Due, in no small part, to the concerns expressed in our February analysis of the January draft version of this year's Election Reform bill being introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) in the U.S. House, along with a bit of "lobbying" his office for a key change after the publication of that article, the updated version of the bill [PDF], said by his office to be the "final" one before introduction, has been slightly --- one might even say, significantly --- improved to meet one of our major concerns.
Still, while there is a lot of much-needed reform in this federal legislation, there remain many concerns with it as well. So let's take a quick, updated look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the soon-to-be-introduced "final" version of Holt's "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2009"...
"I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad." Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (aka "Baghdad Bob"),
Iraqi Information Minister, April 2003
Michelle Shafer is the "Baghdad Bob"-in-chief of the e-voting industry. She's the VP and spokesperson for Sequoia Voting Systems and spokesperson for the e-voting industry as a whole via the Election Technology Council (ETC), a "trade group" created and sponsored by the nation's top four e-voting companies (ES&S, Sequoia, Diebold/Premier, and Hart Intercivic) to help spread their anti-science, anti-reality, pro-e-voting propaganda.
In the very last line of an article published on Thursday, on yet another e-voting related issue (which we may cover in more detail later), Michelle "Baghdad Bob" Shafer is quoted thusly:
Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer noted, however, that no electronic voting system has been compromised in an election.
As irony would have it, Thursday was also the very same day that news broke of the arrest of a cabal of election official insiders --- including a circuit court judge, the school superintendent, and a number of both Democratic and Republican polling place judges --- charged with having used the electronic voting system to compromise election after election, from 2002 to 2006 in Clay County, Kentucky.
Of course, very strong evidence exists that many other elections have been similarly manipulated on electronic voting systems by election insiders (see here, for just one example), including by both election officials and employees of the various private vendors whom Shafer represents. Much of that evidence, however, has been held at arm's length from citizen election integrity advocates under the absurd argument that that information is a proprietary, legally-protected trade secret. That specious argument has been made for years by the very government-funded corporate welfare queens, like Shafer's companies, that have been paid by our government to privatize our public elections.
So it's been difficult, at least until last week, to point disinformation experts like Shafer to the very evidence that reveal her statement, repeated time and again, to be a lie --- thanks in no small part to the "trade secret" claims of folks like Shafer. Get it? It's a helluva self-perpetuating scam...
New York is the last state in the nation to have a non-computerized, transparent voting system. We still use immutable, theft-deterring mechanical lever machines to count our votes. (* - Please seen bottom of this article for a quick explanation of how lever machines work, for those who may not know.)
New Yorkers are fighting to keep their current voting system, notwithstanding that New York's legislature passed a law in 2005 that says we should give up our observable, reliable levers in exchange for unreliable, concealed software-based vote counting machines. Nearly 1,800 New Yorkers have signed a petition, and three counties (Dutchess, Ulster, and Columbia, all PDFs), have passed resolutions to save New York's lever voting system.
The Association of Towns (half of New York's entire population lives in towns) recently passed a resolution to save the levers [PDF], and Nassau, Greene, and other counties are presently considering similar action to retain New York's lever voting system.
Moreover, reliable sources have confirmed for me that neither the Governor nor the Attorney General nor the State Legislature that passed the "Election Reform and Modernization Act" (ERMA) want to replace the levers anymore either (what politician would want to be responsible for choosing to cut essential programs for hungry children or the elderly, just to be able to replace our superior and affordable voting system with budget-breaking computers that are notoriously corruptible and defective?). But the State Legislature has not repealed ERMA and the Attorney General, to date, has supported the State (not the citizens).
So what is driving New York State to stick with a law that so many in New York believe to be such a bad idea? As a New Yorker who has been talking to many election commissioners, legislators and citizens, I was surprised to learn how many people believe the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA) actually banned lever machines.
I read HAVA. It clearly does not ban levers. I recently discovered what has helped fuel this misinformed opinion in part: it is the discredited position of the discredited U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as detailed in a newly-unearthed document prepared for the state of Pennsylvania, at their request, in regard to the legality of lever voting machines.
Although the agency is not a court of law, and not even an agency deserving of deference for its opinions --- its allegiance has clearly been shown to be not with either voters or democracy --- the "HAVA-banned-levers" rumor was given the imprimatur of the EAC through this little-noticed document...
Georgia has, again, had problems with their voter registration database. This time there were between 500 and 1000 voters, depending on reports, who were left standing in line for two hours while they waited for Fulton Co. officials to reestablish connection with the state’s computer system. This will be a huge problem on election day and may cause thousands of voters to give-up and go home. Let’s hope not.
I never imagined that I would find myself agreeing with anything that John Fund had to say but in our ‘Featured’ article Fund wrote one graf that gives me hope for the guy. He said, “Independent, nonpartisan groups, as well as candidates and parties, should be authorized to appoint poll watchers to observe the election and the vote tabulation. All vendors who supply voting machines and computer software should be required to undergo investigation for financial security and integrity. Clear rules for identifying what constitutes a vote and procedures for contesting an election result must be developed by each state”....
As I briefly reported in Friday night's "Daily Voting News" a New Jersey Superior Court Judge has ruled that a court-ordered Princeton University report critical of the state's Sequoia Advantage DRE (touch-screen) voting machines could be released to the public. The only stipulation was that four paragraphs and a number of appendices were to be redacted.
The lost votes during New Jersey's Super Tuesday elections "were caused by two different programming errors on the part of Sequoia"
"New Jersey should not use any version of the AVC Advantage that it has not actually examined with the assistance of skilled computer-security experts."
"The AVC Advantage’s susceptibility to installation of a fraudulent vote-counting program is far more than an imperfection: it is a fatal flaw."
"The AVC Advantage is too insecure to use in New Jersey."
Before the Princeton report was even released, however, Sequoia Voting Systems issued a press statement [PDF] and a scathing response to the Princeton report. The Sequoia response, all 19 pages, is a strongly worded attack on the Princeton computer scientists and their motives, but fails to respond at all to, perhaps, the most crucial point in the devastating Princeton report...
The Democratic candidate for Secretary of State in Washington state has released what he says will be the first of a series of campaign spots, satirizing the well-known "Mac v. PC" commercials, to highlight the differences between touch-screen voting machines and paper ballots.
Jason Osgood, a long-time election integrity advocate and opponent of unverifiable electronic voting systems, is running against the incumbent Republican Sec. of State, Sam Reed. Osgood joins several other citizen advocates across the country --- inlcuding Susan Rose Pynchon in Volusia County, FL, and Ellen Harriet Brodsky in Broward County, FL --- who have stepped up and decided to run this year against incumbent election officials who, they allege, have not been as responsive or transparent, in regard to voter concerns and citizen oversight, as they should be.
The 60-second spot released today by the Osgood campaign is seen below (text transcript is posted at the end of this article). It features two men standing in front of a white background, one who identifies himself as "Paper Ballot" and the other, dressed in a slick white leisure suit with sunglasses and headset, who declares, "I'm a high-tech, touch-screen votin' machine!" It quickly becomes apparent, as the spot begins, as "Voting Machine" searches through his pockets, that he's lost something --- "a few thousand votes is all"...
The comical ad, Osgood tells The BRAD BLOG, is to be the first of several in a series, highlighting the differences between electronic voting systems and paper ballots. "These videos are funny," wrote Osgood in an email this morning. "Each spot highlights just one problem with the voting machines. This is a very effective way to explain a complicated issue."
Osgood believes the ads may also help the issue of election integrity nationally, as they serve to simplify the concerns that advocates, as well as computer scientists and security experts, have been trying to share with the public.
"We're steeped in the arcana of computers and election administration," Osgood, who is himself a software engineer, told us. "When we talk to others [about these issues], we quickly lose them. Which is a shame, because counting votes should be simple! To be effective, we need to tailor our message to reach the broadest audience. We need to engage every voter in the fight to reclaim our democracy and restore integrity to our elections," he said...
[Ed Note: Ellen appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight this evening to discuss this report. The video is now posted here.]
As we approach the 2008 general election, the structure of elections in the United States — once reliant on local representatives accountable to the public — has become almost wholly dependent on large corporations, which are not accountable to the public. Most local officials charged with running elections are now unable to administer elections without the equipment, services, and trade-secret software of a small number of corporations (primarily Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Premier Election Systems (formerly Diebold), though a few other corporations have a very small share of the market).
If the vendors withdrew their support for elections now, our election structure would collapse.
However, some states and localities are recognizing the threat that vendor dependency poses to elections. They are using ingenuity and determination to begin reversing the direction.
This week, VotersUnite.Org released a report [PDF] that examines the situation, how we got here, and steps we can take to limit corporate control of our elections in 2008 and reduce it even further in the future.
Case studies presented in our report give examples of the pervasive control voting system vendors now have over election administration in almost every state, and the consequences some jurisdictions are already experiencing. We discovered that such dependency has allowed vendors to...
As set up by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) receives some advice from a Board of Advisors. The Board is made up of a set number of people representing groups like the National Association of Secretaries of State; National Governors Association; International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers; congressional leaders; and even two members of The Election Center, a vendor-sponsored group that promotes electronic voting. There are no voters groups and no one from the election integrity community on the Board. But then, who cares what the voters think?
The Board of Advisors is advising [PDF, pg 7] the EAC, via resolution, that they need to speed-up the certification process for voting systems. They want the system to be what it was under the old, rubber-stamp system headed by the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED). They want the same system of testing and certification that has resulted in our voting systems failing in many elections and not even being compliant with federal standards.
Incredibly, the Board's recommendation to the EAC goes so far as to admit that a failed "common practice" of the past should, apparently, be re-instituted under the newer certification system. "The common practice since the introduction of electronic voting systems," they wrote, "has been to make hardware and software upgrades based on issues found in the most recent election in sufficient time to improve the voting systems for the next general election."
That is a stunning admission. That that is a system they'd like to return to is even more stunning.
The EAC is holding a public meeting in Phoenix later this month and the Board of Advisors' resolution is to be discussed by the commissioners. I sent the following email to the commissioners and staff of the EAC to voice my concerns about the resolution.
I have been a long time critic of the federal 2002 Voting System Standards (2002 VSS) and of the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (2005 VVSG). In fact, both sets of standards are virtually worthless. There are two reasons for this. First, the requirements enumerated in the standards are, in and of themselves, much too weak for something as vital as administering an election. Second, both sets of standards have an explicit loophole that allows almost all the requirements — weak as they are — to be ignored. This second objection was first brought to my attention two years ago by Howard Stanislevic.
We now have proof that this loophole is used by the labs in order to “pass” systems that don’t meet the standards. The proof is laid out clearly in the most recent certification test report submitted to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) by SysTest labs (one of the labs accredited by the EAC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology - NIST). SysTest recommended certification for the new voting system by Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold) even though the lab's findings listed 79 specific failures to meet the standards.
As you read this article, keep in mind that the standards actually allow 77 of these 79 failures to be ignored!...