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Nashville conference discusses problems in electronic voting

For The Tennessean   09 April 2005

Election reform advocates have gathered in Nashville this weekend to discuss problems with electronic balloting that occurred in last year's presidential election.

Citizens, researchers, activists and elected officials said yesterday that the balloting system and the electronic voting machines could have intimidated voters who didn't understand the voting process, from whom they were voting for to what precinct they were supposed to vote in.

More than 20 states experienced problems with electronic voting machines. These officials believe this affected the election's outcome.
The National Reform Conference ? with representatives from 26 states and more than 60 organizations ? will continue to discuss this issue at 8:30 a.m. today at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, 2708 Jefferson St.

''Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything,'' said conference organizer Bernie Ellis, quoting Joseph Stalin, a former Russian dictator.

This conference brings together as many as six political parties: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, Constitution and Independent.

Ellis said he was happy ''to bring party members together even when we are arguing about partisanship, but in the end remembering what unites us.''

After the 2004 presidential election, several states reported election discrepancies.

Representatives from five of these states ? Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Washington and North Carolina ? will give detailed reports today about informal post-election investigations of election fraud.

Sharona Merel from New Hampshire, a member of the National Ballot Integrity Project, told the audience that there was evidence that the electronic balloting system was manipulated.

''There is a full frontal assault of democracy,'' Merel said.

Referring to the touch screen voting machines, Merel told the group that voters needed to have a receipt to verify their vote, instead of votes that disappear into the screen.

In Switzerland and Germany, voters cast paper ballots that are counted by hand, speakers said. ''Simplicity is best,'' Merel said. ''Complexity is a problem.''

Richard Hayes Phillips, an Ohio election fraud researcher, told the audience that 90,000 votes still are unaccounted for in Ohio.

He also believes there should be some type of ballot verification system.

He said he did not want to believe that there were ''dirty tricks'' tainting a critically important democratic process.

''A winner should win, a loser should lose, and the people should rule,'' Phillips said.

In Davidson, no such problems were reported, said Ray Barrett, administrator of elections for Metro.

''There are 604 electronic voting machines in Davidson County,'' Barrett said. ''We have not had any problems with our machines. We love our machines.''

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