- The fundamental problems presented by the growing use
of insecure voting machines have been ignored by the U.S. mainstream media,
which minimized the widespread failures of defective voting equipment during
the recent election as having been caused by "glitches" and "gremlins."
- "The vitality of America's democracy depends on
the fairness and accuracy of America's elections," President George
W. Bush said as he signed Help America Vote Act into law on October 29.
Judging from the numerous reports from coast-to-coast of serious problems
with new voting machines, the "vitality of America's democracy"
appears to be in mortal danger.
- The Help America Vote Act allocated $3.9 billion in federal
money to the states over the next three years to buy electronic voting
machines to replace paper ballot voting systems. While Bush called the
bill "an important reform for the nation," in many states and
counties where the new voting machines were used on November 5, serious
problems cropped up during the voting and vote counting.
- While local newspapers have generally been diligent in
reporting the voting problems, the national media minimized the "irregularities"
by attributing them to "glitches" and "gremlins."
- The election fiasco during the 2000 presidential election
in Florida provided the political impetus for the sweeping voting reform
act. This year Floridians in two of the state's largest counties, Miami-Dade
and Broward, used touch-screen voting machines made by Election Systems
and Software (ES&S) of Omaha.
- On Nov. 6, the mainstream media reported that the Florida
elections had been "an unqualified success," according to David
Host, a spokesman for the Florida secretary of state.
- While Associated Press reported, "Some touch-screen
voting machines sputtered and crashed," and "faulty programming"
had "sidelined" others, the national media generally depicted
the utterly unverifiable voting machines in a positive light.
- "Election Day passed with limited snags where electronic
tallying made its general-election debut," AP wrote on Nov. 6. "The
closely watched contest for governor in Florida was decided without a hitch,"
AP reported. The key election contest in Florida this year was the gubernatorial
race between the president's brother and Republican incumbent, Jeb Bush,
and the Democratic challenger Bill McBride.
- "We finally have this monkey off our back that we
cannot conduct a proper election," Florida Secretary of State Jim
Smith said. The "monkey," however, reappeared when "a computer
glitch" was found to have "misplaced" 103,222 ballots in
Broward County, causing them not to be counted on election night.
- Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, is a
strong Democratic county with 487,626 registered Democrat voters compared
to 279,978 registered Republicans.
- Rather than focus on how an expensive "state of
the art" voting system could "misplace" nearly 25 percent
of the total votes cast, CNN sought to reassure the public, saying, "the
missing votes did not affect the outcome of any races, according to county
- Broward County is a key county in Florida elections,
as it was during the 2000 presidential recount. The county recently spent
$17.2 million on touch-screen voting machines made by ES&S. Lisa Strachan,
from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections told AFP that the "software
glitch" was corrected by ES&S technicians. "ES&S is there
to monitor everything," Strachan said.
- "It's another screw-up and I'm not satisfied this
is correct," Broward Republican leader George Lemieux told the South
- On Election Day, callers to a Florida radio talk show
complained of "broken" ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting
machines, according to the Drudge Report. "I voted for McBride, but
the machine counted it as Bush. It did this three times. The polling worker
finally said, 'We have to re-program this machine.' Another person was
having the same trouble while I was there," a voter told Neil Rogers
on his highly rated AM radio show.
- "BAMBOOZLING THE AMERICAN PUBLIC"
- "None of the major news networks are covering these
problems," electronic voting expert Rebecca Mercuri told AFP. "Numerous
and severe voting system problems occurred throughout Florida," Mercuri
said, "but the news reporting of these problems was overshadowed.
More attention was paid to the long lines of people waiting to vote or
people talking about voting on the new machines."
- "A large number of voters are not computer savvy,"
Mercuri told AFP, "People are being led to believe these machines
are safe and secure, when they are not. They are bamboozling the American
- Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College,
told AFP that "Democracy is down the tubes" if the trend to insecure
electronic voting systems is not stopped. "The most vulnerable of
these systems are the fully electronic touch-screen [Votronic] or Direct
Recording Electronic (DRE) devices because of their lack of an independent,
voter-verified audit trail," Mercuri said.
- Mercuri has a comprehensive analysis of the dangers of
electronic voting systems on her notablesoftware.com website.
- Mercuri has testified before the U.S. House Science Committee
regarding the need for the National Institute of Standards and Technologies
(NIST) to establish criteria for the procurement and testing of election
- A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE?
- "The voting equipment vendors and certifying authorities
have taken a 'trust us' stance," Mercuri said, although they are allowed
to keep the machines and the computer code that runs the machines secret.
In many cases, company officials operate the machines on Election Day.
In Chicago. ES&S programmed the "control cards" that ran
the Precinct Ballot Counter machines at their company offices during the
2000 presidential election.
- Three of the largest voting machine vendors in the United
States have convicted criminals in high positions, according to Mercuri.
"Sequoia, ES&S, and Shoup all have top people that been convicted
for bribery of election officials or insider trading," Mercuri told
AFP, adding, "How can it not be a criminal enterprise?"
- "Characterizing these serious problems as 'glitches'
makes it seem like poor engineering and incompetent election system management
is somehow acceptable to the American public," Mercuri says. "It's
not. A massive recall of these inappropriate and defective devices must
be started immediately."
- Mercuri is concerned that electronic voting machines
could be used to conceal massive election fraud.
- "It is entirely possible that Florida and other
states may smooth out their election day problems so that it appears that
the voting systems are functioning properly, but votes could still be shifted
or lost in small percentages, enough to affect the outcome of an election,
within the self-auditing machines," Mercuri says.
- Mercuri proposes a moratorium on the purchase of any
new voting systems that do not provide, at minimum, a voter-verified, hand-recountable,
physical (paper) ballot while appropriate laws, standards, and technologies
are being developed to provide accurate, secure, reliable, and auditable
- In Florida and California former elections officials
have recently been found to have had undisclosed ties with ES&S when
they advised the state to buy voting equipment from the privately owned
- A former Florida secretary of state profited by being
a lobbyist for both the state's counties and ES&S, the company that
sold the touch-screen voting machines used in Florida's Broward and Dade
counties, among others.
- Sandra Mortham, who served as the state's top elections
official from 1995 to 1999, is a lobbyist for both ES&S and the Florida
Association of Counties, which exclusively endorsed the company's touch-screen
machines in return for a commission, The Tallahassee Democrat reported
on Oct. 6. Mortham received an undisclosed commission from ES&S for
every county that bought its touch-screen machines.
- In Louisiana, the two parishes that paid more than $3
million for 700 ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting machines suffered
"countless problems" with the new machines, according to The
Advocate of Baton Rouge. The ES&S machines "plagued voters and
the clerks of court staffs in Ascension and Tangipahoa, the only parishes
that use the new machines other than for absentee balloting."
- Ascension Parish Clerk of Court Hart Bourque said Wednesday
that more than 200 machine malfunctions were reported. "A mechanic
would fix a machine, and before he could get back to the office, it would
shut down again," Bourque said. "Unless we find a solution, next
fall there's no way we can vote the people," Bourque said.
- Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court John Dahmer said, "I
can't say every precinct had a problem, but the vast majority did."
Dahmer said at least 20 percent of the machines malfunctioned. "One
percent might be acceptable, but we're not even close to that," Dahmer
said. "I have grave concerns. I think the state is going to have to
address the fact that these machines had this many malfunctions It's not
a problem I can fix," he said. "The public seems very satisfied,
but the public doesn't see the malfunctions."
- Bourque said the ES&S machines, were not the first
choice of the clerks. Commissioner of Elections Suzanne Terrell had appointed
a committee to decide which machines to purchase, and the committee had
ignored the wishes of the clerks. "The clerks had nothing to do with
the selection of these machines," Bourque said.
- Cook County, Chicago and its suburbs, also uses ES&S
machines, which have been rejected by the authorities who conduct elections
in Illinois. Cook County spent $25 million to buy ES&S precinct ballot
counters although the Illinois State Board of Elections rejected the machines,
which is says are not able to count votes correctly. The machines have
been used in Cook County since 2000 on a court order that overruled the
board of elections decision.
- Louisiana plans to purchase thousands of similar voting
machines at a cost of many millions of dollars. Dahmer said clerks statewide
were told that if the machines worked in Ascension and Tangipahoa parishes,
then "everybody in the state was going to get these machines."
That could present a "very serious" problem and other clerks
need to be aware of the potential problems they face, he said.