Monday, November 30, 2009

State Moving Toward Certification of Concealed Vote-Counting Systems Even As Reports of Failures in November's Election Mount

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to certify several optical-scan electronic voting systems at their meeting in Albany on December 15. Yet as that day approaches, serious problems with the use of these systems in the November 3 election are emerging.

Most glaring so far are irregularities in the NY-23 special congressional election. NY-23 happens to be the home of Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D., nationally renowned election fraud investigator. His rapid investigation into the November 3 election reveals election results Phillips says are "impossible," including more votes than voters, negative totals, and the like. His early findings are published in two online articles, "Impossible Numbers in NY-23," and "First the Impossible, Now the Improbable in NY-23."

"Given the mess in CD-23, certification of the scanners at this point would be a travesty," testified Ulster Park's Susan Holland at the Monday hearing before the State Senate Standing Committee on Elections in Albany.

At least one election official, Dem-EC Virginia Martin of Columbia County, has testified that she would refuse to certify an election where she could not verify the count. With optical scan voting systems, vote counting takes place inside a computer where it cannot be seen by observers, candidates, or election officials.

"Voters may never again see a lever voting machine in a NY polling place, but that's not the biggest thing that would be missing from our elections," according to Andrea Novick, attorney and founder of the Election Transparency Coalition. "If the levers disappear, so do our voting rights, because we'll never again know if the votes have been counted accurately." ETC is preparing to file a lawsuit against the state of NY to have the new optical scan voting machines declared unconstitutional because they conceal vote counting from public view. Over 200 years of case law protecting the public's right to transparency in its vote-counting processes would be obliterated by the new voting system. "Even when optical scanners appear to be performing smoothly, there is absolutely no way to know that their secret software has not been corrupted."

The Association of Towns and 20 counties appealed to the State Legislature to repeal the Election Reform and Modernization Act, the law mandating the changeover from NY's current transparent voting system to the optical scan system, yet the State appears determined to certify the new machines apparently regardless of whether or not they are trustworthy.

Oppose Certification of Optical Scanners! Attend State BoE meeting 12/15 in Albany!

Let's fill the room and show the State Board of Elections that the public cares about our elections and insists on constitutional, transparent election systems.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
State Board of Election Offices
40 Steuben Street, 4th Floor
Albany, New York

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Plunging Pilot Project: Impossible Vote Totals in NY-23

Re-posted from our "Levers" site

Last night, on the eve of Thanksgiving, election fraud investigator Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D. published an article in the Governeur Times revealing Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23. Phillips is best known for his book, Witness to a Crime: A Citizens’ Audit of an American Election, detailing the investigation he led of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. But he actually lives in St. Lawrence County, NY. So when questions began being raised about the vote counts in the special Congressional election earlier this month, Phillips was quickly on the case.

His article released last night reveals, “The election results certified by the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections for New York’s 23rd Congressional District contain some numbers that are mathematically impossible.” The article goes on to detail the negative numbers included in certified vote totals. Read it. It reveals important information everyone concerned about democracy should know.

St. Lawrence County was part of the State’s “pilot project,” an early rollout of the optical scan voting technology that will be required to replace lever voting systems by our next election — if not stopped by legal action. The Election Transparency Coalition is preparing to file litigation to have concealed vote counting — such as the counting that takes place inside optical scan voting systems — declared unconstitutional.

St. Lawrence County’s now-certified election results cannot be accurate. The true vote count cannot be known. And while other counties involved in the early rollout of electronic vote-counting systems may have produced possible vote totals, their true vote counts are no more knowable. Only with a system where the public has access to meaningful observation of every step of the vote-counting process do we have a basis for confidence in election results.

This is why Virginia Martin, Democratic Election Commissioner from Columbia County, recently testified that she would refuse to certify an election in which she could not verify the accuracy of the vote count.

Richard Hayes Phillips joins ETC in supporting NY’s time-tested and transparent lever voting system. The reasons for his support are detailed in his article, “In Defense of Lever Voting Machines,” published on his own website, and reiterated in the Gouverneur Times piece.

While the pilot project is clearly in a nosedive, the State is proceeding with its plan to certify the very electronic voting system responsible for the impossible numbers in the NY-23 race. This certification would be meaningless and would lead to elections that are just as meaningless. As Phillips says, “How can we have a democracy if we cannot know if the vote count is accurate? If election officials cannot know, and if the candidates cannot know, and if the voters cannot know that the official results are true and correct, why even have an election?”

Please join us in our work to stop the abandonment of NY’s working, affordable, trustworthy voting system and its replacement with systems that keep the true vote count secret from the voters themselves.

by Emily Levy

Emily Levy is the Election Transparency Coalition project coordinator.


On this Thanksgiving, we at ETC are thankful for the work of Dr. Phillips, Commissioner Martin and all those who dedicate themselves to the constitutional principles of transparent democracy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Problems Seen with New Voting Machines Are Tip of The Iceberg

Electronic Voting Machines Sell Tammany Hall Repackaged as “Modern”

Breakdowns of new electronic voting machines have already made news in St. Lawrence, Fulton and Lewis Counties. Official results in some races may not be known for a week or more, frustrating NY voters accustomed to results on election night. But fury may have been their response had they fully understood that with the state's new optical scan technology, the genuine results of NY's elections will never be known.

The optical scan machines mandated to replace all lever voting machines by next year count paper ballots electronically using concealed software that can undetectably alter the outcome, whether intentionally or unintentionally. "What you don't know can hurt you," said Andrea Novick, attorney and founder of the Election Transparency Coalition (ETC). "The problems seen by voters and election workers Tuesday are nothing compared to the problems that are invisible. In the counties participating in the state's early rollout of the optical scanners Tuesday where machines broke down, election officials are at least aware that there was a problem. Where the scanners appeared to run smoothly, election officials, candidates and voters are led to believe everything is fine. But either way, whether the optical scanners appear to be functioning properly or not, the true count is unknowable."

Because the working parts of a lever machine are visible, elections officials and observers can witness all critical steps and know the machine’s count is accurate. But under ERMA (the Election Reform and Modernization Act) the certainty of the election night count is replaced with an unreliable electronic count, subject to verification if a subsequent 3% manual count matches the computer tally. “We are abandoning our transparent, secure system for knowingly exploitable vote-counting computers,” explained Novick.

State Elections Commissioner Douglas Kellner confirmed the new computers’ untrustworthiness, stating, "The system in New York is not to rely on the machines, but to rely on the paper," referring to ERMA’s post-election night hand count of some paper ballots. Historically, NY, learned not to trust any step taken outside of public view after repeated Tammany Hall style elections. Now ERMA mandates reliance on paper ballots that have been removed from the public eye. "If we don't stop ERMA," says Novick, "elections will from this day forward become what a New York court has already declared to be 'a useless formality.'" The ETC is preparing to file suit to stop the changeover to electronic vote-counting on constitutional grounds.

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