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The Illusion of Democracy:

The Illusion of Democracy:

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The Illusion of Democracy:

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  1. The Illusion of Democracy: An Urgent Call to Action for National Election Reform

  2. Prepared by Oregon Voter Rights Coalition June 2006

  3. Shaken Voter Confidence • In 2000, a post-election Harris Poll estimated that 20-30 million Americans did not trust the validity of the Presidential election results • Before the 2004 election, a poll by the legal website found that 42% of voters already did not trust the new electronic touchscreen voting machines

  4. Shaken Voter Confidence • A Jan. 2005 National Annenberg Election Survey interviewed 100,000 voters and found that 30% of American voters—representing over 36 million voters— were not confident that their vote had been counted accurately in 2004

  5. Shaken Voter Confidence • The initial results of a May 2006 Zogby People’s poll of Pennsylvania voters, commissioned by OpEdNews, found that the majority of people who do not use Fox News as their primary news source believe that the 2004 presidential election was stolen

  6. Shaken Voter Confidence The analysis found “that except for viewers of right wing news show, Fox News, poll respondents believe that the 2004 presidential election was stolen”

  7. This Is NOT a Partisan Issue After the invention of lever voting machines, Dem. Gov. Earl Long of Louisiana once boasted that, with the right election commissioners, he could get the machines to sing “Home Sweet Home.” Governor Earl Long May His Voice Live On! He also wanted to be buried in Louisiana “so he could remain active in politics after his death”.

  8. Other Election Rigging Examples • 1948: Democrat Lyndon Johnson’s U.S. Senate victory in Texas over Republican Coke Stevenson, earning him the name “Landslide Lyndon” • 2000: Florida’s Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ disenfranchising felon database • 2003: Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Delay’s gerrymandering in Texas

  9. These things are known as The Commons The Founder’s Intent When the American founders developed our democratic framework, one of the things they understood with absolute clarity was that there are some things that We the People do for ourselves — where We the People hold the rights

  10.  public schools  public lands  public roads  police/fire dept. The Commons Examples include:  the water we drink  the air we breath  the internet  public airwaves All of these things are currently under attack by privatization

  11. The Commons The most precious of all The Commons is OUR VOTING SYSTEM The vote is the beating heart of democracy! In a healthy democracy, every citizen’s vote is sacred

  12. Legitimate Transfer of Power “In a democratic republican form of government such as ours, where people place the political power in the hands of their representatives, voting is the only legitimate way to transfer power from the people to the government” * * Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651, 667 (U.S., 1884)

  13. Legitimate Transfer of Power Having an honest and transparent election system for all American citizens is therefore the cornerstone of our government and our society

  14. Purpose The purpose of this presentation is to sound an alarm that our elections and the electorate are no longer under the control of the American people Partisan politicians are privatizing our local and national election systems through the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

  15. Brief Review of the 2000 Presidential Election

  16. Election Night, Nov. 7-8, 2000 At 2:16 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2000, Fox News declared that the pivotal state of Florida had gone for George W. Bush

  17. Minutes later, other news organizations joined Fox News in calling Florida for Bush Election Night Nov. 7-8, 2000

  18. Election Night Nov. 7-8, 2000 At Fox News Network, the person at the helm of the election decision team was John Ellis The election numbers he was working from were not official, but the viewers did not know that. Nor did they know thatEllis was G.W. Bush’s first cousin John Ellis Ellis was in phone contact with cousin G.W. Bush throughout election night

  19. Election Night Nov. 7-8, 2000 Two hours later, the networks were forced to retract the Florida call for Bush

  20. Election Strategy a Success The strategy was a complete success— creating a lasting impression that Bush had already won the election

  21. Overview of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002

  22. HAVA Signed by President Bush On Oct. 29, 2002, President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act The stated intent of HAVA was to correct many of the problems that occurred in the 2000 election

  23. HAVA established the Election Assistance Commission, in part, to “establish a program to provide funds to States to replace punch card voting systems” EAC U.S. Election Assistance Commission As of Dec. 1, 2005, over $2.3 billion in payments had been distributed to states, including $27.8 million to Oregon

  24. Provisional Ballots HAVA introduced Provisional Ballots, a.k.a. Placebo Ballots “Individuals shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot if they present themselves to vote at a polling place in an election for Federal office and either”: • don’t appear on the official list of eligible voters • have their eligibility challenged by an election official

  25. Jack Abramoff No Paper Trails in HAVA According to an April 2006 article in Rolling Stone Magazine: “Diebold paid some $275,000 to [Jack] Abramoff’s firm, Greenberg Traurig, with the apparent aim of keeping legislation requiring paper trails in the voting process from getting into HAVA. Conveniently, Abramoff pal [Rep.] Bob Ney [R-OH], one of the HAVA architects, blocked every attempt to put paper trails into law.”

  26. Election Systems

  27. Components of Election Systems • Registered voter records / database • Ballots • Ballot definition files (BDFs) for electronic systems • Voting systems • Vote counting systems

  28. Voting Systems Hand-marked paper ballots1,2 Punch cards1 Lever machines Electronic voting (e-voting/DRE) 1 Paper ballot system 2 Includes optical scan systems

  29. Vote Counting Systems Hand-counting Electronic tabulators* (centrally located, such as at the county elections office) – includes optical scan systems *Electronic election system

  30. Lever Machine Technology Electronic Voting Optical Scan Punch Card Paper Ballot Expected use in Nov. 2004 32% <1% 29% 19% 13% Voting Technologies Used in the 2004 Election Source: Verified Voting, Electronic tabulators (centrally located) are used for optical scan, electronic voting, punch card, and lever machine systems

  31. Voting Technologies • ALL electronic election systems, including e-voting (touchscreen/DRE) and optical scan systems, currently use proprietary, undisclosed software, i.e., secret vote counting • There is NO government or public examination of the software for inaccurate or malicious code

  32. Your County Your County Contest 1 Contest 1 John Johnson John Johnson Pete Peterson Pete Peterson Lars Larson Lars Larson Sven Svenson Sven Svenson Optical Scan Voting Systems Paper ballots with “fill in the oval” or similar type of voter-marked paper ballot system Optical Scan Machine reads the paper ballots using an electronic Ballot Definition File (BDF) and votes are tabulated using proprietary, trade secret software Data transferred via disk or electronically Tabulated data is compiled on computer; the potential may exist for undetectable hacking and tampering with election results in database

  33. Electronic Election Systems So what’s the big controversy about these systems? Numerous studies and test demonstrations have shown that current electronic election systems, including paper ballot/optical scan systems, can have serious security flaws and potential for error

  34. Who Opposes These Systems? Computer scientists have been some of the primary activists leading the fight against electronic voting machines and tabulators that use proprietary (trade secret) software Dr. Avi Rubin Technical Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Rebecca Mercuri Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Dr. David Dill Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University

  35. Harri Hursti Finnish computer programming expert Test Demo. Discovers Flaws Recent News – Spring 2006: Harri Hursti, a computer programming expert from Finland, working with Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, discov- ered a major security flaw in the Popular Diebold AccuVote TSx e-voting system See Hursti’s reports at

  36. Hursti’s Findings • The machines can be contaminated through: • network connections (wireless or otherwise) • PCMCIA cards • other peripheral devices

  37. Hursti’s Findings • There are several backdoors that pose security risks • each backdoor exists in 3 layers and allows the system to be modified in extremely flexible ways without even basic levels of security involved

  38. Hursti’s Findings • The design allows someone to take over the computer motherboard and turn it into a zombie • Anyone with a screwdriver and a $20 electronic gadget bought at Fry’s can take control of the machines

  39. Hursti’s Findings • “[T]hese attacks are permanent in nature, surviving through the election cycles. Therefore, the contamination can happen at any point of the device's life cycle and remain active and undetected from the point of contamination on through multiple election cycles and even soft-ware upgrade cycles.” ~ Harri Hursti Source: Hursti, Harri. 2006. Diebold TSx Evaluation – SECURITY ALERT: May 11, 2006 Critical Security Issues with Diebold TSx; Black Box Voting, Inc. (

  40. Comments on Hursti’s Findings “What Mr. Hursti discovered in Utah is the most serious vulnerability that we've ever seen in a voting system. This particular vulnerability is serious enough that you can affect multiple machines from a single attack. That's what makes it so dangerous.” ~ David Jefferson, the Computer Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who independently reviewed Hursti's work for California's Secretary of State, Bruce McPherson

  41. Dr. Avi Rubin Technical Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University Comments on Hursti’s Findings “It is like the nuclear bomb for e-voting systems. It's the deal breaker. It really makes the security flaws that we found (in prior years) look trivial.” ~ Avi Rubin, computer science professor, Johns Hopkins University

  42. Harri Hursti Finnish computer programming expert Optical Scan Security Flaws June 3, 2005, Leon County, Florida: In a test demonstration done in conjunction with Black Box Voting and with the consent of Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho, Harri Hursti was able to hack into a Diebold optical scan system undetectably and change the results of a test election -- known as the “Hursti Hack”

  43. Hursti Hack Findings “The Diebold optical scan system uses a dangerous programming methodology, with an executable program living inside the [memory card of the] electronic ballot box. This method is the equivalent of having a little man living in the ballot box, holding an eraser and a pencil.” Source: (

  44. Hursti Hack Findings The Black Box Voting team “proved that the Diebold optical scan program, housed on a chip inside the voting machine, places a call to a program living in the removable memory card during the election. (contd.) Source: (

  45. Hursti Hack Findings (contd.) The demonstration also showed that the executable program on the memory card (ballot box) can easily be changed, and that checks and balances, required by FEC standards to catch unauthorized changes, were not implemented by Diebold—yet the system was certified anyway.” Source: (

  46. Hursti Hack Findings Routine logic & accuracy tests — touted by election officials across the nation as being the gold standard for discovering problems — will not catch this type of manipulation -- See Hursti’s reports at Harri Hursti Finnish computer programming expert Source: (

  47. Brennan Center Study Latest News – June 27, 2006: The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan think tank at NY University School of Law, released a report on its year-long study of vulnerabilities in electronic election systems Task force participants: internationally renowned government, academic, and private-sector scientists, voting machine experts and security professionals

  48. Brennan Center Study • The task force examined the 3 primary types of electronic election systems: • e-voting without a paper trail • e-voting with a voter-verified paper trail • precinct count optical scan systems • These systems account for 80% of the voting machines that will be used in Nov.'s election

  49. Brennan Center Study Findings • ALL of these electronic election systems “have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities” • There are more than 120 security threats to these systems Source: Brennan Center (

  50. Brennan Center Study Findings • ALL of these systems “are equally vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software or other software attack programs designed to take over a voting machine” • Such attacks could threaten the integrity of a state or national election Source: Brennan Center (