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March 10, 2004 Hearing on Electronic Voting Issues, Philadelphia City Hall, Conversation Room, sponsored by the
Pennsylvania State Assembly's Democratic Policy Committee and the State
Government Committee (D). Hosted by Rodney Oliver
(717)787-8529, the Executive Director of the PA House State Government Committee.
Good afternoon. My name is Lynn Landes. I am a freelance
journalist from Philadelphia and publisher of the website EcoTalk.org.
For the past few years I have specialized in voting technology and
democracy issues. I want to thank the (Pennsylvania) Democratic Policy Committee
for inviting me to testify today.
Let me say
in response to the previous speaker's remarks that the Help America Vote Act
(HAVA) requires states to make voting accessible, but that does not necessarily
mean that voting machines must be used. A machine-free election is perfectly
legal under HAVA.
relationship between voting and technology is a subject that until
recently most people, including myself, haven't given a second thought. I've
been a fairly active member in the political process. I graduated from
Temple University with a degree in political science and I've worked as a
committeeperson. Several years ago I ran for political office.
Yet, now I have come to believe that America is no longer a functioning democracy. For how can we have a real democracy if the technology we use to vote, prohibits direct voter participation? Voting is a three-step process. Ballots are marked, cast, and counted. But three voting systems, the lever voting machine, touchscreen-type computers, and Internet voting, do not allow voters to perform any one of these steps by themselves, but instead relegate voters to making inputs, not knowing whether their votes are marked, cast, or counted properly or not.
These three voting systems also prohibit effective
oversight, audits or recounts because everything takes place inside of a machine
and is therefore unobservable. No paper ballots are ever produced. Any
election result coming from these systems is only circumstantial evidence
of what the voters intended. While the optical scanning system does
allow for ballots to be marked by the voter, the tabulation of the ballots
is again a concealed affair whose results would have to be 100% manually
audited in order to have any credibility. I know of no state that does
It is my firm belief that voting machines have no constitutional
right to be in the voting booth or to count ballots at all.
For those who say that Americans will never go back to paper ballots, voters
already have. Fully one third of Californians choose to vote by
absentee is this year's recall election, while nationally, voting by
absentee is skyrocketing. Do I recommend it? Only as a last resort to establish
a paper trail for your vote. Is it a secure way to vote? Absolutely not. But
these are desperate times for those who see our democracy vaporizing into an
than 98% of elections using machines, there is no way of knowing
whether our votes are being counted accurately or not. Laws
such as the Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced if there is nothing for Federal
Observers to observe, nothing for local poll watchers to watch.
I have brought with me today an email from Nelldean Monroe.
She's the Voting Rights Program Administrator for the U.S. Office of
Personnel Management (OPM). Her agency is responsible for the recruiting
and training of Federal Observers who are then sent by the Department
of Justice (DOJ) to monitor elections. In her email to me Monroe
admits that the only way to observe the counting of the votes is if
paper ballots are used.
But, the people
at the Justice Department seem unconcerned. You might expect that voting rights
groups would launch a lawsuit against the Department for failure to enforce
the Voting Rights Act. Yet, no such lawsuit has been filed. In fact, some
of the largest voting rights groups have taken the opposite position. They
are supporting paperless touchscreen voting machines.
However, things on that front do appear to be changing. Last
week Common Cause reversed its position and released a statement saying, "We
believe it is critical at this point to provide a voter-verifiable paper audit
trail as one of the essential requirements of voting systems."
although I greatly admire the efforts of Representative Rush Holt and Senator
Bob Graham, as well as the computer experts who have raised the red
flag on the dangers of computer voting, I not believe that attaching ballot
printers to voting machines will solve the problem.
voters in the position of verifying ballots that are marked by a machine, is to
tell voters that they must play second fiddle to a technology that can and does play
havoc with the voting process as documented by an endless stream of
news accounts of voting machine glitches, malfunctions, and
to me that the Constitution gives people the right to vote, not machines.
And on a practical level, voting machines present a real obstacle for
voters and elections officials alike. For the technically challenged among us,
voting machines add complexity to a process that should be simple. For Federal
Observers and poll watchers, voting machines add concealment to a process
that should be transparent.
machines open the door wide to vote fraud and technical failure on a scale that
paper ballot elections cannot match.
not about some vast right wing conspiracy. This is about daylight robbery.
Whether any particular election has been rigged may always be in question,
but the fact that technology has hijacked our right to vote and to
watch our votes counted properly is undeniable. And this fact holds
true no matter what kind of voting machine we're talking about. It's
interesting to note that many states and counties are re-thinking
their purchase of touchscreen machines due security concerns. Yet,
they're holding onto their optical scanning equipment, which is just as
vulnerable to tampering as touchscreens and is manufactured and serviced by
the very same corporations.
countries still use only paper ballots in their elections. However, voting
machines have been used in American elections since 1888. This was at a
time the U.S. was experiencing its highest rates of voter
participation. It was in the 80th percentile. But by the 1960's when the
first computer components entered the voting process, voter participation had
dropped to the 60th percentile. Today, in off year elections voter
participation is around 30% and hovers around 50% for presidential elections. So
much for the myth that better technology attracts more voters.
are other myths that I would also like to address. With me today I
have a cardboard ballot template. This is for blind and sight-impaired voters.
It has raised (not Braille) markings and comes with an
audiocassette, which tells the voter who is running for office and how to mark
their ballot. These ballot templates are used in Rhode Island, Canada, and
in countries around the world to enable blind and sight impaired voters to mark
their ballots privately and independently. Other states are now looking
into adopting their use.
But that's no thanks to some of the organizations representing the blind and sight impaired. These organizations continue to misrepresent the situation, saying that the only way the sight impaired can vote privately and independently is to use touchscreen machines. Not only is that not true, it is the opposite of the real situation.
touchscreen machines are more difficult for any voter to use.
interviews with elections officials as well as representatives from voting
machine companies, both have stated that it takes sight-impaired
voters ten times longer to fill out their ballots using a touchscreen
machine compared to able-bodied voters. And takes able-bodied
voters 30% longer to use a touchscreen machine then a lever machine. And
contrary to popular belief, The Help America Vote Act does not require the use
of touchscreen machines for the disabled voter, but also allows for
"other voting systems." This simple paper ballot template qualifies as
there's the language myth, that touchscreen machines can be easily
programmed to accommodate any language. That's debatable, but here's a simple
solution. Anyone who has a language problem should be able to pre-order a ballot
in their native language that will be waiting for them at the polls on election
popular myth is that voting machines make counting the ballots go
faster, and that the U.S. needs these machines because we are a big country with
complicated elections, and that if we don't use these machines elections
officials will be up all night counting votes. The speed of counting ballots
does not depend on the size of the country or the complexity of the ballot, but
instead it depends on the number of voters per precinct. It's a simple equation,
the smaller the precinct the quicker the count. As for staffing
considerations, if necessary, citizens can be drafted to count ballots
just like they're drafted for jury duty.
there's the myth that voters make lots of mistakes marking their ballots
and that elections officials make lots of mistakes counting ballots. But studies
don't support that allegation. In fact, hand-counted paper ballots have received
top marks from one of the few studies that have been conducted on this
subject, specifically the CalTech/MIT study.
experience, there isn't a technical problem facing voters that doesn't
have a low-tech or no-tech solution.
the oldest myth still around is about ballot box stuffing that allegedly took
place in the late 1800's and early 1900's. But according to Harvard
professor Alexander Keyssar, in his book "The Right To Vote", there is
no significant public record that rampant ballot box stuffing ever occurred. It
was a myth popularized at that time by the elite in society in order to
restrict voter registration.
So, who is
counting our votes? Only American citizens have the right to vote in
U.S. elections, but anyone from anywhere can control the technology that marks,
casts, and counts our ballots. And in stark contrast to the
administration's so-called War On Terror, government officials appear to be
absolutely uninterested in who those people are. There is no
federal agency with any regulatory authority over the elections industry.
According to spokespeople for the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the
Department of Justice (DOJ), the companies and individuals who sell and service
voting equipment are not even being monitored. Incredibly, federal authorities
do not even have a complete list of the companies who are counting our votes.
these companies? They’re headed by foreigners and felons,
politicians and political activists, news media companies and defense
contractors. This is an industry dominated by corporations with close
ties to the Republican Party, in general, to President Bush and his family
and friends, in particular.
Three companies will count over 50% of the vote in the next
election. They are Election System and Software (ES&S), Diebold, and
Sequoia. Senator Chuck Hagle (R-NE) is a former president of what has
become America's largest voting machine company, ES&S, which counted the
votes in both of Hagel's senatorial elections. ES&S is privately owned
by the ultra-conservative Omaha World Herald Company and the McCarthy Group.
months ago Wally O'Dell, president of the second largest voting machine company,
Diebold, publicly stated his intention to "deliver" Ohio for
president Bush this November. O'Dell is also a "Pioneer" for
the Bush campaign, which means he has raised a minimum of $200,000. According
to reports, last July, O'Dell had a fund-raiser at his home with Vice
President Dick Cheney that netted $500,000. The current CEO of Diebold, Bob
Urosevich was also the co-founder of ES&S along with his brother
Todd, who still works at ES&S as Vice President of
has been in the news alot lately because its election software was left on the
Internet by the company. Analysis by Dr. Avi Rubin and other computer experts concluded
that Diebold's software program offered no real security and
constituted an invitation to vote fraud.
Election software was
also left on the Internet by company officials of Sequoia, the third largest
company. It is partially owned by the British company De La Rue and the
Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn, which is a business partner
of the Carlyle Group, the former President George Herbert Walker Bush's
of the Carlyle Group, another voting machine company, Populex, has on its
board, Frank Carlucci, the former chairman of the Carlyle Group and a former
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assistant director. In fact, there are no less
than five former CIA directors who have sat on the boards of voting
machine companies. And that is another cause for concern, because the
CIA has a decades-long reputation of aiding the overthrow of democratically
elected governments around the world. And we only need to look at Haiti and
Venezuela to assume that it is still going on.
Pentagon has contracted with Accenture, an offshore company, to conduct Internet
voting for overseas military and civilian personnel. Accenture is the
former Andersen Consulting, a subsidiary of Arthur Andersen of Enron infamy. The
company changed their name, but apparently not their bad business
practices, according to a scathing report from the Canada-based Polaris
Institute. A major business partner of Accenture's is Halliburton, Vice
president Dick Cheney's former employer. Jack
Kemp, the former Republican candidate for vice president, is on the
board of Election.com, which was recently purchased by Accenture.
Although the Pentagon's
Internet voting project has been suspended due to security concerns, the number
of votes Accenture would have processed could have reached six million.
chairman of VoteHere, the leading worldwide supplier of Internet voting
technology, is Admiral Bill Owens, a former senior military assistant to both
Secretaries of Defense Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney. Ex-CIA director Robert
Gates, who was caught up in the Iran Contra scandal, is a
former director of the VoteHere board.
Danaher Corporation supplies the voting machines for Philadelphia. Steven Rales
and his brother Mitchell own the company. USA Today listed the Rales brothers as
among the 400 richest Americans, while columnist Jack Andersen once described
them as a pair of corporate raiders from Washington, D.C..
other corporations have a piece of the action or have partnered with the big
three voting companies. It's a who's who of the corporate world. They include:
Microsoft, Dell, Unisys, Northrop Grumman, Booz·Allen &
Hamilton, Inc, and General Dynamics, just to name a few.
the horror of who is counting our votes, is the fact that there are no mandatory
government standards for electronic equipment. And the certification process
often mentioned by state elections officials is considered completely
ineffective and is not sanctioned by the federal government. It is instead
a private process that is controlled by the National Association of State
Election Directors, which has close ties to the elections industry.
if there were strict standards, computer experts agree that voting machines are
easy to rig and impossible to safeguard. There is a long history of voting
machine irregularities and breakdowns that are documented in various written
reports and news stories.
times have we heard that a voting machine has experienced a "glitch",
but happily the technicians were there to "fix" the problem? But how
do we know that they're not also fixing the election? We don't know. We're being
told to trust in technology, when our government is not based on trust, but on
checks and balances.
doesn't take a vast conspiracy or for computers to be networked or
connected to modems in order to rig an election. Anyone who has access to the software,
whether they are company insiders or computer hackers, can manipulate
votes. And today, thanks to advanced computer technology, millions of
votes and thousands of elections are at risk.
who believe that pre-election surveys or exit polls will act as a
warning system for rigged elections, think again. In some cases the same
corporations who own the voting machine companies, also control news media
outlets and the polling information they publish. It's a perfect set up for
rigging elections and convincing the public that it didn't happen.
vote by absentee, it is definitely not secure. So, if machines continue to be
used in Philadelphia elections, I may at some point decide to boycott the
election. Because voting in America has really become of a case of the emperor
has no clothes. Elections using machines have no integrity.
A Canadian called me a few months ago and said that we Americans had created an expensive solution to a non-existent problem. I think he's right. And the price we’re paying is no less than the security of our democracy.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Contact information: 215-629-3553 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.EcoTalk.org