Monday, July 25, 2005

Other Election Reform Groups

For the last post of the evening:

It's the best organized state and activists that I've seen nationally, and Linda Schade is an inspiration.

Colorado group is probably running second:

And Vermont still seems active:

While Washington's Online group here seems inactive:


Background on The Election Center

Here's the conference call analysis I'm always referencing to people.

And also the wikipedia site on voting,_voting_machines

Why Was The Election Center Hired?

Here's an interesting article by Keith Irving, giving some background on the choice of "The Election Center". Highlight from this article:

"Staff of the County Council and the county auditor's office are evaluating audit proposals from four potential contractors: MGT of America, The Election Center, Deloitte Consulting and Forefront Election Solutions."

King County's Optical Scan Voting Machines

In King County we use precinct-based optical scan ballots. "The CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project found them to be the most accurate at recording the voter's intent and not significantly more expensive per vote than touch-screen machines. " from --

I propose that we continue using the same machines, but we run precinct level hand-audits and post the results at the precinct. I believe it should be physically possible to reflash the firmware on the machines to use publicly owned open source software, that the county could hire written on contract, and then publish the code. Who knows... maybe there is some goofy restriction on reflashing the firmware, like maybe Diebold wrote into the contract that the county can't "alter" the firmware without breaking the contract. I really don't know.

Though the Sec of State would restrict it, unless it was used in another election somewhere, though as I recall the SOS has ignored that law before.

[Note 9-19... Turns out I'm right, and Diebold does claim in their contracts that you can't put "non-Diebold" software on their voting machines. So a county is not allowed to change their own voting systems to, for example, a publicly owned and open sourced software system.]

Paper Trail or Voter Verified Paper Ballots?

Here's the voting legislation for "paper records".

I haven't read the whole thing, but this sounds fishy, Voter Verified Paper Ballots are not just "paper records". This language seems supsipicious.

I will read this more thoroughly as I have time.

Verified Voting has a legislation list going for every state, checkout:

The Open Voting Consortium

For everyone who asks me what are the options to the corporate controlled machines counting our votes:

The John Conyer's Report

The John Coyer's Report, or at least the summary:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Election Center Fights Against Real Reform

Excerpt from
regarding The Election Center:

How are they fighting it?
For one thing they had a meeting on Aug. 22 — the voting machine manufacturers and the Election Center [a nonprofit management division of the National Association of State Election Directors, which handles part of the voting-machine certification process] and a lobbyist. The whole purpose of this meeting was to try to get the public to figure out how to accept machines without a paper trail.

How did you find out about this meeting?
Actually, this is kind of funny. My publisher found out about this. It was a teleconference and he just called in under his own name and nobody asked him where he was from, and he sat in on the whole meeting. [Harris' publisher, David Allen, posted notes on the meeting on his Web site.]
The meeting had quite a few things of concern in it. They were being told that as an industry they had to come up with $200,000 in seven days in order to come up with a P.R. campaign to whitewash their P.R. problem, as they put it.

So apparently they feel they have a problem?
Yeah, they do. And in this particular meeting, one of the things they discuss is, they say, "Now we need to make sure the press never finds out this because we don't want them to know we have a problem." [According to David Allen, Harris Miller, the president of the Information Technology Association of America, said, "We just didn't want a document floating around saying the election industry is in trouble, so they decided to put together a lobbying campaign."]

Was there anything discussed about addressing the problem?
Absolutely, what they want to do is not fix the problem, but they agreed to fix the perception of the problem.

Did they indicate what they thought would be a problem with printing paper ballots?
No. It was a foregone conclusion that we don't want paper.

But they say that they would try to convince the public that having no paper is fine?

It's rather confusing why they're fighting this ...
Yes, actually I find it a little bit suspicious frankly.

How to Rig Elections 101

Here's an excerpt that is a must-read for King County Voters, from this site:

I got a call from one of our more brilliant computer programmers — he's got quite a few advanced degrees — and he called me on a weekend and he said, "I want you to go to your computer." And he walked me through it just like a support tech does — open this panel, click this, do this, do that. And as I'm doing this it was appalling how easy it was. Once you know the steps, a 10-year-old can rig an election. In fact it's so easy that one of our activists, Jim March in California, put together a "rig-a-vote" CD. He's been going around showing it to elections officials, and now this CD has been making its way to Congress members.
It's shocking. All you do is double-click the icon. You go backwards through the Internet to that county computer, and if you have Microsoft Access on your machine you can walk right into that election database while it's open. It's configured for multiple access at the same time. You can be in there changing things and you can change anything you want.
There's nothing — no security in this?
No, in fact in the memo, [Ken Clark, an engineer at Diebold] says specifically that they decided not to put a password on it because it was proving useful. They were using the back door to do end runs around the voting program. And he named two places where they were doing this, Gaston County, N.C., and King County, Wash

Reading for Election Reformers

Required reading:

Larry Phillips and The Election Center

Larry Phillips, King County Councilman, states that one of his key reforms is hiring "The Election Center". Apparently the council would rather hire "experts" than actually propose real reform.

From the Seattle Times commentary:
"Key among our reforms is the hiring of The Election Center, a non-profit considered the premier organization for professional electoral training, to conduct a top-to-bottom management audit of the elections division. "

Here's the difference between me and the competition, if you are paying attention... My key reform is kicking the corporations out of the system. King County Council though considers hiring a group, roundly criticised for taking money from Diebold and other corporate sponsors, as a "key reform". Once, just once, I'd like to hear a councilman or woman call for Publicly Owned Open Source Software instead of another audit, or a new building.

This is absurd.

Read up on, and particularly do some searching on R. Doug Lewis, who heads "The Election Center" for more information... here's some links to start with:

And here, from the Seattle Medium, "Selection of The Election Center team is the result of legislation sponsored by Councilmembers Julia Patterson and Bob Ferguson and approved by the Council last month. "

Bob, what's up? Why is it that the Open Voting Consotium, or any of the ideas proposed by citizen activists the nation over aren't on the top of the list for voting reforms we need here in King County?

Also from the article, "“Our election process is too important to be held hostage by politics,” said Councilmember Ferguson. “The Election Center will provide us with a detailed, independent review of our Elections office and a road map for reform. Because they are independent, no one can argue with the results.”

Well, that all depends on if the Election Center is truly independent? Independt of whom? King County? The charges laid out in Bev's Harri's Book is that the Election Center, and R. Doug Lewis, these people are taking money from the same companies that are making millions off our voting equipment.

Here's what says of the independence of The Election Center:

Here's Soundpolitics pointing out the backscratching The Election Center provides our election officials:

And as I'm getting tired, here's a good site for a whole mess of information:

A Little Info on PSI Group

Here's the most pertinent section on King County's problems, from Chapter 14 of Blackbox Voting, by Bev Harris, from Renton, available free online here:

We’ve had a cocaine trafficker printing our ballots, an embezzler
programming our voting system and our absentee ballots being funneled
through a company that hires people straight out of prison.
And when we try to find out what software is actually authorized,
we get the buffalo shuffle. I don’t believe there is a certification program
in existence that can protect us from inside access. We need criminal
background checks, full financial disclosure for all state elections
officials, and robust, fraud-deterring audits.

A New Election Building, $22.8 million
"King County officials have a tentative agreement to buy a Rainier Valley building and turn it into a modern, $22.8 million election center intended to help avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the November election."

How is a new building going to avoid a repeat of the problems from Novemeber?
Why can no one in government come up with a plan of action?
How about a system we can trust?

Here's my short-list plan of action:
1. Publicly Posted Precinct Level Reporting
2. Publicly-Owned Open Source Software
3. Voter Verified Paper Ballots
4. Citizen Involvement
5. A Citizen Approved Director of Elections

Questions Concerning The Election Center

What's the background to this "Election Center" that's conducting King County's Audits?

Why do we need another audit?

What's the history of King County's Election audits?

How long must this go on?

Who on the council is going to speak out on this issue?

Did any of the council ask themselves this question before they hired the Election Center 9 to 0?

Read this article to understand why I might ask these questions:

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Private Companies Sorting Mail Ballots

What is the difference between private corporations collecting and sorting votes while maintaining proprietary software, and counting the votes entirely behind closed doors?

The answer... not much.

Traditional vote fraud, has used suppression tactics, targeting specific areas through voting patterns, and physically suppressing turnout. Fire hoses, poll taxes, various tools of vote suppression. But the traditional forms of vote suppression are largely eclipsed by the larger problem of electronic machines. Touchscreens, and totals transmitted to central tabulating computers, once again controlled by proprietary firmware machines.... this is all insane. It is unacceptable. It is fundamentally the death of any real democracy this country will ever see.

Counting,or sorting, it's all the same, it's controlling the system which is the most important part of the game. It is something only the people of King County, Washington, and the rest of the US should own. It's not a process that should be bought as a "computer solution" to "all of our voting needs".

This is preposterous, it is so foul a notion that it should be a joke. But it isn't.

Anyone who allows corporations to take over my voting system, these are politicians who must be shown the door. In essence it's why I'm running, it's why I ran the last campaign for Andy, and it's why I will continue to expose the corporate influence on the system, from this campaign and on to the next.