READER COMMENTS ON
"'Thriller' Audio: Brad Debates Larry Norden of Brennan Center for Justice on Holt Election Reform Bill"
(19 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 10:53 am PT...
The Brennan Center book on their supposed "threat analysis" of computerized voting systems says it all: They never address or consider inside manipulation at all! Some "threat analysis." That's a whopper of an underlying assumption that they just plain got wrong, pretty much invalidating that research altogether.
Therefore, not only is their statement that a bill with a DRE ban can't pass a fraudulent statement, but their position that "securing" the machines is a corrective step is a fraudulent position. You can't secure a machine against the insiders who program and operate it. Your laptop isn't "secure" from yourself.
And they know it. They made a choice.
While it's diplomatic to say "I respect Norden, along with many of Holt's other supporters ..." at some point one has to ask: Why should we "respect" people who are using bogus "science" and knowingly unsound "research" in order to promote a political course of action?
Scientists are only given respect because it is assumed that they follow the scientific method and speak within their areas of expertise. Yet we have people like Norden making political assessments without doing his homework; we have groups claiming they are experts doing so-called "attack tree" studies of computerized voting while conspicuously omitting the entire issue of inside manipulation.
This isn't something to respect. It's something to expose, as you are doing here, Brad, and it's something to ridicule.
Scientists who fail to follow the scientific method, who make huge errors in underlying assumptions when conducting their research and then publish it anyway (even after those errors are pointed out), and scientists who participate in marketing a hoax in order to lobby a bill tar the name of all other scientists.
What is the underlying subtext?
A lot of us sure are wondering.
COMMENT #2 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 10:57 am PT...
In another thrilling episode, Libby is going to jail unless they go to the US Supreme Right Wing Court.
COMMENT #3 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 11:05 am PT...
Speaking of transparency (a child of honesty):
I am reading thru the house report on HR 811. It comments on the amended version, not the original.
In the amended version the requirement for open source code to be afforded to any citizen was weakened to now say it can be reviewed only by "qualified" people.
I noticed that the minority (republican) view is:
H.R. 811 is the majority’s hasty attempt at election restructuring that received insufficient deliberation from their members and zero support from Republican members of the Committee.
(Report 110-154, emphasis added). One thing the republicans did not like was, in their words, that HR 811 would "weaken intellectual property rights":
these alterations are aimed at limiting the use and value of electronic voting systems, weakening intellectual property rights, infringing on state’s rights, federalizing and micro-managing the administration of elections, expanding enforcement by private parties
(id. at page 77 of the pdf, emphasis added). The voting machine companies like Diebold, whom the republicans own and support, do not want the source code to be publicly scrutinized.
So they argue that property rights of the Diebolds of the world are more important than open election machine source code is to the american people.
Black box voting is ok by them, because they don't even want the watered down and weakened HR 811 provisions to become law. They go on to say:
Allowing access to the source code for voting machines will give the blueprint for manipulation of elections and the ability to irrationally criticize the software to the point that it negatively affects voter confidence.
(id at page 80, emphasis added). So as long as only the republican owned and controled Diebolds of the world have "the blueprint for manipulation" it is ok by the republicans on the committee.
The "ability to irrationally criticize" is the only avenue they can see? But what about rational criticism by the best universities in america? How could that negatively affect voter confidence?
The republicans on the committee want a faith based system where the fearless leader is trusted blindly.
The republican position is so Stalinist, because as Stalin pointed out "who counts the votes decides everything".
Especially when done in Diebold/ES&S neoCon secret.
COMMENT #4 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 11:14 am PT...
Great job on the debate with Larry Norden but it brought back a confusion I'd thought between reading you and emailing Ellen Theisen I'd finally straightened out. My understanding was, after reading everything I could find, that the
"paper trail" of a DRE does not necessarily reflect what the machine is recording internally whether it is read by the voter or not. Is that true? It seemed to me you were referring to this reality in some of your comments and then in others it seemed like maybe this was not the case. If it's not I need to study more to understand more accurately what the possibities for function/dysfunction are. But if it is the case isn't that the end of the argument? I really want to understand this.
stickling for details,
COMMENT #5 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 12:14 pm PT...
Yeah, Dredd, what you said. But I beg to differ. I cynically think that transparency has to be the parent, not the child. Try kicking that around...
COMMENT #6 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 12:32 pm PT...
But what about the Democratic members who voted for a permanent e-voting bureaucracy, concealed source code and elections treated as trade secrets?
COMMENT #7 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 2:29 pm PT...
If one third of voters verify that trail and find no errors it is highly probable that the rest were printed correctly as well. So we would have a very good idea if the print out was correct. But that is not the point! What we need to verify is that the vote is correct. The vote of record is not on that paper trail. It is in the machine. The vote is what gets counted. Not something that is never likely to be counted. Here are two ways to write a program to flip votes. 1. The foolish method. Vote then flip then verify. People are going to notice the fraud. I firmly believe that this method has been used a lot in recent elections. 2. Just as easy! The wise election thief would program the machine to vote then verify then flip. The paper trail is thus 100% accurate but the programmer can still flip up to 100% of the vote without any Voter “verification” problems showing up on the printout. Thus, if the paper ballot or trail is not made the vote of record the “verification process” that HR 811 will establish very clearly verifies absolutely nothing whatsoever!
COMMENT #8 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 3:06 pm PT...
* just commuted Libby's sentence.
COMMENT #9 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 3:33 pm PT...
We use optic scan in Michigan. My disagreement with Brad is the opposite of the Holt supporters. Optic scan is also vulnerable to hackers. This is particularly true if the hackers work from the inside. Chuck Herrin at chuckherrin.com is a Republican "white hat professional hacker", who has no use whatsoever for any electronic machine. I agree with him. What we need is not one type of hackable machine as opposed to the other, but to get rid of ALL of the machines. We need HAND COUNTED PAPER BALLOTS. They use them in Canada, in Germany, in fact most places outside of our own DEMOCKERY. What do we want: the quickest way to achieve a fraudulent result or wait a few hours and, with hand counted paper ballots, restore democracy to this country and get an accurate result?!
COMMENT #10 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 3:54 pm PT...
David Lasgna asked:
My understanding was, after reading everything I could find, that the "paper trail" of a DRE does not necessarily reflect what the machine is recording internally whether it is read by the voter or not. Is that true?
That's right. The paper trail can say one thing, the internal numbers can say another. But in an atmosphere where there may be audits of those paper trails (as proscribed by Holt), the hack to use, and not get caught, is the one where the vote is flipped inside the machine AND on the paper trail. At least until the voter notices such a flip (if they do), in which case, you just flip it back to the correct vote on both paper and internally, when they ask you to. But enough wll likely get through unnoticed to flip the election and no audit would ever catch that flip.
Hope that helps clarify.
COMMENT #11 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 3:57 pm PT...
My disagreement with Brad is the opposite of the Holt supporters. Optic scan is also vulnerable to hackers.
For the record, I have never argued in favor of op-scan. I have argued in favor of paper ballots. While hand counted paper ballots may be the best way to go, you can't hand count 'em, until you actually have 'em.
For the moment, I'm fighting to ensure we actually have a paper ballot, which is quickly disappearing. Once we've ensure a paper ballot --- one that is actually counted --- for every vote cast, we can enjoy the luxury of fighting about how to count 'em!
COMMENT #12 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 7:18 pm PT...
These so-called voting integrity front groups all site the need for a paper trail to verify the election results, especially on those machines that have none. However, it seems to me since several studies have shown that the voter usually does not verify the VVPAT then it would be very easy to nullify the VVPAT in any audit or recount since they are not the vote of record and it can not be proven that they were verified by the voter. I poll watched in our June election and, as I watched, I did not see one person go over their VVPAT on the Sequoia Edge II!
It is also my understanding that none of the current DRE voting machine with or without a VVPAT can be retrofitted with a printer that conforms to the durability requirement of the Holt bill so any thought of retrofitting these DRE machine by 08', which I believe is the only requirement of the Holt to be enacted by 08', would be impossible. So much for faux voting integrity front groups argument for the addition of a VVPAT printer.
I am with Brad, we need to get the DRE banned and move to opti-scan at the precinct level, but only with Universal Ballot Sampling to audit the opti-scan machines. When we find that the precinct UBS shows the opti-scan failures, we then can move to push for precinct HCPB!
My 2 cents
COMMENT #13 [Permalink]
said on 7/2/2007 @ 8:34 pm PT...
I saw Holt at a PFAW event in NYC a couple of months ago watch a short video on the DRE meltdown in the Jennings-Buchanan race. That he appears so totally unfazed now by the clear evidence of the technology's failure and potential for failure is a little shocking. PFAW also, just by general dumbness and not by design (I think), managed to delay the start of the very well-attended event long enough so that Holt only had a few minutes to speak and address a few questions. He would've had his feet held to the fire there about DREs.
COMMENT #14 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 4:03 am PT...
Either way is fine with me.
COMMENT #15 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 4:07 am PT...
Agent 99 #8
Yes, as I said in post #2, they appealed to the Supreme Right Wing Court and were granted "compassionate conservatism" (a.k.a. lawlessness).
COMMENT #16 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 4:43 am PT...
The following statement was made upthread that I think is very inaccurate:
"If one third of voters verify that trail and find no errors it is highly probable that the rest were printed correctly as well. So we would have a very good idea if the print out was correct."
LOOK: One can NOT complete the voting process WITHOUT "Verifying" the paper trail. The several studies completed so far find that voters catch, AT MOST, one third of the errors.
Voters MISS somewhere between 2/3 and 100% of the paper trail errors, but those errors or frauds then become VOTER-VERIFIED, bulletproof fraud.
This method, where the paper trail matches the electronic records, would easily be the method of choice because it is audit-proof, recount-proof, and would have the appearance of being totally correct even after usual investigation and audit.
The key here is that humans are very bad at reviewing secondary paper printouts relative to hand-marking a primary (ballot) document.
But even if humans were someone similarly mistake prone in marking their own ballot directly, at least when they mark it themselves it is their own fault, and not the fault of the machine, a hacker, or insider official. And the errors in hand marking ballots will be far more random and cancelling-out each other, but the errors or frauds in VVPAT paper trails will lean strongly in one direction.
And the key is, it will be bulletproof, audit-proof fraud. Voter-verified fraud, because we know in advance human brains just skip over errors and assume the correct information is there....
This is really important, because even a whistleblower coming forward with the smoking gun code to throw the election will NOT likely be successful because in EVERY case of paper trails on DREs, the voter will have "Verified" the fraud, so any complaint about it is personally waived by each voter.
Think of a paper trail as the fine print that gets slipped in to a contract (ballot) that changes the meaning of the contract at the last second after the voter believes there's already a done deal. Indeed, for those few voters who catch the errors, they will just pat themselves on the back, everyone will feel good about it, the pollworkers will be trained to expect to catch some such errors so it won't raise alarm, and there will be "no evidence" of voters not catching the errors, because, of course, they missed them.
But we know in advance that for every error caught, voters will miss at least two of the same kind. There just won't be any evidence of it, nor will any evidence ever be allowed to impeach a voter's "verified" ballot. This is the method to the madness of HR 811 Holt bill calling the paper trail a paper "ballot." That legal language facilitates and enables the bullet-proofness of this fraud method.
COMMENT #17 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 10:21 am PT...
COMMENT #18 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 1:48 pm PT...
I've listened to the debate and thank you, as always, for your diligence. However, I would like to offer some suggestions for positioning the arguments in a way that I think might engender broader support.
First, I do not think it benefits election integrity to construe these arguments along party lines. Both parties have been guilty of exploits at various points in time. True, one party has had a less savory history than the other, but stressing that point is not particularly constructive, and is likely to cause some folks to tune out.
On the other hand, consider the following approach I used when bringing this issue up with one of my co-workers. As I began to explain the issue, she interrupted and asked me, "You're not with that moveon.org thing are you?" I asked, "Don't care for them much?" She shook her head. I promptly replied, "That's fine. I'm just fighting to make sure that when you vote against the next Democratic candidate, your vote is counted."
My point is that everyone wants their vote to count. We can harness that as a unifying, non-partisan theme.
Moreover, the Republican Party, which has traditionally placed greater emphasis on States' rights, could be seen as an ally in the struggle against the EAC model furthered by Holt, which attempts to put a tremendous amount of control in the hands of a single, centralized federal agency.
Lastly, remember that S.1487 bears the full Democratic pedigree, complete with the endorsement of three Presidential candidates, along with some of the party's most prominent lawmakers. If that is the bill that the Democratic Party's top leadership has offered, I'm not sure we can afford to extend any particular faith in that party.
Indeed, I suspect that many elected officials would enjoy being just a little less accountable to their constituents, right? The average American would agree with that, I think. This is not Republicans v. Democrats. This is Citizens v. Politicians.
Second, I believe it is time for us to go beyond criticizing current proposals (which we should continue to do), and offer proposals of our own. Norden asked you what you proposed, and an unfortunately timed commercial break interrupted your response. But this is important.
VotersUnite.org set a good example by providing a list of suggested amendments to the Holt bill. But we can go further than that. This debate has two fundamental components. One is the debate over artifacts: can an electronic record suffice as an artifact of the voter's choice? But the second debate, equally important, is about how to set and enforce standards, which parts should be performed at the Federal level, and which at the State level. I have yet to see anyone within the movement (and I certainly count myself guilty here) of putting forth a comprehensive paradigm for describing and addressing the issues in this second debate.
Third, I think we must be careful in how we describe the perils of electronic voting. While I agreed with everything you said, I do worry that it is easy to come across as paranoid or a conspiracy theorist to the layperson. Again, the issue is not whether I agree with your points (I do), but rather how we can convey this information in a way that brings additional support to the movement.
Right now the Holt crowd, if there is such a thing, can present a rather common-sense argument in a very simple way, and it is appealing to most people. The argument is: paper trails are good, audits are good, our bill will make the voting machine like your ATM, you'll get a receipt, and that will be an improvement. While you and I might have very cogent arguments against DRE's, the layperson would hear the pro-Holt argument I just described and be receptive to it.
Lastly, I suggest that we put more thought into how we address State election officials. I took a few gentle pokes at them myself. But we cannot afford to alienate ourselves entirely from this important stakeholder. Again, there is a sort of common-sense appeal to the argument that we just spent a ton of money, and we don't want to throw it all away. While you and I might disagree with that position, it needs to be addressed in a constructive manner.
For example, we might respond by saying that we agree, and for that reason it is important not to pass another poorly-thought bill of half-measures, but instead get it right this time.
Anyway, these are some of my thoughts and reactions to the debate. I hope it is helpful.
COMMENT #19 [Permalink]
said on 7/3/2007 @ 5:29 pm PT...
For future reference, it appears that Danaher --- one of the manufacturers whose pushbutton DREs lost so many votes in New Mexico in 2004, and which Larry said didn't have a printer that would comply with HR 811 requirements --- does have a printer that will comply with HR 811 requirements. A very nice printer from what I hear, with separate and durable vvpats.
So, while HR 811 may help to rid us of some DREs, it may not help us get rid of the ones that scored the excessive undervote rates in Native American and Hispanic communities, while scoring reasonable undervote rates in Anglo communities.