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Candidates challenge Diebold

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Two third-party candidates are performing a public service. Ralph Nader and David Cobb have sought recounts of ballots in the race for president. The recounts will test the accuracy of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. voting machines. By taking the initiative, the candidates for president bypass the issue of standing to challenge election results most citizens would face. They also get good publicity for themselves. But, nothing is perfect. I commend them for assuming the cloak of ‘statesman.’

The Pioneer Press has briefs.

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire is about to become a test case for the accuracy of optical scan vote-counting machines because third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has asked for a recount. The request covers 11 of the state’s 126 precincts that use Diebold Inc.’s Accuvote optical scanning machines to count paper ballots. Depending on the results, Nader’s campaign could ask for recounts in other states, a spokesman said.

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb has announced that his campaign has raised enough money to force Ohio to recount its presidential vote. The state allows candidates to demand recounts if they pay — about $113,000 for a statewide recount. Cobb’s campaign raised $150,000 in just four days. The money came entirely in online donations, his spokesman said, eclipsing Cobb’s own fund raising for the entire election cycle.

There are two controversies swirling around electronic voting. The paperless voting machines provided by Diebold are said to produce opportunities for error and fraud. Since there is no hard copy proof of voters choices, they, at the very least, open the door to skepticism. In addition, the computers Diebold uses to record the votes from paper ballots are said to be hackable or easy to program to produce a given result intentionally. The foremost critic of Diebold, Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, believes the use of Microsoft software makes the machines vulnerable. According to her and other critics, altering even a single line of code can change the way votes are counted. She believes that Diebold, which has links to the Republican Party, may have used its machines to tamper with ballots.

Ironically, electronic voting machines were introduced as a reform. After the debacle of Election 2000, elections officials were wary of paper ballots, butterfly and otherwise. Touch-screen voting machines were thought to be more easily read and understood. But, by omitting any form of tangible confirmation, Diebold and its competitor, Election Systems & Software, Inc., have failed to make the voting process more trustworthy. The two recounts will be a check on accuracy, but questions about proof of individual votes and whether the software is hackable will remain.

Reasonably related

•Visit Black Box Voting online.

Bob Fritrakis of Common Dreams offers a detailed account of concerns about Diebold voting machines in an article titled “Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.”

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

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About The Diva

  • Mac Diva

    The recount in New Hampshire has begun. Nader says it may be a precursor to others. Read the story here.

  • boomcrashbaby

    Mac Diva, I am curious, if fraud is found, but cannot be traced to the White House, does that change the election results?

    Kerry conceded already. If no fraud is found, but errors are found that show he won, does that change the election? What are the possible results that can come about from this?

  • Mac Diva

    This topic has been a staple at some liberal blogs. I’ve not blogged it until today. That is because I am wary of conspiracy theories — whether they come from the Left, Right or in-between. I can’t make the jump from Diebold executives are gaga for Bush to they hack their systems to produce false votes for him. I would need to see proof. That said, I do believe there should be a paper trail leading back to individual voters. Much of the distrust would dissipate if Diebold and ES&S offered a form of tangible verification.

    What would be the outcome of proof of massive voter fraud by Diebold? It boggles the mind to even think about it. I suspect the Bushites would declare military rule before they would agree to give up the White House. So, let’s not think about it unless we have to.

    Wired says:

    But if the New Hampshire recount uncovers problems with the machines, the Nader campaign will consider seeking a recount in Florida, since the state uses many of the same Diebold and ES&S optical-scan machines as those in New Hampshire. The process in Florida, however, would be more complicated and expensive.

    New Hampshire makes it very easy to ask for a recount. But Florida requires you to file a lawsuit. You have to get a court order,” Zeese said. “And we need to have a compelling reason to request a recount.”

    Some mathematicians in Florida say some really fishy stuff happened there. But, that state, and most others, make it difficult to challenge election results. As I mentioned in my entry, the average Joe usually lacks legal standing to do so. So, to answer your question, even if proof exists, it is unlikely to see the light of day.

    First page of the Wired article is here.

  • Eric Olsen

    nothing I have seen leads to any thoughts of anything other than the usual minor mistakes and errors, nothing intentional, nothing out of the ordinary, but I agree entirely there should be something tangible generated by any kind of electronic voting system as a means of independent verification

  • Mike Kole

    Mac- Why did you leave Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik out of this report? He is on the actions with David Cobb in Ohio. I don’t particularly like that Badnarik is putting in this kind of effort that really doesn’t make a difference, but there we are.

    As for Cobb, it’s telling that he could raise more money after his campaign was dead than while it was alive.

    For the record, as a candidate for Secretary of State in Indiana, I will be campaigning for a voting system that produces a receipt or other paper trail.

  • boomcrashbaby

    I don’t particularly like that Badnarik is putting in this kind of effort that really doesn’t make a difference

    Many people think the 2004 and/or the 2000 elections were not legit. If a recount does not change anything BUT gives some people peace of mind about deceit, then it would be worth it. Perhaps that is Badnarik’s line of thought, working towards a greater healing.

  • Mac Diva

    I wasn’t aware Badnarik is involved. That information was not in the news stories I read. Is he contributing money?

  • Mac Diva

    Did some checking. Badnarik is asking that funds he says will used for the recount be sent to his campaign organization. In other words, they could be used for any purpose, even a salary to himself. (Alan Keyes does that.) Considering that Badnarik picks and chooses what bills he pays (taxes being last on the list apparently) I think Cobb made a mistake to align himself with the man.

    Ben Brandon

  • Mac Diva

    Typo: Ignore ‘Ben Brandon.’ I dumped the name there temporarily. Forgot to cut it.

  • Mike Kole

    Oh, a blackout on including a Libertarian? There’s a surprise. Cough.

    Likewise, I think that Badnarik makes a mistake in getting too close to Cobb.

    Fortunately, I can clear up any questions with Badnarik in a couple of hours, as I will be speaking with him on the air in Indy. My bet is that he is trying to boost third parties ballot access iniatives in Ohio, where it is extremely difficult for them to get on the ballot.

  • Hal Pawluk

    While a paper trail would be useful in a recount, and should be required, it doesn’t foreclose on the possibility of computer fraud.

    It would be no problem to have the vote printed as entered, but saved to a database as a vote for someone else.

    In fact, if I were the one doing the dirty deed, I’d raise the issue of the necessity for a paper trail as a red herring. I’d let them “force” me to add printouts to the voting machines after a long struggle, because then they wouldn’t be worrying about the integrity of the software.

    I’d just have to make sure that when I adjusted my candidate’s votes I’d make them high enough to prevent a recount. I’d also have to make sure that the code was reliable enough so it would never come up with more votes than voters.

    Oh? You say that has happened already?


  • Aaman


    It should not be wrong to study the validity of election results – every democracy is in danger of tyranny of the majority, and the safeguards against this are for citizens to be watchful. If quality assurance in the form of audits were not done, no product would ever get developed correctly.

    I’ve blogged about yr site on my blog

  • Mac Diva

    Aaman, I am in favor of the safeguards. What Hal says above, that the process needs to be monitored from before the vote through after the counting process makes sense to me. What I am wary of is very loose claims of conspiracy. I am not a mathematician, but a significant part of ‘odd’ voting this year has to do with non-voters coming out to vote for the gay marriage amendments in eleven states. In a close race, they were enough to skew the results.

    We should gain additional insights from the recounts that may occur because of this burgeoning movement and close races.

    Mike Kole, again, Badnarik was not in the first news stories about that recount. There was no ‘blackout.’ (A word you should be careful with, btw.)

  • Mark

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  • Temple Stark

    Paper, paper. My kingdom for a paper trail. These computers are as weak as any other (that’s not a Macintosh :) ).

    Crash. Boom. Splat. There goes an election – the possibility is very real and I am not happy about it.

  • Mac Diva

    I wasn’t able to look at the See Vote site because it is offline. But, I believe most of the difficulties that plague voting are solved with voting by mail, as practiced in Oregon. Though the ballots are read by optical scanners, there is a verifiable paper trail. Signatures are checked against those on file. Unless there is undetected fraud at the software level, the system seems reliable to me. As I said in my entry about voting at Mac-a-ro-nies, much of the ‘excitement’ of voting is eliminated.

    The recount in New Hampshire is ongoing. Wired has some preliminary coverage. Notice the dig at the Dems by the Naderite.