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Paper Ballots and Hand
(no machines, no audits, no absentees, no early voting)
By Lynn Landes (6/23/05)
This is not a conspiracy theory. It's a hard fact. A handful of Republican-owned and foreign corporations completely control America's voting system. And the Democrats are letting them get away with it. Incredibly, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) approved of Internet voting in the Arizona Democratic Primary in 2000. And current Democratic National Committee chair, Howard Dean, along with fellow presidential candidate Wesley Clark, supported Internet voting in the Michigan Primary 2004, over the objections of other presidential candidates.
Instead of demanding paper ballots and hand counts, the DNC, Democratic legislators, and many voting rights activists are proposing ballot printers, spot audits, and early voting. These are not the answer. They will not give the voting process integrity, security, or legitimacy.
It's not just political races at risk. The expanding use of the Internet to elect the leaders of our civic associations, business groups, and labor organizations, threatens the very fabric of our society. In the spring of 2003, Election.com, an Internet voting company, was purchased by Osan, Ltd., a group of Saudi investors. Election.com has about 600 customers who use its Internet voting service, including the DNC, the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, the Sierra Club, and the Florida Bar.
The issue at hand is this - your right to vote belongs to you. There can be no compromise on this point. There can be no doubt. Either you voted or you didn't. Either you know your vote was counted or you don't. Verifying your ballot and auditing the count are not safe substitutes for the real thing - marking and casting your own ballot and then watching each and every vote get counted. Put another way, real voting includes the following three components: 1) direct access to a paper ballot, 2) effective oversight of the voting process, and 3) full enforcement of voting rights.
Access - A voting machine creates real obstacles for voters to overcome. Both the old fashioned lever machine and today's touchscreen computers prevent voters from getting direct access to a paper ballot. They prevent voters from marking their own ballots. They constitute a modern day literacy test for voters and election officials alike. Ballot printers will not change that fact. And when machines malfunction, either by accident or design, ballot printers are of no use whatsoever. But, the dangers these voting machines pose are even more insidious. The 2004 presidential election has shown that election officials can suppress voter participation by simply withholding voting machines, thereby creating long lines and frustrated voters.
Oversight - Some voting rights groups are advocating paper ballots with computerized ballots scanners, but no hand count - just audits. Ballot scanners are also easy to rig. And audits ignore the citizens' most basic right, that every vote must be counted in full view of poll watchers and the press. Beyond that, audits leave the counting of the ballots under the control of election officials, with little or no public oversight. It is an open door to vote fraud. Some people believe that voting early or by absentee ballot is a viable option. As with audits, voting early or by absentee leaves election officials in control of ballots (whether electronic or paper) for days on end, free to destroy, alter, or replace votes. In the 2004 Afghan elections voters used paper ballots, but election officials did not allow a local hand count. Instead, ballots got carted off to eight central counting facilities. This eliminated local public oversight. Only a public hand-count of paper ballots at your local polling station on Election Day can prevent miscounts and vote fraud.
Enforcement - Voting machines are easy to rig and impossible to safeguard. The more sophisticated the technology, the larger the impact. Today, two companies, ES&S and Diebold, with strong ties to the Republican Party, electronically count 80% of all votes. Interestingly, both companies were started by two brothers, Bob and Todd Urosevich. The third largest voting machine corporation, Sequoia, is foreign-owned. In addition, there are other companies and individuals who have a piece of the action, including major defense contractors, media organizations, and no less than five ex-CIA directors. Meanwhile, the federal government has taken a hands-off approach to voting security. There are no restrictions on who can count our votes. They can be (and some are) felons and foreigners. Unbelievably, the head of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) election crimes branch since 1970, Craig C. Donsanto, has made it official department policy that no investigator should enter a polling precinct on election day; nor should they begin any serious investigation of the voting process until after the election results are certified. By that time all evidence of vote fraud could easily be destroyed.
Citizens are asked to have faith and trust in a system devoid of checks and balances. Voting by machine, early, and absentee, constitutes a secret processing of the vote. It introduces confusion and concealment to a process that must be simple and transparent. Direct voter participation and meaningful oversight of elections in America has been effectively eliminated. Our voting process has been privatized and outsourced. Most Americans are unaware of this disturbing reality, thanks to a news media that is, like our voting systems, owned by foreign and domestic corporations. So, it's up to average citizens and freelance journalists to inform the public.