Most Electronic Voting Isn’t Secure

Steve Stigall, a CIA cybersecurity expert, suggested that  Hugo Chavez fixed a 2004 election recount. He also argued that most electronic voting isn’t secure:

Stigall said that voting equipment connected to the Internet could be hacked, and machines that weren’t connected could be compromised wirelessly. Eleven U.S. states have banned or limited wireless capability in voting equipment, but Stigall said that election officials didn’t always know it when wireless cards were embedded in their machines.

While Stigall said that he wasn’t speaking for the CIA and wouldn’t address U.S. voting systems, his presentation appeared to undercut calls by some U.S. politicians to shift to Internet balloting, at least for military personnel and other American citizens living overseas. Stigall said that most Web-based ballot systems had proved to be insecure.

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ACORN and Voter Fraud

There is no controversy over the fact that there are problems with voter registration efforts in which workers are paid to sign up people to vote. There are known cases, such as described in this report from CNN, in which people do put list fake names. While Republicans spin this to claim that Democrats are trying to steal the election, the motivation is actually monetary and carries little real threat of election fraud. While there might be fake names added to the voter roll, such fictitious people don’t usually turn up to vote. ACORN is legally obligated to turn in all the names collected by workers, but they have often flagged ones they consider fictitious. After reporting on a case of someone convicted for registering nonexistent people, the report places the problem in perspective.

University of Washington law professor Eric Schnapper says the idea of fake cards turning into real votes is a myth.

“There are no known instances of fictitious people actually voting,” Schnapper said. “You look at some of the names: Mickey Mouse. Dr. Seuss. Mickey Mouse only votes in Disneyland. He’s not going to show up at a critical precinct in West Virginia or North Carolina.”

Schnapper said that if anyone should be upset, it’s ACORN.

“The victims of this are the people who paid these workers $8 an hour to go out and find legitimate voters, and … they didn’t get their $8 worth; they put down phony names,” Schnapper said.

Schnapper said he’s worked on Republican and Democratic campaigns and has paid people to hand out leaflets or register voters. He said some of the workers do their jobs and some don’t.

ACORN said it has registered well more than 1 million voters, most of them Democrats. Though the group is under investigation in a number of swing states, such as Ohio and Nevada, amid accusations that it turned in fake voter registration cards, Schnapper said there’s no evidence that any worker intended to commit voter fraud and actually take those names, produce phony identification and vote on Election Day.

Threats of criminal prosecution may scare some groups into closing voter registration drives, according to Schnapper. It could scare actual voters away from the polls as well, he said, “and that really does affect the outcomes of the election.”

A report from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School supports his claim. Researchers reviewed voter fraud claims across the country and found that most were caused by technical glitches, clerical errors or mistakes made by voters. One other finding: A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate another voter at the polls.

ACORN has recently released a video on the Internet called “Fight Back: The Truth About ACORN.” It uses a mix of interviews and video to fight what the group calls Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout.

CNN asked Clifton Mitchell whether he and his team, at any point, got together to try to rig the election.

“When I did it, when my team did it, it wasn’t to steal any election,” Mitchell said. “They’re just trying to keep a job. But understand, I blame myself. I can only blame myself.”

It certainly might be argued that changes need to be made to address the problems of fictitious names being collected at all, but this does not represent voter fraud, and is not a problem such as we have seen with actual efforts by Republicans at voter suppression.

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Where The Real Voter Fraud Is

While Republicans make a lot of noise about ACORN, all we have to do is follow the warrants to find out which party is the one really committing voter fraud. The most notable case in recent years, the New Hampshire phone jamming scheme, led all the way to the Bush White House. Now we have had another arrest of a Republican. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario over the weekend on suspicion of voter registration fraud.

State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. His firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM, collects petition signatures and registers voters in California and other states.

Jacoby’s arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department late Saturday came after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by people employed by YPM. The voters said YPM workers tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters.

The firm was paid $7 to $12 for every Californian it registered as a member of the GOP.

This practice of paying to register people to vote leads to problems on both sides. People working for ACORN have signed up Mickey Mouse, the roster of the Dallas Cowboys, and other phony names in order to easily make a few bucks. These are cases of fraud against ACORN, not cases of ACORN or any Democrats trying to steal the election as the Republicans claim. It is one thing to register Mickey Mouse to vote. It would be an entirely different thing if Mickey Mouse were to show up to vote for Obama. Nobody expects that to happen. ACORN legally is required to turn in all the names which workers register, but they have also flagged many names which they were suspicious of. That hardly suggests ACORN is trying to sign up people to taper with election results.

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Florida Considers Automatic Hand Recounts

Vacation Blogging intersects with political blogging: I don’t know if it is available on line, but while reading the Miami Herald this morning while having a cup of coffee earlier down on South Beach I came across a rather significant item. There is a proposal in Florida to call for automatically recounting all votes by hand in the case of a close election following the controversy in 2000. If such a proposal had been law in 2000, Al Gore would have been elected president.

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Election Irregularities in New York Primary

It looks like irregularities in the New York primary might have denied Obama some votes. The New York Times reports:

Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their formal review of the results, which will not be completed for weeks, had confirmed some major discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly — and unofficially — on primary night and the actual tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.

In the Harlem district, for instance, where the primary night returns suggested a 141 to 0 sweep by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the vote now stands at 261 to 136. In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.

The history of New York elections has been punctuated by episodes of confusion, incompetence and even occasional corruption. And election officials and lawyers for both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton agree that it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made by weary inspectors rushing on election night to transcribe columns of numbers that are delivered first to the police and then to the news media.

That said, in a presidential campaign in which every vote at the Democratic National Convention may count, a swing of even a couple of hundred votes in New York might help Mr. Obama gain a few additional delegates.

City election officials said they were convinced that there was nothing sinister to account for the inaccurate initial counts, and The Times’s review found a handful of election districts in the city where Mrs. Clinton received zero votes in the initial results.

While this very well could be a result of human error rather than anything intentional, the results could have an impact on the nomination race.

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New Book Further Exposes Republican Rigging of New Hampshire Election

McClatchy has a  story on an upcoming book on the Republican phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire. They report that Allen Raymond, the author of the book, told them in an interview that he believes the scandal reaches higher into the Republican Party:

Allen Raymond of Bethesda, Md., whose book Simon & Schuster will publish next month, also accused the Republican Party of trying to hang all the blame for a scandal on him as part of an “old-school cover-up.”

Raymond’s book, “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative,” offers a raw, inside glimpse of the phone scandal as it unraveled and of a ruthless world in which political operatives seek to win at all costs…

Raymond said those who’ve tried to make him the fall guy for the New Hampshire scheme failed to recognize that e-mails, phone records and other evidence documented the complicity of a top state GOP official and the Republican National Committee’s northeast regional director.

Both men were later convicted of charges related to the phone harassment, along with Raymond and an Idaho phone bank operator. Defense lawyers have since won a retrial for James Tobin, the former regional director for both the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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Jonah Goldberg Demonstrates Conservative Contempt for Democracy

If anyone has ever had any doubt that the goal of conservatives is to reduce voter turn out, check out today’s column from Jonah Goldberg. After discussing how uninformed voters are, he writes:

So, maybe, just maybe, we have our priorities wrong. Perhaps cheapening the vote by requiring little more than an active pulse (Chicago famously waives this rule) has turned it into something many people don’t value. Maybe the emphasis on getting more people to vote has dumbed-down our democracy by pushing participation onto people uninterested in such things. Maybe our society would be healthier if politicians aimed higher than the lowest common denominator. Maybe the opinions of people who don’t know the first thing about how our system works aren’t the folks who should be driving our politics, just as people who don’t know how to drive shouldn’t have a driver’s license.

Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?

In the abstract he might have a point. There would be value to having a higher percentage of voters be people who have a basic understanding of how the political system works. (It would be even more ideal if they also had the background to see through the usual spin of the right wing noise machine). While perhaps sensible in principle, the idea raises serious problems should it ever be put into practice. Once someone has the power to decide who does and does not have the right to vote, the risk of corruption becomes too great. Voter suppression has already become a Republican tactic which might have influenced some election results It would be far too dangerous to institutionalize the practice of deciding who is allowed to vote. Besides, allowing everyone to vote, with all its faults, is a cornerstone of modern democracy. There have been too many battles to expand the vote to groups such as blacks and women to backslide on universal suffrage.

Reading this column makes me think that testing of columnists as opposed to voters might be a good idea–especially as this is the second time today I’ve commented on poor ideas from Goldberg. As tempting as it is I would no more back that, out of respect for freedom of the press, than I’d go along with Goldberg’s idea to test voters. I bet Goldberg would turn out to be as misinformed as the typical viewer of Fox News.

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Two Reports of Republican Voter Suppression

There have been two reports of voter suppression by Republicans in the past week. Last week McClatchy showed that the Republican campaign against “voter fraud” was really intended to suppress turn out among minority groups:

McClatchy Newspapers has found that this election strategy was active on at least three fronts:

  • Tax-exempt groups such as the American Center and the Lawyers Association were deployed in battleground states to press for restrictive ID laws and oversee balloting.
  • The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division turned traditional voting rights enforcement upside down with legal policies that narrowed rather than protected the rights of minorities.
  • The White House and the Justice Department encouraged selected U.S. attorneys to bring voter fraud prosecutions, despite studies showing that election fraud isn’t a widespread problem.

Nowhere was the breadth of these actions more obvious than at the American Center for Voting Rights and its legislative fund.

Public records show that the two nonprofits were active in at least nine states. They hired high-priced lawyers to write court briefs, issued news releases declaring key cities “hot spots” for voter fraud and hired lobbyists in Missouri and Pennsylvania to win support for photo ID laws. In each of those states, the center released polls that it claimed found that minorities prefer tougher ID laws.

Now there is a report out of Jacksonville of “vote caging.”

Internal city memos show the issue of Republican “vote caging” efforts in Jacksonville’s African-American neighborhoods was discussed in the weeks before the 2004 election, contradicting recent claims by former Duval County Republican leader Mike Hightower – the Bush-Cheney campaign’s local chairman at the time.

“Caging” is a longtime voter suppression practice by which political parties collect undeliverable or unreturned mail and use it to develop “challenge lists” on Election Day.The contradiction comes to light as the U.S. Justice Department continues to consider a June 18 request from two U.S. senators for an investigation into potential illegal voter suppression tactics in Duval County three years ago. A department spokeswoman said last week that the request is still being reviewed.

Hightower, in a Times-Union interview last month, said the controversial voter suppression tactic of “caging” was never raised in daily meetings hosted by former Duval County Supervisor of Elections Bill Scheu, and he had never heard “of that expression or that practice.” Hightower said last week he stands by those recollections.

City officials have disputed that, saying Scheu’s daily pre-election meetings with local Republicans, Democrats and African-American community leaders repeatedly included the topic. The city also released attendance records showing Hightower was present.

“This issue was raised during the 2004 election; the supervisor of elections and his counsel were aware of the allegations, discussed them at times during daily meetings with both political parties, and did not have any instances of challenges based on caging,” Cindy Laquidara, chief deputy general counsel for Jacksonville, said in a June 20 e-mail to Duval County elections officials. The elections office was responding to a Times-Union public record request; the e-mail was obtained through a similar request.

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Was campaigning against voter fraud a Republican ploy?

This week while traveling there will probably be limited posting, but I will at least add links to articles of note when I do go on line to check the news. Today McClatchy asks: Was campaigning against voter fraud a Republican ploy?

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Republicans Suppress the Vote Under Guise of Defending Election Integrity

Talk on the blogosphere of voting irregularities typically centers around unsubstantiated claims of tampering with the voting machines and debunked claims about the meaning of raw exit poll date, often allowing the real problems to remain ignored. There’s absolutely no evidence that Republicans steal elections on election day. They are far smarter as instead they rig the system to enhance their chances, using tactics which aren’t subject to recount. McClatchy has looked at how Republicans curb voting in Democratic areas.

As has been seen with Republican misdirection in so many areas, they practice voter suppression under the guise of protecting the integrity of elections. Justice Department civil rights lawyer Hans von Spakovsky advocated changes to the election law which he claimed would reduce fraud, sometimes under the pseudonym of Publius in legal journals. Very little actual fraud of the type von Spakovsky campaigned against was ever proven, but this didn’t matter as long as changes could be advocated which benefited the Republicans:

“Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration’s pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote,” charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.

He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.

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