July 13, 2004. Computer Ate My Vote. National Day of Action.
Speech by John Gideon, presented at the event in Everett, Washington.
Ethics is the most important part of elections. We want a transparent, fair, and secure voting process. Good ethics will give all Americans what we are asking for. However, who is teaching election officials ethical behavior? Where are the ethics in large sums of money being spent by voting machine vendors to influence elections officials?
In March of this year a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Linda K. Harris, reported that R. Doug Lewis, the Chairman of the Election Center, had been receiving funding from election vendors. A mistake by the IRS revealed that Mr. Lewis and the Election Center had received $10,000 a year from 1997 thru 2000. When confronted with this news Mr. Lewis also admitted to receiving funding from ES&S and "probably Diebold". Mr. Lewis denied that receiving these funds was unethical or that it presented a conflict of interest.
The Elections Center trains election workers and advises Congress and government agencies on election process issues. The Election Center, which is a 501c3 non-profit bills itself as a nonpartisan group representing election officials from around the country.
Interestingly enough in August of this year the Election Center will be holding their National Conference in Washington DC. This conference will be attended by state and local election officials from around the country including Washington state. These attendees, who use tax payers money to pay dues to the Election Center, will also be using tax payers money to pay to attend this conference.
This conference will feature lectures on such subjects as ethics and "The Media: Fighting Back-Getting The Story Straight" and "Voter Registration and Elections Litigation". "The Media........" lecture is the source of the sound bytes that we all hear so often. Quotes such as:
"HAVA requires all punch card and lever machines to be replaced by 2006"
and from Bob Terwilliger:
I challenge Mr. Terwilliger to prove that there have been no lost or changed votes. He cannot do it. I can prove that they have happened all over the country. (Note: Examples of voting problems on Sequoia DREs are here.)
Nowhere on the agenda of the conference are discussions from anyone like Avi Rubin, David Dill, Michael Wertheimer, Barbara Simons, or Rebecca Mercuri. Also missing from the discussions are member of the Florida ACLU, League of Women Voters or groups who are working to ensure that all presently registered voters are allowed to vote in November.
Who gets to spend their time explaining why voter verified paper ballots are necessary? Who gets to spend their time warning the elections officials about problems with software bugs and uncertified hardware and software? Well, no one. So, who are the major sponsors of this conference? Diebold will sponsor a welcome reception. Sequoia will sponsor a dinner cruise on the Potomac River with a "Monuments by Night Tour". And not to be outdone, ES&S is sponsoring the graduation luncheon and awards ceremony. In contrast, Utah election officials aren't allowed to accept anything at all from vendors, not even a pen.
Also invited to attend the conference are the members of the Election Assistance Commission and the members of Congress who sponsored the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and sent the infamous "Dear Colleague" memo to the members of the House and Senate (Representatives Ney and Hoyer, and Senators McConnell and Dodd). This memo asks members of both houses to ignore any legislation, such as H.R.2239 and S.1980, that will help to ensure a safe and secure election
There have been other special interest groups who have benefited from gifts from the voting machine industry. The National Federation of the Blind, for instance, has been championing controversial voting machines that do not provide a paper trail. It has attested not only to the machines' accessibility, but also to their security and accuracy - neither of which is within the federation's areas of expertise. What's even more troubling is that the group has accepted a $1 million gift for a new training institute from Diebold, the machines' manufacturer, which put the testimonial on its Web site. The federation stands by its "complete confidence" in Diebold even though several recent studies have raised serious doubts about the company, and California has banned more than 14,000 Diebold machines from being used this November because of doubts about their reliability.
Disability-rights groups have had an outsized influence on the debate despite their general lack of background on security issues. The League of Women Voters had been a leading opponent of voter-verifiable paper ballots, in part because it has accepted the disability groups' arguments.
Last year, the American Association of People With Disabilities gave its Justice for All award to Senator Christopher Dodd. Mr. Dodd, who has actively opposed paper ballots, then appointed Jim Dickson, an association official, to the Board of Advisors of the Election Assistance Commission, where he will be in a good position to oppose paper ballots at the federal level. According to Mr. Dickson, the American Association of People with Disabilities has received $26,000 from voting machine companies this year.
Sandra Mortham, who served as Florida's top elections official from 1995 to 1999, is a lobbyist for both Election Systems & Software and the Florida Association of Counties, which exclusively endorsed the company's touch screen machines in return for a commission. Mortham received a commission from ES&S for every county that bought its touch screen machines. The exact terms have not been disclosed. ... The association received about $300,000 in commissions, according to the agreement.
So, the vendors money is being well spent. Every time we open the newspaper and read a quote from an election official, the vendors are speaking to us via the Election Center, who has been bought and paid for, and their coached election officials. The vendors put their money in the right places within the disability advocacy groups and they pass around commission money to unscrupulous ex-elections officials and present officials to ensure they get their wares sold.