Why are our votes being counted by electronic machines instead of hand counting? How do election officials confirm that the voter is legally qualified to be voting? Do representatives of private companies have access to the vote counting process, directly or by modem? If so, are they sworn under penalty of perjury? How many months after the election are the paper records kept in a secure place? I know that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires ease of access for the handicapped voter, but since we vote by mail that should not be the controlling reason. What law requires that we implement HAVA?

Why are our votes being counted by electronic machines instead of hand counting? How do election officials confirm that the voter is legally qualified to be voting? Do representatives of private companies have access to the vote counting process, directly or by modem? If so, are they sworn under penalty of perjury? How many months after the election are the paper records kept in a secure place? I know that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires ease of access for the handicapped voter, but since we vote by mail that should not be the controlling reason. What law requires that we implement HAVA?

— James W., Cave Junction

Your questions came at us like a many-headed spider monkey, James, confusing and frightening the simple folk here at Since You Asked's Cyberdyne/Diebold Ancillary Bunker. So we hunkered down and let the authority on this subject, Jackson County Clerk Kathy Beckett, answer your questions:

1) Why are our votes being counted by machines? Hand tabulation requires a lot more time, labor and has proven not to be as accurate as machines.

2) How are voters verified to be legal voters? The voter registration card is matched against the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicle files; if no match is found they use the last four numbers of their Social Security card.

3) Do representatives of private companies have access to the vote counting process, directly or by modem? No, private companies don't have access to the voting process in Jackson County.

4) How many months after the election are the paper records kept in a secure place? In a federal election, they are kept for 22 months and for local elections, three months or three months from the day of a recount.

6) I know that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires ease of access for the handicapped voter. ... There were many different provisions to the Help America Vote Act, which made sweeping reforms to the nation's voting process. Some of the provisions include voter registration, fraud prevention, voter education and outreach, ballot access for military and overseas voters, accessibility to the disabled are but some of those provisions.

7) What law requires that we implement HAVA? HAVA is a federal law passed by Congress in October of 2002. The law compelled all states to comply.

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