Saturday, December 15, 2007

I am Voter Hear Me Roar: Meet the New York Amici (Guest blogged by Rady Ananda)

This is a perfect companion piece to the one I published yesterday looking at highlights of the amicus brief. Here Rady show us the thinking of many of the minds behind it all. This piece was originally published at at - DB

I am Voter Hear Me Roar: Meet the New York Amici
By Rady Ananda
December 15, 2007

Over 200 pages of legal documents from dozens of organizations, activists, election officials, and county legislators, representing tens of thousands of people, spoke on behalf of hand-counted paper ballots yesterday, through an amicus curiae brief (friend of the court), filed in USA vs. NY State Board of Elections.

In this federal case, the Dept. of Justice seeks to force New Yorkers to buy computerized voting systems, which have failed across the nation, election after election, and which the scientific community repeatedly condemns. Attorneys Andi Novick and Jonathan Simon, from Election Defense Alliance, head the cooperative effort. Novick saluted the "cooperation and enthusiasm displayed by our colleagues across the election integrity spectrum," noting that "it means a great deal in court, as well as in the court of public opinion, when so many groups and leaders pull together behind such a proposal."

Dave Berman's HCPB Forecast Tool provides the Court with a simple and effective means of calculating what it would cost New York to hire a 4-person hand-counting team per precinct (Election District) should the court allow it.

Also on December 14th, Ohio released the results of its "Project Everest," but not in time to be included in the annotated bibliography of expert reports submitted in the New York case. Ohio's team looked at Hart InterCivic, ES&S and Premier (fka Diebold), and all systems are still hackable. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner insists Cuyahoga County will switch to a computerized, networked system that uses centralized tabulation, a process wholly condemned in the scientific literature.

But, ignoring that absurdity for now, have a bowl or a glass of wine (or for those who can relax without chemical assistance, sit back) and quietly contemplate these gems of wisdom from people who stand for government by the people:

This … federal takeover of a state election board … is 'bizarre and unworkable.'

Friend of the court, Joel Tyner, NY Dutchess County Legislator, continues:

Secret vote counting is not only unconstitutional, but is un-American. All touch screen and optical scan voting machines … count the votes (in) secret... This is beyond absurd— from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"New York's Constitution of 1777 makes the observation that a vote cast on a tangible ballot preserves democracy better than one cast in the air:

And whereas an opinion hath long prevailed among divers of the good people of this State that voting at elections by ballot would tend more to preserve the liberty and equal freedom of the people than voting viva voce

Citing NY history (above) to make her point, Nancy Tobi of New Hampshire continues:

With theadvent of computerized voting, a new form of voting viva voce has made its way into the nation's elections, with the lion's share of America's total ballots now being counted – and often cast – in the Ethernet.

Author and four-time research award winner, Professor Steven Freeman states in his Declaration:

There is little question but that elections using newer HAVA-indicated op-scan and Direct Record Electronic machines can be stolen. Indeed, it has been proven time and time again.

Ulster County Legislator Gary Bischoff, who chairs the Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, asserts:

Our democracy depends on citizens to express their will and choices in a repeatable, fair and reliable election.

Pokey Anderson of Houston's radio news show, The Monitor, writes to the Court:

While there has always been manipulation in elections, the difference between stealing in a hand-counted paper ballot election and an electronic election is the difference between successfully robbing a convenience store and successfully robbing Fort Knox.

She goes on to quote others, starting with former National Security Agency code-breaker, Michael Wertheimer:

If you believe, as I do, that voting is one of our critical infrastructures, then you have to defend it like you do your power grid, your water supply.

And computer security professional Dr. David Dill:

Think about it rationally. What are the assets being protected? If we're talking presidential elections or control of Congress, there aren't a lot of assets in this world in monetary terms that are worth more than that. You're talking about the whole US economy.

And another computer security professional, Bruce O'Dell:

The technology to invisibly compromise voting systems is mature and the rewards are essentially limitless. It's professionally irresponsible to not presume vulnerable extreme-high-value systems are already actively being exploited.

Peacemakers of NY Schoharie County supports the proposition that

Federal election ballots could be hand counted in 2008 (and Peacemakers) commits to participating in the hand counting of ballots.

Wayne Stinson promises, "We will actively promote other citizens' engagement in the process."

Parallel Elections use a hand-counted paper ballot system, and are run outside of an official polling site.PE organizer and national speaker, Judy Alter, then analyzes the difference between official results and voter reports of how they voted. She writes:

We will continue to hold parallel elections and train others to do the same so that we can demonstrate the assault (computerized voting has) on our democracy.

Karen Charman of the Ulster County Shandaken Democrat Club recognizes the precarious position in which computerized voting systems puts us:

If the people lose control over the election process, they lose the right to govern themselves.

The inalienable right of self-governance rests squarely on the integrity of our elections. We believe that only an observable
transparent count of the votes can protect our elections and our sovereignty.

Our organization will volunteer to assist our county in finding as many volunteers as we need to help hand count the elections should the Court order same.

Susan Zimet writes in her amicus Declaration:

As a County Legislator, I will not allow my constituents to be disenfranchised on unreliable and theft enabling machines. I am prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary for the voters of Ulster County to know that their vote was counted accurately.

We have been looking for the most secure means to provide our constituents with … a transparent, accountable, fair and reliable electoral system. Hand counting of the Federal Elections is HAVA compliant.

I will personally assist in organizing citizens in my county to be trained and available to hand count elections in my county should the Court order same. I know of many Ulster County residents that would gladly make themselves available to assure that we could successfully accomplish this endeavor. spokesperson Dennis Karius declares:

Where there's a will there's a way and the people are willing to help our officials effect our will through the most secure, reliable, transparent electoral system that exists: hand-counted elections.

ARISE is made up of thousands of active citizens thru congregations and community groups in the tri-county area of Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady in the CapitalDistrict. As part of this amici team, it stands for voters.

So did Abraham Lincoln:

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision.

Abe is quoted by Mary Ann Gould (Voice of the Voters Radio) in her Declaration.

Hand Count in 4 Hours

Everyone involved in this team of amici assures New York that if the Court rules for hand-counting the two federal elections in NY's November 2008 election, they will bring enough people to get the job done in less than four hours. Dave Berman and I crunched the numbers that allowed us to conclude:

In most of the counties studied only one team of four will be needed per (Election District of 1,150 registered voters) to complete hand-counting in four hours or less.

Oral Hearing Next Thursday

Jonathan Simon will appear for oral arguments being heard on Thursday, December 20th at 9 AM, at the US District Court, Albany, NY 12207.

He explains, "It is a lot less likely that I will be called upon to give an oral presentation per se; more likely that, if the court sees merit in or takes an interest in our brief, I may be asked questions about areas we have covered." He's confident in the merits of the HCPB position, "which I hope will prick the interest of the court.

"I think the sheer number of groups and individuals who have signed on will help in that regard… But a lot of it will be determined by the interests of the court and the parties."

The brief (p.14) points out the most important interest - that the public be able to "see" the vote count:

Electronic voting machines have caused citizens to lose their ability to observe and oversee the voting process. For this reason the use of computers destroys the basis for legitimacy of elections and the elected government.

The loss of these integral aspects of the right to vote is in direct violation of the repeated pronouncements of the highest court in New York that the constitutional right to vote includes the right to "see " that one's vote was "given full force and effect." Deister v Wintermute, supra at 108.

Given the millions of voters whose interests are represented by the HCPB amicus team, a democratic election run by the people will again have its day in court.


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