Quick Intro to Black BoxVoting and What Went Wrong in Ohio

• Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century
By Bev Harris. Talion Press, 2004.
• What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election.
Edited by Anita Miller. Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005.

Reviews by Sheila Parks
Originally published by Tikkun Magazine online, at http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/reviews/article.2006-01-06.7975946864

In Black Box Voting and What Went Wrong in Ohio, Bev Harris and Michigan Congressman John Conyers present data that are chilling indictments of our election system. Harris discusses electronic voting machines and the fraud and error they have enabled in elections. Conyers - a Democrat - highlights the disenfranchisement of African-American, low-income, and Democratic communities through voter suppression by government power and campaign organizations; he also discusses problems associated with electronic voting machines.
A striking example from Harris: In March, 2002, Diebold Election Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting machines, received a $54 million dollar contract to place these machines in the entire state of Georgia. Harris found “40,000 secret files on an unprotected” Internet site of Diebold. One of the files was called “rob-georgia.zip.” “Rob-georgia.zip” contained a patch for the Windows CE operating system that went unchecked and uncertified by any government official. With specific documentation, Harris states, “Talbot Iredale, senior vice president of research and development for Diebold…modified the Windows CE operating system used in Georgia.” Harris concludes that a single man had unchecked access to modify the operating system on which the votes were counted – a major security breach. Her investigation showed that commuter commands had been replaced on all 22,000 machines in Georgia “right before the election without anyone examining what the new commands actually do.”

In November, 2002, there were six Georgia contests in which Republicans won upset victories, the most notable being the race that Senator Max Cleland lost to conservative Republican Saxby Chambliss. A year after the publication of her book, Harris and her organization Black Box Voting, along with computer experts Harri Hursti and Hugh Thompson, publicly hacked Diebold optical scan electronic voting machines in Leon County, Florida in the presence of election supervisor Ion Sancho, thereby demonstrating the ease with which electronic voting machines can be rigged.

Conyers provides specifics about Ohio – e.g. that voters in some African-American and Democratic communities had to wait in line ten hours to vote. Conyers argues that many of the problems in Ohio involved “intentional misconduct and illegal behavior,” with Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell playing a major role. One of many examples is Blackwell’s restricting of provisional ballots, which disenfranchised “tens, if not hundreds, of thousands” of mostly minority and Democratic voters. Blackwell was co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio. Because of the numerous illegal activities, Conyers states that the Ohio electors “cannot be considered lawfully certified...” Conyers details the eye-opening story of Sherole Eaton, Deputy Director of Elections for Hocking County [a whistleblower, since fired]. She reported that she saw Michael Barbian Jr., a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, Inc., modify the vote tabulator for the Hocking County computer prior to the Ohio recount announcement. Conyers adds that Psephos Corporation, a Triad affiliate, “supplied the notorious butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida in the 2000 Presidential election.”

We must acknowledge and end the racism that plagues our country and voting system. The Voting Rights Act must be enforced and renewed by 2007. We must change to a system of hand marked, hand counted paper ballots (HCPB). Used in a number of democracies throughout the world and in some municipalities in the United States, HCPB are an excellent alternative to the current extensive use of electronic voting machines, which can be rigged regardless of how many mandated random audits are held, at whatever percent, on any machines – touch-screens or optical scans. Ballots must be counted correctly the first time. To audit HCPB, votes are counted by hand again, immediately after the first hand count. HCPB require safeguards, but these are more easily provided than making electronic voting machines that cannot be rigged.

If not now, when?