Thursday, March 02, 2006

NY Times: Justice Department Stooge

The New York Times, once again, delivers an article so utterly devoid of information or context it is beyond amazing. Michael Cooper brings to those once-august pages, the ineptly told story that the Justice Department is suing the State of New York for failing to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by the prescribed deadline. Many states are not in compliance with this law, which, if violated, results in the loss of millions of dollars in federal election funding. But at no point in the two entire pages that comprises this article, will one ever, ever learn why New York or other states have not yet complied with HAVA. The article would simply make the reader think that it is a typical state government bureaucracy snafu.

In states across the country, electronic voting machines are causing no end of panic as citizens voting groups, in conjunction with computer security experts, are resisting the installation of these machines, which is being conducted under the auspices of HAVA. And they have been doing so because of the burgeoning evidence that these machines, especially the so-called DRE (direct recording electronic) voting machines, are easily hackable and incredibly flakey, if one is prone to believe that such flakiness is not directly engineered.

What kind of "flakiness" are we talking about? Well ...
DREs have lost valid ballots

DREs added inappropriate ballots

DREs have provided the wrong ballots

DRE tabulating has failed to count properly

DREs have handed votes to the wrong candidate

DREs are prone to breaking down during the election

DRE printer results are not usable for a manual recount
Hardly what one would describe as comforting behaviour.

In New York, as in many states, DREs such as those made by Diebold, fail to meet basic security requirements and therefore cannot and should not be certified. Now, this places states in a bit of bind (unless, of course, the state in question is California) because, in order to comply with HAVA, they need to certify some kind of machine for the upcoming elections. But they can't because most of the machines available (Diebold, ESS) are uncertifiable in their current configuration. That "configuration" by the way, is exactly the problem: state laws require public disclosure of the systems and configurations, private vendors refuse to give those up.

All of which is now leading New York to consider using the old lever machines again this year because no electronic machines can be certified.

States are in this position for one and only one reason: voting machine manufacturers, especially Diebold, have resisted compliance with many states' regulations for certification. Citing "proprietary software," and "trade secrets," these companies have repeatedly refused to comply with law and have lied about the security of their own machines when they were being shown to be completely open to the simplest of security hacks.

New Yorkers for Verified Voting are continuing to press for paper verification on DREs or the use of paper ballots since DREs generally produce no paper trail. Recently, some rather uncomfortable evidence of vote tampering came to light regarding the voting records of some machines in Florida; some Diebold machines in Florida, that is. This has only spurred concern across the country, at least at more local levels.

The salient point is that most Americans probably know little about this situation. The mainstream media, and especially the NY Times, have been reporting exactly none of this. But what they have chosen to tell their readers is that the "Justice" Department is out there, stomping on bureaucratic heads and ensuring that, in their rough hands, the integrity of America's electoral system will be secured by your friends at Diebold.


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