History has taught us that all great nations decline
at some point, and I can think of nothing that would
help usher in America's descent than the loss of voter
confidence in the integrity of their vote. I am one of
the 20%, who felt that the 2000 and 2004 elections did
not reflect the intent of the voters, and I am
somewhat heartened that the press is beginning to
report on the issue:
From this morning's NY Times:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 A growing number of state and
local officials are getting cold feet about electronic
voting technology, and many are making last-minute
efforts to limit or reverse the rollout of new
machines in the November elections.
Less than two months before voters head to the polls,
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland this week
became the most recent official to raise concerns
publicly. Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he lacked
confidence in the states new $106 million electronic
voting system and suggested a return to paper ballots.
Dozens of states have adopted electronic voting
technology to comply with federal legislation in 2002
intended to phase out old-fashioned lever and
punch-card machines after the hanging chads
confusion of the 2000 presidential election.
But some election officials and voting experts say
they fear that the new technology may have only
swapped old problems for newer, more complicated ones.
Their concerns became more urgent after widespread
problems with the new technology were reported this
year in primaries in Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois,
Maryland and elsewhere.
This year, about one-third of all precincts nationwide
are using the electronic voting technology for the
first time, raising the chance of problems at the
polls as workers struggle to adjust to the new system.
I think there is good reason for concern headed into
the midterm elections, said Richard F. Celeste, a
Democrat and former Ohio governor who was co-chairman
of a study of new machines for the National Research
Council with Richard L. Thornburgh, a Republican and
former governor of Pennsylvania.
You have to train the poll workers, Mr. Celeste
said, especially since many of them are of a
generation for whom this technology is a particular
challenge. You need to have plans in place to relocate
voters to another precinct if machines dont work, and
I just dont know whether these steps have been
Paperless touch-screen machines have been the biggest
source of consternation, and with about 40 percent of
registered voters nationally expected to cast their
ballots on these machines in the midterm elections,
many local officials fear that the lack of a paper
trail will leave no way to verify votes in case of
fraud or computer failure.
As a result, states are scrambling to make last-minute
fixes before the technology has its biggest test in
November, when voter turnout will be higher than in
the primaries, many races will be close and the threat
of litigation will be ever-present.
We have the real chance of recounts in the coming
elections, and if you have differences between the
paper trail and the electronic record, which number
prevails? said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at
Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and the author of the
Election Law blog, www.electionlawblog.org.
Professor Hasen found that election challenges filed
in court grew to 361 in 2004, up from 197 in 2000.
What you have coming up is the intersection of new
technology and an unclear legal regime, he said.
Like Mr. Ehrlich, other state officials have decided
on a late-hour change of course. In January, Gov. Bill
Richardson of New Mexico decided to reverse plans to
use the touch-screen machines, opting instead to
return to paper ballots with optical scanners. Last
month, the Connecticut secretary of state, Susan
Bysiewicz, decided to do the same.
I didnt want my state to continue being an
embarrassment like Ohio and Florida every four years,
said Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, adding, I also
thought we needed to restore voter confidence, and
that wasnt going to happen with the touch-screen
In Pennsylvania, a state senator introduced a bill
last week that would require every precinct to provide
voters with the option to use paper ballots, which
would involve printing extra absentee ballots and
having them on site. A similar measure is being
considered on the federal level.
In the last year or so, at least 27 states have
adopted measures requiring a paper trail, which has
often involved replacing paperless touch-screen
machines with ones that have a printer attached.
But even the systems backed up by paper have problems.
In a study released this month, the nonpartisan
Election Science Institute found that about 10 percent
of the paper ballots sampled from the May primary in
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, were uncountable because
printers had jammed and poll workers had loaded the
paper in backward.
Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado, Arizona,
California, Pennsylvania and Georgia seeking to
prohibit the use of touch-screen machines.
Deborah L. Markowitz, the Vermont secretary of state
and the president of the National Association of
Secretaries of State, said that while there might be
some problems in November, she expected them to be
limited and isolated.
The real story of the recent primary races was how
few problems there were, considering how new this
technology is, said Ms. Markowitz, a Democrat. The
failures we did see, like in Maryland, Ohio and
Missouri, were small and most often from poll workers
not being prepared.
Many states have installed the machines in the past
year because of a federal deadline. If states wanted
to take advantage of federal incentives offered by the
Help America Vote Act, they had to upgrade their
voting machines by 2006.
In the primary last week in Maryland, several counties
reported machine-related problems, including computers
that misidentified the party affiliations of voters,
electronic voter registration lists that froze and
voting-machine memory cards whose contents could not
be electronically transmitted. In Montgomery County,
election workers did not receive access cards to
voting machines for the countys 238 precincts on
time, forcing as many as 12,000 voters to use
provisional paper ballots until they ran out.
We had a bad experience in the primary that led to
very long lines, which means people get discouraged
and leave the polls without voting, said Governor
Ehrlich, who is in a tight re-election race and has
been accused by his critics of trying to use the
voting issue to motivate his base. We have hot races
coming up in November and turnout will be high, so we
can expect lines to be two or three times longer. If
even a couple of these machines break down, we could
be in serious trouble.
Problems during primaries elsewhere have been equally
In the Illinois primary in March, Cook County
officials delayed the results of the county board
elections for a week because of human and mechanical
problems at hundreds of sites with new voting machines
made by Sequoia Voting Systems.
In the April primary in Tarrant County, Tex., machines
made by Hart InterCivic counted some ballots as many
as six times, recording 100,000 more votes than were
cast. The problem was attributed to programming
errors, not hacking.
In the past year, the Government Accountability
Office, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York
University and the Congressional Research Service have
released reports raising concerns about the security
of electronic machines.
Advocates of the new technology dispute the
Many of these are exaggerated accusations by a
handful of vocal activists, said Mark Radke, director
of marketing for Diebold Election Systems, one of the
largest sellers of touch-screen machines. But if you
want to talk about fraud and tabulation error, the
newer technology is far more accurate.
Mr. Radke cited a study from the California Institute
of Technology that found that between the 2000
election, when touch-screen machines were not used,
and the 2004 election, when they were, there was a 40
percent reduction in voter error in Maryland, making
the vote there the most accurate in the country.
There is always the potential for human error, Mr.
Radke said, but that is easily correctible.
But critics say bugs and hackers could corrupt the
A Princeton University study released this month on
one of Diebolds machines a model that Diebold says
it no longer uses found that hackers could easily
tamper with electronic voting machines by installing a
virus to disable the machines and change the vote
Mr. Radke dismissed the concerns about hackers and
bugs as most often based on unrealistic scenarios.
We dont leave these machines sitting on a street
corner, he said. But in one of these cases, they
gave the hackers complete and unfettered access to the
Warren Stewart, legislative director for VoteTrustUSA,
an advocacy group that has criticized electronic
voting, said that after poll workers are trained to
use the machines in the days before an election, many
counties send the machines home with the workers.
That seems like pretty unfettered access to me, Mr.
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--- Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...
> September 20, 2006
> For Governors in G.O.P. Slots, a Liberal Turn
> By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
> LOS ANGELES, Sept. 19 Here are the things that
> Arnold Schwarzenegger will be bragging about on the
> campaign trail: an initiative to lower greenhouse
> gases with the onus on big companies, a $1 increase
> the states minimum wage and a program to open up
> access to prescription drugs.
> Mr. Schwarzenegger, who six months ago fashioned
> himself a Republican reformer bent on hobbling
> entrenched Democratic institutions, is not just
> tolerating positions generally associated with
> candidates. Rather, he is using them as the
> centerpiece of his re-election campaign, marking the
> first time in a generation that a Republican
> here has clung to the left during a re-election
> The strategy is not unique to Mr. Schwarzeneggers
> campaign. Across the nations 36 races for governor,
> Republican candidates in states heavy with moderate
> Democratic voters are playing up their liberal
> positions on issues including stem cell research,
> abortion and the environment, while remaining true
> their partys platform on taxes and streamlining
> In Massachusetts, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who is
> seeking to fill the seat that will be vacated by
> Mitt Romney, has openly split with Mr. Romney on
> abortion rights and stem cell research; her views
> shared by the Republican candidate for governor in
> Illinois, Judy Baar Topinka, who also supports civil
> unions for same-sex couples.
> In Maryland, the Republican incumbent, Robert L.
> Ehrlich Jr., is pushing for increasing state aid for
> programs for the disabled and imposing tighter
> restrictions on coal-fired plants; the Republican
> governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, opposes the death
> penalty. In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell also
> ways with the Republican Party on civil unions and
> financing for stem cell research.
> Governing Republican and campaigning Democratic is
> a new technique; George E. Pataki, the New York
> governor, has made a career winning elections as a
> Republican in a mostly Democratic state. But
> experts say that the strategy is particularly
> pervasive this year, as Republicans seek to distance
> themselves from an unpopular president and to
> to what is widely recognized as polarization fatigue
> among many voters.
> The conservative side of Republican party has been
> dominant in recent years that we havent seen a lot
> this phenomenon at work until this year, said Bruce
> E. Cain, the director of the Institute of
> Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
> Now, Mr. Cain said, the easiest way for Republicans
> stay competitive is to take deviations from the
> standard G.O.P. lines.
> In many ways, the strategy reflects the dynamics of
> local contests, in which voters are willing to
> overlook the party affiliation of a candidate if
> believe he stands with them on one or two important
> issues, or pushes through policies that are
> nonpartisan and that will improve their daily lives.
> The ideology that binds Republican governors is
> getting things done for their constituents, said
> Philip A. Musser, the executive director of the
> Republican Governors Association. From the broadest
> perspective, voters in these races go into the booth
> caring less if governor is pro life or pro choice
> more about whether he is going to reduce their
> property taxes or make their life easier at the
> Unlike other campaign seasons, when a popular
> president has been an asset to local politicians,
> candidates this year are trying to distance
> from President Bush, either by staking out ground in
> contrast to him or, as is the case with Mr.
> Schwarzenegger, treating the president like a
> communicable disease.
> Democratic candidates across the country have
> responded by constantly reminding voters of their
> opponents conservative leanings, wherever they
> and trying to tie them as much as possible to the
> White House.
> In recent months, Mr. Schwarzenegger has gone out of
> his way to point out where he differs with the
> president stem cell research and the role of large
> companies in creating heat-trapping gases like
> dioxide and to openly criticize the White House
> order to police the Mexican border with National
> When Mr. Bush visited California last spring, the
> governor made sure they were scarcely seen together.
> On the legislative front, after a humiliating defeat
> last year of his ballot initiatives designed to take
> power from nurses and teachers, Mr. Schwarzenegger
> leapt in the opposite direction this summer.
> With the Legislature, he signed off on laws imposing
> the countrys most stringent controls on
> carbon-dioxide emissions, raising the minimum wage
> after vetoing a similar measure twice before and
> helping low-income Medicare beneficiaries to pay for
> His campaign tour bus is painted green, along with
> vaguely preservationist phrase Protecting the
> California Dream, as his slogan.
> His campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, suggested that
> this was business as usual for Mr. Schwarzenegger,
> who, he said, doesnt rule out ideas just because
> they came from someone from another party.
> In every poll across the country what voters say
> yearn for is politicians in both parties to stop
> fighting, Mr. Schmidt said, The one person in the
> country who is doing that is Governor
> The Democrat who wants to unseat the governor, Phil
> Angelides, has spent the better part of the last few
> months trying to remind voters that Mr.
> is a Republican through and through, who supported
> war in Iraq, the president who ordered it and many
> right-of-center policies.
> Two months of pretending to be a Democrat doesnt
> make him a Democrat, said Amanda Crumley, the
> communications director for the Angelides campaign,
> with a certain amount of fury in her voice. Just
> he has done for the last three years, if he is
> re-elected, which he wont be, he will continue to
> govern like the Bush Republican that he is.
> While Mr. Schwarzeneggers behavior may seem like
> survival tactics in the deep woods of one of the
> nations bluest states, other recent Republican
> governors in California have sought to accentuate
> their conservative leanings.
> Pete Wilson, who was governor for most of the
> supported a ban barring state services for illegal
> immigrants, capitalizing on anger over illegal
> immigration to win re-election, and his predecessor,
> George Deukmejian, won the ardor of suburban voters
> presenting himself as tough as nails on crime.
> Each state race has its own quirks and
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