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November 7, 2007

The US Dept. of Justice seeks to force New York to use faulty voting technology, while citizens still clamor for hand counted paper ballots. 

In USA v. New York State Board of Elections, et al. (US District Court, Northern District of NY, Civil Action No. 06-CV-0263), Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney Brian Heffernan argues that even though no electronic voting systems exist that meet NY’s voting technology standards, NY must use the faulty technology.

He admits that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) allows states to develop stricter standards, but claims this is trumped by HAVA’s deployment deadline of January 1, 2006. New York has extended this deadline to allow high-tech vendors time to meet its stricter standards. None has yet done so.

According to Andi Novick, founder of Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media, the effect of the federal government’s logic is, “It doesn’t matter that these machines are hackable, you must use them in the 2008 elections.”

Tonight, Novick spoke with Mary Ann Gould on Voice of the Voters, explaining, “A HAVA-compliant system already exists. It’s far less expensive, requires no certification testing which costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and which has a proven track record: hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB).” She envisions HCPB being taught in high school civics, with senior students counting the official ballots on election night.

Novick and other speakers on Voice of the Voters decried how these machines have repeatedly failed the public, in practice and in the lab. Test after testafter here show these machines can be hacked in less than a minute. Prior studies, including this one, reach the same conclusions: electronic voting is not securable, neither touchscreen nor optical scan.

Dan Rather attacked high technology from a different angle, showing how outsourcingthe manufacture of our election systems further defeats democracy, with faulty equipment being built in sweatshop conditions.

The absurdity of the DOJ’s position goes even further. Heffernan worries that someone might get away with something: “To view this scenario otherwise would allow a state to ignore with impunity HAVA’s minimal federal voting systems requirements for however long it pleases.” Hmm. Is this anything akin to the telephone companies violating the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and various state and local laws by spying on US citizens for the federal government, with impunity?

If the federal government is magnanimous enough to grant immunity to such gross violations of law and liberty in the Land of the Free, certainly it can allow a State an extension when seeking a securable and well-designed voting system, despite HAVA’s arbitrary deployment deadline.

Heffernan cites federal supremacy over States’ rights, an argument that loses its validity as Congress and this Administration continue to support aggressive illegal wars, torture, extraordinary rendition, and the dismantling of the Bill of Rights. Clearly, centralized authority that ignores the rule of law is a growing problem, with waning legitimacy, and waning public support.

States are better positioned to defend a free society, and certainly it is within a State’s purview to reject voting systems that cannot be made secure. Honest citizens agree that the security of US elections trumps any willy-nilly law passed by the current crop of politicians.

High tech voting systems are a proven product failure. They represent privatization of public elections, denying access to ordinary citizens since expertise is required to review the source code. High tech voting systems– touchscreen and optical scan– thru the use of software, count the vote in secret, which violates one tenet of free and fair democratic elections.

Andi Novick offers a common sense response to the problem of privatized technology in our public elections. “We need a non-vendor public solution for our elections.” It is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted at the precinct on election night, before all who wish to observe. This voting system is time-tested, the least expensive, and the most securable of all voting systems.

Sources and Further Reading:

Election Technology Tests:

California: http://tinyurl.com/yv7aaj

Florida: http://tinyurl.com/2xkzd4

Univ. of CT Oct. 2006 Diebold OpScam Report http://tinyurl.com/34pc49

Univ of CT July 2007 Diebold Touch Screen Report http://tinyurl.com/2u2t3n

Prior Studies Annotated.

Dan Rather’s video, The Trouble with Touch Screen, can be accessed athttp://voteraction.org/  

Free & Fair Elections, International Parliamentary Union, 2006http://tinyurl.com/ysca9t  

Voice of the Voters, Wednesdays at 8 pm Eastern Time. www.voiceofthevoters.org 

Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media,www.re-media.org