wrote in "Bush." But, all told, Gore would have gained 130 votes in this one measly little county had its overvotes been manually tallied.

These were paper ballots, filled in with a pencil. Now, they were rejected by an optical scanner, whereas Burnam's bill would allow for people counters, but that doesn't mean those votes would have counted. Something like that will always be up to somebody's judgment, and that always leaves room for disagreement. I for one believe the incidence of spoiled ballots will go up under this bill, and that isn't going to achieve the end it has in mind.

But at a more fundamental level, I refuse to accept the notion that electronic voting machines, especially ones that output a paper ballot, cannot be made to be sufficiently secure. Go back and read my interview with Dan Wallach. We know what we need to do, we just need to do it. If we can trust ATMs, we should be able to trust EVMs. It's a crime that we can't trust what we have right now, but this is not an intractable problem.

Further, to expand on the point about spoiled ballots, I believe electronic machines can and will present a better user experience. One clear advantage that the eSlate machines have over paper and pencil is that once I've made all my selections, I get to see a screen that shows me every choice I've made, plus every race in which I've declined to make a choice. It's trivially easy to see if I've goofed by picking the wrong person or skipping a name I meant to vote for. I don't believe it would be this easy to detect a mis-filled bubble on a paper ballot - it certainly would not be as quick - and I fear that the people tasked with counting hundreds or thousands of paper ballots would make mistakes, too. Improving the technology we have, and improving the processes that we have to implement and use that technology, is the answer, not abandoning it altogether.

Be that as it may, whatever you think of this, the Elections Committee is meeting today from 2 to 4 PM in room E2.028, though I don't see this bill on the hearing notice. For more information, visit

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 14, 2007 to That's our Lege

Charles thanks for the hearing notice link...I needed that.

Posted by: Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on March 15, 2007 3:46 PM

Original Content at

The unique vulnerability of electronic voting technologies has been long known to federal authorities.

"If you did it right, no one would ever know," said Craig C. Donsanto, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Election Crimes Branch, Public Integrity Section (from 1970-present) in a July 4,1989 Los Angeles Times article about electronic voting machines and vote fraud.

So, why hasn't Donsanto sounded the alarm and informed Congress of this threat?

Donsanto has the reputation of a gatekeeper. He was featured in the Colliers' book, VoteScam, for his unwillingness to investigate evidence they collected over the years of rampant vote fraud involving voting machine companies, the news networks' exit polls, and election officials in Florida and other states.

Furthermore, Donsanto made it official department policy that no federal investigator should enter a polling precinct on election day, nor should they begin any serious investigation of the voting process until after the election results are certified. It is this policy that gives those who commit vote fraud ample opportunity to destroy evidence and cover their tracks. (See official policy:


(From BBV): Love this quote from Avi Rubin, about what we should do when we dump all these security-defective voting machines:

"I recommended to them [state officials] that they give these thirty, forty thousand machines that they have to the schools, attach a mouse and a keyboard, they're Windows machines, let the kids use them," said Avi Rubin, who votes in Maryland. "Or give them to a country whose government we want to control."


HB 3894-- Hand Counted Paper Ballots in Texas-- HELP, PLEASE



State Representative Lon Burnam, District 90, Tarrant County, introduced HB 3894 on the last day to introduce bills a week ago. The bill was sponsored by Essentially, the bill provides that all Texas elections will be conducted by hand counted paper ballots. This will remove the vulnerability of our election system to wholesale election fraud that has no possibility of being discovered, because voting machines will not be used.
As a person who has done extensive research on voting methods I wholeheartedly support this bill.

The problem is that the Tarrant County Democratic County Chair, Art Brender, a close friend of Burnam's, has lobbied hard for a bill that would keep these voting machines in service and give counties discretion to buy add-on printers that would allegedly provide a voter-verified paper trail, and Burnam has also introduced a bill that would satisfy Brender. The two bills are mutually exclusive. There is good reason for concern that Burnam may abandon HB 3894 in favor of pushing Brender's bill.

Voting machine companies do not have printing units that would produce paper images of the ballot the voter casts. They provide a cash register roll of thermal printed output that is supposedly a summary of the voters' choices. But the paper rolls preserve the sequence of votes, so that anyone who has the voter log could conceivably find out how a voter voted. This destroys vote secrecy. Also, the thermal record disappears on the paper over time.

Additionally, this involves throwing good money after bad, and further entrenches a system that is extremely vulnerable to wholesale fraud by a single person with the right access to ballot programming code. Finally, the cash register rolls cannot be used effectively for a recount if a recount is needed.


1. Please write a letter to the editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram praising Lon for backing this bill and saying that we'll be behind him as it goes through the process. Send your letter to [email protected] Be sure to include your address and daytime phone number.

2. Contact the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter who writes on this topic, Aman Batheja, and ask him to keep the public informed about this bill. [email protected]

3. Write a letter to the editor of the Austin American-Statesman expressing support and interest in HB 3894 at [email protected]

4. Contact your own State Rep and ask him or her to co-sponsor HB 3894. (Find out how here: )

5. Show up wherever Lon speaks and ask about this bill publicly.

6. Call or email Lon Burnam with messages of support.
[email protected]

District Office
1067 W. Magnolia
Fort Worth, TX 76104
(817) 924-1997
(817) 924-6788 Fax

Capitol Office
Room CAP GW.8
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0740
(512) 463-1075 Fax


Thanks for all you do!
Jerry Lobdill

Posted by: Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on March 20, 2007 12:40 AM