Weir, a Bushy Republican, said Bowen's actions--along with the audit---had undermined public confidence in the security of the new electronic machines. But her solutions, he said, would not do anything to restore the public peace of mind, especially for elections that will occur this year, such as a special Congressional election in Los Angeles in two weeks. Stephen Weir had made a challenge last year: "Show me where actual machines have been hacked and votes changed. It's all theoretical." Even before the recent California study ordered by Bowen, Sequoia and Diebold voting machines and tabulators were hacked and votes changed in security tests conducted by Princeton University computer security scientists and experts and Florida election officials. The systems tested were up-to-date models currently used in California counties. It's no wonder that Weir and his fellow Republicans are all in dismay.
It was this same Stephen Weir who wrote to a CEO of an e-voting company in September 2006, during the testing of Orange County voting machines, "I witnessed a constant series of interruptions in the units, as well as instances where the units jammed, destroyed the ballot, printed only one side and, worse yet, printed askew to the point where some ballots were marked outside of the target." Woops!
The security requirements Bowen imposed include: reinstalling the software before the Feb. 5. election to ensure it has not already been tampered with; placing special seals at vulnerable parts of the machines to reveal tampering; securing each machines at the close of each day of early voting; assigning a specific election monitor to safeguard each machine; and conducting a complete manual count of all votes cast.
If you think these security measures are unnecessary, just recall that in the June 6, 2006 U.S. House special run-off election in California's 50th congressional district, SD County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas, approved by California's then Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, openly admitted that tamperable and hackable electronic voting machines in San Diego County were completely compromised by sending the machines home with poll workers, in some cases for weeks at a time, prior to the election.
Not even all Bowen's supporters are fully satisfied with Bowen's decertification action. Alan Dechert, president of Open Voting Consortium, a group critical of the electronic voting machines, said many activists would be critical that Bowen did not completely decertify those machines. "She's not asking for changes to hardware or software," he said. "This is not really doing much for transparency."
Like so many other states brainwashed by Republican propaganda about voting machines, California spent some $450 million on new voting systems recently, yet the result is that people have more questions about whether votes are being counted as they are cast.
Changes in California's election law have let any voter register as a permanent absentee, and thus automatically receive an absentee ballot in every election. During California's latest election in November, 2006, nearly 42 percent of voters turned in absentee ballots -- continuing the mailbox trend. Of the state's 58 counties, 16 received more absentee ballots than votes cast directly at polling places. Given the convenience, many elections officials say it's no surprise that absentee ballots have become so popular.
The reason officials like Stephen Weir like absentee ballots is because the county registrars are exclusively in charge of counting them, without, in most cases, any review by a bipartisan review committee. The mostly-Republican registrars hold off on counting the ballots until it's to the advantage of Republican candidates or, as in Florida in 2000, simply not counting absentee ballots marked for Democratic candidates. In the 2006 election Stephen Weir had to admit that delays in counting absentee ballots were a common problem. In Contra Costa County, where Weir is registrar, 50,900 ballots remained to be counted only days before the election deadline, according to a tally posted online by the California secretary of state.
Weir pointed to the statewide trend toward absentee voting in the last six years, and remarked, "The more that happens, the more we're going to be unable to get final results on election night."
Previous Editions of Celebrating Courage
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, Russ Feingold, and Paul Pillar
John Conyers and
Dr. Robert M. Bowman
Anti-War Military Personnel