Computerized Voting, Unseen Threat To Democracy
Our article in Truthout last week, Top Ten Epic Reasons Why You Should Give a Sh*t About Voting, elicited quite a few comments from readers voicing concern that ballots may not be correctly or honestly counted by our “black box” computer voting systems – and we would never know.
The Internet is already roaring with stories of visible attacks on democracy so far in the 2014 elections: 40,000 mostly minority voters purged from Georgia’s voter roles and thousands more in 26 other states, up to 600,000 Texas voters disenfranchised due to new Voter ID laws, and the attempts to override the electoral college in gerrymandered blue states like Michigan.
Electronic voting systems are actually failing and breaking down nationwide, creating long voting lines and the risk of votes lost to error and malfunction.
We can fight this fraud because we can see it, like the part of the iceberg that is above the water. But yes, there is more below.
Exactly two years ago Harper’s Magazine published a cover story “How to Rig an Election,” (written by this author) detailing the hidden threat to democracy posed by our electronic vote counting systems. Easily rigged and hacked, these computers are controlled by a handful of shady corporations, some with criminal records, who fight to keep their vote-counting software a “trade secret.”
Computerized Voting Today Ensures That Americans Cannot Oversee or Verify Their Own Elections.
Elections are held in a vast patchwork of electoral fiefdoms where laws, procedures and private-vendor technology change from state to state; even from county to county. It’s difficult for one hand to know what the other is doing, particularly when legal public record requests on electronic voting systems are routinely denied.
Little-known grassroots Election Integrity (EI) organizations have been fighting an unrecognized war to reclaim and secure our vote count; groups like Election Defense Alliance, Michigan Election Reform Alliance, Voter PA, Voter GA, Wisconsin Citizens for Election Protection, California Election Protection Network, and many others, including social media sites like Occupy Rigged Elections.
These activists have been holding the line in the democracy trenches for years now, even decades. Almost always underfunded or totally unpaid, they are our friends and neighbors, working people – they need increased support now, as we head toward the pivotal 2016 elections.
Unlike other issue groups, EI activists span the political spectrum, recognizing that protecting our ballots is not a partisan issue. Republican voters have every reason to cry foul when in recent days they’ve seen electronic Touchscreen votes “flipping” to Democratic candidates, However, Democrats and progressives have long documented an anomalous “red shift” from expected results based on polls of about 6 percent of votes to the conservative right wherever secretly-programmed electronic voting machines are used.
Most ballots are still counted by Optical Scanners, which have been proven to lose votes, overheat and mis-tally, and can be hacked and rigged intentionally. But far worse are the Touchscreen voting machines, which the world’s top technical security experts have repeatedly demonstrated are perfectly designed to manipulate votes internally while eliminating our physical paper ballots altogether. Argonne National Laboratories Vulnerability Assessment Team recently performed a hack on a Diebold Touchscreens requiring only $25 in parts and an eighth-grade science education.
Electronic voting systems are actually failing and breaking down nationwide, creating long voting lines and the risk of votes lost to error and malfunction. Jurisdictions do not have the money to replace these expensive systems, creating a crisis that is also an opportunity for a robust, informed, citizen-led discussion on what voting systems will truly serve our needs.
A recent, entirely misleading article in The Hill, “States Ditch Electronic Voting Machines,” says that as Touchscreen machines are breaking down, states are returning to casting paper ballots. However, they are not counting those ballots by hand but with computer optical ballot scanners. The article also makes numerous false statements including the assertion that voting machines are not connected to any network and not connected to each other, making them difficult to tamper with.
Government can never be the sole verifier of its own secret elections.”
Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance responds, “That is an outright lie. A large proportion of voting machines now transmit their results to central tabulators via networks. The system is vulnerable to wholesale electronic rigging in the individual machines (tainted memory cards can be programmed and inserted by the thousands), in the central tabulators, and in the various cyber pipelines that end up in the vote totals you see on TV.”
The vaunted Logic and Accuracy tests run on all computer voting systems before an election, which supposedly prove nothing is rotten in Denmark, have been similarly exposed, as former NSA analyst Mickey Duniho recently testified in court: “It’s entirely possible for someone to program the database so that it does one thing during the Logic and Accuracy test, and something different on Election Day.”
But wait – before you succumb to the voice telling you to give up and hide in a pleasant cave somewhere in another country – here is some good news: The Election Integrity movement is gaining recognition and even victories.
In 2013, California Election Integrity activists won a greater level of oversight with AB 813, requiring a downloadable spreadsheet format of the certified statement of election results to be posted on the web sites of local elections official and the secretary of state, to be kept there for public access for at least 10 years. This format will allow analysis of the results and help voting watchdogs spot anomalous outcomes more rapidly.
On October 21, a coalition of tenacious Arizona citizens won a rare court victory in a long battle against election rigging in the County of Santa Cruz, documented in the film Fatally Flawed. Judge Kimberly Corsaro ruled against the county for violating a public records request that included inspecting the network settings in their central vote tabulating computer, which runs on Windows.
Arizona Election Integrity activist and plaintiff John Brakey states, “Our message is simple: We the People must have elections that are 100 percent transparent, with a documented ‘chain-of-custody’ and then, the election must be verified! Nothing less! Government can never be the sole verifier of its own secret elections.”
However, currently no one is fully verifying our elections, least of all the federal government. All four commissioner seats are vacant in the federal Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), created in 2002 to help set voting standards and best practices, and to accredit electronic voting systems testing labs. Republicans are actively attempting to kill this agency altogether.
We Need to Establish Across-the-Board Standards for Voting That Uphold the Most Fundamental Principles of Democracy: Full Transparency and Public Oversight.
Other countries are actually banning electronic voting altogether, including Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, whose High Court recently upheld the “public nature of elections” and therefore the right of citizens to oversee their vote count by casting and counting paper ballots in public.
This is a right to know issue. Until we design our American voting systems around the iron-clad principle of transparency – the right of citizens to oversee and verify our own elections – we will never secure democracy.
This battle goes back decades. In the book, “Votescam: the Stealing of America,”published in 1992, my father, James Collier, wrote:
“One of the most mysterious, low-profile, covert, shadowy, questionable mechanisms of American democracy is the American vote count.”
In 1970, Kenneth Collier, my uncle, discovered he’d been rigged out of the Democratic Primary in Dade County, Florida, thanks to a visible “glitch” on the TV screen on Election Night. His vote totals actually went down (and never went back up) just after the Dade County Courthouse election computer was falsely reported to have “broken down.”
That fateful “glitch” led both my father and uncle into a groundbreaking investigation of electronic vote-rigging across America that lasted 25 years, until their deaths.
The original vote scam went deep, involving high-level players in the Dade County elections and the media establishment. Janet Reno, then-assistant state attorney who enjoyed two landslide election victories, spent years obstructing justice by refusing to investigate the evidence. This included canvass sheets with what appeared to be thousands of forged poll worker signatures for, among other races, judges and the state attorney.
Caught in a web of lies about the League of Women Voters reporting of vote totals to the media, the organization’s president broke down and cried, saying “I don’t want to get caught in this thing.” She was later named election supervisor.
The Collier brothers’ lawsuit against the Justice Department for refusing to act upon evidence of vote rigging was dismissed with the help of then-Appeals Court judge Antonin Scalia, who would later stop the 2000 election recount that proved Al Gore had won the presidency.
Al Gore’s election was derailed in part by a mysterious computer memory card that had tallied 16,000 fake negative votes in Volusia County, Florida, reducing his total and allowing Fox News to call the election for George W. Bush.
“Black Box” Computerized Vote-Counting Systems Must Be Banned Nationwide, and Internet Voting Stopped Before It Starts.
Internet voting is on the rise, pushed by private corporations with support from the Department of Defense, using military overseas voters as the pawns to advance this unacceptable system. Privacy advocates are currently suing the DOD over the withholding of online voting test results that cost taxpayers $9 million in 2010 alone, even as internet voting experiments crashed and burned disastrously in Norway,France, Canada and Washington, DC.
In 2014, 10 of the world’s top financial institutions were hacked in a major cyber-attack that affected at least 83 million accounts in J.P. Morgan Chase alone. These corporations employ the most sophisticated cyber security available, and, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars, were still unable to defend themselves. How are cash-strapped voting districts going to do better?
Despite this madness, both political parties are considering internet voting for 2016,led by the Democrats who can only focus on how it will expand their voting base.
A Call for Us All to Unite Behind Our Ballots, and to Take the Offensive to Secure Our election for 2016.
The political, social, and environmental stakes are higher than ever, and our ability to make change peacefully through voting is more important than ever. But our votes won’t count, if they are not counted.
As we move toward the 2016 elections and beyond, we should not let corruption stop us from voting, but use it to galvanize an informed democracy movement determined to end voter suppression, get money out of politics and institute transparency in our elections.
Citizens must be proactive in organizing to defend our ballots. Fighting defensively – attempting to prove elections were stolen after the fact – is a losing strategy that drains our resources and doesn’t keep criminals from gaining and holding office.
Begin educating yourself, your community, and your local elections supervisors now by sharing the voluminous Election Integrity research, videos and award-winning films – and these most recent books:
• Code Red: Election Rigging and the New American Century, by Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance, 2014
• Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, by Greg Palast, 2012
• Grassroots, Geeks, Pros & Pols: The Election Integrity Movement’s Riseand Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People’s Vote, by Marta Steele, 2012
The National Election Integrity Coalition and affiliate organizations will be working through 2015 on introducing model legislation in states to promote transparency in vote counting and keeping paper ballots as public records.
For 2014 Election Day protection guidance and preparation for 2016, visit: The Democracy Movement Election Protection.