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How to Beat a Fixed Election
May 14, 2004
By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers

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It's an old story: Satan picks up the phone and calls St. Peter to challenge Heaven to a baseball game.

"Of course, we'll play," says Peter. "But have you forgotten? We have all the great baseball players."

"That may be so," replied Satan, "but we have all the umpires!"

John Kerry and his Democratic party face a similar problem: They may have the votes, but the other side has the machines that record and count the votes. How can the Democrats win? A win over the Bushevik regime is not impossible, but it will be difficult and it will require considerable persistence and initiative.

On its face, the evolving American electoral system is absurd and wide open to corruption and fraud. In Florida in 2000, the task of determining voter eligibility was turned over to a private corporation with ties to the Republican party. The resulting purge of legally eligible voters unquestionably cost Al Gore the state and, as it turned out, the Presidential election. As Greg Palast reports, the ironically named "Help American Vote Act" (HAVA) is poised to extend the scourge of voter purging to other states.

"Paperless" and thus un-auditable electronic voting machines, most of which are manufactured by companies with strong GOP connections and employing secret ("proprietary") software codes, are expected to count at least 30% of the votes in the presidential election - unless curtailed by legislation or lawsuits. The unreliability of these machines has been exhibited by numerous electoral anomalies, including lost votes, a surplus of votes tallied over votes cast, and even (however impossibly) "negative votes."

Several University departments of computer science (most notably, Johns Hopkins) have examined the machines and have pronounced them unreliable and vulnerable to undetectable tampering. Many elections using paperless e-voting machines have resulted in returns at significant variance with pre-election polling, and almost all of these variances favored the Republican candidates.

For example, in the highly suspicious Georgia senatorial and gubernatorial election of 2002, conducted entirely with touch-screen voting machines, the discrepancy between the pre-election polls and the election returns were beyond belief. The Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, who led Republican Sonny Perdue in the polls by 9 to 11 points, lost to Perdue by five points - a swing of about sixteen points. Max Cleland, ahead by five points, lost to Saxby Chamblis by six points.

These were shifts, respectively, of five and four margins of error. Talk to a statistician, and you will learn that the probabilities of such anomalies are vanishingly small. Is there, or was there, any way to validate the vote in those machines? Absolutely not. There is no independent record of the votes. That's just how the machines are designed.

Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced a bill that would require paper print-out verification of electronic voting. And in California, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has decertified "paperless" Diebold voting machines for the 2004 election. However, these attempts at ballot security are supported almost entirely by Democrats as, conversely, the Republicans in Congress and in the states are solidly opposed. One can't help but wonder why this is so.

Given the past history of Republican election manipulation, and the GOP involvement in the privatized voting industry, it appears that a close election will likely be "thrown" to Bush and the Republicans, just as it was in 2000. Sad to say, if Kerry and the Democrats are to win, they must do so with a super-majority.

It has come to that in the United States of America.

It is not my purpose here to elaborate on the scandal of the "election industry," and its acute danger to the American democracy. I have written about this elsewhere, and have collected an extensive list of the most significant articles and book on the electoral crisis.

Instead, I will propose below, some possible counter-attacks.

Back to the paper ballot. The simplest and most reliable voting technology is also the oldest: the paper ballot and the ballot box. To be sure, it is labor-intensive and slow, but that is a small price to pay for the preservation of our democracy. Besides, Canada uses this method and manages to report the election returns within hours. In our last whiz-bang, high-tech presidential election, it took weeks to settle the outcome, and only then by judicial ruling that halted the vote count. (And don't get me started on that!)

When, a few weeks ago, I complained to Common Cause about their failure to get excited about the election fraud issue, they replied in part:

Common Cause is indeed in agreement with the concerns you express about the need for an auditable voting process. It is the position of Common Cause to support voting which can be audited; however, we do not believe that time allows for total institution of this process by the time of the presidential election.

With all due respect to the venerable Common Cause: horse hockey!

Not only could a system of paper balloting be put in place in very short order, in fact, in many states it is already in place! In particular, in the most populous state - my home state of California.

When I arrived at my polling place to vote in the infamous recall election, I encountered my first touch-screen voting machine and promptly cried bloody murder. After calming me down, a kindly poll worker led me to a table with paper ballots, and I proceeded to fill one out. She explained that all polling stations had paper ballots (a) for those who preferred to use them, and (b) as backups in case the electronic machines broke down.

This means that high-tech California is just one simple step away from secure and verifiable voting. And that step is to collect all those infernal machines, load them on to a barge, and dump them in the Pacific.

While I haven't checked this out, I rather suspect that there are paper ballot backups at the ready throughout the country. Demand that they be used instead of the paperless monsters. And, failing that, when you vote, insist upon the paper ballot.

A Diebold, etc. defection. Surely, amongst the thousands of workers on the payrolls of the primary manufacturers of paperless voting machines, Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia - still better, among the hundreds of top managers - there must be a few authentic patriots. And they must be sitting on a battalion of smoking guns. For example, a software programmer who devised a fixed election (e.g. Georgia in 2002) could have a David Brock-like epiphany and proceed to blow this scam wide open.

Let the invitation go forth: "If you would prefer to live in a free country, come over from the dark side! And don't forget to bring your codes and documents with you."

Give a public demonstration. A voting machine and software should be acquired and, at last, put to honest use. Some computer experts claim that a virus can infect a voting machine, alter the results, and then "dissolve" leaving no trace of the "fix." If so, then this can and should be demonstrated. One team should devise a hack that would transform a fifty-fifty input into (say) a seventy-thirty output. Then another team should be challenged to find proof of the dirty deed.

Recently, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart showed video of a computer expert who claimed to have "invaded" a sample voting machine, altered the outcome of the election, and exited leaving no trace of the hack, all within five minutes. Is this just show biz, or is it for real? If authentic, then the stunt should be replicated and publicized. Thereafter, all balloting by such machines would be severely, perhaps fatally, compromised.

Threaten Counter-Hacking. Surely there must be at least as many computer geniuses on the left as on the right. Probably many more. If further evidence accumulates of GOP election-rigging via the "proprietary" software of paperless, non-auditable machines, then the scoundrels should be put on notice that both political sides can play that game. I'm not advocating illegal activity here; there may be some value in alerting the public and "the other side" that there exists at least a capability for counter-measures.

Bring back the exit poll. Soon after the polls closed in 2002, the exit polls from Voter News Service began to announce trends that were favorable to the Democrats. Then, suddenly, VNS told us that the results were "unreliable" and the entire election day operation was shut down. How convenient for the GOP! And we have never received a clear explanation of what happened. Just the same message we had heard two years before in 2000: "Get over it!"

In fact, in the past, exit polls have proven to be the most accurate polling methods. So they must be brought back as checks against the non-auditable machines. If the media's service, VNS, won't do it, then the left must demand an explanation of why it won't, and an alternative exit polling service must be put in place.

Pre-election polling must be persistent and wide-spread throughout the country. Polls, such as those conducted during the 2002 Georgia election, remain strong statistical evidence of fraud and manipulation.

One revealing line of analysis would be to compare the accuracy of polls in states and precincts using paper and other auditable ballots, with the polls in states and precincts using touch-screen ballots. If the former produced accurate polls, and the latter did not, there would be good reason to suspect that the fix is in.

Also, as before, the ratio of plus-GOP shifts to plus-Democratic shifts should be tabulated and publicized. In a study of nineteen contests in 2002, fourteen shifts favored the Republicans (many, as in Georgia, far outside the margin of error), two favored the Democrats (both within the margin of error), and three "close to correct."

California has taken the lead - follow it! Finally, as favorable trends develop in the news, in public opinion, and in the law, these trends should be followed and pushed along. Case in point: the decertification of Diebold machines in California. The decision of Secretary of State Shelley is not final, and could be overturned by "the Governator." Still, it stands a good chance of surviving the legal challenges. And it is an important precedent, as decertification of paperless machines are being proposed in other states. These must be recognized, publicized, and vigorously supported. There may be a trend here.

The GOP's "umpires" have a heavy thumb on the scales of our franchise. This advantage strikes at the very heart of our political covenant.

Voters of the United States unite! You have nothing to lose but your democracy!

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