17 October 2014

There are good reasons why the Lord wrote down the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and not on a computer chip. He didn’t want Moses choosing just his favorite six.

The sun had not set on Election Day when The San Jose Mercury News gave us the good news: “No Major Glitches Reported with Electronic Voting Machines .”

I was glad to hear that! But I had a question for the Mercury and all the other papers that had repeated this happy news, “How do you know?” Exactly what tests of the computer processors did you conduct, what electronic log audit did you review, what paper trail did you follow? Exactly how, my journalist comrades, did you conclude that the new touch-screen voting machines recorded the vote as voters intended?

If the computers are hacked, if the central tabulators in far-off locations are messed with, what exactly did you expect to see—smoke rising from the computer tabulators? A siren going off with a metallic voice screeching, I’ve been hacked! I’ve been hacked!?

Why is it that America’s media elite nearly broke its collective legs in rushing to report that all was A-OK with the touch-screen machines used by 36 million voters? The voters themselves, at exit polls, said they voted for Kerry, but the computers tell us they were lying: The computers said that more people secretly voted for Bush. The computers never get it wrong, are never messed with, never crash.

We hope.

I’m not going to tell you that the computers were hacked on November 2. I don’t know. But for the Media-Bush Axis to pronounce that all went well, that no one toyed with our tallies, without taking twenty minutes to check out the weird data leaking out, is journalism that would have made Pravda proud.

There’s too much evidence of systematic anomalies and problems to say, “All’s well, sleep tight.”

A month after the election, I flew to Columbus, Ohio, and met with investigators Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman. Unlike the Mercury and the rest of the media’s see-no-evil gang, Fitrakis and Wasserman thought they should actually get these basic documents that backed up the touch-screen tallies. As was their right under the states’ Freedom of Information Law. They petitioned officials in the state to produce their voting-machine backup logs. The first reply was none too comforting.

“The backup tapes have been destroyed so as not to conflict with the official tally and create confusion.”

Huh? The computer logs were different than the “official” totals... so the county did the right thing: threw the evidence in the garbage.

Wasserman and Fitrakis were gob smacked—not just because the true vote was tossed out but because, as lawyers, they told me that chucking voting records is a crime. But heck, if a presidental election can be shoplifted, early recycling of some official papers seems like pretty small stuff.

What about the other counties? Once the two lawyers started raising a stink, the other counties simply refused to hand over the records.

I’d feel a whole lot better about democracy-in-a-box if I could get a receipt for my vote. I get a receipt for a Slurpee, I get a bank statement on my ATM withdrawals, why not a receipt for my choice for president? And by “receipt,” I don’t mean something you take out of the voting booth. That wouldn’t do much good. The “receipt” is a printed copy of your ballot with all choices marked. Put that printed paper ballot in a locked box at the polling station and—voilá!—any questions about the computer can be answered by matching them to the ballots it printed.

But, we were told, that can’t be done.

But it can be. Maybe not in Third World places like Florida or Ohio, but it was accomplished in Venezuela. There, President Hugo Chávez, facing a recall vote, feared that opposition governors would steal the election. All the voting booths in the nation were converted to computers that printed paper ballots—so you could see and touch your ballot (or smell and taste it, if you wished). Chávez won by a million votes—and when the Bush Administration yowled at the outcome, Chávez said, “Well, recount the votes.” A fair election with verified paper audit: one more reason to hate Hugo Chávez.

By the way, Venezuela’s computer vote machines that could, astonishingly, print out ballots, were made in Florida.

Back in the USA, Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc., the company with the funky push-button machines that ate the Chicano vote in New Mexico, was busy rolling out its new computer democracy machines. Three months before the 2004 election the company showed off its new touch-screen box to the California State Legislature with a waycool button that could switch the screen from English to Spanish. It worked perfectly—until you counted the votes. The choices of those who used the English-language screen tallied just fine. But if a voter hit the “Español” button, it turns out, their vote didn’t add to the machine’s totals. The company said it was just a glitch they would fix. Maybe they did, but ¿ quién sabe ?

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Excerpted from Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. ©2006 by Greg Palast. For more information and updates, please go to GregPalast.com .