|by Jim Dean|
Democracy for America
On Election Night, DFA-endorsed candidate Barbara McIlvaine Smith was down by 19 votes in her race for the Pennsylvania state house. She refused to concede, saying, "It is not about winning or losing... It's about making sure our democracy is intact."
Earlier this week the count of absentee and military paper ballots concluded, and Barbara won by 23 votes -- switching the Pennsylvania House from Republican to Democratic for the first time in 12 years.
This powerful victory happened because every paper ballot was counted. But across America votes are increasingly being cast electronically with no paper record. Had the election in Pennsylvania been conducted electronically there is no saying how the race might have been decided.
The danger of paperless elections is clear. Look at Sarasota County, Florida. They use paperless touch screen voting machines. In the hotly contested Congressional race there, election night ended with Republican Vern Buchanan ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings by less than one-quarter of one percent. This triggered an automatic recount.
On November 20, state election officials certified Buchanan as the winner by 369 votes, despite the fact that there were 18,000 "under-votes" in the county. An under-vote is when a machine reports a vote cast for another office, but not for the Congressional seat. The percentage of under-votes in Democratic-leaning Sarasota County was far higher than in surrounding counties. And many voters reported that their votes were not recorded on their electronic ballot. Some said the machine skipped the race while others couldn't find the race listed at all.
Currently this contest is being litigated in the courts. But the results of this election will be forever in doubt because there are no paper ballots to review.
The Democrats are committed to an impressive agenda in the first 100 hours of the Congress. They will raise the minimum wage, require Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, implement the 9/11 Commission security recommendations, cut the interests rates on student loans, and broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds. But Democrats can't stop there. Americans must encourage Congress to mandate that all elections take place using paper ballots.