So NOW Can We Impound These Machines, Take Them Out of Service and Give Every Voter a PAPER BALLOT, Please?!
By Brad Friedman on 10/22/2008, 1:49pm PT  

[Ed Note: Please see the "IMPORTANT UPDATE" to this story at the bottom of this article. - BF]

Yesterday we reported the problems experienced at the Davidson County (Nashville), TN polls by Election Integrity filmmakers David and Patricia Earnhardt. Patricia, like so many others before, in so many elections past, saw her vote flip before her eyes on the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen system from her intended candidate, Barrack Obama, to the Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.

Last week, we noted voter reports from two different WV counties, Putnam and Jackson, both counties where the same ES&S iVotronic touch-screen machines (which are notorious for flipping and losing thousands of votes and costing at least one Democratic U.S. House nominee her rightful seat) similarly flipped votes away from Democratic candidates.

Earlier today, John Gideon reported on ES&S iVotronics in SC which fail to include a number of races on the final review screen. In at least one county in that state, during the Republican Primary earlier this year, the machines had failed to even turn on at all, leading voters to scramble to find scraps of paper to vote on. ES&S is the nation's largest supplier of voting machines.

Now, finally --- and thankfully --- we have a report of voters experiencing votes flipping from the Republican candidate John McCain, to the Democratic candidate Barack Obama in a second TN county. Does this mean someone can actually take some action to get these machines the hell out of service now?!...

From Tennessee's Decatur County Chronicle today...

Several Decatur County voters are concerned about problems with the voting machines at the Election Commission Office. Voters claim they tried to vote for McCain for President but the machine checked Obama instead.

At least three voters encountered the problem when casting their early ballot on Saturday morning. Franklin Boroughs says he intended to vote for Republican but rather the computer had checked the Democratic candidate instead.

Like Davidson County, TN and Putnam and Jackson Counties, WV, Decatur uses the same ES&S iVotronic machines infamous for vote-flipping and failure.

The machines should never be used in any American election. But since the Democrats apparently won't call for these machines to be removed and impounded immediately, despite so many similar reports this year and in previous elections, perhaps the Republicans can now demand the machines be impounded and removed from service immediately, and each voter be given a paper ballot instead.

During the 2006 election, when report after report of vote-flipping touch-screens piled up in state after state, the only call for removal/impounding of the flipping machines came from then-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and the GOP after reports of votes-flipping away from the Republican. They wrote a letter on Election Day, as the reports were coming in, calling for the impounding of the touch-screen machines being used in 27 Pennsylvania counties.

From the GOP's November 7, 2006 request to the Secretary of the Commonwealth in PA:

We also ask that you issue instructions to every County to not recalibrate any Voting Machine that has been identified as being miscalibrated, but rather impound the Voting Machine. Additionally, we request that a sufficient number of emergency ballots be provided to these affected Counties so that no voter loses his/her right to vote.

The Republicans were exactly correct to make that request at the time, and both Dems and Repubs would be absolutely responsible in making the same demand now.

If the Democrats, who have the most to lose here, won't do the right thing, and get these machines the hell out of service --- immediately --- in every state where they are still used, then maybe the Republicans will step up and do so and demand that every voter be given the opportunity to vote on a verifiable paper ballot, instead of a wholly unverifiable, easily hacked, and notoriously faulty touch-screen voting machine.

Unlike the Democrats, for some reason, Republicans don't seem to be afraid of being called "sore losers" or "conspiracy theorists" (most likely because the Rightwing media are the ones who spout such nonsense, and there are few in the media willing to throw such absurd insults at Republicans if/when they actually do the right thing.)

We would gladly support the efforts of either party here who does the right thing for the voters and gets these machines the hell out of service. Now!

UPDATE 10/23/08, 1:28pm PT: More vote-flipping in yet another WV county reported today, as one voter reports his voting having flipped 5 times from Democrats to Republican. Details here...

*** IMPORTANT UPDATE 10/24/08: ***

Bernie Ellis, a local election integrity advocate, and Nashville hero/legend of Gathering to Save Our Democracy, has done some more digging into this story, after his eyebrows were raised by one of the rare instances of a touch-screen/DRE vote reportedly flipping from Republican to Democrat. He posted the results of his sleuthing at DU, but they are notable enough to post below almost in full.

I'm grateful to Bernie for his great work in getting to the bottom of this apparent Republican-sponsored hoax, even as it doesn't change the thrust of the article above, and the machines need to be removed and impounded immediately, as they continue to flip in other states (latest incidents reportedly took place in TX, with straight-ticket Democratic votes flipping to Republican. Details here...)

Now here's Bernie...

Lordy, I would give anything if the story publicized earlier this week on BradBlog and here --- that three voters in a rural Tennessee county using ES&S iVotronic DREs had witnessed their votes jump from McCain to Obama --- were true. Why? Because a story like that is so rare but, if true, it would affirm that electronic voting carries risks for all voters, not just "tin-foil-hat" Democrats. As we worked our TN Voter Confidence Act bill through our legislature (to ban DREs and move to paper ballots/random audits), it would have really helped us if there had been examples of Republicans being harmed by this equipment as often as Democrats, or at all. Unfortunately, my follow-up on the Tennessee story this morning proves to me what my OP title says: DREs may be nefarious BUT they are faithful --- to their Republican masters.
I would strongly recommend that DUers also read the original story published in the Decatur County Chronicle (weekly, circulation 2,700, motto: "Blessed in the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12)) this past Tuesday. Here's the link:

Here's what I learned in speaking with the local reporter and the Decatur County Election Registrar who was interviewed for the story:

  • The newspaper learned about the story "... when the voters called the paper to report the vote flips from McCain to Obama". Or maybe it was a call from the two county election commissioners quoted in the story --- both Republican party members of the five person local commission --- one of whose father-in-law happens to be the newspaper publisher.
  • The three voters who reported the vote-flips (but only to the newspaper --- they have still not contacted anyone at the Election Commission) were the mother, father-in-law and either cousin or uncle of the Decatur County Republican Party Chairman
  • All of them are in business with each other at the local sawmill.
  • None of the aggrieved voters have listed phone numbers.
  • When the Decatur County Election Registrar offered to call a county election commission meeting to discuss the vote-flipping incident, the Republican commissioners declined.
  • Neither of the Republican commission members have been back to the county election commission office to file any formal complaint about the equipment or to ask that it be de-commissioned.

So folks --- I report, you decide. As for me, my initial skepticism has (sadly) been confirmed. What looked like a rare glimpse at bi-partisan harm caused by DREs has sadly been --- once again --- another debunked exception that reinforces the rule.

When I finished my conversation with the county Election Registrar (who was completely open and helpful throughout our conversation) by saying "You know, when I heard this story, I smelled a fish. And it weren't fresh-caught", she said "Exactly."

Folks, we've just witnessed a little bamboozlry on the banks of the Tennessee River, in a sleepy little backwoods county whose Republicans are as slimy as they are stupid. Their little attempt at small town psy-ops has plopped pathetically --- like poop from a dying pachyderm.

Like the ACORN brou-ha-ha-ha-ha, this story has no merit.

DREs may be nefarious BUT they are faithful.

The BRAD BLOG covers your electoral system, fiercely and independently, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work with a donation to help us keep going. If you like, we'll send you some great election integrity documentary films in return. Details on that right here...