paper trail NOW paper trail NOW paper trail NOW
July 28, 2004 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Florida county loses 2002 E-voting records in computer crash Ooooops. Do your Congresspeople and Senators support verified voting ? - Check the database ( previously mentioned here) to see if your political reps support H.R.2239 and S.1980, the tandem bills before the U.S. House and Senate which would mandate paper-trail voting. "Electronic miscounts of votes are a fact, not a theory...Technologists warn that electronic voting machines are flawed. They say we should "trust but verify." " Others disagree....with Democracy.
posted by troutfishing (26 comments total)
This is incredibly embarrassing for me as a Floridian.

I guess I'll have to write to my government again - this time with an, "I told you so..." because they LOST MY VOTE from 2002.
posted by tomierna at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2004

Trust but verify? WTF?

How about, make the system so its secure, verfiable and repeatable and remove even the slightest hint of impropriety and then we can talk about trust.

Its not all that hard to have an electronic voting machine generate a paper record of the votes registered through it. Why is all of this still a question?

If the presidential election hinges on a Florida wack vote count then I will be one of the first to march on Washington and demand Bush's resignation.
posted by fenriq at 11:16 AM on July 28, 2004

GORE VIDAL: We don’t want an election without a paper trail. The makers of the voting machines say no one can look inside of them, because they would reveal trade secrets. What secrets? Isn’t their job to count votes? Or do they get secret messages from Mars? Is the cure for cancer inside the machines? I mean, come on. And all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption?
So Bush will probably win if the country is covered with these balloting machines. He can’t lose.

posted by matteo at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2004

fenriq - they'll have a "free speech" zone - determined to be constitutional by our sagacious and wholly unbiased Supremes (based partly on the Boston precedent) - set up for you and your fellow protestors.

And, as you're banging away at that concertina-wire topped chain link fence and screaming out your rage, an almost imperceptibly light drug-tinged mist - smelling very faintly of a certain bathroom deodorant called accenture - will waft in and take the edge off your anger.

Soon, you'll feel an overwhelming compulsion to just go off and play on the sunny, green grass of the Mall. Soon, you'll forget about your political concerns altogether. You'll eat a hot dog - maybe a big soft pretzel too - and some balloons. Life will be good.


Or, we all could go to the verifiedvoting site now to learn of our political reps' positions - and then encourage them to support democracy by supporting those bills.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
posted by troutfishing at 11:40 AM on July 28, 2004

Well, that's telling. I checked Virginia, and every single Dem on the list is listed as a co-sponsor. Among the Republicans, only one is listed as a co-sponsor, and all others are either "undecided" or there has been a message left with their staff ("I'll get back to you on that... why don't you hold your breathe in the meantime...")

Can anyone tell me what legitimate objection a legislator could have against these bills? I haven't read them through yet, and I intend to. But I'd really like to know if anyone has heard a reasonable con argument on this?
posted by Fenriss at 11:53 AM on July 28, 2004

Interesting thing about Verifiedvoting: every Republican in my state is "undecided" while all but one Democrat is for the bill (one is undecided)., which party does Diebold support? I wonder why they aren't in favor of verified voting?
posted by aramaic at 11:53 AM on July 28, 2004

Please pardon me while I preach to the choir.

This is why we need every voting machine to print a plainly legible receipt telling who was voted for. This receipt, after being verified by the voter, needs to go in the same damn locked voting box that they have always used for ballots.

A select number of precincts should then be chosen for an audit, matching machine voting numbers to receipt totals. If there is a discrepancy, audits should be widespread, with the audited numbers to supercede the machine numbers. Or, in this case, just count the receipts.

I thought the point of these machines was to avoid voting scandals.
posted by ilsa at 12:00 PM on July 28, 2004

Here's how it should work, if we need to have computers at all:

1) You select your candidates on the touchscreen.
2) The computer prints a completed ballot.
3) If the ballot is acceptable, you put it in the ballot box. If not, you have a pollworker destroy your ballot and you can start over.

Downside: ballots still have to be counted by hand.
Upside: ballots still have to be counted by hand.
posted by callmejay at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2004

OK, in Wisconsin (my parents' state, where my father is active in with the Dems) the situation is mostly the same, except that one Dem (Gerald Kleczka) says he's opposed on the grounds that it might compromise voter privacy, and one Repub (Tom Petri, interestingly) is a co-sponsor.

Nevertheless, the lion's share of Repubs are saying "undecided". Not "opposed". Is it because they haven't come up with a good cover story?

(on preview, perhaps "lion's share of Repubs" was an inopportune choice of terminology... no intentions of feeding of anyone to lions should be inferred.)
posted by Fenriss at 12:03 PM on July 28, 2004

Many Republicans seem to be opposing it on the basis of state's rights. I'm assuming because it has nothing to do with gays.
posted by jalexei at 12:39 PM on July 28, 2004

Fenriss - I poked around a bit, and there are actually a fair number of Republicans who do support the verified voting bills. Not as many as among the Democrats, but still a decently sized minority.

Also, has some good examples of cases where voting machine malfunctions threw Republican votes over to the Democratic side.
posted by troutfishing at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2004

Cozy....many Republicans want flawed electronic voting, many flawed electronic voting manufacturers want Republicans.

Hey, what's to worry about?

Diebold donors

The company that makes Miami-Dade's machines, Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., has provided corrective software to all nine Florida counties that use its machines. One flaw occurred when the machines' batteries ran low and an error in the program that reported the problem caused corruption in the machine's event log, said Douglas W. Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa whom Miami-Dade County hired to help solve the problem.

For other observers, however, the problems with electronic voting run much deeper. In an article for The Humanist (Jan./Feb. 2004), Michael I. Niman puts it succinctly: "The problem the United States faces is bigger than one of machines and technology. It involves a crisis of confidence brought on by a crisis of conflicts of interest." According to Niman, Walden "Wally" O'Dell, the chairman and CEO of Ohio-based Diebold, is a member of George W. Bush's "Pioneers" fund-raising group and once declared in a letter that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president" in 2004. An even more important player in the industry is Election Systems and Software (ES&S), whose corporate predecessor, American Information Systems (AIS), was chaired in the early '90s by Omaha investment banker Chuck Hagel. Slightly less than eight months after stepping down from his AIS post, Hagel ran as a Republican for the Senate in Nebraska. AIS held the contract to count over 80 percent of Nebraska's votes. Underdog Hagel triumphed in both the primary and the general elections, winning a majority in every demographic group in the state, including African Americans, who hadn't voted Republican in modern times. When Hagel posted another landslide victory in 2002, his opponent called for a recount.

It didn't happen. The state's contract with what was now ES&S didn't allow outsiders to examine the software used in the machines. Such software has been judged in court to be the private property of the voting-machine companies -- ruling out all vetting of it by governmental or party bodies suspecting fraud.

ES&S, the largest voting machine company in America, claims to have counted 56% of the vote in the last four presidential elections. Again, it's owned by the ultra-conservative Omaha World-Herald Company, the McCarthy Group, and former owners of Business Records Corporation. ES&S was created from a merger between American Information Systems (AIS) and Business Records Corporation. Bob and Todd Urosevich founded AIS in the 1980's. Bob is now president of Diebold-Global, while brother Todd is a vice president at ES&S. Business Records Corp. was partially owned by Cronus, a company that seems to have a lot of connections to the notorious Hunt brothers from Texas, as well as other individuals and entities, including Rothschild, Inc.. Right wing Republicans Howard Ahmanson (who financed AIS) and Nelson Bunker Hunt have both heavily contributed to The Chalcedon Institute, an organization that mandates Christian "dominion" over the world.

[Bev Harris] began by looking into Election Systems & Software, the world's largest election supply company, based in Omaha, Neb. Harris quickly found that ES&S was owned, in part, by a merchant banking holding company called the McCarthy Group and that the firm's chairman, Michael McCarthy, was Chuck Hagel's campaign treasurer. After searching news archives, Harris found that during Hagel's first campaign, in 1996, the Nebraska media reported that he had been president of ES&S -- which at the time was called American Information Systems -- between 1992 and 1995. But the articles suggested that Hagel was no longer affiliated with the voting equipment company. Harris saw election records that showed Hagel still holding between $1 million and $5 million worth of stock in McCarthy, which owned about 25 percent of ES&S.

Harris had stumbled on what seemed to be a striking conflict of interest -- a U.S. senator owned a share in a company that built all the vote-counting machines in his state. She put up the relevant documents on her site, "and immediately I knew I'd hit a sore spot," she says, "because right away I got a threat letter from ES&S."

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2004

Let's just admit it: the US is basically screwed, as far as the whole Democracy/Republic thing goes.
posted by aramaic at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2004

Did the Earth suddenly open up and swallow all the Republicans? Where's the voice of reason in this thread?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:51 PM on July 28, 2004

Where's matteo and his 72 pt Bodoni?

Or to put it another way, do you guys have any real investigative journalists left? Surely there's some major news outlet who's like to report on the fucking coup taking place in front of them.

The USA is pretty much broken now, right?
posted by fullerine at 3:59 PM on July 28, 2004

The biggest objection that's been raised is that paper disenfranchises the blind.

Other claims:
-printers increase the cost of purchase/maintainance
-paper is more costly to store and transport than a smartcard
-printers tend to jam at inconvenient moments

Funnily enough, HAVA, the law that provides all the $$$ for these machines, requires them to produce a paper trail anyway
(2) Audit capacity.--
(A) In general.--The voting system shall produce a record with an audit capacity for such system.
(B) Manual audit capacity.--
(i) The voting system shall produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity for such system.
(ii) The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to change the ballot or correct any error before the permanent paper record is produced.
(iii) The paper record produced under subparagraph (A) shall be available as an official record for any recount conducted with respect to any election in which the system is used.
Amazingly, the vendors just ignored that requirement, and government keeps on writing the checks and deploying these non-compliant systems anyway. The argument that's been made is that printing a list of whatever's in the county clerk's database AFTER the polls have closed and AFTER the machines have been opened and AFTER individual smartcards have had their data offloaded and erased is somehow a valid audit trail. Keep in mind that these machines have been known to lose or rewrite data well before even the first of those steps is completed: randomly, after power failures, due to physical loss of the smartcard, etc.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:38 PM on July 28, 2004

Fullerine - why not spread the word on the net ? It's a good start.

Then, there's the approach of the People For the American Way :

"Today, we are starting a campaign to hold Florida's state leaders accountable for potentially violating the voting rights of Florida voters.

For the past four years, evidence has been piling up that tens of thousands of Florida voters were the targets of a deeply-flawed voter purge process in 2000. But earlier this week came the most damning allegations yet.

Even though state elections officials are responsible for safeguarding all voters' rights, it appears that the Secretary of State's office has known since at least 1998 that the "potential felon" purge process is slanted to treat African American and Hispanic voters unequally. The result: tens of thousands of African American voters would be knocked off the rolls. Worse, Florida leaders did nothing to correct the problem. If these claims are true, state officials have potentially violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act and other civil rights laws.

Our first priority is to urge Attorney General John Ashcroft to appoint a special counsel, independent from the Justice Department, who will lead a federal investigation into these charges. "

Here's a summary of Mefi vote-fraud posts I did back on a big Diebold posts I did last year :

"November 2002, Comal County, Texas - A Texas-sized lack of curiosity about discrepancies: The uncanny coincidence of three winning Republican candidates in a row tallying up exactly 18,181 votes each was called weird, but apparently no one thought it was weird enough to audit. Conversion to alphabet: 18181 18181 18181 ahaha ahaha ahaha

November 2002, Baldwin County, Alabama - No one at the voting machine company can explain the mystery votes that changed after polling places had closed, flipping the election from the Democratic winner to a Republican in the Alabama governor’s race. “Something happened. I don’t have enough intelligence to say exactly what,” said Mark Kelley of ES&S. Baldwin County results showed that Democrat Don Siegelman earned enough votes to win the state of Alabama. All the observers went home. The next morning, however, 6,300 of Siegelman’s votes inexplicably had disappeared, and the election was handed to Republican Bob Riley. A recount was requested, but denied.

The Vote rigging and the 2000 Florida Election fraud (now admitted to by The State of Florida) have been covered in several Mefi discussions "If you want to win the election," he finally said, "just control the machines.", The Chuck Hagel Voting Machine Story Gets Even Scarier, Are Elections Fixed?, Who Counts You Votes? This Book, published in 1992..., Florida Lost 100,000 votes, Florida Machine Records Votes For Wrong candidate, Come out to vote on Nov. 6th, Another Election Debacle in Florida, Florida to Settle 2000 Election Lawsuit, Katherine Harris has Missed 2 election deadlines in the last month, When in doubt, blame the software, Voter News Service has abandoned its state and national exit polls. VNS, "Making Renquist Proud", Was Jeb Bush fed the Florida Grubernatorial debate? , Florida just might screw up again

Furthermore, Greg Palast, of BBC's NewsNight, and the journalist Lynn Landes have covered the vote fraud/vote rigging stories in considerable depth. Lynn Landes Links, Greg Palast Columns

Here's bit more: Chuck Hagel story, A Buzzflash commentary, Quietly Florida Admits 2000 Election Fraud

(By The Associated Press

April 26, 2002).

It's quite a cesspool, this emerging story.

It needs updating.

Then, there's the SAIC connection :

"SAIC is a behemoth military defense contractor with a shadowy, if not tarnished, reputation, while former SAIC executives also have ties to VoteHere. Why is that important? VoteHere is a growing company, which aspires to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry.

Former President, Chief Operating Officer, and Vice Chairman of SAIC is Admiral Bill Owens, who is now Chairman of the Board for VoteHere. Owens also served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was a senior military assistant to Secretaries of Defense Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney. Carlucci's company is Carlyle Group, while Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer is Halliburton.

Another former SAIC board member, also on the board of VoteHere, is ex-CIA director Robert Gates, a veteran of the Iran/Contra scandal.

VoteHere is already benefiting from the Diebold debacle, as it will be partnering with Sequoia Voting Systems, "to provide a new level of electronic ballot verification to customers of the AVC Edge touch screen voting system," according to the VoteHere website.

SAIC, which is supposed to vet Diebold's elections software, is itself in the elections business."

posted by troutfishing at 7:30 PM on July 28, 2004

You people do realize that if you sit on your asses nothing will change, right?

I should think having an accurate and honest voting system is desired by both republican and democrat voters. All of you need to contact your representatives and demand electoral reform.

Seriously, people, it's getting to a crisis situation. You can't afford to sit back on this one, or you simply will not have a democracy a decade from now.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on July 28, 2004

nakedcodemonkey - you're helping, anyway, to lay down a factual trail concerning US mainstream media's failure to notice these crucial manipulations.
posted by troutfishing at 7:34 PM on July 28, 2004

"You can't afford to sit back on this one, or you simply will not have a democracy a decade from now." - amen.

Now, to put that sermon to a megaphone........
posted by troutfishing at 8:01 PM on July 28, 2004

I can't comprehend how this problem is not obvious to everyone in America. Sadly, no matter what happens this November, if the general awareness of things doesn't change in a big way, it won't matter much.

Perhaps if there is a big change in both the Executive and Legislature, followed by a round of investigations which would make Watergate look like Night Court, then maybe the general awareness will rise sufficiently. Especially if we actually get to see some big names actually pay for their crimes.
posted by Goofyy at 1:44 AM on July 29, 2004

Where's matteo and his 72 pt Bodoni?

fair enough:

(thanks to the mighty zsazsa)
posted by matteo at 2:00 AM on July 29, 2004

"You can't afford to sit back on this one, or you simply will not have a democracy a decade from now." - amen.

Now, to put that sermon to a megaphone........

Then get off your ass!

The only way to get what "we" want in way of a society is to contact our political representatives and the directors of our companies and corporations and tell them what we want.

Otherwise they are left to guessing. We can not assume that our political representatives and boards of directors are guessing correctly.

It is time to hand-write a message to your political representative and explicitly state that you desire X. And follow it up by writing the major companies that you interact with day in and day out -- GE, Shell, Ford, Encorp, every one of the Fortune 500 -- and let them know what you want them to do.

Demand that these corporations become responsible toward their workers, toward their communities, toward the environment.

The individual can still make a difference. Speak up!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2004

In the 30's, private corporate armies were unloading gattling guns (in a few cases) on protestors. And still they fought and protested.

It could be worse.
posted by troutfishing at 11:44 AM on July 29, 2004

homunculus - Advance forward while covering the ass! (support verified voting bills while also dogging e-voting fraud attempts).
posted by troutfishing at 11:26 PM on July 29, 2004

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