By Sara Scafe Toole
(All sources are listed at the end of article.)
Voter fraud has been a major issue with Americans ever since the 2000 election, when Bush beat Al Gore in the controversial battle over the Florida outcome. There have been several investigations concerning voting machines, but nothing ever gets resolved. Part of the problem is that there is no receipt, or proof, that a vote has been placed. The strange thing about this is that the companies, ES&S and Diebold, which make these voter machines also make ATM machines, which, as we all know, print receipts of all transactions, so why don't voters receive a copy of their votes, in case of irregularities of vote counts? There's something fishy here; it's as if they don't want us to have proof of who we voted for.
In Snohomish County, WA., there were so many discrepancies in voter counts in their 2004 election that two attorneys, Paul R. Lehto, and Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, Ph.D. did an exhaustive study on the cause of the errors. Although most of their focus was on the gubernatorial race between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi, I will be focusing on their results of the faulty machines themselves. You can find this thesis online by searching for the title, Evidence of Election Irregularities in Snohomish County, Washington General Election, 2004.
In their executive summary, three points bothered me:
1. many people reported that touch screens appeared pre-voted, or would select the Republican box once the Democrat box was pushed by the voter. Some voters pushed the Democrat box over seven times before asking a pollster for assistance.
3. Sequoia screens are required to have their power cords daisy-chained, forming a de facto network that third parties can use to tap into the machines, or have the machines communicate with each other.
This third point bothered me because I have heard several times that these machines are in no way connected, yet, they are all hooked together to one cord that is plugged into the power source, so how can they not be connected? These machines also have modems in them, which is completely unnecessary, unless they want to interact with one another; if this is not illegal, it certainly should be.
After the authors of the Snohomish work looked over the many discrepancies concerning the Sequoia machines, they requested a copy of the owner's manual from the company. The company outright refused to give the manual over, even resorting to threaten litigation.
However, the authors did receive a copy of the Snohomish pollworker's guide, and a troubleshooter's guide for the machine's operation. This is how it works: a card activation machine is used to activate a card that tells the touch screen that the person is authorized to vote, and it brings up the pre-programmed ballots in it's memory for the voter in that precinct. However, in Section XIII of the Troubleshooter's Guide shows a manual mode which gets around the security measures; see Appendix D, copy of excerpt of Troubleshooter's Manual.
The Manual tells workers how to activate manual code by pressing a color coded button twice. A soft beep is heard, and the manual warns that the worker must observe the voters to make sure that ONLY ONE VOTE PER VOTER IS RECORDED. In other words, while in manual mode, voters and/or technicians can vote as many times as they want, provided that nobody is around to hear the "soft" beep. (3)
One of the major problems that we face today in elections is that there is no paper trail to follow accurately; if all of us Americans had "voter receipts" from 2004, the world would be a different place. Officials can print the results from the screens, but there's no way to know if it's an accurate reflection of the voter's true intentions. Adding to the chaos, one network news reporter received a tip that mercenary hackers were hired to alter the code of a particular brand of machine so that every tenth vote for Candidate A was recorded as a vote for Candidate B.
In Colorado, another group of hackers is boasting that they stole a box of electronic smartcards used to activate e-voting machines, and reprogrammed them to allow multiple votes; just for fun. (4)
I received a memo from the US Congress House of Representatives, dated 12-15-2004. I will write this verbatim: Sherole Eaton, a Deputy director of Board Election in Hocking County, Ohio, has first hand knowledge of inappropriate and likely illegal election tampering in the Ohio presidential election in violation of Federal law.
I have information that similar actions of this nature may be occurring in other counties in Ohio. I therefore ask that you immediately investigate this alleged misconduct, and that, among other things, you consider the immediate impoundment of election machinery to prevent further tampering
On December 13th, my staff met with Ms. Eaton who explained to them last Friday, Dec. 10th, Michael Babarian, Jr., a representative of Triad GSI ,(voting machine co.), unilaterally sought, and obtained access to the voting machinery and records in Hocking County, Ohio, modified the computer tabulator, learned which precinct was planned to be the subject of the initial test recount and made further alterations based on that information, and then Mr. Barbian advised the election officials how to manipulate the machinery so that the preliminary hand count matched the machine. Ms. Eaton first relayed this information to Green Party Representatives, and then completed, signed and notarized an affidavit of events.
The Triad official sought access to the voting machinery based on the apparent pretext that he wanted to review some "legal questions" the officials might receive as part of the recount process. Several times during his visit, Mr. Barbian phoned Triad's offices to obtain programming information relating to the machinery, and the precinct in question. Subsequently, Triad officials have been doing this to several counties in Ohio.
This course of conduct would appear to violate several provisions of law, in addition to the Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. 42U.S.C.1973 provides for criminal penalties against any person who, in any election for Federal office, knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process. 42 U.S.C.1974 also requires the retention and preservation for a period of twenty two months from the date of a Federal election, of all voting records, and makes it a felony for any person to "willfully steal, destroy, conceal, mutilate, or alter any such election.
Further, any tampering with ballots and/or election machinery would violate the Constitutional rights of all citizens to vote, and have their votes properly counted, as is guaranteed by the Equal Protection and due Process clause of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Second, the course of action would also appear to violate several provisions of Ohio law. No less than four provisions of the Ohio Revised Code make it a felony to tamper wit, or destroy election machines. (5)
There have been other grievous mistakes, as well. Nearly half of the six million Americans that live abroad, only half received ballots, or they received them after it was too late to vote. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.