Monday, October 30, 2006

Help Protect The Vote In The 24th Congressional District

Whether we plan on voting for Ray Meier, Michael Arcuri, Michael Sylvia or none of the above, I hope that we can all agree that the integrity of the elections process is essential. If we voters cannot trust that the vote on Election Day is being administered fairly, then cannot have confidence in our government. Without that confidence, democracy fails.

The development and deployment of electronic voting machines that create no verifiable paper record of how votes are cast is undermining voters' confidence in the honesty of the electoral system. It's been proven that electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper backup can be hacked in less than one minute so that fraudulent votes replace the votes that we actually cast - and there's no way to tell that the hack has taken place. What's worse is that these hacks can be designed to spread from machine to machine, much as a computer virus does.

Given the atmosphere of uncertainty that these developments create, it becomes all the more important that we all be on the lookout for attempts at voter suppression and fraud. Write this number down: 1-888-VOTE-TIP. It's a phone number dedicated to receiving information about criminal attempts to manipulate the electoral system.

We ought not to descend into paranoia, but there is cause to maintain some suspicion. We may not have the best candidates to choose from in this election, but we should at least be sure that whichever lousy choice wins our seat in the House of Representatives does so fair and square.


Frederick said...

Don't mean to blogwhore, O.K., maybe I do, but I have my post up about Mike Sylvia.

Conversation with a Candidate

Mike Sylvia said...

And it is a good one! ;)

Anonymous said...

Ah yes...paranoia

We don't get them for two more years.

Anonymous said...

You should be made aware of a sham that's about to be foisted upon your district. Michael Arcuri has said that he supports the MAC.

His advisors have told him to present the appearence that he is now reversing his support.

He still suppports MAC, but at least until election, he'll be saying he has had a change of heart.

This is the type of lies and flip flops you'll be seeing from him.

24 Independent said...

9:45 - The deployment of electronic voting machines is undermining confidence in the system, but it isn't the only potential source of voter fraud and vote suppression.

I'm not saying fraud will take place. I can't know that. I'm just trying to give people a tool with which they can confront the hear of fraud.

24 Independent said...

8:16 - If you bring up an acronym, like MAC, it would be good for all the readers here if you would explain what that acronym is and what it means.

Allen Carstensen said...

Anonymous refered us to an article in a Binghamton paper. It's very short:

Tuesday October 31, 2006
ALBANY -- The state Board of Elections is expected Wednesday to push back the date for counties to pick new voting machines to March - meaning they may not be ready for use until the 2008 elections, the state League of Womens Voters said Tuesday.

This is the first I've heard of this. I consider it good news, because it gives us more time to advocate for a PBOS system instead of a DRE system. I explain the difference below in an op-ed that I wrote for the Ithaca Journal last July. Go to to learn more, and support their work if you want your vote to count or be counted.

It is clear that the Paper Ballot-Optical Scan system (PBOS) is superior to the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system for several reasons. First, the voting process itself is familiar. Voting is similar to a multiple-choice test in school. No strange or complicated machines to intimidate the voter. Second, there are no time constraints on the voter. A precinct can provide many privacy booths very inexpensively. There should be no long waits in line to access a limited number of DRE machines. Third, a good optical scanner can tally the vote in a few seconds. A modest investment in equipment can service a large number of voters. During the last election people in other states waited in lines for many hours for DREs. Fourth and most important, it is impossible to corrupt the process of marking a piece of paper with a pencil. This ballot is the official record of the vote. After the voter fills out the ballot, it is scanned by the optical scanner. The ballots are stored for several years, available for recount. And we can be sure that this ballot represents the will of the voter. Once the paper ballots are brought to central storage, they could be routinely rescanned with independently programmed scanners at a small additional cost for each election. If we performed this automatic recount, it could provide us with the most accurate and reliable vote counts in the history of democracy!

DRE voting machines are a popular choice, but problems with these machines have reached crisis proportions in many places throughout the country. To solve the problem in his state Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has said "I will sign a bill that will transition New Mexico to an all paper-ballot system using optical scanners to count the vote. Paper ballots are the least expensive, most secure form of voting available. Having marked their votes with pen and paper, voters will walk out of the booth and know their voices have been heard. Optical scanners will quickly and accurately provide results, while in the event of a recount, the ballots themselves will be a permanent, verifiable record of the people's directions to their government. Some believe that computer touch screen machines are the future of electoral systems, but the technology simply fails to pass the test of reliability. As anyone who uses one can attest, computers break down, get viruses, lose information, and corrupt data. We know this to be the case, and so we back-up our files to ensure nothing important is lost. Paper ballots serve as the ultimate back-up for our elections, providing secure and permanent verification of the will of the people."

Do we have to make the same expensive mistake that other states have made here in New York at the cost of millions of dollars and invalid elections? Since New York has proceeded more slowly, we may benefit from the lessons learned elsewhere. 46% of US counties currently use precinct based optical scanners.

The DRE voting machines are cumbersome and intimidating to many voters. They don't have a separate and verifiable ballot as we know them. The voter sees one ballot on a touch screen, another on a printed tape behind glass and finally, there is the tally that is stored on a memory card in the machine. The voter has no way of knowing whether the reported vote is the same as the screen and tape records. Indeed DREs are easily hacked or otherwise tampered with, and there have been many documented instances where they have given faulty results.

Whereas only a few seconds is required to scan and count a paper ballot, each use of a DRE will require several minutes and probably lead to long lines. Whereas a power or equipment failure would shut down a DRE election, voters could continue marking their PBOS ballots without interruption.

Overall, PBOS voting systems are more reliable, more convenient for all users, much more likely to result in fair elections, and system-wide, are far less expensive than DREs. They are endorsed by the Tompkins County Legislature, the Ithaca Town Board, and the League of Women Voters. Learn more at and contact our election commissioners at

Allen Carstensen said...

Paul DeGregorio director of the Election Assistance Commission - "The bottom line is that our nation's voting equipment, election results and election officials can and should be trusted."

Just warms yer heart don't it?

Avi Rubin - a professor and computer scientist:

"These machines are software based. They require trust in the people who wrote the software. They require that the software be free of bugs, and they provide no means for auditing or checking the vote count. The system is the least transparent voting apparatus I can imagine. Why should we use voting systems that require trust in the manufacturer, trust in their software, and trust that there will never be physical access to the machines by an attacker when there are simple, and available voting technologies (e.g. machine or hand marked paper ballots with precinct optical scan and random audits) that do not require that level of trust?"

Anonymous said...

Who audits the auditors?