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27 April 2006

I am asking that all votes be counted.


When I read about my county’s decision to purchase $2 million worth of computerized voting machines, I went ballistic. You may be wonder why I am so crazed about this. What is so concerning?

Taking away the right for a citizen’s vote to be counted, is what separates a democracy from a dictatorship. This is the “line” that my government is poised to cross.

Why should I think that my vote won’t be counted?

Allow me to provide some background. HAVA, or Help America Vote Act was designed to bring clarity to the elections process, and to provide better access for disabled persons, after the election fiasco in 2000. Written by the same politicians who were responsible for the chaos in 2000, it purportedly offers ease of use, at the expense of security. The federal government has taken up the HAVA cause by providing incentives ($1.5 million for for my own Northampton County) to purchase from a list of approved computerized voting machine vendors.

These computerized voting machine manufacturers claim their computerized voting machines never make mistakes… but all of the verifying tests for accuracy are internal! Lo and behold, the computer always agrees with itself! Just last week in Texas, 50,000 citizens voted, but 150,000 votes were recorded by the computerized voting machines. How do election officials sort that one out?

Moreover, in an ostensible effort to safeguard their own systems, the voting manufacturers refuse to share their source code, claiming proprietary rights. Translated, they safeguard their secrets, and you – the voter – are expected to trust them, while trusting the “black box” to come up with the right vote.

Why buy a computer to count a vote? Why complicate a simple process with a temperamental technology that is prone to “crashing”? Don’t ask me why, but the Department of Justice is using a classic carrot-and-stick technique to promote its computerized voting machine agenda, behind the skirts of the “HAVA act compliance”. With HAVA, simplicity and user-friendliness of the vote-count were legislated “in,” accuracy and accountability were legislated “out”.

While the federal government is offering my county $1.5 million in federal funding to purchase these computerized voting machines (the carrot), the county must also “chip in” a mere one half million dollars. If we do not comply with the government directive by purchasing from one of these approved vendors, the Justice Department has threatened us with a lawsuit for failure to comply (the stick).

Couple this threat with a presidential administrative track record that includes the Medicare prescription drug plan, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Dubai ports deal, the false intelligence that led us to a brutal war in Iraq, the under-funded No Child Left Behind Act – it makes one wonder if it is hope against reason that this incompetent administration will do something right with computerized electronic voting.

No, thank you. As far as I’m concerned, a “because I say-so” assurance from the County Commissioner or the Attorney General of the United States, that this equipment is reliable and trustworthy, will not satisfy me.

Show me the proof.

The county is exposing itself to far greater expense in terms of repairing or replacing poorly-functioning equipment, and to far greater legal problems if they violate our civil rights by undermining the security and reliability of an accurate vote. By what more fundamental standard should the success of a democracy be measured, than by the accuracy of its vote? Did we not used to criticize the Soviet Union for its sham elections? Are our sons and daughters not dying on the tragic streets of Iraq, to defend our right to vote?

As my wife points out to me, the publicity over this issue is probably not doing much for my medical career, however it is a sense of duty compels me to raise public awareness on this issue. Where did that sense of duty come from? I recall my fourth-grade class taught by Miss Hersey at Forks Elementary School. That is where I began a deep love for our United States Constitution and the ideals that it represents. I learned later in Mr. Perfetti’s 7th grade Civics class at Easton Junior High School about the importance of citizen participation in government. In high school, Mr. Hosier taught me about the political context of the American revolution, and the genius of Thomas Jefferson. I remember pledging my allegiance to a flag that represents an ideal, codified in a Constitution which bequeaths to each one of us: liberty, and an equal voice in running our government, of, for and by the people. What compels me to speak up, are the lessons that I learned as a child.

Why should I speak up, when so many seem content to accept each new outrageous development that besmirches the reputation of our great nation? It is because nothing less than our future, and the future of our children, yours and mine, is at stake. If we do not seize this opportunity to rectify this disaster-in-progress, and install a safe, fair, transparent and accurate voting system, our democracy is finished. If easy-to-manipulate computerized voting machines become the standard for elections around the country, we will never be able to free ourselves from the political death-grip of a ruling party. We may lose forever the ability of a citizen to have his or her vote cast and counted accurately. Simply put, we will no longer have a democracy.



At 3:04 AM, Anonymous John the Baptist said...

Hi Gravity,

Great start on the blog - best of luck with it. You've sure got the passion - I hope you can find the time to make this a success.

You've touched on one of my hot button issues here. I can offer you buckets of proof that the Diebold and Sequoia voting machines that are being forced on us all are rigged - by this point that should be obvious to anyone who's paying attention.

But just in case someone's curious, here's my favorite links on the topic.

The great threat is not just that these machines are flaky. If that were "all" the problem was, then we'd still get the right candidate about 50% of the time. But, as you can see on the sites above, these machines are built be companies the openly and vigorously support the GOP. And whenever they are used in a close election, the GOP magically wins.

My real concern is how concerned Americans like us should handle our votes being stolen like this. My local district, in Northern California, switched to Sequoia touch screens two years ago, but has a policy of providing a paper ballot to those who demand one. When I vote, I state as loudly as I can that I am a computer scientist who specializes in Embedded systems and computer security, and I know these machines to be corruptible junk. I ask the workers for my paper ballot so that everyone can hear, and explain that it's because I care about my vote. I mention I've had a few of my neighbors looks at me funny, somewhat embarrassed if they have just been talking to me in line; but they know what I do for a living and that I know what I'm talking about. The polling place workers have also given me dirty looks, and I call them on it - explaining this is the most important right I have in a democracy, and I won't be intimidated.

There may be relief in sight. The county is supposed to have paper trails on all machines in the next election. If they manage to do this, I guess I can at least rest assured that it will be more risky to try to steal my vote.

I've got a much more detailed rant on this back at the Memepolice, so I guess I'll give it a rest for now. But this topic gets me going - as it should all patriotic americans. I'll just keep working for the day then all the Diebold and Sequoia execs are behind bars, where they belong.

Again, good luck with the blog.


At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Kim said...

Hi Gravity!

What I am doing at the moment, to make sure my vote is counted, is to vote by absentee ballot. They count them here (at least that's my impression). I would like to see all states adopt Oregon's method of all mail-in/drop off paper ballots. You have three weeks instead of one day to get your ballot in. It's considerably less expensive (half to one third of voting machines) and everyone's vote counts and can be recounted if necessary.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger ~~*\@/*~~ said...

all votes will be rigged and counted!


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