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9/11, Jury Duty, and What America is Demanding of Us Right Now

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Hacked! High Tech Election Theft in America, 11 Experts Expose the Truth! Edited by Abbe Waldman DeLozier and Vickie Karp, Truth Enterprises Publishing, August 2006

Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, OpEdNews September 11, 2006

I got up very early today and headed downtown for my annual jury duty assignment. It seemed somehow appropriate for 9/11. Because I like to be prepared, I packed a raincoat, snacks, a water bottle, blank note cards, my Filofax, paper, and two books. I'm sure I looked like a bag lady, but you never know what you're going to need. Once a hoarder, always a hoarder. I'm in the middle of a disturbing novel, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and also packed Hacked! by Abbe Waldman DeLozier and Vickie Karp. I got it in the mail over the weekend and thought that the waiting game at the courthouse would be an ideal time to crack it open.

The introductory video at the Daley Center Courthouse echoed with patriotic refrains that could so easily be applied to the issue of voting integrity. The narrating judge talked about "fulfilling the duty and obligation as an American citizen" and the "diligence and sacrifice" of each of us that allows the justice system to work. He also talked about the juror's responsibility to make a final determination about what happened, weighing the "credibility of the testimony of the witness," keeping in mind that the witness may or may not be reliable and may or may not be telling the whole story. I looked around, trying to discern on the faces surrounding me if anyone else was struck by the themes of election reform.

As I sat there - doing my patriotic duty with my fellow citizens, together, yet alone - I attacked the book with my yellow marker. I highlighted so many passages that the pages seemed to glow. I'm sure I looked like an overgrown student on a rampage. It's so hard to read this material and stay calm. I found myself pulling on my hair from frustration and anguish. I wanted to go screaming down the hallway. I probably would have if I thought it would help, but rationally decided against it. Maybe my morning yoga is paying off.

The electronic voting machine vendors and their proponents have done a terrific job of framing the issue so that the onus always seems to be on the well-meaning, concerned citizens and/or voting activists. In the same way that Clean Skies, the Patriot Act, and Help America Vote have taken on Orwellian overtones, the presumption of innocence and home court advantage have been awarded to the vendors. We need to constantly remind ourselves that it's the voters, not the machines, who are to be protected. Anything that does not directly contribute to furthering voting integrity should be discarded. We needn't apologize about it. That's simply the way it's supposed to be.

Karp and DeLozier's book traces the history of our surrendered elections. While 2000 and 2004 are strong in our recent memories, corrupted elections stretch back much farther. It is a sad story full of defeats, large and small. Historically, there was a much more direct connection between the voter and the vote. As more layers have been added, each has stripped away transparency and made oversight more difficult. With the insertion of electronic voting, secret software, and technicians who work on the machines (even in the midst of an election with no one able to understand or verify exactly what has been done), transparency is nothing more than a fond memory. These changes have not benefited the American people or the democratic process. The infamous hanging chads of the 2000 election became the pretext for adopting wholesale electronic voting at the expense of the voter. HAVA, which purports to "help" Americans vote, is ironically, a much bigger threat to voters' intentions than the system it has replaced.

DeLozier posits:

Why is our government allowing its citizens to vote on privately owned machines, without citizen oversight, using secret programming, without proper testing or certification, and looking the other way every time a machine miscounts an election? (xxvi)

Bev Harris asks, "If an elections official ruins an election - loses votes forever, or mishandles the voting so badly that no one can repair the error - we can fire that person. If an election's machine ruins an election, shouldn't we fire that voting system?" (Hacked, 18)

The entire rationale for electronic voting machines seems to be built on sand. (Readers, imagine that the following paragraph is written in 20-point font, bold, italicized, and underlined!) HAVA does not actually require the use of DREs, although it has been interpreted that way often enough that everyone thinks that it does. Section 301-303 actually says (emphasis mine), "At least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities" (163). Another case of repeating a lie over and over until it sounds true. This often-willful misinterpretation has led to almost four billion of our tax dollars being spent on this insecure, unreliable, expensive system, which is actually antithetical to democratic principles.

Here are some more lies and distortions.

  • Diebold has failed every test put to it by computer experts, yet it insists that its machines do what they're advertised to do. Worse yet, its and other vendors' wares are routinely certified. So then what does certification actually mean? And what kind of certifying body is the ITA when it is vendor-funded, and reports only to the vendors, who can choose to rectify the problems (or not) without voters being notified? The law asks: cui bono? Who benefits from such a system? Surely not the voters. (Please see the postscript about the just released Princeton's Center for IT Policy Report.)

  • What about the many reports issued after the 2004 election? Conyers' report, the GAO Report, Carter-Baker, the Harri Hursti/Black Box Voting Leon County hack, the Diebold security advisory alert, the California task force report commissioned by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, the Brennan Center Report. Each was scathing regarding the gaping holes in the security of the poorly written software. Do we really need more proof that this is not working? What other system would get so many chances?

  • No background checks on company ownership or employees means that many of the companies change hands, involve foreign ownership, and employ known felons.

  • Why are public officials, who are paid with tax dollars, defending vendors at the expense of citizens and our elections? Why are former elections officials now lobbying (often those who once worked for them) for electronic voting machine vendor contracts?

  • Why would we want defense industry figures, former CIA bigwigs, right-wing extremists, or Venezuelan interests to control our voting? What about senators (formerly "long shot" candidates) with presidential aspirations? Why have we privatized this ultimate American institution? What have we gained, and more importantly, what have we lost?

May Schmidt, the election judge says:

I want a system that is easy, can be executed with minimal equipment and that the voters can understand easily. For me, the answer is hand-counted paper ballots. This system is cheaper, efficient and more transparent for the voter and election workers. I think voters trust paper ballots more. In my opinion if someone wanted to throw an election, one would have to have a group of complicit people in several precincts. With electronic voting it only takes one hacker to tamper with an election. It is the difference between NFL football and a pickup soccer game! (Hacked!, p. 56)

We are urged to educate ourselves. This book has a bountiful bibliography full of everything anyone needs to know to get plenty alarmed. The authors welcome your scrutiny. Once you're mad about what's going on, they recommend getting active. Educate yourself. Support voting integrity organizations. Pick up a camcorder and observe and record. Sometimes, a video is worth a thousand words. It has been proven useful in providing evidence for lawsuits.

Karp and DeLozier bring together a stellar group: Bev Harris, Lynn Landes, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and others, including an election judge with 35 years of experience. Each of the contributors seems to conclude that hand-counted paper ballots are the only way to secure elections. But even that is not enough. They must also be "hand counted in public view, with vote totals posted at the precinct level."

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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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