By Ernest A. Canning on 9/18/2011, 11:11am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

"One of the great questions of our time is whether the American people, through Congress, will control the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, or whether Wall Street will continue to wreak havoc on our economy and the lives of working families."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 9/16/11

Sanders' question is indeed one of the "great" ones for our time. But, as Yoda said, "there is another."

If there was ever a candidate perfectly suited to expose the lie that is to be found in the pseudo-populism of the mega-billionaire Koch brothers funded and controlled 'Tea Party' that helped Scott Brown (R-MA) secure a reported upset win in the 2010 special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of the late Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA), it would be Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat.

The brilliant, straight-talking Harvard Law Professor and special adviser appointed by President Barack Obama to oversee the development of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose interview with Michael Moore for Capitalism: A Love Story (see video below) established her to be the same thorn in the side of Wall Street's financial "products" that Ralph Nader was to GM when he exposed the Corvair in Unsafe at Any Speed, announced last week that she is a 2012 candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by a GOP Senator who has turned to Wall Street, in a big way, for financial support.

There is little question but that Warren's brilliance, eloquence, and sincerity will come into play during the ensuing campaign. But while Warren plants her flag in the fight for oversight, transparency, and accountability for our financial system, will she (and other candidates) come to understand the importance of oversight, transparency, and accountability for our electoral system before it's too late? Before yet another election --- like the one which brought Brown to the Senate in the first place --- is decided under a cloud of unverified results reported by easily-hacked, oft-failed, optical-scan voting systems such as those made by Diebold and programmed by a company with a criminal background in the great commonwealth of Massachusetts?...

The great overlooked issue of 21st Century U.S. politics

The Crimson reports that Brown claims to be "an 'ordinary Joe' with the ability to connect with voters and understand their concerns."

Warren, no doubt, has the capability of addressing whether Brown really meets that description, or whether MA's Republican junior Senator, like NJ Gov. Chris Christie, is but a sly political chameleon who pretends to be a "moderate Republican" in order to hide an allegiance to mega-billionaires like the Kochs and their democracy-perverting, union-busting, radical-right agenda.

If the 2010 MA special election to fill the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for five decades is indicative, it is likely that neither candidate will focus on the one issue that lies at the very core of our democracy --- the need for both the winner and loser of an election to know that the official "winner" is the candidate who actually received the most votes.

Within just over an hour or so after the close of polls on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, the, Associated Press declared that Brown had defeated his Democratic rival, State Attorney General Martha Coakley, to become the first Republican U.S. Senator from MA in 30 years. Even before AP had called the race, Coakley conceded (defeating her fellow Bay Stater, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), in breaking the land speed record for prompt electoral capitulation).

Early the next morning, The New York Times, which described the reported Brown win as an "extraordinary upset," declared that Brown had received 52% of the vote as compared to Coakley’s 47%.

There’s just one little detail which AP, Brown, Coakley, and The New York Times overlooked, but which we noted here at THE BRAD BLOG. At the time each declared or conceded the Brown "victory," no human being had counted so much as a single vote that was actually cast in the pivotal election which undid the Democrats filibuster-proof super-majority in the U.S. Senate.

Nearly all of MA voted on the same Diebold optical scan system that was seen being notoriously hacked in HBO's Emmy-nominated documentary Hacking Democracy.

In the film, Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti exploited the Diebold system’s vulnerability by way of a minor change in its memory card’s programming instructions. A mock election was then conducted in which the question was posed as to whether Diebold’s machines could be hacked. Two paper ballots were marked “yes," six “no,” as seen during the taping of the live, on-camera test. All eight ballots were fed into the Diebold system. The "election" was then closed and machine-tabulated. A paper receipt was spewed out bearing stunning results: Yes 7, No 1, the inverse of what we had all expected them to be. To insure this was not just a number fed onto the paper receipt, the optical scanner’s memory card was uploaded into the voting systems central tabulator (in Diebold's case, it's called GEMS). The result, once again: Yes 7; No 1.

As noted by Brad Friedman and Nathan Barker in the Right-leaning Gueverneur Times, while questioning a Democratic "victory" in 2010's special Congressional election in NY-23, the Hursti "hack sent shockwaves throughout the e-voting industry, and among state and federal election officials. But the federally certified machines were never decertified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission [EAC], despite the discovery of the code in violation of federal standards. That code, allowing this simple exploitation," was still in place during the Jan. 19, 2010 MA Special Election for the U.S. Senate.

Diebold admitted that the tabulator software on their voting system doesn’t work as promised and, among other short-comings, may drop thousands of votes without notice to the system operator. Diebold also acknowledged the memory cards on their op-scan paper-ballot systems are prone to failure.

Lack of reliability went beyond the hardware and software of the Diebold systems themselves. Almost all of MA's voting machines were sold and serviced by the notorious LHS Associates --- the private company with the criminal background that has admitted to illegally tampering with memory cards during elections, and which has a Director of Sales and Marketing who embarrassed himself with obscene comments here at The BRAD BLOG some years ago, resulting in his being barred from CT by their Sec. of State.

In Massachusetts, however, LHS continues its work, as election officials turn the other way, and voters are left in the dark about the vulnerabilities of the system they rely on to determine who will represent them.

Now is the time to demand a hand count

The most transparent means for ensuring that every vote lawfully cast is accurately counted is by application of "Democracy's Gold Standard" --- hand-marked paper ballots, as publicly hand counted at the precinct level on Election Night, with results posted at the polling place before ballots are ever moved anywhere.

While it is possible to attempt to verify or refute a computer opt-scan reported result after an election, as revealed by our series of articles pertaining to the recent, hotly contested WI Supreme Court election, post-election hand counts are rife with the opportunity for ballot manipulation absent strict adherence to transparently secure chain-of-custody procedures. Expensive post-election hand counts, days or weeks later, may, as in the case of the Wisconsin election, offer no more assurance to winners or losers (or their supporters) that ballots were accurately tabulated in the first place, defeating the entire point of the exercise.

Moreover, a post-election request for a hand-count carries with it the "sore loser" charge even though there is no way of knowing whether the optical-scanners accurately tabulated (or even engaged in what many refer to as "counting") in the first place, absent hand counting the paper ballots in front of the public on Election Night.

The time for both Brown and Warren to request a publicly hand-counted election is now. While Brown is likely comfortable with the machines that declared him the "winner" in 2010, Warren ought to understand the dangers of tabulation being carried out in secret, outside of the public eye, without the ability for human oversight to assure accuracy.

Whether either will call for such transparency remains the $64,000 --- or, perhaps more appropriately, the $64 billion, or even trillion --- question.

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Michael Moore's interview with Elizabeth Warren in Capitalism: A Love Story follows...

And here is a video of Elizabeth Warren's announcement of her candidacy...