Democratic Underground

An Appearance of Guilt

March 7, 2006
By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers

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 be compelling.

Instead, I wish to deal with another indicator that our national elections no longer represent the will of the voters, but rather are manipulated to produce the outcome desired by the "winning" candidates and party.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 this technology.

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 the case.

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 following:

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 luggage inspection.

d) He offers a bribe to the inspector if he will "forget the whole thing."

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 the votes.

  • 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. Curtis testified 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 a polygraph.

  • 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, could 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 and 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 unendurable.

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 randomly.

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. Send comments to:

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