Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Diebold's Wobble (LTTE in the Journal)

WDNC readers know I've been closely following the Humboldt media reporting on "voting machines." Hank Sims at the Journal has been doing better than most lately and so I told him so in a letter to the editor published in this week's Journal, at newsstands as of today but not yet online (I don't think they publish letters online anyway, which is too bad). The full text is below.

One other quick note first and that's about the paper with the poorest record lately, the Eureka Times-Standard. Yesterday, along with two other members of the Voter Confidence Committee, I met with the T-S editorial board. I'll have more on that in the morning, when I'm told Thursday's paper will contain a guest opinion (My Word) column I wrote.

* * *
The Journal
August 16, 2007
Page 4, "Mailbox"

Diebold's Wobble

Dear Editor:

These are words of encouragement for Hank Sims to continue writing about Humboldt County's election conditions. In his last two "Town Dandy" columns (Aug. 2 & 9), Sims made it real for our community that official state-sanctioned computer security experts, aka Red Team hackers, "made mincemeat of the machines, demonstrating a variety of ways to skew the vote." The machines in question are Humboldt's so-called "voting machines," optical scanners made by Diebold.

Sims succinctly summarized that our machines "could be easily jimmied and rendered inoperative." I will not stand by and let people say that all election reporting is as misleading as the Times-Standard's coverage ("County election system fares well in review," Aug. 8).

Sims has it right. He even got a sneak peak at the Voter Confidence Committee's new spreadsheet tool for creating labor, cost and time estimates for an all hand-counted election. This tool is now publicly available in conjunction with the VCC's new "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County." Both can be found at

When Sims "twiddled" with the numbers, he found hand-counting "wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly." This addresses a major misconception in the community. But for those who think having election night results is crucial, Sims also notes Secretary of State Debra Bowen's new prohibition on the use of modems to transmit precinct results to the election department headquarters, "which means that we will no longer have election night results."

Could hand-counting be faster, cheaper, and more accurate? Twiddle onward.

Dave Berman, Eureka

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