4
Jun
2005

All Spin All the Time: The Sale of Electoral Politics

Kerry would be in office now if we had been smarter about voter fraud. Now we know about it, and yet we are being hoodwinked and forced by HAVA to deal with two Republican brothers counting the vote. Please, spread the word and send this in your own way to reporters all over the country to see if they realize that our votes are being monopolized by partisan corporations? It's Haliburton all over again.

Dear Reporter Worthy of Reporting Real News:

The following is what I gave to County Recorder Connie McCormack, Supervisor Yvonne Burke and Supervisor Gloria Molina. As a person concerned with honest voting, I have made it my business to attend three Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meetings and spoke at one of them to voice my concern about electronic voting machines.

Thanks to my involvement, I was able to view a proposed prototype of a vote counting machine for Los Angeles County. Upon viewing the prototype, I agreed to not discuss details of the machinery, but I did not say I would not reveal the name of the company that made it nor agree to be quiet about my very serious worry that there is a voting machine monopoly running the country! It is Haliburton all over again- a one bid contract with a company that has strong partisan ties to defense contractors and the Republican party.

I am sorry, but I feel this needs to be aired in public. I think that what happened with the Haliburton contracts was deplorable, but who saw it coming? Now we have the chance to demand that other vote counting companies be considered, but without people knowing what is going on, we might be forced to use the partisan companies. Acuvote wanted to bid on the voting machines, but was told by the LA County Board of Supervisors to not even try. It was already sewn up.

ES&S, the company that built the protoype, has a history of making machines that count backwards. This is not acceptable, and yet none of this is in the newspaper, while it can still do some good. Please, let us prevent the end of honest voting and let this scandalous situation be investigated. Even if the companies made reliable, unriggable machines, there should be no "one bid" contracts where our voting rights are concerned.

Are all new HAVA-required machines being produced only by ES&S and Diebold? Is this monopoly fair to the free market ideals of America? Is the background of these companies being investigated before our tax money is spent?

Please carefully read the following article regarding the conflict of interests with voting machine companies like ES&S and Diebold, both owned by two Republican brothers, and you will understand my dismay at having this thrown upon us. Yes, we have paper ballots for now, but the vote counting machines they propose are wireless. The counting for now is said to be "unofficial" but once the machines are bought there is no guarantee that sometime down the line the paper ballots will be counted wirelessly over a computer line. America deserves better.

Please find out if HAVA requirements are forcing counties and States all over the country to deal with ES&S, Sequoia and Diebold, or if there are safeguards that allow other bidders- or more appropriately- demand that other non-partisan bidders be considered.

This is a very important survey and story. If indeed we are being forced into only using Bush-approved companies which are known to keep secrets and break down in favor of Republicans, our democracy is a sham and voting is a waste of time.

Thank you.
Mary Jacobs
(323) 260-4895


Please read the following, an article copied from the book, Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories Seven Stories Press, New York, NY (p. 57)

“The Sale of Electoral Politics”

(From Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories as collected by the Department of Sociology in the School of Social sciences at Sonoma State University
See //www.projectcensored.org for more info.)

Sources: In These Times , December 203 Title: “Voting Machines Gone Wild”
Author: Mark Lewellen and Biddle

The Independent (UK) October 13, 2003
Title “All the President’s Votes?”
Author: Andrew Gumbel

Democracy Now ! Sept. 4, 2003
Title: “Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver G. W. Another Election?” Reporter: Amy Goodman and Staff

Evaluators: Andy Merrifeild, Ph.D., Wendy Ostro, Ph. D., and Scott Gordon, Ph. D.
Student Researcher: Adam Stutz

Conflicts of interest exist between the largest suppliers of electronic voting machines for the United States and key leaders of the Republican Party. While the technical problems with the voting machines themselves have received a certain amount of coverage in the mainstream media, the political conflicts of interest, though well-documented, have received almost none. Election analysts on both sides of the fence are charging that while particular industries have traditionally formed alliances with one or another of the parties, political affiliations within the voting machines industry are inappropriate and have dangerous implications for our democratic process .

Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Diebold, and Sequoia are the companies primarily involved in implementing the new, often faulty, technology at voting stations throughout the country. All three have strong ties to the Bush Administration and other Republican leaders, along with major defense contractors in the United States. ES&S and Diebold, owned by brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich, will be counting about 80% of the votes cast in 2004. Each one of the three companies has a past plagued by financial scandal and political controversy.

In 1999, the Justice Department filed federal charges against
Sequoia alleging that employees paid out more than $8 million in bribes. Shortly thereafter, election officials for Pinellas County, Florida cancelled a $15 million contract with Sequoia after it was discovered that Phil Foster, a Sequoia executive, faced indictment for money laundering and bribery.

∑ Michael McCarthy, owner of ES&S (Formerly known as American Information Systems), served as Senator Chuck Hagel’s campaign manager in both the 1996 and 2002 elections. Senator Hagel (R-NE) owns close to $5 million in stock in the ES&S parent company. In 1996 and 2002, 80% of Senator’s Hagel’s votes were counted by ES&S.

∑ Diebold, the most well-known of these three major groups, is under scrutiny for a memo that Diebold’s CEO, Walden O’Dell, sent out promising Ohio’s votes to Bush in the 2004 election. Beyond this faux pas, intra-office memos were circulated on the Internet stating that Diebold employees were aware of bugs within their systems and that the network is poorly guarded against hackers.

∑ Diebold has now taken steps to use an outside organization, Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego, to take responsibility for security issues within their software. But this presents yet another conflict of interest. A majority of officials on the board are former members of either the Pentagon or the CIA, many of whom are allied with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Members of the board of directors include:

∑ Army Gen. Wayne Downing, former chief Counterterrorism expert on the National Security Council:
∑ Former CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman.
∑ Retired Admiral William Owens, who served as former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who now sits on Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board.
∑ and Robert Gates, former director of the CIA and veteran of the Iran Contra Scandal.
∑ Additionally, SAIC has had a plethora of charges brought against them including indictments by the Justice Department for the mismanagement of a Superfund toxic clean up and misappropriation of funds in the purchase of F-15 fighter jets.

Some of the most generous contributors to Republican campaigns are also some of the largest investors in ES&S, Sequoia, and Diebold. Most notable of these are government defense contractors Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Accenture, a member of the U.S, Coalition of Service Industries and a major proponent of privatization and free trade services provided by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the General Agreement on tariffs and trade (GATT). None of these contractors are politically neutral, and all have high stakes in the construction of electronic voting systems. Accenture was involved in the financial scandals and charged with incompetence in both Canada and the U.S. throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in October 2002, states have been required to submit plans to make the switch from punch card to a primarily electronic system in time for the 2004 elections. It should be noted that the voting machine companies continue to hold title to the software-even after implementation. Populex, the company contracted to provide voting systems in Illinois has former secretary Frank Carlucci on its advisory board.

UPDATE BY MARK LEWELLEN-BIDDLE:

I think this story concerns one of the most important issues of our time. From the beginning of the year, articles expressing concerns over the security of electronic voting machines and the lack of a verifiable paper trail have appeared in newspapers around the country as well as in mainstream magazines.

Since nearly 50 million Americans will cast their votes on electronic voting machines during the coming November elections, security and the verifiability of our votes is undeniably important. I believe, however, that the ongoing debate, as necessary as it is, remains focused on peripheral issues.

Few, if any, of the authors are pursuing questions raised in the original article: Why are IT companies and defense contractors so deeply involved in the movement to foist electronic voting machines onto not only the American electorate, but votes around the world? Why is there so much secrecy surrounding the companies who have designated themselves the certifiers of the security and reliability of electronic voting machines and software? Why is one of those self-designated testing centers, Wyle Labs, who recently admitted to certifying Sequoia software despite known flaws, still being allowed to certify voting software? If electronic voting is as safe and reliable as its proponents claim it to be, why did the Election Systems Task Force (Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, EDS and Accenture) deem it necessary to hire a high-powered Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm (Information Technology Association of America) to convince us? One does not have to be conspiratorially bent to admit that these are intriguing questions.

Another issue that is receiving no public scrutiny is that by taking the control of the electoral process away from local officials and placing it in the hands of a very small number of for-profit corporations, we are effectively privatizing America’s most public endeavor. After a recent election here in Lafayette using Diebold voting machines, I called election officials to ask some questions, one of them was “Where were the votes counted?” The election official responded, “Right here. We counted them ourselves. “ I asked how the votes were counted. Changing her tone to that of one instructing a third grader, the official patiently explained tome that “Each machine has a memory card that stores the votes. When the polls close, the bring all the cards back to the headquarters and insert them into a machines and count the votes” Understanding full well that the official missed the irony of her words, I thanked her for her time, and hung up.

I first became interested in electronic voting machines when I read Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting. It is an invaluable book for anyone concerned with the direction in which the American electoral process appears to be headed. Her website, //www.blackboxvoting.org contains a wealth of information, as well as numerous links to other organizations working toward the development of open voting solutions.

NOTE from Mary Jacobs: I recently met Peter Phillips at the Upton Sinclair Free Speech Awards Ceremony in San Pedro. He won this award for his efforts in bringing free speech to the forefront of our media by putting together this book, a group effort by Ph. D’s, students and the brave media people who still write truth. In a time when “news” is paid for by the powers that be, we have to find it in books called “Censored 2005”. How scary is that? As scary as computers counting my votes! As scary as electronic voting machines being owned and operated by partisan politicians and defense contractors. The original of this article was given to Supervisor Burke at the last meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Had I had the time, I would have read this to the board so that they would be aware of the concerns I have for our democracy .


STATEMENT BY MARY JACOBS (Grassroots –CA-OH-FL)

People all over the country are concerned about the validity of their votes. It is simply common sense to worry. We all have seen our computers go down. Why on earth would we trust a computer to save and count a vote, especially when the computer is made or certified by a private secretive corporation that has loyalties to political parties that make it their business to promote candidates who could profit their stockholders? According to the following very researched article, politicians and defense companies are on the board of directors of the companies certifying electronic voting machines. American people are being cheated by this conflict of interests.

As a high school and junior high teacher, I tell my students that they should participate in their government because they can make a difference and our government is of the people and for the people. I have given up three days of paid work as a teacher to learn something sad that doesn’t belong in a Social Studies textbook. What I have learned is that companies like Diebold and ES&S are connected with defense contractors and partisan companies. These defense people own stock in these vote counting companies. Worse, it doesn’t make headlines or seem to matter to our election officials.

Partisan politicians and defense companies that obviously would promote a war candidate should not own my right or your right to a fairly counted and honest vote! I know three days of a teacher’s pay is not a lot of money to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.NE), who owns $5 million in stock in one of the voting machines companies, but think of the $20 and $45 donations so many hundreds of thousands of people gave to campaigns in the belief that their votes would not be rigged. All that press, all that money is for nothing if it just takes a switch or some security glitch to undo the intention of the electorate. Trusting the vote is what we need, not fancy breakable technologies that common sense tells us are very dangerous to democracy.

Is it any wonder many people didn’t vote in the mayoral election this time around in Los Angeles? We would think you would take steps to win back our confidence, not make it more shaky. Americans all over this country need to believe their votes are counted honestly and openly by means that are not tainted by conflicts of interest or tampering. That is a precious right we deserve. It is up to our officials to preserve that right for us, and investigate all voting machines vendors to make sure that they are non-partisan and that they have no conflicts of interest with politicians or government spending contractors.

The results of these investigations belong on the front page of every newspaper in the United States and at the top of the hour on every TV and radio news report. That is the America that I want to teach. That is the ideal that our citizens deserve and that our voting officials are required to deliver.

Mary Jacobs (323) 260-4895 4115 Hammel St., Los Angeles, CA 90063
newpeacesign@aol.com



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