Madison County Opinion...

OCTOBER 27, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
October 27, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Fix’ for voting system sets up potential chaos
I am afraid that we have set ourselves up for an election fiasco that will make Florida’s pregnant chads look like a school yard game. In an effort to “fix” the election system in America, our inept politicians have been rushed into ill advised changes that will really mess things up. It is called the “Help America Vote Act of 2000.”
The entire fiasco is occurring because government has decided that they have to help us vote. It does not matter if some of us simply don’t want to take part, or are so poorly educated that they can’t comprehend the election process.
It all started when changes were made in the registration process. In the past, each of us was expected to fill out registration forms and personally deliver them to the county’s registrars. Today, anyone can go around a community collecting registration forms and delivering them to the office.
People from a variety of political action groups have appeared submitted thousands of registration forms they have allegedly collected from future voters. Many of these came from people already registered, who are now registered twice. Others were from people who are not eligible. In some reported cases, people have attempted to register Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.
Next, the bill requires that if someone comes to the polls that are not on the registration list, they must be given a provisional ballot. Each of these provisional ballots must be investigated to see if they were eligible.
Then those votes must be counted.
These changes greatly increase the chances of voter fraud. With activists allowed to submit hundreds of applications without the applicant being present, it would be easy for someone to register under false names then use fake IDs to vote any number of times. One county in Ohio now has 30,000 more registrations than they have eligible voters.
The only sunshine I can find in this fiasco is past voting history. People frequently engage in voter registration drives in a low voting community.
They will gather these people up and transport them to a registration site and get them signed up. But on Election Day, they seldom show up at the polls. Most people who are not motivated to arrange for their own registration are not motivated to actually go to the polls and vote.
We will know the effect after the general election next week. If the vote total greatly increases over the 2000 election, then we will know that these new voters, whether qualified or not, went to the polls. If not, then all the efforts by the interest groups were a waste of time.
In either case, 10,000 lawyers will fill the courts with suits claiming voter fraud and voter intimidation. We may still not know the actual victor for many weeks, if ever.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
October 27, 2004

In the Meantime

Here’s hoping for no Florida fiasco for us
It’s the wee morning hours of election night, take your pick: Wesley Nash has beaten John Bellew by three votes or Bellew has beaten Nash by that margin.
Whoa, we need a recount.
So how does a recount play out on these new election machines?
“We’d go back to the memory cards and re-run them and re-scan the absentee ballots,” said county election superintendent Hoppy Royston.
But this doesn’t mean that the card you inserted into the computer on election day will be re-inserted into the machine. Actually, your touch screen votes are recorded onto the election machine. But the card you held in your hand is cleared after you vote and used over and over again on election day. The memory card Judge Royston’s talking about is for the actual computer itself.
There are about 70 functioning voting computers in Madison County now. In a recount, memory cards for those machines would be re-inserted into a main computer system. Meanwhile, the absentee ballots would be re-scanned.
Royston said a recount should come out the same as the initial tally.
“There shouldn’t be any difference,” he said, adding that the only way he could see the numbers coming up differently would be if the scanner for absentee voting failed to read a ballot.
So can each individual voter record on the computer be accessed?
“You cannot go back and determine what a particular vote was, because then you could go back and see how each person voted,” said Royston. (A person has a right to a secret ballot.)
But he said there is a record in the computer system to show whether an individual ballot is “valid,” but “that really gets deep into it.” To get to this level — or to go beyond simply re-inserting the memory cards from each voting machine and re-scanning the absentee ballots — a candidate contesting an election would have to get a court order from a judge ruling that there is sufficient cause for a deeper look into the computer system.
Royston said such an investigation would follow a court battle and would be like “another Florida.”
“We’d like for that not to be an issue,” said Royston — certainly speaking for every election superintendent in America.
I don’t know about you, but I really believe our new state electronic voting system needs a paper trail, a way to review a hard copy of each individual ballot.
We should push for that. In the meantime, let’s hope the new system holds up without a Florida fiasco here.
Here are some other election thoughts:
•PAST CHAIRMAN’S RACES: The 2000 BOC chairman’s race between Wesley Nash and Nelson Nash was extremely close, with tired-eyed folks at the government complex not knowing the official winner until 1:30 a.m. the night of the election. Wesley beat Nelson in that election, 3,811 to 3,666 (51 to 49 percent.) In 1996, Wesley Nash beat long-time chairman Bill Madden 4,135 to 3,125 (57 to 43 percent.)
•VOTER TURNOUT: So far, 6.8 percent of registered county voters have touched the ballot screens during advanced voting (850 out of 12,500.) The total voter turnout in 1996 and 2000 was 65 percent of registered voters, down from 79 percent in 1992. Of course, the dramatic drop in the percentage was due to the Motor Voter Bill, which increased the number of registered voters in Madison County by 2,348 between 1992 and 1996. So what will voter turnout be this year? Here’s an optimistic guess: 81 percent. (I mean, how can you stay home this time?)
•WHY NOT GO NON-PARTISAN? Madison County voters should push for non-partisan local elections. Partisanship allows for laziness in candidates and voters. Candidates may laud party principles without offering much in the way of individual expression. Meanwhile, voters often ally themselves with one party and choose not to learn about candidates outside of their party. Holding non-partisan elections would force both candidates and voters to put a little more effort into the process. It would also open the door for candidates outside of the two-party system.
•WHY BLACK AND WHITE? Front page candidates’ pictures this week are in black and white because very small mugshots don’t always reproduce well in color. For instance, if the four color plates for a color page aren’t aligned perfectly, a person can appear to have two mouths. We chose to go with black and white so that faces would be seen more clearly.
•ABOUT THIS ISSUE: This week’s paper is full of interviews and ads from local candidates who are eager to let you know what they feel is best for this county.
Don’t you owe it to them and yourself to make the effort to learn about them — and to show up Tuesday?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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