21 May 2004

(I told you so) — Diebold planning to eliminate more physical evidence: They plan to get rid of the sign-in poll book.

By Bev Harris, with the assistence of Kathleen Wynne
May 20, 2004

I've been telling you for over a year that this is coming, and here it is in print: From the transcript of the May 3 2004 Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Oh) Board of Elections "Question and Answer" session with Diebold:

As usual, not a single technical person or programmer answered any questions for Diebold. Testifying in this meeting, representing Diebold:


Here is how Mickey Martin explained why Diebold switched to the new (uncertified and patched at the last minute) card encoders, which failed in California on March 2: The new device, he says, is designed to eventually get rid of the poll book.

"We had a problem with a peripheral device. It was a brand-new peripheral device. It will be one of the standard products on the market in the future. Is it there today? Obviously not, but it will be and it will save counties, such as Cuyahoga, hundreds of thousands of dollars because you can do away with your paper poll books which cost the county a lot of money to produce. A lot of time and effort will go away. It will automatically let you update your voter registration system to that everything is seamless. "

Mark Radke confirms Diebold's plans to do away with the physical poll book audit trail:

"Why did they go with the PCM-500 instead of a standard card reader, these are very progressive contracts. The PCM-500 is a touch screen unit. I know it's -- what it's going to evolve into is an electronic poll book."

Getting rid of paper records means getting rid of auditability. What are audits? Quite simply, they are the checks and balances that help to prove that votes were counted correctly. I'll say it again: Vote counting is just bookkeeping. You have to show your work. You must be able to prove how you came up with your numbers, and you must use INDEPENDENT sources of evidence to do so.

A paper ballot, verified by the voter, provides one independent audit record. The physical poll book, where voters sign in when they come to vote, provides another important independent audit record.

Just as you balance your checkbook, state laws require elections workers to balance the number of voters who signed in to the poll book with the number of votes that show up in the machines. Indeed, with touch screen machines, it is this poll book audit that has proven many of the miscounts mentioned in Chapter 2 of Black Box Voting.

You see, the problem isn't only with electronic voting machines — We are rushing to computerize the process from start to finish, and this will produce an opaque voting system with so many attack points we'll never be able to control it at all. Here's what's coming, if we don't block it:

- Electronic voter registration (already mandated by HAVA). The companies who are providing it: Diebold, Election Systems & Software, defense contractors like Northrup Grumman...

- Electronic sign in at the polling place, eliminating human-verified physical evidence of how many people voted.

- Electronic casting of the vote

- Electronic recording of the vote

- Centralized electronic tallying of the votes, using central tabulators at the county courthouse. (This is already in place).

- Computer-aided redistricting

Now, let me give you a clearer picture: The genius of democracy is that real people run the system, out in the open, in a transparent manner. This is somewhat messy, but also quite stable, when done properly.

Now look at what is planned:

- Invisible voter registration: At times, people in Chicago have been so enthused about voting that the dead rose from their graves to cast votes. Now let's take a hard look at electronic voter registration: We'll soon be able to register whole cemeteries, or hack in and invent voters altogether.

- Invisible poll book sign in: Digital ghost voters will have a heck of a time getting past Mildred the poll worker, who insists on signing each voter into a physical paper poll book. But now we want to do away with Mildred, and use the nifty smart card device. Yes, we digitally register voters, then provide each with a smart card so they can sign in digitally. This has advantages, but, like the voting system software that has become so controversial, will be impossible for regular people to examine. The software is a proprietary trade secret, made by companies that lie, employ embezzlers, and do political fund raising for their buddies -- like Diebold.

- Invisible vote casting: When you use the poke-a-hole method (punch cards) or the fill-in-the-bubble method (optical scan), at least you get to SEE your vote as you cast it. On paperless touch screens, of course, you see only a screen. You'll never see how your vote was recorded at all, because that happens inside, using computer commands no one is allowed to examine (except for certifiers who have repeatedly given passing grades to flawed and illegal software). You are supposed to trust this invisible system, controlled by a handful of people whose names you do not know.

- Invisible vote tallying: After the votes are cast - whether on punch cards, optical scans, or touch screens, they go to a central tabulation computer which adds them up. You can't examine the software program that does this -- it's proprietary. You can't watch the votes add up, you can only see numbers appear on a screen that you are told are correct. And lately (and we hope to CHANGE THIS with our Clean Up Crew this fall) you can't even observe the room where they do the central tabulation, to see if anyone unauthorized is in there dinking around during the vote-counting.

- Invisible redistricting procedures: Well now if you can invisibly register (and create) voters, invisibly sign them in to vote, invisibly cast votes, and tally the invisible votes on yet another invisible system, unscrupulous people with access can also control redistricting by manipulating the data.

Do we really want to dress the Statue of Liberty in the Emperor's New Clothes? We are spending a kingly sum on converting our open democracy into something entirely invisible, owned by a handful of corporations.


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