Thursday, November 15, 2007

Councilman Buccellato's Tough Decision

Following the recount, the Matawan Mayoral Election has been declared a tie.

Councilman Buccellato has a tough decision to make. After thousands of hours of work by him and his volunteers, thousands of dollars his supporters donated to his campaign, and a heartfelt belief that the people of Matawan need him, Buccellato lost the mayoral election by one vote. Although no one has suggested any improprieties, there were reports of at least one machine malfunction. Plus, there’s a general mistrust in the government’s ability to do anything a hundred percent correct. Doesn’t Buccellato owe it to his supporters who worked so hard to at least request a recount? No and he probably won’t.

As his legal experts have surely advised him, there is little Buccellato can do. Only a few dozen of the votes were mail-in, provisional, or electronic write-in ballots, and each one was reviewed by a small committee of people. That leaves claims that there was a problem with one of the voting booths.

An electronic ballot can be challenged in one of four ways – software error, mechanical error, ballot misalignment on the machine causing an elevated undervote rate, or unlawful tampering.

Software error would be extremely unusual. This is akin to Microsoft’s Excel being unable to sum rows and columns.

A mechanical error during transmission could corrupt the file but not change the vote. The vote count is contained in a single file that is either transferred or isn’t. Machines don’t transfer counts a vote at a time. Another possibility is a mechanical error that took place during the voting process but this would invalidate the machine and all the votes taken on it. Given the closeness of the election, invalidating any machine would alter all the election outcomes for Matawan and throw the entire borough election into the hands of the courts.

Another possibility is that a ballot wasn’t perfectly positioned on one of the machines leading people to believe they had clicked on a candidate’s name when no vote was actually recorded. However, undervotes are often recorded when voters choose not to select any of the candidates. An undervote rate of 1-8% is considered normal. The undervote rate in Matawan’s mayoral election was only 3.4%.

The last possibility is that someone altered the vote outcome. Contrary to media reports that hackers can easily compromise an electronic voting system, it’s actually quite difficult. Electronic voting machines are not networked to any other machine. At the end of the vote, a printout is generated and an electric cartridge removed. Both are securely stored and delivered to the central election system. In order for a hacker to affect the results, he would need to physically break into the voting machine and find a way to connect his laptop. Then, he would need to conceal any evidence that he had broken the lock on the voting machine. Not even the tinfoil hat crowd would suggest Matawan’s mayoral election was worth the effort and risk.

The only reason Councilman Buccellato would dispute the results is to demonstrate to his supporters that he did his utmost to win and thereby fully appreciated their efforts. But he has a higher obligation to the residents of Matawan whom he has nobly served these last several years. Casting suspicion on an electoral outcome, absent any evidence that the recorded votes do not reflect the will of the people, is more likely to harm than benefit the community. I trust Councilman Buccellato will do the right thing and continue to serve the borough he loves.
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matawan advocate said...

Realistically, Councilman Buccellato will not be allowed by the present majority to serve Matawan. As you are aware he was taken off the Planning/Zoning Board by Mayor Aufseeser. He being one of the last professionals to be removed from the Board. He Chaired the Technology, etc. committee and wasn't even consulted when a laptop was purchased by the Mayor.

Whether he requests a recount or not is strictly his decision. Either way MA supports his decision and wishes him the best.

Aberdeener said...

Much of what Councilman Buccellato did previously, such as recently getting a contractor to renovate the Clinton St. Youth Center, he did as a private citizen. I hope, and believe, Councilman Buccellato will continue to serve Matawan whether he holds political office or not.

Regarding a recount, Matawan and Aberdeen should both require automatic recounts whenever the vote is within a certain margin. The candidates shouldn't have to be burdened with the decision making or the cost.

I join MA in thanking Councilman Buccellato for his many years of service and wish him all the best.

matawan advocate said...

Have it from a good source that Councilman Buccellato does not read blogs. You might want to call him to ascertain whether he will call for a recount or not. As you state you do not live in Matawan.
It is difficult to understand the frustration of residents when the current Mayor and her cohorts do not utilize the talent available. As an observer, you can not fully appreciate the impact this has on Matawan. There is not one professional on the Planning/Zoning Board. Perhaps next year the Mayor will act responsibly and not politically.