Brad's Dad Pulled A Few Chains Today --- And His Son Will Be Very Proud!
By Winter Patriot on 8/8/2006, 9:43pm PT  

Introduction {by Winter Patriot}:

I was honored to receive the following message from Brad's dad, Harvey Friedman, who not only voted today but also took an opportunity to interact with some election staff. It's a wonderful story! But I won't ruin it for you --- I'll let him tell it in his own words.

Reporting from St. Louis, not Brad but "Brad's Dad".

Since Brad could not stick around long enough to badger the local election staff, I tried to do my part. This morning there were no primaries of significant interest in my Chesterfield, MO precinct and thus the turnout was very sparse. With five election officials on hand to watch over three ES&S IVotronic machines, three voting booths for paper ballots to use with the ES&S Model 100 scanner [ED NOTE: It was Brad's dad who was reportedly responsible, in no small part, for St. Louis County having chosen to use ES&S voting systems at the last minute instead of their plan to contract with Diebold. See our report from last December on that here.] and three punch card machines which they said would no longer be available after today's election, and considering that at ten this morning I was the only voter on hand, I figured it would be okay if I spent some time pulling their chain. After all, wouldn't Brad have done it had he been here?

First they asked for my ID. They actually asked specifically for a driver's license. I presented them with an outdated travel agent photo ID (outdated by about 6 years). They accepted that but said I need something that had my home address. "Don't you have a driver's license?" they repeated. I said I would prefer to use another form of ID and asked what else they would accept. They seemed confused. I said: "What about a utility bill with my name and address on it?" They said that would be okay. I then asked why didn't they tell me that in the first place and I was told that this is the first time that was an acceptable ID. Of course I corrected them by informing them that to my knowledge this has been the case in Missouri for as long as I could remember, certainly for many years. I was then told, "Well it will no longer be acceptable after this year." I retorted that is only if the Missouri law requiring photo ID was held up as constitutional by the courts. The election monitors agreed but then offered they thought it was a good idea that everybody had a photo ID and I told them that I thought it was a good idea if we could be sure that every vote was going to be counted. I asked if I could go home and get a utility bill. They said that would be okay. I finally opted to show them my Driver's License.

I then proceeded to us the IVotronic, which has a very legible paper trail but would be a bear to use for a recount, considering that my ballot which only had about four issues on it including candidates was over a foot long. Imagine the size of those paper rolls on a busy voting day. Before actually casting my ballot, I informed the monitor that I had changed my mind and that I preferred to use a paper ballot that would be scanned and thus could be recounted easily if necessary. They were happy to accommodate me and after about 5 minutes of conversation and reviewing manuals three officials figured out how to invalidate the ballot and give me a new one. I then proceeded to cast a paper ballot. I did not opt to use the punch card option. I did however discuss with the voting official that I had chosen to use the ballot with the ink circles because that could be recounted by hand. He assured me that the voting machines were all zeroed out before the voting started. I said that was interesting because I understood that a programmer could program the machine so that it did not start to work wrong until after the polls had opened. He assured me that in order to program the machines there would have to be at least two election officials on hand. I asked if he felt that these election officials could recognize any improper code and he agreed that they could not.

I said that any beginning programmer could rig the count. As a matter of fact I said I could probably even do it. He agreed. "I guess you are right. It would be pretty easy, I could probably do it too." I then reminded him that the code was proprietary and nobody outside of the voting machine company had the right to review it.

So much for my morning of needling election officials. Its a good thing that I was only the third vote placed on the scanner this morning. I don't recall what number I was overall. Probably about 10. I guess it was a good thing I didn't try to vote in Connecticut or Georgia. I might have been stoned by an unruly crowd.

Harvey Friedman