Voting Machines


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Voting Machines - How E-Voting Threatens Democracy "It was a basic error that students in Cryptography 101 learn never to make: Diebold's programmers had written the key for unscrambling the system's encryption directly into the code. This meant the key would never change, and anyone reading the source code (including anyone who downloaded it from the FTP site) would know it. The same key unlocked the data on every machine. It was the equivalent of a bank assigning the same PIN to every customer's ATM card. "Oh man, we thought, this is horrible," said Kohno. "We realized that the system was written by novices and we weren't really surprised then by anything else we found."


"Last year, in a local election in Boone County, IN, an electronic system recorded 144,000 votes in a jurisdiction with 19,000 registered voters" (Washington Spectator, April 15, 2004: p. 1).

"Fortune magazine recently called paperless electronic voting the "worst technology" of 2003" (Washington Spectator, April 15, 2004: p. 4).

"Among the loudest critics of voting machine company misconduct is Bev Harris, who runs Black Box Voting, an activist group that has raised many troubling questions about Diebold Election Systems, an industry leader and the well-paid supplier of the "AcuVote" electronic machines used in 37 states.

"Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell, is such a big-time Republican fund-raiser in Ohio that he has been invited to the Bush ranch in Crawford TX, for thanks. He sent fund-raising letter to other fat cats saying that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president" -- meaning Bush" (Washington Spectator, April 15, 2004: p. 2).

"Too often, at the state and local levels, the business of [choosing and purchasing] voting equipment has been conducted behind closed doors and with limited competition. This is the public's business, not a private negotiation" (Washington Spectator, April 15, 2004: p. 3).


""Every vote counts," they'll cry!

"Unless, of course, it doesn't.

"Many of our votes this year will be cast and tallied on corporate-controlled, electronic voting machines that keep no trackable record of our ballots. These computers can easily malfunction or be manipulated...

"..a New York Times investigation finds that gamblers are more protected than voters. For example, the software to all gambling machines is on file with the state and the machines are regularly spot-checked by public officials... Also, if a company wants to sell a gambling device, it must submit to a criminal background check and register its employees...

"Then there's the conflict-of-interest issue. The technical labs that certify gambling devices -- duh! -- must be independent of the makers of those machines. For voting machines, however, the certifying labs are chosen and paid for by the manufacturers!...

"The League of Women Voters has now joined the rebellion against virtual voting... voted overwhelmingly to rescind their leaders' earlier endorsement of paperless voting machines" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, eds. The hightower Lowdown, July 2004: 1-2).

Verified Voting.org "We advocate the use of voter-verified paper ballots (VVPBs) for all elections"


"...the most popular e-voting systems present serious security issues. Meetings where these systems are certified are typically superficial, vendor-friendly, and closed to the public. To learn more and take action, see Texas Safe Voting(Adina Levin. "Saving Cyberliberties." Dispatch ACLU Texas, Spring 2004: 5).


"...a special advisory group to the SOS [Secretary of State] met secretly to test the reliability of several controversial touch-screen voting systems. The SOS found no problem with a committee whose mission is to ensure open and free elections metting behind closed doors, walled away from the public.

"Two of the systems currently under examination are attracting controversy. Both are products of companies with close ties to the Republican Party (Diebold and Electronic Systems & Software), and several studies have documented glaring security flaws in both systems...

"...the election panel meets the definition of a government advisory group, which, under Texas law, can't meet in secret...

"The event's host, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, boasts that it provides the "intellectual ammunition" for the Republican revolution underway" ("Democracy Behind Doors." Texas Observer, 2/13/04: 12-13).


"COMPUTERS CRASH -- The fight for voters' rights has become more than a racial minority issue with the spread of doubts about electronic voting machines of questionable reliability.

"Now California has made sweeping decisions to ban more than 14,000 "AccuVote" polling place computers made by Diebold, Inc., the most challenged manufacturer of electronic voting machines, and to put 28,000 other touch-screen devices on hold until they are improved.

"Kevin Shelley, California's secretary of state, also recommended that the state government consider civil and even criminal charges against Diebold for what he called its "fraudulent actions" and "deceitful behavior"...

"In Maryland, a reform group called Campaign for Verifiable Voting has sued the state board of elections, demanding that it block the use of 16,000 touch-screen machines until paper print-out verification devices are installed. They show voters at a glance how they have voted, allowing them to try again if the printed tally is wrong" ("The Fifty Years Since the Supreme Court Ordered School Integration Have Not Solved an American Quandery." Washington Spectator, May 15, 2004: 3).


"...in a couple of recent, high-profile tests, the computers glitched and the makers of the machines had virtual egg all over their faces. First up was Sequoia Voting Systems, which boasts that its machines deliver "nothing less than 100 percent accuracy," held a demonstration of its newest technology for California senate staffers in August.

"Imagine Sequoia's 100 percent embarrassment when its machine balked during demonstration votes on a Spanish-language ballot. The testers punched in thier votes on the touch screen... but -- oops -- the machine did not record the votes, apparently having lost them somehwere in cyberspace.

"Luckily, this was a test of Sequoia's new system that includes a paper record of every vote -- and the paper trail revealed the computer's error, which otherwise would have been undetected, disenfranchising the voter.

"The lesson is obvious: These machines must have a paper backup" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. The Hightower Lowdown, Sep. 2004: 1-4).


"The evidence is overwhelming that we should have no faith at all in these paperless machines. In recent elections in California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, and elsewhere, electronic voting systems have broken down during balloting, malfunctioned as they tallied votes, miscounted tens of thousands of ballots, disenfranchised voters by deleting their ballots, transferred votes from one candidate to another...

"...machines provided by Diebold Inc. borke down by the hundreds, so thousands of voters were turned away. A subsequent investigation found that Diebold had installed illegal software in its machines and then lied about it to state election officials. The California Secretary of State termed the corporation's performance "despicable," banned Diebold from four counties, and called for fraud charges against it" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. The Hightower Lowdown, Sep. 2004: 1-4).


"Meanwhile, back in Florida, distrust of paperless voting is so rampant that even Jeb's own Republican Party -- much to his embarrassment -- advised its members to "make sure your vote counts" by casting absentee votes on paper ballots, thereby bypassing the untrustworthy machines" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. The Hightower Lowdown, Sep. 2004: 1-4).


"...the honchos of Diebold, whose electronic voting machines made a mess of [California's] primary elections last March. Just one of many glitches: Thousands in San Diego couldn't vote because Diebold machines malfunctioned.

"A panel of California experts found that this company -- the second largest purveyor of touch-screen voting machines in the country -- had violated state law by installing untested and uncertified software in its machines...then lied about it. "Their performance, their behavior, is despicable," Shelley said" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. The Hightower Lowdown, May 2004: 1-2).


"...these commons--in which we all make tax investments... have come to include our police and fire services; our military and defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.

"But the most important of all the commons... is our government itself. It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected representatives), answerable to us, and most directly responsible for stewardship of our commons.

"And the common through which we regulate the commons of our government is our vote...

"...Sen. Chuck Hagel... in Nebraska... the head of the voting machine company (now ES&S)... Hagel's Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election... Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on unauditable machines he had just sold the state. And in all probability, Hagel will run for president in 2008"

"Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly owned by Saudi investors?

"When I lived in Germany, they took the vote the same way most of the world does -- people fill in hand-marked ballots, which are hand-counted by civil servants...

"We could have saved billions that have instead been handed over to ES&S, Diebold, and other private corporations.

"Or, if we must have machines, let's have them owned by local governments, maintained and programmed by civil servants answerable to We The People, using open-source code and disconnected from modems, that produce a voter-verified printed ballot, with all results published on a precinct-by-precinct basis" (Thom Hartmann. "The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy." Progressive Populist, Dec. 1, 2004: 10).


"Faced with massive public concern and bad performances in recent elections, the electronic voting industry opted for a PR blitz instead of addressing its problems...

"Last week it was reported that nearly all of Miami-Dade County's records of votes cast on electronic voting machines in the 2002 gubernatorial primary were lost... Florida's Republican Party was warning voters, "Electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot.... Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today."...

"Actually, the Florida 2000 debacle was due, in part, to an e-voting glitch. In a Florida precinct where just over 400 people voted, machines registered 2,813 votes for Bush and negative 16,022 votes for Gore...' (Diane Farsetta, http://www.alternet.org/, 8/2/04)


"Last month, as more voting machine glitches turned up in a special election in Florida, and earlier mistakes that were discovered elsewhere last year remained uninvestigated, former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and former Republican Secretary of State James Baker announced the formation of a bipartisan non-governmental commission to scan the whole federal election system. They will hold public hearings on the electoral debacles we have gone through and will report to Congress by September. It's about time" (Ben A. Franklin, ed. Washington Spectator, April 15, 2005).


"One touch-screen machine received good coverage, though, when The New York Times reported that it produced about 4,000 votes for Bush in a suburban Columbus precinct with just 800 registered voters...

"...a California nonprofits, examine[d] the performance of Diebold's new touch-screen printers during voting. They monitored 467 of the 5,407 touch-screen machines used in the primary. About 10 percent of vote printouts were "either destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together, or otherwise compromised," the rport said. They found that 74 percent of the polling places had at least one discrepancy between a machine's printout and the electronic memory card. Voters in Franklin County witnessed printer errors and other computer malfunctions, and report seeing their screens switch votes from one candidate to another.

"Pennsylvania, one of fifteen states that don't have paper trail laws, also has problems. A paperless Unilect Patriot system failed to count 10,000 votes in three counties during the 2004 Presidential election. Programming errors on the Danaher Corporation's ELECTronic 1242 touch-screen machines resulted in the disappearance of votes in four precincts in Berks County last year... Voter Action, a nonprofit that opposes the use of touch-screen machines.

"Voter advocacy groups in other touch-screen states have been assembling glitch lists, but many election officials don't have a clue about the extent of the problems.

""The states and counties aren't tracking this," said Holly Jacobson, co-founder of Voter Action...

"Only a couple of states have avoided the touch-screen morass. New Hampshire, thanks to a 1994 law still on the books, permits voting only on paper ballots. Vermont passed a similar law in 2004.

"Several states have pulled the plug on touch-screen voting, or are in the process of doing so... Minnesota... New Mexico... Michigan...

""It's not a party issue, it's people wanting their democracy back issue"...

"...Diebold voting machine gives Gore a negative 16,000 votes in a precinct with 585 registered voters" (Kirk Nielsen. "Worse than Hanging Chads." The Progressive, Nov. 2006: 26-29).


Colby Glass, MLIS