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Brad Friedman Shines Spotlight on CA Bill to End Federal Testing of E-Voting Systems

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JB: My guest today is Brad Friedman of The BRAD BLOG. Welcome to OpEdNews, Brad. You wrote a piece recently about some bad-news legislation: CA Legislature Approves Dangerous Bill to End All Federal Testing of State E-Voting Systems and a follow up to it: CA State Senator Still Misleading About Election Bill That Ends Federal Testing of E-Vote Systems .  

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JB: Republicans are notorious for trying to disenfranchise voters, mostly voters who tend to vote against their candidates. But in this case, as you point out, the ill-conceived legislation has Democratic backing, and is, in fact, Democrat-sponsored.  What's that all about?  Have public officials learned nothing since 2004?

Whyever would anyone favor a system that is not extensively tested? Has everyone forgotten all the terrible problems we've suffered nationwide, not to mention the basic unsustainability of a system that can't be verified altogether? I'm flabbergasted!

BF: That's a very nice way to put it. Yes, it seems they have learned next to nothing.

When it comes to voting, the parties are most interested, in general, in what is going to get them the most votes. I hate to be so direct about it, but I've found that to be the case. Yes, there are Democrats who really do want to make sure everyone can vote, simply because it's the right and Constitutional thing to do. But there are many who appreciate the fact that more voters generally means more elected Democrats. In a state like California, that is certainly true. So, anything that is perceived as making it easier for voters to vote is, as many Dems see it, a good thing. Never mind whether a voting system may be secure or not, or if the results recorded can actually be overseen by the citizenry. If it will increase turnout, they're for it!

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That's why you see so many Dems supporting the horrific idea of Internet voting, a disaster in waiting that the world's top computer science and security experts -- many of them Dems themselves -- continue to beg Democrats not to implement. Yet, Dems keep on trying to do so out here in California. Even the otherwise very smart and very progressive Gavin Newsom, for example, has come out in favor of the insane idea of 100% unverifiable Internet voting.

In Los Angeles County, where Democrats are in charge of the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation, they are four-square behind the L.A. County Clerk's plan to implement a new, 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting system here. They think it'll make voting easier (history tells us it won't, but that's a separate issue), so they're in favor!

Now, to be fair, in states and counties where Republicans think they will benefit from things like Internet voting, they have been pushing it there as well. For instance, Internet voting programs have been encouraged by federal law for overseas and military voters. Republicans think they get more military votes than Democrats, so getting them to call for Internet Voting for those folks was pretty easy.

It's also helpful that you mention 2004 here. That year helps underscore the serious concerns about SB 360, the terrible law that just passed in the CA legislature and is waiting for signature (or hopefully VETO!) from Gov. Jerry Brown.  Aside from ending all federal testing for voting systems in CA, SB 360 also has a provision that allows the Secretary of State to approve new e-voting systems for use in "a legally binding election", even if it has not been certified, or potentially tested at all, at either the state or federal level.  Support of the bill, passed on partisan lines, with little debate, seems to suggest that Democrats feel safe that they will control the Sec. of State's office forever and that whoever is in it will be someone trustworthy. But, as I wrote last week on that point:

Some might ask, particularly Democrats, who seem confident that the outgoing term-limited Democratic Sec. of State Debra Bowen is likely to be replaced in 2014 by another Democrat: "What's the big concern? No Secretary of State would approve an untested voting system for use in an actual election!"

Those Democrats need only look a few years back to when Democratic Sec. of State Kevin Shelley was forced out of office mid-term in 2005. Shelley had previously decertified Diebold's touch-screen voting systems in California, after it was discovered the company had lied to the state about using uncertified and unsafe components. The Republican governor at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had, himself, replaced Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in an unprecedented recall election held on many of those same machines) subsequently appointed a Republican, Bruce McPherson, to take the place of the Democrat Shelley as Secretary of State.

After a series of independent tests in other states discovered massive security issues with the same family of Diebold systems that Shelley had decertified, and after McPherson's own state testers subsequently both confirmed those security flaws and found 16 other bugs they described as "a more dangerous family of vulnerabilities" which "go well beyond" what was discovered elsewhere, Schwarzenegger's hand-picked Sec. of State McPherson went ahead and recertified the Diebold touch-screen systems for use anyway in 2006. He ignored the dire warnings from his own security and testing team. Later, after Democratic Sec. of State Debra Bowen was elected and her landmark "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all CA e-voting systems discovered even more enormous security flaws in those very same systems in 2007, the same touch-screen systems were decertified by the state once again.

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It is for a good reason that state law, until SB 360, made it impossible for a single person to approve electronic voting systems for use in actual elections without independent testing by a federal body. There was a well-considered reason that California had some of the most stringent rules requiring systems to be federally certified before they could even be considered for use in a state election. Those reasons, it seems, are apparently of little concern to the current crop of Democratic elected officials in the state legislature. SB 360 passed both chambers on strict party lines (with one exception) on Friday and will become state law on January 1, 2014, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

JB: What are the chances of Gov. Brown 'getting' the issue enough to veto this bill?

BF: The chances are slim that he'll veto it, unless there is a loud public outcry. Reason: It's a Democratic-sponsored bill, passed along party lines (with one exception, a Republican who voted for it) and it's supported by both outgoing Democratic SoS Debra Bowen and a number of the larger election integrity and voting rights group (mistakenly, in my opinion).

On the other hand, some who watch Brown in Sacramento closely say he can be reached with an appeal to logic and reason. The fact that this terrible bill (SB 360) will do away with all federal testing of voting systems used in CA, and even allow a Sec. of State to approve new e-voting systems for use in real elections with NO certification testing at all, even by state testers, is just madness. I hope that Governor Brown takes a look at that point.

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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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