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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/26/10

NYTimes comes out against ES&S

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Message Mark Crispin Miller
Here's a sign that the NYTimes is waking up to the grave danger of computerized voting, although they have a ways to go.
The problem isn't any lack of "robust competition." How could it be? First of all, there really never was much "competition" in the e-vote/e-vote-counting business--and there really wasn't any when, essentially, Diebold and ES&S divided up the territory, since those two juggernauts were Siamese twins. They were originally one company, founded by the Christinist brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich (who still wield corporate power today).
Moreover--and more important--elections are a vital civic exercise, not an economic matter that requires a market-based solution. We rule ourselves (or ought to) as voters, not consumers. The problem with ES&S, therefore, is surely not that that colossus hogs "the market," although it is indeed grotesque, and dangerous, to have one private company run our national elections.
The problem, rather, is that America's elections have been privatized, whether it's one company or four, or six, that runs the show--and, indeed, "a show" is all it is, because that company, and all its peers, deploy a wholly non-transparent, easily manipulated electronic system, which makes it quite impossible for anyone to tell if the results of our elections are legitimate or not. (Those companies, moreover, are not honest brokers but intensely partisan concerns, owned and managed by right-wing Republicans.)
What we need, then, isn't "robust competition" in the field of electronic voting and vote-counting. What we need is to BAN SUCH VOTING NATIONWIDE, IN FAVOR OF A NATIONAL RETURN TO PAPER BALLOTS, WHICH MUST BE HAND-COUNTED. We also need to BAN PRIVATE COMPANIES FROM ALL PARTICIPATION IN OUR VOTING PROCESS.
I hope I've made myself clear. The time, in short, has come to repeal the disastrous (and frighteningly misnamed) Help America Vote ACT (HAVA), and start anew.
Tell the Times, in 150 words or less:
The Voters Will Pay
It was bad news for the voting public when Election Systems and Software, the nation's largest voting machine company, announced last fall that it was acquiring the elections division of Diebold, the nation's second-largest voting machine company.
The combination could mean that nearly 70 percent of the nation's precincts would use machines made by a single company. If the deal is allowed to go through, it would make it harder for jurisdictions to bargain effectively on price and quality. The Justice Department should reject it as a violation of antitrust rules that is clearly not in the public's interest.
The 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida, with its hanging chads and uncounted votes, highlighted the deep flaws in voting machine technology - and in the industry. That was in no small part because of a lack of robust competition. If the Diebold acquisition goes forward, competition would all but disappear.
Numerous studies have shown that electronic voting machines are particularly vulnerable to software glitches, intentional vote theft or sabotage. Having such a large percentage of the nation's votes counted on machines made and serviced by a single company increases the vulnerability of the system.
A group of election administrators, fair-voting advocates and computer experts wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. recently to warn of the dangers if the deal closes. They warned that Election Systems and Software already has a bad record on open competition, including contract clauses that prevent jurisdictions that buy their machines from hiring other vendors to service them.
If the deal nevertheless goes forward, the department should insist on strong protections to minimize the potential for damage. The combined company should be prohibited from using contracts that interfere with competition and required to use hardware and software that are interoperable with products from other companies.
The Justice Department also should require the company to continue efforts Diebold was reportedly taking to make its systems more transparent by, among other things, making some or all of its software code public.
The Justice Department has considerable antitrust authority. It needs to use it to ensure that an industry the public rightly mistrusts does not get any worse.
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Mark Crispin Miller Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Mark's new book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, a collection 14 essays on Bush/Cheney's election fraud since (and including) 2000, is just out, from Ig Publishing. He is also the author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform, which is now out in paperback (more...)
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