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Papering over OptiScam Problems

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In a 7,800-word article in today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine, writer Clive Thompson details the myriad of problems associated with touch screen voting systems and devotes only 3% of his essay to similar problems with optical scan systems.  If readers actually make it to the last two paragraphs, they’ll read that optical scans – despite Thompson’s prior promotion of them – are also fraught with vulnerabilities. 

In Can You Count on These Machines? Thompson correctly describes how “costs ballooned and chaos reigned when Cuyahoga County, Ohio first used Diebold’s AccuVote touch screen system, but inaccurately low-balls the number of memory cards and cartridges that went “missing” during that May 2006 primary.  Thompson fails to mention that twenty-eight $4,500 voting machines also went “missing.”   

Because the hired watchdog group (Election Science Institute) randomly selected 10% of the precincts to study, we can extrapolate to determine, with a fair degree of confidence, the total number of missing machines to be 280, and the total number of missing memory cards and cartridges to be 890, for the entire county, for that one election.  Thompson reports that 200 cards went missing.   

He also failed to report that Deputy Director Michael Vu, who oversaw all these “lost” mission critical assets, later resigned and was hired to run San Diego’s elections.  In an unfortunate coincidence, at best, a shipment of memory chips to San Diego went missing last month. After Michael Vu’s dismal and shockingly inept handling of Cuyahoga’s May 2006 primary, that he is allowed to serve in any democratic election further defeats confidence in US electoral management bodies. 

Reading Thompson’s piece, many will walk away believing optical scans are the best choice for democratic elections.  Damn the science.  Damn the cost.  Damn the loss of transparency and public accountability.  Hey, all technologies have problems. 

But the problems inherent in software-driven systems turn insider vote stealing into child’s play.  Pokey Anderson of Houston’s radio news show, The Monitor, notes:   

While there has always been manipulation in elections, the difference between stealing in a hand-counted paper ballot election and an electronic election is the difference between successfully robbing a convenience store and successfully robbing Fort Knox. 

Honest elections are a national security issue; without them we fall under the tyranny of the best thief.  Media that continues to obfuscate the truth about software-driven election systems serves tyranny, not democracy.   

Election integrity activists have been dealing with this obfuscation for three decades, as detailed in Votescam: The Stealing of America by Jim and Ken Collier (1996). 

But Thompson’s recent article takes on particular import now, since New York has been ordered to deploy scientifically-condemned voting systems.   

During oral arguments last month in USA vs. NY, Judge Gary Sharpe refused to acknowledge that all software-driven voting machines are vulnerable to being hacked. Todd Valentine represents the New York State Board of Elections and sought to show how none of the machines meet NY standards, at which point Judge Sharpe interrupted: 

Sixteen months ago I told you to pick a machine, and here we sit in December, a week before Christmas, and you still haven’t picked a machine. 

Maybe Judge Sharpe believes that if corporate media and the judicial system continue to deny the reality that none of these machines provide voters with a basis for confidence in reported results, the scientific community and informed activists will simply go away.  Instead, our ranks continue to swell, as more and more citizens – and officials – take note of all the failures in software-driven voting systems. 

Thompson accurately notes, at the very end of his article:

Public crises of confidence in voting machines used to come along rarely, every few decades. But now every single election cycle seems to provoke a crisis, a thirst for a new technological fix. The troubles of voting machines may subside as optical scanning comes in, but they’re unlikely to ever go away.

The reason is simple.  We need to reject software-driven systems and implement the far cheaper hand-counted paper ballot system.  It’s easier to protect from fraud and it provides the transparency that democratic elections demand.

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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