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How I Spent Election Day

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How I spent Election Day by Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, OpEdNews November 9, 2006 It's old news already, fit only for wrapping fish. But I need to tell my story. Then, I'll be able to move on. Please humor me. I took the day off. I knew that I would be spending a lot of time online posting articles and charting election reports and progress for OpEdNews I had a horrific nightmare the night before about getting to the polls and being told that I wasn't registered, rendering me one of the 'disappeared'. I was so unnerved, I couldn't go back to sleep. I was filled with dread about the election, anyway; this just pushed me over the edge. I delayed going to vote, fearing that my dream would come true. My dream and aborted sleep led to my writing an OpEd piece early in the morning. While I was putting the finishing touches on it, I got a call from Bob Wilson, an election judge in Evanston. He reported having no provisional ballot affidavits (form 501) as well as a shortage of the special pens with archival ink needed for paper ballots. His frustration trying to get through to the repair center (eighteen calls yielding busy signals and one ten minute hold to reach help) was a harbinger of things to come, locally and across the country. Official news sources stressed how smoothly everything went, but if you scratched beneath the surface, it was a different story entirely. BradBlog, Daily Voting News and OpEdNews carried regular updates. Everyone went ahead and voted here (Cook County, Illinois) on Sequoia machines very recently in the news. On November 2nd, less than a week before the elections, http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3714 it was revealed that the touch-screen version has a special button which can be used to flip to 'manual mode' allowing unlimited votes. When election officials were cornered on this subject, they assured voters that the machines would be closely monitored to catch any improper behavior. Where I voted, the machines were at least fifty feet from the poll workers' table. There's absolutely no way the machines could have been properly supervised unless the poll workers got up and looked over the voters' shoulders. They weren't doing that when I was there. So much for quality control. Anyone spot a potential problem here? On my way out, I got into a 'discussion' with a representative from the Democratic Party. I was already so overwrought by voting on these abominable, vote-eating machines, I'm afraid that I took it out on him. I asked what he and his party were doing about the electronic voting machines. He mouthed the usual platitudes: "people seem to like them", "we need to make sure that they're safe" - but it was quite clear that he was clueless. He hadn't watched the HBO special "Hacking Democracy" (shown November 2nd and all this month, as well) or any of the other documentaries on the subject. He wasn't aware of the recent exposé about the Sequoia machines in use a few feet away. It was a pretty sorry performance. In his favor, he did know that the Cook County online voter registration database had been hacked a few weeks ago. I gave him a copy of Invisible Ballots and my card and urged him to educate himself on the subject. I'm sure he was delighted when he saw the back of me. Hopefully, he didn't dump the DVD in the trash as soon as I was out of sight. I inhabited a news-free zone all day, preferring to listen to Julia Child and her latest cooking adventures. I went to a friend's house to play a long-ago scheduled game of Scrabble. At the time, I hadn't realized that it would be Election Day. We talked about politics a little, but in general, concentrated on our game. To help take my mind off the election, I had two games full of the most bizarre letter combinations ever. My first pick was: Z, U, U, I, N, L, D. It was downhill from there. Afterwards, I went to do a few errands. At People's Market, I struck up a conversation with the woman behind me in the checkout line. She was buying kale. When I was pregnant with my now teenaged son, I had persistent cravings for that leafy green. We moved from cooking methods to electronic voting machines, a natural segue for the likes of me. Finding a receptive audience, I gave her a little background on the latest Sequoia revelations. She was appropriately disturbed, so I followed up with a complimentary copy of Invisible Ballots. The cashier showed an interest so I gave him one, too. The day before, a cashier at Ulta had admired my "Prevent Unwanted Presidencies" button, so I went back out to my car and brought her a copy. Anyone else out there want one? Just drop me an email and I'll send you one, too. I'm on a roll. Then, I came home and went back into the study after dinner. My husband watched the returns in an adjacent room. I closed the door and asked him not to tell me anything unless it was good news. Pieces started falling into place for a blue victory. I was astounded. Please understand. I didn't think that people wanted more of the same. I was concerned about reports of continued vote suppression, voter intimidation, vote purges and voter ID requirements to control the vote. If I had a dartboard, my targets of choice would be Karl Rove and Ken Blackwell. I still can't get over how the Ohio Secretary of State prided himself on being 2004's Katherine Harris. How he did everything in his power to control and subvert the vote including posting wrong polling place information on his official website. How low can you go? Fitrakis and Wasserman write that since 2000, Blackwell has purged Ohio's voting rolls of more than 500,000 voters, 10% of the state total. http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2006/2195 That's half a million voters. How many races could that affect? The fact that he lost his race for governor, even with this huge, artificial 'advantage' filled me with great joy. He and Rove remind me of the villains in those horror films I watched as a youngster and which haunted me for weeks afterwards. The bad guy kept popping back up, long after the hero had assumed he was down for the count. I. Just. Don't. Trust. Them. The fact that Blackwell is black and has done everything in his power to disenfranchise his fellow blacks adds insult to injury. I found his defeat tremendously satisfying. Rove makes Machiavelli look like a pushover and nothing is beneath him. An old article, circa 2004, is being circulated again. It warns about how he reacts when he's in a tight situation. For someone for whom winning is everything... Well, let's just say that I'll sleep better once the new Congress is in session with Nancy Pelosi and her Senate counterpart at its helm. Soon, it became clear that control of the Senate was going to depend on Montana and Virginia. I get the inside story from my friend Steve, who's been working hard for Tester. He called me at 11pm to tell me that the campaign was confident of victory. When I got up in the morning and nothing was official yet, I was glad that I hadn't begun celebrating. Steve called back in the early afternoon to say that the only votes outstanding were from Silver Bow, a union town, which their polls had indicated going 70/30 for Tester. Even in the case of a recount, the fact that Montana votes on paper and has legislation demanding manual recounts was reassuring. Contrast this, if you will, with Virginia, where electronic voting machines reign. How do you conduct a recount on a machine that gives you no paper record? It will just repeat the same thing 100 times, which may or may not be the accurate count. These machines are so easily hacked, it's ridiculous. http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ See for yourself a hack recently performed by a team from Princeton. Add to this the reports of tens of thousands of voters improperly purged from Virginia's voting rolls, and the sliver of a lead took on added significance. What if 'they' had netted enough purged voters to vaporize that slim lead, leaving the Senate and our country's fate looking quite a bit different? That's simply too much responsibility to lay at the door of too fallible a system and one more argument for transparent, verifiable elections. The similarities and differences between Montana and Virginia reinforced two notions that I have regarding voting. First of all, that we must do everything we can to make voting as accessible as possible for legal voters. Isn't that our goal? Don't we want as many people to vote as possible? Then, why do we make it so difficult? All the hoopla regarding voter fraud has proved to be a great rationale for restrictive voter ID provisions popping up all over the place. The EAC commissioned and then suppressed a report on that topic when the results did not come out as hoped. The report stated that voter fraud- improper voting by illegal aliens or others not entitled to vote is not a substantial problem. So, why would we need voter IDs? The restrictions end up unduly affecting the poor, the rural, the elderly and minority voters. A leak brought the report to the public's attention (or that part of the public that frequents the alternate press). The second point is that we have absolutely no reason to trust electronic voting machines. They conduct the voting and the counting in secret, using a process that cannot be observed or verified by the voter. That spells danger, whatever your political persuasion. Especially when there have been so many reports about the extreme ease with which they can be hacked and manipulated. Why ever should we put our democracy in the hands of these machines? It defies logic. Don't get me wrong. I am very happy that the House and the Senate turned blue this election. I happen to think that much of it was a direct repudiation of the Bush administration and the culture of corruption that has infected everything in Washington. The scandals have continued nonstop. Even the partisan press couldn't put a good spin on them. Democrats benefited simply from being nonRepublicans. My family and friends keep asking me if I'm pleased. The short answer is "Yes, I am". Much of the credit goes to the unstinting efforts of the election integrity community. I am happy to have been a part of that. We refused to let the subject die despite all efforts to marginalize and discount us. We have kept attention on the machines and the many methods of voter disenfranchisement that have poisoned our elections. I fear that this victory will allow people to fall back into complacency. The Christian Science Monitor claims "Exit polls suggest that 88 percent of Americans felt confident in their voting device Tuesday". http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1110/p03s03-ussc.html That is exactly what I'm talking about. There is so much to be done to bring about the kind of reform that will assure fair elections and the counting of every vote. 2008 is not that far off. As Jonathan Simon writes: "We've all made sacrifices and worked very hard. The warm bath beckons and we've surely earned it. But make it a very short one." I wanted to end this piece right there. But I couldn't. In between editing, I read this article "New Def. Sec. Gates Was Director Of Voting Company" by Bev Harris. click here She writes:
"Gates was on the board of directors of VoteHere, a strange little company that was the biggest elections industry lobbyist for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). VoteHere spent more money than ES&S, Diebold, and Sequoia combined to help ram HAVA through. And HAVA, of course, was a bill sponsored by convicted Abramoff pal Bob Ney and K-street lobbyist buddy Steny Hoyer. HAVA put electronic voting on steroids. "VoteHere never sold any voting machines that I can find, but apparently did set up some deals to embed its cryptography into some voting systems."
Let's take a moment and connect the dots... CIA...board of directors of electronic voting machine company ....Didn't sell their machines to American municipalities but spent enormous sums of money to get HAVA passed... cut deals to embed their cryptography in some systems... Hmm...You don't have to be a nutcase to think this doesn't sound quite kosher. Bev concludes: "I don't know about you, but I'd rather use a paper, pencil, and count by hand at the polling place than have former CIA director Robert Gates fooling around with my vote. But that's just me. " I'm with you, Bev.
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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