by Carl Parton
It was my honor and privilege to volunteer to help work at the polls during the Berlin Primary Election on August 9,2022. I had the chance to get to know some of the excellent and dedicated men and women that take their time to help Berlin elections run smoothly. Many have served the town as poll workers for 10 years or more. The entire process was educational and rewarding. The end of evening method of processing and counting the ballots and write-in votes was very interesting.
It should be noted that a team of Democrat and Republican Town officials and Justices of the Peace worked in harmony and unison to deliver a fair, honest and reliable count. As usual, Vermont does it right, because of the good people of all political persuasions working together.
Over the last eight years, confidence and trust in our national elections has come into question. In 2016, many Democrats were led to believe that Trump defeated Clinton with the help of foreign interference. A recent Reuters article suggested that over 57% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats still believe there was fraud or illegal election manipulation in the 2020 Presidential Election.
I believe that all Vermonters want free, fair, honest elections with trustworthy results. The Vermont Secretary of State’s office does an audit after each general election to help give voters confidence in Vermont elections. They choose a cross sample of five or six towns and cities that have voting machines and one town that hand counts to review for count accuracy. The ballots from those towns are brought to the State Pavilion building and a third-party vendor runs the ballots through an optical scanning machine to see if the counts are accurate. The original count is known by the third-party vendor prior to the audit count. It is a machine count checking a known machine count.
In 2022, though not announced or well-publicized, the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office purchased all new vote counting machines for every town and municipality that does not rely solely on hand counting. The brand that was chosen by a panel of Vermont Town Clerks and the SOS’s office was Dominion. You may have heard about some controversy around the country with that brand for a couple of vote switching issues, weighted average capability within the software, remote internet connectivity and programming issues. I do not give those stories much weight. I tend to believe what I see with my own eyes proven by scientific-based experimentation.
One known fact is that every chip from the new Vermont counters had to be sent back to Dominion in the end of July to be reprogrammed due to a software malfunction. Fortunately, the issue was caught before the primary. That too was not publicized by any election officials.
I helped process mail-in vote ballots for Berlin this year. Our Dominion counter was unable to read some pencil marked mail-in ballots. Fortunately, the machine did reject them and we were able to adjudicate the ballots and darken the obvious pencil marks with a black pen or marker which enabled the machine to accurately count the ballots. (I encourage all mail-in voters to use black pen or marker to fill out their general election ballots.)
No electronic device is 100% reliable. No computer or software system is 100% reliable and are typically only as accurate and efficient as the programmer that created them.
I am suggesting and encouraging all Town and City Clerks, City Councils, Select Boards and Boards of Civil Authority institute a policy to hand count one sample race after the 2022 General Election vote in November. If each Town or City randomly chooses one contested race to hand count it would ensure the accuracy of the newly acquired Dominion voting machines. It may take 20 to 30 minutes but I think it is worth the small amount of time.
Our elections are a sacred right and privilege and the foundation of our Constitutional Democratic Republic. Vermonters should be able to have confidence in our elections and our count systems. A sample hand count of a single race in each municipality this November would let Vermont voters know without a doubt that our elections are free, fair, honest and that they can have proven confidence in our electoral system.
The author is a Berlin businessman, selectman, and former school board member.