Lynn Landes 
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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 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.

The 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 that.

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 electronic fog.

With more 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." 

And 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. 

To place 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 breakdowns.

It seems 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.

Voting machines open the door wide to vote fraud and technical failure on a scale that paper ballot elections cannot match.

This is 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. 

Most 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.

But, there 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.

In fact, touchscreen machines are more difficult for any voter to use. 

In 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 such.

Then 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 day.

Another 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.

Then 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. 

In my experience, there isn't a technical problem facing voters that doesn't have a low-tech or no-tech solution.

Perhaps, 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. 

Who are 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.

A few 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 Aftermarket Sales.

Diebold 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 current employer.

Speaking 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.

The 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, 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.

The former 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.

The 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.. 

But many 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. 

Adding to 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.

But even 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.

How many 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.

And it 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.

For those 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.

Although I 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.

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