30 December 2007

Concerns about Vote Counting Machines

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
Those who count the votes decide everything."
- quote attributed to Joesph Stalin

(Thanks to Jean Smith for bringing the following to our attention:)
I ran across this web site while looking for other info. Very interesting reading regarding voting machine fraud/result manipulation questions surrounding Ron Paul's straw poll voting results in several States.
Following is just a paragraph of one article at this web site that caught my attention since our county [McDonald] uses the optical-scan system which the "powers that be" in county gov't have assured me CAN NOT be tampered with????


“After one Diebold optical-scan system had been certified, a Finnish computer expert executed what’s become known as the “Hursti hack.” In May 2005, Harri Hursti showed that an optical scanner’s removable memory card could be reprogrammed to alter vote totals. Then, this August, California’s SOS released jaw-dropping findings (conducted by academic computer security experts) about the state’s machines. On Diebold touch screens, ordinary objects could disable the voter-verified printed ballots (needed for recounts). Hart’s optical-scan software could be rewritten to alter vote totals, and its touch screens’ printers could be manipulated to produce multiple records. California’s SOS has since decertified almost all e-voting machines in the state….”

Additional notes from Bruce:

Speaking for myself, I believe it is madness that all votes in every election are not on paper ("hardcopy") ballots, and hand-counted in full view of the public at each and every election.

Yes, it takes a lot of time, and is labor-intensive. But if an honest voting system is not worth it, then just what on earth IS worth it?

Yes, it means that vote totals will usually not be available for many hours - even a full day - after the polls close. But that is actually a good thing. Exit polls and early reporting made before the close of polls can and do influence the end results (particularly in a nationwide election where time zone differences apply). For instance, when the media reports that Candidate "A" won most of the east coast states, it has the effect of discouraging people* from voting for Candidate "B" in the remainder of the states where the polls are still open.
*The sad reason this happens is too many people "don't want to take a chance that they might vote for a loser" - which is idiotic reasoning of course... You must always vote for the best candidate for the position. Always.

I know that many of the election officials and poll workers genuinely believe that electronic vote counting machines are beneficial and trustworthy, for various reasons. But speaking as someone who has over 20 years of professional experience working with electronics, computer systems and networking, I can assure you that NO electronic/computer system can ever be fully secure. Not ever. It is the nature of the "beast" that electronic methods of vote counting can always be tampered with. And no amount of security features and procedures can stop this anywhere close to 100% of the time. One of the biggest problems with electronic voting systems is this: Detecting tampering is extremely difficult, and beyond the ability of all but a scare few expert technicians. It is actually easier to tamper with a system, than it is to detect such tampering!

Any election (even one using paper ballots) can be tampered with in many ways. There has been vote fraud of one sort of another for as long as elections have been held.** But there are good and common sense ways that such fraud can be avoided.
**(I refer you back to the Stalin quote at the top of this post for one good example. If you don't trust the "vote counters" then you better find someone you do trust to "watch the counters" or watch them yourself!)

The best time-tested and proven way is: Paper ballots, placed by the voter's own hand into large opaque boxes supported by a simple table (where it can be seen that no "false bottoms or sides" could exist), carefully sealed and inventoried as they become full (but still left in full public view), and then each ballot hand-counted by trusted representatives of each campaign (and each side of every ballot issue), in the full view of the public (on a space-available basis - but all reasonable efforts should be make to allow for adequate spectator room).

Time consuming? Yes.
Labor intensive? Yes.
Fair and Trustworthy...?


Any person who does not care enough about their
freedoms, liberties, and voting rights
to conduct an election properly,
simply does not deserve the
privilege to vote at all.

- quote "attributed to" Bruce Arnold on 12/30/2007

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