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Marples: Paper ballots would return peace of mind

By James A. Marples
Oct. 6, 2017 at 11:25 p.m.


On Monday, I attended a Longview speech by Laura Pressley titled "Cracking The Code of Electronic Voting Corruption in Texas."

First, I'd like to say that I am not affiliated with Pressley nor the group that invited her to Longview. I attended purely as a concerned voter. I really think her talk would have been better titled "Ensuring All Texas Ballots are Numbered and Counted" — not interjecting the hot-button of "voter fraud."

I liked portions of what she said and have to admit I wasn't following other aspects of her premise, which was stimulated by her own defeat in a political race she thought she had won — but results went opposite of her hopes.

The good aspect of her speech was that Pressley quoted an 1891 Texas election law: "ARTICLE 6. SUFFRAGE. Section 4: ELECTIONS BY BALLOT; NUMBERING, FRAUD, AND PURITY OF ELECTIONS; REGISTRATION OF VOTERS. In all elections by the people, the vote shall be by ballot, and the Legislature shall provide for the numbering of tickets and make such other regulations as may be necessary to detect and punish fraud and preserve the purity of the ballot box; and the Legislature shall provide by law for the registration of all voters." (Amended Aug. 11, 1891, and Nov. 8, 1966.)

I think the above was her strongest case. She noted where many counties have lax attitudes and numbering of ballots isn't considered vital. But it is vital.

One comment she made shocked me. In her opinion, early voting is the least secure manner of voting. I generally do early voting as a matter of convenience — as do many, many others.

Pressley said a provisional ballot or a paper absentee ballot is the most secure in the event a recount is needed. She even showed a June 2017 headline saying: "Denton County TX going back to paper ballots."

In many ways, I like that. In my high school days, teachers had us students use a No. 2 pencil to "darken the oval" when taking tests. Teachers instilled how to do it. No punching. No infamous hanging chads. I think if schoolkids can do that on tests successfully, voters can too.

Speaking for myself: I am willing to wait on results. Some people want election polls to close at 7 p.m. and have networks blasting returns at 7:01 p.m. I can wait two or three hours, if necessary, and if it ensures integrity and accuracy.

This is the best of all worlds: The ballots can be read speedily electronically (optically) and efficiently; local precincts can make their own tapes of their local returns in case of accidental fire, flood or catastrophe, and poll watchers would have it far easier watching a paper-ballot dropped in a lock-box than feebly assuming the voting machine funneled to a single main computer at each county's courthouse. Pressley said, aptly, that it would take bunches of people to flip thousands of paper-ballots, but maybe only one or two computer-savvy people to flip votes of thousands of voters simply tinkering, or tampering with, an electronic memory card.

Nobody needs to be scared of the Russians. I am certain no Russian whispered in my ear during any election. But, I agree: Sometimes, the old-timers of Texas of the year 1891 were wiser than they knew. Temptations can happen domestically.

That would preempt feelings of sour grapes, plus it would nearly eliminate conspiracy theories. I say let's have a prudent mix of 1891 law requiring integrity in ballot accountability in 2018 or 2020 and beyond.

I applaud Denton County and others for going back to modernized paper ballots. I hope Gregg County and adjacent counties will follow. Everybody can agree: We need complete ballot integrity. And the tech-people still have their joy because a paper ballot will be read by machine. The time differential to complete a ballot is minimal yet the peace of mind is priceless.

— James A. Marples, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.

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