December 6, 2004
Lynn E. Landes
217 S. Jessup Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-0072 Fax
Dear Congressman Conyers:
I respectfully request the opportunity to speak at your hearings on Wednesday. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a freelance journalist who has covered voting systems and technology issues for over two years. I am considered one of the leading experts on this issue and am frequently asked to give speeches and interviews. In the past, I have been a commentator for a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio program. Yesterday, I was a featured speaker at the Columbus, Ohio afternoon rally sponsored by Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections (CASE). I also spoke at the evening symposium at which Jesse Jackson talked to the audience via telephone.
I have researched several of the companies involved in the business of counting Americans votes, but more importantly, I've studied the fundamental violations of Constitutional and federal law that occur when voting machines are used. In July I filed two federal lawsuits, one against the use of any and all voting machines, and the second against the use of absentee ballots. In the latter case, I recommend that out-of-town voters cast their ballots at remote voting precincts, a practice used in other countries.
For your hearing, I would like to provide a general overview as well as an alternative viewpoint that is often missing at conferences and hearings on this subject. Several of the individuals and organizations who support the 'verified voting' concept are well intentioned, however, the solution of attaching ballot printers to touchscreen machines, still leaves the machines firmly in place to malfunction and break down on Election Day. The concealment, confusion, and general mayhem that occurs with the use of paperless voting machines, as evidenced in the past election, will only be exasperated with the attachment of ballot printers. In addition, the promoters of the 'verified voting' solution have not called for ballots to be hand counted, but rather 'audited' by election officials. That leaves the voting process in the hands of the very election officials who have caused so much consternation. Voting was designed by law to be a public function, not the private enterprise it has become.
Here is my short version of Voting 101. Voting is a 3-step process: marking, casting, and counting ballots. The two requirements for voting with integrity are 'direct access' to a ballot and a ballot box, and meaningful 'public oversight' of the voting process. Absentee voting open the voter up to intimidation and coercion, as well as vote selling. It is only the polling precinct and the voting booth that can provide the necessary security for voters. Although the marking of the ballot should occur in private (behind a curtain), the casting and counting of ballots must be done in public in order to guard against vote fraud and miscounts. It is essential that this process occur on one day only, Election Day, so as not to interrupt public oversight. This is called the Australian paper ballot method. It was created in 1856 and introduced to the United States in 1888. Unfortunately, during that same time-period, absentee voting (1870's) and voting machines (1890's) were also introduced. They are open invitations to vote fraud and system failure with minimal opportunity for detection.
The popularly accepted rationale for imposing voting machines on American voters is that ballot box stuffing was rampant at the turn of the last century. However, some noted historians dispute this. In his book, The Right To Vote, The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, Alexander Keyssar, of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, writes, "...recent studies have found that claims of widespread corruption were grounded almost entirely in sweeping, highly emotional allegations backed by anecdotes and little systematic investigation or evidence. Paul Kleppner, among others, has concluded that what is most striking is not how many, but how few documented cases of electoral fraud can be found. Most elections appear to have been honestly conducted: ballot-box stuffing, bribery, and intimidation were the exception, not the rule."
Regardless, by the 1930's most urban areas in the United States used lever voting machines in their elections. In the 1960's computerized ballot scanners were introduced. And in the 1970's direct recording electronics (DREs) made their debut. Internet voting has been used twice, once by the Democrats in the Arizona primary in 2000, and again by the Democrats in the Michigan primary in 2004.
It is important to note that most nations still use paper ballots and hand counts. However, the recent election in Afghanistan included a disturbing twist. Although voters marked their ballots at their local polling precincts, the ballots were not counted locally. Instead, the ballots were shipped off to a central counting center where it took weeks to report the election results. The U.S.-based, International Republican Institute (staffed by Republican Party leaders, including Sentaors’ John McCain and Chuck Hagel) contracted for a U.S. exit pollster to survey Afghan public opinion. However, public oversight of the vote count, the only poll that really matters, was effectively eliminated.
The unique vulnerability of electronic voting technologies has been long known to federal authorities. In a July 4, 1989 article in the Los Angeles Times about electronic voting machines and vote fraud, Craig C. Donsanto, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) election crimes branch from 1970 to the present, said, “If you did it right, no one would ever know.” Not much has changed since that article was published.
In 2004 election I served as
a poll watcher at my local precinct in Philadelphia. Of course, I knew there
was nothing of substance to watch. But, for an assistant dean of the Yale Law
School, it was an awakening. In a November 14th article,
Professor Ian H. Solomon wrote of his experience in Florida,
“I tried to ensure that poll workers obeyed the laws about provisional ballots and that ballots were correctly fed through the optical scanner machines. And by my presence, along with other Democratic lawyers, I lent an air of legitimacy to the voting process, which, by and large, seemed fair enough. But one thing troubled me: who was checking to make sure the data contained in the digital memory cards actually matched the voters’ intentions marked on the paper ballots? Could we take the accurate counting of computer votes for granted, since the CEO of the leading voting machine manufacturer promised to “deliver” the election for Bush? At first, the question didn’t matter, because I, like most others, thought Kerry would win. In fact, I was shocked when the official election results started coming in so different from historically reliable exit poll results and my own gut sense of the results in Florida.”
Nelldean Monroe, Voting Rights Program Administrator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) addressed the issue of oversight of the voting process in a November 21, 2002 email to me. Her agency is responsible for recruiting and training Federal observers, who are sent by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to monitor elections. Monroe wrote, "The only observance of the tallying of the votes is when DOJ specifically requests observers to do so. This rarely occurs, but when it does, it is most often during the day following the election when a County conducts a canvass of challenged or rejected ballots. In this case, Federal observers may observe the County representatives as they make determinations on whether to accept a challenged or rejected ballot. Federal observers may also observe the counting of the ballots (or vote tallying) when paper ballots are used." In an earlier phone conversation with me, Ms. Monroe said that she could not train Federal observers to observe if voting machines manipulate or switch votes because the functioning of the machines is inherently unobservable.
Although many have said that this is not a partisan issue, from my observation, election irregularities overwhelmingly favor Republicans. Today, two companies (ES&S and Diebold), who have well-documented ties to the Republican Party, counted 80% of all votes in the last election. These companies make, sell, and service both ballot scanners and touchscreens. A major investor in Hart InterCivic, a smaller voting machine company, is Tom Hicks's investment firm, Stratford Capital Partners. Hicks was in the group of investors who bought the Texas Rangers from George W. Bush and others for nearly three times their investment in it.
Some voting machines are foreign-owned, including the third largest company, Sequoia. In 2004, the Pentagon awarded a contract to Accenture to provide Internet voting for the military and overseas civilian voters (approximately 6 million voters). Accenture is the former Andersen Consulting, now based offshore on the British territory of Bermuda. Accenture had recently purchased part of Election.com whose previous owners were Osan, Limited, a company owned by Saudi and other foreign investors.
There are several other corporations that have a piece of the voters' pie. Many of these companies are giant multinational defense contractors and private corporations. Included on their boards of directors are no less that five former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directors, as well as Republican Party leaders, including for Republican Congressman Jack Kemp, Senator Chuck Hagel, and Frank Carlucci of the Carlyle Group.
There is no federal agency with regulatory control over the voting machine industry. Anyone can make, sell, and service voting machines, including felons and foreigners, while the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security cast a blind eye at this catastrophic breach of our national security. Federal technical standards are only general guidelines. The certification process is a private endeavor, essentially controlled by a private association of state election officials and funded by the voting machine industry.
Thus, in brief, the use of voting machines and absentee (and early) voting by election officials accomplishes the following:
Certain functions of
government must allow for meaningful public oversight and inspection. It is a
clear violation of civil rights if government officials (as a matter of
practice, policy, or law) deny members of the public or the news media any and
all access to city council meetings, state assemblies, or sessions of
Congress, in which debates take place and votes are cast and counted. The use
of voting machines by election officials constitutes the exact same
violation. There is no material difference.
The use of voting machines by election officials constitutes a secret processing of the vote. Both Congress and the states have passed legislation that unlawfully denies meaningful public oversight and inspection of the most important function our government performs – administering elections.
A state’s discretion and flexibility in establishing the time, place and manner of electing its federal representatives has only one limitation, the state system cannot directly conflict with federal election laws on the subject. The use of voting machines denies effective public participation and meaningful oversight of the voting process and is therefore a violation of federal law.
Knowledge is power. Public education on this issue is essential. If the public does not understand the fundamental issues at hand, then they will continue to make uninformed decisions. Even after the 2000 election debacle, the solution supported by both Democrats and Republicans made matters worse, not better. "Verified voting" and "audits" are not the solution; paper ballots and hand counts, are. If we are to restore integrity to the voting process, the machines must go and the people must prevail.
I hope I can be of service to your hearing. If not, please consider this letter my testimony.