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(A speech by Lynn Landes given at the forum: Voting Machines: A Threat To Democracy? Sunday Sept 7, 2-5 pm at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia.) http://www.ecotalk.org/ForumPressRelease.htm
How We Lost The Vote - How To Get It Back
by Lynn Landes 9/7/03
O'Dell wrote a letter the other day. He wrote a fund-raising letter to Ohio
Republicans. And, in that letter O'Dell said that he was, "committed
to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to (President Bush) next
O'Dell is the Chairman of the Board of Diebold Election Systems, the
second largest company in America whose business it is - to count your
letter should serve as a call to action for Americans, and
for citizens around the world, who have surrendered their elections to
technology and those who control it. American tax dollars are helping
to fund a worldwide conversion from paper ballots to computer and
Internet voting. The effort to promote electronic elections is
being led by three international organizations: The International
Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), the International Institute for
Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), and the United Nations Department of
Economic and Social Affairs. IFES was founded in 1987 by the late F.
Clifton White, a high-ranking Republican Party official who is credited
with turning the GOP into a bastion of right wing conservatives.
Today, the right to vote in America is held hostage by technology - a technology that stands between the voter and a real ballot - a technology that delivers only circumstantial evidence of a vote while people push buttons, punch holes, throw levers, and dial-up.
is a real vote? In many countries it's a paper ballot that you can
touch and mark and know who you voted for, that gets hand counted at
the end of the day by local election officials in full view of fellow
citizens and poll watchers...all engaged in safeguarding your right
to a free and fair election. But in America today, a vote is an
electronic image, or an indecipherable punch card, or a paper tab that lever
machines produce. Do we need both man and machine counting the votes? And if
that's the case, whose count should prevail in the end?
not just political elections that are threatened by voting technology. The expanding
use of the Internet to elect the leaders of our civic associations, business
groups, and labor organizations... threatens the very fabric of our society.
For the companies and individuals who control voting technology can
come from anywhere and everywhere, unhindered by government restrictions or
oversight or accountability. Last spring Election.com, an Internet voting
company, was purchased by Osan, Ltd., a group of Saudi investors. In the
year 2000, Election.com was used to count the votes in the Arizona Democratic
Primary. Although another company, Accenture, has recently purchased the public sector
portion of Election.com, that still leaves the private sector. Election.com has
about 600 customers who use its Internet voting service, including the
Democratic National Committee, the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union,
the Sierra Club, and the Florida Bar.
are in a constitutional crisis. Our right to vote for our political
leaders and to have our votes counted properly is not just in jeopardy -
there is mounting evidence that it has slipped away.
did we get in this mess?
It all started about 100 years ago.
In 1892, the lever voting machine was
first used in Lockport, New York. By the 1930's most large cities were
using these machines. In 1964, electronic scanners and computers entered
the voting process. It was also in 1964 that pre-election polling and exit polls
began to dominate the news. And although polling data can be used to raise red
flags where election fraud may have occurred, polls can also be used to create
false expectations and in the case of exit polling, data can, and some say was, used
to legitimize rigged election results.
being told that touchscreen machines and Internet voting will make the process
of voting quicker and safer. But in the 2000 election, Canada hand counted their
paper ballots in four hours without suffering any of the boondoggles that
continue to plague our electronic elections. Even if it took four days or four
weeks to count ballots, democracy is not on a stop watch, where time
is more important than how the race is won. And how the race is won,
is at issue.
is a long history of voting machine irregularities that span the last several
decades. They have been documented in the Saltman Report, the book VoteScam, the
landmark article Pandora's Box, and in countless reports and news stories.
And, although we may prefer that this not be a partisan issue, voting
machine irregularities appear to overwhelmingly favor Republican
candidates. This was alarmingly apparent in 2002, when 74% of the upset elections went
to Republican candidates. Many of the Republican upset victories
were well outside of the margin of error of the pre-election polling.
and services voting machines and technology is beginning to attract a
lot of attention. Only U.S. citizens can vote... but anyone can count
your vote, including felons and foreigners, political candidates and office
holders, news organizations and defense industries. Many voting
systems companies have partnerships and agreements with each other, making
it difficult to separate one from the other.
situation stands today, three
corporations (Election Systems and Software - ES&S, Diebold, and
Sequoia) sell and service the machines and software that counts about 80%
of the electronic vote in the U.S..
the nation's largest voting company, is owned by the Omaha World Herald Company
and has solid ties to the Republican Party. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was
the past president of American Information Systems, the company that
counted the votes in his first election. AIS then merged with Business
Records Corporation to form ES&S, which then proceeded to count
the votes in Senator Hagel's second election. At that time, it has
been reported, that the Senator had a substantial financial interest in the
is owned by De La Rue, a British-based company whose machines will count
the votes in more California counties than any other company in the upcoming
recall election. De La Rue is the world's largest commercial security
printer and papermaker and owns a 20% stake in Camelot, the operator of the Great
Britain's National Lottery.
Internet voting business is dominated by two corporations: Accenture, which
is based in the British territory of Bermuda, and VoteHere from
Seattle, Washington. The U.S. Department of Defense recently awarded a coalition
of corporations, led by Accenture, the contract to provide the
Internet service that will count the votes of the U.S. military and
other civilians in the 2004 presidential election. As many as 6
million voters could use their system. Accenture was formally
known as Andersen Consulting, a subsidiary of Arthur Andersen, a company convicted
of destroying evidence in the Enron scandal. A major business partner
of Accenture's is Halliburton, Vice president Dick Cheney's former employer.
current 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, also sits on
the VoteHere board.
there are many other corporations that work with the top voting companies
and therefore have a piece of the action. It's a who's who of
corporate America, a corporate America that we are routinely reminded doesn't
want to pay taxes, likes to cook the books, and frequently engages in
predatory business practices. Some of the companies who want to count
your vote include: Microsoft, Dell, Cisco and various military defense
companies, such as Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Unisys, National
Semiconductor, and Perot Systems Government Services. Yes, even Ross Perot wants
to count your vote.
new kid on the block is Populex, which is creating an electronic
voting system for Illinois. It has on its advisory board, Frank Carlucci of The
Carlyle Group. Carlucci was the former Secretary of Defense in the Reagan
Administration, a Deputy Director of the CIA during the Carter Administration, and
also worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. Carlucci's
business partner is former President George H.W. Bush.
of many of these companies are dominated by top donors to the Republican
Party, former high ranking military officers, and several ex-CIA directors. The
CIA directors include: James Woolsey, Bobby Ray Inman, and John Deutch, and
as mentioned before, Robert Gates and Frank Carlucci. The CIA, it should
be remembered, has a decades-long track record of assisting in the brutal
overthrow of democratically elected governments around the world.
of the largest companies in the elections industry are privately held and
therefore not open to scrutiny by investors or the public. And in a similar
vein, the software used by voting systems
companies to count your vote, is also not open to inspection... except by
three individuals selected by a private non-profit organization called, The
National Association of State Election Directors, which has close
ties to the elections industry.
today, in most voting precincts, there is nothing for the poll watchers to
watch, nothing for Federal Observers to observe, and no real opportunity to
discover if votes are being altered and if election fraud is being
committed. In many cases, there is no paper ballot or paper trail of any
kind, eliminating the possibility of a recount or an audit. When legal
challenges to election results do occur, these companies can and do go to court and
successfully shield their technology from inspection by
claiming proprietary rights. And even if their technology is open to
inspection, the manipulation of votes can occur in an endless variety
of ways and remain undetected.
lack of transparency and accountability of voting technology in use today makes
the Voting Rights Act of 1967 and its enforcement...moot...and that fact
alone..one would think... would set the stage for a solid legal challenge. But
to date there has been no litigation filed using that argument. Strangely
enough, voting rights groups like Common Cause and the ACLU of Southern
California have actually adopted policies in opposition to paper ballots. And
some organizations for the disabled are taking a similar position. "Total
access" to voting is really code language for imposing
on the electorate a paperless voting process that provides no security
against election fraud or technical failure.
does the federal government come into the picture? Nowhere, really. There is no
federal agency that has regulatory authority over the elections
industry. There are no restrictions on who can own or operate a voting
systems company. There are no mandatory federal standards for voting technology,
and no federal certification of that technology. Meanwhile, the states are
relying on guidelines and a certification process that are essentially controlled
by the industry. The free-market is in control of our elections and the result
is that the process has been privatized and our votes are up for grabs.
Congress has made the
situation worse. With no safeguards in place, The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) allocated
$3.8 billion to encourage states to buy the latest voting technologies
- touchscreen machines and Internet voting. These technologies, like the ones
that have gone before them, are an open invitation to vote fraud and
technical failure, except on a massive scale. And particularly, with
the introduction of Internet voting, we are truly entering the
Land of Oz where
one person can literally control elections across the country.
right to vote and to have your vote counted properly is the
centerpiece of our democracy. Yet, most people today say that they don't believe
that their vote really counts. And perhaps, they're right. Perhaps they've
sensed it intuitively. Perhaps, when they look at our elected leaders,
out of touch with the needs of most voters, unwilling to break with wealthy
donors, they have every reason to suspect that elections are a charade to
convince voters that the power lies in their hands, when it truly rests
elsewhere. The concealment,
the secrecy, the non-transparency, inherent in the use of any machine -
mechanical, electrical, computerized, or the Internet - is counter to a process
where local public oversight is a critical component to
ensure our right to free and fair elections. Instead, voters are
told that they should trust...trust in their election officials to pick an
honest company with sound technology. But faith and trust was not what our
forefathers had in mind when they created a government of checks and balances.
With our current voting process, those checks and balances are a distant memory.
can be done? Speak out. Educate those around you. Most people
haven't given this issue a second thought. At the same time, the U.S.
Department of Justice should be sued for failure to enforce the Voting
Rights Act. The exclusive use of technology to vote, technology that counts
votes in a manner that cannot be observed, violates your rights. If
technology is used, it should provide the voter with paper ballot that the
voter verifies and then gets hand counted at the local precinct. And no
election should depend on electricity or technology. If the power shuts
off, the election should go on. But, speaking for myself, it seems
that voting technology creates more problems than it solves.
I look out over this room, full of concerned citizens...as I receive a
steady stream of calls and emails...and see an increasing number of news stories
about this issue, perhaps a second American revolution is on its way. A
revolution to take back the vote. And it couldn't begin in a better place
Landes is the publisher of EcoTalk.org
and a news reporter for DUTV
in Philadelphia, PA. Formerly Lynn was a radio show host for WDVR
in New Jersey and a regular commentator for a BBC
radio program. She can be reached at (215) 629-3553 / firstname.lastname@example.org