Faith Based Voting Machines
We need paper ballots, counted by hand
|Official Stories||Limited Hang Outs||Best Evidence||Distracting Disinformation|
In 2004, Kerry won in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio.
In 2016, exit polls suggest similar "red shifts" from Clinton to Trump in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Red shifts also denied the Democrats a majority of the Senate.
"President" Bush won the 2000 and 2004 elections and it is a coincidence that the "problems" with voting machines and voter lists were accidents even though the "mistakes" all helped Bush/Cheney. There has been even less discussion about the similar "red shift in 2016 that favored Trump.
The corporate media says we can trust voting machines but ignore the companies links to organized crime and extreme fundamentalists who think the Earth is about 6,000 years old.
Recommendations for "paper trails" for voting machines are a poor substitute for banning these rigged machines. Paper trails merely mean that the machines will give out a margin of victory larger than the level that triggers recounts. Giving voters a receipt for their ballot does not require that their ballots are counted in a verifiable method.
Vote Fraud is a deeper problem than Diebold voting machines.
Election rigging includes the Kennedy assassinations, the 1980 October Surprise (which toppled Carter) and the "plane crashes" of Senator Paul Wellstone (2002) and Governor Mel Carnahan (2000 -- he ran against then Senator Ashcroft).
The Democratic Party died in Dallas on November 22, 1963 -- their refusal to demand a real investigation and prosecution of the conspirators led toward their permanent minority status.
Some racist publications have promoted (mostly accurate) information about election rigging in efforts to boost their own credibility with dissidents. These efforts include the American Free Press and votefraud.org, which promote Holocaust Denial. We don’t need racists to prove that Presidential elections are rigged.
The Socialist Workers Party, a small sectarian "left" political party, was massively infiltrated by the federal secret police during the 1960s (this was verified in a protracted legal suit against the government). Did the government want to disrupt these sorts of groups, or keep them afloat (via members dues) in order to have multiple, competing, irrelevant organizations representing the "left" end of the ideological spectrum?
bait and switch: Florida punch card scandal led to touch screen voting machines
computerized voting machines were used to steal the 2002 Senate race in Georgia, a trial run for the 2004 Presidential election
who cast the vote decide nothing, those who count the vote decide everything.
Attributed to Joseph Stalin (whether he said it or not)
At a minimum, the federal requirements to "upgrade" voting machine technologies must be rescinded. The "hanging chad" scandal in Florida in the 2000 election seems, in retrospect, to have been an elaborate distraction from the deeper scandals of the way it was rigged (expelling voters from the voting rolls, behind-the-scenes manipulation of the judicial and political processes). Since the "chad" problem was "obviously" a defective technology - the States are now provided with Federal funds to solve it. The method being used is electronic computerized touch screen ballot machines -- which have zero credibility as a legitimate means to accurately count votes. No "evidentiary trail" is possible with these machines. Recounting of disputed elections (as provided by law) is not possible, since there is no physical evidence for the ballots. Several investigations have charged that the security of these machines is laughable and easily tampered with -- and likely the reason why the Republicans seized back control of the Senate in the 2002 Congressional Elections.
"touch screen" computerized voting machine
The "touch screen" scandal has been percolating underground on the internet since the 2002 elections, but only in recent months (late 2003) has it finally gotten substantial media attention. It is curious that it has received more coverage in the corporate media than the "alternative media." Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich has taken a strong stand against touch screen machines. Howard Dean has also expressed concern about it. But the national democratic party as a whole has not chosen to work to prevent further election frauds - and some liberal non-profit groups (Common Cause, League of Women Voters) are actually supportive of touch screen machines.
If the Democrats and their allies continue to sleepwalk through this scandal, then there will only be one state in 2004 that will actually conduct a certifiable election. In the 1990s, Oregon switched to state-wide vote-by-mail ballots, supposedly to make voting more convenient. While this poses its own problems (ballots can be stolen from mailboxes, people can be pressured to vote by abusive spouses or others in their household, and there's more opportunity to tamper with ballots), it blocks the Federal push for computerized ballot machines (since it is not possible to place these in every home!). While this, by itself, will not prevent the Republicans from stealing another election in 2004, it will provide for greater ability to certifiy that Oregon's state and local elections are accurately counted.
(Oregon's switch to optical scanning of paper ballots still has accountability problems, since the scanners are "black boxes" whose internal operation remains protected trade secrets - the public has no way to know that they are counting as promised.)
Perhaps the best news about the billion dollar promotion of touch screen voting machines: if the Republicans were a majority in the US, they would not have a need to steal the elections!
Beware the false solution being offered -- paper trail for the Diebold machines instead of abolition of the Diebold machines. If the Diebold machines are rigged up to print paper receipts (that are then counted), then why buy these overpriced machines? Paper ballots and pens are much cheaper, even if factoring in the cost of hiring temporary workers to count all the ballots.
The reality is that control over the United States economy and its war machine is the greatest prize in human history - and spending a mere couple billion on new ballot machines to ensure its continued control by a tiny elite is a good investment, from their perspective.
California demands paper back up for Touch Screen
why this is not a solution
In mid-November 2003, the State of California demanded that counties have paper trails for touch screen voting machines. At first glance, this seems like a huge victory for grassroots pressure. However, this development is not a victory for democracy. First, the decision does not need to be implemented until 2006, meaning that Governor Schwarzenegger is now free to do to California's elections what Governor Jeb Bush did in Florida in 2000. Second, paper ballots are not what will actually be counted in these elections - the Diebold / Sequoia / ES&S machines will still determine the outcome. If there is a controversy, then paper ballots could be used to verify whether the machines were rigged or not. Unfortunately, few elections are close enough for automatic recounts, meaning that all the tamperers need to do is to rig the outcome enough so that the results appear legitimate. For example, the California "recall" race had Schwarzenegger comfortably over 50 percent, thus ensuring that no recount (or a second recall against him) would happen. And in many cases where the outcome has been disputed - such as the 2002 Governor race in Alabama - no recounts were done because of Republican obstinancy and Democratic meekness in the face of blatant vote fraud.
Therefore, paper trails are not a solution. Paper ballots, counted by hand -- that is the only solution to phony voting machines.
If the Democrats had any spines they would be holding public hearings on these allegations. Perhaps they have been threatened by the Republicans - if so, then the American experiment in democracy is on life support, if not deceased.
|Vote by Mail is not a complete solution|
1. There's no chain of custody to show that a ballot you put in the mail gets there. In many communities, dumping ballots by zip code would alter the outcome on a statistical basis. This could be done with confederates at the post office OR at the voting department. The remedy would be to send a short post card receipt back to the voter that their ballot was received.
2. Vote by mail doesn't address the problem of counting the ballots, which is still done by secret software (optical scanners). Yes, a real recount could be done, but that would take an outcome of 50.5 to 49.5 and a huge amount of political pressure, which means the riggers merely need to ensure the outcome is more like 53 to 47, which makes a recount almost politically impossible.
PAPER BALLOTS, COUNTED BY HAND!
Saturday, December 20, 2003
It has been suggested that open source coding would be a solution to the problems we have recently seen in the use of computer voting machines. This is a mistake. From an insightful post by Jeremi on a Slashdot thread:
"Looking at the source code would be interesting, but it shouldn't give you any confidence in the system. Even in the (practically unattainable) ideal case, where the code is thoroughly analyzed by all the experts and they all agree the code is correct... there is still no proof that the code everybody looked at is the code that will actually be running on the voting machines. Even if you stand over the Diebold employees and watch them compile the source code and install the resulting binary on the machine, you still don't know if that code is what will be running on the machine during the election[acm.org].The point is, having access to the (alleged) source code is no guarantee of accuracy. The only reliable guarantee of accuracy is having the system print out a paper receipt that the voter hand-verifies and turns in at the poll. Once you have that, the vote can be recounted by hand, if necessary, and any inaccuracies will be detected. Without that, no electronic system will ever be trustworthy."
The only point I would make is that hand counting will always be necessary, unless all the other candidates consent to waive it (for otherwise, how could we ever know that even a landslide victory wasn't fixed?). In fact, open source coding is largely irrelevant to the issue of voting fairness, and as long as the voter-verified ballots produced by the voting machines are kept and hand counted, the voting machine companies can keep their code proprietary and secret (any cheating in the code will be caught by the hand counting). To put it another way, hand counting of ballots is a completely necessary and largely sufficient condition of a fair voting system, while open source coding is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of a fair voting system. This reality still leaves us with the paradox of voting machines: if we have to hand count anyway, why do we need the machines at all?
interview with Gore Vidal (2003)
Speaking of elections, is George W. Bush going to be re-elected next year?
No. At least if there is a fair election, an election that is not electronic. That would be dangerous. We don’t want an election without a paper trail. The makers of the voting machines say no one can look inside of them, because they would reveal trade secrets. What secrets? Isn’t their job to count votes? Or do they get secret messages from Mars? Is the cure for cancer inside the machines? I mean, come on. And all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption?
So Bush will probably win if the country is covered with these balloting machines. He can’t lose.
Published on Thursday, August 28, 2003 by the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Voting Machine Controversy
by Julie Carr Smyth
COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
from the Progressive Review, May 16, 2005
MONTANA OUTLAWS TOUCH SCREEN VOTING MACHINES
REPRESENTATIVE BRADY WISEMAN, BOZEMAN, MT - I saw your link to the Accuview story on IRV. I thought you might like to know that here in Montana, we just outlawed touch screen voting machines. House Bill 297, sponsored by myself, passed the Montana Legislature by wide margins. It simply requires that paper ballots be used in all elections. The ballots may be counted by machine, and may be marked for the voter by a machine, but we will not allow electronic ballots, with a tiny exception for handicapped voters.
My profession is software engineering. I was able to convince my colleagues in the Legislature that touch screen voting machines are unreliable, badly flawed, insecure, and require massive amounts of acceptance testing that typically is not done or even thought about. But the real winner was the suggestion that in a close election, the candidate on the short end of the count could not examine the ballots or the voting systems, because they are private property protected as trade secrets. A blatant appeal to the self interest of elected officials carried the day, helped by a two-month recount in a House race last November and December, not decided until the weekend before the Legislature convened, that swung the balance of power. Spread the word, we can kill these machines....
Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
on Diebold "voting machines"
Diebold Automated Teller Machines (ATM) use Windows software, the most vulnerable operating system in the world. And we're supposed to trust Diebold with our elections?
Nachi worm infected Diebold ATMs
By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus
Posted: 25/11/2003 at 09:40 GMT
"It would be a tremendous setback if the outcome of (Shelley's)
decision were to push counties away from touch-screen voting machines to optical
scan and other paper-based voting systems," said Jim Knox, executive director
of California Common Cause. "Touch-screen voting machines
offer many advantages that make them far superior to optical scan and other
paper-based voting machines."
Supporters of the touch-screen systems say they are superior because they offer instant translations for voters whose primary language is not English and because the disabled can use them easily and without assistance.
They also say cases of voter fraud are unheard of with electronic systems, but paper ballots can easily be lost or stolen.
"There have been a lot of unfounded fears that have spread about touch- screen systems,'' said Kathy Feng, of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles. "It's easier to steal an election with paper than anything else.''
Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland estimated that adding a printer to its touch-screen voting machines increased the cost of the $3,200 machines by about $500, spokesman Alfie Charles said. That could be costly for cash- strapped counties such as Santa Clara and Riverside, which each have about 4, 000 terminals.
1. Paper ballots can be used in rigged elections, but if the counting is done in public, it is much more difficult to steal those elections than with secret computer ballot machines.
2. Sequoia estimates that each printer would cost about $500. A decent computer printer at any computer store in the country costs about $100. Ink jet printers are so cheap these days that computer companies practically give them away (so that people will buy the ink refills, where the real profits are made).
Saturday, December 6, 2003
Edwards: Every Vote Will Count In 2004
ORLANDO, FL - Senator John Edwards (D-NC) Saturday called on President Bush to return donations from a voting machine manufacturer who said he would help "deliver" Ohio's electoral votes to Bush and asked Florida Democrats to lead the fight against other voting schemes that threaten our democracy.
"We will never forget what happened to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman almost three years ago. We had more votes. We won," Edwards told delegates to Florida's Democratic State Party Convention. "And in 2004, Democrats will win the White House back the old-fashion way-by counting every vote."
Edwards criticized the contributions by Walden O'Dell, head of Diebold Election Systems. In 2004, 8 percent of voters are expected to use Diebold machines to vote for president, including all voters in Georgia and Maryland and voters in California, Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Arizona, and Kansas.
As a "Pioneer," O'Dell has raised more than $100,000 for President Bush's reelection. He boasted in a fundraising letter that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Numerous computer scientists have charged that Diebold's machines can easily be rigged in ways that voting officials cannot detect.
"People who make voting machines need to be real careful when they talk about delivering elections," Edwards said. "George Bush should give back this 'Pioneer's' money. And we need to make sure these machines are secure."
Edwards also criticized the Michigan Democratic Party's plan to allow Internet voting in its presidential caucus, saying that will reduce the influence of poor and minority voters. Wealthier families are more than twice as likely to have Internet access at home than poorer families. Whites are 50 percent more likely to have access at home than African Americans and 90 percent more likely than Hispanics. "We've opened up the Internet without closing the Digital Divide," Edwards said.
Edwards asked Florida Democrats to lead the way to more open access to poll stations, saying the state's efforts to increase voter access after the 2000 debacle, could serve as a model for Michigan and the rest of the nation. "Those of us from the South have a special responsibility to lead when it comes to civil rights and voting rights," Edwards said.
Stolen Election 2004: Florida REJECTS Voter Verifiable Paper Ballots
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/politics/content/auto/epaper/editions/saturday/news_f31d85abb14d429c10b0.html When Katherine Harris was elected to Congress, Jeb Bush appointed Glenda Hood to replace her as Secretary of State. So it comes as no surprise that "Hood said making a paper trail a statewide requirement is not necessary because Florida has multiple safeguards to assure the accuracy and security of touch screens, which are used in Palm Beach County and 14 other counties."
OHIO HALTS E-VOTING MACHINES
AP - The state's top elections official said Tuesday that security problems found in new touch-screen voting systems mean they won't be in place statewide in time for the November 2004 presidential election. Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said some of the new voting machines would be installed in August, some in November and the rest in 2005. . . . The four electronic touch-screen systems must be proven secure before Ohio voters use them, Blackwell said. His office will work with the manufacturers to ensure the problems are corrected, he said.
E-VOTE FIRM THREATENS WHISTLEBLOWER
"Secretary of State Dean Heller said Nevada has become the first state to demand a voter-verifiable receipt printer on new touch-screen voting machines being purchased for the 2004 elections... 'A paper trail is an intrinsic component of voter confidence,' Heller said in explaining why he insisted that Sequoia - which already has nearly 3,000 machines installed in Clark County - include the receipt printers on new machines for the upcoming elections. The printers must be added on existing machines by 2006... The decision to go with Sequoia machines was based in part on a review by the state Gaming Control Board's slot machine experts who issued a report saying the Diebold machine that was analyzed 'represented a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process.'" That's a powerful statement, since Nevada's Gaming Control Board is probably the world's expert in electronic machine fraud, given its supervision of Nevada's huge casinos. We demand VVPB for ALL states!
Voting Machine Manufacturers Call Critics 'Luddites' and 'Black Helicopter
The electronic voting machine "industry insists that its systems are secure and trustworthy, with or without paper. Harris Miller, who leads a new trade association for the industry, said that the group had no position in favor or against paper trails, but dismissed the issue as a 'theological debate within the academic community.' Mr. Miller, who is also president of the Information Technology Association of America (www.itaa.org), called some opponents of electronic voting 'black helicopter theorists' and Luddites who 'want to go back to the bad old days' of stuffed ballot boxes and chad wars." Tell Harris Miller what YOU think: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, December 07, 2003 http://xymphora.blogspot.com
The best part from the excellent BuzzFlash Interview with Bev Harris http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/03/12/int03323.html
" . . . we need a voting system that is in keeping with the vision of our founding fathers - and this is a public policy issue, not a computer issue. The most important thing that we keep forgetting is that the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, felt that it was critical - not 'important,' but CRITICAL to democracy, to keep the vote directly in the hands of the people themselves. Any solution which requires us to trust a handful of experts will, sooner or later, result in the demise of our democracy.
That means we need to retain (and enforce) policies to tally the votes at the polls, in front of observers. In some countries, they let as many regular citizens as can fit in the room in to watch the physical counting.
It is this neighborhood tallying, and the open and public nature of it, that is the embodiment of democracy. We've been taking that away, and yet we wonder why people say 'it doesn't matter if I vote.' Here's a concept: Let's actually SEE our own vote (the real vote, not a video screen representation); let's count our votes before they leave our neighborhood; and let's invite everyone to watch the counting. Let's not remove the people from 'we, the people.'"
While the technological issues are vitally important - it is the abuse of technology which enables the fraud - it is even more important not to lose sight of the community aspects of voting and counting the votes. There is a big danger that the corporadoes turn voting into another consumer product, akin to online shopping, with voting done alone in front of a computer by a mouse click, and no more thought given to the process of voting or the tabulation of the votes, all of which is trusted to the good will of corporations with very particular political agendas and not an ounce of integrity. I don't want to sound like Heidegger or Foucault (or maybe I do), but there is a constant peril that we allow technology to 'solve' the problems of society, when of course the technology just hides the problems and usually makes them worse. Without getting too philosophical, there is something inherent in technology itself which is profoundly anti-democratic. In this particular case, the solution proposed by voting machines was essentially just a marketing opportunity for corporations who had technology that could be used in the voting process. As usual, the importance of making profits for individual corporations is allowed to take precedence over all other goals of society. The actual physical process of voting, and the physical process of counting the ballots in the presence of scrutineers from all interested parties, is vitally important both for the health of the ideals of democracy in society, and the certainty necessary to democracy that the count fairly reflects the will of the electorate. Even if the computer count is fair, once you sever the connection between the voting process and the electorate you have grievously injured democracy, and are well on the road to dictatorship. It's dumb to allow the self-interested greed of a few well-connected corporations to destroy democracy in order to make a few bucks.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Fortune has given computer voting machines its award for worst technology of 2003. Last year's winner was John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness. Let's hope that Diebold goes the same place that Poindexter did. With cheaper, time-tested, more reliable and more obviously democraticoptions available, and Diebold's threat to charge 'out the yin-yang' for the paper trail that any moron should see would have to be part of any credible voting system (and remember that the paper trail is not provided because companies like Diebold realize that it would make it obvious that their voting machines are completely unnecessary), it is arguable that these computer voting machines are the worst technology ever.
WINNERS AND LOSERS OF 2003
By Peter Lewis
Remember all the chads and dimples that made voting for President so chaotic in Florida three years ago? In a well-meaning effort to fix the system before the 2004 elections, many communities—in Florida and in other states—have begun to install direct-recording electronic machines (DRE), which instantly record and tabulate votes; some even use fancy touch-screen technology similar to automated-teller machines in banks. Computer scientists are alarmed, however, by the potential to manipulate the new machines. Internal documents from Diebold Election Systems, which has sold more than 33,000 AccuVote DRE machines, acknowledge that there have been security flaws, although the company denies that the flaws could allow a hacker to cast multiple votes or alter the votes of others, as critics suggest. Diebold asserts that the problems have been or are being fixed, but it is waging a legal war to have the embarrassing documents removed from the Internet.
Runner-up: Talk about embedded processors! A Florida company, Applied Digital Solutions, wants consumers to surgically implant its radio-frequency identification device (RFID) under their skin. The company says its VeriChip system would reduce identity theft, enhance airport and office security, and eliminate the need for picture IDs. A VeriChip-based ATM machine, for example, would scan a customer's body for a unique radio ID signal before dispensing cash. Besides problems with privacy and an almost complete lack of industry support, there's also the issue of whether anyone would voluntarily pay for surgery to have the chip implanted.
Update: Last year's Worst Technology of the Year, the Pentagon's nationwide Total Information Awareness data mining and spy-on-everybody project, had a stake driven through its suppurating heart when Congress cut off its funding in 2003. TIA's godfather, retired admiral John Poindexter, resigned shortly thereafter. Good riddance.
From the Dec. 22, 2003 Issue
The Canadian province of Ontario counted its ballots
very quickly in its recent election
there is no technical reason why we cannot have
PAPER BALLOTS, COUNTED BY HAND
Friday, October 03, 2003
The boring Canadian province of Ontario had an election yesterday, and the voters finally managed to kick out the right-wing American-influenced tax cutters, replacing them with a party whose main promise was that it would not cut taxes so that it would have enough money to pay for things considered inessential by the previous government, such as health care, education, public security and safety, and the electricity supply. A little sanity in an insane world. The interesting thing is the mechanics of the voting procedure. The election used paper ballots which were counted by hand at each polling station, with the results telephoned in to the Returning Officers, who communicated the results to the media. Ontario is a huge place, with over 11 million people on 415,000 square miles or over one million square kilometers (at the longest points, 1,000 miles high and 1,000 miles wide), and yet this old-fashioned system produced election results in about an hour, with the winner giving his victory speech less than two hours after the polls closed. Since paper ballots were used, and absolutely no computers were involved in the balloting process, the ballots can be recounted at any time should there be any dispute, and the ballots themselves serve as decisive evidence of the validity of the results. When I look at computer voting, I see a system which is in every possible way inferior to the paper ballot system:
Computers are significantly more expensive, and require constant maintenance and updating.
Computers can break down at any time, while paper ballots never break down. Regardless of what the computer lover will tell you, I defy any computer voting system to produce results as fast as produced in the Ontario election.
Computers are essentially impossible to secure from cheating. They all use proprietary code, and it is impossible for anyone to be certain that there isn't some fixed result in the machine itself. Once hooked up to the internet, the problems associated with insecurity multiply enormously. It is simply impossible to be sure of the results if a 'black box' is used. It doesn't help that the actual machines produced by companies like Diebold have even more obvious flaws, making them essentially useless unless the desired result is to produce a cheating machine.
One of the most important principles of voting is the secrecy of the ballot. Many voting machines that simply print out a hard-copy ballot for use in the traditional voting procedure leave open the possibility that information associated with the voter can be connected to the choice of the voter. I can see such machines in limited circumstances being used to assist disabled voters (on the theory that the possible loss of privacy is outweighed by the help provided by the machine, with other methods of voting assistance removing privacy anyway), but see the privacy issue as being a possible problem if they are widely used. The use of voting machines to assist disabled voters seems to be a large part of the marketing campaign for these machines (and there are a number of options, including such things as ballots printed in braille, which can be used with paper ballots).
I don't want to sound too sentimental, but there is something essentially democratic about the process of filling out a paper ballot and physically depositing it in a ballot box. That feeling is lost if you stand in front of a machine pushing buttons, completely unsure of whether your vote is going to count the way you intended it to count. Voting must not only be fair, it must be seen to be fair.
In spite of this, there is a huge push in the United States to introduce computer voting machines all over the country. Why is this?:
The computer voting industry reminds me of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex. The drug companies grab drugs developed with government money for nominal payments, and then spend billions of dollars promoting these drugs. A large part of the promotion is, as bizarre as it might seem, finding a disease for which they can purport to use the drug. In other words, they often have the drug first, and go looking for the marketable disease later. In fact, it is often not the drug that is marketed, but the disease itself.
The computer voting machine makers have nice new computers hooked up to the nice new internet, and had to create the market for these unneeded machines. Since the old system worked spectacularly well, and was much, much cheaper, you would think they would have a difficult job foisting these useless machines on the public. Never underestimate the combination of heavy lobbying, bribing vile politicians and bureaucrats, and our almost monkey-like fascination with bright, shiny, new machines.
Let's face facts. The voting machine companies are all owned by doctrinaire extreme-right-wing Republicans. If the United States holds fair elections in the next round, the Republicans will lose. The Republicans need these machines. Their main purpose, after making money for their creators, is to cheat.
People should go after these awful voting machines like the Luddites went after automated weaving machines: with sledgehammers. Paper ballots have worked well and have formed the basis for the whole history of Anglo-American democracies (with marked shards in urns going back to ancient Athens), and there is no good reason for voting machines. Paper ballots, counted by hand!
November 10, 2003
Michael Moore Attacks E-Voting
by Andrew Donoghue
Controversial US documentary maker and author Michael Moore has lambasted electronic voting machines being used in some US states, claiming the technology is inherently open to misuse.
Speaking at an event to publicize his latest book, Dude, Where's My Country?, in London's Palladium theatre on Sunday, Moore attacked one of the main US voting-machine manufacturers, Diebold, for its links to the Bush administration. It has been revealed that the company's chief executive Walden O'Dell is a major fundraiser for the Republican Party
O'Dell came in for criticism recently when he claimed in a letter to be "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year".
Moore ridiculed the variety of voting technologies used in the US, claiming the pencil-and-paper systems used in countries such as the UK and Canada were the still the best method of avoiding vote-rigging.
"In Canada they mark an X in a box, and then people sit and count the votes by hand with representatives of the various parties watching everything. There are hardly any roads north of Toronto but the Canadians manage to get all their votes in four hours after the ballots close," he said.
Jokingly, he asked for someone in the UK audience to explain to him in detail how exactly to put a cross in a box so that he could report the intricacies of the system to US authorities.
Electronic Voting Machines - a fancy method to steal elections
Now Your Vote is the Property of a Private Corporation, by
If you want to win an election, just control the voting machines by Thom Hartmann
Goldwater's Ghost in the Voting Machines, by Thom Hartmann
Published on Tuesday, September 2, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
The Business of E-Voting and How it Can Put the Wrong Candidate in
by Jason Leopold
THE SECRETIVE WORLD OF VOTING
LYNN LANDES, ECO TALK
- Over the last 100 years Americans have slowly but surely surrendered our public voting process to private corporations and their voting machines... in violation of our constitutional right to fair, open, and observable elections. The price paid has been the legitimacy of our democracy. And countries around the world are following our lead. Today, two Republican dominated corporations, Election Systems and Software and Diebold Voting Systems, control about 80% of the vote count in the U.S.
The next best thing to no machine at all, is to use voter verified paper ballots that are hand counted for each and every election, in conjunction with voting machines. It is critical that the paper ballots be printed so that they can be used by the voter with or without a voting machine. For those who advocate the use of paper ballots only for an audit trail or recount, that will not prevent vote fraud. For, what good does it do to have the voter verify a paper ballot, if the ballot is then put through a scanning machine which uses software that be rigged as easily as a touch screen computer? The voter is back where they started...depending on a machine to count the vote properly with no ability to observe that the count is accurate.
Congress has failed to safeguard our right to vote. Instead, they passed the Help America Vote Act that give billions of dollars to the states to purchase voting machines, while failing to require any mandatory safeguards or standards. Meanwhile, misguided voting rights groups are suing for the right to use the latest most sophisticated computerized voting equipment which are the easiest to rig by the fewest number of technicians.
Are American Elections Fixed? Don't Ask the Mainstream Media
Ernest Partridge writes:
If our elections are to be fair races, then neither party should have any objections to the adoption of rigorous validation procedures, most notably
(a) random inspection of computer voting machines after the election,
(b) publication of the software code,
(c) paper 'receipts' given to each voter to inspect upon completion of his voting, to be then deposited in a 'backup' ballot box.
'Backup' validations procedures, most notably a preservation of paper ballots,
have been implicit in our elections from the very founding of our republic.
Until now, that is. These methods for protecting our fundamental citizen rights
to free and fair elections are simple, straightforward and compellingly obvious.
Accordingly, if any political party or faction objects to such validation procedures,
especially if supporters of that party manufacture, own, program and control
those machines, we should immediately become suspicious and demand accountability....
It is up to the citizens to demand legislation that mandates accountability and validation in our elections. And if our senators and congressmen do not support such legislation we must then insist that they explain their opposition.
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 09:03:30 -0700
From: Peter Coyote <email@example.com>
Subject: Rigging the Vote-Please read!!!
I'm including a copy of a letter I sent to Barbara Boxer and my other representatives with the evidence accumulated of a potential 'November surprise' -- the rigging of the next Presidential vote by private, inaccessible, untransparent voting machines that leave no paper trail. For a fuller discussion of the issue and links, please go to: CommonDreams.org Published on Friday, January 31, 2003 http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0131-01.htm .
I consider this a critical issue and if you agree, I urge you to disseminate
this widely and write a personal letter to your representatives: NOT AN E-MAIL.
If you need their address go to: <http://www.house.gov/writerep/>
and for the Senate go to: <http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm>
Thank you very much,
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
I'm writing to you about a situation of the greatest urgency. Last year, I narrated a film called "Unprecedented" by American journalist Greg Palast (currently writing for the London Guardian). This film documents the illegal expunging of 54,000 black and overwhelmingly Democratic voters from the Florida rolls just before the presidential election. We interviewed the computer company that did the work, filmed their explanations of the instructions they received and their admissions that they knew that their instructions would produce massive error. That figure has now been revised to 91,000.
Jeb Bush was sued, and was supposed to have returned these voters to the rolls, and did not, which explains his last re-election. The Republicans have something far worse in mind for the next presidential election and Democrats need to be prepared. The recent elections of Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel, the loss in Georgia of Max Cleland, wildly popular Vietnam vet, and the victory of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, along with a handful of other Republican victories, (all predicted to have been losers by straw polls which our nation has refined to a high-art) points to an ominous source: corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machine, recording and tabulating ballots.
You'd think in an open democracy that the government - answerable to all its citizens, rather than a handful of corporate officers and stockholders - would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there would be a paper trail of the vote, which could be followed and audited if a there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with computerized vote counts. You'd be wrong.
The Washington, DC publication The Hill (<http://www.thehill.com/news/012903/hagel.aspx>) has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska. When Democrat,Charlie Matulka requested a hand count of the vote in the election he lost to Hagel, his request was denied because Nebraska had a just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from looking at the ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska, he said, are those made and programmed by the corporation formerly run by Hagel.
When Bev Harris and The Hill's Alexander Bolton pressed the Chief Counsel and Director of the Senate Ethics Committee, (the man responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete), asking him why he'd not questioned Hagel's 1995, 1996, and 2001 failures to disclose the details of his ownership in the company that owned the voting machine company when he ran for the Senate, the Director reportedly met with Hagel's office on Friday, January 25, 2003 and Monday, January 27, 2003. After the second meeting, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Director of the Senate Ethics Committee resigned his job.
Hagel's surprise victory is a trial-run for the presidential election. Election 'reform' laws are now prohibiting paper ballots (no trail) and exit polls, effectively removing all trace and record of votes, making prosecution of voter fraud virtually impossible. For whatever reasons, the Democrats decided not to pursue the issue of fraudulence in the last Presidential election. The three Supreme Court Justices who should have recused themselves (Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor) were allowed to stand unchallenged and pass a bizarre one-time only ruling. That they were in place long before the election, demonstrates how clearly the end-game of such moves was thought out.
Unless the issue of voter fraud is elevated to an issue of national importance, not only is it highly probably that Democrats will lose again and again, but eventually voters will "sense" even if they cannot prove, that elections are rigged, and the current 50% of those boycotting elections will swell to the majority. Privatization of the vote is tantamount to turning over the control of democracy to the corporate sector. I urge you to use your considerable powers and influence to address this issue.
A Brief History of Computerized Election Fraud in America
By Victoria Collier t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Saturday 25 October 2003
Voting Machines - A High Tech Ambush
Voting in the Magic Kingdom
discussion on why electronic voting is not a good idea
Electronic Voting - a dissertation
several states where the projected losers won in 2002, according to computerized ballot machines
Center for Voting and Democracy's Position on Proprietary Software
and Paper Trails
Voting Machine Scandal
Fun ways to win elections [ballot rigging]
Senator Hagel's ethics filing pose disclosure issue (the Nebraska politician
is also invested in one of the main electronic ballot counting companies)
Salon articles on electronic voting
Voting into the Void
Suddenly a paper trail is possible
COUNTY SHOULD REQUIRE IT ON ANY TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING SYSTEM TO PROTECT AGAINST FRAUD
[note: giving an individual voter a receipt for their vote does NOT prove anything about the mechanics of how electronic ballot machines work - this gesture is meaningless, although it might work to confuse some skeptics]
The Secretive World of Voting Machines
Center for Voting and Democracy
Voting machines must provide a voter-verifiable audit trail
This statement is intended be a message from technologists to the rest of the public, the gist of which is: Do not be seduced by the apparent convenience of "touch-screen voting" machines, or the "gee whiz" factor that accompanies flashy new technology. Using these machines is tantamount to handing complete control of vote counting to a private company, with no independent checks or audits. These machines represent a serious threat to democracy. Much better alternatives are available for upgrading voting equipment.
... Having devoted a modest amount of study to the problem, I have to concede that it's a little more complex that I thought at first. However, it's not that subtle. Compared with most technical issues, the basic problems with most "touch screen voting machines" are forehead-slappingly obvious to almost anyone who knows a little bit about computer security. There is strong agreement among those who have studied the problem in-depth, and I believe that almost anyone who looks into the problem a little (or a lot) will come to the same conclusions. [emphases added]
http://why-war.com/features/diebold_pr.txtFor Immediate Release: Tuesday,
October 21, 2003
DIEBOLD TARGETED WITH ELECTRONIC CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Swarthmore, Pa. -- Defending the right of a fair, democratic election, Why
War? and the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons (SCDC) announced
today that they are rejecting Diebold Elections Systems' cease and desist
orders and are initiating a legal electronic civil disobedience campaign
that will ensure permanent public access to the controversial leaked
Earlier this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it
will defend the right of Online Privacy Group, the Internet service
provider for San Francisco Indymedia, to host links to the controversial
memos. Going one step fu rther, Why War? and SCDC members are the first to
publicly refuse to comply with Diebold's cease and desist order by
continually providing access to the documents.
"These memos indicate that Diebold, which counts the votes in 37 states,
knowin gly created an electronic system which allows anyone with access to
the machines to add and delete votes without detection," Why War? member
Although the reasons for individual engagement in the civil disobedience
vary, the consensus between the two groups is that the public availability
of these d ocuments must be protected at any cost -- they are crucial to
the functioning of democracy.
Thus, through active, legal electronic civil disobedience, Why War? and
SCDC will bring to light the usually silent acts of suppression and
censorship. The result will be a permanent and public mirror of the memos:
documents whose public existence challenges the assumed presence of
democracy in America.The documents are currently available here:
More information about the campaign of electronic civil disobedience:
Electronic Frontier Foundation press release:
Ivan Boothe, media@ why-war.com, 267.496.6819, http://why-war.com/
Luke Smith, lsmith1@ swarthmore.edu, 610.690.5546,
About Why War?:
Why War? is an incorporated educational nonprofit organization in the
commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Formed over two years ago by Swarthmore
College students , Why War? is one of the most innovative new-movement
organizations on the Inte rnet.
Why War's members and writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the
Guardian (UK), the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer,
and the Nation, among other places. It can be reached online at
About the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons:
The Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons is a digital freedom
group dedicated to preserving the free and open exchange of information both on
and off the campus of Swarthmore College. It has been written about by the
Seattle Times and other news media, and can be reached online at scdc.emegaweb.net.
See also --Targeting Diebold with Electronic Civil Disobedience
Electronic Voting: What You Need To Know
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Interview
Monday 20 October 2003
New Voting Systems Assailed
Computer Experts Cite Fraud Potential
By Dan Keating
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 2003; Page A12
As election officials rush to spend billions to update the country's voting machines with electronic systems, computer scientists are mounting a challenge to the new devices, saying they are less reliable and less secure from fraud than the equipment they are replacing.
Prompted by the demands of state and federal election reforms, officials in Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Texas installed the high-tech voting systems last fall. Officials in those states, and other proponents of electronic voting, said the computer scientists' concerns are far-fetched.
"These systems, because of the level of testing they go through, are the most reliable systems available," said Michael Barnes, who oversaw Georgia's statewide upgrade. "People were happy with how they operated." In Maryland, "the system performed flawlessly in the two statewide elections last year," said Joseph Torre, the official overseeing the purchase of the state's new systems. "The public has a lot of confidence in it, and they love it."
But the scientists' campaign, which began in California's Silicon Valley in January, has gathered signatures from more than 300 experts, and the pressure has induced the industry to begin changing course.
Electronic terminals eliminate hanging chads, pencil erasure marks and the chance that a voter might accidentally select too many candidates. Under the new systems, voters touch the screen or turn a dial to make their choices and see a confirmation of those choices before casting their votes, which are tallied right in the terminal. Recounts are just a matter of retrieving the data from the computer again. The only record of the vote is what is stored there.
Critics of such systems say that they are vulnerable to tampering, to human error and to computer malfunctions -- and that they lack the most obvious protection, a separate, paper receipt that a voter can confirm after voting and that can be recounted if problems are suspected.
Officials who have worked with touch-screen systems say these concerns are unfounded and, in certain cases, somewhat paranoid.
David Dill, the Stanford University professor of computer science who launched the petition drive, said, "What people have learned repeatedly, the hard way, is that the prudent practice -- if you want to escape with your data intact -- is what other people would perceive as paranoia."
Other computer scientists, including Rebecca Mercuri of Bryn Mawr College, say that problems are so likely that they are virtually guaranteed to occur -- and already have.
Lost and Found
Mercuri, who has studied voting security for more than a decade, points to a November 2000 election in South Brunswick, N.J., in which touch-screen equipment manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems was used.
In a race in which voters could pick two candidates from a pair of Republicans and a pair of Democrats, one machine recorded a vote pattern that was out of sync with the pattern recorded elsewhere -- no votes whatsoever for one Republican and one Democrat. Sequoia said at the time that no votes were lost -- they were just never registered. Local officials said it didn't matter whether the fault was the voters' or the machine's, the expected votes were gone.
In October, election officials in Raleigh, N.C., discovered that early voters had to try several times to record their votes on iVotronic touch screens from Election Systems and Software. Told of the problems, officials compared the number of voters to the number of votes counted and realized that 294 votes had apparently been lost.
When Georgia debuted 22,000 Diebold touch screens last fall, some people touched one candidate's name on the screen and saw another candidate's name appear as their choice. Voters who were paying attention had a chance to correct the error before finalizing their vote, but those who weren't did not.
Chris Rigall, spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said that the machines were quickly replaced, but that there was no way of knowing how many votes were incorrectly counted.
In September in Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties had a different kind of vote loss with ES&S touch-screen equipment: At the end of the day, precincts that reported hundreds of voters also listed virtually no votes counted. In that case, technicians were able to retrieve the votes from the machines.
"If the only way you know that it's working incorrectly is when there's four votes instead of 1,200 votes, then how do you know that if it's 1,100 votes instead of 1,200 votes? You'll never know," said Mercuri.
Because humans are imperfect and computers are complicated, said Ben Bederson, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, mistakes will always be made. With no backup to test, the scientists say, mistakes will go undetected.
"I'm not concerned about elections that are a mess," Dill said. "I'm concerned about elections that appear to go smoothly, and no one knows that it was all messed up inside the machine."
"We're not paranoid," said Mercuri. "They're avoiding computational realities. That's the computer science part of it. We can't avoid it any more than physical scientists can avoid gravity."
The Miami-Dade and Georgia terminals were reprogrammed right up until the eve of the fall elections. The last-minute patches don't go through sufficient review, Mercuri said, and any computer that can be reprogrammed simply by inserting an update cartridge cannot be considered secure or reliable.
Dill said hackers constantly defeat sophisticated protections for electronic transactions, bank records, credit reports and software. "Someone sufficiently unscrupulous, with an investment of $50,000, could put together a team of people who could very easily subvert all of the security mechanisms that we've heard about on these [voting] machines," he said.
People who have sold or administered electronic voting systems, however, say the scenarios of fraud or widespread, election-changing error were not of the real world.
'We'd Detect It'
Howard Cramer, vice president for sales at Sequoia, one of the nation's largest suppliers of electronic voting systems, noted that his company has been supplying the systems for a decade and a half. "Our existing approach is verifiably accurate, 100 percent," he said. "Some of the things they're saying are flat-out wrong. Some are conceivable, but outside the likelihood of possibility."
The designer of Georgia's security system, for example, said nobody could insert a secret program to steal an election when the machines are created, because no one even knows at that time who the candidates will be, and the only people with access to the machines at the last minute are local officials.
"They're talking about what they could do if they had access to the [computer program] code, if we had no procedures in place and no physical security in place," said Brit Williams, a computer scientist at Kennesaw State University. "I'm not arguing with that. But they're not going to get access to that code. Even if they did, we'd detect it."
He also said that Georgia's patch was checked before it was installed and did not affect the tallying of votes. And no one, he said, could reprogram Georgia's terminals by inserting a cartridge.
"On our machine, the port is in a locked compartment. The only person in the precinct who has a key to that locked compartment is the precinct manager. [Critics are] looking at it from a purely computer science point of view, saying the system is vulnerable, and it would be vulnerable if we let anyone walk up and stick a card into it, but that doesn't happen."
After Dill launched his campaign, officials in the Silicon Valley county of Santa Clara delayed a purchase of 5,000 touch-screen voting machines. Despite insisting that their systems are reliable and secure, the nation's leading vendors all immediately agreed to provide paper receipts, and the California secretary of state announced a task force to review the security concerns. A month ago, Santa Clara went ahead with its $20 million purchase, insisting that receipts be provided once the state approves the new equipment.
Georgia and Maryland officials said that providing paper receipts may create more problems than it solves -- that paper would have to be transported and monitored with security, and printers could jam. Cramer of Sequoia said paper is unnecessary, costly and may pose a problem for blind voters.
But if customers want receipts, he said, his company will supply them. And Williams said receipts may have a place in the system. "The advantage of a hard piece of paper -- one that a voter would hold in his hand and say, 'That is who I voted for' -- that is psychological, and there certainly is value to that. We need public confidence in our elections," he said. Similarly, the official overseeing Maryland's program would accept paper if it were available.
"I've been doing voting systems for 15 years," Torre said. "I don't care if they give voters a piece of paper or not. If they come out with a receipt, that's fine. Maybe with the momentum out of California, we'll have receipts before too long."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
a mere "receipt" for an electronic ballot is worse than worthless - a mere gimmick to confuse the citizenry (since the "receipts" would not be counted by those in charge of determining who won the election)
Vote buying in Lenoir, North Carolina 2002 election
(subscriber link only)
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S VOTES?
"A quiet revolution is taking place in US politics. By the time it's
over, the integrity of elections will be in the unchallenged,
unscrutinised control of a few large and pro-Republican corporations."
INDEPENDENT (LONDON) October 14, 2003
by Andrew Gumbel
Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last
November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the
incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a
somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max
Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five
points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.
Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected
in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office.
But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been
turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny
Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage
points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent
to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.
Red-faced opinion pollsters suddenly had a lot of explaining to do and
launched internal investigations. Political analysts credited the upset Q
part of a pattern of Republican successes around the country Q to a huge
campaigning push by President Bush in the final days of the race. They
also said that Roy Barnes had lost because of a surge of "angry white men"
punishing him for eradicating all but a vestige of the old confederate
symbol from the state flag.
But something about these explanations did not make sense, and they have
made even less sense over time. When the Georgia secretary of state's
office published its demographic breakdown of the election earlier this
year, it turned out there was no surge of angry white men; in fact, the
only subgroup showing even a modest increase in turnout was black women.
There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different
parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the
primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia,
however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than
he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby
Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the
party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.
Now, weird things like this do occasionally occur in elections, and the
figures, on their own, are not proof of anything except statistical
anomalies worthy of further study. But in Georgia there was an extra
reason to be suspicious. Last November, the state became the first in the
country to conduct an election entirely with touchscreen voting machines,
after lavishing $54m (#33m) on a new system that promised to deliver the
securest, most up-to-date, most voter-friendly election in the history of
the republic. The machines, however, turned out to be anything but
reliable. With academic studies showing the Georgia touchscreens to be
poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with
thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at
high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US
democracy's own 21st-century nightmare.
In many Georgia counties last November, the machines froze up, causing
long delays as technicians tried to reboot them. In heavily Democratic
Fulton County, in downtown Atlanta, 67 memory cards from the voting
machines went missing, delaying certification of the results there for 10
days. In neighbouring DeKalb County, 10 memory cards were unaccounted for;
they were later recovered from terminals that had supposedly broken down
and been taken out of service.
It is still unclear exactly how results from these missing cards were
tabulated, or if they were counted at all. And we will probably never
know, for a highly disturbing reason. The vote count was not conducted by
state elections officials, but by the private company that sold Georgia
the voting machines in the first place, under a strict trade-secrecy
contract that made it not only difficult but actually illegal -- on pain of
stiff criminal penalties -- for the state to touch the equipment or examine
the proprietary software to ensure the machines worked properly. There was
not even a paper trail to follow up. The machines were fitted with thermal
printing devices that could theoretically provide a written record of
voters' choices, but these were not activated. Consequently, recounts were
impossible. Had Diebold Inc, the manufacturer, been asked to review the
votes, all it could have done was programme the computers to spit out the
same data as before, flawed or not.
Astonishingly, these are the terms under which America's top three
computer voting machine manufacturers -- Diebold, Sequoia and Election
Systems and Software (ES&S) -- have sold their products to election
officials around the country. Far from questioning the need for rigid
trade secrecy and the absence of a paper record, secretaries of state and
their technical advisers -- anxious to banish memories of the hanging chad
fiasco and other associated disasters in the 2000 presidential recount in
Florida -- have, for the most part, welcomed the touchscreen voting
machines as a technological miracle solution.
Georgia was not the only state last November to see big last-minute swings
in voting patterns. There were others in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and
New Hampshire -- all in races that had been flagged as key partisan
battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party. Again, this was widely
attributed to the campaigning efforts of President Bush and the
demoralisation of a Democratic Party too timid to speak out against the
looming war in Iraq.
Strangely, however, the pollsters made no comparable howlers in lower-key
races whose outcome was not seriously contested. Another anomaly, perhaps.
What, then, is one to make of the fact that the owners of the three major
computer voting machines are all prominent Republican Party donors? Or of
a recent political fund-raising letter written to Ohio Republicans by
Walden O'Dell, Diebold's chief executive, in which he said he was
"committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president
next year" -- even as his company was bidding for the contract on the
state's new voting machinery?
Alarmed and suspicious, a group of Georgia citizens began to look into
last November's election to see whether there was any chance the results
might have been deliberately or accidentally manipulated. Their research
proved unexpectedly, and disturbingly, fruitful.
First, they wanted to know if the software had undergone adequate
checking. Under state and federal law, all voting machinery and component
parts must be certified before use in an election. So an Atlanta graphic
designer called Denis Wright wrote to the secretary of state's office for
a copy of the certification letter. Clifford Tatum, assistant director of
legal affairs for the election division, wrote back: "We have determined
that no records exist in the Secretary of State's office regarding a
certification letter from the lab certifying the version of software used
on Election Day." Mr Tatum said it was possible the relevant documents
were with Gary Powell, an official at the Georgia Technology Authority, so
campaigners wrote to him as well. Mr Powell responded he was "not sure
what you mean by the words 'please provide written certification
"If the machines were not certified, then right there the election was
illegal," Mr Wright says. The secretary of state's office has yet to
demonstrate anything to the contrary. The investigating citizens then
considered the nature of the software itself. Shortly after the election,
a Diebold technician called Rob Behler came forward and reported that,
when the machines were about to be shipped to Georgia polling stations in
the summer of 2002, they performed so erratically that their software had
to be amended with a last-minute "patch". Instead of being transmitted via
disk -- a potentially time-consuming process, especially since its author
was in Canada, not Georgia -- the patch was posted, along with the entire
election software package, on an open-access FTP, or file transfer
protocol site, on the internet.
That, according to computer experts, was a violation of the most basic of
security precautions, opening all sorts of possibilities for the
introduction of rogue or malicious code. At the same time, however, it
gave campaigners a golden opportunity to circumvent Diebold's own secrecy
demands and see exactly how the system worked. Roxanne Jekot, a computer
programmer with 20 years' experience, and an occasional teacher at Lanier
Technical College northeast of Atlanta, did a line-by-line review and
found "enough to stand your hair on end".
"There were security holes all over it," she says, "from the most basic
display of the ballot on the screen all the way through the operating
system." Although the programme was designed to be run on the Windows 2000
NT operating system, which has numerous safeguards to keep out intruders,
Ms Jekot found it worked just fine on the much less secure Windows 98; the
2000 NT security features were, as she put it, "nullified".
Also embedded in the software were the comments of the programmers working
on it. One described what he and his colleagues had just done as "a gross
hack". Elsewhere was the remark: "This doesn't really work." "Not a
confidence builder, would you say?" Ms Jekot says. "They were operating in
panic mode, cobbling together something that would work for the moment,
knowing that at some point they would have to go back to figure out how to
make it work more permanently." She found some of the code downright
suspect -- for example, an overtly meaningless instruction to divide the
number of write-in votes by 1. "From a logical standpoint there is
absolutely no reason to do that," she says. "It raises an immediate red
Mostly, though, she was struck by the shoddiness of much of the
programming. "I really expected to have some difficulty reviewing the
source code because it would be at a higher level than I am accustomed
to," she says. "In fact, a lot of this stuff looked like the homework my
first-year students might have turned in." Diebold had no specific comment
on Ms Jekot's interpretations, offering only a blanket caution about the
complexity of election systems "often not well understood by individuals
with little real-world experience".
But Ms Jekot was not the only one to examine the Diebold software and find
it lacking. In July, a group of researchers from the Information Security
Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore discovered what they
called "stunning flaws". These included putting the password in the source
code, a basic security no-no; manipulating the voter smart-card function
so one person could cast more than one vote; and other loopholes that
could theoretically allow voters' ballot choices to be altered without
their knowledge, either on the spot or by remote access.
Diebold issued a detailed response, saying that the Johns Hopkins report
was riddled with false assumptions, inadequate information and "a
multitude of false conclusions". Substantially similar findings, however,
were made in a follow-up study on behalf of the state of Maryland, in
which a group of computer security experts catalogued 328 software flaws,
26 of them critical, putting the whole system "at high risk of
compromise". "If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact
could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election
results," their report says.
Ever since the Johns Hopkins study, Diebold has sought to explain away the
open FTP file as an old, incomplete version of its election package. The
claim cannot be independently verified, because of the trade-secrecy
agreement, and not everyone is buying it. "It is documented throughout the
code who changed what and when. We have the history of this programme from
1996 to 2002," Ms Jekot says. "I have no doubt this is the software used
in the elections." Diebold now says it has upgraded its encryption and
password features -- but only on its Maryland machines.
A key security question concerned compatibility with Microsoft Windows,
and Ms Jekot says just three programmers, all of them senior Diebold
executives, were involved in this aspect of the system. One of these,
Diebold's vice-president of research and development, Talbot Iredale,
wrote an e-mail in April 2002 -- later obtained by the campaigners -- making
it clear that he wanted to shield the operating system from Wylie Labs, an
independent testing agency involved in the early certification process.
The reason that emerges from the e-mail is that he wanted to make the
software compatible with WinCE 3.0, an operating system used for handhelds
and PDAs; in other words, a system that could be manipulated from a remote
location. "We do not want Wyle [sic] reviewing and certifying the
operating systems," the e-mail reads. "Therefore can we keep to a minimum
the references to the WinCE 3.0 operating system."
In an earlier intercepted e-mail, this one from Ken Clark in Diebold's
research and development department, the company explained upfront to
another independent testing lab that the supposedly secure software system
could be accessed without a password, and its contents easily changed
using the Microsoft Access programme. Mr Clark says he had considered
putting in a password requirement to stop dealers and customers doing
"stupid things", but that the easy access had often "got people out of a
bind". Astonishingly, the representative from the independent testing lab
did not see anything wrong with this and granted certification to the part
of the software programme she was inspecting -- a pattern of lackadaisical
oversight that was replicated all the way to the top of the political
chain of command in Georgia, and in many other parts of the country.
Diebold has not contested the authenticity of the e-mails, now openly
accessible on the internet. However, Diebold did caution that, as the
e-mails were taken from a Diebold Election systems website in March 2003
by an illegal hack, the nature of the information stolen could have been
revised or manipulated.
There are two reasons why the United States is rushing to overhaul its
voting systems. The first is the Florida debacle in the Bush-Gore
election; no state wants to be the centre of that kind of attention again.
And the second is the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), signed by President
Bush last October, which promises an unprecedented $3.9bn (#2.3bn) to the
states to replace their old punchcard-and-lever machines. However,
enthusiasm for the new technology seems to be motivated as much by a
bureaucratic love of spending as by a love of democratic accountability.
According to Rebecca Mercuri, a research fellow at Harvard's John F
Kennedy School of Government and a specialist in voting systems, the
shockingly high error rate of punchcard machines (3P5 per cent in Florida
in 2000) has been known to people in the elections business for years. It
was only after it became public knowledge in the last presidential
election that anybody felt moved to do anything about it.
The problem is, computer touchscreen machines and other so-called DRE
(direct recording electronic) systems are significantly less reliable than
punchcards, irrespective of their vulnerability to interference. In a
series of research papers for the Voting Technology Project, a joint
venture of the prestigious Massachussetts and California Institutes of
Technology, DREs were found to be among the worst performing systems. No
method, the MIT/CalTech study conceded, worked more reliably than
hand-counting paper ballots Q an option that US electoral officials seem
to consider hopelessly antiquated, or at least impractical in elections
combining multiple local, state and national races for offices from
President down to dogcatcher.
The clear disadvantages and dangers associated with DREs have not deterred
state and county authorities from throwing themselves headlong into
touchscreen technology. More than 40,000 machines made by Diebold alone
are already in use in 37 states, and most are touchscreens. County after
county is poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on computer
voting before next spring's presidential primaries. "They say this is the
direction they have to go in to have fair elections, but the rush to go
towards computerisation is very dubious," Dr Mercuri says. "One has to
wonder why this is going on, because the way it is set up it takes away
the checks and balances we have in a democratic society. That's the whole
point of paper trails and recounts."
Anyone who has struggled with an interactive display in a museum knows how
dodgy touchscreens can be. If they don't freeze, they easily become
misaligned, which means they can record the wrong data. In Dallas, during
early voting before last November's election, people found that no matter
how often they tried to press a Democrat button, the Republican
candidate's name would light up. After a court hearing, Diebold agreed to
take down 18 machines with apparent misalignment problems. "And those were
the ones where you could visually spot a problem," Dr Mercuri says. "What
about what you don't see? Just because your vote shows up on the screen
for the Democrats, how do you know it is registering inside the machine
for the Democrats?"
Other problems have shown up periodically: machines that register zero
votes, or machines that indicate voters coming to the polling station but
not voting, even when a single race with just two candidates was on the
ballot. Dr Mercuri was part of a lawsuit in Palm Beach County in which she
and other plaintiffs tried to have a suspect Sequoia machine examined,
only to run up against the brick wall of the trade-secret agreement. "It
makes it really hard to show their product has been tampered with," she
says, "if it's a felony to inspect it."
As for the possibilities of foul play, Dr Mercuri says they are virtually
limitless. "There are literally hundreds of ways to do this," she says.
"There are hundreds of ways to embed a rogue series of commands into the
code and nobody would ever know because the nature of programming is so
complex. The numbers would all tally perfectly." Tampering with an
election could be something as simple as a "denial-of-service" attack, in
which the machines simply stop working for an extended period, deterring
voters faced with the prospect of long lines. Or it could be done with
invasive computer codes known in the trade by such nicknames as "Trojan
horses" or "Easter eggs". Detecting one of these, Dr Mercuri says, would
be almost impossible unless the investigator knew in advance it was there
and how to trigger it. Computer researcher Theresa Hommel, who is alarmed
by touchscreen systems, has constructed a simulated voting machine in
which the same candidate always wins, no matter what data you put in. She
calls her model the Fraud-o-matic, and it is available online at
It is not just touchscreens which are at risk from error or malicious
intrusion. Any computer system used to tabulate votes is vulnerable. An
optical scan of ballots in Scurry County, Texas, last November erroneously
declared a landslide victory for the Republican candidate for county
commissioner; a subsequent hand recount showed that the Democrat had in
fact won. In Comal County, Texas, a computerised optical scan found that
three different candidates had won their races with exactly 18,181 votes.
There was no recount or investigation, even though the coincidence, with
those recurring 1s and 8s, looked highly suspicious. In heavily Democrat
Broward County, Florida -- which had switched to touchscreens in the wake
of the hanging chad furore -- more than 100,000 votes were found to have
gone "missing" on election day. The votes were reinstated, but the glitch
was not adequately explained. One local official blamed it on a "minor
Most suspect of all was the governor's race in Alabama, where the
incumbent Democrat, Don Siegelman, was initially declared the winner.
Sometime after midnight, when polling station observers and most staff had
gone home, the probate judge responsible for elections in rural Baldwin
County suddenly "discovered" that Mr Siegelman had been awarded 7,000
votes too many. In a tight election, the change was enough to hand victory
to his Republican challenger, Bob Riley. County officials talked vaguely
of a computer tabulation error, or a lightning strike messing up the
machines, but the real reason was never ascertained because the state's
Republican attorney general refused to authorise a recount or any
independent ballot inspection.
According to an analysis by James Gundlach, a sociology professor at
Auburn University in Alabama, the result in Baldwin County was full of
wild deviations from the statistical norms established both by this and
preceding elections. And he adds: "There is simply no way that electronic
vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using
computer programmes in ways that were not intended. In other words, the
fact that two sets of results were reported is sufficient evidence in and
of itself that the vote tabulation process was compromised." Although talk
of voting fraud quickly subsided, Alabama has now amended its election
laws to make recounts mandatory in close races.
The possibility of flaws in the electoral process is not something that
gets discussed much in the United States. The attitude seems to be: we are
the greatest democracy in the world, so the system must be fair. That has
certainly been the prevailing view in Georgia, where even leading
Democrats Q their prestige on the line for introducing touchscreen voting
in the first place Q have fought tooth-and-nail to defend the integrity of
the system. In a phone interview, the head of the Georgia Technology
Authority who brought Diebold machines to the state, Larry Singer, blamed
the growing chorus of criticism on "fear of technology", despite the fact
that many prominent critics are themselves computer scientists. He says:
"Are these machines flawless? No. Would you have more confidence if they
were completely flawless? Yes. Is there such a thing as a flawless system?
No." Mr Singer, who left the GTA straight after the election and took a 50
per cent pay cut to work for Sun Microsystems, insists that voters are
more likely to have their credit card information stolen by a busboy in a
restaurant than to have their vote compromised by touchscreen technology.
Voting machines are sold in the United States in much the same way as
other government contracts: through intensive lobbying, wining and dining.
At a recent national conference of clerks, election officials and
treasurers in Denver, attendees were treated to black-tie dinners and
other perks, including free expensive briefcases stamped with Sequoia's
company logo alongside the association's own symbol. Nobody in power seems
to find this worrying, any more than they worried when Sequoia's southern
regional sales manager, Phil Foster, was indicted in Louisiana a couple of
years ago for "conspiracy to commit money laundering and malfeasance". The
charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony against Louisiana's
state commissioner of elections. Similarly, last year, the Arkansas
secretary of state, Bill McCuen, pleaded guilty to taking bribes and
kickbacks involving a precursor company to ES&S; the voting machine
company executive who testified against him in exchange for immunity is
now an ES&S vice-president.
If much of the worry about vote-tampering is directed at the Republicans,
it is largely because the big three touchscreen companies are all big
Republican donors, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into party
coffers in the past few years. The ownership issue is, of course,
compounded by the lack of transparency. Or, as Dr Mercuri puts it: "If the
machines were independently verifiable, who would give a crap who owns
them?" As it is, fears that US democracy is being hijacked by corporate
interests are being fuelled by links between the big three and broader
business interests, as well as extremist organisations. Two of the early
backers of American Information Systems, a company later merged into ES&S,
are also prominent supporters of the Chalcedon Foundation, an organisation
that espouses theocratic governance according to a literal reading of the
Bible and advocates capital punishment for blasphemy and homosexuality.
The chief executive of American Information Systems in the early Nineties
was Chuck Hagel, who went on to run for elective office and became the
first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska,
cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a
big investor in ES&S. In yet another clamorous conflict of interest, 80
per cent of Mr Hagel's winning votes Q both in 1996 and again in 2002 -- were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company.
In theory, the federal government should be monitoring the transition to
computer technology and rooting out abuses. Under the Help America Vote
Act, the Bush administration is supposed to establish a sizeable oversight
committee, headed by two Democrats and two Republicans, as well as a
technical panel to determine standards for new voting machinery. The four
commission heads were supposed to have been in place by last February, but
so far just one has been appointed. The technical panel also remains
unconstituted, even though the new machines it is supposed to vet are
already being sold in large quantities Q a state of affairs Dr Mercuri
denounces as "an abomination".
One of the conditions states have to fulfil to receive federal funding for
the new voting machines, meanwhile, is a consolidation of voter rolls at
state rather than county level. This provision sends a chill down the
spine of anyone who has studied how Florida consolidated its own voter
rolls just before the 2000 election, purging the names of tens of
thousands of eligible voters, most of them African Americans and most of
them Democrats, through misuse of an erroneous list of convicted felons
commissioned by Katherine Harris, the secretary of state doubling as
George Bush's Florida campaign manager. Despite a volley of lawsuits, the
incorrect list was still in operation in last November's mid-terms,
raising all sorts of questions about what other states might now do with
their own voter rolls. It is not that the Act's consolidation provision is
in itself evidence of a conspiracy to throw elections, but it does leave
open that possibility.
Meanwhile, the administration has been pushing new voting technology of
its own to help overseas citizens and military personnel, both natural
Republican Party constituencies, to vote more easily over the internet.
Internet voting is notoriously insecure and open to abuse by just about
anyone with rudimentary hacking skills; just last January, an experiment
in internet voting in Toronto was scuppered by a Slammer worm attack.
Undeterred, the administration has gone ahead with its so-called SERVE
project for overseas voting, via a private consortium made up of major
defence contractors and a Saudi investment group. The contract for
overseeing internet voting in the 2004 presidential election was recently
awarded to Accenture, formerly part of the Arthur Andersen group (whose
accountancy branch, a major campaign contributor to President Bush,
imploded as a result of the Enron bankruptcy scandal).
Not everyone in the United States has fallen under the spell of the big
computer voting companies, and there are signs of growing wariness. Oregon
decided even before HAVA to conduct all its voting by mail. Wisconsin has
decided it wants nothing to do with touchscreen machines without a
verifiable paper trail, and New York is considering a similar injunction,
at least for its state assembly races. In California, a Stanford computer
science professor called David Dill is screaming from the rooftops on the
need for a paper trail in his state, so far without result. And a New
Jersey Congressman called Rush Holt has introduced a bill in the House of
Representatives, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act,
asking for much the same thing. Not everyone is heeding the warnings,
though. In Ohio, publication of the letter from Diebold's chief executive
promising to deliver the state to President Bush in 2004 has not deterred
the secretary of state Q a Republican Q from putting Diebold on a list of
preferred voting-machine vendors. Similarly, in Maryland, officials have
not taken the recent state-sponsored study identifying hundreds of flaws
in the Diebold software as any reason to change their plans to use Diebold
machines in March's presidential primary.
The question is whether the country will come to its senses before
elections start getting distorted or tampered with on such a scale that
the system becomes unmanageable. The sheer volume of money offered under
HAVA is unlikely to be forthcoming again in a hurry, so if things aren't
done right now it is doubtful the system can be fixed again for a long
time. "This is frightening, really frightening," says Dr Mercuri, and a
growing number of reasonable people are starting to agree with her. One
such is John Zogby, arguably the most reliable pollster in the United
States, who has freely admitted he "blew" last November's elections and
does not exclude the possibility that foul play was one of the factors
knocking his calculations off course. "We're ploughing into a brave new
world here," he says, "where there are so many variables aside from
out-and-out corruption that can change elections, especially in situations
where the races are close. We have machines that break down, or are
tampered with, or are simply misunderstood. It's a cause for great
Roxanne Jekot, who has put much of her professional and personal life on
hold to work on the issue full time, puts it even more strongly.
"Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing
that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters.
That's why there's such a drive to control the vote. What we're seeing is
the corporatisation of the last shred of democracy. "I feel that unless we
stop it here and stop it now," she says, "my kids won't grow up to have a
right to vote at all."
October 28, 2003
(NY) http://www.mpnewspapers.com Messenger Post Newspapers
Stuffing the Electronic Ballot Box?
by Michael Winship
In my madcap, misspent youth, while working on a presidential campaign a friend and I discovered it was remarkably easy to become a New York State election inspector. All it required was filling out a form and being deputized by some legal type.
On Primary Day, armed with official ID, we dashed around like irritating Junior G-Men, making sure the polling places were open on time, electioneering was kept 500 feet away and that sound trucks blaring the virtues of various candidates were properly out of earshot. Hey, it was upstate New York: you make your fun with what you find.
Today, though, to be an effective election inspector you may need an advanced degree in electrical engineering or even more important, an expertise in computer fraud. Party hacks now have the opportunity to become party hackers.
One of the (other) outcomes of the bedlam that was the 2000 Florida presidential election was a rush to rectify the problems of butterfly ballots and hanging chads that so bedeviled the election officials of the state affectionately known to many of us as America s Foot.
The solution is the DRE Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machine. Most are computerized touch screen systems not unlike an ATM. They re supposed to be faster, more accurate and efficient. But as with so much of our modern technology, there are dangers and drawbacks that haven t yet been adequately addressed nationwide. There are bugs in the system that could negate your vote and throw elections.
Last October, President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), promising nearly $4 billion for states to buy the new electronic voting machines. On the face of it, an excellent idea. But the potential for monumental mischief makes old-fashioned ballot box stuffing seem as innocent as soaping windows or toilet-papering the neighborhood chestnut tree.
In last year's midterm election, Georgia spent $54 million to become the first state to use nothing but touch screens for voting. The results were startling: although the final polls showed the incumbent Democratic governor and Senator Max Cleland winning re-election (Cleland in a squeaker), both were defeated.
As <http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1013-01.htm>reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper, The Independent, and others, similar swings took place in several other states. Republicans point to last-minute campaigning by the President, the imminent war in Iraq and other factors, all of which may be true, but the results have many wondering if malfunctioning or rigged electronic machines played a part.
They can only wonder because much of the technology is covered by trade secrecy contracts and information about systems software is proprietary. Nonetheless, a pattern of lax oversight that could permit malfunctions, sloppy or malicious coding, the insertion of worms, viruses, "Trojan horses" and other outside tampering has emerged. Plus, the methodology for proper recounts remains largely lacking. Some kind of verifiable paper receipt is imperative.
What s more, although the opportunities for political cyber-chicanery are bipartisan, the current, big three DRE manufacturers Diebold, Sequoia and Election systems and Software (ES&S) have each made large contributions to the Republican Party.
Some are perturbed by a letter Diebold CEO Walden O Dell wrote inviting Ohio Republicans to a $1000 a plate fundraiser while Diebold was bidding for the state s voting machine business. In it, he said he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." (O Dell has since denied he meant anything to do with Diebold s product. Feel better?)
We all must remain aware and vigilant. Perhaps companies that manufacture the electronic voting systems should be forbidden from making political contributions (I know the First Amendment issues inherent in such restrictions). And New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt has introduced legislation demanding a paper trail to verify results.
"I don t think there s wholesale election fraud going on at this time," Stamford University Professor of Computer Science David Dill told the website truthout.org. "But I can t prove it, which is the whole problem. My greatest worry is really an erosion of confidence in the elections. When people can no longer trust the elections I think that will undermine the legitimacy of everybody in government."
The right to vote is one of our most precious. If threatened, the old sci-fi nightmare becomes reality: the machines and their corporate manufacturers, not "we, the people," will be in charge.
Michael Winship is a former writer with Bill Moyers of "NOW with Bill Moyers,"
Copyright 2003 Messenger Post Newspapers
E-Vote Firms Seek Voter Approval
By Kim Zetter
02:00 AM Oct. 20, 2003 PT
In the wake of concerns raised about security flaws in electronic voting systems, a lobbying group is strategizing a public relations and lobbying campaign to help voting companies "repair short-term damage done by negative reports and media coverage."
And in a separate and surprising move, according to one vendor, companies are reversing their long-time opposition to giving voters paper receipts as a way to verify electronic voting results, a change critics have been seeking for months.
According to a draft plan produced by the Information Technology Association of America, a lobbying and trade association for the tech industry, electronic voting machine makers are discussing ways to convince state election officials that their products are the gold standard and worthy of taxpayer money.
The plan calls for a media campaign to "generate positive public perception" of the companies and to "reduce substantially the level and amount of criticism from computer scientists and other security experts about the fallibility of electronic voting systems."
The security of electronic voting machines was called into question by a recent report written by computer scientists at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities. According to their findings, at least one voting system, manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, contains serious security flaws and runs the risk of being compromised.
Voting activists and other computer scientist have raised concerns about using any electronic voting system that does not provide a paper receipt for voters to authenticate their ballots. The voting industry and election officials have said for months that such receipts would not be efficient, secure or cost-effective.
At stake for voting machine makers is millions of dollars that Congress allotted to states last year under the Help America Vote Act to upgrade voting systems and processes after dangling chads in Florida threw the 2000 presidential election into question. The deadline for states to comply with HAVA is 2006.
Voting companies have set their sights on $500 million that Congress allotted to states under HAVA. The ITAA pushed for readying its campaign before the next election cycle.
"With the Iowa caucuses (and therefore the start of the primary season) only five months away, time is exceedingly short to implement this plan," stated the document, posted on the Web by activist Bev Harris, who has been investigating the electronic voting industry for a year.
Despite that sense of urgency, the industry has not settled on a plan, said Michael Kerr, director of the Enterprise Solutions division at the ITAA.
"The companies are still discussing it and examining their options for forming an association," he said. "ITAA is one of the options, but there are others."
Kerr drafted the plan in August, shortly after the Johns Hopkins report came out. In a conference call with voting machine makers, the ITAA proposed conducting a campaign on their behalf, in exchange for $100,000 to $200,000 per company, depending on the services provided.
Voting activists have expressed concerns that the plan focused on fixing public perceptions rather than addressing security problems.
David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University who runs a website called VerifiedVoting.org, said: "The voting machine industry doesn't have a PR problem. It has a technology problem. It is impossible to determine whether their machines, in their current form, can be trusted with our elections."
Instead of trying to convince people the machines are safe, the industry should fix the technology and restore public confidence by "making the voting process transparent, improving certification standards for the equipment and (ensuring) there is some way to do a recount if there is a question about an election," Dill said.
David Allen of Plan Nine, publisher of Bev Harris' critical book on the electronic voting industry, participated in the conference call between the ITAA and voting machine companies after obtaining a password from an industry insider who was concerned about the lobbying move.
Allen said an unidentified member of the ITAA said during the call that he didn't want them to use the word "lobbying" in the plan out of concern that it might sound to outsiders as if the e-voting industry were in trouble and needed help to take care of its problems.
But the ITAA's Kerr said there was nothing unusual about the plan, which also included a recommendation to adopt an industry code of ethics. He said it resembled any other marketing plan adopted by trade associations to serve members.
"It basically was just a standard trade association plan to address issues in the marketplace that we saw," he said.
Kerr said discussions about the plan were preliminary and any decisions would be announced by the industry once they are finalized.
Bill Stotesbery, director of marketing for voting machine vendor Hart InterCivic, said members of his industry were surprised by the critical reaction to the plan.
"The notion of companies working together in an association to work on standards and communicate on issues like security, to try to shape best practices, is nothing new," he said.
Critics like Allen have pointed out that the memo included a list of nine goals, in which security improvements appeared only as No. 5 on the list, below public relations and lobbying goals.
Stotesbery said the list was written by the ITAA to try to convince the vendors to hire the organization to represent them. "It didn't represent the opinions and positions of these companies," he said. "It was trying to provide a framework for how to move forward.
"What the priorities are for the industry, or for individual companies, have yet to be determined. It will be determined ... based upon the things that appear to be most critical at any given time," he said.
According to Stotesbery, vendors are already addressing security issues raised by critics.
"Nobody in the industry would argue that security is not a primary objective.... It's not just the right thing to do, it's also increasingly a market imperative."
He also said vendors are moving toward answering one of the biggest requests critics have made to date.
"Every vendor in the industry is moving forward in being able to offer a voter-verifiable paper ballot of some sort," he said. Three companies make voting machines with a verifiable paper ballot, and Hart InterCivic recently demonstrated its own model featuring such a function, he said.
"I have no doubt that all systems will offer a voter-verifiable paper ballot," Stotesbery said. "The capability to deliver that functionality exists and will continue to improve."
Verified Voting's Dill was surprised at the announcement and called it "an enlightened opinion."
"That's how I always hoped companies would respond," Dill said. "It would be a very positive change to have companies try to develop this feature, and if that's the ITAA's approach to restoring trust in the election system, then that's the right approach."
Dill said, however, that the design of a voter-verified paper system is not a trivial undertaking and that the usability and security aspects of such a feature need to be thought through carefully so companies design systems under standards that meet both these criteria.
"There are right ways and wrong ways to do it," he said. "I hope the industry will engage in open discussions with knowledgeable computer scientists about what the best standards for verified voting systems would be."
E-mail stolen from Diebold is a call to gouge Maryland
by Steven T. Dennis
Dec. 10, 2003
ANNAPOLIS -- An e-mail found in a collection of files stolen from
Diebold Elections Systems' internal database recommends charging
Maryland "out the yin-yang" if the state requires Diebold to add paper
printouts to the $73 million voting system it purchased.
The e-mail from "Ken," dated Jan. 3, 2003, discusses a (Baltimore) Sun
article about a University of Maryland study of the Diebold system:
"There is an important point that seems to be missed by all these
articles: they already bought the system. At this point they are just
closing the barn door. Let's just hope that as a company we are smart
enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and
legislate voter receipts."
"Ken" later clarifies that he meant "out the yin-yang," adding, "any
after-sale changes should be prohibitively expensive."
The e-mail has been cited by advocates of voter-verified receipts, who
say estimates of the cost of adding printers -- as much as $20 million
statewide -- have been bloated.
"I find it appalling," said Del. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of
Brookeville, who plans to file a bill mandating a voter-verified paper
"I'd really like to have [yin-yang] explained to me anatomically, with
the assumption that almost any place it would be would be painful," she
Montgomery said that the price to add printers should be much lower and
that she thinks it is being high-balled in part to keep people from
talking about the printing system.
Diebold spokesman David Bear would neither dispute nor confirm the
accuracy of the "yin-yang" e-mail on Monday, saying it is "at best the
internal discussion of one individual and does not reflect the
sentiments or the position of the company."
Last week, Diebold dropped threats to sue voting rights advocates who
published the e-mail and other reportedly stolen documents or linked to
an online archive of Diebold files from their Web sites.
According to news reports, a hacker broke into the Ohio company's
servers using an employee's ID number and copied a 1.8-gigabyte file of
company announcements, software bulletins and internal e-mails dating
back to January 1999.
The purloined files include discussions of the security of Diebold's
voting machines, which has been a contentious issue in Maryland and
State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone told The Gazette
last month that Diebold had given a preliminary estimate of $1,000 to
$1,200 per machine to add printouts, or up to $20 million for the
state's more than 16,000 machines. She said last week that she could not
recall whether she got the figure from Diebold or media reports.
Lamone, who said she had not seen the e-mail and did not know if it was
accurate, also said she believes that a clause in the contract requiring
that Diebold give Maryland the lowest hardware price of any state should
guard against price-gouging if the General Assembly mandates voter
receipts. But some portions of the contract still would have to be
renegotiated, she said.
Bear said he did not know the particulars of the contract.
The issue of voter-verified paper receipts continues to gain momentum
nationally, with California's secretary of state announcing that all
electronic voting machines there must include paper printouts by 2006.
The cost cited by one of Diebold's competitors, according to news
reports, was about $500 a machine.
Aviel D. Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who wrote
a report earlier this year that found the Diebold machines to be riddled
with potential security holes, has advocated for voter-verified
receipts. Without such a check on the machines, he said, errors or fraud
could go undetected. Rubin's report prompted Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
(R) to ask for an independent investigation by SAIC Corp., which
affirmed that the system was "at high risk of compromise."
Bob Urosevich, president of Diebold Elections Systems, declined to
estimate a price in an interview last month, saying the cost would
depend on a number of factors.
Lamone also said that adding paper printouts to the machines before the
November presidential election would be difficult, though not
impossible, if the General Assembly should mandate it. All of the
equipment would need to be retrofitted, retested and recertified; new
procedures put in place; and judges retrained, she said.
Montgomery's bill would allow voters to correct errors they find on a
paper printout. It also would require random checks of paper records in
2 percent of election districts against the computer records to ensure
that there has been no tampering with the computers. The paper records
would be used as the final arbiter in the event of a recount.
Lamone said she retains confidence in the system: "I think they've
undergone so much study now that everyone in the world understands what
their weaknesses are and what processes need to be put into place to
make sure they are not compromised. We here in Maryland have taken giant
steps to ensure the security of the voting system."
Lamone said local jurisdictions are excited about the technology and
conducting successful mock elections, with a voter education effort
planned for late January.
Urosevich told The Gazette last month that the Diebold system is secure.
He also noted that the system passed extensive independent testing at
both the state and federal levels, and said his company had already
fixed the security issues found by SAIC.
Another e-mail from the archive, sent Dec. 18, 2002, and purported to be
from Sue Page, one of Diebold's Maryland project managers, criticizes
Lamone by name:
"Linda Lamone ... makes public statements airing dirty laundry and
casting doubt. She's about power and control. She feels powerful when
she makes negative comments. What she misses is that her negative
comments reflect negatively on her. She should be proud of and support
her initiative of a state wide voting change, rather than casting doubt
on her own decision."
The writer said the State Board of Elections has a negative approach,
mandating to county election directors instead of working with them, and
threatening University of Maryland researchers rather than building a
Advice on how to deal with the media fell on deaf ears, she writes.
"There's not much that we can do, other than hope that a new Republican
Governor will effect change."
Asked about the e-mail on Thursday, Page said, "I'm not allowed to
Lamone, a Democrat, has been battling to keep her job amidst efforts
from Ehrlich to install a Republican elections chief. Four of the five
board members would have to vote to remove Lamone; three are Republicans
and two are Democrats.
Lamone said last week she had not seen the e-mail. "I don't know whether
they are really hers or not," she said, but she defended the agency's
actions. Lamone said that the agency has a very positive relationship
with the University of Maryland and a collaborative effort with the
"I don't know what she's talking about," Lamone said. "We try to be as
collaborative as possible."
These Web sites are where The Gazette found the e-mails reported to have
been stolen from Diebold Election Systems' internal database.
*The "yin-yang" comment by "Ken":
*The Linda Lamone e-mail by Sue Page:
December 6, 2003
Voting Process Too Important to Leave to Technology
by Andrew Kantor
You can't trust technology, but somehow we always do.
Many objects technological have become background noise ˜ literally or
figuratively. You don't think about it unless it breaks ˜ there's no dial
tone, or the heat doesn't come up, or the engine explodes. We expect things to
work. Most of the time they do.
It's not a matter of how old something is. Powered flight's been around for
100 years and I'm still sure the wings are going to come off the MD-88 I'm on.
But the modern Internet is fewer than 10 years old and I always expect my
e-mail to arrive in seconds. If you use a spreadsheet and put "=2+2" in a box,
you expect to see a "4" appear, George Orwell notwithstanding. But there's a
danger to treating any gizmo like an unfailing "black box." There are always
human beings involved, and human beings make mistakes. Or worse.
Last month, we ˜ well, some of us ˜ voted. Depending on where you live, you
may have stuck a piece of paper in box, or thrown a little mechanical lever,
or punched a hole in a card. Or pushed a button ˜ beep! John Smith gets your
vote for school board president.
Or does he?
Electronic voting machines, it turns out, may or may not be counting your
votes properly, if at all.
Detractors ˜ and there are more and more of them ˜ call it "black box voting."
You assume the machine's software is counting the votes correctly, but there's
no way to know. But the government must have tested these machines before
entrusting our very democracy with them, right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
With black box voting systems, the machine records each vote onto its internal
memory via software. And software can be hacked. Coding it to switch every
50th vote from Smith to Jones would be trivial.
Can't happen, you say? There's that trust in technology I mentioned. It can
happen. Someone broke into the computers of Diebold, one of the largest makers
of electronic voting machines, and downloaded hundreds of staff memos
regarding the company's voting systems.
They're a scary read ˜ software bugs, faked demos to governments, discussions
of how easy it is to break into the machines' databases that store the votes.
(The memos have since spread far and wide onilne. A search on "Diebold memos"
will find them.)
OK, you say, so the software had bugs. That doesn't mean there was any malice
involved, or that anything actually went wrong.
Would that it were the end of it. But it's not. First, there was Diebold's
CEO, one Walden O'Dell, who told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in Augustthat he
was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President
next year." Coming from the head of a voting machine company, that's scary.
OK, you say, that was a stupid thing to say. But only a conspiracy theorist
would believe it's more than hyperbole from an overzealous exec. There's no
indication the machines don't work.
Unless you're in, say, Fairfax, Va., where the county's new e-voting machines
(made by Advanced Voting Solutions, not Diebold) apparently subtracted about
one out of every hundred votes for Rita Thompson, Republican candidate for
school board. She lost by fewer than 1,700 votes.
Or in Boone County, Ind., where the software showed 144,000 votes cast.
Trouble was, there are only about 19,000 registered voters.
Or Alameda, Kern, or Plumas counties in California ˜ which do use Diebold
machines ˜ where the e-voting systems reported, somehow, that every single
voter cast a ballot for the recall election; that is, no one abstained. In
every other county, between one-half and 9% of voters skipped the recall
question, but the Diebold machines in these three counties showed 100%
participation. That means either the machines discarded thousands of votes
(those who abstained) or cast a vote for them. Which do you think is better?
A true cynic (good for you!) might say that we also trust the folks who make
and use the mechanical voting systems. But mechanical systems offer two things
an e-voting machine doesn't. First there's the clear feedback to the voter ˜ a
piece of paper or a resounding 'click' ˜ that tells you your vote's been cast.
I bet the folks in Fairfax would have appreciated that. Second, it's harder to
"hack" a mechanical voting system. Anyone can look inside see how it works:
Here are the paper ballots, here is where the tape is punched. A lot of people
have sufficient mechanical aptitude to verify the workings. Not so with software.
Further, it's impossible to get such a system to shift its votes just a little
bit. You could make one cast every vote for Jones or for Smith, but that would
be obvious. Tricking it into switching, say, one out of every 50 Smith votes
into a Jones vote would be darned near impossible.
There have been calls ˜ loud calls, in some cases ˜ for "voter-verifiable
paper ballots" from black-box machines: something that says "I voted for
Smith." If you vote for Smith but your receipt says you voted for Jones (or
that you didn't vote at all), you can complain and have something to back you up.
note: the RECEIPTS are not what the elections departments would be counting. This tactic is worse than nothing, because it would present the illusion that the problem was solved. If your receipt was then dropped into a ballot box and the receipts then counted by hand, in public, that would be acceptable from an elections security view, but then there would not be any reason to buy the touch screen machines (since pen and paper would be much cheaper and easier)
It would be a trivial effort to misprogram the voting machines to have the receipts accurately reflect the vote but the actual count to be tampered with. Since it would be impossible to match up receipts with the election results (after the election), the "receipt" strategy is merely a cynical effort to fool people into thinking that this is a viable solution.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working to have this kind of machine be
mandatory. But for now it's not. So the next time your expensive piece of
software crashes ˜ or does something unexpected ˜ think about how you'll be
casting your ballot in 2004.
Andrew Kantor is a technology writer, pundit, and know-it-all living in
Columbus, Ohio; he's also a former editor for PC Magazine and Internet World.
Read more of his work at kantor.com.
© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
December 12, 2003
Voting Machines Need a Paper Trail
by Faye M. Anderson
This week marks the third anniversary of Bush vs. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that halted the Florida ballot recount. The 36-day impasse exposed the cracks in the state's electoral infrastructure.
Still, the Supreme Court failed to address Florida voters' unequal access to reliable voting machines. In an interview, Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe, who argued the first appeal, told me, ``There was under the surface of these little hanging chads, this overwhelming series of profound inequalities among the different counties.''
After the election debacle, states -- including Florida, Georgia and Maryland -- overhauled their election laws. And last year, President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act, which authorizes billions of dollars to the states to upgrade their voting machinery and election administration.
Election officials have since spent hundreds of millions of dollars on touch-screen voting systems whose performance has not restored voters' confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. One reason: Electronic voting machines lack an auditable paper trail. This design flaw is particularly puzzling given that electronic transactions from ATMs to stores routinely provide a user-verified printout.
Without a paper record, states are simply throwing money at the problem. In doing so, the chief beneficiaries of the Florida fiasco are the four voting-machine manufacturers that dominate the industry. These companies have reaped a windfall on the backs of black voters, whose disproportionate disenfranchisement put election reform on lawmakers' radar screens.
" In the 2002 Florida primary election, Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency and ordered polls to stay open two additional hours because of malfunctioning touch-screen machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In the general election, 104,000 votes were lost and later ''harvested'' from touch-screen machines in Broward County.
" Last month in Fairfax County, Va., touch-screen machines malfunctioned in nine precincts. Computer ''glitches'' tainted several hundred votes and prompted Republicans to file a lawsuit challenging the results.
" One vendor, Diebold Election Systems Inc., is at the center of growing doubts about the accuracy and security of touch-screen voting machines. The Diebold system is deployed in jurisdictions in California, Florida and Maryland. In a marketing coup, Diebold won a $54 million contract to provide touch-screen machines for all of Georgia's 159 counties.
In a testimonial posted on its website, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox praises Diebold for ''going above and beyond the call of duty to help the state implement this enormous endeavor.'' Cox's peachy assessment is not shared by black voters. A Peach State Poll found that only 40 percent of black respondents felt ''very confident'' that their votes were accurately counted compared to 79 percent of whites. Exit polls in two Maryland counties using Diebold machines found a similar racial gap in voters' confidence.
Concerns have been heightened by Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell's widely reported vow to help ''Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.'' This pledge by a major Bush fundraiser has fueled conspiracy theories about ballot tampering next year.
With an evenly divided electorate, polls suggest that the presidential race will likely be close. According to Election Data Services, nearly one in five voters cast their ballot on electronic machines in 2002. If the past is prologue, the primary colors on Election Night 2004 may not be Democratic-blue and Republican-red. Instead, they may be black-and-blue as voters' confidence in the electoral process takes another beating because of computer glitches that throw into question the legitimacy of the outcome.
The machinery of our democracy must not be entrusted to a handful of unaccountable vendors and a revolving door of election officials-cum-lobbyists peddling unproven and untested ''solutions.'' We the people must demand transparent voting machines that are worthy of America's role as a beacon of democracy. That would be the lasting legacy of Bush vs. Gore.
Faye M. Anderson is the writer and producer of <http://www.itvs.org/countingondemocracy/>Counting on Democracy, a documentary about the 2000 Florida presidential election.
Copyright 1996-2003 Knight Ridder
Machines Too Can Lie
December 12, 2003
"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting," says a character in Tom Stoppard's play "Jumpers." The character wasn't referring to the Florida recount debacle three years ago, or to the 2002 law aimed at preventing future electoral traumas by funding local efforts to replace antiquated voting equipment. The character's point, however, should be foremost in Congress' mind as it works to implement the Help America Vote Act.
On Wednesday, the Senate decided to delay funding for new voting devices because of partisan disagreements over unrelated issues in the budget bill. The delay gives legislators a chance to condition future funding for the act on reforms that would fix its numerous flaws.
Legislators should begin by passing a bill by Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) that would require the new machines to provide a paper receipt to each voter much like the "voter-verified paper audit trail" that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will require electronic voting machines to produce by July 2006.
Beyond not requiring receipts, the Help America Vote Act has an even bigger and more troubling shortcoming: It fails to include any meaningful regulation of voting system manufacturers and vendors. The act does not require the companies to reveal their software coding to outside, independent reviewers.
That's a potential problem because computer security experts have identified numerous flaws in the systems made by industry leader Diebold Election Systems Inc. that could allow vote tampering. Rebecca Mercuri, a computer scientist at Harvard University, was one of many experts expressing deep concerns about the nation's lax regulation of the new machines at a symposium on electronic voting systems this week in Gaithersburg, Md.
"There are literally hundreds of ways to embed a rogue series of commands into the coding," Mercuri said, "and nobody would ever know because the nature of programming is so complex. The numbers would all tally perfectly."
In addition, Diebold's chief executive, Walden O'Dell, hasn't done much to inspire faith in his impartiality. An ardent Bush supporter, O'Dell wrote an Aug. 14 fundraising letter to Ohio Republicans, saying, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Voters' rights cannot be guaranteed merely by installing jazzy machines with shiny new buttons. One doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that the gadgets as well as the people who build, program and operate them need vigorous oversight.
Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times
Vote Machine "Problems"
U.S. National - AFP
Computer error gave Bush a big boost at an Ohio polling station: report
Fri Nov 5,11:13 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A computer error involving a voting machine cartridge reportedly handed President George W. Bush (news - web sites) an extra 3,893 votes in one precinct in the key state of Ohio.
The Columbus Dispatch reported voters who were checking posted results noticed the problem on the website of Franklin county where the capital, Columbus, is located.
The results gave Republican Bush 4,258 votes and Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) 260 -- in a precinct where just 638 voters cast their ballots.
Matthew Damschroeder, the county electoral chief, said Bush actually drew 365 votes to Kerry's 260, while 13 other votes went to other candidates.
Damschroder said the computer error would have been detected in verification operations in the coming weeks.
A victory for Kerry in the close presidential race would have sent Kerry to the White House.
E-VOTE MACHINE RAN OUT OF SPACE FOR VOTES
BULLOCK, WNCT-TV - Bill Henderson Chairman of the Democratic Party in Carteret County says he's worked the phones two and a half weeks encouraging people to vote. "Often times we ask people to go vote and they say well I don't think they will even count my vote well they didn't." 4500 of them gone, Sally Smith was one of them and she's not happy about it. "Very upset, it really is discouraging."
Ed Pond says when the numbers didn't match up manufactures told him, "Of the votes we have 3006 is all we can recover, we said what do you mean?" What that means is of 7537 voters, every one made after 3005 were not saved in the computer memory. The Carteret county board of elections say their electronic voting system is owned by Unilect. Initially they told the board 10 thousand votes could be stored in these computer systems in actuality it was 7 thousand. Smith says there should have been a back up.
The National Protection Coalition, composed of several nonpartisan groups that include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Verified Voting, reported Tuesday afternoon it had received more than 600 calls from voters complaining about problems with e-voting machines around the country. A separate group, Common Cause, reported receiving 50,000 calls, though not all of them were related to voting technology. Both groups had established toll-free phone lines for voters to report problems.
The National Protection Coalition received 80 reports of problems in New Orleans where machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems failed to start on election morning, resulting in voters being turned away from polls because election officials didn't have a back-up plan. By late afternoon some machines still had not booted up. . .
In Florida, where George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election by only 537 votes, 10 touch-screen voting machines failed at precincts in Broward County. Voters in Florida and Texas complained about calibration problems with touch-screen machines. Problems occurred when voters
touched the screen next to one candidate's name and an "X" appeared in a box next to another candidate's name. The Election Protection Coalition also received more than 32 reports from various states that spread across all the top e-voting brands made by Diebold Election Systems, Election Systems & Software, Hart Intercivic and Sequoia.
These problems involved e-voting machines that appeared to record votes correctly when voters touched the screen, but indicated a different selection on the review screen before voters cast their ballot. In some cases voters had to redo their ballot five or six times before the correct votes took. . .
Voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, reported that when they went to vote on Sequoia machines some races on their electronic ballots were already pre-marked before they started voting. They had to ask poll workers to assist them in removing the selections from the ballot so they could start with a clean ballot. In some cases they weren't successful in doing this.
In Texas, voters casting straight-party tickets reported that machines cast ballots for candidates outside of their chosen party. For example, if a voter chose to vote straight Republican, rather than automatically marking all Republican choices on the ballot, the machine marked some Democratic choices.
INFOZINE - Voters from at least half a dozen states reported that
touch-screen voting machines had incorrectly recorded their choices,
including for president. Voters discovered the problems when checking
the review screen at the end of the voting process. They found, to their
surprise, that the machines indicated that they voted for one candidate
when they had voted for another. When voters tried to correct the
problem, the machine often made the same error several times. While in
most cases the situation was reportedly resolved, many voters remain
uneasy about whether the proper vote was ultimately cast. Meanwhile,
voting experts are concerned that other voters are experiencing the
problem, but failing to notice that the machine is indicating the wrong
choice on the "summary" screen.
Election observers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Verified
Voting Foundation reported yesterday that the problem, which some voting
officials initially attributed to "voter error," is evidently widespread
and may even be relatively common with touch-screen machines.
Incorrectly recorded votes make up roughly 20 percent of the e-voting
problems reported through the Election Incident Reporting System, an
online database in which volunteers with the Election Protection
Coalition, a coalition of non-partisan election observers dedicated to
preventing voter disenfranchisement, are recording and tracking voting
Currently on Yahoo news, AP wire (Friday, Nov 5, 2004 @ 14:21 EDT)
Presidential Elections - AP
Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes
11 minutes ago
By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush
(news - web sites) 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials
Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites)'s 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365.
Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after saying that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result.
Deducting the erroneous Bush votes from his total could not change the election's outcome, and there were no signs of other errors in Ohio's electronic machines, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.
Franklin is the only Ohio county to use Danaher Controls Inc.'s ELECTronic 1242, an older-style touchscreen voting system. Danaher did not immediately return a message for comment.
Sean Greene, research director with the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, said that while the glitch appeared minor "that could change if more of these stories start coming out."
In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost in this election because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did.
And in San Francisco, a malfunction with custom voting software could delay efforts to declare the winners of four races for county supervisor.
In the Ohio precinct in question, the votes are recorded to eight memory locations, including a removable cartridge, according to Verified Voting Foundation, an e-voting watchdog group. After voting ends, the cartridge is either transported to a tabulation facility or its data sent via modem.
Kimball Brace, president of the consulting firm Election Data Services, said it's possible the fault lies with the software that tallies the votes from individual cartridges rather than the machines or the cartridges themselves.
Either way, he said, such tallying software ought to have a way to ensure that the totals don't exceed the number of voters.
County officials did not return calls seeking details.
Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch that on one of the three machines at that precinct, a malfunction occurred when its cartridge was plugged into a reader and generated a faulty number. He could not explain how the malfunction occurred.
Damschroder said people who had seen poll results on the election board's Web site called to point out the discrepancy. The error would have been discovered when the official count for the election is performed later this month, he said.
The reader also recorded zero votes in a county commissioner race on the machine.
Other electronic machines used in Ohio do not use the type of computer cartridge involved in the error, state officials say.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a glitch occurred with software designed for the city's new "ranked-choice voting," in which voters list their top three choices for municipal offices. If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes outright, voters' second and third-place preferences are then distributed among candidates who weren't eliminated in the first round.
When the San Francisco Department of Elections tried a test run on Wednesday of the program that does the redistribution, some of the votes didn't get counted and skewed the results, director John Arntz said.
"All the information is there," Arntz said. "It's just not arriving the way it was supposed to."
A technician from the Omaha, Neb. company that designed the software, Election Systems & Software Inc., was working to diagnose and fix the problem.
Currently on Yahoo news, AFP wire (Friday, Nov 5, 2004 @ 14:21 EDT)
Slots measure for S. Fla. tracks wins approval
The Associated Press
Posted November 4 2004, 6:19 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A proposal that opens the door to slot machines at race tracks and jai alai frontons in South Florida won approval Thursday, avoiding a possible recount after elections officials in Broward County discovered thousands of absentee votes that were ignored by a programming error.
The glitch had affected about 79,000 absentee ballots, which included more than 74,000 votes for the gambling amendment that lets voters in South Florida hold a referendum on slot machines. Before that, the measure seemed headed for an automatic recount as opponents held a slight lead.
"We are declaring victory,'' slots campaign spokesman Jim Horne, a former state Education Commissioner, said at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Opponents had held a lead of about 1,000 votes until the batch of votes from Broward "fell out of the sky,''said Rep. Randy Johnson, a central Florida Republican who chairs No Casinos.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, supporters had a lead of 81,743 votes, erasing and far surpassing the narrow lead that opponents had clung to since Tuesday. Amendment 4 had 3,605,840 votes, or 51 percent, compared with 3,524,097 votes, or 49 percent, in opposition.
A machine recount is triggered under state law if the victory margin is less than one-half of 1 percent.
Carey Theil, head of a national greyhound advocacy group opposed to dog racing, raised concerns about the voting equipment and procedures in Broward County and said there would be a court challenge to the results.
Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Elections, said a human error in programming in Broward County's elections office was discovered Wednesday night and fixed Thursday morning.
"It was somebody who did not program the system to take into account the running total,'' Faraj said. ``Every vote was (later) accounted for.''
She said the problem was limited to constitutional amendments in Broward County. The other seven ballot measures all passed by wide margins.
Amendment 4 would allow voters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to decide in a subsequent election whether to permit slot machines at seven horse and dog tracks and frontons, which say they need the revenue to survive.
The ballot measure also directs that any tax revenue lawmakers decide to levy on the slot machines be distributed to schools throughout the entire state. Sponsors say that would be at least $438 million in just the first year.
Opponents argue that slots would ruin Florida's reputation as a family friendly vacation destination and increase crime and personal bankruptcies. Dog racing opponents also said that industry is cruel to its animals and doesn't deserve to be saved.
But Amendment 4's sponsors argued their proposal wasn't about gambling but rather was about local control and school funding.
They pointed out that slots are already available on gambling ships that leave Florida ports daily for international waters and that Indian casinos have ``video lottery'' machines that are quite similar to slots and that none of these wagers is taxed by the state, costing it millions.
Copyright © 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel