At the base of the American system of government are elections of those individuals who will represent us, and into whose hands we place responsibility for upholding the Constitution and protecting our rights. But when citizens exercise their right to vote without open, honest elections with a secret ballot they run the risk of electing poltroons and fools who will lead us into preemptive wars, eliminate such basic protections as habeas corpus and double jeopardy, destroy our families and children, promote slavery and indentured servitude, use torture and mercenaries whenever they feel it necessary, leave our borders undefended, and take us into crippling debt that will burden our children's children for generations to come.
Supposedly standing guard over our elections to prevent election fraud are officials in every county and state who are charged with conducting fair, open, and honest elections with secret ballots so that no citizen is intimidated when they vote. That diffusion of election authority has proven essential as election fraud is an ancient tradition and those who hunger for power and control of our government are always seeking ways, by commission or omission, to alter the outcome of an election to favor their interests. There are also individual, or small groups of voters who are not above committing fraud in order to give a few more votes to the candidate or issue they favor.
Voting machines have been around for decades but they were clunky, heavy, and hard to move around. Thus, their use was generally limited. Counting votes on punched cards by computers put the camel's nose under the tent flap. But the beginning of a new millennium, combined with the debacle of the 2000 election, brought forth new dangers in the form of electronic voting machines beyond the technical capabilities of local election officials. Control of elections by state and federal government was also increased. These changes also purported to increase the convenience and decrease the cost of elections.
In practice the results have often been disastrous and public trust in elections and election officials has plummeted. Nonetheless election officials force citizens to vote on these machines and insist they, and the voting machine companies, know what is best.
Trust us! Almost a mantra for Monterey County, California, Registrar of Voters Tony Anchundo, who in the November 2006 election required that voters wait in long lines to vote on DREs and instructed poll workers not to tell voters they could request a paper ballot and avoid the wait. But trust in Anchundo was clearly not a good idea. Just a month later he pled guilty to 43 criminal counts, including charges of forgery, misapplication of funds, embezzlement, falsification of accounts, and grand theft of nearly $80,000 of county money.
Further south in Riverside County, California, Registrar of Voters Mischelle Townsend, one of the most outspoken champions of electronic voting machines abruptly quit midway through her latest term in June 2004. She claimed she wanted to spend more time with her family and nurse her father-in-law through a knee surgery. But no mention was made of a March 2004 county supervisor election that was still being contested and a recount entangled in problems attributable, in part, to the county's electronic voting machines. Nor did she mention anything about details regarding the possible manipulation of those machines. Likewise, no mention of the big list of questions to this effect from the press sitting on her desk. Instead, this outspoken champion of electronic voting machines, who was leading a lawsuit against then California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to try to revoke a list of 23 improved voting security measures he had imposed, stepped down and vanished. Unfortunately, Townsend left not only a mass of unresolved questions about the contested supervisor seat, but also about the fate of e-voting. And the election scandals in Riverside County continue to this date.
In February of 2002 Arkansas Secretary of State Bill McCuen pled guilty to felony charges that he took bribes, evaded taxes and accepted kickbacks. Part of the case involved Business Records Corp. now merged into Election Systems & Software, a Dallas company that sold Arkansas computerized systems for recording corporate and voter registration records. Arkansas officials said the scheme involved then-BRC employee Tom Eschberger. Eschberger got immunity from prosecution for his cooperation and now he's a top executive of ES&S, the largest manufacturer of voting machines.
Electronic voting machines were to blame for a near meltdown in 2004 primary elections in California. In San Diego County about 40% of the machines malfunctioned, which was blamed on inadequate testing.
In the November 2006 congressional race in Sarasota County, Florida 18,000 votes were lost on DREs. Courts refused to allow examination of the voting machines and a Republican went to Congress as a result.
Other examples of misdeeds by stalwarts of the public trust abound. I have tabulated some of the problems with election officials but this is only a small and incomplete sampling. A much more extensive tabulation of elections problems has been compiled by <http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp>Voters Unite.org.
While election fraud is nothing new, as usual attempts by the government to fix the problem have made it exponentially worse. The culprit is the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).
In retrospect, the way HAVA came about seems to follow somewhat like this: Diebold, headquartered in Ohio, sensing a huge market for electronic voting machines after the 2000 election debacle, purchased General Election Systems, makers of the AccuVote system. Then they lobbied through Jack Abramoff, and activists have traced payment of at least $275,000 to Abramoff by Diebold. Abramoff, and apparently Diebold's Bob Urosevich, then got together with Congressman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and drafted HAVA to tell us how we are going to vote and, of course, to favor Diebold and other electronic voting machine manufacturers. For implementation costs, HAVA was funded with $3.9 billion to go primarily to companies like Diebold. Then Wally O'Dell, Diebold's CEO, notoriously promised to deliver the vote in Ohio for Bush in 2004 which, by coincidence of course, happened. But by 2006 it was clear that the 2004 election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio's most populous, was questionable at best, and two election officials there were convicted of rigging recounts. Further, under the direction of then-Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (R), who simultaneously served as state co-chair of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, mandatory random sampling was not done even though such sampling was mandated by law. Instead, poll workers illegally chose sample precincts for recounting where they knew there would be no problems, and then routinely recounted the rest of the ballots by machine, rendering the recount meaningless.
But American citizens are still stuck with HAVA and electronic voting machines promoted thereunder, which are proving an unmitigated disaster for elections. I've tabulated problems with electronic voting machines by state and county for 41 states and that is but the tip of the iceberg. And while most of the attention has been focused on DREs, optical scanners used to count votes have proven as error prone and may actually be more dangerous than DREs.
However, as noted above, election officials are still demanding that we vote on these machines and trust the results. The particular method by which an election can be stolen isn't as important as the fact that electronic voting greatly expands the means by which election fraud can be accomplished and eliminates most of the protections that formerly existed.
Counting votes electronically in a black box in large measure nullifies the virtues of a secret ballot. We've gone from a secret ballot to a secret count. If citizens cannot verify that ballots are counted accurately then it becomes rather easy to manipulate the vote count in the black box and on a scale previously unimaginable.
Another problem has occurred in that election officials have been shown to be arithmetically challenged. Hence, when Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines were proposed, few to none of them took the time, or had the intelligence to do the simple calculation that shows only about 70 voters can use one DRE in a typical 12 hour voting day (12 hours = 720 minutes, average 10 minutes for each voter to vote = 72 votes per machine). As precincts average around 1,000 to 2,000 registered voters, assuming a 60% turnout in a presidential election suggests a minimum of about 10 machines per precinct are required at an initial cost of $3,000-$4,000 per DRE ($4,000-$5,000 with VVPAT). Cost per precinct then is around $40,000. Figure 300-400 precincts in any medium size election district and just the initial costs would be $12 to $16 million for many counties to adequately equip each precinct with DREs. And that ignores testing, storage, programming, maintenance, and upgrade costs down the road. Very few counties had $12 to $16 million to spend on DREs even with one-time HAVA funds. As a result precincts typically ended up with 1 to 4 DREs and voters stood in line until the early hours of the morning waiting to vote, or gave up in disgust.
HAVA also drove up the cost of elections by requiring provisional ballots. In addition, many counties used DREs to enable early voting for up to two weeks prior to Election Day. Manning these early voting stations and providing the additional security demanded by these machines further drove up election costs.
Another ploy invented by HAVA is a central state database for voter registration. While, typically, a citizen can verify that they are registered in such databases it becomes virtually impossible to find fraudulent registrations. Any hacker, contractor, or administrator can add as many "registered voters" as they want to. Where previously those with election fraud in mind had to corrupt each county's voter registration database, now they can corrupt an entire state with one hack.
To make the problem worse, most localities also allow "citizens" to register by mail. So anyone can mail in as many voter registration forms as they want. Unless the perpetrators are so stupid as to mail in all the registration forms in a single envelope, and all in the same handwriting, as happened in South Dakota, they are unlikely to be detected and there is virtually no chance they will be prosecuted. Once a mail registration form is accepted, and they almost always are, the perpetrator simply requests an absentee ballot and votes it. Naturally, signature verification on the mail ballot matches the signature on the fraudulent form.
In response many states, in cooperation with the Dept. of Justice, have begun, or completed massive purges of voter registration rolls. These purges have consistently been found to have removed thousands of valid voters, commonly minorities, while still not providing any means of reliably finding fraudulent registrations. To that corruption has been added the technique of vote caging to selectively eliminate voters.
As the use of "no excuse" absentee ballots went to 50% or more of all ballots cast in many elections, rather than fix the underlying problems many election officials proposed holding elections entirely by mail. Excuses like "cost" and "convenience" were put forth as justification for using such an admittedly fraud-prone method of voting. However, cost and convenience, particularly for election officials, are not of basic importance in such a fundamental process as an election.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that if you are going to use mail ballots that the first, and most basic step is to ensure your voter registration database is accurate and up-to-date. As noted above, that ain't so anywhere that I'm aware of. Further, the State of Colorado has a zero success rate in implementing large databases for any purpose. One wonders how the other states fare? Certainly those using Accenture as a contractor have been disasters.
Another problem occurs in that mail ballots are usually only sent out to "active" voters. That is, those who voted in the last federal election. So being registered to vote does not mean you are going to get a ballot to vote with. In effect, such a procedure disenfranchises about one third of registered voters in most mail ballot elections.
Mail ballots also eliminate virtually every other election protection our forefathers sacrificed so much for. Mail ballots bring back:
(1) Convenience: It is claimed voters demand the convenience of mail voting, ignoring the fact that election officials have basically driven citizens to vote by mail by their mismanagement of polling place elections. Also, mail ballot elections are easier for election officials to "manage." Or should one say manipulate?
(2) Cost: With large numbers of very expensive electronic voting machines required for polling places, provisional ballots now required, and, often, early voting, polling place elections have become very costly. And, of course, "no excuse" absentee voting is still permitted, also adding to the cost. Rather than fixing the problems with polling place elections, e.g., doing away with electronic voting machines, eliminating early voting, and going back to absentee voting only when necessary, all of which would reduce costs enormously, election officials prefer to dictate that everyone will vote by mail ballots despite the well-known problems.
Like most advocacy groups, the Equal Justice Foundation is also active in the local community and state. El Paso County, where the EJF is headquartered, is the most populous county in Colorado. It was also one of the first to begin using electronic voting machines.
In January 2006 the El Paso County, Colorado, Clerk and Recorder began what was labeled an Election Education & Research Task Force. Dr. Corry, representing the Equal Justice Foundation, was invited to be a member of that task force.
A series of presentations on mail ballot elections (MBE) were made in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007, including one by the Colorado Springs city clerk telling the commission how great the April 2007 MBE was. Of course her arithmetic was still wrong but who cares if numbers don't add up in an election? A couple of city council members also weighed in on the issue, pro and con (PDF). As one has come to expect, the more intelligent and better educated members of the city council are against mail ballot elections, while those who think they've been granted omniscience are for them.
Following these presentations I asked the county clerk, Robert Balink, for a chance to present the opposing viewpoint to the commission and outline the problems. The election director was enthusiastic. The county clerk said no.
Rather than present the entire thread here I've put them in a PDF file for those interested. The latest development is that the El Paso County election director has resigned after just a few months on the job because the county commissioners refuse to adequately fund the 2008 election, costs of which are driven by HAVA and the voting machine manufacturers. However, cost is not the basis on which elections should be run. Also the election task force has been cancelled.
The El Paso County commissioners have no problem paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for scanners that strip away the clothes of anyone who enters their courthouse, and paying for special entrances and separate security guards for those favored of the "government" so they won't have to subject themselves to the invasive scanner. Those, and many other outrageous expenditures for the courthouse have been made despite the lack of any evidence that there is any significant security threat. However, they can't seem to come up with the money to pay for a secure election with secret ballots. Isn't that how police states and dictators operate? Either the commissioners are petty dictators or they are perverts who want the police to view citizens naked.
Now that we have been coerced into voting the way we are told to vote, it is a virtual certainty that as the 2008 elections draw near we'll be treated to a series of faux terrorist attacks to frighten the populace into submission. America's version of Krystalnacht seems foreordained, perhaps with Muslims standing in for Jews this time. The Third Millennium Crusade certainly seems to have begun.
Is it possible we'll even see a staged attack on our county courthouse to justify spending all that money so they can see citizens naked as they go in? The former county assessor has already pointed out that the commissioners "...ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogance." That might well be said of virtually all our current government officials with regard to elections.