In machines we trust

By Scott Rosenberg

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 20, 2000 8:47AM (EST)

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Here is my offering for quote of the month:

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." -- Joseph Stalin

What was true in the USSR will also prove true in Palm Beach County.

-- Sue Ginter

It's ironic that Bush said "I trust the people" when campaigning but after Election Day seems to have lost that faith. Now, he only seems to trust machines.

-- Brett Forman

Hand counts may be more accurate than machine counts -- for ballots designed to be hand counted. But for ballots designed to be read by machines, such as the infamous punched cards, the reverse is true.

The reason for the use of machines is not just that machines are faster and more accurate, it is that the machine itself is unbiased. It makes no distinction between Democrat or Republican, Green Party or Reform Party.

All parties knew the limitations going into the fight. The present squabble is an example of someone trying to change the rules -- and keep changing the rules. FOUL!

-- Don Hutchinson

If what I have seen of the last eight years and the past week in Palm Beach is an indication of human leadership, I vote for the machines.

-- Alan D. Veenstra

In the case of a person who votes party line except for president, do we interpret the ballot as a vote for that party's candidate? I have known people, including myself, who have voted party line and deliberately opted not to vote for any candidate running for a particular position. To claim to know "intent" is presumptuous -- even a dimpled or a hanging chad could be interpreted as a last-second change of mind. Concerning those people who may have voted for Buchanan on the "butterfly ballot" -- yes, it may have been confusing, but no more so than the deliberately obfuscating phraseology of a proposition where one must vote yes to defeat it.

The real flaw with what's happening in Florida is that the four heavily Democratic counties have been selected by the Gore campaign because ballots that were ignored by the machine in these areas will statistically go to Gore in the ratio that he took the county. This is intrinsically undemocratic and unfair. The other problem is that there are different standards of ballot evaluation in each county. This biased hand-recounting tactic only obfuscates the issue.

An alternative rational and equitable way to solve the problem would be to do an entire recount of all of Florida after the absentee ballots are in with the following provisions: 1) there be a uniform set of evaluation criteria for all districts and 2) there be a panel of three Democrats and three Republicans reviewing each abnormal ballot, with 100 percent agreement in the interpretation required. Anything else is a sham. The proposal by Gore to do this never addressed the establishment of standards or unanimity of interpretation and is therefore flawed.

In reality, a machine-based count is the only way to treat all ballots in an unbiased fashion: Machines are nonpartisan in their pre-programmed evaluations and are not subject to the vagaries of case-by-case human interpretive bias and cheating.

-- John Protopapas

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2000 Elections