Silkwood Redux? Electronic Voting Whistle-Blower Killed in "Accident "
by Bob Fitrakis
subject line on yesterday's email read: "Another mysterious accident
solves a Bush problem. Athan Gibbs dead, Diebold lives." The attached
news story (http://www.tennessean.com/obits/archives/04/03/48330576.shtml)
briefly described the untimely Friday, March 12th death of perhaps
America's most influential advocate of a verified voting paper trail
in the era of touch screen computer voting. Gibbs, an accountant
for more than 30 years and the inventor of the TruVote system, died
when his vehicle collided with an 18-wheeled truck which rolled his
Chevy Blazer several times and forced it over the highway retaining
wall where it came to rest on its roof.
Coincidence theorists will simply dismiss the death of Gibbs as a
tragic accident - the same conclusion these coincidence theorists
came to when anti-nuclear activist Karen Silkwood died in November
1974 when her car struck a concrete embankment en route to a meeting
with New York Times reporter David Burnham. Prominent independent
investigators concluded that Silkwood's car was hit from behind
and forced off the road. Silkwood was reportedly carrying documents
that would expose illegal activities at the Kerr-McGee nuclear
fuel plant. The FBI report found that she fell asleep at the wheel
after overdosing on Quaaludes and that there never were any such
files. A journalist secretly employed by the FBI, and a veteran
of the Bureau's COINTELPRO operation against political activists,
provided testimony for the FBI report.
Gibbs' death bears heightened scrutiny because of the way he lived
his life after the 2000 Florida election debacle. I interviewed
Athan Gibbs in January of this year. "I've been an accountant,
an auditor, for more than thirty years. Electronic voting machines
that don't supply a paper trail go against every principle of
accounting and auditing that's being taught in American business
schools," he insisted.
"These machines are set up to provide paper trails. No business
in America would buy a machine that didn't provide a paper trail
to audit and verify its transaction. Now, they want the people
to purchase machines that you can't audit? It's absurd."
Gibbs was in Columbus, Ohio proudly displaying his TruVote
machine that offered a "VVPAT, that's a voter verified paper
audit trail" he noted.
Gibbs also suggested that I look into the "people behind the
other machines." He offered that "Diebold and ES& S are real
interesting and all Republicans. If you're an investigative
reporter go ahead and investigate. You'll find some interesting
Gibbs' TruVote machine is a marvel. After voters touch the screen,
a paper ballot prints out under plexiglass and once the voter compares
it to his actual vote and approves it, the ballot drops into a lockbox
and is issued a numbered receipt. The voter's receipt allows the track
his particular vote to make sure that it was transferred from the
polling place to the election tabulation center.
My encounter with Gibbs led to a cover story in the Columbus Free
Press March-April issue, entitled, "Diebold, electronic voting and
the vast right-wing conspiracy." The thesis I advanced in the Free
Press article (http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2004/834)
is that some of the same right-wing individuals who backed the
CIA's covert actions and overthrowing of democratic
elections in the Third World in the 1980s are now involved in
privatized touch screen voting. Additionally I co-wrote an article
with Harvey Wasserman that was posted at MotherJones.com on
March 5, 2004. Both articles outlined ties between far right
elements of the Republican Party and Diebold and ES&S, which
count the majority of the nation's electronic votes.
As I wrote in the Free Press article, "Proponents of a paper
trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and CEO of
TruVote International, demonstrated a voting machine at a vendor's
fair in Columbus that provides two separate voting receipts."
In an interview on WVKO radio, Gibbs calmly and methodically
explained the dangers of "black box" touch screen voting.
"It absolutely makes no sense to buy electronic voting machines
that can't produce a paper trail. Inevitably, computers mess up.
How are you going to have a recount, or correct malfunctions
without a paper trail?
Now, the man asking the obvious question, and demonstrating
an obvious tangible solution is dead in another tragic accident,
a week after both articles were in circulation. When I called
TruVote International to verify Gibbs' death, I reached Chief
Financial Officer Adrenne Brandon who assured me "We're going
on in his memory. We're going to make this happen." Every American
concerned with democracy should pledge to make this happen.
To beat back the rush for state governments to purchase privatized,
partisan and unreliable electronic voting machines without verified
Gibbs' last words to me were "How do explain what happened to
Senator Max Cleland in Georgia. How do you explain that?
The Maryland study and the Johns Hopkins scientists have
warned us against 'blind faith voting.' These systems can
be hacked into. They found patches in Georgia and the people
servicing the machine had entered the machines during the
voting process. How can we the people accept this?
No more blind faith voting."
Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Senior Editor of The Free Press
(http://freepress.org), a political science professor,
and author of numerous articles and books.
© 1970-2004 The Columbus Free Press
Published on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 by the Free Press / Columbus, Ohio