Saturday, June 24, 2006

Eureka Times-Standard to VCC: Put Up Or Shut Up

The ridiculous editorial below was published in Saturday's Eureka Times-Standard. The Voter Confidence Committee is not mentioned by name but is there really any doubt we have inspired this? In addition to our long standing position stating there is no basis for confidence in reported election results, and our recent challenge to the media not to report what can't be proven or hasn't been independently verified, I have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday with T-S editor Charles Winkler. Glenn Franco Simmons, the editor of the Eureka Reporter has agreed to meet me on Wednesday. These are important opportunities to address media accountability.

Meanwhile, you can do a little of this yourself. Please consider writing a polite and respectful letter to the editor in response to this editorial. At the bottom I have included a few points you may consider making. Letters should be 250 words or less and must include real name, address and phone. Send them to letters@times-standard.com. Letter writers need not be local.

* * *
http://www.times-standard.com/opinion/ci_3976080
(archive)

Article Launched: 06/24/2006 04:30:16 AM PDT

Having confidence in our voting system
The Times-Standard

Questions have been raised about the reliability of our elections going back to 2000 nationally and more recently locally. This is not new. We only need to look back at the Nixon-Kennedy election. Our history is rich with stories of ballot stuffing, poll intimidation, dead people voting. As long as there are elections, there will be questions.

Currently, the doubts involve how we vote and the supposed ease at which electronic voting can be hacked or otherwise tampered with.

We appreciate that there are those in this community and elsewhere who are acting as watchdogs, taking the time to examine and test and oversee the equipment, people and system by which we elect our officials. Such oversight is needed.

But there comes a time when talk about tampering must be replaced with evidence. If there is specific evidence of a local problem, let's hear it.

If not, let's certainly continue to monitor, but with due credit to our local elections officials.

# # #
For letter writers, here are potential points to make in response:

1. Proving an election was fair and accurate is a burden held by the elections department, not the citizen watchdogs.

2. If election oversight is "needed," as this editorial states, why doesn't the newspaper perform any? Short of a hand count of all ballots, neither the elections department nor the media can prove the results are correct.

3. Through VCC press announcements, and quotes attributed to us in news articles, the newspaper has told the community our election equipment does not comply with the law. Yet the newspaper itself never reports this as the conclusion of its own investigation and displays no concern that the illegal conditions make it impossible to know the true election outcome. Illegal conditions include machines going home with poll workers, and "interpreter code" in the scanners (vote counting machines).

4. When Humboldt voters' ballots are put into the Diebold optical scanners, the vote choices are "interpreted" into Diebold's proprietary and secret programming language called AccuBasic. To believe the reported results are accurate is to demonstrate blind trust in Diebold, a corporation facing more than a half dozen class action fraud lawsuits filed by its own shareholders (among many other troubling findings by computer security experts). Blind trust is the opposite of having a basis for confidence and should never be required in a democracy.

5. Results reported by secret vote counting machines have not been verified, by the public or the media. The media should not report what it cannot independently verify or prove. When media unquestioningly report information provided by government, this is called state run media.

6. "If there is specific evidence"...of a fair election, let us count it. If not, let's certainly BEGIN to monitor so the credibility of media and elections can both be warranted. By the way, what more can you tell us about the failed memory cards from Eureka and Arcata precincts earlier this month, or the Rio Dell scanners that could not report their results to the central headquarters? The circumstances of these problems don't have to be "suspicious" to eliminate a basis for confidence in the reported results.

Posted by Dave Berman - 11:37 PM | Permalink
Comments (2 So Far) | Top of Page | WDNC Main Page

Read or Post a Comment

Here's what I sent them. It doesn't cover all your talking points, but I wanted to keep it simple.

I disagree with the logic of the editorial, “Having confidence in our voting system,” published June 24, 2006. The author challenged citizen watchdogs to produce evidence that inherent flaws of electronic voting equipment and violations of the election laws have actually resulted in vote tampering, or stop demanding that elected officials remedy these faults in the system.

That’s like saying you can’t complain about your bank leaving the vault open at night until you can prove your money was stolen.

Some laws exist to reduce the opportunity for wrongdoing. Banking regulations, building codes—and election laws. Just as building inspectors make sure your house is built to meet safety codes, elections officals need to make sure our elections meet the standards of verifiability. Would you want to live in a house that might have improperly grounded wiring, leaky gas pipes, and a dripping roof because it won’t be inspected until someone gets hurt?

If readers are meant to be reassured by citing past election fraud, this merely proves that the motive exists; Diebold provides the means, and the local elections officials (through negligence) provide the opportunity. I am quite disturbed that our media defend this deeply flawed system when they should be investigating it, and attack the citizen watchdogs. Perhaps we are striking too close to home?

Posted by Anonymous wormtorturer @ Jun 26, 2006, 1:48:00 AM
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Editor,

Your June 24 editorial, “Having confidence in our voting system,” seems to dismiss the well-documented, serious problems with electronic voting. You ask for specific evidence of local problems. If there is none so far, does that mean all concerned should heave a sigh of relief, stop worrying and continue using unsecured machines programmed with illegal code?

When there’s no way to know for sure whether elections are fair and accurate, how does one determine when they’ve become unfair and inaccurate?

Jane Allen
San Francisco, CA

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Jun 26, 2006, 11:27:00 AM
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"If in the future we have vital elections, the "no basis for confidence" formulation that GuvWurld is popularizing will have been a historically important development. This is true because by implicitly insisting on verification and checks and balances instead of faith or trust in elections officials or machines as a basis for legitimacy, it encourages healthy transparent elections. It’s also rare that a political formulation approaches scientific certainty, but this formulation is backed up by scientific principles that teach that if you can’t repeat something (such as an election) and verify it by independent means, it doesn’t exist within the realm of what science will accept as established or proven truth."

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"Dave Berman's work is quietly brilliant and powerfully utilitarian. His Voter Confidence Resolution provides a fine, flexible tool whereby any community can reclaim and affirm a right relation to its franchise as a community of voters."

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"This is an important collection of essays with a strong unitary theme: if you can't prove that you were elected, we can't take you seriously as elected officials. Simple, logical, comprehensive. 'Management' (aka, the 'powers that be') needs to get the message. 'The machines' are not legitimizers, they're an artful dodge and a path to deception. We've had enough...and we most certainly DO NOT consent."

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