Since the 2000 election I've believed it was a huge mistake to abandon the punch card voting system. It was simple, inexpensive and provided a permanent record for a recount if necessary. Put a Dem and Repub in a precinct to keep an eye open for what goes on.
The fiasco put forth by the 2000 recount was totally uncalled for, the people who put on that pathetic show should never be allowed anywheres near a voting precinct again except to vote.
We have now reached the point where it's near impossible to assure an honest election.
You are on the right track jazusamo, but where there are people who will steal your money if they can, every bit of unnecessary mechanism provides them an opportunity. I have a video showing the Broward county election board workers, paid by the League of Women Voters, counting punch cards by running the same small packet of cards through a counting machine - again and again. The video was made by two counterculture - left-wing if you please - journalists who decided to run against the old machine politicion Claude Pepper.
The brothers Collier also located the warehouse where the punch card machines were stored and filmed machinces whose rolls had been pre-punched. The paper rolls in those machines were the media upon which votes were recorded, and provided redundancy for the punch cards. Voters never have a chance to look inside of the locked machines.
The brothers sued the FBI, Florida Attorney General, and produced mountains of data. Their conclusion was that voter fraud was sanctioned at very high levels in our government, fifty or so years ago, even protected. here was a special office at the FBI dedicated to squelching claims of voter fraud. Their case was finially thrown out of court on a statute of limitations claim, though there is no statute of limitations law regarding voter fraud. Janet Reno was the Assistant AG who killed their case. A Florida attorney famous for taking on the federal government represented them until he was warned to stop, and skulked away. Their book, probably no longer in print, was called Votescam.
Paper ballots may not be the only way, but any process must involve obtaining a count before choices disappear into a black hole of computer memory, or counts from a machine scanner that scans in a closed box and stores its count in computer memory, while the ballots are sent to marginally secured storage locations under the control of party-specific (whichever party controls the state AG) election operatives, most of whom these days are SEIU employees.
Get the picture? The precincts are the last place the original ballots exist, under the control of and supervision of representatives of each party. That is the only stage where the vote count can be trusted because each individual present has the trust and responsibility to check every ballot counted by whomever. The assumption, one which I subscribe to, is that citizens value their freedom and the respect of their peers. In close quarters, where representives of different parties are there to check the integrity of those reading ballots, they will all do their best. All those present in the counting session sign with their honor that the count is complete and accurate to their knowledge.
One might add video surveillance to the process since the technology is very mature. Most casinos have the ability, and do read every card in every hand played in their facilities. If they don't observe in real time, they save the tapes. But today, no ballots are counted up front, and for that reason, no vote cast in the US can be verified by a citizen who respects the cornerstone of representative government. Every bureaucrat has plausible deniablity because he or she, if he sees anything, sees the output of an anonymous machine. Open an account in a bank and you probably have a bank officer's signature. Boxes of ballots used to have the signature of precinct workers who did the counting. Those WERE the official results. Today, in many if not most states. the results are reported by SEIU employees, and we don't have their signatures.