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<nettime> RISKS digest [22.37-38] excerpts re US elections

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Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems
ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator
Volume 22: Issue 37
Saturday 9 November 2002


   o Lynn Landes' analysis of the 2002 Elections

   o Quote on election integrity
          Susan Marie Weber

   o Georgia election memory-card problem
          Lillie Coney


  Lynn Landes' analysis of the 2002 Elections
    "Peter G. Neumann" <>
   Fri, 8 Nov 2002 11:30:35 PST

  [This item is included in its entirety with the permission of the author.]

2002 Elections: Republican Voting Machines,
     Election Irregularities, and "Way-Off" Polling Results
By Lynn Landes, 8 Nov 2002

"The Republicans will never give up their voting machines," said a top
Republican party official to Charlie Matulka, the Democratic candidate for
the U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska. This statement was in response to
Charlie's very public protest against the conflict-of-interest inherent in
the candidacy of Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Hagel has held top executive
positions (and still has investments) in companies that owned the machines
that counted the vote in Nebraska this election and last.

Republicans dominate the voting machine business. So, I expected the
Republicans to take back the Senate... amid reports of voting machine
"irregularities" in several states and polling results that didn't come
close to election outcomes.  And with billions of dollars at stake, who
could resist the temptation to tweak results? It's duck soup.

Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, the nation's leading expert in voting machine
technology, says, "Any programmer can write code that displays one thing on
a screen, records something else, and prints yet another result." But they
do make mistakes as we know from the multitude of reports in this election
and past ones. Dr. Mercuri's real fear is that one day the "irregularities"
will go away, as programmers learn their clandestine craft all too well.

Then how can we tell if the "fix was in?"  An examination of exit polling
and pre-election polling versus election results could raise a few red

We can't use Voter News Service (VNS) this year. VNS is a top-secret private
consortium owned by ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News,
and NBC News that has "projected" election night winners since 1964. VNS
collapsed camp on election day due to technical problems... they said. Or
was it the glare of publicity since the 2000 presidential election that
brought the charade to an end? Questions have been raised since its
inception, that VNS was a cover for election day vote rigging or other
shenanigans. And it was strange that when VNS management made its
announcement on Tuesday, they didn't make a big deal over how the shutdown
affected the 64,000 temporary employees they claim they hired for this

Anyway, that leaves us with pre-election polling to ponder. An intensive
effort to review and interpret that data is currently underway by Bev Harris
and her staff at

Meanwhile, I called John Zogby of the highly respected Zogby International.
I asked him if over the years he had noticed increased variation between
pre-election predictions and election results.  Zogby said that he didn't
notice any big problems until this year. Things were very different this
time.  "I blew Illinois. I blew Colorado (and Georgia). And never in my life
did I get New Hampshire wrong...but I blew that too." Or did he?

This year might instead be a repeat of the 2000 presidential election, when
the polls accurately predicted the winner (Gore), but the voting system in
Florida collapsed under the weight of voting machine failure, election day
chicanery, and outright disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters by
Republican state officials.

And for those who believed that the new election reform law does anything to
protect the security of your vote...think again. The federal standards to be
developed and implemented as a result of the new law will be VOLUNTARY. What
Congress really did was to throw $2.65 billion dollars at the states, so
that they could lavish it on a handful of private companies that are
controlled by ultra-conservative Republicans, foreigners, and felons.

Let's take a moment to look back rather than forward. In the last several
decades the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer. This is not a
formula for a conservative groundswell. Yet both conservative Democrats and
right wing Republicans have long enjoyed success at the polls. While, most
of Europe still uses paper ballots, voting machines have been in America
since 1889. The use of computers in voting technology began around
1964. Today, less than 2% of the American electorate use hand-counted paper

The question is...have elections in America been rigged to slowly, but
surely shift power to the right? In the secretive world of voting machine
companies, anything is possible.

The sad fact is that the legitimacy of government in the United States will
remain in question as long as over 98% of the vote is tabulated by machines
that can be easily rigged, impossible to audit, and owned by a handful of
private companies. Until we get rid of those voting machines, democracy in
America may be a distant memory.

Lynn Landes is a freelance journalist specializing in environment and
election issues on Lynn's been a radio show host, a regular
commentator for a BBC radio program, and news reporter for DUTV in
Philadelphia, PA.

Lynn Landes, 217 S. Jessup Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 629-3553 / (215) 629-1446 (FAX)]

  [Lynn's writings often also run on alternative online media, such as  She has a Web page for VotingSecurity at .  PGN]


  Quote on election integrity
    "SusanMarieWeber" <>
   Fri, 8 Nov 2002 23:13:36 -0800

  The right to have the vote counted is infringed, and we have lost the
  integrity of our voting system, when the ease with which ballots can be
  manipulated is greater than the ease with which the manipulation can be
  detected.  (Kevin Craig, 2000)

[See: Broward vote total short by 104,000 in reporting glitch,
Evan S. Benn and Elena Cabral, *Miami Herald*, 7 Nov 2002, for more on
the Broward County bulleted item noted in RISKS-22.36.]


  Georgia election memory-card problem
    Lillie Coney <>
   Fri, 08 Nov 2002 10:22:35 -0500

ELECTION 2002: 2,180 Fulton ballots found late,
67 memory cards misplaced, but shouldn't change results,
by Ty Tagami and Duane Stanford, *Atlanta Journal Constitution*, 8 Nov 2002

Fulton County election officials said Thursday that memory cards from 67
electronic voting machines had been misplaced, so ballots cast on those
machines were left out of previously announced vote totals.  Fifty-six
cards, containing 2,180 ballots, were located Thursday.  Eleven memory cards
still were missing Thursday evening. If the cards could not be found, the
votes would be retrieved from the voting machines, election officials said.
[Bibb and Glynn Counties each had one card missing after the initial vote
count, but the cards were located and counted the next day.][PGN-Excerpted]



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From: RISKS List Owner <>
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 12:40:12 PST
Subject: [risks] Risks Digest 22.38

RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Weds 13 November 2002  Volume 22 : Issue 38

   ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator



Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 13:43:00 PST
From: "Peter G. Neumann" <>
Subject: Chip glitch hands victory to wrong candidate

In Nebraska, a defective computer chip in Scurry County's optical scanner
misread ballots Tuesday night and incorrectly tallied a landslide for the
wrong party.  Investigation led to the diagnosis of a faulty chip, which
when replaced reversed the outcomes in two commissioner races, verified
by a hand recount, from Republican victories to Democratic victories.
  [Source:; PGN-ed]

  For some other irregularities in Nebraska, see VoteWatch (next item).


Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 19:20:49 -0500
From: "Rebecca Mercuri" <>
Subject: Glitches indeed

You think the November 5, 2002 US General Election went smoothly?

Use your favorite Web engine and search for the words "election" and
"glitch" -- a recent scan on Google News turned up hundreds of press
reports. Not all of these troubles were in Florida -- states included Texas,
Alabama, Nevada, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, and New
Jersey.  Voter News Service, the agency that provides exit poll data that
might have been used as a cross-check against computerized returns, was
coincidentally knocked out of service by an unidentified "massive computer
glitch" on election day as well.  Many of the election problems (including
those at VNS) occurred in spite of hundreds of millions of dollars (soon to
be billions) spent on new equipment.  If, say, an automobile manufacturer
experienced numerous major "glitches" in a product line, the public would be
clamoring for a recall.  Yet everyone seems quite content with these
computerized voting systems, and the press continues to blame the poll
workers, even in Broward County where they spent an additional $2.5M on
training and staff for election day and still managed to misplace some
103,000 votes.  Characterizing these serious problems as "glitches" makes it
seem like poor engineering and incompetent election system management is
somehow acceptable to the American public.  It's not.  A massive recall of
these inappropriate and defective devices must be started immediately.  Call
or write to your Secretary of State and complain.

Rebecca Mercuri


Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 23:32:23 -0800
From: "Steven Hertzberg" <>
Subject: VoteWatch

I recently launched, which is an online service that allows
voters to immediately report voter machine errors, polling place problems
and other voting obstacles. VoteWatch is quickly becoming the central
repository of election 2002 discrepancies.

I would appreciate it if you could browse VoteWatch and add comments as
you see fit.

Steven Hertzberg, Founder, VoteWatch, San Francisco, CA


Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 11:44:40 PST
From: "Peter G. Neumann" <>
Subject: Election integrity in general

With PAPER BALLOTS, there is the accountability of the paper ballots
themselves, which can potentially be examined for serial number consistency,
watermarks to hinder the introduction of phony ballots, fingerprints, etc.

With LEVER MACHINES, it is true that they can be rigged to fail to record
votes for one candidate, but it is unlikely that such a vote could be
misrecorded for another candidate (assuming the standard ballot face is in

With PUNCH-CARDS and MARK-SENSE CARDS, there is the evidence of the cards
themselves.  Although tampering with the cards is obviously possible
(substitution, invalidation by internal fraudulent overvoting by election
officials, the cards provide an audit trail).

With the ALL-ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS that exist today (with the exception of the
Avante system that now includes the Mercuri Mechanism as a standard), there
which itself can be fraudulent, given proprietary code, Trojan horses and
trapdoors, etc.  Recounts are meaningless if the data is already corrupted
when stored.  Furthermore, many of these machines are configured by
vendor-supplied personnel, with potential access privileges for the system
or the accuracy of the configuration.

Every one of these systems has potential problems.  But a world-wide
consensus seems to suggest that a single piece of paper with a single set of
candidates is the most reliable method, because poll watchers can see what
is happening.  How do you watch the bits moving around inside an
all-electronic system?


Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 7:33:43 PST
From: "Peter G. Neumann" <>
Subject: Re: Lynn Landes's analysis of the 2002 Elections (RISKS-22.37)

I received several responses strongly offended by the inclusion of Lynn
Landes's piece in RISKS-22.37.  I deeply regret if that item offended you.
I included it not primarily for its claims (whether accurate or not), but
rather for the implications of accidents and misuses, potential and actual,
publicized or kept secret, detected and undetected, that we have been
discussing in RISKS for many years.  Much of her piece is actually relevant
here, although I think her message may have been weakened because of certain
statements that were more political than the objective reporting that we try
to make the expected norm in RISKS.

As I see it, the most important question we should be asking is this:

  With respect to those of you who voted last week using an all-electronic
  voting machine, is there any meaningful assurance that the vote you cast
  was correctly recorded -- that is, any assurance that there were no
  misconfigured systems, accidents, internal fraud, etc.?  For almost all of
  the existing electronic systems (with the exception of one that actually
  incorporates the Mercuri Mechanism -- namely, Avante), the answer is an
  UNEQUIVOCAL NO.  This is an untenable situation if you believe in election
  integrity, IRRESPECTIVE of your party affiliations.  PGN


Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 00:02:11 -0500
From: "Rebecca Mercuri" <>
Subject: Re: Lynn Landes' analysis of the 2002 Elections (RISKS-22.37)

First of all, it's more like $4B, Lynn wasn't including the additional sums
for training and so on that were also authorized by the Help America Vote
Act bills.  But even $4B is just the tip of the iceberg.

Over in Broward County Florida, where they just spent around $18M for brand
new touch-screen voting machines they found that they had to pay an
additional $2.5M just to run the November election, because the machines
couldn't be set up and monitored by the regular poll workers who are
normally hired.  Now if Broward has to pay this sum 2 times a year for the
next decade, how does this Help America Vote? They could print up an
easy-to-read paper ballot for every man, woman, and child in the entire
County for well under $1M and they would probably not discover missing
cartridges 2 days later with 103,000 missing votes on them (after being
monitored by the Republicans who came down from the state to help the
Democrats out with the election).  A box of paper ballots is a lot harder to
lose (not that it hasn't been done) than a small voting cartridge.  And the
paper ballots can be read by hand if the computers are misprogrammed (like
they seem to have been in a lot of US counties this past November).

Over in Texas, I don't really see how it's could be the Democrats' fault
when they discovered their brand new touchscreen voting machines lighting up
for the Republican candidates over in Dallas last week.  When the Democrats
sued to stop the machines being used, the Republicans said "we haven't had
any complaints."  Sure, because they didn't light up for Democratic
candidates when the Republicans were pressed.  I wonder why? Misalignment?
Conveniently, none were misaligned in the other direction.  Hmmm.

If you really look at your history books, you'll see all sorts of election
fraud in all sorts of places.  We had things like literacy tests.  And we
had to pass amendments to the US Constitution so that gender and race
wouldn't be used to prevent citizens from voting.  There's plenty of
election fraud too.  Tip O'Neil (the late Speaker of the House) described in
his autobiography (after he retired) a scheme whereby paper ballots were
routinely substituted (called chain voting).  It's not any particular party
that is to blame, it's just that vote stealing is as much a tradition in the
USofA as apple pie.  Unauditable voting machines just make it even easier to
cover up.

Folks can continue to stick their heads in the sand and pretend this hasn't
happened, doesn't happen, and won't happen.  Or they can face reality and
then work to adopt systems that will REDUCE and ELIMINATE election fraud,
rather than encourage and enhance the ease of doing it.

Please read the additional material and links on my website over at and join the effort to save democracy
before it's too late.

R. Mercuri


Date: Sat, 09 Nov 2002 14:56:54 -0800
From: Henry Baker <>
Subject: Re: Zogby poll failures (Landes, RISKS-22.37)

There was a long article in the *Wall Street Journal* with lots of quotes
from Zogby.  Apparently, the problem is that they depend upon telephone
solicitation to find out how people are voting, and people are using caller
ID to screen out the calls.  There is also a significant rise in the
percentage of cell phones, for which spam telephone calls aren't allowed.
Also, women are not as at home as they used to be, so there's no one to
answer the phones.

So there's no need to attribute malice to the bad polling data, when simple
incompetence will do just fine.

  [... and an inherently flawed methodology?  PGN]


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