E-voting in the Trenches: A Two-Year Chronology

A Post Script to "Invisible Ballots"

By Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, OpEdNews http://www.opednews.com July 2006

(To be read AFTER viewing "Invisible Ballots: A Temptation for Electronic Vote Fraud"

So much has happened since the documentary "Invisible Ballots" was released in April 2004 that it's time to offer a companion piece to the film that brings viewers up to speed. In the coming months, developments will undoubtedly gain momentum, rendering this update obsolete. In the meantime, here are the highlights.

What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election. Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005.
Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, along with 11 Congressional colleagues, went to Ohio to gather sworn testimony regarding the 2004 election. "Witnesses included both Republicans and Democrats, elected officials, voting machine company employees, poll observers, and many voters who testified about the harassment they endured, some of which led to actual vote repression." http://www.house.gov/judiciary_democrats/ohiostatusrept1505.pdf

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report [on Electronic Voting] September 2005
This report essentially validated concerns originally brushed aside as coming from "sore losers" and "conspiracy theorists." The GAO is one of the few nonpartisan, incorruptible institutions left, and their indictment is extremely serious. However, the report received virtually no media coverage, except for on the web. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05956.pdf

According to Fitrakis and Wasserman, in "Powerful Government Accountability Office report confirms key 2004 election findings:"
This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

The Carter-Baker Commission (The Commission on Federal Election Reform)
Electronic voting "is almost totally opaque," David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, told the commission. "Voters have no means to confirm that the machines have recorded their votes correctly, nor will they have any assurance that their votes won't be changed at some later time." The report got more attention for its call for voter IDs than it did for stressing the need for paper backup for electronic voting. http://www.american.edu/ia/cfer/

Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? Essential Documents. Edited by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, CICJ Books, May 2005.
Besides the unabridged Conyers report, this book contains reporters Fitrakis and Wasserman's pre-election, election day, and post-election coverage. It also includes pieces by Bob Koehler, David Swanson, John Bonifaz, Steven Freeman, Ellen Theisen, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. This heavy and informative book covers current election history in a single volume.

How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, CICJ Books, September 2005.
From the back cover: "After reading this book, you may not ask 'Who will win in 2008,' but rather 'If we don't totally change the system, why bother holding an election at all?'"

Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them) Mark Crispin Miller, Basic Books, October 2005.
Miller, a professor of media studies at NYU, has appeared on various TV and radio shows in the past to promote his other books on this administration. The publishing of this book, however, was greeted by media silence. Once quite popular on the media circuit, his work has now been bashed as baseless and ill informed.

Harri Hursti's Staged Hack, Leon County, Florida, December 13, 2005
Ion Sancho, Leon County Superintendent of Elections, invited Bev Harris of Black Box Voting and computer security expert Harri Hursti to attempt an "authorized" hack on the Diebold Optical Scan machine in use in his county. He had the board of elections run a mock election with only one question: "Can the memory card on these machines be hacked?" The memory card was checked by the board prior to their voting. The vote, confirmed by all, was 6 to 2. This was invisibly flipped by Mr. Hursti to read 1 to 7.

This revelation caused quite a stir across the country, especially where the same machines were in use, namely in California, the largest electronic voting machine market in the America. Again, the mainstream media was remarkably silent. Sancho wanted to dump the Diebold machines as a result of the hack. For his pains, Mr. Sancho's bosses tried to oust him. The Secretary of State scheduled a meeting to deal with Sancho, and tried to exclude the press. Mr. Sancho's fellow board members unanimously supported him. While he received accolades as a true hero for upholding the votes of his constituents, he is still viewed by Republicans as a troublemaker in Florida. http://www.bradblog.com/?p=2157

"The Truth about Diebold," Susan Pynchon, March 30, 2006
In December 2005, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson commissioned local computer experts to examine the Diebold machines, both optical scan and touch-screen, in use in his state. The report was issued in February 2006 by California's Voting System Technical Assessment and Advisory Board (VSTAAB). It was promptly disregarded by McPherson, who recertified all of the machines that were condemned by the task force that he himself had appointed. The report cited numerous problems that could be detected only "by recount of the original paper ballots." Also mentioned was the frightening prospect that the software installed in these machines could affect elections well into the future. Pynchon concluded:
If you are about to purchase a voting system for your county or your state, please take this VSTAAB report to heart. The security vulnerabilities revealed by the California scientists mean that paper ballots (not VVPAT: voter verifiable paper audit trail) are the only sure way to provide fair, verifiable, accurate, secure and auditable elections. Once you select an optical-scan, paper-ballot system for your jurisdiction, the next step, of course, is to guard those paper ballots like the gold in Fort Knox and require audits of a percentage of those ballots after every election. With verifiable, auditable voting systems and a secure chain-of-custody of paper ballots, the confidence of U.S. citizens in the integrity of our elections will finally be restored.

Florida's Technical Advisory
The findings in California led Florida's Division of Elections to issue a technical advisory "Recommendations and Guidelines" without mentioning either the Hursti hack or Diebold machines by name. This advisory extended beyond Diebold to include all electronic voting machines. In a stunning Catch-22, summed up by BradBlog in a March 3rd, 2006 column:
In the case of the Leon County hack, we learned, the actual paper ballots used in the mock election - had they been examined by hand - would have revealed the correct election results instead of the flipped results as reported by Diebold's optical scan counter. However, since Florida law specifically disallows ballots which have already been counted by machine to be hand-counted or even audited, the true election results would never have been known. Even in the case of a recount - which would not have occurred in the case of the mock election test, since the flipped results were nowhere near close enough to have triggered a mandatory recount - such ballots could only be rescanned by the machines which ha(d) miscounted them in the first place. http://www.bradblog.com/?p=2499

Brennan Center Report
The Center released its report in June 2006 after a year's investigation into electronic voting across the country. It is instructive to look at the full title of the press release: "Brennan Center Task Force Says Software Attacks Pose Real Danger To All Electronic Voting Machines. Threat of Hacking Can Be Reduced by Simple Countermeasures - Random Audits of Paper Records; Ban on Wireless Systems." The press release contains this worrisome statement: "The vast majority of states have not implemented election procedures or countermeasures to detect a software attack even though the most troubling vulnerabilities of each system can be substantially remedied."

John Gideon's Daily Voting News
Continuous, state-by-state, national coverage of election fiascos can be found online at John Gideon's Daily Voting News at www.votetrustusa.org and www.votersunite.org. This is one of the only places to get an overview of the problems with electronic voting across the country. While the material comes from many sources, much of it is from Los Angeles-based Brad Friedman, an indefatigable investigative reporter with elections as his beat. See his blog at www.bradblog.com. Also, check out Black Box Voting http://blackboxvoting.org, Election Justice Center http://election.solarbus.org, and http://verifiedvoting.org

"Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
This article appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in June 2006 and instantly created a stir. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, speaking at the Take Back America 2006 Conference in D.C., apologized for her slowness in realizing the severity of the problem of election fraud. She credited Kennedy's article with her "awakening." This indicates how the subject has begun creeping into the mainstream press. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen

Lou Dobbs, CNN Series on Electronic Voting
In June 2006, Lou Dobbs of CNN has an ongoing series on electronic voting, including online straw polls on the CNN website to gauge public opinion. The "quick vote" on June 27 read: "Do you believe that e-voting machines should be disallowed until their integrity can be assured?" Of more than 11,500 voters, 98% were in favor of this statement. As CNN and Dobbs are not bastions of liberalism, this shows that the mandate has begun spreading across the boards. VoteTrustUSA is assisting with series.

Catherine Crier's Court TV Segment, "Defending Our Democracy"
In June 2006, Catherine Crier did an in-depth segment called "Defending our Democracy" in which she stated that the failure to count 350,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 "threatens to turn us into little more than a banana republic." This is part of a series on voting.

Creation of the Election Defense Alliance
The Election Defense Alliance was set up in mid-2006. From their website:
The purpose of EDA is to help build and coordinate a comprehensive, cohesive national strategy for the election integrity movement, in order to regain public control of the voting process in the United States, and to insure that the process is honest, transparent, secure, verifiable, and worthy of the public trust. To accomplish this purpose, EDA will serve as a strategic hub for a coordinated network of citizen electoral integrity groups and individuals, already working at the national, state, and local levels, to amplify the effectiveness and size of the election integrity movement. Our primary functions will be to provide coordination and focus, eliminate duplication of efforts, create a clearinghouse for the sharing of materials and other resources, and facilitate critical leadership in decision-making about strategic priorities and tactical approaches. http://electiondefensealliance.org/purpose:

Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud and the Official Count.
Steven Freeman and Joel Bliefuss, Seven Stories Press.
From a BuzzFlash review:
"As the authors note in their chapter on how the media has ignored the questions raised by the 2004 election, "That a journalistic examination of the exit-poll discrepancy is deemed 'not fit to print' by both the corporate and the independent media indicates how far our standards have devolved. It seems undeniable to us that the very same set of facts applied to a foreign election anywhere in the world would have garnered front-page coverage in every American newspaper and would have been the lead story on every American news program. If election fraud in Ukraine or Haiti is news, why isn't election fraud in the United States?" This is a question we ignore at great peril to our democracy.

Armed Madhouse. Greg Palast, Dutton, June 2006.
Author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast won the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Award for the investigative journalism he has done for the BBC. You won't see him on American television though. His wicked sense of humor takes a bit of the sting out of a terrible indictment about our elections and our "elected officials."

Election Fraud Litigation and Investigations
According to Catherine Crier's Court TV report, machine-related lawsuits and investigations have been launched in 20 states. As more states run afoul of the inaccurate and insecure machines, more election litigation is expected. http://www.voteraction.org

As this movement begins to gather speed do what you can to help it along. Without true and fundamental election reform, our democracy remains at grave risk. Turning this around will take the effort of millions of our fellow citizens working together. Can you think of a more worthwhile enterprise?

Thanks to John Gideon of VoteTrustUSA and VotersUnite! for fact-checking. Ariella Brunwasser's masterful editing was instrumental in turning this document into something more closely resembling a silk purse than a sow's ear.

For more information about the "Invisible Ballots" lending library project, contact Joan Brunwasser at CountEveryVote@gmail.com. The project, operated by Citizens for Election Reform, is sponsored by the International Humanities Center http://ihcenter.org/groups/citizensforelectionreform.html, a nonprofit organization and donations are tax-deductible under Section 501 (c)(3) of the IRS code.


Joan Brunwasser of Citizens for Election Reform is a citizen activist working hard to restore and preserve free and fair elections. Her main focus is distributing "Invisible Ballots" through her lending library project. Since mid September, she has loaned the DVD to 'borrowers' in 37 states, DC, Canada, Holland, England, Ireland and Japan. She had hoped to hit 100 before December 31st and accomplished that goal on December 23rd. She has now enlisted 1,835 individuals and groups in her project and is always looking for new contacts. Her latest target is the local press, local elected officials and other community movers and shakers. She is the Voting Integrity Editor for Op Ed News and can be reached at CountEveryVote@gmail.com.

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