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Kudos to the makers of "Hacking Democracy"

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Message Susan Pynchon
Russ Michaels just called me from NYC to let me know that "Sex Slaves" beat out "Hacking Democracy" at the Emmy Awards ceremony held last evening in New York City.

"Hacking Democracy" was a tremendous triumph by Directors Russ Michaels and Simon Ardizzone, the British filmmakers who created a disturbing and revelatory film about Diebold and the hackability of its voting systems. Working with almost no funding, their first feature-length documentary went on to be nominated for the Emmy award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism -- an amazing accomplishment in itself!

Russ and Simon, along with Bev Harris, deserve our thanks for this documentary and for their vision in creating it. Ion Sancho, Dr. Hugh Thompson, and Harri Hursti deserve our thanks for their courage in helping to expose Diebold and the vulnerabilities of its voting system.

With no assurance that her efforts would be successful, Bev spent tens of thousands of dollars flying Harri Hursti back and forth from Finland and paying him for the time he spent to analyze GEMS and Diebold memory cards. Bev provided source documents for Harri, and Bev and Kathleen Wynne worked hundreds of hours with Harri to reveal the secrets of the Diebold system.

Once Harri proved that a Diebold memory card could be used to hack a voting system, Russ and Bev planned Bev's confrontation of Diebold at a public hearing to catch Diebold's lie on film. Then, the famous Hursti Hack proved the truth to the nation.

It was Russ who understood that capturing the hack on film would be a powerful event. It was he who found Ion Sancho, and it was he who brought together Bev, Harri and Ion to do the final hack of Leon County's Diebold optical scan voting system on December 13, 2005.

Not everyone is aware that Dr. Hugh Thompson was the first computer expert to agree to hack a "real" voting system in the field. He performed the first two hacks in Leon County and proved that GEMS could be altered. He was present at all four hacks in Leon County on February 14, May 2, May 26 and December 13, 2005. He also deserves our thanks for his courage in pursuing the truth. Harri Hursti was at 3 of the 4 hacks, and it was he who first altered the results tape. Ion Sancho, another heroic figure, was willing to risk his job and displayed great courage and determination in standing up to Diebold and the Florida Department of state in order to understand the vulnerabilities of the voting system used in his county.

Trying to make people understand the dangers of electronic voting is something that some of us have spent years trying to accomplish. This documentary has the power to change people's minds in just 82 minutes. A technical subject that could have caused people's eyes to glaze over is, instead, a gripping and powerful commentary on why electronic voting is a danger to our democracy and to our nation.

Far from making a profit on this film, Russ and Simon are still paying off debts incurred to create it. They're feeling a little deflated today, since being nominated is never quite the same as winning. Being nominated for an Emmy is a tremendous honor, however, and even more so in light of the fact that this was their first full-length documentary. The fact that this film has been recognized at the Emmy level has increased the credibility of the voting activist community -- it is a win for this issue and all of us too.

I hope you will join me in thanking Russ, Simon, and Bev for their efforts and vision in creating this outstanding film. You can contact Russ and Simon at Bev, of course, is on this listserv, but her email address is

There were some who tried to destroy "Hacking Democracy," but it was saved at the last minute by Executive Producers Sarah Teale and Sian Edwards of Teale-Edwards Productions, who recognized the importance of the film and who deserve our appreciation for their perseverance and efforts in getting "Hacking Democracy" to HBO. (This is another fascinating story which will someday be revealed).

Best regards,
Susan Pynchon
Florida Fair Elections Center and Coalition

"If they can get you asking the wrong question, they don't have to worry about the answers" -- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
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Susan Pynchon is the founder and Executive Director of Florida Fair Elections Coalition and its research counterpart Florida Fair Elections Center.
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