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Remember the Pinto or Why Isn't the Performance of Our Voting Machines as Important as the Performance of Our Blenders

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When it was discovered that the Pinto had a serious design flaw, seriousness enough to cause death by immolation, apparently Ford permitted those defective cars to stay on the road. Future cars could be redesigned, but as to the existing cars, well the money just didn't justify it. Ford had calculated that the cost to redesign and repair existing cars was greater than the cost of paying off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths and accordingly decided not to recall the cars. Another way of looking at the decision exposed by the infamous Ford Pinto Memo that revealed Ford's logic might be described as gross disregard for human lives in favor of profits.

Applying that same value-based logic to the threatened democracy of the United States, a committee of the HAVA-created Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has determined that although touch screen voting machines (DREs) "are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure"1 (translate: will continue to put candidates into office in disregard of the votes of the American citizens) Americans will nonetheless be required to continue voting on them!

The committee, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), is an advisory group to the EAC. The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in order to give the White House centralized control over the counting of the people's election.2 The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a respected government research center, is a technical advisor to the TGDC.

The NIST report confirmed what many voting activists, silenced by a self-imposed corporate media black, have been saying for years: "the DRE provides no independent capability to detect whether fraud has not caused errors in the records. In principle, a single clever, dishonest programmer in a voting machine company could rig an entire statewide election" and the NIST research staff "do not know how to write testable requirements to satisfy that the software in a DRE is correct. 3 And yet the TGDC committee resolved only that the "next generation" of voting machines would be better.4

Why would this government committee decide to damn the millions of citizens whose counties/states already own these worthless, corruptible voting machines? The answer is reminiscent of the one Ford Pinto immorally came to. If finding these machines as worthless as the NIST report revealed them to be meant burdening the local governments, who were already duped or forced into buying these lemons, then the committee would just deny the evidence before it.5

OK- let's distill:

The Bush Administration loses the 2000 election, but gets the Supreme Court to prevent a recount. The evidence, largely buried or deliberately blurred by corporate media confirms Bush's loss.6 Appreciating the 'hidden' value of the 'benefits' of electronic voting, Bush and Company shove HAVA through Congress (much the same way the war in Iraq was shoved through). Lobbyists for the e-voting vendor criminals 7 as well as other trustworthy types like Bob Ney 8 write the HAVA legislation, requiring states and counties to replace their voting systems with electronic machines.

Massive sums of money are handed out to state officials to be divvied up among the few republican vendors who sell these machines (reminiscent of the old plantation company stores, our tax dollars went from the our government into the pockets of the crooks from whom we were forced to buy these lemons).

Your blender would have been recalled if it performed as poorly as these machines that were entrusted with the responsibility for accurately reflecting the will of the people. Apparently public confidence in the performance of its blenders rates higher than the acknowledged "diminished public confidence in elections" 9.

Having literally rushed to give away billions to their e-voting vendor buddies the government, upon being advised by NIST that " Potentially, a single programmer could "rig" a major election" and further that even with the most rigorous overhaul of the current DREs "they would not mitigate the threat of malicious code inserted by an insider at the voting machine company",10 has now justified its not-so-fast-approach-to-remedy-the-disaster-it-has-created response, upon the wasted millions trashing these machines would cause Like Ford, who demonstrated blatant disregard for people's lives and for the truth (refusing to admit publicly that its cars were potential deathtraps), the federal government doesn't want to replace the worthless machines it has spent so many millions on.

All of this begs the question - why isn't the performance of our voting machines as important as the performance of our blenders? Or put another way, why not dole out a few more millions to replace these worthless voting machines already out there? Certainly the Bush administration isn't really concerned about wasting money. What's a few more million compared to the recently revealed missing billion in Katrina, to say nothing of the missing billions in Iraq.

Maybe worthless is in the eye of the beholder. If you care about the integrity of the election, there can be no question about the worthlessness of these machines.11 On the other hand if one's concern is not about the lawfulness or fairness of elections, but rather is about ensuring that the outcome comes out a particular way, why change the machines. Which was precisely the decision reached by the government's HAVA-created committee this week.12


Ford Pinto had to be taught by the people that our lives take priority over profits or money already wasted on defective products (the jury sent a message to Ford by awarding punitive damages over and above the compensatory damages in litigation brought by the dead Pinto victims). We have witnessed just how the HAVA legislation Helped America to Vote and we have seen how well the HAVA-created EAC oversees the integrity of our elections 13.

If you have DREs, tell your possibly elected officials you're not voting on a Pinto. Tell them they can stop wasting your tax dollars on voting machines which can never be made secure enough to preserve our liberty 14. If you don't yet have e-voting machines where you live, tell your possibly elected officials not to make fools of themselves. Remind them that all power derives from the people and if you can't verify whether your vote was counted (because there's no way you can tell if someone messed with the software in the DRE or in the Optical Scan) then you can't oversee your election. And if you can't oversee your own election, 230 years of this experiment just ended 15.


(footnotes)

1. Quoting from the draft rport (PDF) prepared by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As the NIST report notes, research and the draft report's conclusions are based on interviews and discussions with election officials, voting system vendors, computer scientists, and other experts in the field, as well as a literature search and the technical expertise of its authors.

2. For more on how HAVA undermined citizen control over their election system and why HR 550 (the Holt bill) must be opposed as long as it continues to permit machine produced paper, rather than voter produced ballots, and as long as it condones black box voting, see Election Defense Alliance's Stop the Executive Branch from Taking Over our Elections: Amend or End HR 550: click here

3. Quoting from the NIST report found at ft. note 1
4. The NIST report found that DREs, which don't allow a recount of ballots and therefore must rely on their software to verify the count, cannot be secured.
5. "Basically a reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware was the way Britain Williams of the National Association of Election Directors described what he understood was needed in order to try to make e-voting more secure. Not wanting to replace the worthless e-voting machines already out there, the committee just discounted the evidence in the NIST report as well as the existing evidence of the myriad of breakdowns: "The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) has considered current threats to voting systems and, at this time, find that security concerns do not warrant replacing deployed voting systems". Contrast this with the list of failures of e-voting machines found at footnote 11.

6.Aside from the Katherine Harris purge list which disenfranchised African American voters, the myriad of aggressive dirty tricks and other crimes undertaken to suppress the democratic vote, "The voting-machine companies bear heavy blame for the 2000 presidential-election disaster. Investigators traced the mistake to Global Election Systems, the firm later acquired by Diebold. Two months after the election, an internal memo from Talbot Iredale, the company's master programmer, blamed the problem on a memory card that had been improperly - and unnecessarily - uploaded. There is always the possibility, Iredale conceded, that the 'second memory card' or 'second upload' came from an unauthorized source. From Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- Will The Next Election Be Hacked?

7. See for starters,
click here

Court papers filed in Maryland, Wired news, [31] Dec. 17 2003:

At least five convicted felons secured management positions at a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software.
The programmer Jeffrey Dean wrote and maintained proprietary code used to count hundreds of thousands of votes as senior vice president of Global Election Systems, or GES. Diebold purchased GES in January 2002. According to a public court document released before GES hired him, Dean served time in a Washington State correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that involved a high degree of sophistication and planning in the use and alteration of records in the computerized ... system that defendant maintained for the victim. (23 counts of First Degree Theft, case 89-1-04034-1)

8. http://www.votetrustusa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1782&Itemid=26

9. See NIST report at footnote 1

10. See NIST report at footnote 1

11. See for a sampling of the poor performance of e-voting machines on election day 2006 http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp.

12. The NIST report had recommended that paperless DREs be required to have verified paper trails, among other things, to try to make the DREs less susceptible to hacking. The TGDC at first rejected NIST's proposal for paper verification, expressing concerns of cost to local governments who already have these machines, but then modified its recommendation for new machines only.

13. For more on what's wrong with HAVA and why HR 550 (the Holt Bill), which permits Americans' votes to be stolen so long as the paper trail tied to the DRE provides us with the illusion that our vote is more secure, must be amended or opposed, see Nancy Tobi's: Stopping H.R. 550 Because We can't Compromise on Democracy: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_nancy_to_061118_stopping_h_r__550_be.htm

14. See Bruce O'Dell's, Pull the Plug on E-Voting, parts I and II: www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102606L.shtml, www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102706O.shtml

15. BTW- The people only loss their right to oversee their elections very recently: HAVA became law on October 29, 2002.

 

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Andi Novick Election Transparency Coalition, www.etcnys.org, http://nylevers.wordpress.com/

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