Monday, November 15, 2004


"Watchdogs demand vote accountability"

Buzzflash linked to an article yesterday, but I believe they must have only read the headline "Watchdogs demand vote accountability." It was such a piece of trash that I just had to drop a note to the author—
From the first condescending mention of "an electoral Apocalypse" to "they say Harris goes overboard with her dire conspiracy-theory views and largely unsubstantiated charges about election-equipment problems," I knew that your article was going to be a hatchet job.

Are you aware that Harris filed a qui tam suit in California against Diebold that was later joined by the California Secretary of State? Diebold settled the suit out of court for $3.5 million, as I recall. Pretty good for "conspiracy-theory views and largely unsubstantiated charges," wouldn't you say? Of course, you didn't mention this case at all, which I don't understand since it is a dramatic testimony to the effectiveness of her efforts.

Indeed, to paraphrase your opening, you might conclude from reading your article that you were trying to marginalize Bev Harris, while making various public officials sound like experts in a field in which most of them have pitifully little knowledge.

And may I ask how you, as a reporter, could have received such a response as

"In any major election, you run into situations where a machine doesn't work like it's supposed to or something got programmed wrong," said John Pearson, the deputy state elections supervisor.
and then not ask Mr. Pearson if he thought the voters should accept that in their elections.

Or when you were told

"The process is set up so that during the (vote) canvassing period, if a problem occurs, you find it. I've been surprised, actually, by the lack of these kinds of problems not only in this state but nationally."

you did not point out the many problems that have in fact occurred during this election (to the point that North Carolina may have to revote), and then faithfully report the response to the readers.

You then go on to characterize Harris as "the heroine of the movement" without saying quite what the movement is. Makes it sound rather like some kind of left-wing idea, doesn't it? Well, the "movement," sir, is to have honest elections—nothing more, nothing less.

Of her book "Black Box Voting" you write,

It exposed what she termed egregious security breaches in election software manufactured by some of the nation's biggest election-equipment makers.

Let's see. Diebold left its proprietary source code open to the internet, had it copied and examined, and then made egregious efforts to suppress the information. Diebold has not prevailed in a single one of its lawsuits.

So with which part of "egregious security breach" do you disagree by qualifying it with the condescending phrase "what she termed"? Is your problem with "egregious," "security" or "breach"? Things must be very different in the state of Washington if this is not considered to be "an egregious security breach." Or is the problem that it is a criticism of Diebold?

You then go on to discuss voter-verified paper trails, quoting a civil servant,

"The conspiracy theorists are pretty sure that somebody -- a programmer for one of the (voting equipment) vendors or for one of the elections offices -- is going to program (the voting machine) so that someone touches (the screen) for one candidate and it tabulates for another," Floyd said. But she said enough safeguards, including multiple vote-monitoring processes, have been built into the system.

Well, sir, the "conspiracy theorists" that run the banks felt that a paper trail would be a very good idea for your local ATM machine. That's because it occurred to them that "multiple [money]-monitoring processes ... built into the system" relied on faith in "a programmer ... or for one of the [bank's officers]." They therefore decided upon a paper system that provides an objective basis for accounting.

Is it your position that the power (and ultimately money) that is the prize for throwing an election is so uncompelling a motivation that no one would ever bother to do it? Is there something in your water there, sir?

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