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E-voting in the Trenches: A Two-Year Chronology

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July 2006

Post Script to "Invisible Ballots"

To be read AFTER viewing "Invisible Ballots: A Temptation for Electronic Vote Fraud"

By Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, OpEdNews

So much has happened since the documentary "Invisible Ballots" was released in April 2004 that it's time to offer a companion piece to the film that brings viewers up to speed. In the coming months, developments will undoubtedly gain momentum, rendering this update obsolete. In the meantime, here are the highlights.

What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election. Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005.
Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, along with 11 Congressional colleagues, went to Ohio to gather sworn testimony regarding the 2004 election. "Witnesses included both Republicans and Democrats, elected officials, voting machine company employees, poll observers, and many voters who testified about the harassment they endured, some of which led to actual vote repression."

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report [on Electronic Voting], September 2005
This report essentially validated concerns originally brushed aside as coming from "sore losers" and "conspiracy theorists." The GAO is one of the few nonpartisan, incorruptible institutions left, and their indictment is extremely serious. However, the report received virtually no media coverage, except for on the web.

According to Fitrakis and Wasserman, in "Powerful Government Accountability Office report confirms key 2004 election findings:"
This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

The Carter-Baker Commission (The Commission on Federal Election Reform)
Electronic voting "is almost totally opaque," David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, told the commission. "Voters have no means to confirm that the machines have recorded their votes correctly, nor will they have any assurance that their votes won't be changed at some later time." The report got more attention for its call for voter IDs than it did for stressing the need for paper backup for electronic voting.

Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? Essential Documents. Edited by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, CICJ Books, May 2005.
Besides the unabridged Conyers report, this book contains reporters Fitrakis and Wasserman's pre-election, election day, and post-election coverage. It also includes pieces by Bob Koehler, David Swanson, John Bonifaz, Steven Freeman, Ellen Theisen, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. This heavy and informative book covers current election history in a single volume.

How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, CICJ Books, September 2005.
From the back cover: "After reading this book, you may not ask 'Who will win in 2008,' but rather 'If we don't totally change the system, why bother holding an election at all?'"

Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). Mark Crispin Miller, Basic Books, October 2005.
Miller, a professor of media studies at NYU, has appeared on various TV and radio shows in the past to promote his other books on this administration. The publishing of this book, however, was greeted by media silence. Once quite popular on the media circuit, his work has now been bashed as baseless and ill informed.

Harri Hursti's Staged Hack, Leon County, Florida, December 13, 2005
Ion Sancho, Leon County Superintendent of Elections, invited Bev Harris of Black Box Voting and computer security expert Harri Hursti to attempt an "authorized" hack on the Diebold Optical Scan machine in use in his county. He had the board of elections run a mock election with only one question: "Can the memory card on these machines be hacked?" The memory card was checked by the board prior to their voting. The vote, confirmed by all, was 6 to 2. This was invisibly flipped by Mr. Hursti to read 1 to 7.

This revelation caused quite a stir across the country, especially where the same machines were in use, namely in California, the largest electronic voting machine market in the America. Again, the mainstream media was remarkably silent. Sancho wanted to dump the Diebold machines as a result of the hack. For his pains, Mr. Sancho's bosses tried to oust him. The Secretary of State scheduled a meeting to deal with Sancho, and tried to exclude the press. Mr. Sancho's fellow board members unanimously supported him. While he received accolades as a true hero for upholding the votes of his constituents, he is still viewed by Republicans as a troublemaker in Florida.

"The Truth about Diebold," Susan Pynchon, March 30, 2006
In December 2005, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson commissioned local computer experts to examine the Diebold machines, both optical scan and touch-screen, in use in his state. The report was issued in February 2006 by California's Voting System Technical Assessment and Advisory Board (VSTAAB). It was promptly disregarded by McPherson, who recertified all of the machines that were condemned by the task force that he himself had appointed. The report cited numerous problems that could be detected only "by recount of the original paper ballots." Also mentioned was the frightening prospect that the software installed in these machines could affect elections well into the future. Pynchon concluded:
If you are about to purchase a voting system for your county or your state, please take this VSTAAB report to heart. The security vulnerabilities revealed by the California scientists mean that paper ballots (not VVPAT: voter verifiable paper audit trail) are the only sure way to provide fair, verifiable, accurate, secure and auditable elections. Once you select an optical-scan, paper-ballot system for your jurisdiction, the next step, of course, is to guard those paper ballots like the gold in Fort Knox and require audits of a percentage of those ballots after every election. With verifiable, auditable voting systems and a secure chain-of-custody of paper ballots, the confidence of U.S. citizens in the integrity of our elections will finally be restored.

Florida's Technical Advisory
The findings in California led Florida's Division of Elections to issue a technical advisory "Recommendations and Guidelines" without mentioning either the Hursti hack or Diebold machines by name. This advisory extended beyond Diebold to include all electronic voting machines. In a stunning Catch-22, summed up by BradBlog in a March 3rd, 2006 column:
In the case of the Leon County hack, we learned, the actual paper ballots used in the mock election - had they been examined by hand - would have revealed the correct election results instead of the flipped results as reported by Diebold's optical scan counter. However, since Florida law specifically disallows ballots which have already been counted by machine to be hand-counted or even audited, the true election results would never have been known. Even in the case of a recount - which would not have occurred in the case of the mock election test, since the flipped results were nowhere near close enough to have triggered a mandatory recount - such ballots could only be rescanned by the machines which ha(d) miscounted them in the first place.

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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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