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November 23, 2006

Rummy was booted, Noe’s going to prison for a number of years, and the powers that be gave us a Democratic sweep.[1] In exchange, the election integrity movement is being told it must accept audits of the machines, if one is to gauge the length and intensity of e-debate on the subject, or the campaign promises of public servants. 

Ohio’s next Secretary of State spoke with grassroots activists and party operatives last night, repeating her campaign mantra of “free, fair, open and honest elections.” Jennifer Brunner also promised to “examine the machines.” 

Examine the machines? We are done examining the machines – the verdict is in. Under current election conditions, there is no basis for confidence in reported election results. The machines are only one part of the problem, and the easiest to remove. This is the first and most crucial step toward honest elections.

Better to examine the reports from the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office, the National Science Foundation’s ACCURATE Center, Princeton University or CompuWare Corporation. This year, even Rolling Stones did a succinct job covering the problem with electronic voting (coupled with voter suppression tactics). Citations for these reports appear at the end of this article under [2]. 

Lest Brunner misconstrue the position of hand-counted paper ballot (HCPB) advocates, I advised her we were going to have a “Boston D-R-E Party.” The look of horror on her face revealed two things: 1) she knows the difference between Opti-Scan and DRE; and 2) she’s unaware how deeply discredited are electronic voting results. 

Trust must reconcile itself to transparency; a secretly run election is the antithesis of democracy. When votes are cast, printed or counted with software which, by its very nature, cannot be made secure, we have no basis for confidence in reported election results. 

THE GAMED SYSTEM 

Strengthening the HCPB argument, these machines continue to prove they’ve been hacked. We received reports, again, from around the country and within Ohio, that voter choices hopped to a different candidate or simply failed to register the vote. [3, 4] 

It’s simple. Computers only do what they’re programmed to do. If the computer switches your vote from one candidate to another, it was programmed to do so. If the computer ignores your vote for a candidate, it was programmed to do so. Machines that exhibit these “glitches” should be immediately removed from use. They weren’t. Garbage in; garbage out. 

Further destroying credibility, election officials continue to fail to maintain chain of custody of memory cards, which now represent the ballot box. Over 70 memory cards went missing from Cuyahoga County’s May primary and at least three precincts in Franklin County on failed to turn in their memory cards on November 7th. 

No matter who were declared winners of the midterm elections, democracy advocates still insist on a transparent system in which we can form a basis for confidence in reported results. 

MACHINES & AUDITS vs. HAND-COUNTED PAPER BALLOTS 

Secretary of State-elect Brunner advised she would work closely with U.S. Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones on national legislation addressing these issues. My heart sinks. Neither the Holt nor the Kucinich bill (HR 550 and HR 6200) is sufficient to restore trustworthy election conditions. 

No matter what agreement public officials have made with private corporations to administer public elections, democracy advocates reject electronic voting. There are virtually limitless ways these machines can be hacked, without leaving a trace. This fact precludes giving HR 550 serious consideration, since it offers to audit the machines. 

Ohio Boards of Election proved, in the 04 recount, they are incapable of performing legally-required “random” audits. In an Orwellian redefinition, Blackwell changed the meaning of random to “select” when auditing 3% of the precincts to determine if a full recount was needed. This redefinition violated Ohio law. The Ohio recount never legally occurred. Bush was handed another presidency. 

HR 550’s audit contemplations can stay in committee for the next millennium for all the good they will do democracy. Honest elections preclude electronic voting systems, and their audits. Whether by design or ignorance, HR 550 proponents back a corrupt system. 

Now consider the Kucinich bill. HR 6200 partly models what we need – hand counted paper ballots, at the precinct, before observers. It fails by applying only to the Presidential race, and by removing provisional ballots from the HCPB method. 

Florida and Ohio teach that one significant way election officials suppress the vote is to target voter classes for “provisional” status. 

Different tabulation methods creates a second class of ballots – some people’s votes are to be counted without chain of custody, while others – who weren’t provisionalized by election officials – are to be counted by hand, at the precinct, before observers.

If Ohio’s midterm election is any indication, these second-class “provisional” voters are transient citizens – college students, low-income workers, and racial minorities. [5] 

Joe Knapp’s map showing Franklin County’s high-portion precincts of provisional voters is found here.
OSU’s Ohio Union is noted in red for its 26% prov-rate. 

Are any elections close enough that provisional and absentee votes could sway the outcome? Witness the current Kilroy-Pryce contest for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.

HR 6200 also fails by referring to votes cast for President and Vice President only. US citizens do not elect the President in practice; party operatives and partisan courts select him in a winner-take-all elite system called the Electoral College. 

Why a bill calling for hand counted paper ballots would limit itself to the only office citizens don’t actually vote for is confounding. 

PUBLIC DEMANDS TRANSPARENCY AND OVERSIGHT 

Half measurers avail us nothing. 

Honest elections can only occur when there is complete transparency, where we deem election system security more valuable than personal voter privacy. The only valid reason to maintain a secretly cast vote is to ensure the voter isn’t forced or bribed into voting the way local elites deem appropriate. 

How many voters agree with this value can be astounding. Zogby found that 92% of US citizens agree our election system should be completely transparent. [7] 

Ohio’s recent Parallel Election (PE) found that 84% put their money where their mouth is and signed the PE Roster. Repeatedly we heard comments, “You can have my name. I want to know the results.” 

Even more importantly, according to PE comments, most voters applaud citizen oversight and consider it critical to election integrity. 

EARLY VOTING and ABSENTEE VOTING

Jennifer Brunner also promised to expand early voting. I agree a three-day voting period allows for nearly everyone’s busy schedules. I worry expanding it longer could exponentially increase the opportunity for fraud. 

Absentee voting raises mind-boggling chain of custody issues. Has anyone heard of mail fraud? Simply consider the path a mailed ballot takes to be included, correctly, in official results. How can these votes, which lost chain of custody, be considered valid? 

Should we let the postal service deliver our democracy? Putting your own hand-marked ballot in the ballot box is your civic duty should you decide to vote. Anything less is as effective as your opinion at the conclusion of a trial when you were absent from the jury box. There are some civic duties for which your presence is required. Voting is one of them. 

Brunner joins the ranks of the Democratic Sweep, and will be watched closely by all those nonpartisans who are responding to the dangerous direction this country has taken, with bipartisan support.

Many, across the country, quietly hope the new boss is not the same as the old boss. The rest continue with public education efforts. 

Sources: 

[1] Michael Whitney analyzes these events athttp://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15582.htm 

[2] A summary of findings from the below reports is at http://tinyurl.com/kwycu, except for Bruce O’Dell’s brief and well-written articles. 

Bruce O’Dell, “Pull the Plug on E-Voting,” October 25-26, 2006, 
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102606L.shtml and 
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102706O.shtml 

Princeton University, September 2006, http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ts-paper.pdfVideo at http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/videos.html but if you want to watch a funny video, all true, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-kaplan/how-to-hack-a-diebold-vot_b_26301.html 

Harry Hursti, Hack 2, http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVtsxstudy.pdf 

Carter-Baker Commission, May 2006 Wall Street Journal article at click here 

GAO – Government Accountability Office, September 2005http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05956.pdf 

Dept. of Homeland Security, Cyber Security Bulletin SB04-252, September 7, 2004 http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/bulletins/SB04-252.html#diebold 

CRS – Congressional Research Service report, 11/03, click here 

Avi Rubin, National Science Foundation Director of ACCURATE Center (http://accurate-voting.org/faq) for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections.http://avirubin.com/ or see this September Forbes Magazine article he wrote:http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2006/0904/040.html?partner=alerts&_requestid=2972 

Election Science Institute, August 2006 report on Cuyahoga County, Ohio,http://www.electionscience.org then click on Cuyahoga final report. 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” Rolling Stones, June 2006,http://rollingstone.com/news/story/10463874 and 
http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10463874/editorial_a_call_for_investigation 

[3] Midterm vote hopping reported in Texas, Missouri and Arkansas http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3675 

[4] Machines freeze in Ohio, and other Midterm Election Observations at http://tinyurl.com/y5y9h7 (Full link: http://www.guvwurld.org/Election Reform/Rady Ananda – Election Observation Report OH – 11-9-06.pdf) Observation reports are being compiled by various organizations that promised to publish a comprehensive report, or summaries, shortly.

[5] Bob Fitrakis, “Stop Blackwell: What’s that Sign?” http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2006/2228 

[6] Joe Knapp, November 2006 map of Franklin County, Ohio Provisional Rates http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/13/122915/95 

[7] Michael Collins, “New Zogby Poll on Electronic Voting Attitudes,” August 2006 http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0608/S00220.htm

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