Sunday, August 20, 2006

92% of Americans Favor Public's Right To Know How Votes Are Counted

A new Zogby poll will be released on Tuesday revealing 92% of Americans support transparency and verifiability in elections. The survey was commissioned by election protection attorney Paul Lehto, currently representing San Diego voters in a challenge to the results of California's 50th district Congressional contest held on June 6. (Disclosure: Lehto wrote the Foreword to my book, We Do Not Consent).

The actual survey question and answers:

18. In some states, members of the public have the right to view the counting of votes and verify how that process is working. In other states, citizens are in effect barred from viewing vote counting even if they would like to view the process. Which of the following two statements are you more likely to agree with A or B?

Table 1.

Statement A: Citizens have the right to view and obtain information about how election officials count votes.

Statement B: Citizens do not have the right to view and obtain information about how elections officials count votes.

Neither/Not sure
With numbers like these, according to a public statement by Lehto, "When it comes to anti-secret vote counting and pro-transparency, activists should be walking around like they are invincible and can't lose. Because they can't.... !!! The only way we can lose is by letting the subject change away from the transparency and anti-secret vote counting frames."

Here in Humboldt County, CA I have steadily pressed exactly this point of emphasis with a pretty strong track record thus far. Positive developments include (not all to my credit, of course): adoption of the Voter Confidence Resolution by the Arcata City Council; creation of the citizens' Election Advisory Committee; the commitment of Humboldt Registrar Carolyn Crnich to the "Humboldt Transparency Project"; and the impending launch of a series of events on media accountability.

These lopsided, nearly unanimous Zogby poll results will bolster continued efforts in areas where progress is still needed, including: convincing the Board of Supervisors that the public recognizes this as a crisis on which they must act to change our election conditions; and replacing County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams with someone willing to admit the problems inherent with the secret vote counting machines that are Diebold optical scanners. McWilliams has thus far ignored my calls for his resignation, which I repeat here now.

In concert with Tuesday's full announcement of the Zogby poll, the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County and other election integrity groups throughout CA are expected to issue press releases tying the poll numbers and significance of the San Diego lawsuit to their local election conditions.

Further support will be drawn from a new paper released last Thursday by the Election Defense Alliance. EDA has done a critique of Congressman Rush Holt's bill, HR550, "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005." EDA's analysis reveals that the bill's protocols for auditing--the minimum hand counting of ballots done to check the accuracy of vote tallying machines--would fail to reveal a corrupted vote total about 40% of the time.

In addition, according to EDA, even when the HR550 protocols would detect a discrepancy, they are not capable of determining its size. This is extremely relevant given the enormous barriers to bringing a challenge to a close election. Attached to the paper is a spreadsheet that offers readers the ability to play with certain variables to see what parameters would be required to achieve 99% confidence in detecting vote total corruption of as little as 1%. EDA recommends hand counting 10% of all ballots in 100% of precincts.

Not only does this make good mathematical sense, I appreciate that EDA points out this is a transitional step toward eventually returning to full hand counting, itself a method that must be audited as well.

So in the midst of the landmark lawsuit in San Diego, according to lead attorney Lehto, we have a confluence of numbers emerge as one of the greatest "shots in the arm" the election integrity movement has yet enjoyed. And here is a big fat hook to promote this huge story in Humboldt and all CA counties. From the state election code:
336.5. "One percent manual tally" is the public process of manually tallying votes in 1 percent of the precincts, selected at random by the elections official, and in one precinct for each race not included in the randomly selected precincts. This procedure is conducted during the official canvass to verify the accuracy of the automated count.
These requirements are even less stringent than the Holt bill protocols. That means that even when our Elections Departments are in compliance with state law, the manual audit conducted will miss far more than 40% of all possible distortions of the vote total. Citing this audit is no longer a viable excuse for dodging our demands for hand counted paper ballots.

Finally, late last week I was alerted to an unscientific poll on the website of the Columbus Dispatch. It does not reveal how many people have voted, and the percentage numbers haven't been updated in a long time, yet my Ohio friends in the J30 Coalition tell me the Dispatch has not yet published anything about the results. The question:
"Do you trust election results from electronic voting machines after the accuracy of some was questioned by an independent study?"

Yes: 23%
No: 77%
The site accepts comments but announces it will screen them and post selectively. My comment appears here (time stamp 8/17 4:00pm):
Trust is irrelevant. Democracy needs checks and balances. I oppose electronic voting because there is no basis for confidence in the results. Currently, voting machines with secret ("proprietary") programming code leave no way to verify that results match the will of the people. We are forced to trust, like it or not. The outcomes of elections are based on these corporate secrets rather than the Consent of the Governed. It is from this Consent, according to the Declaration of Independence, that government derives "just Power." The backlash is a challenge to the legitimacy of our current so-called leaders. Our message: We Do Not Consent.
There are a lot of comments worth reading and it is heartening to see how many people really get it. It should not surprise us to see that we are a vast majority, though these clear signs are far too infrequent. It helps to be reminded.


Posted by Dave Berman - 9:16 AM | Permalink
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We Do Not Consent, Volume 1 (left) and Volume 2 (right), feature essays from Dave Berman's previous blogs, GuvWurld and We Do Not Consent, respectively. Click the covers for FREE e-book versions (.pdf). As of April 2010, paperbacks are temporarily out of print. Click here for the author's bio.

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"Give a damn about the world you live in? Give a damn about what you and I both know is one of the most shameful and destructive periods in American history? If so, do something about it. You can start by reading We Do Not Consent."

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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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