Millions More Votes For Democracy Next Time

Millions of people who wanted to vote either couldn’t vote, were kept from voting, were tricked out of voting, were tricked into voting the wrong way or voted but their votes were just not counted. There was voter suppression, voter roll purging, voter caging, intimidation, deception, misinformation and other efforts to keep citizens from voting for who they wanted to represent them in our government. On top of these efforts to there were also systemic problems that kept people from voting or kept their votes from counting.
I learned about these horrors while working on the Election Protection Wiki project, a non-partisan collaboration of citizens, journalists and researchers on the larger SourceWatch wiki. The EP WIki is a one-stop-shop for exposing voter suppression, voting machine problems, common election-worker screwups and other threats to election integrity.
Now that the voting is (mostly) done, we’re working to document the problems with the election in order to stop this from happening next time. Here’s what we’ve documented thus far, but if you see anything we’ve missed, please come over and add it in. I’m happy to help:
Suppression — In several states there was systematic purging of voters from the registration rolls. Any excuse was used to remove voters, including something as simple as a misspelled street name or even the use of ‘Bob’ for ‘Robert’. A Brennan Center for Justice study of voter purging estimated the number of voters purged before the 2008 election to be in the “millions.”
Lines and delays — One way to keep people from voting is to create conditions that cause long lines to form. Extremely long lines with waiting times of several hours for early voting and on election day were reported in different areas. Eventually people give up and go to work or home. Placing too few voting machines in precincts that tend to vote a certain way is one example of this tactic. In some areas lines were so long that people waited four, five, six and in some cases as many as eight hours to vote. We have no way of knowing how many people were kept from voting by these lines.
Some of the lines were a byproduct of the voter-roll purges. People arrive at polling places where they have voted in election after election, only to be told they are not registered. So they complain and demand provisional ballots, which can take a long time to complete. Lines grow ever longer as each of these voters is accommodated.
Intimidation — Flyers warning that people with parking tickets will be arrested appeared in different areas. Students were warned that they could be arrested for voting where they go to school. Police were stationed at precincts with lots of Latino voters. Partisans were challenging voters in some areas.
Systemic problems – voting machines malfunction, scanners get clogged with ink, absentee ballots are not mailed, and other systemic problems kept an unknown number of people from voting or their votes from counting.
Just not counting votes — collecting provisional ballots and then not counting them.
Tricks — One big emerging story involved text messages sent to Democrats in several states, advising them they should avoid the lines and vote Wednesday. This happened in Missouri, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Virginia and several other states. Similarly voters in several states reported receiving robo-calls with a similar message. This was clearly an organized effort to keep people from voting.
In Florida Democratic voters were called and told they could avoid lines by voting by phone, given a number to call, and after “voting” were told they didn’t have to go to the polls. This was also clearly an organized operation.
And these were only the scams that we heard about.
Beyond deliberate suppression and deception there were many other problems. How many people were denied or tricked out of their right to vote? How many never received absentee ballots? How many showed up only to be told they are not registered? How many voted using provisional ballots, without knowing if they will ever be counted? How many believed that they could avoid lines by waiting a day? There is really no way to know. But we can work to make sure these things pen again.
At least there is a place where the media, policymakers and citizens can find a collection of election problem reports and policy suggestions to help guide the reform process: the Election Protection Wiki.
Help us document the problems that occurred on Election Day. Help us collect proposals for election reform. You can get directly involved; we need your help!
If we fix these problems and stop these suppression efforts we will bring millions of new voters into our democracy. If we do not we will see all the long lines, registration problems, machine malfunctions and untrustworthiness, voter suppression schemes and tricks that we see during every election all over again, losing millions of votes.
Democracy is about all of the people having an equal voice in deciding how our country will be managed. So all of us owe it to the rest of us to help perfect this. After each election we should look at the problems that occurred and take steps to prevent them from happening again.

Must Read!!!

Please go read this short, powerful post by Max Cleland.
Max lost three limbs in VietNam. He was head of the Veterans Administration under Carter. Later he was elected to the Senate in Georgia. But in the post-9/11 fear-frenzy Saxby Chambliss, a Republican draft-dodger, ran Karl Rove ads saying Cleland was unpatriotic and a coward. Those ads, with a little help from voting machine problems, put Chambliss in the Senate.
Now Chambliss has a challenger, Democrat Jim Martin. And Max Cleland wants you to know his feelings about the race. So go read Max Cleland: Georgia On My Mind.
If you are in Georgia, or know anyone in Georgia, please ask them to read this, too.

Computer Voting Machine Security — Prove It

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
I have been looking at the issue of computerized voting machine security for several years, and want to write about it today.
Many people have pointed out that there are a number of problems with the new touch-screen voting machines. They fear that these machines can be used to rig an election. Others feel more confident about the machines because they are “hi-tech” and computerized and make voting easier.
Computer experts warn that the machines cannot be trusted. Meanwhile, I have a relative who believes that computers can’t make mistakes, so these machines will guarantee accurate vote counting.
I can give you my position on these machines in just a few words: “Prove it.” Here is what I mean: The standard for trusting the results of an election should be based on what an average citizen can believe about the election results. If the election system that you set up is able to prove to an average citizen that the election results are accurate, then you have the right system in place. Elections are about average citizens making decisions and trusting the results, not about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be. The whole “trust me” thing hasn’t worked out so well in the past so people came up with “prove it” systems so everyone could see for themselves how the elections turned out.
Yes, I have an election system in mind that meets the “prove it” requirement. It’s simple. I say that it simply doesn’t matter what kind of machine (or no machine at all) is used in the voting booth or to count the votes later, as long as the voter can put a printed ballot in a ballot box. (The voter, of course, is expected to look over the printed ballot to be sure it has the right candidates and ballot measures marked. Just like with the old pen or punch card systems.)
Everyone understands printed ballots with marks on them, and putting the ballot into a ballot box. Time-honored methods for holding secure “prove it” elections with ballots have been worked out. At the start of the election day you check the ballot box to be sure it is empty. Each voter gets one ballot, marks it, and puts it in the box. At the end of the day the ballots are counted and the total is reported. Etc. I work in elections and I know the system well. It can be trusted.
If we use touch-screen computers as input devices to help the voter mark the ballot, all the better. This helps prevent mistakes like those in Florida in 2000. When the voter is ready the machine prints out a ballot with clear markings of the voter’s choices. After the machine prints that ballot it doesn’t matter if the machine has been hacked or is just making mistakes because you look at the ballot before putting it into the ballot box. And it doesn’t matter how the count is reported because once you have a printed record of each voter’s intentions, you can count them by hand if necessary. The voters or a trusted representative can watch the counting.
There is one safeguard that I think is very important. You must randomly test the reported vote counts against the paper ballots they are said to represent. And I am very strict about this part. If the count is off by even a single vote it means something is wrong with the counting system and the entire election needs to be counted by hand!
The controversy about touch-screen voting machines started because they do not use printed ballots that can prove the election’s results to the average person! The machines come from private companies. Some of these prohibit anyone – even election officials – from knowing how they count the votes. There is no way at all to check whether the machines are reporting correct results. It is a matter of trusting these companies and not of proving to the average voter that the results can be trusted. We are just supposed to trust that the companies are telling us who won the elections! Remember what I said about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be?
If these machines make mistakes or just break down, there is no way to figure out who really won the election. And if someone is able to rig the machines to change the vote counts, there is no way to know that, either. History tells us that this is a concern. People have gone to great lengths to rig even local elections. So with the huge stakes in today’s election — trillions of dollars and wars — we certainly should understand that highly-skilled and well-funded attempts to dictate election results are likely to occur.
There are a number of ideas for making voting machines more reliable and harder to hack into and change results. One idea is that the public should be able to examine — and experts allowed to repair and improve — the source code for the programs used in the machines. This is called “open source” and the Open Voting Consortium has done a lot of great work in this area. (Send them some a few $$ to help their effort.) Open-source systems will help make the machines more reliable and easier to use and will reduce the chances that someone can try to rig an election. This is a great approach, but in the end it fails the “prove it” test. The average person doesn’t understand the complicated programming involved. And there is no way to prove that the open-source code is the code that is actually running in every single voting machine on election day.
Other ideas involve elaborate security to test and guard the machines. This again fails the “prove it” test. Unless average people can see for themselves that the results are accurate, no security is sufficient.
I say that the system I describe above — involving a paper ballot that the voter can check and put in a ballot box — makes the reliability and security of any voting machines themselves less important because you can “prove it” by counting those paper ballots. You can test a sample of ballots against the reported counts, making it useless to try to hack the voting or counting machines themselves.
California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen understands these issues and is working hard to make sure that our state’s elections are safe, fair and provable. Let’s hope that the rest of the states can catch up to California.
Click through to Speak Out California.

m4s0n501

Today’s Voting Machines Post – Prove It

The California Secretary of State ordered tests on all the voting machines. They flunked. Most vote machines lose test to hackers,

State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California’s voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems’ electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.
The researchers “were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the “top to bottom review” of every voting system certified by the state.

Suppose they fix these “vulnerabilities? But o matter how much testing you do and bugs or vulnerabilities you fix there are going to be more – the ones we don’t know about. That is how it is with computers.
Here’s a simple test for election systems: “Prove it.” What do I mean? Suppose you have a perfect voting machine and every possible security problem that anyone can think of is accounted for. The machine’s code is carefully inspected. The hardware is working. So I go in and cast a vote, and they say, “Your vote was recorded accurately.” I say, “Prove it.”
They can’t. So I’m not happy.
Or, imagine this test: You ask them to let you cast the only vote and then they count the votes. You cast a vote for ‘A’ but tell them that you cast a vote for ‘B’. There is no way they can PROVE you did that. So no one has a reason to trust the “election” results.
Here is the answer – the only answer. After you cast your vote, a paper record of your vote is printed, you look at it, and you put it into a separate box. Now there is a way to PROVE how people voted. You open the box, you count the ballots. You prove it.
The only solution to the voting machines problem is to print a paper ballot that the voter examines. If you have that system in place then it doesn’t matter if the machine was hacked, or broken, or you made a mistake. With that piece of paper you have a way to double-check what the machine did. Without that piece of paper it doesn’t matter how secure the machine is – because you can’t prove it.

Today’s Voting Machines Story – Time To Act!

Daily Kos: Black Box activsts — now’s your time to put up,

Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.
Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.
These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.
But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.
To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.
If we win this battle, you’ll be able to kiss Diebold goodby.

Go help.

I Predict Trouble Next Week Because Of Paperles Machines

There’s trouble coming next week. Regardless of which candidates and parties are said to win next week, there is a problem coming. This is because there is no way to prove to people whether or not the electronic voting machines reported the votes correctly. And this raises the possibility that large numbers of people will not accept the reported election results.
In this highly partisan atmosphere with such high stakes this is a recipe for civil disorder.
If you vote absentee or use a paper ballot, or use a machine that prints your vote on paper and lets you see that it was correctly recorded, you can feel like your vote was correctly counted. But if you vote on a machine that just asks you to trust that it records your vote correctly, and YOUR candidate loses, you’re going to feel like you MIGHT have been cheated. That is human nature.
And even if you know that YOUR vote was correctly recorded, if these machines are in use in your local election, then you are going to feel uneasy about the results.
AND even if your entire district uses safe methods, you are going to feel uneasy about the results from OTHER districts.
So no matter which party is in said to be in the majority after Tuesday, there is no reason for the losers to accept that. (Or the winners, for that matter.)
I don’t see any way around trouble coming out of this.

Today’s Voting Machines Story

There has been quite a bit of publicity now, exposing the new electronic voting machines as hackable. And it occurred to me that Tuesday’s election could turn into a different kind of fiasco than the one that many people fear.
The fear is that there could be subtle, undetectable changes in voting totals designed to swing elections. (Such hacking is undetectable because there is no paper backup system that allows voters to verify that the machine is recording their vote accurately.)
I’m wondering if, rather than this scenario, if we might instead see every junior hacker in the country showing up with their own viruses and worms and other assorted hacks, and precincts electing everyone from Superman to Malcolm X, with more votes than voter in the precinct, etc.
It would be funny if that happened. But not surprising. It CAN happen.
Just a thought…

Today’s Voting Machines Story

Ars Technica is an online magazine for techies. They’re covering the voting machines fiasco.
How to steal an election by hacking the vote,

What if I told you that it would take only one person—one highly motivated, but only moderately skilled bad apple, with either authorized or unauthorized access to the right company’s internal computer network—to steal a statewide election?
[. . .] Thanks the recent and rapid adoption of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in states and counties across America, the two scenarios that I just outlined have now become siblings (perhaps even fraternal twins) in the same large, unhappy family of information security (infosec) challenges. Our national election infrastructure is now largely an information technology infrastructure, so the problem of keeping our elections free of vote fraud is now an information security problem. If you’ve been keeping track of the news in the past few years, with its weekly litany of high-profile breeches in public- and private-sector networks, then you know how well we’re (not) doing on the infosec front.

The article goes into technical detail on how to accomplish the theft of an election. But then,

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