July Events

Published by the Davis Democratic Club Board
From their e-mail correspondence

Link to A Parable for Our Time

From "Adrienne Kandel" adrienne@dcn.org


The following organizations are suing California, and the counties of LA, Sac, SF, and Santa Barbara, to force the use of unverifiable touch screen voting machines, without a paper trail. If you know any constituents, please get them to complain. Below the info on the lawsuits, I repeat some info on why Black Box Voting is bad. In short, our whole system has always assumed and provided for the possibility of cheating, with recounts, and multiple people watching and transporting ballots. Suddenly we have to trust computer programmers writing thousands to millions of lines of complex code, with known past errors, and this code is owned and kept secret by partisan organizations with a stated preference for outcomes. Who can say the software they use has never flubbed up? The attachment at the end lists some past computer voting errors, and dubious election outcomes.

The organizations suing are:
American Association of People with Disabilities
California Council of the Blind, Inc.
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
Riverside County (Michelle Townsend) was a plaintiff but dropped out in
Kern County (auditor Ann Barnett)
San Bernadino County (registrar of voters Scott O. Konopasek)
Plumas County (clerk-recorder Kathleen Williams)

One of the legal organizations doing the suing, which should also hear from its members, is the Southern Center on Law and Poverty.

The Disability organizations listed above are apparently assuming their constituents want these lawsuits, when in fact many people would rather know their vote was counted, and wait a year or 2 for machines with verifiable paper trails, and voice verification. The disabled community will not be well served if dishonest vote-counting causes the "election" of even more conservatives who cut funding for more health and social services. Furthermore, the right to vote independently is only meaningful if you're sure the vote will be counted the way you want. (See Natalie Wormeli's eloquent testimony supporting precautions, below. Natalie is blind, and has manual dexterity impairments.)

The ACLU and the League of Women Voters had previously argued for quick touchscreen voting (before voter-verifiable paper trails), but after further study, ACLU wants paper trails and LWV has withdrawn its advocacy.

  1. the lawsuits
  2. why to worry about blackbox voting
  3. how slot machines are better policed than electoral voting machines
  4. testimony from Natalie Wormeli, Esq. to Secretary of State Shelley in support of precautions
===============1. THE LAWSUITS
There are two lawsuits that the State of California is defendant in, because of Kevin Shelley's wise unwillingness to give carte blanche to electronic voting machines. I would try to get this info to the constituents of the plaintiffs, who should insist the plaintiffs withdraw their suit. The lawsuits are:


American Association of People with Disabilities California Council of the Blind, Inc. California Foundation for Independent Living Centers Riverside County (Michelle Townsend) was a plaintiff but dropped out in favor of putting all its effort into the 2nd lawsuit, now connected with the first (being heard by the same judge). Also some individuals who don't answer to a constituency.

DEFENDANTS: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, and the Counties of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. These counties have adopted new voting systems since 1999 and failed to adopt DRE's (touch-screen voting machines). They adopted optical scanners.

SUBJECT: Plaintiffs say the defendent counties should have adopted DREs. And they wish to overturn Shelley's November 2003 directions requiring voter-verification and paper trails by certain dates.

2. SECOND LAWSUIT, THE "BENAVIDEZ" CASE, file 1.5 weeks after Shelley's Apr 30 decisions

American Association of People with Disabilities
California Council of the Blind, Inc.
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
Riverside County (Michelle Townsend, I think she's clerk-recorder, maybe registrar of voters, maybe both, and I think she's retiring in July)
Kern County (auditor Ann Barnett)
San Bernadino County (registrar of voters Scott O. Konopasek)
Plumas County (clerk-recorder Kathleen Williams)
These counties use DREs. Kern County uses the Diebold TBX. San Bernadino County uses Sequoia.

DEFENDANT: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley

SUBJECT: To overturn Shelley's April 30 decisions decertifying a Diebold model (TBX, I think) and imposing various precautions.


======= A. Excerpts from statement of www.blackboxvoting.org

  • “To err is machine” — Voting machines have been found to miscount. Some miscounts are ridiculous (i.e. Allamakee County Iowa, 2000 national election, counted 4 million votes though just 300 voters showed up to vote). Many miscounts, if they are less obvious, are never flagged at all.

  • Modern-day voting systems have largely been privatized. Key functions are run by private for-profit corporations. These corporations have a habit of hiring their own regulators.

  • The certification system for voting machines is so fundamentally flawed that it allows machines to miscount and lose votes. Four studies in a row spotted serious errors that passed through certification without a hitch.

  • Voting software has been found to contain hidden “back doors” that allow end runs around the voting system.

  • Fewer eyes watch over election procedures than ever before.

  • New systems are designed to replace the poll book sign in with a computerized, digital system made by private companies, using proprietary software that the public is not allowed to examine. Such a system, improperly used, would enable whole cemeteries to sign in and vote.

  • Election officials are often appointed, not elected. In many states there is no requirement for election officials to disclose personal financial information, inviting conflict of interest.

  • Election checks and balances have eroded: Voter Verified Paper ballots have been removed in as many as 20 percent of all voters in the U.S. Paperless touch screen machines do not permit recounts. Even when paper ballots exist, in many states it is now illegal to compare them to computer counts, even in a recount.

  • Absentee voting: In most locations, there is no way to know whether all the ballots mailed in were counted. At no point is there a comparison of the count received by the Post Office with the count received by the elections division.

  • Polling place results used to be compared with the overall totals, to make sure each polling place result was correctly reported when all votes are added up. This key audit has been eliminated in most locations, opening the door for tampering by replacing memory cards and/or tampering with the central server at the county level.
=======B. fISHY ELECTION RESULTS: Edited excerpts from an article by Schuyler Ebbets (sebbets@comcast.net)
  • Prior to Florida's September 10, 2002 primary election, poll data showed heavy support for Janet Reno in Broward County, but election results from one Broward precinct alone revealed an impossible 0% turnout among more than 800 registered voters. Reno requested a recount of eighty precincts containing 31,375 registered Democrats because they reported only 1,952 votes. Her request was immediately turned down by the State Elections Board. According to an AP analysis, if those precincts matched the average county turnout, they should have produced 10,260 votes, more than five times the number recorded by the Election Systems & Software (ES&S), iVotronic touch-screen voting machines.
  • Almost two months later on election night, November 5th, 2002, tens of thousands of Floridians experienced difficulties using the iVotronic machines. Voters called in to Neil Rogers AM radio talk show the day after the election and complained of "broken" voting machines, and machines that voted multiple times for Bush when McBride was selected. Electronic voting expert, Rebecca Mercuri told American Free Press, "Numerous severe voting system problems occurred throughout Florida electronic voting on November 5th, but none of the major news networks are covering these problems," On November 6th, David Host, spokesman for the Florida Secretary of State, declared the elections, "an unqualified success", and the Associated Press reported, "The closely watched contest for governor in Florida was decided without a hitch." However, 103,222 ballots in Broward County alone were "misplaced". Jeb Bush was "re-elected" governor, and Katherine Harris won a seat in the House of Representatives. Attempts to examine the code used by the machines in Florida were blocked in the courts by the GOP citing, "proprietary/trade secrecy" protections under a law, which made it impossible for the DNC to ascertain how the machines tabulated votes.
  • This wasn't the first Republican victory involving "Election Systems & Software" (ES&S). Former right wing radio talk-show host and CEO of ES&S, Chuck Hagel, decided he would run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska with his own ES&S machines counting the votes. Hagel failed to mention that he had been both CEO and Chairman of ES&S on his disclosure documents, or that he was an owner in the company that installed, programmed, and operated the voting machines used by most of the citizens of Nebraska. In 1996, Republican Hagel won the race in Democratic Nebraska for the U.S. Senate easily carrying both the primary and general elections. According to Bev Harris of blackboxvoting.com, Hagel scored lopsided victories in almost every demographic group, including Black communities that had never voted for a Republican. With the widest margin of victory in state history Hagel became the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska. On November 5, 2002 Hagel ran against Democrat Charlie Matulka and was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate by an unreal 83% of the vote. Again, the votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines built programmed and installed by Hagel's company Election Systems & Software.
  • In Georgia, Republican Saxby Chambliss repeatedly questioned the patriotism of Democratic incumbent and triple amputee war hero Max Cleland during his campaign. Chambliss made the absurd claim that he was more patriotic than Cleland even though he had avoided service in the Vietnam war with a "medical deferment". A Poll taken by the Atlanta Journal Constitution published on November 1st, just five days before the election, showed support for Georgia Democratic Senator Max Cleland at 49%, clearly 5% ahead of Republican Saxby Chambliss at 44%. Many People in Georgia, particularly veterans, had been angered by the crude remarks made by Chambliss and they turned out in record numbers to vote for Cleland. When the 'Diebold' Electronic Voting tally was made public it stunned and confused the Georgia voters. Saxby Chambliss had won with 53% of the vote compared to Max Cleland's 46%. It represented a 13% pro-Republican swing that seemed to materialize out of cyberspace. The victories of Chambliss and Hagel, along with the tragic October 25, 2002 plane crash that killed Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, virtually guaranteed Republican control of the Senate.
  • Two corporations, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), and Diebold Voting Systems, now control 80% of the vote count in the United States. Owners of both engage heavily in partisan, Republican activity.
  • The greatest danger of the new touch screen voting systems is the removal of a paper trail and the blockage of access to the inner workings of the software. When a voter touches the screen to select a candidate there is no confirmation that the machine has actually registered the correct selection. In the old punch-card and fill-in-the-circle paper systems, voters could see their choice marked on the ballot. In the event of any confusion or question, a record of the vote existed and a recount was possible. Since the new electronic systems leave no paper trail there can be no recount and the results must be accepted as fact.

Excerpted and edited from an emailed article by Schuyler Ebbets (sebbets@comcast.net)

(copied from www.blackboxvoting.com)
If election officials want to convince voters that electronic voting can be trusted, they should be willing to make it at least as secure as slot machines. To appreciate how poor the oversight on voting systems is, it's useful to look at the way Nevada systematically ensures that electronic gambling machines in Las Vegas operate honestly and accurately. Electronic voting, by comparison, is rife with lax procedures, security risks and conflicts of interest.

Among the ways gamblers are more protected than voters:
  1. The state has access to all gambling software.

  2. The software on gambling machines is constantly being spot-checked.

  3. There are meticulous, constantly updated standards for gambling machines

    Voting machine standards are out of date and inadequate. Machines are still tested with standards from 2002 that have gaping security holes. Nevertheless, election officials have rushed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy them.

  4. Manufacturers are intensively scrutinized before they are licensed to sell gambling software or hardware

  5. The lab that certifies gambling equipment has an arms-length relationship with the manufacturers it polices, and is open to inquiries from the public.

  6. When there is a dispute about a machine, a gambler has a right to an immediate investigation

=====================NATALIE'S TESTIMONY

Dear Committee Members,
I deeply regret that I am unable to testify in person at today's hearing because of serious health problems. Please consider the following as my written testimony. I am writing this letter as a concerned California voter, an a ttorney, and a woman with multiple disabilities. For purposes of this letter, I am only representing myself, and I do not claim to speak for anyone else. I have researched and thoughtfully considered the issues regarding electronic voting and I enthusiastically support SB 1723. I understand that well-meaning advocates are speaking out pronouncing that electronic voting will revolutionize people with disabilities access to voting. I am particularly offended by the reoccurring claim that people with disabilities are disenfranchised. This is highly inflammatory rhetoric, ignoring the definition of enfranchisement, which is a person's right to vote. When I turned 18, I became enfranchised. Not having the ability to vote without another human being's assistance is the reality that I deal with, but does not make me disenfranchised. I rely on other people to help me with tasks that I am not physically able to do, but I remain in control and independently thinkin g the entire time. When voting, I can choose to bring a friend, a family member, or ask one of the well-trained poll workers for assistance. California voting regulations allow people with disabilities to ask two assistants to help them cast their vote, thereby providing a supervision component. Access to private voting technology will be a wonderful enhancement of my right to vote, but only when such technology is secure and dependable. Because I am blind and I have manual dexterity impairments, I will be an enthusiastic user of the future DRE (touchscreen) system equipped with secure, paper-verified receipts. I have done the research, and I know that such technology is in development with audio transmittal of both the text on the screen and the printer output. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires assistive technology be available in wheelchair accessible polling sites by the year 2006. The HAVA Commission's recent report chronicles many problems wit h DRE systems and fails to provide readily achievable solutions for November election preparation. The authors of SB 1723 clearly recognized the needs of people with disabilities by requiring the Secretary of State to provide audio-recorded state ballot pamphlets on both audio tapes and CDs. It is my personal experience that assistive technology continues to improve and gain my trust. A dozen years ago, during law school, I obtained a PC with text-to-speech software, enabling me to hear what appeared on the screen as I wrote papers or did my own legal research on the Internet. After four or five years, this DOS-based system became obsolete as Windows-based, highly-visual systems became industry standard. Then, a couple years later, a text-to-speech Windows-based program came on the market and I was once again able to use my computer. Now, because of my diminished manual dexterity, I await development of an effective voice-recognition system that will wo rk compatibly with my text-to-speech system. I know that such software is being developed, but I have heard manufacturers say that it is a small market demanding such technology. Therefore, they do not devote many resources to such projects. In contrast, America Online (AOL) provides their customers with the ability to check their e-mail via telephone, enabling me to listen to my e-mail correspondence. AOL created this useful technology to help their huge customer base check their e-mail remotely, but the advancement also incidentally assisted people with visual impairments. The DRE systems have a potentially enormous customer base and are being developed rapidly because of this HAVA-inspired market. Providing flawed DRE systems would erode trust among voters with disabilities as well as able-bodied voters in California and throughout the country. If Californians depend on flawed systems, and California has problems in November, the headlines throughout t he country will undoubtedly reflect this horrible fact. Other disability rights advocates claim that decertification would be a step back, treating people with disabilities as second class citizens. I argue that requiring California voters to use dangerously flawed DREs will be forcing second rate technology on all of us. I know that DRE system developers are working tirelessly to create dependable secure systems, and I am confident that one day I will be able to vote privately without assistance. However, I refuse to act as a complaining passenger in the backseat asking, are we there yet? I know I will be there soon enough, but I only want to arrive safely and with everyone on board. I know that when SB 1723 is passed, you will be heroes for all the citizens of California, especially voters with disabilities.
Natalie Wormeli, Esq. Testimony before the California State Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee, May 5, 2004


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