An Appearance of Guilt
March 7, 2006
By Ernest Partridge, The
accumulated weight of evidence of election fraud – statistical,
circumstantial, and anecdotal – has failed to move the mainstream
media to report or investigate this evidence, or the Democratic
party to acknowledge and protest the apparent Republican control
of our elections.
This essay is not yet another account of that evidence, which
I have spelled out extensively and which I firmly believe to
Instead, I wish to deal with another indicator that our national
elections no longer represent the will of the voters, but rather
are manipulated to produce the outcome desired by the "winning"
candidates and party. This indicator is the behavior of those who
manufacture, program, and operate the paperless, unauditable machines
(direct recording electronic: "DRE"), and those who benefit from
Perhaps this new electronic voting technology is as honest and
reliable as the private election industry and the winning candidates
tell us it is. However, they simply do not behave as if this were
My contention might be illustrated by this parable:
Suppose that a drug-sniffing dog at an airport identifies a suspicious
piece of luggage. The customs officer then locates the individual
whose name is on the tag, and orders him to open it. Now suppose
further that this person then proceeds to do one or more of the
a) He denies that the luggage is his.
b) He calls his lawyer who presents an injunction against further
inspection of the luggage.
c) He claims that he is a diplomat, and thus not subject to
d) He offers a bribe to the inspector if he will "forget the
Might one not suspect that the traveler was trying to hide something?
The dog then gets back to work, and soon identifies another bag,
and the owner of this parcel is identified and ordered to open the
luggage for inspection. He does so willingly and without qualm,
having packed the bag himself and thus knowing that there is no
contraband therein. He is also aware that the dog has a record of
30% false positives.
Which of these two responses more closely resembles the behavior
of the DRE manufacturers (Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia), of the Republican
Congress, and of the Republican National Committee? Are the DRE
manufacturers and the Republicans acting in a manner consistent
with their claims that "e-voting" is both honest and accurate? Or
are they behaving as if they have something to hide?
Here are a few indicators. Because there are so many, I will be
brief. For details and documentation, follow the links:
- First and foremost: DRE machines use secret software and produce
no separate record of the voting to allow auditing and validation
of the votes. Thus, by design, it is impossible either to prove
or disprove directly the accuracy of the vote totals of a DRE
machine or the neutrality of the software. (However, there is
abundant indirect evidence of e-voting fraud: statistical, anecdotal
and circumstantial evidence. But
that's another topic).
- The manufacturers and programmers of DREs (all of whom have
close ties with the Republican Party) insist that their software
("source codes") must be kept secret – for no apparent and defensible
reason. (They claim to be concerned about copyright infringement.
But music, essays, fiction, drama, etc., all are public by nature,
and yet all are protected by copyright).
- The e-voting manufacturers also make ATM machines and automated
gas pumps, both of which produce paper receipts. Yet they steadfastly
resist demands that their "touch screen" voting machines produce
printouts, which might then serve to validate the accuracy of
- DRE manufacturers will
not allow "test hacks" of randomly selected machines. (Unauthorized
hacks have proven DREs to be extremely vulnerable to fraudulent
manipulation. So too a recent report by the non-partisan Government
Accountability Office: a report that has been virtually
ignored by the mainstream press).
- A bill by Rep.
Rush Holt (D-NJ) that would require validated printed paper
receipts of the votes and random inspection of the DRE machines
has been locked up in committee by the Congressional Republicans.
A discharge petition, which would allow a vote on the bill,
is unavailing, due to insufficient support by the Republicans.
- In 2000, computer programmer Clinton Curtis was asked by
a GOP congressional candidate, Tom Feeney, to create a software
program that would alter vote counts in favor of the Republicans.
to this under oath, signed
an affidavit, and took a polygraph test. Of course, Feeney,
now a congressman, denies Curtis' allegations, but unlike Curtis,
Feeney refuses to state his denial under oath or to submit to
- In California, Stephen Heller, a temporary employee of Diebold
Election Systems, obtained copies of memos indicating that Diebold
may have used uncertified voting systems in the 2004 primary
and suggesting that thousands of voters might be disenfranchised
in subsequent elections. Heller's "reward" for blowing this
whistle? He was charged with three felony counts and, if convicted,
serve more than three years in state prison.
- In 2004, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley decertified
Diebold DRE machines. In a special recall election, Republican
Arnold Schwarznegger replaced Democrat Gray Davis. Kevin Shelley
was then harassed and forced out of office and replaced by Republican
Bruce McPherson, who "conditionally" recertified
the Diebold machines. (These are two types of machines:
Optical scan with paper ballots, and "TSX" with touch-screens
and no paper record. It is the paperless TSX machines that are
especially vulnerable to undetectable manipulation and fraud."
There is a heated debate within the election reform community
as to whether Optical Scanning is an acceptable improvement
over DREs, or whether, on the other hand, only hand counted
paper ballots will do. But that's a topic for another essay).
- The Alaska "flip-flop." The Republican state government of
Alaska refused to release to the Alaska Democrats the Diebold
database files from the 2004 election on the grounds that it
was "a company secret." (These were records of a public election,
mind you). After persistent requests, the state relented albeit
under very restrictive conditions. But then, just two weeks
ago, the state again
denied the request, claiming that it was a "security risk"
to the state of Alaska.
- December 20, 2005: Rather than obey a North Carolina law
requiring that source codes be made public, Diebold withdrew
its machines from the state elections.
There is much more, which you might find here
But this much suffices to make my point.
What we find, then, is an industry and a political party which,
on the one hand, insists that the totals from electronic voting
machines are entirely accurate and honest, though these same machines
are so designed that they preclude any independent evidence to support
these claims. On the other hand, this same industry and party steadfastly
resist any and all attempts to introduce reliable methods of validation,
much less the most reliable system of all: hand counted paper ballots.
Persistent suspicion and charges of fraud are damaging to the
industry and the GOP. If they are as innocent as they claim to be,
why don't they just eliminate these damaging suspicions by offering
proof, and then allowing, and even encouraging, paper records, independent
audits, and exit polls?
Despite a near-total embargo by the mainstream media of news,
analysis, investigation and commentary on ballot security and allegations
of fraud, combined with an astonishing indifference to the issue
on the part of the Democrats and their allies, public doubts about
the security and accuracy of elections and hence of the legitimacy
of the Republican control of the White House and the Congress, simply
will not go away. In fact, these concerns appear to be increasing
and will likely continue to increase, as the credibility and public
approval of the Bush regime continues to drop.
Here's a thought experiment for those who insist, despite all
evidence to the contrary, that the past three elections were above
reproach and doubt. Put this confidence aside for a moment and just
imagine, hypothetically, that the elections of 2000, 2002, and 2004
were all fixed, and that the coming election of 2006 will be fixed.
Then ask yourself: if this were so, how would the behavior of the
industry and the GOP be in any way different from what it is now?
Then ask, if the elections are honest and accurate, why don't
the industry and the Republicans act like it? In short, if they
are innocent, why do they willingly persist in appearing guilty?
These questions must be asked by the Democrats, loudly and persistently,
for as Karl Rove and the GOP propaganda machine knows so well, repetition
is the key to successful persuasion of the public. Satire and ridicule
are also very much in order. We must "pile it on" until continuing
silence by the GOP and by the compliant mainstream media becomes
And if the e-voting establishment – party and industry – are ever
forced, however reluctantly, to enact reforms consistent with their
protestations of innocence, what might they do?
Here is a list of proposals that any honest voting machine industry
and political party should be willing to endorse:
a) Publish the source codes. (The copyrights can be fully protected.)
b) Include printers with all machines. Stipulate by law that
in case of recounts, the paper receipts are to be the official
ballots of record.
c) Require independent audits – of local balloting, and of
regional compiling of election returns.
d) Allow examination and "test hacks" of machines, selected
e) Outlaw all data inputs (by direct line, wireless, or UV)
to voting machines and compilers with the exception, of course,
of the "inputs" by the voters.
f) Rigorously enforce and prosecute election fraud laws.
If the industry and the Republicans won't agree to these assurances,
then they must present a plausible explanation as to why they decline
to do so. Absent that explanation, we citizens of this alleged democracy
under an alleged rule of law must demand that every vote be counted
and verified, and we must be supplied with proof that this has been
accomplished. Furthermore, every individual who has engaged in election
fraud must be tracked down and prosecuted to the full extent of
the law. We are entitled to no less than this.
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in
the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He publishes
the website, The
Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The
Crisis Papers. He is at work on a book, Conscience of a
Progressive, which can be seen in-progress here.
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