News Intelligence Analysis
Why Americans Should Not Embrace Faith Based Voting
for the 2006 Elections
My community may do it--but don't let it happen in yours
by Fred Silverman
This fall's election may be the last election where we enter the voting booth, pull that big lever, and register our vote. The lever machines are retiring. With the help of the Westchester Board of Elections, they will be replaced with new high tech equipment.
The new voting equipment that we will begin using in 2006 will likely be a touch screen machine. They are similar to a bank ATM. However, unlike a bank ATM, there will be no receipt and no record available to you of how you voted. It will be a mystery if your vote is counted for your candidate, another candidate or didn't register at all.
The machines we will be getting are probably made by one of two companies. I say probably because two companies account for more than 80% of all the electronic voting equipment sold. The companies are Election System Software (ESS) and Diebold. They are not really two separate companies since two brothers run both companies. These boys, Bob and Todd Urosovich started ESS in the 1980's. In 2002, Bob went over to run Diebold's election equipment division shortly after Wally O'Dell decided his company (Diebold) should be in the election equipment business. Mr., O'Dell, like the Urosovich brothers is very active in the Republican Party. In fact the owners of ESS are all very active in the Republican Party as are all the senior executives at Diebold.
If you think party affiliation doesn't matter in terms of who owns these companies, lets look at the case of one US Senator. Nebraska uses ESS equipment and when one of ESS's owners (Chuck Hagel) decided to run for the Senate, (surprise, surprise) he won - even though the polling showed he should have lost. When Hagel ran for reelection, he captured 83% of the vote on those same ESS machines.
Why adopt faith based voting (where all you have is your faith that it actually worked)? It seems our Westchester County election officials find the use of paper in voting to be a detriment to their operations. One of the commissioners told me recently that paper is a problem. paper leads to recounts and it's a real hassle. With touch screens, you don't have that kind of problem.
Which is why we are moving from reality based voting to faith based voting. Just like so many other things in our country -- from evolution to global warming, we are moving from fact based knowledge to faith-based effort. Call me old fashioned, but I would like to know, for a fact, that my vote counted and that it counted for the person I voted for.
It is hard to have faith in a voting system that is designed and built by individuals who are active partisans - not bipartisan or above the political fray but deeply into the fray. There are a few other facts about the faith based touch screen systems we will be using.
o A Finish computer expert confirmed that the memory chips used to store the data from these machines are not empty vessels but rather have code in them which could alter election results.
o A computer programmer for Diebold acknowledged, in a recent interview, that the system is designed for outside manipulation. There are backdoors built into the software that allow real time intervention.
o The Department of Homeland Security listed Diebold's software as having a security risk (because of these back doors).
o In many contracts with local municipalities or counties, Diebold and ESS require a 24/7 direct phone hook-up from the mainframe (used to tabulate vote totals) to their offices (ostensibly for software modifications).
o In the 2004 election, eleven states recorded (thanks to ESS & Diebold) vote totals that differed significantly from exit polling. In all eleven, the vote totals favored republicans. As one pollster told me, the statistical chances of this are less than winning the lottery ten times in a row.
The list goes on and on. But these are facts, and in America in 2005, facts don't seem to matter as much as blind faith.
FRED SILVERMAN (Producer/Director/Writer) founded Issues TV in 1999 to develop programs that focus on the human condition. Since 1985, he has been president of Silverman Communications, an independent production company. Silverman's most recent production was Who Counts? Election Reform in America. It was a semi humorous look at America's crazy election system with a focus on the 2000 presidential election and the debacle in Florida. The program received critical praise for its unique hybrid style, which combined the comedic talents of Darrell Hammond along with serious journalistic pieces. The program won several national awards including a CINE Golden Eagle, a Telly award and the Gold at Worldfest.
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