Calling out the left-wing media denialists who refuse to acknowledge the potential for electronic vote rigging - dismissing it as "conspiracy theory."
TO LEFT-WING JOURNALISTS: YES, IT CAN HAPPEN HERE
This article responds to the damaging attempts by left-wing journalists to deny the possibility of right-wing electronic vote tampering - or any e-vote tampering - particularly in the 2012 election.
In the past week, Chuck Todd at MSNBC News has Tweeted that concerns about electronic voting machines are "conspiracy theory that belong in the same category as the Trump birther garbage."
ThinkProgress, the left-wing advocacy and news site, posted an article with the same blanket "conspiracy theory" dismissal.
And finally, Steven Rosenfeld wrote a similar opinion piece - posted by Alternet (as "news" no less) and then picked up by Salon and Snopes - to further "debunk" concerns about stolen elections.
What are these journalists railing against? A flood of recent stories warning of the potential for massive computerized election fraud in the 2012 elections.
In particular, the breaking news of the Romney family's financial ties to voting machine company Hart Intercivic, exposed by the FreePress.org, is so alarming that it's been picked up by many online news sources, and even Forbes Magazine.
My 7000 word cover story in this month's Harper's Magazine, "How to Rig an Election" exposes the fundamental security flaws in our current voting system, including the right-wing partisan ownership of major voting machine companies. I also discuss many suspicious "surprise upset" elections that have helped tipped the balance of power in America toward the far-right. The piece has been positively reviewed in The Atlantic, Esquire, the Daily Kos and elsewhere.
Radio interview requests are coming to me now from Canada to New Zealand. Why? Because the results of American elections, particularly in 2012, have life-or-death global implications, from war in the Middle East, to climate change negotiations. The whole world is watching with great concern, even as international election observers are being blocked from entering polls in Ohio and other states.
Meanwhile, Brad Friedman at the Brad Blog.org continues his 24/7 exposure of not just the insidious threat of computerized election fraud, but the GOP's ongoing attempts to disenfranchise millions of "likely Democratic voters" through voter suppression, polling place Photo ID restrictions, voter roll purges, and other dirty tricks.
Combined with electronic control of the vote count, this kind of coordinated assault worked brilliantly on behalf of the George W. Bush campaign in Ohio in 2004 (as I described in Harper's), and could work this time for Mitt Romney, or any other Republican favored candidate and ballot issue. Hart Intercivic tabulates votes in key counties in Ohio, as well as some 12 other states.
This is why exposure of these activities and conflicts of interests is vital right now to dissuade criminal activity on November 6th by shining a long overdue spotlight into the darkness of our now-privatized voting system. We might very well prevent massive fraud in this election, while drafting more American voters into the non-partisan election integrity movement where they can take action.
That our privately-controlled electronic voting machines are prone to constant malfunction, and vulnerable to insider rigging and outsider hacking, is a national crisis, and no longer open to debate. The evidence is overwhelming and comes from a mountain of independent voter reports, academic and technical studies, government studies, whistleblower affidavits, ongoing lawsuits, and arrests and convictions of election officials - some who were sentenced last year to 156 years in federal prison for gaming elections, in part by secretly manipulating computerized voting machines!
Yet, despite this deluge of evidence, the most aggressive critics of election integrity investigators are not found in the right-wing corporate press, as you might expect. Instead, for many years, our enemies have lunged from the shadows of left-wing flagships.
Clearly nothing is different in this election cycle, when the stakes for American progressives could not be higher.
As NYU Media Professor Mark Crispin Miller eloquently states, "There is no more exquisite method of silencing dissent, or shutting down inconvenient inquiry, than to charge someone with conspiracy theory."
That's why it's time to call out these left-wing denialists who seem intent on running interference for right-wing controlled voting machine companies at the expense of American voters, and democracy itself.
ROSENFELD: WHERE ARE THE FACTS?
I must take particular issue with Steven Rosenfeld's Alternet piece, which goes whole hog, smearing the election integrity movement as a whole, my article in Harper's in particular, Harper's itself, the Free Press, the New York Times, Truthout, The BRAD BLOG, and Forbes Magazine - tarring us all with the same brush as the hysterical "lefty press." (Forbes is lefty? Who knew?).
Rosenfeld's headline boldly declares that he will state "5 Reasons Why Karl Rove Is NOT Going to Electronically Steal this Election."
Great news! Except that there are no reasons listed. It turns out Rosenfeld has no idea whether Rove, or any other inside operative might creatively tinker with our secretly-programmed voting systems. Yet, he tells the American people to "stop worrying" and ignore the bad people who are just trying to "scare" them. What hubris!
Rosenfeld's other 100% fact-free opinions include the following:
* Romney's financial connections to Hart Intercivic are "hands-off" (he has no idea whether they are or not, and offers no proof either way.)
* Concerns of electronic rigging are "far-fetched" (no, they are proven.)
* Any major discrepancies between electronic vote results and polling results will immediately spur thorough audits of paper ballots. (This has never happened in the past. The polls have been "corrected" instead.)
* Taking a post-election vote-rigging lawsuit to the courts is acceptable recourse for candidates who suspect fraud. (Sure, for those who have the money to afford it, and can endure the "conspiracy theorist" slings and arrows sure to come during the nightmare of legal stonewalling)
Rosenfeld's beliefs are heartening, though sadly generated entirely from some democratic wonderland in his head. Here are some actual facts about our less pleasant reality:
* There is no way for public, pre-election "logic and accuracy" tests to detect internal malicious coding (rigging), or prevent outside hacking.
* Discrepancies in the vote count and polling data do not automatically generate audits of the machine count.
* In many places there are no paper ballots to audit at all.
* Where there are ballots, state laws vary as to whether an audit it even possible (in Florida, for example, audits are possible only after the results are certified, rendering them functionally useless.)
* Where there are ballots, they may sit for weeks before an audit, vulnerable to tampering. (As Rosenfeld knows, since he once offered excellent work in Ohio on the 2004 election, where two officials were sentenced to the maximum in prison for rigging a partial recount in Ohio's largest county, and where 56 of 88 counties destroyed some or all of their ballots in defiance of a federal court order.)
* State election rules prevent any meaningful recourse for voters who fear their votes were lost or stolen.
* The corporate entities who enjoy legal protection for their voting systems proprietary hardware receive great preference in courts, usually keeping an independent investigation of the vote counting system off limits to litigants.
* Legal action means years in the courts, and then no guarantee of a non-partisan judgment.
Case in point: how well did that post-election audit work out for Al Gore?
Meanwhile, what if candidates refuse to take action and fight for a recount, as John Kerry did in 2004? These decisions are made for internal political reasons far more than any objective sense of justice or duty to voters.
Rosenfeld also offered this remarkable description of my Harper's article:
Will millions of votes disappear on paperless machines? That's the thesis of Harper's November cover story. It posits that voting machines that rely on computer touch screens and memory cards in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Virginia might massively fail- losing big blocks of votes.
I can only assure readers that this is not - in that place called Reality - remotely the actual thesis of my article. (I think it would have been nice of Rosenfeld to at least read it before he dismissed it as faulty).
Some days ago I found myself on a nationally syndicated radio show, NPR's To the Point with Rosenfeld as a fellow guest. He continued voicing what seems to be his driving complaint: "There are other more serious problems to worry about in our voting system."
Let's be clear. No one in the election integrity community, has ever claimed that computerized vote rigging is the only threat to our elections. But to claim e-vote rigging is not a threat? The only way you can do that is to willfully ignore the rumbling, fire-spitting Vesuvius (or is it more like Mordor's Mount Doom?) of evidence that has been building up over the past few decades.
Brad Friedman's independent BradBlog.com alone has ten year's worth of archived reports on election fraud; I plowed through them for 6 months while researching my article for Harper's. We're talking literally thousands of election-fraud related documents and links, plus the stories, films and books produced by Black Box Voting, Votescam.org, the Free Press, OpedNews.com, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast (who is offering his latest NYT best-selling book, "Billionaires and Ballot Bandits" for free through election day), Richard Charnin (his new book on implausible polling discrepancies "Matrix of Deceit"), the Election Defense Alliance (their new book is "Code Red: Computerized Elections and the New American Century"), The Center for Hand Counted Paper Ballots (Dr. Sheila Parks' new book is "While We Still Have Time: The Perils of Electronic Voting and Democracy's Solution") and many more investigators and civic groups.
I have a data hub on my website for researchers interested in this issue, and I'm happy to help people navigate the waters: http://www.votescam.org/the_evidence
Citing a few cherry-picked reports, Rosenfeld writes:
Finally, consider this counterpoint at CountingVotes.org. This summer, three respected voting rights organizations, Common Cause, the Verified Voting Foundation and Rutgers University School of Law/Newark issued a report grading states on their readiness for the 2012 election. It's notable that Ohio was among the six states earning its top rating. Florida was in the second-best tier.
This "go back to sleep, children" might comfort the uninitiated, but it doesn't begin to pass the smell test for veteran election integrity advocates in these trenches for decades.
The truth is that we've never had a shortage of academics who publicly support (often served with a big dollop of "expert" condescension) the continued use of concealed electronic ballot counting, with minimal safeguards, like 3% random "spot-checks" (when we're lucky) and the useless Touchscreen paper "receipts" that have proven insufficient to truly protect our votes.
On the radio, Rosenfeld specifically mentioned academics as the elite class voters should rely upon to determine what is appropriate for our voting system.
I couldn't disagree more.
Keep in mind that there are also plenty of "expert academics" who will publicly deny that climate change is real. In my Harper's article, I also cite numerous academics - those who have proven the extreme vulnerability of our voting machines, including reports from Princeton, Yale, the Brennan Center for Justice, Johns Hopkins, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Argonne National Laboratory, among many others.
But I believe that what really matters is not what any academics or "experts" say - what matters is whether voters know that their voice is being heard, and their ballots are being counted, and counted accurately. The only way that can happen is if we end concealed electronic ballot counting - not by blithely assuring voters there's nothing to worry about. We are not children, and the facts clearly state otherwise.
Elections should not be "faith based," and whether our votes are counted is not a matter of opinion.
And on that note I'm going to end with Brad Friedman's brilliant smack-down and call-out of Chuck Todd at MSNBC . You know, "Mr. Conspiracy Theory Garbage"?
Read the following list (which is just a drop in the e-vote-fraud bucket) and decide for yourself whether American voters have anything to worry about.
BRAD FRIEDMAN CALLS CHUCK TODD TO THE MAT!
To misinform your 272,035 Twitter followers, not to mention your millions of viewers on television, that concerns about oft-failed, easily-manipulated electronic voting and tabulation systems are little more than "conspiracies' which "belong in the same category as the Trump birther garbage' is an extraordinary disservice to your readers, your viewers and the U.S. electorate as a whole.
They deserve a much better understanding of our electoral system from someone such as yourself, who is relied upon by so many as an expert in these matters.
Again, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns with you on your Daily Rundown show on MSNBC any time. If, in fact, you are correct, that these concerns are little more than 'conspiracy garbage', you will do the electorate a great service by having me on, and putting me in my place once and for all by explaining why."
[Friedman requests that Todd answer the following questions]
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when paper ballot optical-scan tabulators made by Sequoia Voting Systems in Palm Beach County declared incorrect results of three different races last March , including declaring two losing candidates to be the "winners"?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when the Canadian firm, Dominion Voting, which now owns Sequoia Voting Systems admitted the failure in Palm Beach was caused by a bug in all versions of its central tabulation software which will be used to tabulate the Presidential Election (and many others) on November 6th this year in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when, despite using Dominion/Sequoia's recommended "fix", the same problem occurred yet again in Palm Beach County's August primary elections, as their Supervisor of Elections recently explained to me on air ?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when 16,632 votes were found unaccounted for when those same machines were first used in Palm Beach County back in 2008?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when eight (8) top election officials --- including the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge and the School Superintendent --- in Clay County, KY were sentenced last year to 156 years in federal prison for gaming elections, including changing the votes of voters on ES&S electronic touch-screen voting machines?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when the President of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (by then renamed Premier Election Systems, which is now owned by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting) admitted in 2008 that the company's GEMS central tabulation software, used in some 34 states, does not tabulate votes correctly and routinely drops thousands of them when they are uploaded to the central server?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when Diebold/Premier's spokesman admitted to the CA Secretary of State during a 2009 hearing that the supposedly permanent "audit logs" in all versions of its GEMS central tabulation system fail to record the deletion of ballots , after it was discovered that their electronic tabulator had failed to tabulate hundreds of paper ballots in a Humboldt County election (or to even notify system administrators that it had deleted those ballots )?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when the CA Sec. of State decertified federally-certified electronic voting and tabulation systems made by Diebold, Sequoia and Hart Intercivic in 2007 after a state-commissioned team of computer science and security experts from the University of California, Livermore National Laboratories and elsewhere "demonstrated that the physical and technological security mechanisms" for all of the state's electronic voting systems (also used across the rest of the country) "were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the elections results and of the systems that provide those results" and that their "independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested "?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when the 2007 landmark study commissioned by OH's then Democratic Sec. of State, found "Ohio's electronic voting systems have 'critical security failures' which could impact the integrity of elections in the Buckeye State" and when she (unsuccessfully) recommended, along with the then Republican Speaker of the Senate, who is now the state's Republican Sec. of State, that all touch-screen systems in the state be decertified due to concerns of, as she told The BRAD BLOG , "viruses that can be inserted into [Ohio's e-voting and tabulation] system through something as simple as a PDA [Personal Digital Assistant] and a magnet and then the cards are passed from machine to machine almost like Typhoid Mary" so that "If there is malicious software, like a virus put into the system, it can not only affect the machines at the polling places, it can affect the tabulation that occurs at the server and it can also affect future elections if it's not detected"?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when the New York Daily News discovered in 2012 that hundreds of paper ballots at just one precinct in the Bronx went uncounted in 2010 during the September primary (failure rate of 70%) and the November general election (failure rate of 54%) on their brand new ES&S DS200 paper ballot optical-scanners, which are also used in OH, AZ, MI and elsewhere?
" Was it 'conspiracy' garbage when the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released a warning in 2011 from a "Formal Investigation Report" that those same systems failed to count paper ballots correctly , on the heels of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH's previous finding that 10% of those machines failed during pre-election testing in 2010 ?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when Oakland County, MI wrote a letter of concern to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), seeking advice in 2008 after finding their ES&S M-100 optical scanners "yielded different results each time" the "same ballots were run through the same machines" during pre-election testing?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when Princeton University discovered in 2006 that they could, in seconds time, implant a virus onto Diebold touch-screen systems used in dozens of states which could then spread itself from machine to machine and result in an entire county's election being flipped with little chance of detection ?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when a computer security expert hacked a memory card on a Diebold paper ballot optical-scan system and flipped the results of a mock election (see the hack and its results as captured in HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy here ) in such a way that only a hand-count of the paper ballots in the election could reveal the true results?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when a CIA cybersecurity expert testified to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission(EAC) in 2009 that e-voting was not secure, "that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results" and that "wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to...make bad things happen"?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' that the Vulnerability Assessment Team (which also monitors nuclear facilities) at Argonne National Laboratory (the non-profit research lab operated by the University of Chicago for the Dept. of Energy) released a report earlier this year finding that Diebold's touch-screen systems and, according to the team's lead scientist, "pretty much every electronic voting machine", can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education , or just $26 if you want to do it remotely?
" Was it 'conspiracy garbage' when, in Volusia County, FL's 2000 Presidential Election a paper-based optical-scan tabulator made by Global Elections Management Systems (GEMS, thereafter purchased by Diebold to become Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) talliednegative 16,022 votes for Al Gore thanks to a supposed "software flaw" which has never been explained by anyone, and which Leon County (Tallahassee), FL's Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho --- the man, so well respected by both major parties, that he was placed in charge of the aborted 2000 Presidential Election recount in Florida --- believes was a purposeful hack of the electronic tabulation system which is now used in hundreds of counties in dozens of states?
So what do you think, readers? Do you think we have something to worry about? Or should we all "trust the machines" and get back to our shopping?
Join the discussion on Facebook at the best online organizing hub for election integrity: Occupy Rigged Elections.
Despite the name, it's actually non-partisan, totally focused, and a great place to educate yourself and others.
Steven Rosenfeld and Chuck Todd, we hope to see you there.
I am the Editor of www.votescam.org, home of Votescam: The Stealing of America, the book that chronicles my family's investigation -- beginning in 1970 -- into how elections are stolen in America.