Ron Paul and his supporters have got to be kidding. Do they really think a return to paper ballots, counted by hand, would make for better elections in the United States?
That's the gist of a complaint the Paul-for-president camp served state officials, including Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., on Wednesday. It's part of a nationwide effort to assail new electronic voting machines as inaccurate and susceptible to fraud.
It's as if the entire history of elections in this country had been erased from their memory banks.
Electronic voting is not fool-proof. It can be compromised. But there is no form of voting with a longer history of fraud and manipulation than that of paper balloting. You don't need to spend a lot of time in front of a history book to learn that.
Ballot-box stuffing used to be considered an art form in many precincts, with political bosses making sure their candidates were overwhelmed with last-minute paper votes. Lyndon Johnson's biographers have published photos of officials posing next to a ballot box that was given the treatment during his 1948 race for the Senate. Even the punch-card ballots most recently used in many areas, including Utah, were easily compromised. Dead people have been recorded as voting in many elections nationwide.
As the 2000 presidential race in Florida proved, the hand-counting of ballots is both tedious and extremely inaccurate. It's also easily compromised by counters who prefer one candidate over another. To simply say, "We have the paper ballots and can prove who won," is naive, at best.
The solution for better elections is not to go backward. Or, as Timothy J. Ryan, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote in the Washington Post, "When early jet aircraft crashed, Congress did not mandate that all planes remain propeller-driven."
No, the solution is to let the market perfect electronic voting. Ryan mentioned two new systems being developed at different universities. One would provide a separate and independent electronic record of each vote, which could double-check the tally without comprising anyone's privacy. The other would give voters a unique receipt allowing them to confirm their votes online.
Returning to marks on paper would be ridiculous.