Is Your Ballot Safe?

in Lassen and Modoc Counties?

November 1, 2006, Lassen County CA
Copyright 2006,

There has been a lot of publicity about new voting machines causing your vote to either not count or be stolen. Reasons range from outright conspiracy theories to genuine concern by knowledgeable persons about new electronic voting machines. 

So, while I can't answer the question about voting machine irregularities throughout the country, I did interview Theresa Nagel, Lassen Counties clerk and "Election Honcho" about voting procedures here. The answer to "Is our Vote Safe" is yes, and here's why.

First, Lassen County maintains an ALL PAPER BALLOT system. In this system a voter uses a pencil to mark his or her ballot which is then electronically scanned into a machine which sends the results (via modem and telephone line) to election headquarters in Susanville. Election headquarters knows ballot results right away. This is not the end of the story. All paperwork, and the original ballots are then physically transported by Sheriff's deputy in sealed boxes.witnessed by election officials. Within 2 days after the election an audit known as a "canvas" takes place supervised by local election people. The canvas examines a random sample of actual paper ballot counts with the electronically transmitted results. In addition, a recount could be called for if results are very close.

According to Mrs Nagel, there is one exception to the all paper ballot system. Federal law has required that voting machines which enable the handicapped to vote without assistance be installed, at least one per polling place. These machines ARE of the infamous touch screen type which has been receiving much publicity about their reliability.

There will be one of these machines available at each polling place, but they are not expected to be used extensively. Also, contrary to some of the supposed problems, these machines do maintain a hard paper copy which can and will be cross checked and audited.

The bottom line answer as to if your vote is safe in Lassen County is a resounding YES. This is because Theresa Nagel, our County Clerk has thorough understanding of how the systems work, both from the legal and auditing standpoint and from the technical standpoint. It would be difficult to imagine how any wool can be pulled over her eyes. Also, realize that cross checking and auditing is being performed by knowledgeable people who are our neighbors and not some mysterious outside agency.

How the votes are tabulated throughout the state and country, I cannot say, but it appears that there is enough cross checking by interested parties that any irregularities, if discovered will be small. Remember, even after millions of votes were cast during the last Presidential election, the discrepancies due to vote counting only amounted to a very few.

The concern about accurate voting tabulation should be directed at other policies, such as dis-enfranchisement of voting groups by limiting polling places or machines, making it difficult to vote etc, but not due to voting machine irregularities. At least not in Lassen and Modoc Counties

Maxine Madison, Modoc County Clerk informed me that Modoc County procedures are virtually the same as Lassen County.

Lassen County Election information, including up to date election results are available on line from the County Clerk's website.