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Paper Tiger 

When is a recount not a recount?

This week, a Missouri voter-rights group will begin to circulate a petition that calls for an amendment to the state constitution mandating hand-counted paper ballots in all elections beginning January 1, 2009.

Judith Conoyer, co-founder of Show Me The Vote, insists that hand-counting is more accurate than machine-counting. Though other states — notably Illinois and New Hampshire — already have laws requiring paper ballots, Missouri would be the first state to go so far as to establish a constitutional amendment.

Conoyer, a 67-year-old St. Charles resident, co-founded Show Me The Vote in 2005, after becoming suspicious about the reliability of electronic voting machines during the 2004 presidential election. After traveling to Ohio to observe the well-publicized irregularities surrounding the touch-screen machines, Conoyer wondered whether Missouri's election results were also inaccurate. In St. Charles County, for example, she discovered six precincts reported a voter turnout of more than 100 percent.

She also learned that when there's a recount in Missouri, the actual ballots aren't recounted — just the records of the ballots are. As a result, if the tallies from electronic voting machines and optical scanners are skewed, those inaccuracies will be passed on during the recount. "A paper trail is not the same as a paper ballot," says Conoyer. "That's a common misconception."

For the measure to reach the ballot, Show Me The Vote must collect signatures of 8 percent of the voters in six of Missouri's nine congressional districts. The group's 1,000 members plan to go door to door, speak to student and church groups and distribute copies of Stealing America: Vote by Vote, a documentary about electronic voting machine fraud in the 2004 election.

"My sense is that the people want to have a say and control in government," Conoyer says. "The vote is the most basic level of government. If we don't have control over that, what have we got?"

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