Vermonters for Voting Integrity
October 24, 2006
Vermonters for Voting Integrity continues to push for better security with the Diebold electronic voting machines used throughout our state. Recently, the Secretary of State handed us a major setback.
If you have been following the situation, we recently shared the good news that Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced there would be a random audit on November’s election. This means that for the first time, some of the machines will be tested for accuracy. All other industries except the voting machine industry conduct regular audits on their systems, and this is something that virtually all computer security experts recommend. In fact we have been supporting a letter writing drive to ask the Secretary to conduct audits for some time, and only recently has the office admitted it’s a good idea (only a few months ago Director of Elections Kathy DeWolfe wrote, “I do not believe that we do not need random audits in Vermont.”)
So naturally we were pleased when we found they have changed their minds, and there will an audit this November.
Since then, we have been trying to get details about the audit, to no avail until now, and the information we are getting is not good. We have recently been told by the Secretary’s office that the audit will in effect be a secret audit. The office will not disclose how many precincts are going to be audited. And the very worst of it is, the precincts will NOT be randomly selected. The fact that they will not be randomly selected greatly diminishes the effectiveness and integrity of the audit.
It’s obvious to most, if the precincts are not randomly selected, how can we really be assured that someone didn’t know ahead of time which precincts were going to be counted? We have seen trouble along these lines in the past in other states, where representatives of the voting machines have gone to “service” only the machines that were going to be audited.
But rather than speculating, let’s see what the experts have to say about random audits versus secret audits. The Brennan Report is widely considered to be the most comprehensive report on electronic voting systems. Out of its six key recommendations, 4 of them are related directly to audits. Here’s what it says:
1. Conduct automatic routine audits comparing voter verified paper records to the electronic record following every election.
4. Use a transparent and random selection process for all auditing procedures. For any auditing to be effective (and to ensure that the public is confident in such procedures), jurisdictions must develop and implement transparent and random selection procedures.
6. Institute clear and effective procedures for addressing evidence of fraud or error. Both automatic routine audits and parallel testing are of questionable security value without effective procedures for action where evidence of machine malfunction and/or fraud is discovered.
-Recommendations from the Brennan Report
Now when Deb Markowitz went on the radio nearly 2 months ago and said that the Brennan Report was “affirming” because “the procedures we have in place are the recommended procedures” we assumed back then that our audit was going to be random. So at least recommendation #4 was covered. But now we have learned that our audit is not automatic, transparent, or random, and there are no procedures for addressing evidence of fraud, other than turning it over to the State’s Attorney’s office and let them decide what to do.
It kind of makes you wonder what Deb was thinking when she said that the Brennan Report was “affirming,” and which recommendations she was thinking about when she told the public that we already have them in place.
In fact, out of the 7 recommendations, I can tell you that Vermont is only in compliance with ONE, and one other does not apply to us because we don’t use touchscreen voting machines.
This is simply unacceptable. As citizens of Vermont, we have a right to hear the facts as they are. It is not right to tell us we are in compliance with the recommendations of a report when we are not. If we are going to have an audit, we deserve an effective one. And as the Brennan Report states clearly, in order for it to be effective, “jurisdictions must develop and implement transparent and random selection procedures.” It even says this is partly to ensure public confidence in the process. WE AGREE.
Our non-random, non-transparent, and non-effective audit will not resolve any of the problems we have in regards to our election system, which experts agree is wide open to hacking, errors, and even rigging. We urge you to write to Deb Markowitz today and express your concern that the audit should be random. The random selection of the precincts must be made in public view, as must the hand counting of the audited ballots. Tell her that a non-random audit is not satisfactory, and that they should use statistically proven methods for determining how many precincts or ballots should be hand counted. Any other type of audit may satisfy her, but it does not satisfy us or the experts.
Here is Deb’s contact information:
Vermont Secretary of State’s Office
26 Terrace Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05609
Let’s not forget that Diebold, the company we are being asked to trust to secretly count our votes on “proprietary” software, is facing several lawsuits including a huge class-action suit for fraud in relation to the exact machines we are using. We have every reason NOT to trust them.
MUCH is happening on the national scale. As Lou Dobbs recently said on CNN, our country is facing a crisis in regards to the voting machines. Dobbs has been covering the issue very well, with a full segment on it almost nightly. Last week they did an excellent demonstration showing just how easy it is to hack an election. In only one minute, and with only a key obtained on the Internet, a Princeton University professor inserted a virus onto a voting machine. Then they conducted a mock election and the virus changed the winner of the election. When you see the internal poll tape on the machine and you know it is not how the people actually voted, it is very chilling. Then on the same show, they release results of a new poll which show over 60% of Americans are seriously concerned about the electronic voting machines and believe the election results could be manipulated this November. Please take 4 minutes to watch this video and then share it with others:
If you like the Lou Dobbs coverage, don’t forget we have a free DVD with over 20 episodes we’d be happy to send you. Click here for more info.
Yes, the mainstream media finally waking up! Which brings us to an exciting item — HBO is going to air a full-length feature film on the problems with the electronic voting machines on November 2nd – just 5 days before the election! We urge everyone to mark it on your calendars, tell everyone about the film, even organize a viewing party if you have HBO! This movie is actually going to focus on the problems with the optical-scan machines that we use in Vermont, so it is very relevant to the situation in our home state. Check out HBO’s website featuring a synopsis and airing schedule (it will show several times!) for Hacking Democracy:
We have just released a new flyer that is already getting lots of attention. As we’ve always been saying, don’t take our word for it, listen to what the experts are saying. So we t
ook some of the best quotes from the experts and put them on a one-page flyer that you can print and share. It’s amazing when you read that USA Today recently wrote “Don’t Trust Diebold Voting Machines” and that the former head of the government’s Election Assistance Commission said “this country is ripe for stealing elections and for fraud.” Read and print this new compelling flyer here:
Lastly I just want to remind you to stay in touch! Vermonters for Voting Integrity is eager to answer your questions, and hear your concerns. Just reply to any of our newsletters or contact me, Gary Beckwith, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermonters for Voting Integrity