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How They Could Steal the Election This Time | The Nation

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How They Could Steal the Election This Time

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Click here to help prevent disenfranchisment in this year's election.

Ronnie Dugger wrote the definitive warning essay about the dangers of computerized vote-counting in The New Yorker of November 7, 1988. Research support was provided by The Nation Institute. Dugger wishes to acknowledge the special assistance of Frances Mendenhall, Pokey Anderson, Peter Neumann, Rebecca Mercuri, Roxanne Jekot and David Jefferson, and his debt to hundreds of other reporters whose work cannot be properly credited here.

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Ronnie Dugger
Ronnie Dugger is the author of The Politician, a biography of Lyndon Johnson, and other books and articles, the...

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Public interest groups are mobilizing to head off another Florida. Petitions calling for a paper trail for DREs have attracted something approaching half a million signatures. Lou Dobbs's quick poll on CNN on "paper receipts of electronic votes" was running 5,735 to 85 for them on July 20. Greg Palast and Martin Luther King III have more than 80,000 signatures on their petition against paperless touch-screens and the purging of voter rolls. Global Exchange, the San Francisco-based organization, is inviting twenty-eight nonpartisan foreign observers to monitor the US election. Eleven members of Congress asked Kofi Annan to send UN monitors. Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is organizing attorneys for litigation against paperless electronic voting.

In mid-June the California secretary of state approved the nation's first set of standards for a verified paper trail for touch-screen machines. A recent "Voting, Vote Capture and Vote Counting" symposium at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government has produced an "Annotated Best Practices," available at www.ljean.com/files/ABPractices.pdf. On June 29 the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Brennan Center for Justice, with the endorsement of Common Cause, the NAACP, People for the American Way and most of the leading scientific critics of paperless touch-screen voting, sent the nation's local election officials a "call for new security measures for electronic voting machines," including local retention of independent security experts; the full report is available at www.civilrights.org/issues/voting/lccr_brennan_report.pdf.

Douglas Kellner, the New York City election expert, believes the best practical remedy for the dangers of computerized vote-counting is voting on optical-scan systems, posting the election results in the precincts and keeping the ballots with the machines in which they were counted. In all computerized vote-counting situations the precinct results should be publicly distributed and posted in the precincts before they are transmitted to the center for final counting, Kellner says. Once they are sent from the precinct the audit trail is lost.

Citizens can stay current on election developments via several websites: electionline.org, a reliable and up-to-date source; VerifiedVoting.org, Dill's group; notablesoftware.com, Mercuri's site; blackboxvoting.org, Bev Harris's site; countthevote.org, the site of the Georgia group led by Jekot; and these will key into many others. For a steady flow of news stories on this subject (and a few others) from around the country, get on the e-mail list of resist@best.com. Official information concerning each state is available online at each state's website for its secretary of state.

People should go down to their local election departments and ask their supervisor of elections how they are going to know that their votes are counted--and refuse to take "Trust us," or "Trust the machines," for an answer. They can be poll watchers. Many organizations are fostering poll watching, including People for the American Way's Election Protection 2004 project. Common Cause "has made election monitoring a major project," a spokesperson says. VerifiedVoting.org is concentrating on having people watch election technology, including pre-election testing as well as the procedures on election day. Bev Harris is organizing people to do such work (see her website).

Rebecca Mercuri says that if you believe an election has been corrupted through voting equipment, you should collect affidavits from voters; get the results from every voting machine for all precincts; get the names and titles of everyone involved; inventory the equipment, including the software, and try to have it impounded; demand a recount; and go to the press. Noting that all counties that have rushed to purchase DRE voting systems also have paper-ballot systems in place to handle absentee voters, motor-voters and emergency ballots for when the system breaks down, she suggests mothballing the DREs and using paper ballots. "Counties are saying there's nothing they can do but use the DREs in November, and that is simply untrue," Mercuri declares.

Much of this would be unnecessary if Congress enacted either the Graham-Clinton or the Holt bill, which would empower voters to verify their own votes and create a paper trail.

The computerized voting companies have precipitated a crisis for the integrity of democracy. Three months to go.

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