Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dutchess County Passes Resolution to Retain Lever Voting Machines

In a surprise move, at a regular monthly meeting otherwise largely devoted to the contentious 2009 budget proposals, the Dutchess County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the State Legislature allow the county to retain its lever voting machines. The resolution had been introduced by Legislator David Kelly (R, Pawling, Beekman, East Fishkill) at the December 4th meeting of the Government Affairs and passed by unanimous consent out of committee. A similar resolution had been proposed to the entire legislature last month by Legislators Joel Tyner (D, Rhinbeck, Clinton) and Legislator Jim Doxsey (C, Town of Poughkeepsie) but had not been sent to committee.

In the past month members of the legislatively appointed Voting Integrity Task Force (VITF) of Dutchess County had twice addressed the legislature on the relationship of the anticipated adoption of op-scan voting system to the ballooning Board of Elections budget. The Dutchess County Election Commissioners had also sent a memorandum to the legislature outlining the growth in annual election costs attributable to the switch away from the lever machines to the op-scan technology.

It is customary for a unanimous consent resolution to be voted upon at the next meeting of the full legislature, however on Sunday the VITF was informed that the resolution was being pulled from the December 8th agenda and the vote postponed until the January meeting at which time the VITF was also scheduled to make a formal presentation of their research and recommendations. It therefore came as a surprise to some lawmakers and the public when ninety minutes into the meeting Mr. Kelly asked and was granted leave by unanimous vote to introduce the resolution as an agenda item, citing a bi-partisan desire to inform the state legislature as soon as possible of their request for authorization to keep the lever voting machines and thus keep elections "as straightforward as possible."

Video of the proceedings can be found here. Click on December 8th meeting. The introduction of the resolution starts at the 91.14 minute mark.

Our thanks to Legislators Doxsey, Kelly & Tyner for their role in forwarding this important resolution -- the first such formal expression of support for maintaining the lever machines by a county legislature in New York . Let 's work to spread the word and encourage other county legislatures to follow suit.

Full text of the resolution follows:

WHEREAS, for many decades Dutchess County has successfully used mechanical lever-style voting machines, with very few problems, and is desirous of continuing to do so, and

WHEREAS, New York State enacted the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 (ERMA) and other laws that require all lever machines to be replaced and prohibit the use of any lever machines in any future elections in New York State, and

WHEREAS, Dutchess County believes that the continued used of lever-style voting machines is in the best interest of the public and should be permitted to be used in future elections, and

WHEREAS, the Dutchess County Legislature passed resolution #207026, requesting New York State to allow Dutchess County to continue the use of the lever voting machine, and

WHEREAS, the New York State legislation relating to voting machines far exceeds the federal requirements of HAVA (Help America Vote Act), and

WHEREAS, the State's statutorily required elimination of lever-style voting machines is unnecessary, inappropriate, and costly to Dutchess County taxpayers,
therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature hereby requests the New York State Legislature and the New York State Board of Elections to enact laws, rules, and regulations that specifically authorize the continued use of lever-style voting machines, and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Governor David Paterson, New York State Senators Stephen Saland and Vincent Leibell, Members of the Assembly Greg Ball, Thomas Kirwan, Kevin Cahill, Joel Miller, and Marcus Molinaro, Member-elect of the Assembly Frank Skartados, Co-Executive Directors of the New York State Board of Elections Todd Valentine and Stanley Zalen, and New York State Board of Elections Commissioners James Walsh, Douglas Kellner, Evelyn Aquila, and Gregory Peterson.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dutchess County: Resolution Introduced to Keep NY's Lever Voting Machines

Will Dutchess lead the way?

Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Rhinebeck/Clinton) has introduced a resolution to allow Dutchess County and the State of New York to continue to use lever voting machines and not be forced to replace them with insecure and unreliable electronic vote counting systems based on software.

"As Andi Novick, Joanne Lukacher, and many others have accurately pointed out, optical scan voting machines can be hacked into just about as easily as touchscreen voting machines," Tyner said. "The Help America Vote Act does not mandate a switch here in New York State from the lever machines we've long used with few problems. It's just simple common sense -- let's keep the levers."

Kudos to Joel for initiating this action, which we believe is the first of its kind in the State of New York -- and hopefully will be the first of many.

The resolution should be on the agenda for the December 8th regular meeting of the legislature, where the Voting Integrity Task Force they appointed will also be presenting a report. (Check back on these pages for a confirmation of this schedule.)

Members of the public are encouraged to speak at the beginning of the meeting which is at 7:00 PM in the legislative chamber at 22 Market Street, Poughkeepsie.

Here is the full text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, many Dutchess County residents have signed on to join the Election Transparency Coalition and Election Defense Alliance effort to save the last transparent voting system in the United States here in New York comprised of our lever machines, as both New York's lever voting system and its previous hand-count system satisfy the constitutional requirement that voters be able to see how votes are counted; the right to vote is the primary right by which all other rights are protected, and

WHEREAS, in October 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that among other things, created the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC); HAVA required the EAC to produce voluntary federal voting system standards; it took three and a half years for the first set of these standards to be published in the Federal Register in April 2006; New York proceeded to adopt these voluntary guidelines along with its own set of State standards to certify new voting systems to replace our time tested, reliable lever machines with computers, as required by the State's Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005, but not required by HAVA, and

WHEREAS, section 301 of the Help America Vote Act sets forth five requirements that each voting system has to meet; New York State has met all of them now with ballot marking devices in place for people with disabilities, as noted by New York State Board of Elections Commissioner Douglas Kellner four years ago when he stated publicly that, "our lever machines satisfy all but one of [HAVA's] standards: that there be at least one machine at each poll site that is accessible for individuals with disabilities", and

WHEREAS, to date, no voting system tested in New York or any other state has come close to meeting these standards, although the standards themselves are considered too lax by most computer scientists who have studied them; New York's tried and true lever machines continue to function well; almost all of their parts are standard items carried by hardware stores, while the balance of the parts can be produced by machine shops; the outlook for replacing lever machines in 2009 remains doubtful due to continued problems and delays in the certification process; this has been reported on a weekly basis to the US Department of Justice and to the federal judge in their case against the New York State Board of Elections, and

WHEREAS, in November 2006, seven months after the current federal standards were published, computer security experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), who under HAVA, advised the EAC on the writing of the standards, published a paper on the need for voting systems to be "software independent"; the authors clearly stated that "experience in testing software and systems has shown that testing to high degrees of security and reliability is from a practical perspective not possible" (Requiring Software Independence in Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2007, November 2006), and

WHEREAS, New York's constitution has been interpreted by the highest court in the State as recognizing that essential to the express right to vote and the express right not to be disenfranchised are essential implicit constitutional rights, including the right to a transparent process so that voters can know their votes were accurately counted as cast; the right to an open, transparent electoral process, which enables its citizens to be able to evaluate the performance of their government in safeguarding its elections, is further protected by First Amendment rights, also guaranteed by New York's state constitution, and

WHEREAS, software-dependent voting systems can't be made safe, no matter how much New York State's Board of Elections (NYSBOE) continue to test them in order to certify them as "safe"; many computer scientists agree that a compromised machine can be programmed to appear to be working when the fact is that it has been compromised, and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding the impossibility of certifying software-based systems as safe to vote on, New York has been attempting to do this for three years; in 2006, CIBER, the testing laboratory the NYSBOE allocated public funds to in order to certify that computers were safe for use, lost its federal accreditation; recently SysTest, the new testing laboratory the NYSBOE allocated public funds to in order to certify that computers were safe for use, lost its federal accreditation; the NYSBOE has temporarily told SysTest to stop testing, and

WHEREAS, the existing lever voting system protected our constitutional franchise by providing New York Voters with a secure, verified, accurate count on election night, before exposure to post-election influences could corrupt the count; the new legislative scheme deprives us of the completed count delivered under the watchfulness of public scrutiny, instead permitting the election-night count to be the product of knowingly unreliable mutable software, which is then checked by a partial hand-count only after the election is over, after the winner has been announced and after the protection against tampering provided by the ongoing public surveillance of the poll site is over, after which post-election ballots may also be the product of tampering, and

WHEREAS, the problem with only seeing computer-generated results reports or "poll tapes" is that they are merely the recordation of what the software was secretly programmed to do; without public scrutiny of the process of vote counting, poll tapes only create the appearance that the election results are accurate, concealing what citizens have been unconstitutionally barred from observing, and

WHEREAS, in such a process the Dutchess County Board of Elections is prevented from being able to accurately count our votes once forced onto computers, because the process is concealed from them as well as all of us; it is then impossible for the Dutchess County Board of Elections to secure the reliability of that which they have no control over, and

WHEREAS, over three thousand ballots mysteriously disappeared on optical scan voting systems this year in Palm Beach County Florida alone; optical scan voting systems in Washington DC inflated vote totals this year by over 100 percent, making up thousands of write-in votes and adding thousands of votes to the totals of candidates on the ballot, and Pierce County Washington, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and Oakland County, Michigan have also had problems with optical scan voting systems, and

WHEREAS, as the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy" proved, it is relatively easy to hack into optical scan voting systems; "Wired" magazine also reported 12/21/05 that computer scientists from the Florida Institute of Technology and Finland "were able to change votes on the Diebold machine without leaving a trace", and "conducted the same test for the California secretary of state's office," and

WHEREAS, software-driven voting systems are "insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election", according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Project EVEREST report last year, and New York State Election Commissioner Gregory Peterson also stated the following at the Oct. 3, 2008 Board meeting in Albany: "What do we do-- go back to lever machines which probably work better than anything else we've ever had; I'm not saying I advocate that; however, if you have something that works and something that doesn't work, I vote for the thing that works," and

WHEREAS, New York State residents should not be forced into a non-transparent, concealed method of vote-counting, with votes counted in a manner so insecure and unreliable that the only way to try to verify the count is by violating New Yorkers' right to a secure, accurate transparent count on election-night, waiting until after the election is over before first manually checking some ballots, surrendering the right to know that votes are accurately and fairly counted as cast, foregoing the right to reliable evidence of the count or of fraud necessary in a court of law, thereby effectively surrendering the right to prove or disprove that the election results reflected the will and consent of voters, and therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature requests that the U.S. Department of Justice and New York State Board of Elections allow Dutchess County and New York State residents to continue to use dependable, accurate, and transparent lever machines instead of being forced to replace them with electronic voting systems already deemed as unreliable and insecure by a consensus of scientific experts, and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, New York State Board of Elections, Dutchess County Board of Elections and the New York State Legislature.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NY State Board of Elections Halts E-Vote "Certification" Tests

ALBANY, NY, Oct. 31

After informing the US Dept. of Justice, who reportedly have been "speechless" regarding the inability of New York to certify even one electronic vote-counting system to replace our reliable lever voting machines in time for the 2009 elections, the State Board of Elections informed Judge Gary L. Sharpe that they have issued a stop-work order to SysTest Labs, in effect halting the testing effort, until "a further investigation of the issues surrounding the likely suspension [of SysTest by the EAC] could be had."

The news was delivered to the court in the form of the State Board's Oct. 31st HAVA compliance report (PDF), which the court ordered the State to transmit on a weekly basis early this year. The full series of reports can be found here at Election Law @ Moritz. The reports reveal a plethora of problems with the certification process, which had already placed the lever replacement time line known as "Plan A" in jeopardy.

Prior to ordering these reports, Judge Sharpe had stated that he got his information about e-voting from reading the newspapers. We commend His Honor for trying to become better informed on these issues, as they can be rather complex and esoteric at times.

Less esoteric is the need for an accurate and reliable vote-counting system for the State of New York. Fortunately though, we already have one. It's comprised of about 20,000 lever voting machines (all of which are HAVA-compliant now that NY has met HAVA's Accessibility requirements); paper-ballot marking devices for voters with special needs; hand counting of those ballots at the polling place on election night; and the HAVA-required permanent paper records produced on election night -- not by machines -- but by thousands of bi-partisan election inspectors contemporaneously throughout the State.

The one ingredient that is conspicuously absent from New York's vote-counting system, except for a small percentage of absentee ballots (and that is NOT a HAVA requirement) is: SOFTWARE! And we all know how reliable that is -- especially the voting system kind.

The State Board's letter to the court states that they are "hopeful that a plan for resolution of these issues will be developed in the near future." And so are we. It's called Plan L.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NY's Testing Lab's Accreditation Pulled - Again

For the second time in two years the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) have announced their intention to suspend the accreditation of New York's electronic voting system testing lab, SysTest, Inc. for "failing to comply with program standards."

In a statement released yesterday the New York State Board of Elections announced that SysTest's loss of accreditation would force it to consider the suspension of the software based voting sytems certification testing in New York since the Board requires that all certification testing be performed by an accredited lab.

Although it is likely that this development will delay the certification of the new voting systems past 2009, this is no guarantee that the DOJ will not order the implementation of uncertified voting machines. We must continue to be vigilant.

If you have not done so sign the petition to save out levers and pass it along to your friends.

Write to the State Board of Elections and ask them to stop the "certification" program.

It's now been reported from several sources that when told of the certification problems with these systems, DOJ officials are "speechless."

- Joanne Lukacher

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mission: Possible -- Fight NOW to Retain New York's Lever Voting System!

Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the ambiguous directives of the Help America Vote Act, and compelled by the state's legislative response, The Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005, New York has been harried to replace its reliable lever voting machines with uncertified -- and uncertifiable -- software-driven electronic vote counting systems. This needless yet stubborn campaign to dismantle our secure lever voting system has amounted to a veritable crusade waged by some, in the face of wary election commissioners and despite ever increasing alarm about the vulnerabilities of the electronic systems. In order to inform our members, so they may better express their concerns to their election officials and legislative representatives, Election Transparency Coalition offers the following brief history of events:

Help Save New York's Lever Voting System!

In October 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that among other things, created the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). HAVA required the EAC to produce voluntary federal voting system standards. It took three and a half years for the first set of these standards to be published in the Federal Register in April 2006. New York proceeded to adopt these voluntary guidelines along with its own set of State standards to certify new voting systems to replace our time tested, reliable lever machines with computers, as required by the State's Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 (ERMA) -- but NOT required by HAVA.

To date, no voting system the State of NY (or any other state) has tested has even come close to meeting these standards, although the standards themselves are considered to be far too lax by most computer scientists who have studied them. Our tried and true lever machines continue to function well, and we are about to use them in the 2008 Presidential election. Almost all of their parts are standard items carried by hardware stores, while the balance of the parts can be produced by machine shops. The outlook for replacing the levers in 2009 remains doubtful due to continued problems and delays in the certification process. This has been reported on a weekly basis to the US Dept. of Justice (the DoJ -- who are suing the State Board of Elections) and to the federal judge in their case.

And it's no wonder. In November 2006, just seven months after the current federal standards were published, computer security experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), who under HAVA, advised the EAC on the writing of the standards, published a paper on the need for voting systems to be "software independent." The authors clearly stated that "experience in testing software and systems has shown that testing to high degrees of security and reliability is from a practical perspective not possible." [emphasis added]

But the NY State Board of Elections, its vendors, its testing labs, its not-for-profit watchdog -- the New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC), and even the DoJ itself, have nevertheless been attempting the impossible. We appreciate their efforts and we feel their pain, but we also believe it's time they faced reality. And they are.

As State Election Commissioner Gregory Peterson said at the Oct. 3, 2008 Board meeting in Albany:
What do we do? Go back to lever machines which probably work better than anything else we've ever had. I'm not saying I advocate that. However, if you have something that works and something that doesn't work, I vote for the thing that works.
Well, we the People of the Empire State, who are perhaps able to speak more freely, are in fact advocating for what works.

While the State will have to return about $50-million in HAVA funds to Uncle Sam, we believe it's a small price to pay for our Constitutional right to vote, to know how our votes will be counted, and to see that our votes will be given full force and effect by way of the lever voting machines. Such things will never be possible with software, which by its very nature is not observable. And this is unconstitutional in our great State.

We are therefore asking the State of New York to:
  • end this impossible "certification" mission;
  • return the $50-million Title I HAVA funds to the United States;
  • continue to deploy ballot marking devices for voters with special needs to comply with HAVA using the remaining $170-million of Title II funds available for this and other purposes; and
  • allow the voters of New York to continue to vote in free, fair, transparent and secure elections by retaining our lever voting system.
Your State and County Election Commissioners, who have sworn an oath to protect the voters of New York, have the necessary influence to end this madness. The Legislature will heed their advice, just as they did in 2007 when the commissioners asked for ERMA to be amended to remove any date certain for the replacement of lever machines. And the US Dept. of Justice would not have a case for the replacement of lever voting machines if we simply give back a small fraction of our $220-million of HAVA money. This is indeed a small price to pay to preserve our rights and to avoid the kind of electoral chaos we have been seeing in other states and recently, even in the nation's capitol.


Andi Novick, Esq.
Founder, Election Transparency Coalition of NY

Thomas L. Tedeschi, Esq.
Election Attorney
Queens, NY

Susan Greenhalgh
Communications and Strategy Consultant
Election Transparency Coalition of NY

Teresa Hommel

Howard Stanislevic
E-Voter Education Project

Joanne Lukacher
Executive Director
Election Transparency Coalition of NY

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Re-media Election Transparency Coalition on Election Defense Radio

Andi Novick and Rady Ananda interviewed on September 17th Election Defense Radio on the case for retaining the lever machines in New York. Link at:


Fatally Flawed Systems Await Voters

'Fatally Flawed' Systems Await Voters: 'Drastic Change Needed'

By Rady Ananda

Original version posted at OpEdNews.

A new paper, and video, has been issued by the Computer Security Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This group contributed to voting system reviews conducted by Ohio and California last year. The 11-page paper was presented in July at the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis held in Seattle. Much of it is comprehensible to most voters. The Group also prepared a 17-minute video, presented in two parts that illustrates several attacks, and shows how security seals are ineffective.

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." It spends time discussing the certification process which does not and cannot adequately secure a software driven voting system:
"While most critical systems are continuously scrutinized and evaluated for safety and correctness, electronic voting systems are not subject to the same level of scrutiny. A number of recent studies have shown that most (if not all) of the electronic voting systems being used today are fatally flawed and that their quality does not match the importance of the task that they are supposed to carry out." (emphasis added)
This conclusion corroborates many prior statements made by security experts. Twelve such quotes are reproduced here. The UCSB paper states:
"All voting systems recently analyzed by independent security testers have been found to contain fatal security flaws that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the voting process."
"Our experience suggests that there is a need for a drastic change in the way in which electronic systems are designed, developed, and tested.

"Unless electronic voting systems are held up to standards that are commensurate with the criticality of the tasks they have to perform, the very core of our democracy is in danger."
(emphasis added)
While detailing many of the vulnerabilities in touchscreen (DRE) voting systems, which more than half the states have outlawed1, the paper specifically discusses optical scan systems:

"Evaluations of the various optical scanners offered by both vendors followed much the same pattern of the previous voting system components. A patent disregard for cryptographic authentication and integrity checks allows attackers to overwrite a system's firmware with malicious versions and modify or construct election data to be processed by an EMS.

"Physical security measures were also lacking. In particular, the ES&S scanner lock was easily picked with a paper clip during our tests, while the "unpickable" lock on the Sequoia scanner was bypassed by removing a few screws and pulling out the lock cylinder from the scanner's chassis by hand. In both cases, this allows an attacker to access machine internals to potentially execute arbitrary code."

The Computer Security Group at UCSB issued a statement introducing this information, reposted with permission:

Evaluating the Security of Electronic Voting Systems: Are your votes really counted?

Electronic voting systems have been introduced to improve the voting process. Since their inception, they have been controversial, because both the technologists and the general public realized that they were losing direct control over an important part of the voting process: counting the votes.

A quote attributed to Stalin says: "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." It is clear that voting systems represent a critical component of a democracy.

Although the consequences of a malfunctioning electronic voting system are not as readily apparent as those for air traffic control or nuclear power plant control systems, they are just as important, because the well-being of a society depends on them. While most critical systems are continuously scrutinized and evaluated for safety and correctness, electronic voting systems are not subject to the same level of scrutiny.

A number of recent studies have shown that most (if not all) of the electronic voting systems being used today are fatally flawed, and that their quality does not match the importance of the task that they are supposed to carry out.

In the Summer of 2007, the Security Group of UCSB participated in the Top-To-Bottom Review (TTBR) of the electronic voting systems used in California.

The Report

Our team focused on the security analysis of the Sequoia voting system. Our public report can be found here . We found a number of major flaws that can be exploited to compromise the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the voting process. In particular, we developed a virus-like software that can spread across the voting system, modifying the firmware of the voting machines. The modified firmware is able to steal votes even in the presence of a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

The Paper

We wrote a paper that describes our methodology and our findings: Are Your Votes Really Counted? Testing the Security of Real-world Electronic Voting Systems, D. Balzarotti, G. Banks, M. Cova, V. Felmetsger, R. Kemmerer, W. Robertson, F. Valeur, and G. Vigna, in Proceedings of the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis, Seattle, WA July 2008.

The Movie

We also prepared a movie that shows how the virus-like attack would be carried out, and exemplifies the different scenarios that our malicious firmware would exploit. The video shows how one can use a simple USB key to infect the laptop used to prepare the cards that initialize the various voting devices. As a result, the cards are loaded with a malicious software component.

When a card is inserted in a voting terminal, the malicious software exploits a vulnerability in the terminal loading procedure and installs a modified firmware, effectively "brainwashing" the terminal. Later, when the terminal is used by the voters to cast their votes, the firmware uses a number of different techniques to modify the contents of the ballots being cast.

The movie also shows that the physical security measures being used to limit access to essential parts of the voting systems are ineffective.

In the end, voters will decide whether to continue voting on systems that over 50 scientific studies, comments and testimony have warned are not securable. That decision will be made by whether they participate in a system that leaves no rational basis for confidence. Or, elections will be decided by computer hackers.

Much thanks to John Gideon of for his Daily Voting News feed.

1 Election Data Services President Kimball Brace said touch screens would be used statewide this fall in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Utah, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina, and in significant parts of or pockets of a dozen other states, according to an August 15, 2008 McClatchy article.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sequoia's Sinking Ship

by Rady Ananda

Cross posted at OpEdNews

"Right now, there is not a single voting system on the market or in use anywhere in the country that meets current federal voting standards, and very few people realize it." ~ Douglas Kellner, New York State Board of Elections Commissioner (AP)

From New York to New Jersey, from D.C. to Florida, Sequoia Voting Systems continue to fail. Vendor response is, we're not at fault and don't you dare study our product. That's because experts tell us in report after report these machines are fatally flawed by design, lacking the most basic security protocols. Yet, election managers continue to use them, and "voter advocacy" groups continue to support their use. A recent University of California (Santa Barbara) paper by the Computer Security Group warned that "the very core of our democracy is in danger."

Designed-to-be-hacked is what we discovered in our own investigation. The physical security of Sequoia's optical scan ballot marking device is designed with a slotted hole that allows up to ten cardstock ballots to be stuffed at once into the locked ballot box. Here's exclusive video.

New York's state level election officials also tend to blame election workers when Sequoia's machines fail. New York tested out its shiny new $12,000 Ballot Marking Device made by Sequoia-Dominion in the September 9th election. When state election commissioners tried to vote on the machines, the BMDs didn't work. At the Sept. 17th NY SBOE meeting, Anna Svizzzero, Director of Election Operations, advised better training of poll workers was needed.

Of 3,350 BMDs deployed in the Sept. 9th election, only 1,333 people voted on them. Only one voter used the BMD in Ulster County – John Decker (D-Highland), who complained that he first watched the 20-minute instructional video and then it took another 20 minutes to vote on the machine. McClatchy reports:

"Decker said he couldn't believe that it took him so long to vote and would like to see the county retain the older lever pull machines."

In Nassau County, 126 BMDs were deployed but only twelve voters used them, reported Nassau County Elections Commissioner, William Biamonte. Making his job even tougher, Sequoia failed to deliver the BMD's privacy materials until the Saturday before the election – after the machines had already been deployed. Twenty technicians had to be dispatched to deliver and install the materials.

Faulty design, hackable software, lengthy voting process and an inability to accurately count the votes won't stop the League of Women Voters of New York State from insisting these machines be used, and promoted for use.

Tempers flared at the end of Friday's NY SBOE meeting when the NY LWV accused election officials in four counties of dissuading voters from using the new software driven optical scan ballot marking devices. Naming Buffalo, Binghamton (Broome), Utica, and Albany, they charged:

"The counties are actively discouraging voters who are not disabled from using the ballot marking devices."

Phew, smart commissioners, even if they are violating state-mandates that all voters can use the BMDs. Maybe they're avoiding hand counts. This year, NY election officials must hand count the ballots cast on BMDs since Sequoia still hasn't been certified for use in NY.

Sequoia admits to hundreds of document discrepancies – that's where they provide one thing but the document says something else; or they provide and document something that New York specifically forbids.

The League also reported that the Albany County LWV co-president "was asked to produce evidence of disability." Because she's not disabled, she lied in order to use the new BMD. Not a smart admission to make in the public record, especially after accusing counties of violating NY election rules.

The NY SBOE was highly skeptical of the League's reports, prompting another LWV rep to became hostile. Commissioner Evelyn Aquilla practically called them liars:

"We'd like to have that in writing, because, you know what? We didn't see that anywhere. Not any place.... To say that every single commissioner did that, across the state, I don't know if that's true or not, because we saw, I saw four different ... counties, and I never saw that anywhere. I went into at least twelve places."

The New York League of Women Voters wholly supports the use of software driven optical scanners, despite scientific condemnation. They must have been ignoring the papers, too, that amplified our breaking story on July 1st when we reported that Sequoia's BMD failure rate in Nassau County stood at 85%. Two weeks later, reported a 50% statewide failure rate. Failure rate be damned, the League wants these machines in use. But then, the League of Women Voters also supported paperless touchscreen voting systems until June of 2004.

Sequoia Fails around the Nation

Florida's Palm Beach County, right now, reports that 12,000 votes were not counted by Sequoia's optical scanners in its unending nightmare of conflicting results from the August election. That's where 3,400 votes (or 3500, depending on which news article you read) went missing, then were found, and now 12,000 more ballots have been found that the machines didn't count. This is an ongoing fiasco. Today's manual recount of 12,000 ambiguous votes "turned up an additional 159 uncounted ballots." South Florida's Sun Sentinel reported that "software issues" with Sequoia's optical scanners were to blame.

But the Palm Beach Post reports today that election officials will run another recount through the $5.5 million voting system:
County Commissioner Jess Santamaria questioned the reliability of the machines the county bought from Sequoia Voting Systems.

"I do have serious concerns," said Santamaria, who also serves on the canvassing board. "My concern affects this election and the November election as well. I don't see how we can have confidence in this system."

John Gideon of summarizes the situation this way:

“The county now wants to do another machine recount of the recount of the recount and may also ask to do another hand recount of the newly requested machine recount.”

The August vote count troubles follow the June snafu, also in Palm Beach County, when the scanners failed to count 14% of the ballots. At that time, Palm Beach officials were looking to pay Sequoia more money to take over more of the ballot counting process. In January's presidential primary, "defective cartridges" prevented Palm Beach from posting results for several hours. Yet, still, no one in Palm Beach is considering junking the machines, although voters reportedly did dump Elections Director, Arthur Anderson.

Washington, D.C. election officials have had enough, and have subpoenaed Sequoia records to explain why over 12,000 "phantom votes" appeared in the software driven results from this month's primary. When D.C. officials ran the supposedly "faulty cartridges” through the same software, three different results were produced. When they hand counted three precincts, none of the totals matched Sequoia's reported totals.

Better to seize the machines and run a forensic investigation; although, that didn't work out too well when New Jersey tried it earlier this year.

In New Jersey's February 5th primary, Sequoia's AVC Advantage touchscreen voting system produced conflicting vote totals from its own internal memory. When the numbers didn't add up, Union County officials sought the expertise of Princeton University computer security scientists. They caught errors in 60 precincts. Computer scientist Ed Felten produced the tapes showing those errors, and refutes Sequoia's explanations (blaming the pollworkers) for why their computer can't add. Felten concludes:

"Sequoia's own explanation makes clear that they made an engineering error that caused the voting machine to behave incorrectly."

New Jersey officials seized the machines via subpoena, which Sequoia sought to prevent. Sequoia threatened to sue Union if they studied the machines that Union owns. Union County dropped the investigation. Better to have expensive, faulty counting devices than an expensive lawsuit, I guess. Ed Felten explains this case in the second video embedded in this article, starting at about 4:23.

A month later, Sequoia's website was hacked and defaced.

The Computer Security Group at UCSB may be in trouble for posting that How-to-Hack Sequoia video, but only democracy loyalists would warn the public so instructionally. No doubt, the November 2008 election will be determined by computer hackers, or enough citizens will show up to hand count the ballots after the next round of ridiculous totals are reported. Let's not forget the negative 25 million votes reported for John Kerry in one precinct in Youngstown, Ohio in 2004. That had to be a red flag sent up by a loyalist.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia plan to use Sequoia Voting Systems in what is shaping up to be the third questionable presidential "election" in a row.

Note from the editor:

Is the prospect of yet another questionable "election" result at all related to the following report from the Army Times (via

Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Press, Obama and the Forgotten Legacy of The Civil Rights Movement: Voting Rights

Author and professor of Media Studies at New York University, Mark Crispin Miller will speak at Vassar College (Main Building, Villard Room) on September 8th at 5:30 sponsored by the college's American Studies Program. Here, in a letter to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Bob Herbert of the New York Times, Professor Miller reminds us of the media's (and indeed the candidate's) glaring neglect to report and fight the present day abuses of the core objective of the Civil Rights Movement: the right of all Americans to vote and to have our vote counted.

- Joanne Lukacher

Democracy Without Tears: An open letter to Eugene Robinson and Bob Herbert

I wrote this in response to Robinson's "So Many Miles from Selma," and Herbert's "Champagne and Tears," which columns ran in the Washington Post and New York Times, respectively...


Messrs. Robinson and Herbert,

Your latest columns are quite moving, and I agree with them, but there's a glaring problem with them, too. I noticed the same defect in Seb. Obama's speech on Thursday night: a speech that also moved me very much, although that problem is a big one--maybe fatal.

Specifically, you both invoke the long, hard fight for civil rights for African-Americans, yet without any reference to that movement's main concern: the right to vote. In your column, Mr. Robinson, you fail to mention that the march on Selma was an effort on behalf of voting rights; and your piece, Mr. Herbert, although powerfully recalling the grim history of racist violence against black citizens, devotes not one word to the major purpose of that violence, which was to keep those people disenfranchised.

Such silence is remarkable--especially since, in his acceptance speech, Obama too invoked the civil rights movement in the same bizarrely expurgated way. In pointing out that he was speaking on the anniversary of King's great speech in Washington, the candidate did not make clear, or even hint, that the ultimate concern behind that speech (and the entire event in 1963) was to secure the right to vote for African-Americans.

Now, while it is surely right to celebrate Obama's nomination--and, indeed, apprioprate to shed some tears of joy at this historic hour--it is a grave mistake to see that win as evidence that we've left Selma far behind. It is a grave and dangerous mistake, because the Bush regime has nullified those victories won decades ago, through an unprecedented program of old-fashioned vote suppression and high-tech election fraud.

Under this regime, the very entities that once worked to enlarge the franchise--the Department of Justice, Congress and the Supreme Court--are working now to narrow it as much as possible; and, in collusion with the GOP (both state and national) and Diebold/Premier, ES&S, Hart InterCivic and a host of other private companies controlled by the Republicans (and often closely linked to the religious right), those three great powers have also made it perilously easy to erase or change those votes that do get cast, or simply to concoct however many votes might be required.

Through such subversive work the Bush Republicans have seized control not only in the White House, but also in the House and Senate, and in several state governments (including those in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia). And now there's every evidence that they intend to do the same thing yet again; and for that, too, "tears are entirely appropriate"--and not just because Obama might well "lose" (despite his popularity). If Rove et al. steal this election, too, it will mean that American democracy is really dead and gone, and no amount of crying will restore it.

What we need more than tears, therefore, is to confront the truth about all this, and let the people know the facts about the Bush regime's election "victories." This is something that the Democrats (or most of them, the party's recent nominees included) will not and/or cannot do. Therefore it is especially important that the media begin to do its job; and so I turn to both of you.

I may be wrong, but I don't think that you, Mr. Robinson, have ever said a word about this issue, either in your column or on television; whereas you, Mr. Herbert, did write an excellent column on it some three years ago. Unfortunately, such long silence is no aberration, since nearly all your colleagues in the US press have likewise kept their eyes closed to this all-important issue, blacking out the topic so completely and consistently that one might think that they'd been ordered not to deal with it. Whatever might explain this silence, you two can help end it at long last; and I promise you that you will be amazed by all the evidence of fraud--staggered by how much of it there is, and by how strong it is--if you will only take a look at some of it.

I would be more than glad to send you a copy of my own new book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008--a collection of 14 essays by a range of first-rate scholars, journalists and activists, on many aspects of the Bush regime's ongoing electoral subversion. I also urge you to get hold of Richard Hayes Phillips' Witness to a Crime, which documents decisively the theft of the 2004 election in Ohio. Phillips studied all the paper ballots in 18 counties, and with his team took thousands of digital photographs, which make quite clear that the Bush machine altered thousands of votes in the incumbents' favor. (The book comes with a CD, so that you can see the evidence yourself. It is available via

Above all, however, you should check out the revelations of Stephen Spoonamore--a lifelong Republican, erstwhile member of McCain's campaign, and a prominent expert on computer fraud. Spoonamore has copious hard evidence revealing Bush/Cheney stole a number of key races, starting with Florida eight years ago. He has named names, and has the goods to back up every claim; and he knows quite a lot about the plans to make McCain America's next president (which is the reason why he quit McCain's campaign). You can begin to learn more about him, and his testimony, at

This email is long enough, so let me thank you both for reading through the whole of it. And thanks too for your very moving columns--and for considering how you might help to save this next election, not just for Obama, or the Democrats, but all of us who still believe that We the People ought to rule.

Mark Crispin Miller

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lost Votes and Lame Excuses - Part 1

A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped... (Washington Post, August 21st, 2008)

The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years... [my emphasis] The flawed software is on both touch screen and optical scan voting machines made by Premier [formerly known as Diebold.]

True to form
the vendor's first response to complaints from election officials was to blame the state employees and pollworkers.

As recently as May, Premier said the problem was not of its making but stemmed from anti-virus software that Ohio had installed on its machines. It also briefly said the mistakes could have come from human mistakes. Further testing by Ohio elections officials and then high volume tests by Premier uncovered the programming error.

In the wake of Premier's admission, the Secretary of State of Connecticut announced the widest audit of election results since the state's switch to optical scanner voting machines. One in three machines used in the recent primaries will be audited.

The disclosure is also 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.

McClatchey Newspaper's Greg Gordon provides a run-down of the process which led to the specious certification of electronic voting machines based on "qualified" reports list issued by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) who relied on the ratings reports of private testing laboratories with whom
vendors secretly negotiated payments ... helped design the tests, got to see the results first and only shared the codes driving their software with three NASED technical experts who signed non-disclosure agreements.

The lab endorsements aided vendors in selling nearly $1.5 billion in equipment to states and counties from 2003-2007, most of it financed by a gush of federal dollars under the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The HBO film Hacking Democracy provides a glimpse of the dubious reliability of the testing process as examined by Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris. (Relevant section bgins at 5:30.)

And kudos to New York State Election Commission co-chair Doug Kellner for the quote of the week. Responding to the Premier/Diebold revelations Mr. Kellner said (via McClatchey)it's now clear that a "qualified" rating from NASED is "meaningless ...a piece of toilet paper."

- Joanne Lukacher

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Memoriam: Stephanie Tubbs Jones 1949 - 2008

Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D - Ohio) who in 2004 initiated before the Senate a rare formal challenge to the acceptance of Ohio's electoral votes for George Bush because of voting irregularities, died last Wednesday, August 20th. In this article at OpEdNews, Re-media Election Transparency Coalition Executive Director and Ohio native Rady Ananda offers a tribute to the congresswoman and a retrospective of this historic event and the decisions which preceded it.

- Joanne Lukacher

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why New York's Legislature's Plan to Computerize Our Electoral System Is Unconstitutional

Overview: Why New York's Legislature's Plan to Computerize Our Electoral System Is Unconstitutional
And Why New Yorkers Need a Lawsuit to Stop It

- Andi Novick

Originally posted at OpEdNews.


For 231 years the success of New York's democratic electoral system has depended on the ability to see how our votes are counted. That transparency is essential to prevent opportunities for fraud, as well as to provide citizens with a rational basis to trust election results and be able to evaluate their government's performance in conducting their elections. We can see how our votes are counted in a lever-counted or hand-counted voting system. We cannot see how optical scanners or DREs are programmed to count our votes, thus concealing the very fraud we must be able to detect and deter.

Attempting to first verify the unreliable software-generated count by hand counting a small portion of the ballots after the election is over, after the press has declared the winner, and after the ballots are exposed to heightened opportunities for post-election ballot tampering has historically been understood to be the least secure way to conduct an election. In fact, post-election ballot tampering has always been seen as so difficult to protect against that since the founding of the State, New York has mandated the election results be reliable, verified, and completed on election night.

It is the exposure of our franchise to these unprotectable opportunities for fraud before, during and after the election, that renders the new electoral system created by New York's 2005 Legislature unconstitutional.

The People Have the Constitutionally Protected Right to Know How Their Votes Are Counted and to See that Fraud Is Prevented

New York's Constitution expressly provides a protected right not to be disenfranchised (Article I, Section 1) as well as an explicit right to vote (Article II, Section 1). These two constitutional rights have been repeatedly interpreted and defined by the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, as including implicit constitutional rights that enforce the explicit constitutional rights. These so called correlative constitutional rights include the right to a maximally safeguarded electoral system that provides the greatest protection against even the opportunity for tampering and the right to know that one's vote was fairly counted as cast. In 1909 the Court of Appeals in Deister v Wintermute, 194 NY 99, 108, proclaimed:

The right of an elector to vote is conferred by the Constitution.... [the elector] is entitled to see that his vote has been given full force and effect.... any method of holding an election which would deprive the electors.... of the right of casting their ballots and having effect given to the votes so cast would plainly be unconstitutional. (emphasis supplied)

The right to the protection of the integrity of the election from dilution by fraud and the right to transparency have been the bulwark of our electoral system for New York's proud history– that is until 2005 when New York's legislature enacted laws requiring the replacement of our secure lever voting system with unreliable, secretly programmed software-driven optical scanners or DREs. This new computerized electoral system, now scheduled to go into effect for the 2009 election, violates our laws, ignores our precedence, and unconstitutionally disenfranchises all New York voters.

New York's Constitutional Right to Vote and Constitutional Right Not to Be Disenfranchised Has Always Required that the Electoral System Provide Procedures to Prevent Even the Opportunity for Fraud

In 1888, the United States Supreme wrote in Ex parte Coy, 127 U.S. 731:

The manifest purpose of.... legislation [was] to remove the ballot-box as well as the certificates of the return of votes cast from all possible opportunity of falsification, forgery, or destruction. (emphasis supplied)

For more than two centuries New York's electoral system has required an open, transparent process, which became more open and transparent over the course of the 19th century with the express object of more effectively preventing the perpetration of fraud. To protect this most valued constitutional right, the Court of Appeals explained in Stapleton et al. v Bell, 119 N.Y. 175, 178-179 (1890):

About it have been erected many safeguards, with the object of securing to each qualified elector the fullest and freest exercise of his constitutional privilege, and also of obtaining the greatest protection against the perpetration of frauds at the polls which shall be consistent with a certainty that every person entitled to vote shall have his ballot received, deposited, and counted. (emphasis supplied)

In 1900, the Court of Appeals reiterated in Coffey v Democratic General Committee of Kings County, 164 NY 335, 338:

The settled conviction that safeguarding of our institutions requires the untrammeled exercise of the franchise by the citizens and that the result be protected from fraud, has led to no inconsiderable amount of legislation during the present generation--legislation aimed largely, although not entirely, at the frauds of majorities who, at times, have manifested a disposition to retain their power, let the cost be what it might. (emphasis supplied)

By 1896, New York had enacted a myriad of safeguards that remain with us to this day, aimed at protecting the franchise from dilution by fraud. The Court of Appeals has considered these safeguards necessary to protect our constitutionally guaranteed right to vote and right not to be disenfranchised. But the 2005 Legislature ignored two centuries of case law, disregarded these safeguards in permitting concealed vote counting on software-driven computers, and exposed our elections to existing and new risks of fraud.

Software driven Optical Scanners and DREs Count Our Votes in Secret – Exposing the Election to Unprotectable Opportunities for Fraud

As 231 years of New York's case law reveals, concealed vote counting is a known and open invitation to fraud. Dozens of scientific studies, most of which have come out since 2005 when New York's legislature changed our laws to permit computerized vote counting, corroborate that software is vulnerable to undetectable tampering.
Perhaps in 2005 the Legislature didn't appreciate how insecure these voting computers were, but the evidence is clear and continues to mount. If New York's Legislature will not revisit its decision to abandon our levers for these computers, as of 2009 our elections will be determined by an unconstitutional system that permits our votes to be counted in an unprotected manner, exposing the results to unprotectable opportunities for tampering.

New York's Legislature does acknowledge however, that the "official" software-generated count is too unsecured and uncertain to depend on. That is why the new laws require a partial hand count of the ballots in an attempt to see if there was any basis for accepting the official software-produced results. But checking the vulnerable-to-tampering software count with a post-election hand count, itself known to be dangerously vulnerable-to-post-election-tampering, is the least secure way to run an election. Both the first count and the post-election verification expose our election results to unprotectable opportunities for tampering, historically considered by New York's courts to amount to unconstitutional disenfranchisement of the voters.

Generations of New York legislatures and the Court of Appeals have upheld our right to the most secure electoral process: one which eliminates these unsecurable opportunities for fraud by insisting on a transparent, safeguarded count on election night. For the first time in our history, the legislature has abandoned our constitutionally protected right to the most secure means of protecting the count, instead permitting the official count to be unreliable, unsecured, unknowable and incomplete on election night. When the election is over and the winner publicly announced on election night, it will be impossible for anyone to know with any reasonable certainty whether the 'official' computerized count is accurate, whether it is free from dilution by fraud, or whether the will of the people has been undermined and the election stolen.

For Two Centuries New York's Laws Have Required an Accurate Completed Reliable Count on Election Night: The Days Following the Election Invite Heightened Opportunities for Ballot Tampering Thus Requiring Any Verification/Recount to Be Completed on Election Night

Since New York's founding, our laws have required that the vote counting be conducted in an observable secure manner, subjecting the count to public scrutiny in order to prevent opportunities for tampering. For this reason New York's Election Law requires that the official election results must be accurate and completed on election night and the results publicly "...declared without any bias arising from a knowledge of its effect upon the aggregate result, or from exposure to subsequent influences." McLaughlin v Ammenwerth, 197 NY 340 (Court of Appeals 1910).

A transparent process is required by New York's laws both to provide the greatest deterrence against opportunities for tampering and to prove to the public that their public elections have a rational basis for confidence. A free people must be able to evaluate the performance of their government, particularly the manner in which the legislature conducts the people's elections. The new laws not only permit secret vote counting, but leave us no alternative, hiding from the people the very information they must have in order to retain control over their elected representatives and therefore, ultimately, over their sovereignty.

For more than two hundred years our courts and legislators understood that once the transparency enabled by the poll site conditions ended, opportunities for ballot tampering increased. In fact, the risk of post-election fraud was considered so likely and so difficult to prevent that New York has never permitted the election night count to be subjected to the potential for corruption from post-election tampering. The problem in securing the sealed ballot boxes after election night was explained by the Court of Appeals in Brink v. Way 71 N.E. 756 (1904):

[T]he custody of the boxes is in the officer specified by the law, but he cannot always be personally present to guard them.... Thieves will break through and steal, and no legislative enactment can prevent them. The same is true with reference to guarding the ballots from substitution by interested and evil disposed persons. The result of an important election, state and national, may be changed by the disclosures made upon the opening of one of these boxes. (emphasis supplied)

Recognizing that the heightened risk of post-election fraud could not be sufficiently protected against, New York has always banned post-election recounts: both when we hand counted and now with our lever voting system. Forbidding recounts is an important safeguard in a transparent, secure electoral system that requires we get it right on election night. It protects the securely and publicly counted first count from subsequent corruption. New York built verification into the overall electoral system which included a reliable, accurate first count.

The new laws of 2005, requiring post-election verification of the ballots and potentially a full recount, is a serious breach of our existing observable and theft-deterring system. If we must routinely verify the results after the election is over, the electoral system has failed. Indeed the new system scheduled to go into effect in 2009 is a failed system because it permits the first count to be concealed from the public and vulnerable to fraud. It allows the first count to be unknowable, unreliable and incomplete. It proposes to complete the "official" count with post-election ballots that are likely to have been altered, leaving the true results of the election uncertain and unreliable.

Having Unconstitutionally Permitted the Computerized Election-night Results to Be Exposed to Undetectable Error and Fraud, New York's New Electoral Plan then Seeks to Check these Unknowable 'Official' Results by an Equally Vulnerable Post-election Manual Verification of a Small Portion of the Ballots

Not only has the 2005 Legislature violated our constitutional safeguards and our laws requiring a transparent reliable count on election night, but the means it has proposed to attempt to determine if there was any basis for the legitimacy of the official election night results represents yet another breach of our constitutional safeguards: verification using post-election ballots. New York has never allowed post-election verification because we recognized that the risk of ballot tampering after the election is over is too great to produce trustworthy results.

We in New York have long known that once the election inspectors, poll workers, citizen watchers, party representatives and the press have left the poll sites and the ballots have been sealed and taken away, it is too difficult to guarantee the chain of custody of paper ballots. As early as 1879, the Court of Appeals in Dailey v. Livingston, 79 N.Y. 279, 290 wrote that the risk of post-election ballot tampering is a "far greater evil" than the risk of tampering at the public poll site, held "in the presence of the friends of both parties." The Livingston court recognized that unless the chain of custody of the post-election ballots could be proven to have been preserved beyond "a mere probability of security ... they are not only the weakest but the most dangerous evidence" because how would we know whether "actual tampering or fraud had been committed."

New York's new electoral plan not only unconstitutionally permits our "official" election night results to be knowingly unreliable, but then seeks to verify this undependable computerized tally with post-election ballots that become "the most dangerous evidence" since they will be exposed to increased opportunities for tampering, leaving our "official" results uncertain with no secure means to verify them.

The Heart and Success of New York's Democratic Electoral System Has Been Ensuring the Ability to See How Our Votes Are Counted and Providing Check Points to Deter, Detect and Reveal Tampering

The security of our electoral system is ensured both by making the commission of fraud difficult, but also by providing the means to detect fraud should it occur. The ability for the public and their election officials to be able to detect and observe tampering is essential to protecting our constitutional rights. As described by State Board of Elections Co-Chair Commissioner Douglas Kellner, explaining how our electoral system successfully prevailed to detect and expose tampering to lever voting machines in a scandal in the 1940s:

The fraud of the 1940s was uncovered because volunteers from the polling stations noticed that the numbers on their machines at the counting location were not the same as when they left the polling station. Similarly, any tampering with a lever machine today would be plainly visible to the volunteer preparing it for poll opening. Becoming aware of fraud on an e-voting machine would be much more difficult, because so much of their inner-workings are invisible to all but the software programmers.

Fighting fraud carried out by code is also particularly expensive. Some e-voting systems run on 150,000 lines of code and to uncover whether fraud has occurred, or by whom and how, requires an army of programmers, a number of years, and millions of dollars. Even then, there is no guarantee that their examination will produce results. (emphasis supplied)

The ability for regular people to observe tampering and the built-in safeguards designed to enable this detection is the crux of the success of New York's electoral system and is precisely why the planned computerized system is unconstitutional: it is impossible to observe the programming to or tampering of concealed software. Vote counting on software-driven optical scanners and DREs is invisible. Even if the public wasn't literally barred from observing the source code of the software, we still could not see the fraud because software can be programmed to steal our vote and erase itself. It is not possible to sufficiently safeguard such an undetectably mutable system from fraud. Indeed software-driven systems conceal fraud while at the same time exposing our ballots to known and new opportunities for tampering!

By Exposing Our Ballots and the Evidence of How We Voted on Election Night to Post-election Verification, the 2005 Legislature Destroyed Additional Constitutional Safeguards New Yorkers Have Enjoyed: The Preservation of the Evidence of How the People Voted on Election Night

The creation and preservation of evidence establishing how the results were arrived at on election day serves as yet another deterrent against the commission of fraud. We don't allow our ballots to be exposed to post-election tampering because, as the Court of Appeals explained in Brink v. Way, 71 N.E. 756 (1904):

The object of the preservation of the ballots [was to] furnish a further check upon the perpetration of fraud by local boards of canvassers. It accomplishes this, necessarily, because the canvassers know that for six months after the canvass the evidence of how the people voted is to be preserved ... it may be used against the canvassers in criminal proceedings. That, of course, must necessarily operate as a check upon those who might otherwise be persuaded into wrongdoing. (emphasis supplied)

Rather than preserving the ballots, New York's new system, by its routine use in post-election verification, exposes them to the risk of alteration and destruction, removing the deterrent effect the preservation of the ballots was intended to provide.

Moreover, by failing to protect and preserve the people's evidence, the legislature has invited the loss of our only evidence. Without proof of how the votes were actually counted on election night or proof of fraud, the people's right to prevent their disenfranchisement in a court of law is effectively annulled. Although we are constitutionally entitled to seek relief in the courts in order to prevent the loss of our constitutional right to vote, without adequate evidence we are left unable to prove how we voted or to prove fraud.

The computerized evidence produced by software is insufficient to demonstrate how we voted or to prove fraud because it can be undetectably altered. If the paper ballots are also altered in the days and weeks following the election, there is then no evidence of what really happened on election day. An election can be stolen and the people, bereft of sufficient or responsible evidence, will be powerless to challenge the theft in court. This represents the ultimate destruction of checks and balances secured by our constitution, exposing us to the loss of our constitutional rights without legal recourse.

Concealing How Our Votes Are Counted Invites and Enables Unseen Tampering. It Is the Ultimate Constitutional Offense.

What is crystal clear from our case law and legislative history in New York is that concealing any aspect of the canvassing process – before during or after the election – enables prime conditions for fraud and leaves the electorate uncertain as to whether fraud has occurred. The failure to "...guard against the danger and the opportunity for tampering with the election returns" disenfranchises the electorate (Ex parte Coy, 127 U.S. 731, 8 S.Ct. 1263, 1270 U.S. (1888)). Depriving the electorate of the information it needs to determine whether the legislature has satisfied its responsibility to "conduct the election in such a manner in point of form, that the true number of legal votes can be ascertained with certainty" further disenfranchises the electorate. People v Cook, 8 NY 67, 86 (emphasis supplied) (Court of Appeals, 1853)

While the issue of concealed vote counting has never been directly put to our courts in New York – because who would have thought such a thing could even be conceived in America – we nonetheless have direct precedence from the Court of Appeals regarding the worthlessness of any returns (the election night results) produced in a concealed manner. In 1874 during the vote counting, the lights went out. The Court of Appeals wrote in Judson v Thacher, 55 NY 525, 535:

There was a short interval of entire darkness.... The opportunity to commit the fraud existed.... The return was no longer entitled to be regarded. It was rendered wholly uncertain to what extent the fraudulent substitution had been carried, and it was not material whether the inspectors were privy to the fraud by which the uncertainty was occasioned .... [The return was rendered] so uncertain and unreliable that it could not be used for any purpose. (emphasis supplied)

The election return produced from software code, which is not a human language, and which can be altered without detection, is as unreliable and uncertain as the return created in darkness.

Those who cannot remember the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. How many before us have died to protect the right which protects all other rights? We cannot afford to forget our history. For the sake of the nation suffering under the yoke of unconstitutionally unreliable elections, and for the sake of New York, the last state to have held out against the tide of such disenfranchisement, we have a responsibility to stop computerized vote counting now, while we still can.

Re-media Election Transparency Coalition is fighting to save our constitutionally-compliant electoral system before it is taken from us. Join us -- this fight requires all of us.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stealing America, Vote by Vote

A new film on voting in America makes its New York City premier this Friday, August 1st.


August 1st thru 7th at the Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. New York City, NY

SCREENINGS 1:00, 2:50, 5:00, 6:50, 9:00
Q&A's on Friday and Saturday after the 6:50 and 9:00 shows and on Sunday after the 2:50 show

Andi Novick of Re-media Election Transparency Coalition and NY VOTERS will be on hand for the Q&A.

Contact your local theater and urge them to show this fim.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NYC Elections Board Hires Spin Doctors

From Bhopal to Blackwater a p.r. agency whose specialty is grooming the face of corporate inflicted human disaster has been hired for electronic voting “education” in NYC.

NYC Elections Board Hires Spin Doctors for $6.5 million

By Rady Ananda

Originally posted at OpEdNews

Today, the New York City Board of Elections announced its contract with global public relations firm Burson-Marstellar for a $6.5 million campaign to "educate" New York residents about the wholly non securable computerized voting systems NY plans to implement in 2009.

Also today, B-M announced it appointed former U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Officer Pamela Keeton as a managing director in its U.S. Public Affairs Practice. Earlier this month, B-M hired Karen Hughes, the former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, as Global Vice Chair based in Washington, D.C.

This $6.5 million expenditure follows yesterday's Financial Control Board meeting where Governor Paterson admonished city workers for "failing to appreciate" the economic crisis faced by the city and the state. Mayor Bloomberg warned that since he expected a $1 billion deficit in FY 2009 and a $2.3 billion deficit in 2010:

"That's why we've put the lid on City-funded spending... We've directed City agencies to be very judicious in identifying where and how to save, in order to maintain our essential services and our economic competitiveness."

The lid has slipped, Your Honor. The NYC Board of Elections cannot justify $6.5 million in promoting a brand new, high-tech, exorbitantly expensive voting system that doesn't work. Nor is it "essential" to switch to a new system when fiscal prudence demands that NYC retain its secure, reliable lever voting machine in light of such grave fiscal deficits.

Burson-Marsteller's Clients :

According to Wiki, B-M's most notorious client is Blackwater USA, the mercenary group alleged to have murdered 17 Iraqi civilians last year. B-M was hired following the September 2007 incident and helped Eric Prince, the company's CEO prepare his testimony before Congress. Though the Iraq Prime Minister's office sought murder charges, Blackwater has never been brought to justice. Blackwater's Iraq contract was extended for another year in April. Apparently B-M did its job.

B-M also headed the PR campaign to dispute allegations of genocide against the Nigerian government, and represented Argentina's military junta government of General Jorge Videla to attract industrial investment.

The military takeover ended a protracted civil war and was hailed by world media as a prelude to peace in Argentina. Burson-Marsteller's client was the Ministry of the Economy. During the Videla government's reign, thousands of Argentine citizens disappeared and many more were tortured for their political beliefs, known as the Dirty War. Burson-Marsteller has maintained through the years that it was never asked by its client to defend human rights violations, but in
The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein states:

Victor Emmanuel, the Burson-Marsteller public relations executive who was in charge of selling the Argentine junta's new business-friendly regime to the outside world, told a researcher that violence was necessary to open up Argentina's "protective, statist" economy. "No one, but no one, invests in a country involved in a civil war," he said, but he admitted that it wasn't just guerrillas who died. "A lot of innocent people were probably killed," he told the author Marguerite Feitlowitz, but, "given the situation, immense force was required."

No stranger to defending oppressive regimes, B-M also represents multinational corporations, like:
"Union Carbide Corporation, jointly responsible for the Bhopal disaster that killed some 2,000 employees and nearby neighbors and seriously injured thousands more. The plant was a joint venture of Union Carbide Corporation, a long time B-M client, and the Indian government. While originally operated by Union Carbide, it was taken over by local Indian management prior to the accidental discharge of a deadly gas used in the manufacture of insecticides." (Wiki)

Corporate Watch reports this list of B-M clients:

BP Chemicals - In 1992, it was found that BP's Hull facility discharges twice the level of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) - a chemical which can cause genetic damage, fetal damage or birth defects at unsafe levels of exposure - into the water than the total amount of MEK released in the United States.

Kerr McGee - owners of a uranium mine in the Navajo Nation, New Mexico. Accused of paying low wages and not informing the workers about the hazardous effects of uranium. Deaths are being recorded every month.

Malaysian Timber Industry Development Council - has felled vast areas of tropical rainforest, particularly in the states of Sarawak and Sabah, threatening the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who lived there. BM has been hired to "repel falsehood and lies spread by evil-minded environmentalists." However, even the pro-business Malaysian Government has reported that 5 states have over-logged; and although the International Tropical Timber Organisation warned the loggers in 1990 to cut their output to 9m m3/yr it has remained at 16-19m; and at the present rate the primary forest will be finished in 7-8 years.

Monsanto and Eli Lilly - both companies produce the growth hormone BST to increase milk yields in cattle. It has been criticised for risk of infection in the cows, the fact that there is already a milk surplus, and unknown effects of this hormone on human beings. Acting on this concern, state legislators in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Vermont attempted to enforce labeling of milk produced with, and containing, this hormone. Their efforts were thwarted by Burson-Marsteller acting on behalf of these companies.

Pfizer - a pharmaceutical company accused in 1990 by the US Generic Pharmaceutical Industry of fraudulent and deceptive practices for its failure to report severe side effects of its Feldene drug before it obtained US approval. Listed by the Multinational Monitor as one of the ten worst companies in 1988 for supplying faulty heart-valves. At least 394 of these valves ruptured killing 252 people by 1990. The company has also conducted extensive tests on animals, was listed by a US group as one of the top fifteen corporate contributors to global pollution based on 1987 figures and had one of its plants listed by Greenpeace as one of the ten worst polluters in the South East of England.

SmithKline Beecham - A pharmaceutical and research company which, in the year to March 1991, exceeded its toxic waste discharge quota into the rivers and sea more than 30 times. The company also owns its own animal testing facilities and has been accused of unnecessary cruelty in housing its animals.

Unilever - food, chemical and household goods manufacturer. Implicated in pollution of rivers in the UK and convicted for water pollution offences between 1/9/89 and 31/8/91. Owner of Birds Eye Walls - a food manufacturer which admitted in 1991 to annually importing 30,000 tonnes of beef from Brazil (where much grazing land is felled rainforest). In June 1989, 87 workers at the plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil were fired for occupying the plant in an attempt to achieve better pay and conditions.

Why Is This Heavyweight Corporate Spin Doctor Involved In NY Elections?

New Yorkers reasonably must question why a global PR firm tied to such disreputable companies has been hired for $6.5 million by a cash-strapped board of elections to "educate" voters about the new election system.

Perhaps it's because 50+ scientific studies have proven that software driven voting systems can be hacked without detection. (For 12 fully cited quotes on what computer security experts say about the new systems, see Debunking Pre Election Testing Myths. For top shelf, crème de la crème, most succinct, in-plain-English, best quotes by computer security experts, see Warning: This Product Is Hazardous to Your Freedom.)

Beyond the damning evidence against using software driven voting systems, perhaps B-M was also hired for its specialization in "Grassroots Outreach" where it boasts:

"Our boutique, in-house Communications Center is built to manage larger scale data management and outreach activities directed at individuals and organizations relevant to a campaign.
We can narrowcast messages, or wide-cast them to thousands via strategic online outreach. We deliver products ranging from online targeting and recruitment to managing data for future activations."

Complete Market Failure

As expert spin doctors, B-M no doubt has been set upon New York voters to hoodwink them, despite the fact that software driven voting systems can be hacked without detection, despite their exorbitant price, and despite the widespread failures of these products.

None of the vendors hawking computerized technology meet NY's guidelines for doing business only with responsible vendors. Last year, attorney Andi Novick sent a 60-page, well-researched memo to NY officials, providing details of the shady connections, failed performance, and efforts of vendors to suppress damning evidence of their product. She later supplemented that research with a 21-page memo. Yet, as she points out, NY officials proceed with Eyes Wide Shut.

Sequoia's ballot marking devices (BMD) which allow special needs voters to prepare their own ballot unassisted (when they work) cost $12,000 each. Nassau County reported an 85% failure rate of over 250 machines, while the statewide failure rate stands at 50%. As Nassau County Commissioner William Biamonte said, "Can you imagine buying a $2,000 computer from Best Buy and it doesn't work right out of the box?" The cost for BMDs is sixfold his example.

New Yorkers can resist the move to computerized elections by signing this PETITION, and by following the reports at Election Transparency Coalition.

Joanne Lukacher contributed to this article.

In July 2006, Burson-Marsteller announced a new partnership with the broadcast PR firm The NewsMarket, which produces video news releases for clients. Video news releases (VNRs ) are fake tv news reports which are distributed to television news rooms where they are used interchangeably with independently produced legitimate news stories.
We are awarding a re-media t-shirt to our New York readers who report a sighting of a VNR designed to "educate" New Yorkers about the switch to electronic voting machines.