Black Box Voting by Bev Harris
Votescam: The Stealing of America by James M. Collier
Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies by Russ Kick
Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876 by Roy Morris Jr.
Wealth and Democracy : A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips


Note: Anyone who wishes to become a columnist
or submit a column or a response to a column
please contact Alllie.

Who Do You Trust?

By Alllie

Who, baby, who do you trust? When you vote on an electronic voting machine, do you trust your vote counts? When your ballot is tabulated with an electronic vote counting machine, do you trust your vote is counted?

Who do you trust? Do you trust the people that own the voting machines companies, do you trust the people that run them, do you trust the people that program them, do you trust them when billions or trillions of dollars hang on the outcome?

I don't.

Why should I?

Like Joseph Stalin said: "Those who cast the votes decide nothing, those who count the votes decide everything."

How about you? Do you trust them? If you do let me tell you some reasons why you shouldn't.

In 2002 in Comal County in Central Texas 3 Republican candidates each won with exactly 18,181 votes. What do you think the odds are for that? Would you trust a lottery that hit the same numbers 3 weeks in a row? It gets worse. Two more Republicans in nearby states also won with exactly 18,181 votes. All five on the same type of ES&S voting machines. Convert the numbers to the alphabet: 18181 18181 18181 ahaha ahaha ahaha - were they laughing at us? The voting machine company Diebold also uses a voting software called GEMS version 1.81.81. More laughter? Since brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich, founded ES&S and then Bob then went to run Diebold, perhaps both companies share a sense of humor. Diebold and ES&S, together, count about 80 percent of the votes in the United States.

You remember Florida in 2000? Remember how Gore conceded for a minute? Did you know that the computerized voting machines in just one Florida county gave Gore a NEGATIVE 16,000 votes and mistakenly added 4,000 votes to Bush's totals thus giving Bush an extra 20,000 fake votes. That was why CBS called the election for Bush and was one of the reasons Gore thought he'd lost.

In Abilene, Texas the poll workers became suspicious of a lopsided vote that gave a landslide victory to a Republican, When it was checked they found the Democrat actually won by a large margin. (How many places is it never checked?) The voting machine company blamed a supposedly defective chip. When I have a defective chip my computer just stops working instead of giving me fake results. Patriot Bev Harris points out in her book Black Box Voting that elections officials seem willing to believe anything as long as it sounds high tech. Black Box Voting can be downloaded here or bought here.

Did you know computer security experts tested Diebold voting machines and programs in Maryland and showed they could easily "reprogram the access cards used by voters and vote multiple times," that they could attach a keyboard to a voting terminal and change the vote count on that terminal. They could even use a modem to call in from somewhere else and change the votes. ( Despite that Maryland bought Diebold voting machines. (A theory about why later.)

Did you know Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell sent out a fund raising letter for George Bush expressing his commitment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." Seems to me that O'Dell is in a perfect position to assure that Bush does just that.

Did you know that the people that own and run the voting machine companies include foreigners, felons, ex-CIA officials and Republican Party operatives? ( Did you know the largest voting machine company, ES&S, was established with funding from the extreme right wing Ahamason family and investments from the Rothschilds, that there are Cheney and Bush and CIA links as well. Turns out there are no laws about who can own voting machine companies or program voting machines. Mafia or plutocracy or enemies of the US. No laws. Osama Bin Laden could own a voting machine company. Saddam could program for them. No laws to stop them.

Let me tell you about the people who write the programs for these machines. Most Diebold programming is done in Canada by programmers who are Russians, British and Canadian. Fixing an American election wouldn't even be treason for them because they aren't Americans. The programmers even include felons, like the Diebold programmer in charge of nationwide programming till 2002 who was previously convicted of 23 counts of embezzlement. ( Embezzle some money. Fix elections. What's the difference?

Did you know that Johns Hopkins professer Avril Rubin and two graduate students spent the summer of 2003 unraveling Diebold software and discovered it made fixing an election easy? Memos liberated from Diebold discussed how little security voting machine programs have and how to get around even the limited certification requirement.

Let me tell you about Senator Chuck Hagel. As a relative unknown he won a huge upset victory in Nebraska using ES&S voting machines. He was the first Republican to be elected to statewide office in 24 years. Hagel even carried black precincts that had NEVER before voted Republican. Turns out he had been the CEO of ES&S and still owned a big piece of the company and had concealed his ties. ES&S was and is the only company certified to sell voting technology in Nebraska. Hagel won this upset election with ES&S machines programmed while he was still its CEO.

When Hagel won what Business Week described as a "landslide upset," reporters might have written about the strange business of an upstart senator who ran his own voting machine company. They didn't because they didn't know about it: On Hagel's required personal disclosure documents, he omitted AIS. When asked to describe every position he had held, paid or unpaid, he mentioned his work as a banker and even listed his volunteer positions with the Mid-Americachapter of the American Red Cross. What he never disclosed was his salary from or stock holdings in the voting machine company whose machines had counted his votes.

Why would election officials ever buy machines from these companies? Bev Harris notes : "According to one of our sources, who made sales presentations for a voting-machine vendor…it is all too common for county buyers to hint at gifts ("That's a nice laptop ...") and, sometimes, place an empty envelope on the desk hoping it will be filled."

In 2002 a Business Records Corporation (BRC) executive, Tom Eschberger, was given immunity from prosecution in return for cooperating in an investigation of former Arkansas secretary of state Bill McCuen. McCuen later pled guilty to taking bribes and kickbacks in a voting-machine scandal which partially involved BRC. In the meantime BRC was merged with the ES&S, the largest voting machine company, and Eschberger was made Vice-President.

I guess he was just….qualified for the job.

Sequoia, the third largest voting machine company, is largely owned by the British firm De La Rue. De La Rue is owned by the corporation Madison Dearborn which is a partner of the Carlyle Group, the investment firm and arms merchant that until recently employed former president George Herbert Walker Bush and has major investments from the Bin Laden family. Sequoia executives Phil Foster and Pasquale Ricci were convicted in 1999 of paying Louisiana commissioner of elections Jerry Fowler an $8 million bribe to buy their voting machines and were involved in a massive election scandal in Louisiana involving connections with organized crime.

As long ago as a New York Times article from 1985 (Computerized Systems for Voting Seen as Vulnerable to Tampering ) "Eva Waskell, a Reston, Va., writer on computer and scientific matters…said she was astonished because it appeared that "even when local officials learned of the problems, little apparent effort was made to correct them." "

Maybe there was no effort to correct the problems because election officials were on the take. Bribes. Kickbacks. I guess if you pay some people a lot, or even a little, they will sell out.

A contract techie who worked for Diebold in the very suspicious Georgia election in 2002 said that "Diebold…had to pay all kinds of extra expenses. The rumor around the office was that Diebold lost maybe $10 million on the Georgia thing." Still, $10 million to get Max Cleland out of office thus giving the Republicans control of the Senate and allowing them to pass trillions in tax cuts for the rich, even at $10 million that was cheap at the price.

Have you noticed the huge swings between the polls and the votes in many elections. We even saw that in New Hampshire in 2004. The day before the election Dean and Kerry were neck and neck. Then Kerry won by 14%. How much Kerry won by correlated with how the votes were counted. According to Martin Bento Kerry won by 14.7% in areas with Diebold counting, 7.7% with ES&S counting, and 1.4% with hand counts. Talk about "things that make you go hmmmmm."

I read about these voting machine companies then I think about my home state of Tennessee. On election day I vote on what has been described as "the notoriously fixable" Shouptronic 1242 (now called the Electronic 1242). In early voting I run a card through the Global AccuVote (Made by Diebold). I don't trust them. In 2000 these machines would have made it possible to fix the presidential election, made it easy to make sure Gore didn't carry his own state. I've looked at the precinct by precinct counts for Memphis in 2000. Many precincts went 95-100% for Gore. That was credible for a lot of black precincts. But a lot of precincts showed up to 75% for Bush. White precincts. That isn't credible. If Gore's plurality in black precincts had been cut everyone would have known it was fixed but cutting his votes in white precincts, that they could have gotten away with. It would have been easy to skew the vote enough to make sure that Bush took Tennessse. Easy if you controlled the programming of the voting machines.

But in the end what does all of this mean? Why should you believe me? Suppose I showed you the computer code in the voting machines. That's generally not possible because it's illegal for anyone to look at it, even the election commissions who buy the machines and pay for the software. But if you were able to examine the programming what would you learn? Do YOU understand COMPUTER CODE? I don't. Do you have four years of training in computer programming plus years more of experience? Even if you had access to the voting software and understand code, do you have months to analyze it like Avril Ruben and his graduate students? Do you KNOW what is going on inside these companies, whose interests the owners, foreign and domestic, superrich and extreme right wing, whose interests they serve? You could take their word that everything is all right. If you trust them. In the end that is what it all comes down to: "TRUST."

Do you trust ANYONE to count the votes in hidden and secret ways?

I don't. If history has taught us anything it is that there is a long history of voter fraud by both parties (though the Republican history is a bit longer and darker - Origins of American Vote Fraud) and that we shouldn't trust anyone.

I just don't trust the voting machines and I don't see why I should have to. There's a saying about how "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion." I think vote counting should be like that. You shouldn't have to trust them to be honest. Voting and vote counting should be so clear, so transparent, that they can't be dishonest without being caught. When you read that a vice president of ES&S was involved in an investigation of brides and kickbacks for electronic voting machines, doesn't that make you suspicious. When I see all the contributions to the Republicans by voting machine company executives, I get suspicious. When you learn that a single firm writes 80% of the programs used to count the vote, don't you get suspicious? When anyone reads about all the ways a computerized voting machine can be rigged to fix an election, anyone should get suspicious. When we read about how many elections using these machines seem fixed, shouldn't we all get suspicious.

I was talking online to someone from New Zealand who told me he voted on a paper ballot which he then folded and placed inside a clear plastic ballot box where it would stay, visible to everyone, until voting ended and the ballots were taken out in front of scrutineers (what they call poll watchers) and openly counted, not by machines, but by human beings watched by other human beings. Nothing secret. Nothing hidden. All in the open with people watching. I also noticed when they voted in Spain they had the same thing. Paper ballots and clear plastic ballot boxes.

Someone else told me how when they voted the ballots were counted manually and the tally placed on the precinct door so the people in the neighborhood could look at it and tell, just from knowing their neighbors, if the results were credible. In some places they count the ballots in the town square so everyone who wants can watch.

Why should I have to trust the people who own and program these machines? Because hand counting would take too long? Canada votes by paper ballot and the ballots are counted by hand. They count the whole country in 4 hours. What is the fucking hurry to have the results as soon as the polls close? Let's go back to something we can trust: Paper ballots, counted by hand, in public.

How would I like to see us vote?

We should have small precincts, less than 500 voters, easy to count. We should vote on paper ballots, marked in ink. After we mark our ballots we should fold them and put them in a sealed clear plastic box where they can be continually watched until they are counted. Ballots spoiled by the voter should be replaced with a new ballot and the old one torn in half and retained.

Each precinct should have poll watchers from each party plus 2 citizen watchers, randomly chosen by lottery and paid, say $200 for the day, to watch the watchers and the counters and the voters. Anyone else who can fit in the room should be allowed to watch from a distance - just far enough away that they can't touch the ballots.

After the voting ends the ballots should be manually counted at each precinct with the poll watchers and the citizen watchers observing the count. The count should also be video taped. You know how some day cares and some schools now have web cams that allow you to check on your kids through the day? The vote counting at each precinct should be on at least two web cams linked to the internet so anyone who wants can watch the counting and record anything suspicious. Once the count is complete the ballots should be returned to the plastic ballot box which should be sealed with some kind of metal seal that can't be opened but only cut. The results should be posted on the precinct door as well as on the internet so people in each precinct can kinda tell if it was honest just from knowing their neighbors.

The ballots should then be taken to the election commission and a second count of each precinct done by machine. If there is a discrepancy the ballots should be counted again by hand. Any serious discrepancy would HAVE to be investigated. Vote fixing or ballot tampering should be one of the most serious felonies. If there was a discrepancy that couldn't be explained and resolved then a new election should be scheduled within days. Let's not be like Alabama where the vote magically changed after the gubernatorial election in 2002 and not only was it was never explained but was allowed to stand.

It's all about trust. As Bev Harris wrote:

Trust is the element that keeps us from taking to the streets every time we disagree with something our government does. As long as we feel our representatives are deciding most things, and the very important things, the way we would ask them to, we are content. If we elected them in an election that all agreed was fair, but they make an egregious choice, one that many of us feel we cannot live with, our governmental system sanctions our protest. We reserve such behavior for unusual circumstances, knowing that when the next election rolls around, we can always vote them out. Perceived lack of integrity in the voting system is guaranteed to produce shouts of indignation, but because most elections are perceived to be fair, we can still show some patience with the situation. If, however, we come to perceive that most elections cannot be trusted, we've got a huge problem. Suddenly, these people don't have our permission to do anything. Why should we follow laws that they passed if we don't believe they were fairly elected? Why should we accept anything they do? Why should we follow the law if they didn't? Why should we cooperate with our government at all?

Why indeed. If we can't trust our vote is counted then all bets are off. Then we owe them nothing. Then the laws and taxes they pass are not binding on us. That was part of what the Revolutionary War was about, taxation without representation. If we don't have honest elections, then we are ruled, we are taxed without our consent. Without honest elections there is no social contract between the people and the government. Without honest elections they are just crooks robbing us blind to enrich their corporate cronies.

Our forefathers fought a revolution to give us the right to vote. We might have to fight another one to get that right back.


* * *

"Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens." - George Mason Speech, Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 17, 1788

© Alllie, 2004

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