Published on Friday, May 11, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
The Globalization of Electronic Election Theft
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
From Ohio and California to Scotland and France, the disputes
surrounding electronic voting machines have gone truly global.
E-voting machines have already been extensively studied and condemned
by a wide range of expert committees, commissions and colleges,
including the General Accountability Office, the Carter-Baker
Commission, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Stanford
University and others. Rigging of a recount in Cleveland has resulted
in two felony convictions. The failures of e-voting machines have
been the subject of numerous documentary films, including the aptly
titled HBO special "Hacking Democracy."
Now the secretaries of state in Ohio and California are subjecting
e-voting to still more official review. Ohio's Jennifer Brunner has
announced she'll seek bids to conduct independent studies of both
touch-screen machines, which record votes electronically, and optical
scanners, which tabulate paper ballots electronically.
Brunner has already removed the entire board of elections of Cuyahoga
County (Cleveland) in part because of a major fiasco caused by new
electronic machines in the state's 2006 primary election. Voting
rights activists vehemently opposed the $20 million purchase, but it
was rammed through by Board Chair Robert Bennett and Executive
Director Michael Vu.
The machines then caused long reporting delays. Vu resigned under
pressure from the board. Bennett then resigned-along with the rest of
the board-under pressure from Brunner. Bennett chairs the Ohio
Republican Party, works closely with White House advisor Karl Rove,
and was instrumental in delivering Ohio's decisive votes to George W.
Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Two felony convictions have
so far arisen from what prosecutors call a "rigged" recount that
occurred that year in Cleveland, under Bennett's supervision.
The specifics of Brunner's investigation, which she wants done by
September, are not yet public. But the newly elected Democrat says
she intends to "fill in the gaps" on studies of Diebold, ES&S and
Hart InterCivic machines whose vote tallies were key to giving Bush a
second term. The conservative Columbus Dispatch has already predicted
that the results of the investigation "likely will disappoint
California's new Secretary of State Deborah Bowen will begin her
study May 14, and wants it done by late July. An interagency
agreement with the University of California will use three
"top-to-bottom review teams" with about seven people each to inspect
documents, previous studies, computer source code and a penetration
attack to test system security. Cost is estimated at $1.8 million to
be covered by system vendors and the Help America Vote Act. Systems
from Diebold, ES&S, HartIntercivic, Sequoia and InkaVote of Los
Angeles will be examined.
Other states are also re-evaluating their electronic voting systems,
and fierce controversy is raging nationwide over a federal bill from
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) which institutes certain voting
reforms but allows the use of electronic machines to continue.
Now the issue has spread worldwide. Widespread cries of theft and
fraud erupted in Ukraine, just before the US 2004 election. A forced
re-vote ousted the "official" winner.
In Mexico, leftists contend the recent presidential election there
was stolen just as Bush did it in the US, with some of the same
personnel pulling it off.
Now similar cries are coming from Scotland and France. May 3
elections in Scotland using new electronic counting systems resulted
in as many as 100,000 votes being classed as "spoilt papers." (About
90,000 such ballots from Ohio 2004 remain uncounted to this day).
Complex methods of tabulating and weighting the Scottish votes
yielded "chaos." Several vote counts were suspended. In some races
the tally of rejected ballots was greater than some candidates'
winning margin. "This is a temporary interruption to one small aspect
of the overall process," says a spokeswoman for DRS, the company
responsible for the vote counting technology.
The language in France has not been so polite. A watershed
presidential election has just been won by Nicolas Sarkozy, a blunt
right-wing Reagan-Bush-style extremist over the socialist Segolene
Royal. Sarkozy is a hard-edged authoritarian whose intense
anti-immigrant rhetoric matches his support for the American war in
Iraq and his avowed intent to slash France's social service system,
including a public health program widely considered among the best in
Like the balloting in Ukraine, the US, Scotland and Mexico, Sarkozy's
victory was marred by angry, widespread complaints about dubious vote
counts whose discrepancies always seem to favor the rightist
candidate. Throughout France, the cry has arisen that the
conservatives have done to Segolene Royal what Bush/Rove did to John
In the not-so-distant past, other elections were engineered by George
H.W. Bush, head of the Central Intelligence Agency and father of the
current White House resident. During the Reagan-Bush presidencies, in
the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other key third world
nations, expected leftist triumphs somehow morphed into rightist
coups. "CIA destabilizations are nothing new," said former CIA
station chief and Medal of Merit winner John Stockwell in 1987.
"Guatemala in 1954, Brazil, Ghana, Chile, the Congo, Iran, Panama,
Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay-the CIA organized the overthrow of
The recent trend to privatizing vote counts, with corporations
claiming "proprietary rights" to keep their hardware and software
covert, has added a new dimension to an old tradition. The recent
"e-victories" in the US and France have significantly tipped to the
right the global balance among the major powers. So while Ohio and
California conduct their studies of electronic voting, the whole
world will be watching.
Bob Fitrakis's forthcoming book, The Fitrakis Files: Cops, Coverups
and Corruption, containing further background information on James A.
Rhodes, is at http://www.freepress.org, where this article first
appeared. Harvey Wasserman's History of The United States is at