July 06, 2005

Houston Election Assessment Hearing Report by Vickie Karp


Citizens must once again "BE THE MEDIA" to spread the truth!

by Vickie Karp, Black Box Voting/Coalition for Visible Ballots

Once again, the Fourth Estate has failed the American public: the press, as well as mainstream media in general, failed to show up to cover an historic hearing on the REAL, DOCUMENTED facts about election fraud in November 2004 which were presented at a citizens' organized hearing in Houston last Wednesday, June 29th. The hearing was held one day before the James Baker/Jimmy Carter Federal Election Reform Commission hearing, which election reform groups agree has successfully avoided confronting the truth about election fraud in this country to this date.

The exceptions were two local KPFT radio journalists, Pokey Anderson and Lisa Cohen, and one Houston IndyMedia representative Lorie Kramer. Otherwise, no media deemed it important enough to cover the amazing evidence put forward by technical experts, journalists, attorneys, and citizens from across the country that could leave no doubt that the Presidential election of 2004 was stolen.

The event was organized by Houstonian Kip Humphrey and his wife Carol who have refused to "just get over " the results of last year's election. Kip has been active in election reform since studying the Hart InterCivic machines used in Harris County (Houston) and watching as his son cast his first vote on what Humphrey believes to be a compromised voting system. Kip researched the many cases in Harris and Travis counties (Texas) that document voters attempting to cast a straight Democratic ticket finding that their vote for President was magically switched, apparently by the machine, from Kerry to Bush. Humphrey refuses to stand by, do nothing, and let his children inherit a corrupt voting system. This is the third major election reform event he and Carol have organized. The first was the "51 Capital March" of December 12th last year, which resulted in 39 states holding protest rallies at their capitals, denouncing the results of November's election. Kip opened the meeting.

The Election Assessment Hearing had the format of a Congressional hearing. Expert presenters gave testimony from a table facing the stage, where panelists sat to receive the information. The panel consisted of: Larry English, Hearing Chairperson and president of INFORMATION IMPACT. English is a renowned authority on information quality processes; Marybeth Kuznik, a 15 year poll worker from Pennsylvania; Eve Roberson, a retired elections supervisor from Santa Rosa, California; Seth Johnson, information quality improvement specialist from New York (and Hearing Vice-Chairperson); and Tom Oswald, a civil and commercial mediator from Ohio. The venue was the Garden Center at Hermann Park. As Hearing Chair Larry English noted in his opening remarks, this was the first time our election process has been reviewed by true information quality management principles.

The hearing was multi-purpose: to illuminate critical information about November's election which had not yet been addressed by the Baker/Carter Commission; to assimilate a written record of testimony given by experts that day to present to the Baker/Carter Commission at their meeting the following day; and to compile a CD of this data along with other relevant election data submitted by experts who were not able to attend the day's event. The CD will be sent to Secretaries of State nationwide, to aid them in their critical decisions regarding the purchase of election systems. The states have been put under pressure by a January 1st, 2006 deadline set forth by the so-called "Help America Vote Act", which promises significant federal funds to the states in exchange for their upgrading voting equipment.

Many believe that HAVA, in its demand for voting systems that will allow the disabled a private vote, has provided a careless rush on the part of the states to purchase paperless electronic voting systems. Such systems received a severe critique at the Hearing by researcher and journalist Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, who has successfully executed numerous hacks on such systems which all resulted in the "flipping" of elections from one candidate to another in a matter of 60 seconds or less and completely without detection. More on that to follow.

The Hearing brought forth a wealth of information that the general public would probably find shocking, given the massive "blackout" of media coverage on vote fraud. Just a few highlights from some of the speakers:

Bob Fitrakis began his testimony citing case after case of voter disenfranchisement and illegal behavior by election workers in Ohio. Fitrakis holds a Ph.D in Political Science and a J.D. from Ohio State University; is a political science professor at Columbus State Community College, and the editor of the Free Press and freepress.org. He was one of the four attorneys in the Moss v. Bush case that challenged the Ohio election results. He served as an Election Protection Legal Advisor for two wards in the city of Columbus on November 2, 2004, and has recently edited a book entitled, "Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? Essential Documents".

Among some of the startling data he presented: an estimated 34,000 former felons in Ohio were given incorrect information by public officials regarding voting; (Ohio re-enfranchises felons once they have served their time.) Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell issued a ruling that any voter registration on anything but 80 bond cardboard stock would be invalid (ruling later reversed due to public outcry); absurd design of absentee and provisional ballots, leading to many accidental votes for Bush; private parties processing voter registration; 3 ½ hour waits to vote, frequently in the wrong line, which led to many voters leaving due to time constraints; arbitrary and last-minute switching of polling places; threats of arrest to international voting observers; pre-punched ballots (votes pre-cast for Bush); double counting of absentee ballots. This is just a partial sampling of the documented data presented by Fitrakis to this Hearing panel.

Reverend Bill Moss of Ohio, the lead litigant in the now famous "Moss vs. Bush" lawsuit which attempted to overturn the results of the Ohio presidential election, testified to the panel about voter discrimination experienced by his family, as well as many others, in Ohio in November. "A great crime has been committed against the American people," Moss stated in his testimony, "and it's not enough to say that we will prevent this from re-occurring. We must address the cause of the crime". Moss decried the lack of sufficient voting machines in minority districts, rampant "dirty tricks" committed by election officials in Franklin County, Ohio, and described his surprise upon seeing the five squad cars parked conspicuously at his polling place. He wondered: "Why are the police here? Who are they here to protect?" The only logical answer was that police were there to intimidate voters in his primarily minority district. Moss added that democracy is more at risk today because of election fraud than at any other point in his lifetime.

Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips, retired college professor from New York, and twice a recognized expert in federal proceedings, had analyzed 2004 election results at the precinct level in fifteen Ohio counties. He was a leading statistician in the Moss v. Bush lawsuit. In his Hearing testimony, Dr. Phillips identified three major problems with the Ohio election: voter suppression; votes cast but not counted; and alteration of the vote count. He gave excellent examples from each category.

Echoing some of Fitrakis's examples of voter suppression, he also added: long-time residents removed from the voting polls; broken voting machines ("they've been like this all day!"...poll workers said;) polling stations running out of ballots and turning people away; voters sent back and forth between polling places; long lines not designated by precinct causing people to wait for hours in the wrong line.

Statewide, there were 35,000 provisional ballots and over 92,000 regular ballots that were not counted as votes for president. Most of these are punch card ballots, and are highly concentrated in precincts that voted overwhelmingly for Kerry by margins of: 12 to 1 in Cleveland, 7 to 1 in Dayton, 5 to 1 in Cincinnati,, 4.5 to 1 in Akron, etc. Phillips says, "This cries out for an examination of the uncounted ballots and the machines that failed to count them."

Quoting Dr. Phillips: "In Miami County, after 100% of the precincts had reported, more than 18,000 votes were added to the totals." "In Mahoning County, the Board of Elections reported that 20 to 30 touch screen machines had to be recalibrated because votes were being counted for the wrong candidates. Voters had to scroll through as many as FIVE TIMES before their choice for president was registered. In some precincts, machines failed to record votes for Kerry and defaulted to no choice at all. In other precincts, touch screens were programmed to default to Bush unless the voter successfully overrode the default choice." All of this led to his pushing for a criminal investigation into the Ohio election, something that is yet to occur.

Dr. Phillips' closing remark was notable: "It is my professional opinion, having exhaustively examined the available evidence, that the 2004 presidential election was stolen."

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting gave detailed and expert testimony, some of the most shocking of the day related to electronic voting. She first gave a brief history of her accidental discovery in 2003 of the Diebold company's election software on the internet (the second largest voting machine vendor in the country) while researching for her book, "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century". After downloading and studying the software along with computer programming experts, "stunning security flaws" were discovered which she called "a virtual handbook on how to tamper with an election using this software".

Since that time Harris has pushed forward an aggressive agenda of vote fraud research, unveiling that a felon with a four year prison record named Geoffrey Dean was the senior programmer for Global Election System which was later purchased by Diebold, and was kept on there as a consultant; demonstrated along with several world class computer programmers and security engineers at two Washington D.C. press conferences last fall six different hacks possible to "flip" election results on both Diebold and Sequoia machines; sent out over 3000 "Freedom of Information Act" (FOIA) requests to every county in American requesting election records for November's elections; was handed fake precinct totals by election officials in Volusia County, Florida and then discovered the real totals in a garbage bag outside the building; and also sued Theresa LePore, then-election supervisor of Palm Beach County, for failure to provide the requested "FOIA" requested election documents.

More recently, Harris was invited by Ion Sancho, Election Supervisor from Leon County, Florida, to attempt hacks on real election equipment using Diebold systems. Sancho wanted to see if his Diebold system was as secure as the state officials and Diebold company claimed. Harris invited two world-class computer programmers and security engineers, Dr. Herbert Thompson, of Florida, and Dr. Harri Hursti of Finland to execute the attempts. Within 90 seconds they had broken into the system and changed the vote totals any way they wanted. Harris claims, "The architecture of the Diebold Optical Scan voting system inherently supports the alteration of results," and added Hursti's remark: "If you liken the security of this system to a house with a door, this is like a house with an unlockable revolving door", and called it a voting system designed for "flexibility, not security". The programmers executed three separate "rigs" in less than five minutes; wrote their own program and fed it into the machine. The number of exploits possible with this design is "staggering", said Harris.

Harris called into question U.S. computer programmers who have been studying this software for the past few years, asking, "Who knew about this, and when did they know it?" ...and, "What did election systems certifiers know, and when did they know it?" Paul Craft, a Florida state election systems certifier, has already admitted when asked that he knew of the above stated flaws in Diebold software, and told no one.

Harris concluded her shocking testimony with the statement that, "Without 100% hand-counted paper ballots, you'll never find the hack". Elections held with paper ballots, hand-counted would have approximately four to five "attack vectors", according to Harris, while any election held with electronic voting equipment has as many as 50 to 60.

When asked by a panelist, "Is there any way you believe this software could be repaired, or printers added, that would give it security and integrity?" her answer was a definitive "NO!".

Lynn Landes is one of the nations leading journalists on the subject of voting security. She is and has been for years an ardent supporter of PAPER ONLY/NO MACHINES/NO ABSENTEE ELECTIONS. She has filed two federal lawsuits challenging the use of voting machines and absentee voting in elections for public office. Lynn's articles and research can be seen at her website www.EcoTalk.org.

In her testimony, Landes stated that transparency is the most critical feature that should be demanded in the election process. In her research, she has found problem incidents with electronic voting that go back as far as the '80's. She stated that voting should be a public process, and that instead our own country has made voting a "privatized, mechanized system, a clandestine back-room process."

Once considered a radical even among voting activists for her stand on "paper ballots ONLY", Landes noted that this position is now gaining popular support. "PAPER BALLOTS, HAND-COUNTED ON ELECTION NIGHT-it'll take about 12 hours. It is not rocket science, and it's not expensive!" she declared. "This is the only option we have left that is transparent", citing the total lack of integrity in our current voting systems.

Hearing participants and audience noted with interest that three newcomers appeared around 2pm who were later introduced as Robert Pastor, the Executive Director of the Carter/Baker Commission, and two other Commission senior staff members, Kay Stimpson and John Williams. Pastor requested a summary of events up to that point in the Hearing, which was almost laughable to several of us, as it would be akin to trying to summarize "War and Peace" in 60 seconds or less. Nonetheless, Co-Chair Seth Johnson did a commendable job of doing just that. Pastor requested and was granted a few minutes to make some remarks.

He made an attempt to create common ground by giving his own background in voting rights and election reform work, crediting himself as being one of the creators of the Help America Vote Act, (Thank you?!) and stated that "the most important element is that we are trying to improve our voting systems".

Upon the conclusion of Pastor's somewhat predictable, though amiable remarks, Chairperson Larry English asked the audience if there were any questions. When Lynn Landes, Bev Harris, Robert Hayes Phillips, and others lined up at the side of the room, the rest of us had an idea about what was about to ensue. As for Pastor, he appeared clueless. But he soon took on a "deer in the headlights" look as the questions began: He could not aptly answer Landes' question about why major voting machine vendors' ties to the Republican party had not been addressed by his commission; when asked by Harris why she and her team who had executed hacks on the voting systems had not been invited to testify, his response was "We don't need to know what's wrong with the machines in order to fix them!"; when Phillips stated his qualifications and his analytical conclusion that the election was stolen, and asked if he was going to be invited to testify before the Baker Carter Commission, and if not, why not, Pastor's response was "We don't need such detailed information. We are trying to keep our focus on more generic issues."

Such was our comic relief for the day. But don't expect to see any of this on mainstream media. It's just not important enough!

Many thanks to all the organizers, our many wonderful presenters, and panelists. JOB WELL DONE!

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