HomePoliticsRemembering Roy Saltman: The Man Who Predicted the Hanging Chads at 90

Remembering Roy Saltman: The Man Who Predicted the Hanging Chads at 90

Roy G. Saltman, an analyst working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, passed away on April 21 at the age of 90 in Rockville, Md. He was the leading expert on computerized voting for the federal government who foresaw the vulnerability of punch-card ballots decades ago. His prescient warning about the hanging chad, which was overlooked, presaged the disputed recount in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, where the Republican candidate, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, won by a close margin of 1,784 votes over the Democrat, Vice President Al Gore. The spectacle of election workers examining punch-card ballots through magnifying glasses became popularized as a “hanging chad” and raised doubts about the accuracy of the count.

In a 132-page federal report published in 1988 titled “Accuracy, Integrity and Security in Computerized Vote Tallying,” Mr. Saltman urged that the use of pre-scored punch card ballots be ended. He cautioned that the bits of cardboard that voters were supposed to punch out from their ballots, known as chads, might remain partly attached or pressed back into the card when the votes were counted, which would render the voter’s choice uncertain or, if the ballot seemed to be picking more than one candidate, invalid.

Mr. Saltman’s recommendation was largely ignored, and the counting crisis that crippled the presidential transition in 2000 prompted congressional hearings that led in 2002 to the Help American Vote Act, which outlawed the use of punch cards in federal elections. In 2001, Mr. Saltman told USA Today that it puzzled him why his report never got a wider acceptance, “It takes a crisis to move people, and it shouldn’t have.”

Mr. Saltman warned in 1976 that we have a serious problem of public confidence in computers and a serious problem of public confidence in public officials around election time. When his bosses at the federal agency discounted his early concerns, Mr. Saltman was inspired to study voting mishaps around the country. He found a report that revealed design inadequacies of the voting device that had invalidated ballots because voters had unintentionally voted for more than the prescribed number of candidates. Similar concerns about punch-card voting were raised after a 1984 election for property appraiser in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Mr. Saltman’s early reports on punch-card vulnerabilities were cited as proof that Dominion’s voting technology had overcome those flaws in a recent defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems after Fox TV personalities falsely claimed that Dominion’s voting machines were susceptible to hacking and had switched votes in the 2020 election from President Donald J. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Saltman’s report recommended against the use of computer systems that would prevent voters from examining their ballots for accuracy before leaving the polls and that would not produce an immediate printed paper trail for election officials to examine in a recount. His first marriage to Lenore Sack ended in divorce, and he married Joan Ettinger Ephross in 1992, who died in 2008. After he retired in 1996, Mr. Saltman became an election consultant.

Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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