Friday, November 19, 2004

A Florida Style Nightmare - North Carolina Citizens Demand Verified Voting Measures

A Florida Style Nightmare - North Carolina Citizens Demand Verified Voting Measures

(PRWEB) November 17, 2004 -- "NC has the worst election problem in the country RIGHT NOW." - November 11, 2004 Computer scientist Dr. David L. Dill of Stanford University.

"A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air." Steve Hartsoe, AP Newswire, Nov 13, 2004

How can we trust our key decision-makers when they ignore the seriousness of the problem?

"Except for the lost votes in Carteret County, Gary Bartlett, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, called the problems 'easily remedied and lessons learned.' " AP Newswire, Nov 13, 2004. This is definitely a rosy view to an election where citizens votes were lost, public totals were mis-tabulated, thousands of provisional ballots were generated, thousands of absentee and early ballots were “misplaced“, and two state-wide races still unresolved.

North Carolina’s election problems will not be so easily remedied as Mr. Bartlett says. The degree and severity of problems in North Carolina’s election system indicates the need for serious study. Many of the problems are compounded by the State’s reliance on non-verifiable voting systems. Problems with voting machines, central tabulators using outdated and secret software, registration confusion, poll worker training, provisional ballots and absentee ballots are not easily remedied. The Board of Elections must change its focus towards election management. If the State insists on being dependent on electronic voting, when it is clear that the officials know very little or nothing about it.

Lost: 4,500 votes in Carteret County - this is the consequence of e-voting without a proper paper trail.

Omitted: entire precinct of 1,209 votes in Gaston County left out of Nov 2 Count.

Missing: 12,000 votes not reported by Diebold Software in Gaston County.

Bamboozled: In 2003 Guilford County bought vote tabulating software that used over a decade old technology, it was already obsolete when purchased. This software released presidential vote totals that were off by 22,000 votes.

More votes than cast: Craven County reported 11,283 more votes for president than cast, voting software same as in Guilford County.

In the past, the NC BOE has relied on the advice of voting machine salesmen and turned a deaf ear to the good advice and warning of thousands of computer scientists across the country. The voting machine vendors gain access to some of our election officials via a private organization called The Election Center. This is a private, non-profit whose “mission” is to educate and inform election officials, yet this group admits to accepting money from the voting machine companies.

Just this August “The Election Center” hosted a conference for election officials. The voting machine salesmen wined and dined election officials from across the country, giving them parties, prizes and a dinner cruise on the Potomac. Gary Bartlett sits on the Board of Directors of the Election Center, an ethical situation that voting activists find troubling.

Who are we trusting our democracy to?
In 2002, Tom Eschberger, then at Global Business Systems accepted immunity in reward for his testimony in the bribery kickback conviction of then SOS of Arkansas, Bill McCuen.
Eshberger went on to be a key executive at the ES&S Voting machinery company.

In 1999, two Sequoia (Voting Systems) executives, Phil Foster and Pasquale Ricci, were indicted for paying Louisiana Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler an $8 million bribe to buy their voting machines. Fowler, is currently serving five years in prison. Voter advocate Bev Harris alleged that managers of a subsidiary of Diebold Inc. (voting machines), included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions, and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records, Jeffrey Dean, who served time in a Washington correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files.

In March of this year, the BOE turned down the opportunity to certify for state use a voting system that did provide a Voter Verified Paper Ballot and used the highly desirable open source operating system.

Over 2000 technologists endorsed Verified Voting’s resolution saying “Computerized voting equipment is inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering...”

The continued computer breakdowns and mis-counts prove the need for a voter verified paper ballot. This is not a receipt that we ask for, but a paper printout of a ballot to be verified by the voter and kept by the election officials in case of recount, audit or computer breakdown. Any computerized voting systems must have open source code that can be publicly examined by computer scientists who have no financial interest in our voting equipment. Funding from the Help America Vote Act can be used to fund this solution.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections can do the right thing by consulting with recognized computer scientists such as Dr. David Dill of Stanford University, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Dan Wallach of Rice University, Professor Doug Jones of the University of Iowa Computer Science Department.

These computer scientists are world renown and have availed themselves to election officials across the nation in advisory capacities regarding electronic voting.

The State can institute real requirements based on these recommendations, including a VVPB, and allow sufficient time for a thorough review,to ensure that North Carolina’s voting system is the most secure and trustworthy in America.