Massachusetts Citizens Launch Drive to Require Hand-Count of Ballots in Elections
With the hope of starting a lobbying campaign of their state legislators to rewrite the state's election laws, the group Hand-Count the Ballots - MA has emailed an initial polling questionnaire to all Massachusetts state representatives and state senators regarding their positions on a proposed law to require that all ballots in all future elections be counted and tabulated by hand.
The group hopes to provide a "blueprint" for citizens in other states, detailing proposed legislation and a formal hand-counting protocol for polling stations.
Countries which now employ systems of 100% hand-counted paper ballots include Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and 53 other countries.
Laws governing the actual conduct of elections, both primary and general, are written at the state house level and vary from state to state. Laws at the federal level which impact elections include those regarding prohibitions against certain kinds of discrimination, voter registration, and the funding mechanism of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA.)
The 2016 primary and general elections in the US were riddled with controversy over the integrity of the vote count in many states, partly as a result of the widespread use of optical scanner vote-counting machines, which have been shown to be prone to hacking. During the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, at least two statistics professors and experts in elections identified abnormal voting patterns which they said were indicative of election fraud against Bernie Sanders. And in the general election, similar patterns were identified which pointed to the same form of fraud, at times favoring Trump, and at others favoring Hillary Clinton.
At the root of these controversies is the resistance of election authorities to the actual hand-counting of paper ballots, in order to verify the machine counts. In lawsuits across the nation, state and local election authorities have fought the public counting of ballots, raising suspicions that they fear the discovery of major discrepancies, with the state courts often siding with election departments. Election integrity activists maintain that there is no good reason for the paper record of ballots to be kept secret.
In Massachusetts and other states, election authorities have opposed a public counting of the ballots for verification purposes. And most recently, election authorities bitterly fought efforts by Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein to hand-count ballots in the key states of Michigan and Wisconsin. Both hand recounts were incomplete and inconclusive.
Jill Stein revealed her larger reasoning for requesting hand-counts of key presidential states in the general election when she said in an interview to Real News Network:
"this is a time-sensitive opportunity right now to ensure that we have integrity in the votes. And you cannot tell whether or not there has been tampering or problems with the vote, unless you actually count the paper ballots."
The strategy of Hand-Count the Ballots - MA is described in an email to supporters. From the email:
"- Poll our state legislators on their initial stance on our proposed hand-counted voting process which we should implement in Massachusetts, in order to ensure transparency and honesty in our elections. Will they sign as co-sponsors to our draft legislation? In general it can be assumed that legislators who co-sponsor a bill will vote for it.
- Post the results of our initial poll of legislators, to identify which ones to lobby. We will continue to write letters/emails, make office visits, and publicize the hold-outs to having honest elections, to their constituents. In some cases, some of us may decide to make a challenge for the seat.
- Call for a vote to be taken in the State House of Representatives when we think we have enough votes to pass the law, to be followed by a vote in the State Senate."
The end goal of Hand-Count the Ballots - MA is to have "publicly observed hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) elections with a secure chain of custody," as the non-profit has summarized, in all Massachusetts elections.
The Twitter hashtag for Hand-Count the Ballots - MA is #HandCountMA. The group hopes to spread the hashtag convention, for example #HandCountNH, #HandCountWI.
In February, the Netherlands announced that it would convert to all hand-counted paper ballots for its future elections. A recent series of nationwide conferences has highlighted a call from election experts to election authorities to switch over to a system of hand-counted paper ballots, with other features such as ensuring the "secure chain of custody," which means officials must account for the storage and movement of ballots at all times. Surveillance cameras would be installed in sensitive rooms where ballots are stored.
In recent Dutch elections under the new system, the Green Party quadrupled its MP seats in Parliament.
The Hand-Count the Ballots - MA's proposed legislation in the group's Poll to Legislators. page HERE. HCTB - MA can be reached at handcounttheballots AT gmail DOT com. HCTB - MA welcomes inquiries from other states on how to start your own initiative. Google Group is hand-count-the-ballots-MA@googlegroups.com