Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ohio Screws Up Voting... Again.

Ballots No Longer Secret In Ohio

Ohio as a matter of law releases to anyone who asks, two lists.

List one: A time-stamped record of everyone who voted at a polling place, in order.

List two: A time-stamped record of every transaction on every Election Systems and Software iVotronic machine -- including who was voted for.

Put the two lists together? A list of who voted for whom when. Absolutely perfect? Absoulutely not. But close enough for government work.

Hee. (I've always wanted to write that in a real article.)

Multiple lines, multiple machines. It can get mixed up a little. But in most polling places the poll workers try to keep everyone in sequence precisely in order to allow audit logs reconstruction. Seriously.


Making a secret ballot less secret, of course, could permit vote selling and allow interest groups or family members to exert undue pressure on Ohio residents to vote a certain way. It's an especially pointed concern in Ohio, a traditional swing state in presidential elections that awarded George Bush a narrow victory over John Kerry three years ago.

Ohio law permits anyone to walk into a county election office and obtain two crucial documents: a list of voters in the order they voted, and a time-stamped list of the actual votes. "We simply take the two pieces of paper together, merge them, and then we have which voter voted and in which way," said James Moyer, a longtime privacy activist and poll worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Once the two documents are merged, it's easy enough to say that the first voter who signed in is very likely going to be responsible for the first vote cast, and so on.

"I think it's a serious compromise," said David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor who has followed electronic voting issues closely. "We have a system that's very much based on secret ballots. If you have something where voters are involuntarily revealing their votes, it's a very bad practice."

Moyer and fellow activist Jim Cropcho tested this by dropping by the election office of Delaware County, about 20 miles north of Columbus, and reviewing the results for a May 2006 vote to extend a property tax to fund mental retardation services (PDF). Their results indicate who voted "yes" and who voted "no"--and show that local couples (the Bennets, for instance) didn't always see eye-to-eye on the tax.

ES&S machines are used in about 38 states, according to the Election Reform Information Project, created by the Pew Center on the States. Of those states, Arkanasas, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia are among those using ES&S iVotronic machines with paper audit trails.

An ES&S spokeswoman at the Fleishman-Hillard public relations firm downplayed concerns about vote linking. "It's very difficult to make a direct correlation between the order of the sign-in and the timestamp in the unit," said Jill Friedman-Wilson. (ES&S iVotronic machines are used in 10 Ohio counties, mostly in the center of the state, according to a map on the BlackBoxVoting.org watchdog site.)

"That is so fatally flawed," Friedman-Wilson said about Moyer's and Cropcho's analysis.
Yes this is the same Ohio that made up a national security emergency in an entire county and locked out all observers during the 2004 election. The same Ohio whose recount was massively, fatally flawed when employees of the machine manufacturers told county employees how to game the recount, and also uploaded last minute patches unapproved by the State during the election itself. Whose Secretary of State instead of trying to make the election impartial, campaigned against the Democrats and successfully threw out hundreds of thousands of Democratic voter registrations and no-doubt validly cast ballots. More than enough to have made John Kerry President. *sighs*

The problem is NOT electronic voter fraud. Not in Ohio or any state. Well, maybe Florida.

The real problem as always is GOTV (Get Out The Vote) and same year-different shit voter intimidation at the polls. The usual cheating and lies and hacking of the vote through normal fraud. That's what to watch out for. This new electronic stuff is important...

But don't take your eye off the normal fraud to be distracted by fancy electronic shiny. 'Cause if we just fixed the normal fraud problem even a little bit, we'd win in a landslide.