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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Encore Presentation: Democracy at Risk
Aired November 3, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT presents a CNN America Votes 2006 special, "Democracy At Risk". Here now, Lou Dobbs.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. We're just days away from our midterms elections. And in many parts of this country voters will be using electronic voting machines for the first time ever. But a lot of questions remain and among the most important, will our votes be counted and counted accurately and counted honestly?
Approximately 35 million of us will be using this technology for the first time ever, and we face a bewildering variety of new equipment and new technology. Poll workers are struggling to understand how to use these machines and rules for safe-guarding the use of those machines are often simply nonexistent.
Technology experts are warning many of those e-voting machines have serious flaws, flaws that leave them vulnerable to hackers. The hanging chad debacle of the 2000 presidential election prompted Congress to pass the Help America Vote Act in 2002. That act made available billions of dollars in new money for election officials to buy new voting equipment. And flush with that new money, election officials bought systems they barely understood and eager manufacturers rushed in to provide that new technology.
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT has been reporting on the dangers posed by these electronic voting machines for some time. Kitty Pilgrim led our coverage of the issue and has reported extensively. She will be with us here tonight throughout the next hour.
We begin with one of the worst examples of e-voting failures in this country, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Kitty Pilgrim here with a report -- Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Lou, it was absolute debacle, it was the infamous May primary in the Cuyahoga County. And it was a demonstration just how disastrous electronic voting can be. Poll workers poorly trained. They were confused by the new electronic equipment. Memory cards were lost. And vote tallies didn't match.
PILGRIM (voice over): Cuyahoga County, Ohio, was all geared up to use electronic voting machines for the first time. But the election, held on May 2nd, turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Many Cuyahoga County's e-voting machines just didn't work. The Diebold voter registration system dropped or displaced several hundred registered voters. Some Diebold touch-screen machines froze up, others crashed. On others, the paper record jammed up.
The Cuyahoga County also used optical scanners, the thick black lines on some of the ballots interfered with the system reading them. Even when the machines worked, many of the poll workers weren't sufficiently trained to instruct voters or answer questions.
REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D) OHIO: At the end of the day, poll worker was supposed to take a card out of the machine, put it in a bag and send it to the board of elections. Some of the workers closed down the machine, left the card in the machine at the end of the day, there were cards that were still in machines and not being counted.
PILGRIM: The so-called ease of electronic voting turned into a nightmare and embarrassment because Ohio accepted $100 million in federal money to buy the machines.
JUDGE RONALD ADRINE, CUYAHOGA SELECT REVIEW PANEL: Absentee ballots could not be scanned by the machines that were designed for that purpose. So as a result, ended up doing a hand count on those ballots, some 17,000 of them, that took about six days following the election to complete.
PILGRIM: After the election, a panel grilled officials. A 400- page damage report identified dozens more problems. The paper rolls were loaded backwards so they did not print election results. Election results were recorded on so many formats, memory cards, a central computer, internal memory of the machine, and paper rolls, nobody could figure out the tally. Memory cards were lost on election day and were never found again. Security was lax; 60 people took machines home with them for the weekend before election day.
And now, the county board of elections is requesting help from independent researcher, auditors and citizens to come forward to straighten out election problems, and to monitor the results in November. The county commissioned a second more in-depth investigation. Independent researchers at the Election Science Institute found damning evidence that electronic voting machines had major problems.
STEVE HERTZBERG, ELECTION SCIENCE INSTITUTE: We're missing data. We're missing critical components within the election, the board of elections cannot find it, and we believe that that is probably the greatest issue that we're facing in this election.
PILGRIM: The report found the machines four sources of vote totals, individual ballots, paper trail summary, election archives, and the memory cards did not all match up. The totals were all different.
The report concludes, "These shortcomings merit urgent attention, relying on the system in its present state should be viewed as a calculated risk."
But the secretary of state of Ohio, Kenneth Blackwell, was in denial. His office responding the machines work. There's nothing wrong with the machines. The secretary of state's office blamed poll workers for not carrying out procedures properly. Diebold has said the same thing, blaming human error.
The independent report concludes, "The current election system, if left unchanged, contains significant threats, one likely result is diminished public confidence in a close election."
Cuyahoga County has, at last count, more than 1.3 million people, the most populous county in Ohio, including the city of Cleveland, represents a critical mass of voters, but the report says the situation may not be resolved by the November election this year, or even the 2008 presidential election.
Citizen groups from all across the country have rallied and formed organizations in support of renewed vigilance on electronic voting. Citizens have sued for tighter regulations, or to demand a paper trail. For example, in Colorado, courts just ruled in favor of tightening security on machines and auditing results.
In Indiana, where 65 percent of voters will use touch-screen systems, there is an ongoing investigation that one vendor sold uncertified software and electronic voting equipment to the counties. The secretary of state can't comment on the investigation. But says the testing and certification process has been beefed up.
TODD ROKITA, INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE: We not only are going to rely on the federal certification, but we're also going to do our own certification, from now on. We need more technical expertise to make sure that we can verify what's being sold to us as a state.
PILGRIM: Some election officials are rethinking their blind commitment to the technology that was hastily purchased without critical review.
PILGRIM: With only days to go before the November election, there's still major concerns, larger cities have already made the switch to electronic voting systems, and have been through an election cycle. They know what can go wrong, but in smaller jurisdictions, resources and expertise are limited. And many districts will be using electronic voting equipment for the first time. It is an absolute potential disaster, Lou.
DOBBS: Kitty, what was the principal cause of this disaster in Cuyahoga County?
PILGRIM: Well, the main cause was lost memory cards, but there were machine failures, there were poorly trained poll workers, and a raft of problems. About 10 percent of the machines failed.
DOBBS: Now, there are four principal manufacturers of these machines in the country. What did the manufacturers say about what happened there?
PILGRIM: Well, it turns out that the manufacturers used the poorly trained workers as their main excuse. And they say that that really is the problem. And in fact, there are many, many technical issues besides that, that caused failures in these machines.
DOBBS: Kitty, thank you.
And tonight, we'll be hearing from Cuyahoga County's top election official on what that county is doing to avoid a repeat of that e- voting disaster come election day.
And how lax and often nonexistent security is compromising the integrity of many of our elections. Do you know where your e-voting machine is stored? You won't like the answer. And we'll hack an e- voting machine, and you won't believe just how easy it is. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Welcome back.
With all of the questions surrounding electronic voting machines, you would think those machines would be surrounded by intense security. But shockingly, they're not. In fact, some poll workers are allowed to take those e-voting machines home. Kitty Pilgrim with the report -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Lou, this major problem here is that security is so lax and how do you secure machines just before an election? Now, in some states, poll workers take the machines home with them, so-called sleepovers, for days.
PILGRIM (voice over): In San Diego County, Patty Newton volunteered as an election worker in the June 6th primary. After her training class for electronic voting machines, she got the surprise of her life.
PATTY NEWTON, FORMER POLL WORKER: We were given slips of paper, had them stamped by one of the staff members, and we were directed to drive across to the parking lot to pick up our voting machines, and take them home.
We all felt an ominous kind of responsibility. It was not something that we were told we were going to be doing.
PILGRIM: She stored the Diebold TSX electronic voting machine here, on the floor of her garage, for seven days until the election. According to VotetrustUSA, states with sleepovers for electronic voting machines for California, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Florida, but certain counties in other states do it also.
Voter activists say while millions have been spent buying the machines, counties don't have the budgets for storing them, or delivering them on election day.
SUSAN PYNCHON, FLORIDA FAIR ELECTIONS COALITION: These jurisdictions have been given money through the Help America Vote Act to purchase the machines, but many of these jurisdictions are strapped when it comes to trying to maintain them, already. And to have this -- some huge delivery charge on top of that, that money comes directly out of the local taxpayers' pockets.
PILGRIM: In Florida, the Volusia (ph) County Department of Elections manual makes it official. "Pick up the voting equipment and ballots at your designated pickup site prior to the day of the election. As soon as the items are picked up, they must be stored in a secure place."
But on March 5th in Dallas County, Texas, a 14-pound electronic voting machine was stolen from the home of an election judge. It still hasn't been recovered.
PILGRIM: This really enforces the argument that the only real way to make sure the machines haven't been tampered with is to have a paper trail of the voting on the day of the election. That assures that even if the machine has been compromised, the vote can be audited, Lou.
DOBBS: Kitty, I mean, this is getting downright -- it's absurd. Why can't they secure those machines? It's idiotic to allow workers to take them home.
PILGRIM: We talked to election officials. They didn't factor in the cost of it. They have to be in temperature controlled rooms. Some of the smaller jurisdictions just didn't even figure on how they had to store these machines.
DOBBS: What kind of screening are the poll workers going through? What kind of training?
PILGRIM: That is the scariest thing. You simply sign up to be a poll worker. We talked to one who signed up, no I.D. check. She received her machine, put it in the trunk of the car and drove home, in no checks whatsoever. She called to us tell us.
DOBBS: And now they've called us, we're all more than just a little concerned here. What is -- this issue of security, I mean, we move into the technology, and it gets even more frightening.
PILGRIM: Yeah, that's true. These machines are very hack able. If the machine is unsupervised for more than a minute, someone could get to it and put in a virus or a hack.
DOBBS: This is crazy.
PILGRIM: Exactly. In fact, I learned firsthand from Princeton Professor Edward Felton, just how easy it is.
PILGRIM: This is a Diebold TS machine that is used pretty widely around the country, and this is a hack able machine, is it not? PROF. EDWARD FELTON, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It takes only about a minute with an unsupervised machine to insert the virus. The voting machine virus is on this memory card. All of the machines apparently use the same key. Anyone who can get the door open and stick in a memory card can insert a virus or do whatever they like.
PILGRIM: Why don't you show me, first, how the machine works?
FELTON: One of the things they can do is what is called logic and accuracy testing, which is basically holding a pretend election. The virus is not kicking in yet. It is just lurking in the background. In this case a race for president between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. I'll cast a test vote for George Washington.
PILGRIM: I'm going to be just renegade and vote for Benedict Arnold, just for the fun of it.
FELTON: OK. Now, if you look here in the middle, it has the count. The vote-count for our testing, George Washington one vote, Benedict Arnold one vote.
PILGRIM: Now, we're hackers. We just did the test, the test checked out. Now we're hackers.
FELTON: Yes, this is the screen that a voter sees on election day, when they show up to vote. You've checked in at the front desk. Here is your voter card.
PILGRIM: For real, I have to vote for George Washington, of course.
FELTON: We can cast a few more votes in our election if you like.
PILGRIM: I'm going to vote for George Washington, George Washington, again.
FELTON: This virus has been instructed to steal the election for Benedict Arnold. The records have been modified so the records inside the voting machine show two votes for Benedict Arnold, and one vote for George Washington.
PILGRIM: So, prove that it stole it.
What we see is that we don't have three votes for George Washington. So this machine has been highly compromised.
FELTON: This machine has been highly compromised, it counts the votes wrong.
PILGRIM: This particular voting machine in an election has a virus.
PILGRIM: That's only one machine. How does that, say someone really has malicious intent, how does that go from machine to machine?
FELTON: The way it's spreads is on the removable memory cards. At the end of election day if this card is taken back to headquarters, and put into a machine back there, the central election headquarters can be a sort of vector for the virus to spread.
PILGRIM: What do you think of this machine?
FELTON: Well, it's not a very secure machine.
PILGRIM: The Diebold machines we tested do not have a paper trail. The record tape on the inside of the machine can be altered by the virus and there is no other record of how someone voted. Once they walk away, that vote can be lost or stolen, Lou.
DOBBS: How long did it take the folks at Princeton to figure out this?
PILGRIM: They got the machine, but it took them about a month to do it, and they did it with one professor and two graduate students, it didn't take them very long.
DOBBS: This is enough, I would think, to worry just about anyone responsible for an election. Thanks very much.
Coming up next here, one voting machine manufacturer was once run by a fellow who liked George Bush a lot. Another e-voting machine company is run by friends of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Are you feeling better already? Stay with us.
DOBBS: The voting machine company, Sequoia, likes to point out its own history as a U.S. firm and as one of the top players in electronic voting. The company has managed thousands of electronic elections, in hundreds of jurisdictions in 21 states, but the company is Venezuelan-owned. Kitty Pilgrim has the story.
PILGRIM (voice over): The use of some 19,000 electronic voting machines in this city of Chicago and Cook County primary on March 21st of this year is now under intense scrutiny. The U.S. company that makes the machines, Sequoia, was bought in 2005 by Smartmatic, a private company primarily owned by Venezuelan businessmen. When Chicago had problems with the machines, a dozen Venezuelan employees were there to help with the election. Chicago officials are outraged.
EDWARD BURKE, CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL: I think the American elections ought to be run by American companies, and ought to be run by American citizens, not Venezuelan nationals.
PILGRIM: Smartmatic is technically based in Boca Raton, Florida, but the president of the company, Jack Blaine, testified to the Chicago City Council, fewer than a dozen Smartmatic employees work in Florida. The majority of the workers are based in Venezuela.
Smartmatic is a labyrinth of international holding companies owned by Venezuelan businessmen. Smartmatic Group N.V., of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles owns Smartmatic International B.V. of Amsterdam, Netherlands, owns Smartmatic Corporation of Florida which bought Sequoia Voting Systems, of California, USA.
When Smartmatic bought the U.S. voting machine company the U.S. government did not review the sale. The big worry for U.S. elections is Smartmatic and other voting machine companies are private companies. They have proprietary software they can call a trade secret. Electronic voting experts with extensive experience say it's nearly impossible to verify if a proprietary system is tamper proof.
DOUGLAS JONES, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: All of the voting system vendors in the United States are private companies. The problem is the closed-door proprietary nature of the process. The closed system we have right now makes it extremely hard to find out what's going on, and that means that, should a thief get in a position of power, we would never know.
WARREN STEWART, VOTERTRUSTUSA: No one can review the source code or the ballot programming, not even the election officials, the secretary of state, that is all kept secret from the voters.
PILGRIM: Some e-voting experts and members of Congress dislike the murky corporate structure of Smartmatic, a foreign-owned company deeply connected with U.S. elections.
AVI RUBIN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: The problem we're in right now is that we're using equipment to elect our president and our Congress, and our local officials, that cannot be audited, that are potentially under the control of foreign entities, and that are almost an ideal platform for rigging an election.
PILGRIM: Congressman Carolyn Maloney recently wrote to Secretary John Snow, demanding the U.S. Treasury investigate the sale.
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY, (D) NEW YORK: In the case of Smartmatic, there are a number of unanswered questions. That's why I wrote to the secretary of the Treasury and asked them to review the ownership. It's offshore. It's murky. No one seems to know who owns it. Certainly our government should know.
PILGRIM: Smartmatic's machines were used in Venezuela's controversial 2004 recall election. Many experts say those voting machines were manipulated in Venezuela to give President Hugo Chavez a victory. Exit polls done by a U.S. firm Penn, Showen (ph), and Berlins, had Chavez losing 41 percent to 59 percent, but the next day, Chavez declared victory, reversing the score, saying he won, 59 percent of the vote.
GUSTAVO COLONEL, FMR. VENEZUELAN CONGRESS MEMBER: Everything was computed in favor of the government, so the only explanation is that the Smartmatic machines had been programmed in that way.
PILGRIM: A Harvard mathematician crunched the numbers on the Venezuelan election.
RICARDO HAUSMANN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think that the preponderance of the evidence is that there was fraud in the election. It had to be the Smartmatic system, all of these machines talk to a central computer and report on their results. And in that mechanism, as they communicate with the center, the central machine can report anything.
PILGRIM: Antonio Mohica (ph) and his partner Alfredo Anzola (ph) received a small business loan from the Venezuelan government only months before the recall election. These corporation documents from Venezuela show the Venezuelan government owned 28 percent of the stock of another company they started, Bisda (ph), which adapted voting software for the Smartmatic machines in the 2004 elections.
The same document shows a Chavez government minister, Omar Mantio (ph) was on the board of directors. The Chavez government gave Bisda, Smartmatic and another company a $91 million contract to run voting machines for the 2004 election. The next year the owners of Smartmatic bought Sequoia, one of the top electronic voting companies in the United States for $16 million.
PILGRIM: It's clear that many in Congress are not comfortable with just how connected the company is to Venezuela and questioned whether there should be some limits on foreign ownership of electronic voting companies, Lou.
DOBBS: Especially during recounts. Kitty, thank you very much.
Coming up next, evidence of how the federal government has failed to enforce electronic voting standards, and what some states are doing to make certain their elections aren't a disaster come election day.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin. More on "Broken Government: Democracy At Risk", in just a moment. But first a quick look at what's happening in the news.
Wildfire victims got a visit today from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Later, Arnold Schwarzenegger saluted the more than 2,500 firefighters who have gotten the monster blaze about 70 percent contained. Four died fighting the fire, which was set by an arsonist on Thursday.
A standoff between police and protesters in Mexico. Riot police stormed Oaxaca today to clear out demonstrators who controlled much of the town for months. Protesters fought back with burning tires and rocks. They want the local governor removed from office.
Protesting students get their way today at the nation's top school for the deaf. Gallaudet University's board of trustees voted to terminate the appointment of incoming president Jane Fernandez. Opponents had branded Fernandez divisive and ineffective.
Tonight, at 8 p.m., Democrats, Republicans, a White House power play and a do-nothing Congress. CNN investigates "Broken Government". Now, back to LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, and his "America Votes, 2006" special: "War on The Middle Class."
DOBBS: Welcome back to this LOU DOBBS TONIGHT special, "Democracy at Risk."
When it comes to the federal government don't expect much assurance that your electronic vote will be counted accurately. New standards for electronic voting machines may not be ready in fact, for years. Kitty Pilgrim reports.
PILGRIM (voice-over): More than half of all American voters will vote on electronic voting machines in upcoming elections, and watchdog groups want the federal government to be more aggressive to prevent fraud.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: It should be the job of the federal government to do the kind of threat analysis that private groups and computer scientists have done.
PILGRIM: Federal guidelines for designing and testing electronic voting machines were drafted by a federal advisory board in 2005. But those standards are voluntary, and won't be officially into effect until December, 2007.
Deforest Soaries was the first chair of the Federal Election Assistance Commission, set up after the hanging chad controversy in 2000 to oversee election reform. Soaries resigned April of last year.
DEFOREST SOARIES, FORMER CHAIRMAN, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION: What's wrong with the standards is that they are not standards. They're recommendations at best. I worry about electronic voting because we've done such inadequate research we don't know what we don't know.
PILGRIM: Computer engineers say the guidelines are not enough to actually check the machine that is in place at the polling station.
JOHN WASBURN, VOTETRUSTUSA: You don't know enough about the system in front of you to know if it is or is not the same as the one that was tested. So any statement about the tested system may or may not apply to your system.
PILGRIM: Also, watchdog groups say guidelines allow for an acceptable failure rate for electronic voting machines that is too high. Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.
DOBBS: Thank you, Kitty. We're joined now by a lawmaker who wants federal mandates on e-voting equipment and wants them now. New Jersey Democratic Congressman Rush Holt. Congressman Holt introduced a bill to require a voter verified paper trail in our elections, in other words, no paperless voting machines allowed.
And joining us tonight from Ohio, Allen County election supervisor Keith Cunningham, he is a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and he doesn't like Congressman Holt's legislation.
Good to have you both here. Let me turn to you first, Congressman Holt. You introduced a bill requiring a paper trail. The sort of thing that you get from your ATM or just about any other transaction. It didn't pass. Why wouldn't our illustrious Congress want to have the most, the greatest amount of integrity in this election?
REP. RUSH HOLT, (D) NJ: Well, anything of value should be auditable. That's a basic principle, and certainly each person's vote is of value. Now, this legislation that I've introduced, that would provide for a voter verified paper audit trail, it's not that it hasn't passed. It just hasn't come to a vote. A majority of the House of Representatives are co-sponsors of this bill now.
DOBBS: Congressman, forgive me but you know, the difference between doing nothing and rejecting it is pretty slim, since the result is zero.
HOLT: Well, the leadership has not allowed it to come to the floor for a vote.
DOBBS: I thought I would allow you to put that ...
HOLT: But a majority has, you know, 219 members have co- sponsored it and furthermore, many states now have legislation that's patterned on this that applies within each of those states, and that's now a couple of dozen.
DOBBS: Let's turn to Keith Cunningham. Why do you think the voter verified paper audit trail isn't a good idea?
KEITH CUNNINGHAM, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMITTEE: Well, I don't think it's a bad idea. I think the problem with the proposal is that it makes the voter verified paper audit trail the ballot of official record for recount purposes, and in my experience, that paper record is simply not reliable enough in its current state to be used in that manner.
DOBBS: Well, a lot of people have got to be asking you, Keith, if paper isn't reliable, what in the world would be?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, sir, I participated in the audit actually back in June of the Cuyahoga County primary and what we found was nearly 17 percent of those v-pats had indeed disenfranchised voters by losing their votes and there were other ways which we could have faithfully retrieved those votes from the electronic machines.
DOBBS: Give me one way, Keith.
HOLT: That's the point, they cannot be retrieved unless there is a voter verified audit trail. You know, if there's an error in the electronics, and it's stored in memory in error, whether it's accidental or malicious, once it's in the memory, there's no way you can recover what the voter intended. It is the voter and only the voter, because it's a secret ballot inside that closed booth, who is in a position to verify whether the vote is recorded properly. That's why it should be the voter verified paper record that is the vote of record.
DOBBS: What kind of machines are you using in Allen County there in Ohio, Keith?
CUNNINGHAM: We actually use optical scan machines.
DOBBS: Right. Manufactured by?
CUNNIGHAM: Election Systems and Software.
DOBBS: And the fact is, that those, when you have to do an audit, you don't have a paper trail?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, we do have a paper trail.
CUNNINGHAM: But we also use -- my point is this -- we should not rely on any single component as a means by which to audit the machine. We need multiple sources, so that we can triangulate information, if you will, in a way that we can verify what the machine is doing.
HOLT: Something has to be the official vote.
CUNNINGHAM: Well, those machines will print out, as you know, an event log. They will print out an actual ...
HOLT: Based on what's stored in the electronic memory. And if that is in error, what it prints out at the end of the day will also be an error.
CUNNINGHAM: The fact of the matter is, studies have shown only about seven percent of the voters utilize the paper audit trail by a means which to verify their ballot. I think you and I both want the same thing which is a fully auditable election that is -- in ways that we could demonstrate the machines are reading accurately. I guess I don't have the mistrust of the technology that you do, congressman.
DOBBS: Well, mistrust abounds, Keith Cunningham, Congressman Rush Holt, but the fact is, solutions apparently don't and we appreciate you both being here to share your views. Thank you very much.
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
HOLT: Thank you.
DOBBS: Coming up next, what some states are doing certain to make sure this election goes, well, smoothly November, and which states aren't. Stay with us.
DOBBS: E-voting machines standards are voluntary. States have been left on their own to come up with safeguards and security measures for electronic voting. California and Maryland will both use e-voting machines in the upcoming midterm elections and one of those states is taking important steps to stop voter fraud. The other is not.
Kitty Pilgrim reports.
PILGRIM: California, Maryland, different states with electronic voting, different rules.
DAN WALLACH, RICE UNIVERSITY: What we have today is every state doing its own thing. Some states are very aggressive in requiring newer and better technologies. Other states are holding back, waiting for more guidance and waiting for vendors to implement things. It's really all over the map what different states are doing.
PILGRIM: In Maryland, the governor became worried about voting security and electronic voting machines. The house in Maryland voted to switch from a Diebold all electronic touch screen system to a system with a paper trail. The governor set aside $20 million to fund the switch. But the measure was killed by the state senate. So Diebold electronic voting machines will be used for all 24 districts in Maryland in November.
In 2004, California officials decertified all electronic voting machines, unless they had a paper trail. The measure was signed into law. This past June, 30 counties use electronic voting under the new requirements. Senator Bowen helped write the legislation that requires a one percent audit of the vote, compared to the paper trail, but she wants even more safeguards.
DEBRA BOWEN, (D) CA STATE SENATOR: First thing we need to be doing is beefing up our audit requirements, and I think it's instructive to look at how the slot machines are audited, casinos, in Vegas, are far better audited than electronic voting machines.
PILGRIM: Twenty-seven states now have either a law or a requirement for voter verified paper trail of all elections, but in eight more states, the paper trail is not required but is used statewide. But 15 states still have no requirements for those safeguards. Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.
DOBBS: The state of Montana passed a law requiring paper ballots in all elections, just last year. Joining us now from Bozeman, Montana is state representative and software engineer Brady Wiseman, a Democrat and he sponsored the legislation. Good to have you with us.
BRADY WISEMAN, (D) MT STATE REP.: Thanks, Lou, good to be here.
DOBBS: The idea of a paper ballot at a time of high technology, are you afraid that folks in Montana might be considered kind of retrograde Luddites, not embracing the latest in sophisticated technology?
WISEMAN: Well, we kind of like to stand on our own two feet out here, Lou, and we don't care what other people think. What we want to do is find the right solution for the job that we're doing which is to get our elections run well and speaking as a 20-year veteran in the software industry, my opinion is that these touch screen voting machines are simply not the right solution for the problem.
DOBBS: And as you know, they're being used all over the country in this election, and in many cases they don't have that verifiable -- paper trail. I love that acronym, VVPAT, verified paper audit trail. Would you like to see a paper ballot across the country instead of all this technology?
WISEMAN: I would, and here's why. The notion that we're going to roll out a large, sophisticated computer system, and have it work right on the first day that we turn it on is a bit of a stretch in the software business.
WISEMAN: Have you ever seen a large computer system work right the first day? They just don't, and if we were having these elections every day then having these machines might be appropriate, but the fact that we expect to turn them on one day a year and have them work flawlessly is just too much of an expectation for the software business and it's not the right tool for the job.
So I was able to convince my colleagues that we ought not to try it here.
DOBBS: And you're a man, obviously, both knowledgeable and comfortable with the technology, so when I was being somewhat, I was being facetious suggesting you're a Luddite, you are the exact opposite to be very clear. The idea, Representative Wiseman that Montana would take this position, do you think we'd even have this issue if it had not been for making the money available for every jurisdiction in the country to move to these electronic voting machines? We could have used that money in lots of other ways, couldn't we?
WISEMAN: Well, we could have. Here's my problem with it. The verified paper audit trail, whatever they're calling it these days.
WISEMAN: When you have that, you are basically saying you're going to have two ballots, you're going to have one set of ballots in the machine and another set of ballots that are paper marked by the machine, if there is a dispute, you're going to say you're going to believe the paper ballots so what you're doing is buying a $5,000 computer to mark a piece of paper when the proper tool for the job is a pencil.
DOBBS: Representative Brady Wiseman, we thank you very much for being with us. And making a lot of sense.
WISEMAN: It's our pleasure.
DOBBS: Coming up next here I'll be joined by three of the country's top experts on electronic voting. They'll tell us what we should be expecting come Election Day. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Welcome back. And joining us now, a panel of top electronic voting machine experts from all around the country, in Cleveland, Michael Vu, he is the Cuyahoga County elections director, who is trying to not have a repeat of the disaster that occurred there back in May in the primaries.
From Stanford University, computer scientist and activist David Dill, founder of Verifiedvoting.org, and in Pittsburgh, director of graduate programs in e-business as Carnegie-Mellon University, Michael Seamus. Thank you, gentlemen, for being her.
Let me start with -- we've just heard from a number of folks who are dealing with the issue. Is this just simply, are e-voting machines just too complicated for American elections? David?
DAVID DILL, FOUNDER, VERIFIEDVOTING.ORG: Yeah. I think they are. And one of the problems is how do you make sure that a system is secure, when it's that complicated. There are thousands of ways that they could be hacked or that there could be problems, and I think if those were easy to find, those problems were easy to find we wouldn't find these machines being certified and used in so many states.
DOBBS: Michael Shamus, your thoughts.
MICHAEL SHAMOS, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: Well, Lou, we've been using DRE voting machines in the United States since 1978. We've been using them in Pennsylvania since 1984.
DOBBS: Michael, let me stop you for a second. DRE, sounds a lot like that might be a fancying acronym for that touch screen voting.
SHAMOS: It includes touch screens but it includes non-touch screen machines. Basically it means machines for which there's no paper ballot. It stands for Direct Recording Electronic, which are the kind that are under indictment now. So we've been using them for 25 years in this country, and over 20 years in Pennsylvania. And in all of that time, there hasn't been a single verified incident of tampering with these machines so if it's so easy to do it and presumably there are people out there with an interest in doing it, it's most suspicious that nothing's ever really happened.
So it's not really the security aspects of the machines that trouble me the most. It has a lot more to do with reliability and usability, which are demonstrably poor. DOBBS: David, do you concur?
DILL: I certainly agree with the reliability and usability problems. I think that the demonstration from Princeton of computer scientists hacking the machines in seconds ought to be pretty convincing to a lot of people. Your viewers should actually see that video.
DOBBS: David, they just did.
DOBBS: We -- As a matter of fact, kitty pilgrim went off to Princeton and went through an extensive, what would you call it, hacking process. We're going to watch her very carefully come Election Day. Michael Vu, you are on the front lines. You know firsthand the difficulties that you and your election workers are facing. What is your thought?
MICHAEL VU, CUYAHOGA COUNTY ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think, Lou, we have to put this into context, as far as how we've done, conducted elections for the past 30 years. This is a huge social change management issue that we're facing, and I know that there's some security, there are security concerns. I think elections officials across the country are concerned equally as much as computer experts and the community as a whole, but I think one of the things that we have to take perspective in all of this is that whether it's in a punch card environment or in an electronic voting environment, we just changed terminology.
As opposed to stuffing the ballot box we've change it into hacking of the voting system. It's a change over time as far as the terminology that we use and we have to accommodate to those changes that we've made, and I think in due time, we'll flesh these out.
DOBBS: I am -- to be really honest with you, I'm in no way comforted by your words. We're going into this election with people, in your county, in counties all across this country very worried about whether those votes will be counted accurately, whether they'll be counted honestly, and you tell us tonight, what is your level of confidence and what is your guarantee to the voters in Cuyahoga County that it will be honest and that it will be accurate?
VU: Well, I think there's a number of levels that we have as far as security goes in making sure that ...
DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, I'm just using plain old Anglo Saxon words, honest, OK? Will it be an honest, accurate election?
VU: Yes, I believe that with our poll workers we have out on the field that are going to be overseeing it the answer is yes. I think in any -- the history of conducting elections, there's always going to be individuals that want to undermine the system or cheat the system, and that doesn't just go with ...
DOBBS: Do your workers get to take the machines home? VU: No.
DOBBS: Have they ever?
DOBBS: Michael Shamos, your thoughts?
SHAMOS: Well, there are going to be all kinds of problems in this election because a huge number of jurisdictions suddenly started using electronic machines for essentially the first time, literally the first time was in the primary this year for many jurisdictions, but the turnouts were so low in the primary that they weren't really a road test of the systems.
With respect to honesty and accuracy, accuracy is an extremely elusive concept in voting systems, because you have to know how the voter intended to vote and follow all the way to the end to find out if the system counted the votes the way the voter intended and we don't really know that.
With respect to honesty, there are people trying all kinds of trickery with respect to not just voting systems, but denying legitimate voters the right to vote, messing with registration rules, etc.
DILL: Can I cut in here? One of the common themes that's emerged in all of these things is the importance not just of technology but of running the elections right, of looking carefully at the procedures. I suspect that Cuyahoga County's elections is going to be a lot better than before because there's been so much scrutiny and study of the elections in that county.
In a lot of the parts of the United States, we don't really have any clue of how elections are run on the ground and we need to find out about that. That's something that ordinary citizens can help with if they go in and watch the election November 7th and they could sign up for the election transparency project at verifiedvoting.org to participate in one way of doing that.
DOBBS: I'll repeat that, verifiedvoting.org.
SHAMOS: I even agreed with David Dill's commercial there. I think the efforts of organizations like verifiedvoting.org which have brought tremendous scrutiny on the voting process around the country have had an ultimate beneficial effect. Because all kinds of things that people were getting away with before, including the voting machine testing level they can't get away with any longer and that's been helpful.
DOBBS: Absolutely. We owe a great deal to the activists, the bloggers who have been focusing on this, the bloggers on the Internet focusing on it, David Dill, all of the other activist organizations. Michael Bu, you get the last word.
VU: I think Cuyahoga has learned a lot of lessons. I think we've done two things, prepare appropriately, as well as test and making sure the devices are prepared in advance of the election.
DOBBS: Michael Vu, we wish you and all of Cuyahoga County a lot of luck. We hope it is absolutely accurate and absolutely honest. We know you'll be doing your part in both. Thank you, Michael Vu.
David Dill and Michael Shamos, thank you all for being here tonight. We appreciate it.
SHAMOS: Thank you.
DILL: Thank you.
VU: You're welcome.
DOBBS: Coming up next, more on the threat e-voting poses to this democracy and what you can do about it.
DOBBS: As we close, you may be wondering why the electronic voting machine industry wasn't represented on this broadcast, and frankly, so are we.
You should know we invited each of the four major e-voting machine manufacturers to join us. Each one of them, Diebold, the biggest, Sequioa, ES&S, and Hart Inner Civic, they all turned us down.
Diebold did turn us to the Information Technology Association of America, that's an industry lobbying group, but they wouldn't talk to us either.
Now, we're a little hurt and certainly as baffled as you probably are as to why they wouldn't appear on the broadcast to at least reassure American voters that their machines work well, that everything's a-OK.
Which leave us wondering, whether it isn't a-OK.
In this broadcast tonight you've seen how elections in states all across the country turned into disasters. You've seen a demonstration on just how easy it is to hack some of these machines and you've seen examples of either poor or nonexistent security, all of which of course threatens our democracy. Congress and the White House should have long ago taken steps to assure the integrity of this election, but it is much too late for that now.
When voters lose confidence in our elected representatives, we can, as the saying goes, vote the bums out, but what is our resource, if American voters lose confidence in our electoral system? We thank you for being with us tonight for this America Votes 2006 special, "Democracy at Risk."
For Kitty Pilgrim and all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
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