Voting Machines And The
Bamboozling Of America
By Christopher Bollyn
American Free

The fundamental problems presented by the growing use of insecure voting machines have been ignored by the U.S. mainstream media, which minimized the widespread failures of defective voting equipment during the recent election as having been caused by "glitches" and "gremlins."
"The vitality of America's democracy depends on the fairness and accuracy of America's elections," President George W. Bush said as he signed Help America Vote Act into law on October 29. Judging from the numerous reports from coast-to-coast of serious problems with new voting machines, the "vitality of America's democracy" appears to be in mortal danger.
The Help America Vote Act allocated $3.9 billion in federal money to the states over the next three years to buy electronic voting machines to replace paper ballot voting systems. While Bush called the bill "an important reform for the nation," in many states and counties where the new voting machines were used on November 5, serious problems cropped up during the voting and vote counting.
While local newspapers have generally been diligent in reporting the voting problems, the national media minimized the "irregularities" by attributing them to "glitches" and "gremlins."
The election fiasco during the 2000 presidential election in Florida provided the political impetus for the sweeping voting reform act. This year Floridians in two of the state's largest counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, used touch-screen voting machines made by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha.
On Nov. 6, the mainstream media reported that the Florida elections had been "an unqualified success," according to David Host, a spokesman for the Florida secretary of state.
While Associated Press reported, "Some touch-screen voting machines sputtered and crashed," and "faulty programming" had "sidelined" others, the national media generally depicted the utterly unverifiable voting machines in a positive light.
"Election Day passed with limited snags where electronic tallying made its general-election debut," AP wrote on Nov. 6. "The closely watched contest for governor in Florida was decided without a hitch," AP reported. The key election contest in Florida this year was the gubernatorial race between the president's brother and Republican incumbent, Jeb Bush, and the Democratic challenger Bill McBride.
"We finally have this monkey off our back that we cannot conduct a proper election," Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith said. The "monkey," however, reappeared when "a computer glitch" was found to have "misplaced" 103,222 ballots in Broward County, causing them not to be counted on election night.
Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, is a strong Democratic county with 487,626 registered Democrat voters compared to 279,978 registered Republicans.
Rather than focus on how an expensive "state of the art" voting system could "misplace" nearly 25 percent of the total votes cast, CNN sought to reassure the public, saying, "the missing votes did not affect the outcome of any races, according to county officials."
Broward County is a key county in Florida elections, as it was during the 2000 presidential recount. The county recently spent $17.2 million on touch-screen voting machines made by ES&S. Lisa Strachan, from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections told AFP that the "software glitch" was corrected by ES&S technicians. "ES&S is there to monitor everything," Strachan said.
"It's another screw-up and I'm not satisfied this is correct," Broward Republican leader George Lemieux told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
On Election Day, callers to a Florida radio talk show complained of "broken" ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting machines, according to the Drudge Report. "I voted for McBride, but the machine counted it as Bush. It did this three times. The polling worker finally said, 'We have to re-program this machine.' Another person was having the same trouble while I was there," a voter told Neil Rogers on his highly rated AM radio show.
"None of the major news networks are covering these problems," electronic voting expert Rebecca Mercuri told AFP. "Numerous and severe voting system problems occurred throughout Florida," Mercuri said, "but the news reporting of these problems was overshadowed. More attention was paid to the long lines of people waiting to vote or people talking about voting on the new machines."
"A large number of voters are not computer savvy," Mercuri told AFP, "People are being led to believe these machines are safe and secure, when they are not. They are bamboozling the American public."
Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College, told AFP that "Democracy is down the tubes" if the trend to insecure electronic voting systems is not stopped. "The most vulnerable of these systems are the fully electronic touch-screen [Votronic] or Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices because of their lack of an independent, voter-verified audit trail," Mercuri said.
Mercuri has a comprehensive analysis of the dangers of electronic voting systems on her website.
Mercuri has testified before the U.S. House Science Committee regarding the need for the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) to establish criteria for the procurement and testing of election equipment.
"The voting equipment vendors and certifying authorities have taken a 'trust us' stance," Mercuri said, although they are allowed to keep the machines and the computer code that runs the machines secret. In many cases, company officials operate the machines on Election Day. In Chicago. ES&S programmed the "control cards" that ran the Precinct Ballot Counter machines at their company offices during the 2000 presidential election.
Three of the largest voting machine vendors in the United States have convicted criminals in high positions, according to Mercuri. "Sequoia, ES&S, and Shoup all have top people that been convicted for bribery of election officials or insider trading," Mercuri told AFP, adding, "How can it not be a criminal enterprise?"
"Characterizing these serious problems as 'glitches' makes it seem like poor engineering and incompetent election system management is somehow acceptable to the American public," Mercuri says. "It's not. A massive recall of these inappropriate and defective devices must be started immediately."
Mercuri is concerned that electronic voting machines could be used to conceal massive election fraud.
"It is entirely possible that Florida and other states may smooth out their election day problems so that it appears that the voting systems are functioning properly, but votes could still be shifted or lost in small percentages, enough to affect the outcome of an election, within the self-auditing machines," Mercuri says.
Mercuri proposes a moratorium on the purchase of any new voting systems that do not provide, at minimum, a voter-verified, hand-recountable, physical (paper) ballot while appropriate laws, standards, and technologies are being developed to provide accurate, secure, reliable, and auditable voting systems.
In Florida and California former elections officials have recently been found to have had undisclosed ties with ES&S when they advised the state to buy voting equipment from the privately owned Omaha-based company.
A former Florida secretary of state profited by being a lobbyist for both the state's counties and ES&S, the company that sold the touch-screen voting machines used in Florida's Broward and Dade counties, among others.
Sandra Mortham, who served as the state's top elections official from 1995 to 1999, is a lobbyist for both ES&S and the Florida Association of Counties, which exclusively endorsed the company's touch-screen machines in return for a commission, The Tallahassee Democrat reported on Oct. 6. Mortham received an undisclosed commission from ES&S for every county that bought its touch-screen machines.
In Louisiana, the two parishes that paid more than $3 million for 700 ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting machines suffered "countless problems" with the new machines, according to The Advocate of Baton Rouge. The ES&S machines "plagued voters and the clerks of court staffs in Ascension and Tangipahoa, the only parishes that use the new machines other than for absentee balloting."
Ascension Parish Clerk of Court Hart Bourque said Wednesday that more than 200 machine malfunctions were reported. "A mechanic would fix a machine, and before he could get back to the office, it would shut down again," Bourque said. "Unless we find a solution, next fall there's no way we can vote the people," Bourque said.
Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court John Dahmer said, "I can't say every precinct had a problem, but the vast majority did." Dahmer said at least 20 percent of the machines malfunctioned. "One percent might be acceptable, but we're not even close to that," Dahmer said. "I have grave concerns. I think the state is going to have to address the fact that these machines had this many malfunctions It's not a problem I can fix," he said. "The public seems very satisfied, but the public doesn't see the malfunctions."
Bourque said the ES&S machines, were not the first choice of the clerks. Commissioner of Elections Suzanne Terrell had appointed a committee to decide which machines to purchase, and the committee had ignored the wishes of the clerks. "The clerks had nothing to do with the selection of these machines," Bourque said.
Cook County, Chicago and its suburbs, also uses ES&S machines, which have been rejected by the authorities who conduct elections in Illinois. Cook County spent $25 million to buy ES&S precinct ballot counters although the Illinois State Board of Elections rejected the machines, which is says are not able to count votes correctly. The machines have been used in Cook County since 2000 on a court order that overruled the board of elections decision.
Louisiana plans to purchase thousands of similar voting machines at a cost of many millions of dollars. Dahmer said clerks statewide were told that if the machines worked in Ascension and Tangipahoa parishes, then "everybody in the state was going to get these machines." That could present a "very serious" problem and other clerks need to be aware of the potential problems they face, he said.


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