Columbia County becoming known for hand-counting votes

Columbia County is gaining a reputation for voting integrity, thanks to its rigorous policy of hand-counting votes: County inspectors hand-tally all but state races and certified blowouts. Because of that policy, county Democratic Election Commissioner Virginia Martin has been invited to two recent panels on voting security.

It’s been 13 years since the Help America Vote Act offered states $3.9 billion in subsidies to modernize their election equipment, which usually meant installing electronic voting machines. As of 2012, 39 percent of the country’s voters were voting on electronic touch-screen machines, and 56 percent on optical scanners.

But there is no consensus that these methods are tamper-free. Computer programming is the province of a small elite, and electronic voting machines use programs that enjoy copyright protection from public scrutiny.

The U.S. has a long tradition of vote-tampering, as in the cases of the late 19th and early 20th century corrupt New York City political machine Tammany Hall and the suppression of African-American votes in the South through the mid-1960s, and there is no way of assuring that the large companies that produce the machines and their programs aren’t engineering the election results.