Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dayton Calls for Paper Trail

April 27, 2005
Contact: Semonti Mustaphi (202) 228-3263
Press Release

Dayton Calls for Paper Trail of All Ballots Cast on Electronic Voting Machines

Senator secures commitment for hearing on protecting the integrity of elections

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, a member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, introduced an amendment to a campaign finance reform bill that would require electronic voting machines to print receipts of all cast ballots. The receipts would help to eliminate discrepancies in vote tabulations, which were reported during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The amendment would also reduce voter error, by enabling voters to print and verify their ballots before casting them. The Rules and Administration Committee failed to adopt the amendment.

Minnesota and 19 other states have legislation pending that would require paper trails for electronic voting machines; 14 states have already enacted such legislation. Over the next year, states and counties will receive $1 billion in federal funding to purchase new voting machines and equipment. The amendment Dayton introduced would have required states and counties to purchase systems that provide voter-verified paper ballots and receipts.

“As a former State Auditor, I learned the necessity of keeping back up documents and a paper trail,” said Dayton. “There is potential for massive fraud by somebody breaking into an electronic system and altering the numbers after votes have been cast without a paper back up. It would be impossible to go back and determine what the actual vote tally should have been.

“The legislation was tabled, but I did get from Senator [Trent] Lott a promise that we would have a hearing on protecting the integrity of our elections before the August recess. I will work with other members to advance legislation which will take effect before the next election.”

“Paperless electronic voting machines fail to provide this very basic and essential capability, because they deny voters the opportunity to verify that their votes have been accurately recorded,” said Mark Halvorson, President of Citizens for Election Integrity. “We are very grateful for Senator Dayton's support on the crucial issue of voter-verified paper ballots which takes an important first step in remedying this problem which is far too common in our current voting system.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Failing the Electoral Standards

The Nation
by Andrew Gumbel

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been monitoring elections in emerging democracies ever since the fall of the Berlin wall, but now it has done something different and uniquely controversial. It has turned its attention to the United States, issuing a report that highlights numerous areas in which this past November's presidential and Congressional elections failed to meet international standards.

One would have thought the voter reform movement in this country would jump at the chance to see the United States judged by the same criteria as Ukraine, Georgia or Kyrgyzstan--especially since the report finds it badly wanting. Here, in black and white, is authoritative proof that the disenfranchisement of ex-felons, the uneven rules applied to provisional balloting, the unreliability of voter registration procedures and the dual role of election supervisors who also help run partisan political campaigns are not merely objectionable but also violate international norms to which the United States, as a participating member of the fifty-five-nation OSCE, is a leading signatory.

And yet the OSCE's twenty-nine-page report, published in April has not generated a single column inch in any US newspaper. There are both good and bad reasons for this. For a start, the report has come out five months after the election, virtually guaranteeing its lack of topicality. It is also written in excruciatingly careful prose, belying the pointedness of its conclusions. There is no summary sentence stating explicitly that the United States has failed to meet its international commitments. (That has to be inferred.) Nor does it allude to the fact that Ohio was just a few tens of thousands of votes away from another Florida-style meltdown. This is a document that takes every conceivable step to avoid being controversial, even as it delivers its damning assessment.

Therein, though, lies the real story. The OSCE report has been the hottest of political hot potatoes for months, its reticence the result of an escalating diplomatic battle pitting the United States against the countries of the former Soviet Union, not unlike the cold war standoffs of old.

OSCE sources complain that US officials made "inappropriate" phone calls in the run-up to the report's publication, in the hope that its conclusions would not come down too hard on the dysfunctions of its electoral system. Russia and the other former Soviet republics, meanwhile, have accused both the United States and the OSCE itself of a glaring double standard--making no bones about criticizing the conduct of their elections (in Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan) while skirting over the inadequacies of voting in the world's sole remaining superpower.

There is far more to this debate than mere diplomatic brick-throwing. At stake is the integrity of the single most powerful institution pressing for global democratization--a phenomenon President Bush professes to cherish these days. There is little doubt that the reason the Russians, Belarusians and the rest want to get the OSCE off their backs is that they are terrified of a Ukraine-style democratic uprising in their own autocratic backyards. (Kiev's Orange Revolution was sparked, in part, by a withering OSCE election report, as was the popular revolt against Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia.) But the reason they feel able to protest so vehemently comes right back to the United States and the fact that this country's electoral house is in such manifest disarray.

The Russians have been banging the "double standard" drum ever since their own OSCE observers saw Florida's electronic voting machines melt down during the 2002 midterms--a fiasco less well remembered than the punch-card disaster of 2000 but one that has poisoned just about every effort at electoral reform since. The Americans, admittedly, did not help themselves when, at an OSCE meeting on international election standards right after the Florida primary, they refused to acknowledge the slightest flaw in their domestic system.

OSCE officials sought to get around the mounting fracas in a couple of ways. First, they indicated they would entertain the possibility of much bigger election observation missions to the United States in the future. And then they commissioned a report drawing up universal standards applicable to all democracies, both emerging and established. This report came out in October 2003 and, to the attentive reader at least, suggested eleven areas in which the United States was falling short--the failure to establish nationwide voting procedures, the felon problem, the inequitable distribution of voting machines in poorer areas, the lack of money and media time accorded to third-party candidates, and so on.

The international tensions, though, continued to mount. By 2004 the OSCE's reports on the former Soviet zone were proving so incendiary that President Putin personally ordered his OSCE ambassador to make the neutering of the OSCE's election monitoring division his top priority.

In response, the OSCE seriously considered a full-scale observation of the Bush-Kerry presidential race, which would have involved hundreds of international monitors spread out across the entire country. The treacherous waters of US politics, however, made this option next to impossible, not least because the person pushing hardest for a major monitoring mission, the president of OSCE's parliamentary assembly, turned out to be a black Democratic Congressman from Florida, Alcee Hastings. The OSCE realized a full-scale mission could easily be misinterpreted as a partisan assault on the Republicans, so it backed off.

It opted instead for a so-called "targeted observation mission," focusing on just a handful of districts in swing states. Even this, though, ran into trouble. No European government wanted to risk the wrath of the United States by offering up observers--the whole EU ended up providing just two people, both from the Netherlands--and barely any state or county officials in this country wanted to allow the OSCE near their polling stations, even though they had a commitment to grant access under the terms of the OSCE's founding 1990 Copenhagen agreement.

The OSCE appealed to both the State Department and the National Association of Secretaries of States for help, only to be told there was nothing either of them could do. As a result, the OSCE deployment on November 2 was patchy at best in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and a couple of less contentious states.

The Russians were not impressed. At a high-level meeting in Sofia last December, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, denounced the OSCE as a divisive and dishonest organization. "Election monitoring is not only ceasing to make sense," he said, "but is also becoming an instrument of political manipulation and a destabilizing factor."

The delay in publication of the OSCE's final report on the US election only infuriated the Russians and their allies further. At this point they are threatening to withhold their portion of the OSCE budget unless the whole institution is restructured, starting with its election monitoring division. The actual content of the US report does not appear to have mollified them.

The Russians want the OSCE to prune back its monitoring procedures, so that instead of taking stock of the target country's overall democratic health, as it has routinely done, it would merely measure voting procedures against a narrow technical checklist. The problem with such a list is that it would create boundless opportunities for loopholes and political sleight of hand--such skulduggery has been going on in the United States, for starters, for the past 200 years. Senior OSCE officials believe it would effectively gut their organization and the work they have done for the past fifteen years.

And so the debate rages on. The moral of the story is that meaningful electoral reform is not only a burning issue here in the United States. The democratic future of much of the world could depend on it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Chairman of voting reform panel resigns

By ERICA WERNER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- The first chairman of a federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough commitment to reform.

DeForest Soaries said in an interview Friday that his resignation would take effect next week.

Though Soaries, 53, said he wanted to spend more time with his family in New Jersey, he added that his decision was prompted in part by what he called a lack of support.

"All four of us had to work without staff, without offices, without resources. I don't think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government," he said.

Soaries, a Republican former New Jersey secretary of state, was the White House's pick to join the Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help states enact voting reforms.

A Baptist minister, Soaries was confirmed by the Senate in December 2003 and elected the independent agency's first chairman by his three fellow commissioners. His term as chairman ended in January 2005 and since then he has stayed on as a commission member.

Soaries and the other commissioners complained from the beginning that the group was underfunded and neglected by the lawmakers who created it.

"It's bad enough to be working under extremely adverse circumstances, but what throws your thinking into an abyss, as it were, is why you would be doing that when, for instance, you have to beg Congress for money as if the commission was your idea," Soaries said.

White House spokesman Allen Abney said only, "We appreciate his service and we are working to fill the vacancy promptly."

Envisioned as a clearinghouse for election information that would make recommendations about technology and other issues and distribute $2.3 billion to states for voting improvements, the commission initially couldn't afford its own office space. The commissioners were appointed nine months later than envisioned by the Help America Vote Act, and of a $10 million budget authorized for 2004, the panel received just $1.2 million.

Soaries said the commission could claim some credit for last November's relatively smooth election, including recommending "best practices" to voting administrators and getting the election reform money to states faster than it otherwise would have gone. The commission has sent about $1.8 billion to states so far.

But the commission has failed to preside over the kinds of sweeping reforms some hoped for, with many counties still relying in November on the same punch-card and lever machines derided after the 2000 election. Soaries said the commission is making progress with improvements, including technical guidelines and centralized voter registration lists, that are supposed to be in place for the 2006 election.

"There is so much more work to do to bring federal elections to the standard I think that the citizens expect, and there doesn't seem to be a corresponding sense of urgency among the policy-makers in Washington," Soaries said. "Nor does there seem to be a national consensus among leaders of the states about what success looks like."

Soaries said election reform was on the front burner after the 2000 presidential recount, but it moved to the back burner - and stayed there - after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat and a lead sponsor of the Help America Vote Act, said Soaries' resignation underscored a need to give the commission adequate resources.

"I hope this administration and Congress seriously consider Mr. Soaries' observations as we develop the fiscal year 2006 budget," Hoyer said.

The commission also has run into opposition from state officials accustomed to running their own elections and wary of federal involvement. Earlier this year, the National Association of Secretaries of State approved a resolution asking Congress to dissolve the Election Assistance Commission after 2006.

But Soaries said that despite his frustration and Congress' lack of engagement, he saw a lasting role for the Election Assistance Commission.

"Someone's got to wake up every morning with the mission of improving federal elections in a way that assures the voting public that they can have confidence in voting," he said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Baker-Carter Commission Cont'd

From Rep. John Conyers Blog:

Conyers Endorses Voting Recommendations of Election Reform Coalition
Led By Progressive Dems of America

I have been closely following the formation of the Baker-Carter election commission, with some concern. As readers of this blog know, I wrote to former President Jimmy Carter, about these concerns. I hope to have a meeting this week with the leadership of the Commission to discuss these concerns in more detail and ascertain whether there is any room to work together on this vital issue.

In the meantime, a group of organizations, many who helped to bring about the Ohio election challenge (and led by the Progressive Democrats of America), have issued their own challenge to the Commission. I wanted my blog readers to know that I issued the following statement today, which I think pretty much speaks for itself:

"I wholeheartedly support and endorse the recommendations of the Progressive Democrats of America election reform coalition, which includes Code PINK, Velvet Revolution, United Progressives for Democracy and Global Exchange. I have heard from thousands of progressive activists, along with traditional civil rights groups, who are very concerned about the direction of the Baker-Carter Commission. I have previously written to President Carter expressing my concerns about his co-chair, James Baker III, who for me -- and many, many other voters will forever be remembered for his role in disenfranchising Florida voters, particularly minority voters and the elderly, by stopping the counting of votes in the 2000 Presidential election. This weekend, additional information has come to light in the alternative media about other advisors to the Commission and the witnesses chosen for its first hearing. To many, the deck seems to be stacked against traditional civil rights concerns and voter verified paper ballots, and in favor of wealthy corporate voting machine companies and Right wing operatives who have advocated Jim Crow-style tactics, such as partisan challengers at the polls and new and needless voter ID requirements. An early signal of that this Commission's policy agenda would go a long way toward allaying the fears of many, fears that I share."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

National Conference on Election Reform Opens with Civil Rights Panel

by Abigail Thorton
April 13, 2005

Summary: On the evening of the opening of the National Conference on Election Reform, participants from twenty six states gathered in the sanctuary of the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee to listen to a civil rights panel, introduced by Bernard Ellis, conference organizer. Those present were former president of the NAACP Nashville, Reverend Sonnye Dixon, Dr Charles Kimbrough, and Michael Grant. Panelists discussed the struggle to obtain the right to vote during the civil rights era, the need to address the human needs of those most disempowered by the powers that be, and the need for election reform to preserve our democracy.

Bernard Ellis of the National Conference on Election Reform was the first to speak. This was the 25th gathering of his group, the Gathering to Save Our Democracy, since December 12th when they had their first protest regarding election fraud. Members of the Gathering to Save Our Democracy wear orange armbands to symbolize their solidarity with the Ukrainian people who struggled to guarantee free elections at about the same time that this movement was happening. Ellis talked about the historic struggle for civil rights in the South and the appropriateness of hosting the conference at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, which has been an important part of the struggle for civil rights in Nashville.

Dr Charles Kimbrough was the first to address the gathering. He said that it was amazing what a few concerned citizens can do. In his own words he said, "We shall overcome. We went to Selma in 1965 because people were being excluded because of their skin color. The same thing happened in Tennessee, where people were excluded and disenfranchised. Black people were determined to win the right to vote. We went to Macon County to help the disenfranchised people there when there was gerrymandering going on in their districts. It has been a long road."

In 1967 Dr Kimbrough went to Southeast Missouri to engage in the civil rights struggle there where people wanted to vote but did not have the leadership. Dr Kimbrough said that, "Those who do not wish to be disturbed by the truth need to know that we will be vigilant and we will see this struggle through."

The next speaker was the Reverend Sonnye Dixon of Hobson United Methodist Church and former president of the Nashville NAACP. Reverend Dixon focused on the importance of human dignity and the emptiness of a struggle if it does not address the human needs of those most disenfranchised by society.

"When I look back at the struggle I look back to the Black Church. I was too young to be active when the civil rights struggle was in its full but I remember James Lawson coming to our community. He said there were people ready to go be arrested in their efforts to struggle for civil rights in Nashville and he needed to find property owners who were willing to bail people out of jail. My father was a property owner and he felt he had a moral obligation to help in this struggle. This was a community effort and everyone had to make a sacrifice. My father agreed to help bail people out, putting up his property as collateral."

"What we need is a holistic approach to voting. It can't just be about voting, it must be about issues that give people a sense of value. The church did that and if we are going to sustain our movement we must do that also. If there is anyone in this struggle we have turned our backs on, it is young black men. We have forgotten about the human aspect of the struggle. In the meanwhile, the right wing political establishment has modeled their success on the historic black church. The republicans are taking it to the churches, but they do not empower these people as individuals but rather use them for their votes."

"If we want to win we must show up in people's lives. Successful campaigns happen when we value people and let them know they are part of the process. If we do not reach out to invidividuals and give them repsect and dignity we will not succeed. We need to move the disenfranchised and marginalized to the empowered and valued. This is about individuals being valued for who they are. Our agenda is about human dignity."

The final speaker of the opening plenary was Michael Grant. Mr Grant praised the visionary leadership of Bernard Ellis and praised Reverend Tex Thomas for hosting the conference at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church. Dr Grant opened his remarks by asking three questions about election reform.

"I want to begin by asking you three questions and these are the following: Why should we care? How much should we care? and How do we connect this issue with the historical precedent of civil rights?"

"We cannot afford to fail. People have to know their votes were counted. Nothing is more sacred than freedom and democracy. If you love what we are doing then I urge you to call every member of Congress and tell them that we will have a paper trail. We will have voting machines that give us a paper receipt and our votes can be verified. We must fight this fight until every vote is counted. We must insist on the highest standards of accuracy. Voters must be able to independently verify the process and there needs to be triple redundancy. There can be no way that someone can hack into a machine to steal our votes. "

"We the people must talk about why democracy is important. Democracy is about the will of the people. We must keep it this way and the only way is to reform our voting system. Our cause is something that can lift people up. The sovereign will of the people shall prevail."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

View from Another Planet

by Josh Mitteldorf
April 13, 2005

On the flight to Nashville this past weekend, I sat next to a man who asked what I was writing. Preparing a talk, I told him, for a conference of people sharing evidence that the 2004 presidential election was stolen. Without missing a beat, he asked ‘Isn’t that next door to the convention on UFO sightings?’

I wasn’t surprised. We’ve been painted as conspiracy theorists and worse by Democrats and Republicans alike, and even the liberal arm of the press has steered clear of this issue.

But when I arrived at the Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Nashville, my doubts about the election were reinforced by a community of sober professionals, none of whom seemed overtly loony.

I met David Griscom, a retired physics prof who had spent months with his colleague John Brakey poring over election tapes, signature rosters and “consecutive number registers” from Brakey’s Tucson, AZ home precinct. They audited and verified, one by one, the 895 votes in the precinct, and here’s what they discovered: 12 innocent, and unsuspecting voters had had their names duplicated on the roster and their votes for Bush counted twice. There were 22 ‘undervotes’ where the machine had failed to register a preference for president, and these had been dutifully and meticulously converted to 22 votes for Bush. The “Republican” and “Democratic” co-directors of the polling place were a local fundamentalist preacher and his wife. 39 of their parishioners from another precinct had cast provisional ballots, which had been (illegally) converted on the spot to regular ballots and passed through the vote counter, all 39 for Bush. The net result, Dr Griscom figured, was that Bush got 394 votes when he was entitled only to 336, a swing of 13%.

I met Judith Alter, another retired professor who discovered the software specification in a Diebold programming manual: When you press the “Straight Democratic” button, the machine should record votes for all Democrats except the president. The “Straight Republican” button should record votes for every Republican, including the president. This explained the mysterious pattern she’d noticed in Santa Fe, NM, where Kerry’s vote was lower than obscure local Democrats whose names appeared at the bottom of the ticket. Could this explain a similar pattern in Ohio, she wondered?

I heard Clint Curtis talk about working in 2001 as a programmer for Yang Enterprises in Florida. He was assigned, one day, to a meeting with State Senate Speaker Tom Feeney, who asked to have a program written into the software that controls voting machines so that the totals could be manipulated without leaving a trace. Curtis, the whistleblower, is now unemployed. Feeney, the politician, is now the U.S. Representative from Florida’s 24th Congressional district.

I was inspired to hear the travails of Ohio Attorney Cliff Arnebeck. After the Green Party raised $200,000 and obtained authorization for a recount in Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell staged a charade, in which every State rule about the conduct of the recount was thrown out, and two hand-picked precinct captains emerged from behind locked doors to report that yes, indeed the numbers were exactly right and all was hunky dory. Arnebeck was lead attorney in a lawsuit to expose this sham, and demand a real recount. The suit was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer, who ruled on the case despite the fact that his own re-election in 2004 was part of the challenge. Arnebeck has continued to pursue the case while he fights on the side for his legal life: State Attorney General Jim Petro has brought an action to discipline Arnebeck for bringing a frivolous lawsuit that wastes the precious time of the Ohio court.

I was in Nashville to present the work of Steve Freeman, a Penn professor who was the first to point out that we do have a way to pull these horror stories together, and to know how much effect all these little scandals have had in the aggregate. The National Exit Poll by the Edison/Mitofsky consortium interviewed 70,000 voters fresh from the voting booth on November 2, and asked for whom they had just cast their ballots. 51% of them said John Kerry, and 48% said George Bush.

Now it’s Monday morning. I’m safely returned from Planet Nashville, back home in the land of ABC-CBS-NBC-FOX-AP-UPI. I find it reassuring to remember that if any of this had really happened, the Democrats in Congress would be screaming about it. I’d read about it on the front page, and it would be all over the network news. Yes, I can be sure that Nashville was just a bad dream. The reality is that President Bush won the election, and it’s time to move on. Time to move on. It was all just a dream. Yes, it’s time to move on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Have We Learned ...?

Voting systems without voter-verified permanent paper ballots for official hand counts and recounts are unacceptable for use in polls because they are failure-prone and unable to offer accurate election results.

(PRWEB) April 11, 2005 -- The laws of physics themselves had been transcended, by the superhuman forces of UniLect, yet in quaint and sleepy Beaver County, Pennsylvania. For the first time in history, reports were made of an electronic processing system which was impervious to both electromagnetic and mechanical forces, not subject to the known vagaries of manufacturing and programming, and even immune to mismanagement and human error.

Never before had anyone managed to conceive, design, engineer, or manufacture such a computer system, yet this marvel was said to be present in all the Beaver County polls every election, in the form of the miraculous 'Patriot' paperless direct recording electronic voting system. Described as the world's only known paragon of printed-circuit-board perfection, in effect, and it was found in Beaver County, Pennsylvania of all places ...

For a not-particularly-prosperous, smaller, suburban and rural region, this was truly an amazing discovery. The scientific and technological worlds had experienced, somehow, an unprecedented and monumental upheaval, and it had occurred in relatively humble and obscure circumstances in a place where it would never be expected.

It turned out to be a total hoax.

The Commissioners and Director of Elections said they'd never had any problems. They said that even after they'd received numerous formal complaints, from candidates, from pollworkers, and from voters, for years. They knew they were using a faulty system.

It refused to accept touchscreen inputs, and changed the inputs, and refused to start, and gave the people that creepy feeling any other piece of mysterious technology gives them, especially when it wants them to trust it with the very currency of their democracy.

It didn't count their votes.

The officials said, at every turn, things which confirmed their ignorance, their willful deceit, and their intentions of thwarting valid elections. They'd been told that what they were doing was obvious to the public and, moreover, that it was wrong.

Finally, the state confirmed what the people had told them: the UniLect Patriot paperless voting system was throwing away the votes. There could be no excuse for using such a system. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decertified the UniLect Patriot voting system on April 7th, for which they earn the admiration of the people.

The officials would have to give up their wonder. They'd have to quit trying to blame the vote losses on the apathy of the voters.

Citizens had gone to court to try to stop the use of the fake voting system prior to the election last November, but a judge spewed misinformation because he hadn't learned that university studies had shown paper ballots to be more reliable than the secret electronic systems. The people were forced to give up their right to vote in that election.

Another nearby county had thrown away as many as 7 or 8 out of every 10 votes in one precinct, and the Director of Elections had been forced to resign after he finished trying to clean up the crime scene. 41 precincts there had serious losses of the votes. The same system had failed spectacularly, and it had failed to some degree everywhere it was used.

In another state the system had caused an election to fail, and when the people there told the vendor that it would cost them millions, he shrugged it off and rejected the notion of his own responsibility.

Local elected officials are responsible for the quality of their decisionmaking and for the costs to the public of their mistakes. In this case, the state is picking up the tab because they'd originally approved the system. The primary election only weeks ahead is a relatively light one without a long complicated ballot. It is a prime opportunity to do the right thing and do it well.

Instead, the Commissioners specifically stated that they were 'shocked' (despite years of very specific warnings). They're trying to claim it'd take half a million dollars to do twenty thousand dollars' worth of ballot printing. They're going to charge the state for all they possibly can, complaining rather than working for valid elections. They're refusing to hand-count the votes, and forcing their technological ineptitude and fraud on the people with yet another flawed tabulation method featuring unchecked computers.

They're also going to try to buy another flawed system.

Undervote rates per se are only one problem known to exist with paperless direct recording electronic voting systems, and these other problems must not be ignored.

The public must not tolerate a mere upgrade/switch to systems which merely hide the undervotes and other problems infesting this equipment.

Nonrecorded voting systems also tabulate thousands of nonexistent votes. They fail from mechanical glitches and electrical anomalies and user errors, among many other things. They fail undectably in many instances, with only the most extreme of the failures becoming apparent.

These cheat machines are more expensive to operate. They're not better for disabled voters. They're not required by HAVA.

They're not acceptable to the voting public.

Not in my America ...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Paper Makes a Comeback as Electronic Elections Spur Opposition

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Meet the next big thing in paperless voting: paper.

Voting-rights groups and computer scientists, concluding that a tangible record is essential to any electronic voting system, are persuading a growing number of U.S. lawmakers and election officials either to reject paperless voting machines or to require fitting them with costly add-on printers to help verify results.

Even Ohio, home to Diebold Inc., the world's leading maker of paperless machines, plans to spend $106 million in federal funds exclusively on optical-scan systems that require voters to mark their choice on a paper ballot.

After two tight presidential elections in a row, each producing complaints about voting machinery, proponents say a paper trail is the only way to convince voters that elections are safeguarded from technological defect or high-tech fraud.

``It's not sufficient for elections to be accurate,'' said David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of VerifiedVoting.org, which advocates paper-trail laws. ``People have to know they are accurate.''

So far, 12 states require a vote-by-vote paper trail, half of them as a result of laws passed in the last year. Similar bills are pending in about 20 other state legislatures, and five bills introduced in Congress would require paper trails in all states, according to electionline.org, a non-partisan Washington- based clearinghouse on election reform.

At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal, state and local purchases of new voting equipment. The purchases are being spurred by the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 in the wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election.

The Battle of Florida

Bush's 537-vote Florida victory that year over Democrat Al Gore, which gave him the presidency, came after protests and legal challenges over the design and counting of punch-card ballots. The election pointed up weaknesses in the nation's hodge- podge system of paper ballots, punch-card voting machines and other mechanisms for recording ballots.

Under the 2002 law, 30 states are sharing $300 million in federal aid to replace old punch-card and mechanical-lever machines in time for next year's congressional elections. An additional $1.7 billion has gone to all 50 states to meet other requirements, including one that each polling place have at least one machine that lets disabled voters cast ballots independently and privately.

Paperless machines -- known as direct recording electronic machines, or DREs -- capture votes electronically rather than relying on a paper ballot. Voters enter their selections by pressing buttons on or near an electronic screen. Their main competition is optical scanners: Voters make their selection on a paper ballot, which is then fed into a computerized reader. The paper ballot can be stored for use in a recount, if needed.

Complicating Efforts

The trend toward paper has complicated the work of some election officials. Counties that moved swiftly to embrace paperless machines now find themselves out of compliance with new state laws requiring paper trails. Two Ohio counties, for instance, are suing the state to defend their paperless machines.

Advocates for disabled voters also are unhappy, saying the emphasis on paper ballots undermines efforts to let people with visual, physical and other disabilities vote without assistance. Voters with disabilities now often need help from poll workers, so their choices aren't secret.

Jim Dickson, director of the Disability Vote Project at the Washington-based American Association of People with Disabilities, said only paperless touch-screen machines can fulfill the 2002 law's requirement that all voters be allowed to cast ballots ``in a private and independent manner.'' Allegations that electronic elections are especially prone to fraud constitute ``a Y2k scare all over again,'' Dickson said.

Optional Equipment

Responding to the increasing demand for paper trails, three leading manufacturers of DREs now offer printers as an optional add-on to new or existing machines. The printers create a running vote-by-vote record that the electronic tally can be checked against. Alfie Charles, vice president for business development at Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., said a printer attachment adds about $1,000 to the cost of his company's machines, which is typically $3,000 to $3,500.

While such printers ``are not an essential component of an accurate and reliable election, they do add value for voter confidence and an additional layer of security,'' Charles said. Sequoia, which was acquired March 9 by Smartmatic Corp. of Boca Raton, Florida, pioneered paper-trail-enabled touch-screen machines by providing 2,000 of them to Nevada under a $9 million contract awarded in 2003.

Computer Memory

A problem with electronic voting in Carteret County, North Carolina, last November lent momentum to those pushing a paper trail. A touch-screen machine ran out of computer memory before the polls closed, causing 4,438 votes to be lost.

Jack Gerbel, president of the company that made the machine, Unilect Corp. of Dublin, California, said a setting in its computer should have been adjusted more than three years earlier. It's unclear whether the county or the company was at fault, he said.

The Carteret glitch, though accidental, provided fuel for critics of electronic elections such as Avi Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

``If you don't have the paper trail, it's impossible to detect whether the machines are rigged,'' said Rubin, who is studying whether hackers might hide ``malicious code'' in machines to fix an election.

Security

Rubin co-wrote a 2003 report that questioned the security of computer code used by Diebold, the North Canton, Ohio, company that bills itself as ``the world leader in electronic voting equipment.''

Though Diebold contested the findings, a year later it agreed to pay California $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit charging that the company falsely claimed its machines weren't vulnerable to tampering.

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold, said the company never opposed adding paper-ballot verification to its touch-screen machines. ``The reason nobody provided it before was nobody thought of it before,'' he said. Paperless machines have been used in hundreds of elections ``and always performed well,'' he said.

Diebold drew criticism from Democrats during the most recent presidential campaign after its chief executive, Walden O'Dell, sent a fundraising letter in 2003 that said he was ``committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes'' to Bush. O'Dell later said he regretted that remark. Shares of Diebold, which is also the world's second-largest seller of automated teller machines, have risen 3.3 percent this year and gained $1.40 to $57.58 yesterday.

Speedier Tally

Hesitancy to go paperless is boosting optical-scan machines, which became widely used in the 1970s to speed ballot counting. Many states and counties ``are looking toward the optical scanners as a fallback,'' said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington consulting firm.

Dill said optical scanners are the best current option because they have a built-in paper trail, have been used and studied more than touch-screens and are cheaper.

In Ohio, where 71 of 88 counties use punch-card or mechanical lever machines, a 2003 state plan said officials would be allowed to buy either DREs or optical scanners.

Ohio's Orders

After state law mandated a paper trail, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said in January that counties may purchase only optical-scan machines made by Diebold or Election Systems & Software Inc. of Omaha, Nebraska.

Three Ohio counties went to court to challenge Blackwell's decision. Two of them, Franklin and Lake, already use paperless electronic machines.

In Georgia and Maryland, where officials made statewide purchases of Diebold touch-screen machines, critics continue to fight paperless voting. Bills to require a paper trail are pending in both state legislatures.

Cathy Cox, Georgia's secretary of state, has staunchly defended the state's decision. In a March 10 newspaper column, she wrote, ``Our touch-screen voting system is dramatically more accurate than the antiquated systems that preceded it.''

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gathering To Save Our Democracy

National Conference on the 2004 Election and the Need for Election Reform
Nashville, Tennessee, April 8-10, 2005

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE TODAY!
BACKGROUND

Since November 3, 2004, there has been a groundswell of concern, and a plethora of evidence, that the conduct of the 2004 Presidential election in the United States was highly problematic. These concerns have been belittled by many and ignored by the corporate media in this country. However, the weight of the evidence is overwhelming that a multi-faceted strategy of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement, potential manipulation of electronically cast votes in many states, and other instances of election fraud and theft improperly influenced the will of the American people and may have subverted the "consent of the governed". This evidence was sufficient to have stimulated the Government Accountability Office and U.S. Representative John Conyers and other national leaders to investigate the evidence of wrong-doing. This evidence also caused the U.S. Congress to suspend their routine business and to debate the merits of accepting Ohio's electoral votes on January 6, 2005, a historic occasion that highlighted the many problems in Ohio and also served to shed light on similar problems in other states. With this Congressional debate, the American people's responsibility to win back our democratic process was enumerated and enjoined.

To date, most of the discussion and information sharing on the problems with the 2004 election have occurred in the virtual world of the Internet. While there have been some local gatherings and regional and national protests focused on this issue, there has been no opportunity for concerned citizens, researchers, activists and elected officials to meet under one roof to review the wealth of evidence for the many threats to our democratic processes which the 2004 election revealed and to discuss the urgent need for election reform. While some panels on this topic have been added to several national meetings, these panels are not nearly sufficient to present all of the evidence for the 2004 election problems. It is also insufficient to fully inform the American people enough to motivate them to seek redress for the violations of our voting rights which occurred with this past election and to coalesce sentiment around an election reform agenda.

For these reasons, this three day Gathering To Save Our Democracy - A National Conference will provide the appropriate forum for expanding public awareness, for congregating the accumulated knowledge under one roof and for providing a platform for mobilizing support for election reform and justice.

Nashville, Tennessee is the setting of this conference. Nashville has a proud history of early successes in the 1960s civil rights movement, we are in a Southern and supposedly "red" state (we prefer to consider ourselves an Orange State, in deference to the Ukrainian example), we are centrally located within a day's drive of 60% of the U.S. population, we have an international airport serviced by a dozen major airlines, and we have several locations tentatively identified as appropriate and historic venues for hosting the conference. But most importantly, we have an energetic (and growing) band of citizen-activists for election reform in Tennessee who would insure the successful implementation of this conference.

This conference will be a comprehensive and historic event that will bring together the "major players" who have surfaced in the dialogue over the problems with the 2004 election and the need for election reform. We also anticipate that the conference will be a gathering place for the many concerned citizens throughout the nation and the world who are intent on preserving democracies. We hope that this conference will help break the media silence about the problems with the 2004 election within our country and provide a forum for increasing the world's attention to our threatened democratic principles. In addition, we will hold discussion sessions before and after the conference to exchange ideas and build coalitions to pursue the necessary elements of election reform and to redress our concerns with the 2004 election.

The conference registration fee is $30 (with exceptions for hardships), and will cover all conference-related activities. Please review the tentative conference agenda, current list of speakers and supporting organizations, complete the conference registration form and register using PayPal. Special hotel rates available. (People who cannot attend the conference but who would like to support the conference by making a donation can do so using PayPal also.) We will send you the final conference agenda and other details one week prior to the conference. Please contact Bernard Ellis, Jr., MA, MPH (931/682-2864; tracevu [at] bellsouth.net ) for more information on the conference.

Thank you for supporting the conference and for promoting the preservation of democracy in America.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Democrats, Paper ‘Trails’ Aren’t Good Enough

Count The Damn Ballots!
by Lynn Landes, Online Journal Contributing Writer
April 1, 2005

March 19, 2005—After the 2004 election I thought I would barf if I heard one more Democratic pundit or politician lament the lost election and blame it on the party's "message." As grassroots activists across the country reported thousands of election irregularities and voting machine "glitches" that overwhelmingly benefited Bush, the Democratic leadership seemed unusually willing to look the other way. John Kerry quickly conceded, former President Carter attended Bush's ignoble inauguration, and Bill Clinton now pals around with Bush the First.

Rank and file Democrats are tearing their hair out.

Now, in a gesture calculated to win back their base, but gain little else (in terms of voting security), both House and Senate Democrats have offered a flurry of bills (with many state legislatures following in hot pursuit) that require ballot printers for touchscreen voting machines.

Incredibly, none of these bills call for the ballots to be counted .. except in the extremely remote event of a recount.

It takes your breath away. The Dems know that two Republican-controlled companies (ES&S and Diebold) count 80 percent of all votes in America. Why do they still trust these companies and their lousy machines, particularly after the last two presidential was first introduced, machine malfunctions almost always benefit Republicans. Perhaps that’s why the Republican stranglehold over the political landscape has grown so tight. Otherwise, things don’t add up. One example, if Bush’s war on the world is so popular, why don’t lots of young Republicans sign up for the military? Haven't the Dems noticed that?

The proposed legislation, popularly known as "voter-verified paper audit trail", sounded all right when I first heard about it a few years ago. But, on closer inspection it became clear that it wasn't a good idea at all. Fundamentally, it allows "voter verification" and "audits" to replace our constitutional right to mark, cast, and count ballots. Under this legislation, machines and election officials continue to control theelections? In fact, since the 1960s when computerized voting technology process, while meaningful citizen participation and oversight is effectively destroyed.

Besides all that, don't Dems understand that malfunctioning machines make ballot printers irrelevant? What are they thinking?

In the real world, recounts are very rare. In general, they only get triggered if an election is "close." Many people think that if a candidate wins by a significant margin (as Bush appeared to do), then vote fraud or system failure is unlikely. I call it, "The myth of the margin of victory". There are four things to consider regarding recounts and margins of victory:

First, anyone contemplating vote fraud will certainly want to win by a significant margin in order to avoid triggering an automatic recount.

Second, two corporations are counting 80 percent of the votes. Millions of votes can be easily manipulated by a handful of company technicians. There will be little chance of detection. So, even a landslide election is not evidence that massive vote fraud or system failure did not occur.

Third, a significant margin of victory packs a powerful psychological punch against the opposing candidate. They will be unlikely to contest the election under these circumstances. Some observers contend that is exactly what happened to John Kerry in this past election. On the other hand, something was fishy when candidate Kerry said that he was going to make sure that "every vote will be counted" in the 2004 presidential election. Who was he kidding? He had to know that 99 percent of all votes are processed by machines, not people. Kerry sent thousands of attorneys and volunteers to the polls on Election Day 2004 in a futile attempt to monitor an unobservable vote count.

Fourth, although polling data can be used to raise red flags where election fraud may have occurred, polls can also be used to shape public opinion, create false expectations, and even support rigged election results. The relationship between the corporate news media and polling organizations is completely nontransparent. There is no reason to believe a thing these polls have to say. And there's plenty of reason to suspect the news media. This country's largest voting machine company, ES&S, is owned by one of their members, The Omaha World Herald.

But, none of this should be news to the Democrats. So, why aren't they demanding the obvious solution? Get rid of the machines. Or, at least don’t wait for a recount. Count the damn ballots the first time. Again, what are they thinking? Either the Democrats are unbelievably naive or they've been bought off.

The Democratic National Committee's (DNC) leadership on the issue of voting systems has been mind-bending. On Oct. 3, 2004, the DNC voted to endorse the policy of requiring paper ballots for touchscreen voting machines by the 2004 election. Then, on Nov. 22, the DNC approved the use of the most insecure voting system on the face of the planet for the 2004 Michigan Democratic primary—Internet voting. That was the second time. In the 2000 Arizona Democratic primary, the Internet was also used. Strangely, the Democrats tried to stonewall this journalist from finding out the name of the company that conducted the online Michigan primary. What did they have to hide? (See "Democrats Send Mixed Signals In Voting Technology Debate.")

There's more. John Fund, author of the book, Stealing Elections, writes, "Joe Andrew, chairman of the Democratic National Committee until 2001, is a senior adviser to a biotech firm that owned several Internet companies. He says the conspiracy theories aren't healthy and last month he told the Maryland Association of Election Officials that "When it comes to electronic voting, most liberals are just plain old-fashioned nuts.’

While conservatives were skilled at coordinating their messages, he added, ‘that does not mean there is a vast right-wing conspiracy trying to steal votes in America, as the loudest voices on the left are saying today’ . . . Mr. Andrew said the people obsessed about DRE manipulation are either computer experts with impressive technical knowledge but little practical experience with elections or left-leaning computer users who are conspiratorial by nature. He noted with regret that they have been joined in their hysteria by prominent Democrats who ‘are rallying behind the anti-DRE bandwagon in a big election year because they think that this movement is good for Democrats.’"

Mr. Andrew appears to be batting for the other side.

Will things change under Howard Dean's leadership? Maybe not. Back on Oct. 02, 2003, the Associated Press reported, "Eight of the presidential candidates have written national Democratic officials to support a challenge of Michigan Democrats' plan to allow Internet voting in its caucuses Feb. 7. Only Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, and Wesley Clark, the retired general who just joined the race, did not sign on to back the protest."

Perhaps, the Democrats need a crash course in Voting 101. There is an enormous difference between people marking, casting, and counting ballots and machines performing these same functions. People can be observed and machines can't. If poll watchers can't observe the process, then they'll have no real opportunity to discover if vote fraud or miscounts occur. It's that simple. But, it's a simple truth that seems to elude congressional Democrats.

In contrast, the Republicans have figured it out. An HBO documentary that aired on October 11, 2004, shows Congressman Pete King (R-NY) bragging about the upcoming election, "It's already over. The election's over. We won It's all over but the counting and we'll take care of the counting."

They sure did.

Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. Readers can find her articles at EcoTalk.org. Lynn is a former news reporter for DUTV and commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Contact info: lynnlandes@earthlink.net / (215) 629-3553.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Scientific Analysis Suggests Presidential Vote Counts May Have Been Altered

March 30, 2005

Study Will Be Released Tomorrow March 31st
Group of University Professors Urges Investigation of 2004 Election

Officially, President Bush won November's election by 2.5%, yet exit polls showed Kerry winning by 3%[1] <#_ftn1>. According to a report to be released March 31^st by a group of university statisticians, the odds of a discrepancy this large between the national exit poll and election results happening by accident are close to 1 in a million.

In other words, by random chance alone, it could not have happened. But it did.

Two alternatives remain. Either something was wrong with the exit polling, or something was wrong with the vote count.

Exit polls have a long history of exceptional accuracy in past decades in the US, in the Ukraine, in Latin America, in Germany, and elsewhere. Yet in November 2004, the discrepancy was more than five times this (and similar to that of the invalid Ukraine election.[2] <#_ftn2>)

In a recent survey of US members of the world's oldest and largest computer society, The Association for Computing Machinery, 95% opposed software driven un-auditable voting machines[3] <#_ftn3>, of the type that now count at least 30% of U.S. votes. The vast majority of today's electronic vote-counting machines are not built with basic safeguards that would prevent and detect machine or human caused errors, be they innocent or deliberate.[4] <#_ftn4>

The consortium that conducted the presidential exit polls, Edison/Mitofsky, issued a report in January suggesting that the discrepancy between election results and exit polls occurred because Bush voters were more reticent than Kerry voters in response to pollsters.

The authors of this scientific study of the National Election Data Archive Project, consider that scenario highly unlikely, based on extensive analysis of the election data presented in their report “Final Study of the 2004 Presidential Election Poll Discrepancies”. They conclude, /“The required pattern of exit poll participation by Kerry and Bush voters to satisfy the exit poll data defies empirical experience and common sense under any assumed scenario.”/

An executive summary of the report by Josh Mitteldorf of Temple University has been released today and is available at: http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/Exit_Polls_summary.pdf. The full 25 page scientific report will be released tomorrow. This group's preliminary study on the exit poll discrepancies was not refuted by any PhD statistician in America, and we expect our final study to be similarly received in the academic community.

Amidst the data, many extremely unlikely anomalies exist, invariably in President Bush’s favor. For one, a state-by-state analysis of the discrepancy between exit polls and official election results shows highly improbable skewing of the election results biased towards the president.

We have had election fraud in this country before. November's wildly inaccurate presidential exit polls should warrant concern of the highest order by every American citizen.

The report acknowledges that the possibility of fraud in our vote counting system is the most serious issue any democracy can face. If there is any chance that vote counts have been electronically manipulated, it is imperative that the people of the United States know the truth.

The report concludes, “/We believe that the absence of any statistically-plausible explanation for the discrepancy between Edison/Mitofsky’s exit poll data and the official presidential vote tally is an unanswered question of vital national importance that needs thorough investigation./”

US Count Votes is seeking financial support for its "National Election Data Archive" project in order to collect detailed election data and, prior to November 2006, to develop statistical methods to audit elections results data and provide statistical evidence of vote tabulation errors immediately following any US election.

*Contributors and Supporters of the Report include:*
*Josh Mitteldorf*, PhD - Temple University Statistics Department
*Steven F. Freeman*, PhD - Center for Organizational Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania
*Brian Joiner*, PhD - Prof. of Statistics (ret) University of Wisconsin
*Frank Stenger*, PhD - Professor, School of Computing, University of Utah
*Richard G. Sheehan*, PhD -Professor, Department of Finance, University of Notre Dame
*Paul F. Velleman*, PhD - Associate Prof., Department of Statistical Sciences, Cornell University
*Victoria Lovegren*, PhD - Department of Mathematics, Case Western Reserve University
*Campbell** B. Read*, PhD - Prof. Emeritus, Department of Statistical Science, Southern Methodist University
*Jonathan Simon*, J.D., National Ballot Integrity Project
*Ron Paul Baiman, *PhD* *– Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
*About US Count Votes*

US Count Votes is a Utah non-profit corporation. It is the sponsor of the National Election Data archive project and of research to scientifically analyze the accuracy of vote counting in the United States. Its goal is to provide nationwide, impartial statistical auditing services to help ensure the accuracy of future elections.