“True power lies not with those who cast the votes, but rather with those who count the vote.”
Last month, I experienced a truly disgraceful display of ignorance and arrogance from a majority of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the staff of the Registrar of Voters office. The supervisors held a public hearing on June 8th to decide on voting equipment for our future elections. Dozens of concerned citizens were treated to a pathetic example of the breakdown of responsible representative government that today plagues our nation at every level of our system. These citizens felt compelled to spend the day giving informed testimony and impassioned pleas for a return to honest and verifiable elections, only to be ignored by three of the five supervisors. Instead of having the decency to honor the desire of their constituents to eliminate potential election fraud, they instead chose to squander $13.25 million taxpayer dollars for a touch screen voting system by Sequoia. This system, like its counterparts from Diebold, employs secret software codes, which cannot be trusted to deliver honest vote counts. This system is perhaps slightly better than the now illegal 4,300 touch-screen voting devices our taxpayer dollars purchased from Diebold in 2002 for $12 million. Those machines are now sitting in a warehouse collecting dust, deemed unusable. (Diebold, in its great benevolence, will reimburse Alameda County taxpayers $3 million as a return credit on those machines.)
The Sequoia so called “paper trail” system emits a printout on a tiny roll of thermal paper that is virtually useless for any large-scale recounts and does not allow the voter to verify his or her choices. The voter cannot see how the selections were reported.
With public testimony from over 50 citizens, all but two speakers begged the supervisors to reject any system that incorporates hackable and pre-programmable secret source code software. There was an option to negotiate a purchase of ESS equipment, which also uses a touch-screen computer, but then prints out a paper ballot that the voter can review for accuracy before turning it into poll workers. These paper ballots can then be counted by computerized optical scanners, or better yet, counted by hand.
I personally believe that ballots should be hand counted with observers from any interested party monitoring the count from a location where the validity of the process can be guaranteed. The optical scanning procedure that is currently in use is still vulnerable to vote switching and fraud as any computer’s software program can be preset to deliver a specific result. Most European nations and Canada employ a full paper vote and hand counting process and their elections are conducted honestly.
Shamefully however the board’s majority ignored hours of testimony from highly informed and alarmed citizens and instead chose to vote in accordance with the advice of the two opposing speakers, one from Diebold, the other from Sequoia! The system that was approved for purchase was a secret source code software Sequoia computer that has been proved to be vulnerable to hacking and could be secretly programmed by the vendor to deliver a predetermined outcome of any election! The board added a last minute amendment, in response to the furious outcry of betrayal by those citizens in the hearing room, that the systems be checked for accuracy and a hacking test be performed. It is important to note that these vendors have a well-established history of failing to follow through on promises or even to allow testing of this sort.
To their credit, Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson asked all the right questions of the various speakers and seemed to understand the dangers of allowing the purchase of a secret software black box voting system. The staff on the other hand, seemed intent on steering the decision in only one direction…to Sequoia! Important questions were improperly answered and on several occasions false information was given to the supervisors to the amazement and consternation of the hearing’s audience.
When it came time to vote, Supervisor Gail Steele stated that she was “feeling like I am in the Twilight Zone.” She admitted to never using her computer and to not understanding most of the four hours of testimony she had witnessed. After making this stunning admission, she chose to ignore all of the public comment and voted to purchase the insecure Sequoia system. Supervisors Alice Lai Bitker and Scott Haggerty also cast their votes for the Sequoia system. Any elected official who is so unconcerned with the sanctity of our votes, in the face of the enormous body of evidence regarding electronic voting and unanimous public comment, does not deserve to remain in office!
It should be noted that in Washington State litigation was conducted to render unlawful the use of these Sequoia computer election systems. That lawsuit was successful.
The turnout of this last election was one of the lowest on record. The American people have lost faith in our election system and nearly half of all Americans now believe it to be fraudulent. It is no surprise that citizens don’t bother to vote if they believe that the outcome can be manipulated. Tremendous evidence of election fraud can be seen at www.blackboxvoting.org and www.freepress.org.
The question for history is now whether “We the People” will passively accept the demise of representative government or instead use all means at our disposal to send a clear message to elected and fraudulently elected officials alike that our votes are worth fighting for.
Let’s reclaim our democracy now. If we fail to protect our freedom then we will surely lose it.
Allen C. Michaan is the owner of the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland.