Columbus Dispatch endorses untested hackable computer voting machines
By Bob Fitrakis
Online Journal Guest Writer
Sep 19, 2007, 00:28
The notoriously pro-Republican Columbus Dispatch is on
another of its bizarre crusades. They're out to make Ohio safe for easily
hacked and illegally manipulated computer voting machines.
Using the disgusting tactics pioneered by the tobacco,
nuclear and Big Oil companies, the Dispatch has endorsed a position where
compromised vendors who work for the secretive voting machine manufacturers are
unbiased and independent academics who come to informed, factually-based
opinions, are biased.
In the Dispatch's editorial fantasy land, the " . . . busy
election [of 2006] went ahead without significant problems, and there was no
evidence that the results were tainted." Apparently, Dispatch reporters
and editors aren't allowed to read other Ohio newspapers or, for that matter,
their own website.
On August 7 of this year, Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette
wrote: "Voting machines used in more than half of Ohio's counties were
determined to be vulnerable to tampering in studies completed in California and
Florida, reports show."
Perhaps the Dispatch crowd missed the Dayton Daily News
report on March 21, 2007, that said, "After two days of tests, the results
are in: about 2500 people cast ballots in November on 56 malfunctioning
electronic touch-screen voting machines in Montgomery County, . . ." There
were an unexplained 30,000 "undervotes" -- no vote recorded as
expected -- in the U.S. Senate race in that county. The test indicated that
this was due to improper machine calibration.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that 10 percent of the
machines tested malfunctioned in Cuyahoga County as well in the 2006 primary.
In Franklin County, the only African American female on the
Domestic Relations Court, an endorsed Democrat, lost her bid for re-election in
a race that had 34,000 statistically unexplained undervotes. A Franklin County
court found that this was the result of machines that had been improperly
tampered with prior to the election by technicians working for the voting
How does the Dispatch see this? "The touchscreens and
optical scanners worked as intended, and both systems are far superior to punch
card voting. The election process is the best gauge of reliability."
This is a curious comment, considering that statewide
Democratic candidates lost across the board between 10-12 percent of the votes
predicted by the Dispatch in its historically reliable pre-election poll. For
decades, the Dispatch has prided itself on having the most accurate polls in
Ohio, so much so that their editors have co-authored articles in a refereed
political science journal about the Dispatch polls' uncanny accuracy.
With the rise of voting machines, the Dispatch has become
perhaps the worst polling newspaper in the state.
Or maybe the Wolfe family-owned Dispatch means literally
what it says. Voting machine hardware and software controlled by partisan
Republican vendors protected by proprietary software is doing exactly was it
was designed to do. Program the vote. After all, the last time the Dispatch
endorsed a Democrat for president was Woodrow Wilson in 1916. And only then,
because the Wolfe family's German ancestry favored the slogan "He kept us
out of war."
The Dispatch and its Republican allies in the Statehouse
have resurrected their favorite smear phrases for the fight. The Dispatch
offered the following absurd comments in its editorial: "Conspiracy
theorists and some Democrats warned for months before the election that
Blackwell, the GOP's candidate for governor, might use his office to slant the
vote to favor him and fellow Republicans." The Dispatch points to the fact
that "Ted Strickland trounced Blackwell for the top job."
What they fail to point out is that the normally reliable
last Dispatch poll predicted Strickland would win with 36 percent of the vote.
He only won by 24 percent. Now, if they predicted that Blackwell would be
winning by 12 percent and that vote disappeared and Strickland won in a
squeaker, say, a la Bush in 2000, the Dispatch would have seen this as election
The crux of the Dispatch crusade is against university
computer science professors proposed as part of Secretary of State Jennifer
Brunner's voting machine testing plan. State Senators Steve Stivers and John
Carey are leading the charge against the academics. Stivers demanded to know
"How many tests are we going to have to do?" He and his Republican
cohorts appear to favor no security measures being tested.
On September 10, Stivers and Carey successfully postponed
the testing of voting machines in Ohio, blocking it 4-3 along party lines. The
Dispatch immediately leaped to their defense stating, "The State
Controlling Board is right to seek more information on a proposal to re-test
Ohio electronic voting machines." The Dispatch comes right to the point,
"The questions pertain to the scope of the study, who will conduct the
test and what standards will be applied."
Dispatch news stories and editorials have no problem with
Battelle Memorial Institute as project manager for the tests, despite the fact
that they botched the 2002 exit polls that saw the improbable defeat of Max
Cleland on Diebold electronic voting machines with no paper trail in Georgia.
Battelle's long relationship with the CIA and the U.S. Intelligence community
is never questioned.
Nor are any questions raised about SysTest, the vendors'
tester of choice, despite the fact the SysTest was de-certified by the Election
Assistance Commission (EAC) earlier this year after The New York Times raised
question about its CEO Brian Phillips' relationship to the Republican Party.
The Republican Party's favorite "unbiased" tester
was de-certified, the Denver Post reports, one month after Phillips accepted an
invitation from a Florida law firm that represented a Republican candidate to
" . . . witness a recount in a Florida election" on behalf of the
Donetta Davidson, former Colorado Secretary of State, told
the Post: "When there's a conflict over an election like there was in
Florida we don't want (these companies) to be hired by one party or
But in the Dispatch's world, testers that work for
Republican candidates and are financed by the voting machines companies are
pure, while insulated academics are not to be trusted.
This is the same approach that said the academic scientists
were wrong about cigarettes and radiation causing cancer and fossil fuels
causing global warming. In the Dispatch's world, all of those who whore for the
Republican Party are vestal virgins and those with no ties are biased. Or, as
Senator Carey denounced the academics in California who tested their voting
machines and found them vulnerable, causing their Secretary to State to
decertify them, they are "leftists and extremists."
Every test and study of the voting machines -- from the
General Accountability Office to the Carter Baker Commission, from Princeton to
Stanford to Johns Hopkins, from liberal California to conservative Florida --
have come to the same conclusion. Electronic voting machines are eminently
hackable. That's why the Columbus Dispatch doesn't want them tested.
This article originallyappeared in The Free Press.Bob
Fitrakis is the editor of the Free Press and freepress.org.
He co-authored ""What
Happened in Ohio?," New Press, with Harvey Wasserman and Steve
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