Re: A Deafening Silence As Democracy Expires

From: Nathan L. Adams <adamsn79_at_bellsouth_dot_net>
Date: Tue Mar 09 2004 - 19:39:57 CST

Perhaps he is writing from the perspective of a newly-enlightened
non-technical person for dramatic effect..

Its a fairly good narrative in my opinion.


On Tuesday 09 March 2004 07:27 pm, Mark Hull-Richter wrote:
> I am more disturbed by the naiveté of this programmer from Silicon Valley
> who has been so ignorant of this problem for this long. Ronnie Dugger
> raised the alarm 16 years ago (thank you, Alan :-), Bev Harris resurrected
> it two years ago and a lot of us have been screaming about it ever since.
> I expect a professional programmer to be at least aware of the problem
> before he went to the polls for his "surprise"....
> Mark Hull-Richter
> U.S.A. - From democracy to kakistocracy in one fell coup.
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Arthur
> Keller
> Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 16:09
> To:
> Subject: [voting-project] A Deafening Silence As Democracy Expires
> A Deafening Silence As Democracy Expires
> The Perfect World Of Electronic Voting
> By Brian Barry
> 3-5-4
> "This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections are
> now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or prove
> fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are free of
> fraud." ? I've always wondered what sound Democracy would make if it died.
> ? On Tuesday night, I found out in Santa Clara,California. The sound it
> makes is a deafening silence, and it sent chills up and down my spine. This
> sound scared me more than anything I've ever heard in my life. ? That night
> I experienced the illusion of casting my vote on a state of the art touch
> screen "DRE" (direct recording electronic) computer voting system. The poll
> workers were helpful and showed me how to vote. However, when I asked them
> a detailed question such as, who is the vendor that makes these voting
> machines, all I got was a blank stare. Do you have any information on these
> machines? No answer. I had to examine the machines myself to find out who
> made them. I didn't know that my most basic question was going to be a
> rhetorical one. ? The particular model I went through the motions of voting
> on was an "AVC Edge" with a software (firmware) version of 4.2.4 (according
> to the label on the back), manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems of
> Oakland, California. However, the software version number displayed on the
> touch screen was 4.2, not 4.2.4. (Should I be concerned that the software
> running didn't match the label on the back?) You can even view a
> demonstration of how the AVC Edge works on their company web site. ? The
> poll worker politely programmed a smart card for me with my political party
> affiliation. I inserted the card into the voting machine which started the
> voting process. The voting machine displayed my choices to me based on my
> political party and I made all my choices very easily by touching the
> screen. ? I didn't make a single mistake. ? After I completed making all my
> selections, the screen displayed this message: "Touch Here To Cast Your
> Ballot". So I did. ? Then the machine displayed this message: ? "Recording
> Vote. Please Wait." ? A couple of moments went by, then the machine
> displayed this final message: ? "Vote Recorded, Thank You" ? I waited for
> the output. Nothing happened. Ok, I guess I was done voting. ? It would
> have been a wonderful experience except for one thing. There was something
> missing. Something very important. ? There was no human-readable, physical
> evidence that my vote had been captured and stored the way that I had
> intended. Sequoia claims that my vote was stored inside that machine, but
> there was no way to verify this. Since there was no physical voting
> document produced, there was also no way to recount my vote if the election
> was ever disputed. ? Why wasn't the machine creating a punched card showing
> my vote selections? Why wasn't the machine printing a sheet of paper that
> could be optically scanned showing how I voted that I could read myself to
> verify that it recorded my choices correctly? Where was that physical
> output that would be used to actually count my vote and that would also be
> used during a recount if one was necessary. Without the physical output,
> how could anyone ever do an audit? ? Human monitoring of the step between
> capturing of the votes and counting of the votes has been eliminated and
> instead has been placed under corporate control. ? This is a brilliant
> strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections are now perfect by
> design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or prove fraud in an
> election, then you can claim that all elections are free of fraud. Sequoia
> says on their web site that "No other company can match Sequoia's pedigree
> and reputation for accurate, trouble free elections." How could anyone ever
> prove them wrong? ? Fraud-free elections. That's one less thing to worry
> about. ? The last step in my voting exercise came after the polls closed.
> The poll worker opened up the voting machine from the back and removed what
> looked like a flash card (like what you put into your digital camera). The
> flash card said "128 MB" on it, which is a large storage capacity. This is
> like an electronic floppy disk and anyone in possession of it can modify
> its contents. Why did they choose a medium for storing the votes that can
> be modified? ? When I was done voting, nothing came out of this "Direct
> Recording Electronic (DRE)" voting machine. But I had completely
> misunderstood the purpose of this exercise. ? The purpose of this voting
> exercise wasn't to capture my vote. ? The purpose of this voting exercise
> was to demonstrate to me the power that corporations now have to control
> the entire voting process from the capture of my vote, to recording it, all
> the way through the counting process. If the voting machine modified or
> deleted my vote, would anyone notice? ? One company now can do it all. They
> have the Holy Grail. I was impressed but also horrified by this display of
> power, because unfortunately, that also means we no longer live in a
> democracy. ? If the voting machine had generated a human-readable physical
> document showing my vote selections that I could visually verify, then hand
> carry over to the poll worker and hand to them and say, "here is my vote",
> I could then watch them place this vote document into a sealed and locked
> box, just like they did last fall when they were still using punched cards.
> ? I'm not interested in a printed receipt to take home with me showing how
> I voted. This isn't a grocery store. I don't need to be convinced that the
> voting machine has captured my vote. I already saw my vote selections on
> screen. What I want to know is that my vote gets counted unmodified. ? If
> the voting machine had captured my voting selections into a physical form
> that I could then verify and that I also knew, and this is the important
> part, that I also knew would be used to count my vote and would also be
> used in a recount if that were required. It's important that the physical
> output be used in the normal process of counting all the votes, not just
> used only if there's an audit. If the voting machine had been designed to
> do that, well then I would say, what a great improvement on voting this
> was. How much easier it is now to vote. ? But that's not what happened.
> Nothing came out of the machine. ? The voting machine sat there silently,
> without even the soft hum of a fan to remind me that it was a computer. ? I
> was supposed to trust that this voting machine, which is a physical
> expression of the intent of the Sequoia Voting Systems Corporation to make
> a profit, was going to take good care of my vote. ? Democracy isn't about
> trust. Democracy is about distrust. ? It's ironic that Sequoia's web site
> quotes Winston Churchill's remark he made in 1947 that "democracy is the
> worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried
> from time to time." ? Democracy didn't just die last night in Santa Clara,
> California. It was silently strangled. The noise was deafening. Was I the
> only one that heard it? ? -
> Brian D. Barry is an activist and computer scientist interested in
> democracy living in Silicon Valley,California.
> He can be reached at: ?

Nathan L. Adams
<nadams <at>>
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Received on Wed Mar 31 23:17:04 2004

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