(IPS) Vote-Flipping Reported on E-Voting Machines

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This article first appeared on Inter-Press Service at: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=44559

CHARLESTON, West Virginia, Nov 3 (IPS) – Several U.S. citizens reported watching their votes flip on electronic voting machines in different states during the early voting period, highlighting the continued vulnerability of “e-voting” systems, which about 50 million U.S. citizens will use on Tuesday, despite problems since as early as 2004.

Most of the voters with complaints so far have said they saw their votes flipped from the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, to Republican Sen. John McCain, although at least three voters in Tennessee reported the reverse.

Vote-flipping has been reported so far in at least four states — Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — out of the 31 states where early voting has taken place.

However, the reports of vote-flipping are just of the tip of the iceberg, according to Emily Levy of Velvet Revolution, a voter rights group.

“Votes can be flipped inside an electronic voting machine without there being any indication to the voter,” Levy told IPS. As previously reported by IPS, the machines have been proven by academic experts to be vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.

Moreover, there is no meaningful way to conduct a recount with Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines, because with DREs, there are no ballots to recount, only a final tally. There’s no way to know whether there’s any relationship between that total and how voters voted that day.

“So, while visible vote flipping on the screen is clearly a problem, the absence of that doesn’t indicate the absence of a problem,” Levy said.

“These machines don’t work. The worst thing is… there is still no way to verify that any vote ever cast on them in any election for candidate or initiative on the ballot has ever been recorded accurately as per the voter’s intent. Impossible,” Brad Friedman, a noted elections integrity blogger at Bradblog.com, told IPS.

“The solution is hand-counted ballot papers,” Levy said.

Virginia Matheney of Jackson County, West Virginia, reported problems on the first day of early voting.

“When I pressed to enter my vote for the Democrat, the check mark jumped to the one above, to the Republican. Well, I pressed the Democrat again, and it jumped up again,” Matheney told Video the Vote, a nonprofit election protection organisation, according to a video posted on the website, Youtube.com.

“So I asked the poll worker, well, why would this machine not allow me to vote for my candidate? She said, well, it’s got a sensitive screen. She said you’re touching it too hard, just use the tip of your fingernail to touch it, which I did. Then I went to the next candidate, well, it did the same thing,” Matheney said.

“I proceeded to have problems all through the ballot,” Matheney said.

The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia has since reported of a total of least 16 voters in six counties in the state who saw their votes flip.

County and state election officials in West Virginia insist that either the machines were out of calibration or that the voters themselves were making errors.

“I don’t think it is serious. I don’t think it is a problem with the machine,” Monongalia County Clerk Carye L. Blaney told The Charleston Gazette.

“I’ll say this: we [my daughter and I] pushed the box. I didn’t punch on no line. Okay? We hit where the Democrat ticket [sic] and it immediately jumped up to the Republican ticket. Went on down, when I hit for the governor, Democrat, it jumped up to the Republican,” Calvin Thomas, told Video the Vote.

An incident in Aurora, Colorado led the Adams County clerk and recorder, Karen Long, to quarantine a machine.

State Senate candidate Mary Hodge, a Democrat, told the Aurora Sentinel she received a complaint from the voter, who tried to vote for her three times, but “it would pop up Hadfield”, the name of her Republican opponent.

Velvet Revolution had previously called on election officials to quarantine any problematic machines, because other states like West Virginia have simply recalibrated their machines when errors have arisen.

When recalibrating the machines, elections officials insert a memory card which could contain malicious code, Levy said.

One report out of Tennessee involved three voters in Decatur County — Franklin Boroughs and Wanda and Barney Blasingim — who said they tried voting for McCain and watched their votes jump to Obama, according to the Decatur County Chronicle.

Even television talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, told her viewers that the machine did not record her presidential vote at first, but she was able to fix it when reviewing her vote at the end.

“I didn’t obviously mark the X strong enough or I held down too long because then when I went back to check it, it had not recorded my presidential vote, and I was like,” Winfrey said, reenacting gasping sounds.

However, despite the problems across the country, the national corporate media and the Obama campaign have remained mostly silent on the issue.

“We see local papers cover these incidents but the national media does not connect the dots to see the same thing happening with same systems in state after state after state,” Friedman said.

Obama’s chief election law attorney, Bob Bauer, told the New Mexico Independent there was data from the 2004 election showing Democratic voters are turned off by discussion of problems with e-voting.

“It’s never helpful if the environment is filled with hyperbole about false claims. Voters don’t want to hear it,” Bauer told the online news service.

“We’re not talking about false claims,” Friedman said. “They [Democratic leaders] have convinced themselves that somehow it suppresses the vote to talk about this stuff. They hear it over and over from the old school dinosaur Democrats about voter fears.”

“We’re not saying their vote doesn’t count. We’re saying fight to make it count,” Friedman said, adding he believes that citizens are more aware and organised than they were in 2004.

However, Friedman believes the problem is worse now than it was in 2004, even though some states have gone back to paper ballots, because even more states are using e-voting now than before and many states are now using electronic poll books, which he says are also problematic.

(END/2008)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable is matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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