Exclusive Interview with EI Advocates Sally Castleman and Emily Levy
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have with me Sally Castleman of Election Defense Alliance and Emily
Levy of Velvet Revolution, two veterans of the Election Integrity
movement. Welcome to OpEdNews, Emily and Sally.
In November 2008,
Proposition 8 was a hot issue in the State of California. The
proposition actually stripped existing marriage equality rights. There
were strong feelings on both sides; between supporters and opponents,
over $80 million was raised. The proposition was passed and the state
constitution was amended. Almost immediately after the election,
questions were raised about the validity of the election results.
Recently, a study on Proposition 8 was released. What does the study
The study shows that at ten polling places in Los Angeles County where
the exit polls were performed (that covered 19 precincts) the official
election results appear to have been corrupted. The study doesn't prove that
the results were wrong. Neither can whether any incorrect vote counts
were the result of error or fraud. But the results of the study
indicate that an investigation is warranted.
Fortunately, because California does have paper ballots and those
ballots by law must still exist, an investigation is possible. In
states where touch screen voting machines are used, a problem like this
could not be evaluated effectively. In this case, if the chain of
custody of the ballots and other evidence has been maintained, a
meaningful investigation should be possible and should be initiated
immediately by the Secretary of State's office. We've launched a new
website, www.WasProp8Straight.org, where readers can write email to Secretary Bowen and take other actions.
What are the implications of the study for Proposition 8? For future elections?
Proposition 8 is not going to be overturned as a result of this study
or even of an investigation but both can shed a lot of light on how our
elections are run.
Sally: Once again, the implication is that we
cannot know at the end of an election counted by electronic
software-based equipment whether the results are true and correct. I
say "once again" because many many studies and analyses have indicated
such discrepancies in some controversial races. Even more striking is
that that the disparities always come out in one direction.
results, before adjusting to conform to the announced results (as the
Edison-Mitofsky polls have done in recent years), the results of every
poll have differed from the offical results in the same direction: the
official results report more votes for the more conservative candidate
or the more conservative initiative/proposition question. This is not
implication for future elections is that our elections are at great
risk. Too many studies of too many kinds are showing the
vulnerabilities of electronic vote-counting. Computer scientists are
proving how easy it is and how many ways there are to change election
results without leaving a trace. Social scientists are showing that
exit polls indicate suspicious disparities. Poll workers are talking
about machine technicians coming in during elections and swapping out
memory cards. Voters are talking about optical scan machines jamming
and their not knowing if their ballots were ever fed into the machine.
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The bottom line implication is that our democracy itself is at great
risk. If we cannot know our votes are being counted as cast, if our
votes are counted by private companies with clear self-avowed political
intentions, if we know the equipment counting our votes is easily
corruptible, if we are aware that the candidates truly elected may not
be the declared winners, how can we think we have much of a democracy
There's a general impression among the public that
exit polls aren't particularly accurate, especially with controversial
issues, because people are hesitant to give answers that might make
them look like bigots. Why should this particular poll be believed?
In this poll, voters filled in their own questionnaires privately and
confidentially, and put them in the questionnaire box themselves. This
means that their answers were anonymous. They were not answering
questions asked by an individual with whom they might have felt
embarrassed to say how they really voted.
As to why should "this particular poll be believed," this poll should
not be believed on its own, even though the findings are strong. It
should be taken in the context in which it was meant -- as one tool,
one of the few ways there are to validate votes counted without public
oversight. Because we are not allowed to see or examine the ballots or
the computer logs or many other of the election documents that
rightfully belong to the public, we are left with inexact methods. The
poll clearly shows that further investigation is indicated.
You say the results of the poll don't match the official results. Why is it the poll , and not the official results, that should be believed?
Sally: Just the fact that we cannot know
the answer to this question is the problem. Why should those of us
living in a democracy not be able to know whether our election results
are accurate? And why should we not be able to validate by seeing the
ballots on election night, before they leave the public view? We know
that after they leave the public sight they are vulnerable to
The question really isn't which results to believe; the
question is why should there be any question at all? As long as our
votes are counted inside a black box by unreliable, corruptible,
software-driven computers that are vulnerable to malfunction and
malfeasance, and as long as we cannot count the votes by hand to
validate them on election night before they leave public view,
we will not know if the official results are correct.
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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...)