One of the more disturbing books I've read in recent years was called Was the 2004 presidential election stolen?, which analyzed huge discrepancies between exit polls and the final results that gave George W. Bush a second term in the White House.
Written by statistical expert Steven F. Freeman and journalist Joel Bleifuss, the book raised serious questions about the veracity of Bush's victory in 2004.
Electronic voting machines were widely used in that election. Approximately 29 percent of voters used the touch-screen variety, which leaves no paper trail.
The City of Vancouver uses electronic voting machines in its municipal elections. It also gives voters paper ballots, which leaves a paper trail if anyone ever wants to challenge the results.
I've always preferred the old-fashioned method used in provincial elections: paper ballots, hand counts in public overseen by scrutineers for the parties, and no electronic voting machines doing the tabulations.
In a recent interview with the Georgia Straight, chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld said he could not make a business case for using electronic counting machines under the current system of first-past-the-post.
"It's just too expensive compared to a hand count of these very simple paper ballots, which at a maximum will have 12 candidates on them—and in most cases will be much less than that," Neufeld said.
However, he added, the business case for electronic counting machines would be strengthened if B.C. adopts the single transferable vote in a May 12 referendum.
This would reduce the number of constituencies to 20, with many more candidates running in each multimember district. Greater Victoria would get seven MLAs. There would be two districts of six and five MLAs in Vancouver.
"I think the business case would be very good for counting machines in the voting place," Neufeld said. "It's also a question of, 'Would there be a business case for having some kind of technology for choosing your candidates, and then printing out?' "
He noted that the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, which recommended STV in 2004, insisted on a paper ballot, so there would likely still be a paper trail, similar to Vancouver, even if the legislature voted to allow electronic counting machines.
Every voting district is divided into voting areas. Neufeld said there are 10,000 voting areas in the province in the May 12 election. Each area has one ballot box with two election officials responsible for each ballot cast and counted.