|Will Americans Be Able to Trust the Vote Count in 2008?|
And, What Can We Do to Protect the Integrity of Elections?
By Kevin B. Zeese
The campaigns are in full gear, the candidates are picked, TV ads are running, and election corruption is taking hold. Around the country, particularly in swing states, there are stories of efforts to undercut voter registration especially by poor and African American voters. In addition, this summer has seen story after story of the potential corruption and likely dysfunction of electronic voting machines.
The combination of corruption of the voter registration system and corruption of the vote counting machinery means that 1 + 1 is not likely to equal 2 when it comes to counting the vote. The public is better informed and more fed up than ever with these election shenanigans. It is time to get informed and organized so that Americans will join together and refuse to accept another stolen election.Voter Registration Corruption: Suppressing the Vote in Key States
It is the season of intensive voter registration drivesâVirginia, for example, just ordered 200,000 voter registration forms because of shortagesâand of voter suppression efforts as well. Throughout the country, particularly in battleground states, Republican voter registration challenges are moving forward aggressively.
In the last two presidential elections voter suppression may have been the key to Republican "victories." (Note: I am not a Democrat or Republican. I am a voter that does not support either of the major political parties manipulation of American democracy.) Many have concluded that the 2000 election was corrupted in Florida by operatives in the Jeb Bush administration who suppressed the black vote and undermined the vote count, as well as by the partisan Supreme Court justices who stopped the recount. But, now it is also evident that the 2004 election was corrupted by the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio who undermined voter registration in black communities and made sure that there were not enough election machines in Democratic Party-leaning precincts. (If you have any doubt that the 2004 election was stolen see the film "Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections" available at:
www.uncountedthemovie.com or "Stealing America Vote by Vote," www.stealingamericathemovie.org which document election theft.)
Now, we are seeing many of the techniques used in those elections to suppress the vote in 2008. The McCain-Palin campaign and Republican Party are aggressively seeking ways to reduce the number of Democratic voters. Here are a few examples:
- The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP's effort to challenge voters on Election Day. Ohio Republicans are considering the same tactic. This mean-spirited approach to denying people their vote will not only intimidate voters but will create long lines in Democratic-leaning precincts. A coalition of faith-based, community and labor organizations protested outside of McCain-Palin's Michigan office against this tactic.
- In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen a Republican and co-chair of the McCain-Palin Campaign in Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit demanding Wisconsin election officials verify voters' identity before the November election. This could lead to frustration at the polls and exhausted clerks in a hotly contested state in the presidential race. One million people have registered since January 1 and if successful the lawsuit would require every new registrant be checked.
- The Florida Secretary of State decided on September 8th to enforce the state's "no-match, no-vote" law, a voter registration law that blocked more than 16,000 eligible Florida citizens from registering to vote in 2006, through no fault of their own, and could disenfranchise tens of thousands more voters in November. Republican Secretary of State Kurt Browning's last-minute decision to implement the law in the final month before the registration deadline will post a significant hurdle to eligible Florida citizens hoping to vote in November. It will disenfranchise voters who do not send or bring a photocopy of their driver's license to county election officials' offices after voting, even though these voters will have shown their driver's licenses when they went to vote at the polls. The decision will put thousands of Florida citizens at risk due to bureaucratic typos that under the 'no-match, no-vote' law will prevent them from voting this November.
- On September 11, 2008 Air America the Tom Hartmann Show received calls from people in swing states who had received "absentee ballot request forms" from the McCain campaign.Â These were being sent to people registered as Democrats or Independents, but there seemed to be errors in the forms, instructions and/or the return addresses on the envelope for mailing back the forms.
- Also in Ohio, a Republican passed election law could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. The Democratic Secretary of State describes it as an unconstitutional law that allows Ohio county election boards to cancel a voter's registration solely because some election notices mailed to a home address come back undeliverable.
- In Colorado, Holly Lowder resigned from her post as elections director two months before one of the biggest elections in Colorado history. She held that job since 2006. Colorado Ethics Watch had been pursuing documents from the state regarding Lowder's ties to John Paulsen whose company installed voter databases in more than 30 counties and recently got two contracts worth almost $184,000 with the secretary of state's office for data work related to the current election season. It turns out Lowder and Paulsen were living together.
- In Virginia, students who are registering to vote for the first time are facing ambiguous new state rules about whether a campus address is sufficient for voter registration purposes. Two weeks ago, in Montgomery County, where Virginia Tech is located, the county election director said students who register to vote in Virginia could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returnsâwhich the Internal Revenue Service later said was incorrectâand could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents' car and health insurance. Student voting advocates said those remarks were intended to suppress student voting.
There seems to be one reported incidence of the Democrats playing games to suppress Republican voter registration. This September in Ohio the McCain-Palin campaign sent out an absentee ballot request form to approximately one million Republican voters. The form had an unnecessary box where the voter needed to check that he or she was a legitimate voter. The Democratic Secretary of State is reading the law to say that if that box is not checked the voter is not allowed to vote. She has offered to contact people who did not fill out the box but the Republicans find that unacceptable and her reading of the law as too narrow
This is all adding up to a concerted campaign by McCain-Palin to undermine the progress Obama-Biden have made in registering voters. How many hundreds of thousands of voters will be intimidated by these actions, challenged on Election Day or prevented from voting? Will the Republicans be able to de-register voters faster than the Democrats register them?Voting Machines that are Insecure and Unreliable
This summer there has been a rash of stories acknowledging the faulty nature of electronic voting machines confirming research done since 2003 showing electronic voting cannot be trusted due to the potential for security breach and malfunction.
This summer the Electronic voting machine manufacturer Premier Elections Solutions (formerly Diebold) warned government officials of a critical programming error that can drop votes before they are tallied. Premier's disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003. Premier Election Solutions also confirmed that a software glitch in its proprietary systems caused 1,000 votes not to be counted in an Ohio election this March.Â These problems could have affected election results in 34 states in recent years.
It is not only the Diebold electronic voting system that has problemsâthey all do. A security review of the Sequoia voting system this summer found serious security and other flaws. Sequoia, along with ES&S voting systems, are the subject of a new paper, and video issued by the Computer Security Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The paper clarifies that security is lacking in both Sequoia and ES&S voting systems: "the electronic voting systems that we have reviewed are neither secure nor well-designed."
The Computer Security Group paper also discusses the failure of the certification process which does not and cannot adequately secure a software driven voting system. The failure of certification is also examined by a report this month issued by the GAO which describes numerous instances of problems with voting machines.
In addition to these problems being acknowledged or discovered there have also been a series of voting failures within the last two years demonstrating that the dysfunction of voting machines is not theoretical, but real. Below are some examples:
- Most recently on September 9th the nation's capitol saw a meltdown, D.C. election officials blamed a defective computer memory cartridge for producing what appeared to be thousands of write-in votes that officials say did not exist. In the Republican at-large race, 1,560 write-ins at 9:50 p.m. dwindled to 18 by 12:16 a.m. Thousands of votes were added to individual candidates, inflating vote totals. At 9:50 p.m. 8,246 ballots were recorded in the at-large Republican primary, but that shrank to 3,735 by 12:16 a.m.
The numbers were so bizarre that the malfunction was caught and corrected. But how it happened remains something of a mystery. Sequoia Voting Systems, says that its database and software functioned just fine, and pointed to static electricity or other possibilities.
- In Palm Beach a recount this September 1 found 3,400 fewer votes than the original count. Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson is unable to explain the new totals, the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board is showing veteran jurist Richard Wennet leading by just 60 votes. Three weeks after the election the race is still unresolved and last week after looking for missing ballots, the Canvassing Board now has more ballots than were originally counted.
- In Arkansas during an election this spring 45 votes cast in one race were added to the totals of an entirely different race that wasn't even on the same ballot.
- Last year, Volusia County Florida was forced to replace over 300 memory cards on their voting machines due to manufacturing defects.
- Last year, Lawrence County Ohio had one race where the voting machines flipped the results between two candidates due to a programming error.
- In a hotly contested Florida congressional race in 2006, decided by less than 400 votes, 18,000 votes went missing.
Of course, the most serious problemâelection fraudâwould not be possible to report because it is untraceable and unfindable without a voter verified paper ballot and mandatory audits.
Throughout the country people vote on different kinds of voting systems, usually decided by the county election board. The key battleground states vote on a variety of equipment:
Colorado: Most of Colorado will be voting on a paper ballot-based system with or without touchscreen machines. Next most common will be touchscreens with a paper record.
Florida: Most of Florida will be voting on a mixed system of paperless touchscreen machines and paper ballots. A few counties will be voting on touchscreen machines without a paper record.
Michigan: All of the state will be voting on a paper ballot-based voting system.
Nevada: All of the state will be voting on touchscreens with a voter verified paper record.
New Hampshire: All of the state will be voting on a paper ballot-based voting system.
New Mexico: All of the state will be voting on a paper ballot-based voting system.
Ohio: Most of the state will be voting on a touchscreen system that includes a voter verified paper record. Second most common is a paper-based system counted on an optical scan machine. A handful of counties provide a mix of voting systems.
Pennsylvania: Most of the state will be voting on touchscreen systems without any paper record. The next most common system will be a paper ballot-based voting system. And a handful of counties will be voting on a mixed system of paperless and paper-based voting.
Virginia: Most of the state will be voting on paperless touchscreen voting machines. Some of the state will be voting on touchscreen systems with a voter verified paper record.
Wisconsin: Most of the state will be voting on a paper-based system either with or without touchscreens. The next most common will be a paper ballot-based system. One county mixed systems with and without a paper record.
The challenge with paperless electronic voting is that the machines make mistakes or can be programmed to corrupt the election result, but without a paper record there will be no way to see the corruption. The smoothest election can actually be the most corrupt.The Good News and What We Can Do
There is an active voting integrity movement in the Untied States. Most of the organizations with a grass roots base are state-based organizations. As a result there are now places where people can get involved in working to make sure their elections have as much integrity as possible. (See links at end of article.)
One thing you can do is tell Congress you want a voter verified paper ballot. You can write Congress by clicking here. This will also get you in the TrueVote.US data base so you can be kept informed of major developments in voting integrity and activism to secure our elections.
Litigation in Ohio is being pursued challenging electronic voting in the most important battleground state in the nation. The RICO suit is based on the testimomy of Karl Rove's IT guru from 2000 until sometime last year, Stephen Spoonamore. The attorneys, Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis, intend to depose Karl Rove, Bob Ney and other alleged perpetrators of Republican election fraud.
The Election Assistance Commission has urged all voters to check to make sure they are registered to vote. This is something you should do and urge everyone you know to do. You can register on-line by clicking here. The Obama campaign has set up a web page that allows you to check your registration online. If you are having problems with registration contact Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683).
Bev Harris of Black Box Voting has put out a tool kit that can provide you everything you need to know to be an effective voter integrity activist. We cannot count on other people to protect our democracy, we need to do it ourselves. You can get the took kit by clicking here. The kit will tell you how we can take back our elections, educate our communities, work with the media, pressure public officials, get public record documents, monitor the testing of voting machines, monitor the voting and the vote count, watch the chain of custody of ballots and audit the election and even file a lawsuit. Thousands of eyes watching makes election theft more difficult.
There are many problems in American democracyâinfluence of big business money, ballot laws that make independent and third party runs difficult, debates limited to two parties, voting systems that push voters to vote for the lesser evil rather than the greater good, manipulated voting districts to protect incumbents, elections being administered by partisan election officials, to name a few among problems U.S. elections face. But, if we are unable to get these two basic things rightâregistering voters and counting the vote accuratelyâthen not much else matters because the democracy is a farce and a fraud on the most basic fundamentals.
This year the proportion of voters using touchscreen voting systemsâthe least reliable system availableâis expected to fall to 36 percent in November, down from a high of 44 percent in 2006. In addition, more voters are expected to use paper ballots in 2008 than did back in 2000. Now a majority of voters in the country will vote on paper ballots. Thus, there will be a voting record that will allow for a meaningful audit or recount in many states and counties.
But more work needs to be done. You need to play a role. Democracy is not a spectator sport, but one in which voters must participateâand not by merely votingâbut by working to move the United States toward the ideal of the greatest representative democracy on Earthâan ideal that we have nowhere near achieved.
The incidents described in this article are available at www.TrueVote.US. You can donate to support our efforts at: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/.
To see a breakdown of what kind of voting systems a particular state or country will be using visit www.VerifiedVoting.org. For information on the lawsuit in Ohio against Premier Elections Systems visit www.RoveCyberGate.com.
True Vote, www.TrueVote.US
Black Box Voting, www.blackboxvoting.org
Velvet Revolution, http://www.velvetrevolution.us
Verified Voting, www.verifiedvoting.org
Voters Unite, www.votersunite.org
Vote Trust USA, www.votetrustusa.org (with links to local groups throughout the country).
Kevin Zeese is executive director of True Vote (see www.TrueVote.US and www.TrueVoteMD.org) a project of the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics (FreshAirCleanPolitics.net) ï»¿