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"IT" Happens: HAVA, Exit Polls, Diebold & More

By Mary Howe Kiraly  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 5 pages)   No comments
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VOTING SECURITY: Where We Stand in 2006
Mary Howe Kiraly

Following the debacle of election 2000, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2001. This legislation included funding to states to upgrade their voting systems. One of the few mandates, under this act, was for states to provide voting access for the disabled. While the law did not mandate that states purchase DREs (Direct Recording Electronic voting machines), touchscreen systems did meet the provision for access for the disabled. DREs came to be seen as the "latest in voting technology."

I. HAVA: The Problem
From "How They Could Steal the Election This Time" by RONNIE DUGGER
[from the August 16, 2004 issue, The Nation Magazine]

HAVA was supposed to solve election problems revealed in 2000; instead,
it has made the situation worse. Under the act the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), appointed by President Bush, is supposed to set standards for the vote-counting process, but four months before the election the new agency had only seven full-time staff members. On June 17 the EAC sent $861 million to twenty-five states, mainly
to buy computerized machines for which no new technical standards have been set.

A. For an overview of electronic voting:
American University: Building Confidence in U.S. Elections

Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections from Voters Unite

B. Almost immediately, questions were raised about the verifiability of DREs. Diebold, for instance, is primarily a manufacturer of ATMs. However, in developing their election division, they designed machines that made no provision for producing a paper record of the voter's ballot. 2002 was the first year Diebold voting systems were used in elections- and the need for verifying election results immediately became apparent

Georgia and Maryland were among the first states to use DREs extensively. In Georgia in 2002, Senator Max Cleland (D) was defeated for reelection in an upset victory by his Republican challenger. In 2002, in Maryland, Diebold AccuVote TS was used in 4 counties. In Allegany County, which used Diebold, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Delegates, Casper Taylor (D), was defeated by a little known Republican challenger, by a margin of slightly more than 140 votes. That year, Robert Erlich became the first Republican governor in Maryland in a generation.

Stunning upsets do occur in politics. With DREs, however, the lack of a paper record of voters' ballots, has resulted in continuing controversy over whether these paperless touchscreen systems actually recorded and counted voters' intentions correctly.

In the Florida primary in 2002, there were a series of glitches and problems, with new voting systems, that would portent the problems in the 2004 presidential election:

When the 2004 Presidential campaign began, activists were raising alarm over the extent to which electronic voting would be used to record American's ballots. Democratic candidate John Kerry was often asked, during the primary, how he planned to address concerns about a fair and accurate vote. He replied that if he succeeded in gaining his Party's nomination for President, he would make it his first priority to address concerns about the voting process. There is no evidence that John Kerry did address this concern.

II. November 2, 2004 Presidential Election

This from Thom Hartmann at Common Dreams, Jan. 31, 2003
...Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls
happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled,
modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

A. On the day of the election, November 2, 2004, Mitofsky-Edison conducted the official exit polling for the consortium of major news organizations. That exit polling predicted that KERRY WOULD WIN by 3%. The actual outcome was the near inverse of this prediction: Bush "won" by 2.5%. This discrepancy was far outside the margin of error and remains unexplained. It is a continuing controversy. M-E refuses to release their raw data for independent analysis. Yet exit polling remains the international "gold standard" for determining the validity of election outcomes.

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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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