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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    New York Is Sued by U.S.

    Ever had your computer crash and you didn't back it up? Consider that any vote electronically made can be easily altered and no one would know. Paper ballots can be lost or destroyed but they can also be recounted, and if they are lost or destroyed, we find out about it. Remember 2002?

    New York Is Sued by U.S. on Delay of Vote System

    ALBANY, March 1 — The Justice Department sued New York State on Wednesday for failing to overhaul its election system and replace its aging voting machines. It is the first lawsuit the federal government has filed to force a state to comply with the voting guidelines enacted by Congress after the 2000 election debacle.

    The new federal guidelines were designed to prevent the kind of electoral chaos that marred the 2000 presidential election in Florida, and to make casting ballots easier for disabled voters. But New York State's efforts to modernize its election system have fallen far behind the rest of the nation, delayed by Albany's chronic gridlock and partisan bickering.

    New York was supposed to create a statewide database of registered voters by Jan. 1 to make it easier to register and to detect fraud. It has not even come close to doing so, the lawsuit contends.

    And while New York has accepted more than $49 million in federal aid to replace its creaky mechanical voting machines by this fall's elections, it has yet to tell localities what kinds of new voting machines will be acceptable. So most counties say it will be impossible to buy new machines and train poll workers in time.

    The lawsuit calls on the court to give the state 30 days to develop a plan for fully complying with the law in time for the fall elections. At this late date, though, it is doubtful that the state will be able to do so. State officials, who do not dispute that they have failed to comply, say that they hope to reach a settlement that sets out several stopgap compliance measures.

    New York — which has received more than $221 million in federal funds so far to overhaul its voting system — could stand to lose some or all of the $49 million it has received for new voting machines, according to the lawsuit, which was filed here Wednesday in United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

    Other states — including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California and Ohio — have struggled to carry out some provisions of the federal law, the Help America Vote Act. But election-reform advocates and the Justice Department say New York ranks dead last when it comes to complying with it.

    In January, Wan J. Kim, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division, wrote in a letter to the state that "it is clear that New York is not close to approaching full H.A.V.A. compliance and, in our view, is further behind in that regard than any other state in the country."

    Civic groups have long warned that New York's aging election machines are an accident waiting to happen. During the last three mayoral elections in New York City, there has been confusion over the vote tallies in either primaries or runoff elections.

    The suit was a stinging rebuke to the state and once again highlighted Albany's failure to address pressing state issues, like its two-decade-long failure to pass a state budget on time or its unwillingness to comply with a court decision ordering more state aid to New York City schools.

    The Justice Department noted in a news release on Wednesday that "states had nearly three years to comply with the provisions enforced under today's lawsuit" and said that New York "was not close to compliance" with the federal law. No other state has been sued for failing to comply with the law, but Justice Department officials say that they are having discussions with some other states about their voting plans.

    The state and the Justice Department have been negotiating for weeks to try to avoid a lawsuit, and state officials said that they expect those talks to continue. "We've engaged in extensive negotiations and, despite the lawsuit, we are hopeful an agreement can be reached to resolve this matter," said Christine Pritchard, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, which is defending the state.

    Recent negotiations have centered on settling the suit with a consent decree that would create a stopgap measure for this fall's elections, when New Yorkers will choose a United States senator, a governor, an attorney general, a comptroller and all 212 state lawmakers.

    The measure, which elections officials call "Plan B," would allow the old mechanical voting machines to be used again this fall, while making options available for disabled voters at each polling site. The alternatives could involve machines that would print ballots, which could then be marked, and a system for disabled people to cast votes by phone.

    The efforts to modernize the system have proceeded at a glacial pace, even with the infusion of federal money. The State Legislature dragged its feet on passing a state law to overhaul the election system because the issue became tied up with a partisan squabble over appointments at the state's Board of Elections.

    The law that it passed and that Gov. George E. Pataki finally signed last summer left many of the biggest issues unresolved. It was left to the counties to decide what brand of voting machines to buy, and to the State Board of Elections to set the standards telling them which types of voting machines will be acceptable.

    The board has yet to set the standards, and localities, including New York City, have complained that the most recent proposals are unacceptable.

    Election officials say that they plan to model their statewide voter database — which was supposed to be set up by Jan. 1 — on a system used by the State of Washington.

    The lawsuit notes that the state has yet to publish the rules governing how the database should be compiled. Nor has it begun seeking contractors to create the list, or established the technical requirements for the list.

    Robert Brehm, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said that the board believes it can have an interim voter database up and running by July or August, and have the final database ready in the beginning of 2007.

    Civic groups, which have complained for years that New York was moving too slowly, are now concerned that the federal lawsuit will rush the state into adopting a flawed voting system. "The rotten H.A.V.A. implementation process on the state level shouldn't be mirrored by a rotten judicial enforcement process at the federal level trying to impose a solution on New York," said Neal Rosenstein, the government coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: New York Is Sued by U.S.

    Which Corporation Owns Your Vote?
    by Thom Hartmann

    “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery...” – Thomas Paine

    Santa Clara County, of all jurisdictions in America, should have known better. They could have started by looking at Florida.

    Jeb Bush stole the vote in Florida in 2000 by kicking thousands of legitimately registered black voters off the voting rolls because they had similar names to Texas felons, a feat well documented by Greg Palast and the mainstream British press. In a brilliant bit of misdirection, Bush portrayed the problem as one of incompetent elderly voters, dumb minority voters, and a problem with “chads” – unreliable voting technology.

    Bush's answer was to install touch-screen voting machines across Florida in time for the 2002 election. (In this, he was following a similar course as Georgia, Texas, and 30 other key states, in large part because of $3.9 billion in federal funds offered by the “Help America Vote Act” passed just after the 2000 election to encourage states to replace government-run paper-trail vote systems with no-paper-trail computerized systems from private corporate vendors.)

    The “Help America Vote Act” passed just after the 2000 election encourages states to replace government-run paper-trail vote systems with no-paper-trail computerized systems from private corporate vendors.

    But in the November 2002 election, when some Florida voters pressed the touch-screen “button” for Bush's Democratic opponent, votes were instead recorded for Bush. “Misaligned” touch-screen voting machines were blamed for the computer-driven vote-theft, and when a losing candidate in Palm Beach sued to inspect the software of Florida's computerized voting machines, a local judge denied the petition, citing the privacy rights of the corporation that wrote the programs.

    This was followed by January 2003 revelations that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was the former head (and a current stockholder) of the private voting machine company that tabulated the vote in Nebraska – where he ran for office and won – and that he had neglected to tell Senate ethics investigators about it.

    Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was the former head (and current stockholder) of the private voting machine company that tabulated the vote in Nebraska – where he ran for office and won – and he neglected to tell Senate ethics investigators about it.

    And in February of 2003, Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.com noticed a wide-open FTP site. Harris had just done a Google search on the company that tabulated most of the vote in Georgia in the 2002 election. (That was the upset election that saw popular war-hero Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, defeated by a poll-trailing draft dodger who campaigned by questioning Cleland's patriotism.) Walking into the unsecured FTP website, she says she found a software patch that was apparently applied statewide to Georgia's voting machines just days before the election, and a folder titled “rob-georgia.”

    And corporate control of America's vote has reached beyond the borders of this nation. The last week of February, New York's Newsday reported in a story by staff writer Mark Harrington that: “Election.com, a struggling Garden City start-up scheduled to provide online absentee ballots for U.S. military personnel in the 2004 federal election, has quietly sold controlling power to an investment group with ties to unnamed Saudi nationals, according to company correspondence.”

    Fast-forward a few days to the first week of March, 2003.

    Dan Spillane, a former software engineer for a voting machine company that includes a former CIA Director and Dick Cheney's former assistant on its board of directors, has sued his employer for firing him when he pointed out holes in their system that he claims could lead to vote-rigging. Although there is a certification process for ensuring the honesty of votes tabulated by computerized, touch-screen voting machines, according to Spillane the system works “very much like Arthur Andersen in the Enron case.” (Anderson Consulting has renamed itself, added Microsoft's CEO to its board, and gone into the business of helping corporations get contracts to perform previously government-run services.)

    Spillane filed his lawsuit the same week that Santa Clara County, California, decided to hand their electoral process over to computerized electronic voting machines programmed by a private corporation. The machines generate no paper trail that can be audited, and when voting machine companies have been challenged to produce audits of their vote or to disclose details of their software, they cite the privacy rights that come from corporations being considered “persons” in the United States.

    Of all localities in America, Santa Clara County should have been the wariest. This is the county, after all, that sued the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 over non-payment of taxes and, in losing the lawsuit, paved the way for the corporate takeover of the United States of America.

    When the railroad suggested to the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment, which freed the slaves by guaranteeing all persons equal protection under the law regardless of race, had also freed corporations because they should be considered “persons” just like humans, the attorney for Santa Clara County, Delphin M. Delmas, fought back ferociously.

    “The shield behind which [the Southern Pacific Railroad] attacks the Constitution and laws of California is the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Delmas before the Supreme Court. “It argues that the Amendment guarantees to every person within the jurisdiction of the State the equal protection of the laws; that a corporation is a person; that, therefore, it must receive the same protection as that accorded to all other persons in like circumstances.”

    The entire idea was beyond the pale, Delmas said. “The whole history of the Fourteenth Amendment,” he told the Court, “demonstrates beyond dispute that its whole scope and object was to establish equality between men – an attainable result – and not to establish equality between natural and artificial beings – an impossible result.”

    The purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed just after the Civil War, was clear, Delmas said. “Its mission was to raise the humble, the down-trodden, and the oppressed to the level of the most exalted upon the broad plane of humanity – to make man the equal of man; but not to make the creature of the State – the bodiless, soulless, and mystic creature called a corporation – the equal of the creature of God.”

    He summarized his pleadings before the Supreme Court by saying, “Therefore, I venture to repeat that the Fourteenth Amendment does not command equality between human beings and corporations; that the state need not subject corporations to the same laws which govern natural persons; that it may, without infringing the rule of equality, confer upon corporations rights, privileges, and immunities which are not enjoyed by natural persons; that it may, for the same reasons, impose burdens upon a corporation, in the shape of taxation or otherwise, which are not imposed upon natural persons.”

    Delmas had every reason to assume the Court would agree with him – it already had in several similar cases. In an 1873 decision, Justice Samuel F. Miller wrote in the majority opinion that the Fourteenth Amendment's “one pervading purpose was the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppression of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him.”

    And, in fact, the Court chose to stay with its previous precedent. It ruled on the tax aspects of the case, but explicitly avoided any decision on whether or not corporations were persons. “There will be no occasion to consider the grave questions of constitutional law” raised by the railroad, the Court ruled in its majority opinion. The case was about property taxes and not personhood, and, “As the judgment can be sustained upon this ground, it is not necessary to consider any other questions raised by the pleadings.”

    But just as computerized voting machines can be reprogrammed, so too, apparently, could a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Court's reporter – a former railroad president – took it upon himself to grant corporations personhood in the commentary (headnote) he wrote on the case, even though it explicitly contradicted the justices' ruling itself. (And to this day other forms of association, like unions, unincorporated small businesses, and even governments do not have personhood rights.)

    But corporations have claimed the First Amendment right of persons to free speech and struck down thousands of state and federal laws against corporations giving money to politicians or influencing elections; they've claimed Fourteenth Amendment rights against discrimination to prevent communities from “discriminating” against huge out-of-town retailers or corporate criminals; and have claimed Fourth Amendment rights of privacy that will prevent voters or public officials from examining the software that runs their computerized voting machines.

    Now corporations will be telling the citizens of Santa Clara County how they voted. And those same corporations will use the shield of corporate personhood – once valiantly disputed before the Supreme Court by the county's attorney – to withhold from the county's voters the right to “look behind the curtain” at the corporate-owned software and computerized processes that tabulate their vote. How sadly ironic.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: New York Is Sued by U.S.

    Voting Machines Gone Wild
    by Mark Lewellen-Biddle
    In These Times magazine, January 2004

    As the federally mandated deadline nears for state election officials to replace lever and punch-card voting machines with electronic systems, disturbing and systemic problems are emerging.

    E-voting has obvious downsides-no ability to check recorded votes, no ability to perform meaningful recounts and susceptibility to electronic voting fraud. Nonetheless, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates that by January 1 states submit plans to make the switch in time for the 2006 elections.

    More troubling, the backers of the act and the manufactures of e-voting machines are a rat's nest of conflicts that includes Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Accenture. Why are major defense contractors like Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed-Martin mucking about in the American electoral system? And who are Accenture and EDS?

    Until January 1, 2001, Accenture was known as Andersen Consulting, a part of Arthur Andersen. Despite having offshore headquarters, Accenture is a member of the U.S. Coalition of Service Industries (USCSI), an industry association that promotes vastly extending the privatization and free trade in services via the WTO and GATT. It also is a member of U.S. Trade, the coalition that pushed for fast-track trade authority. In February 2001, Accenture and election.com, the leading global election software and services company, formed "an alliance to jointly deliver comprehensive election solutions to governments worldwide.... The companies will combine their strengths and experience in the development of election software and the use of technology to offer governments new efficiencies that aid election administration." Election.com also has a contract with the Federal Voter Assistance program to provide online absentee balloting for the armed services. It is expected to be completely electronic, that is, have no paper trail against which to check results.

    This is worrisome because Accenture already has been involved in scandals in the United States and Canada. In the late '90s, the company was hired to overhaul Ontario's welfare service for $50 million-$70 million. By 2002, the project was capped at $180 million, although the total reached $246 million. To meet its contractual agreement with Accenture, the Ontario government was forced to cut welfare payments to $355.71 per child in poverty and fire large numbers of social service workers. Election.com also had problems in Canada. The company contracted to provide online Internet voting for the National Democratic Party in 2003, but hackers paralyzed the central computer and disrupted voting. The security and accuracy of election.com's voting software has since come under attack by Canadian voters who also challenged the ballotless software.

    EDS, another internationally oriented information technology corporation, recently received a $51 million subcontract from Sytel Inc, a software and service provider to the Army, Air Force and Dow Chemical, among others, to "support personnel systems including personnel management, hiring and job postings, employee training, job exchange programs and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint tracking for the Department of Homeland Security."

    Partisan ties

    Why Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, EDS and Accenture have been hired to alter the election process in America becomes clear when personnel is considered. The three largest voting machine companies in America are Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Sequoia and Diebold. Like Accenture, they, too, have tarnished pasts.

    ES&S, formerly American Information Systems, is owned by the McCarthy Group, which was founded in the '90s by Michael McCarthy, campaign director to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) during the 1996 and 2002 elections. In a January interview with Bev Harris on talion.com, McCarthy said that "Hagel still owns up to $5 million in the ES&S parent company, the McCarthy Group" and that "Hagel also had owned shares in AIS Investors Inc., a group of investors in ES&S itself." According to Harris, "Hagel did not disclose owning or selling shares in AIS Investors Inc." to the Senate Ethics Committee, "nor did he disclose that ES&S is an underlying asset of McCarthy Group." In an October article in the London Independent, Andrew Gumbel writes that Hagel "became the first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska, cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a big investor in ES&S." In what can only be called a glaring conflict of interest, "80 per cent (sic) of Mr. Hagel's winning votes-both in 1996 and in 2002-were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company."

    Sequoia is the second-largest company, with roughly one-third of the voting machine market. In 1999, the Justice Department filed federal charges against Sequoia alleging that employees paid out more than $8 million in bribes. In 2001, election officials in Pinellas County, Florida, cancelled a $15.5 million contract for voting equipment after discovering that Phil Foster, a Sequoia executive, faced indictment in Louisiana for money laundering and corruption.
    Diebold is probably the best known of the three because of its recent unsuccessful attempt to quash the release of thousands of inter-office memos over the Internet. The memos show that Diebold executives were aware of bugs in the company's software and warn that the network is poorly protected against hackers. The company also came under scrutiny because of voting irregularities caused by its machines in the 2000 election in Florida.
    Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell is an avid supporter of George W. Bush and has come under attack for penning a fund-raising letter in which he promised to help deliver Ohio's votes to Bush in 2004. Diebold has been retained by the state of Maryland to provide voting software for the 2004 election, but because of ongoing negative publicity, Diebold hired Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego, to assess the security of the company's voting software.

    But wait, there's more

    Many SAIC officers are current or former government and military officials. Retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, who until last summer served as chief counter-terrorism expert on the National Security Council, is a member of SAIC's board. Also on the board is former CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman, who served as director of the National Security Agency, deputy director of the CIA and vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. During the first Bush administration and while on the board of SAIC, Inman was a member of the National Foreign Intelligence Board, an advisory group that reports to the president and to the director of Central Intelligence.

    Retired Adm. William Owens, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who sits on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board, served as SAIC's president and CEO and until recently was its vice chairman. He now is chairman of the board of VoteHere, which seeks to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry. Robert Gates, ex-CIA director, former SAIC board member and a veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal, also is on the board of VoteHere.
    SAIC has a history of problems. In a 1995 article in Web Review, investigative journalist Stephen Pizzo notes that in 1990 the Justice Department indicted SAIC on 10 felony counts for fraud, claiming that SAIC mismanaged a Superfund toxic cleanup site. SAIC pleaded guilty. In 1993 the Justice Department again brought charges against the company for "civil fraud on an F-15 fighter contract." In May 1995, the company was charged with Iying "about security system tests it conducted for a Treasury Department currency plant in Fort Worth, Texas."

    It is not clear how SAIC became the company of choice to evaluate security standards of the voting machine industry. Under HAVA, Bush is required to establish an "oversight committee, headed by two Democrats and two Republicans, as well as a technical panel to determine standards for new voting machinery. The four commission heads were to be in place by last February, but [as of October 13] just one has been appointed. The technical panel also remains unconstituted, even though the new machines it is supposed to vet are already being sold in large quantities," Gumbel says.
    Many computer experts agree that electronic voting represents the most feasible means of conducting large-scale elections, but not until security of the software can be established. But the voting machine companies want to retain secrecy over their codes as well as maintain control over the entire voting process, including the counting of ballots.

    Most voting machines do not provide a paper trail so, in the case of a recount, all one can do is push a button and watch as the computer spits out the same set of numbers.

    Americans are being rushed into this electronic voting frontier with little public awareness of the consequences. Diebold already has between 35,000 and 50,000 machines in place around the country. With the government investing nearly $4 billion in voting machines, those who insist on ensuring that the system is secure have been shunted aside.

    Perhaps this is how the administration intends to bring democracy to the world: Hold elections using voting machines supplied by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia and elect friendly governments. Then, hope that those people who have never experienced the democratic process won't know the difference. More troubling is that many Americans may not know the difference, either.

    Mark Lewellen-Biddle is working on his Ph.D. in American Studies and Political Science at Purdue University.

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