Why doesn't the GOP want Ohio's voting machines tested?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Sep 13, 2007, 01:11
Ohio Republicans have blocked a proposal to test electronic
voting machines prior to the 2008 presidential primary.
By a 4-3 vote, Republicans on Ohio�s State Controlling
Board blocked Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner�s proposed $1.8
million unbid contract for voting machine testing. Brunner had already set
aside the $1.8 million for the test. Her specific request to the Controlling
Board was a waiver for competitive bidding. Her office had hoped to complete
all testing by November 30, 2007.
A former judge, Brunner is successor to the infamous J.
Kenneth Blackwell, who helped engineer the theft of Ohio's electoral votes for
George W. Bush in 2004. Brunner won election as a reform candidate, vowing to
guarantee the public access to the polls -- and an accurate vote count -- in
In California, Democratic Secretary of State Debra
Bowen recently completed an extensive testing of that state's electronic voting
machines. She decertified many of them and is on course to rework how America's
biggest state casts and counts its ballots.
Brunner has not been quite so aggressive. When it was
recently revealed that 56 of 88 Ohio counties illegally destroyed protected
materials from the 2004 election, she showed little reaction. She has also
stated publicly doubts that the irregularities that defined the Ohio vote that
year could have affected the outcome or that the illegal destruction of more
than 2,000 ballots could have been intentional.
But in attempting to carry out her promise to test
Ohio's electronic voting machines, Brunner has followed through on public
demands that the ability of Ohio's electronic machines to deliver a fair and
reliable vote count be proven. Tests and studies conducted by the federal
Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, Johns Hopkins, the
Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Election Commission, John Conyer's House Judiciary
Committee and others have all shown clearly that electronic voting machines are
unreliable and easily rigged.
The New York Times has now joined that consensus, calling
for an outright federal ban. "Electronic voting has been an abysmal
failure," the Times said. "Computer experts have done study after
study showing that electronic voting machines, which are often shoddily made,
can easily be hacked. With little effort, vote totals can be changed and
Apparently, the Ohio GOP is not anxious to have a state
study add to such conclusions. At a Monday hearing, State Senator Steve Stivers
(R-Columbus) attempted to table Brunner�s request before she was allowed to
speak. Only the procedural intervention of Controlling Board President Joe Secrest
afforded Brunner the courtesy of presenting her controversial proposal.
Brunner�s plan calls for contracts with testing
companies that are preferred by the voting machine vendors like SysTest Labs
and computer security experts from various universities to inspect the machines
under the management of the Battelle Memorial Institute.
But Senator John Carey (R-Wellston) angrily reacted to
Brunner's mention of the tests conducted in California, saying they were the
work of �leftists and extremists.� Both Stivers and Carey questioned the
independence and objectiveness of the academics from Cleveland State, Penn
State, and the University of Pennsylvania listed in Brunner�s plan.
Cleveland State University Law Professor Candace Hoke, who
witnessed the California tests of e-voting machines for hackability, told the
Controlling Board that �Within 10 seconds to two minutes . . . they found 30
different ways� to hack the machines.
Both Brunner and Hoke stressed the lack of security measures
now used at Ohio�s polling places. The issues of so-called �sleepovers� used in
some Ohio counties, like Hocking, were cited. This practice involves often
untrained poll workers to take hackable voting machines home with them the
weekend before an Election Day.
Brunner repeatedly emphasized the need to establish a �chain
of custody� concerning both the access and memory cards used in voting
machines, the latter serving as an electronic ballot box. In recent elections,
memory cards have gone missing for hours on election nights in both Toledo and
State Senator Ray Miller (D-Columbus) declared that election
security is �the most important issue that�s come before the Controlling
Board.� He said, �It�s way beyond the building of buildings. It goes to the
core of our democracy.�
But the attack on Brunner�s testing contract was
initiated by Ohio Speaker of the House Republican John Husted in the morning
prior to the September 10 Controlling Board meeting. He sent a letter to
Brunner demanding she remove the requested contract proposal from the
Controlling Board agenda. �At the present time, too many outstanding
questions remain regarding the scope of this request and the intent of the
study," he wrote.
Brunner responded by saying, "Our testing process
allows for parallel independent testing of Ohio�s voting systems by both
corporate testing entities and some of the nation�s best computer security
research scientists, allowing them to collaborate as needed.
�I regret I cannot accede to your request to delay,"
she added, "as I need information to prepare for the early March 4 primary
election so that Ohio�s voters can trust that we have done all possible to
ensure the safety, reliability and trustworthiness of our voting systems in
Early voting will begin here in late January. But the
GOP clearly intends to delay the testing in Ohio and conduct yet
another election on eminently hackable electronic voting machines.
This article originallyappeared in The Free Press.Bob
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How
the Gop Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008". They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of
Happened in Ohio?" published by The New Press.
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