by Lynn Landes
Don't blame the poll workers in Florida. The facts, supported by voting machine experts and numerous newspaper articles, have made it clear. Computerized voting machines that were certified by the state of Florida, caused most of the problems in Florida's primary election. In the absence of paper ballots, the damage is now irreversible.
This was no accident. It's not new. And Florida is not alone.
"The concept is clear, simple, and it works. Computerized voting gives the power of selection, without fear of discovery, to whomever controls the computer," wrote the authors of VoteScam (1992), James & Kenneth Collier (both now deceased). It's a 'must read' book about how elections have been electronically and mechanically rigged in the United States for decades, and with the knowing and sometimes unknowing support of media giants and government officials, including... ironically... Janet Reno.
Only a few companies dominate the market for computer voting machines. Alarmingly, under U.S. federal law, no background checks are required on these companies or their employees. Felons and foreigners can, and do, own computer voting machine companies. Voting machine companies demand that clients sign 'proprietary' contracts to protect their trade secrets, which prohibits a thorough inspection of voting machines by outsiders. And, unbelievably, it appears that most election officials don't require paper ballots to back up or audit electronic election results. So far, lawsuits to allow complete access to inspect voting machines, or to require paper ballots so that recounts are possible...have failed.
As far as we know, some guy from Russia could be controlling the outcome of computerized elections in the United States.
In fact, Vikant Corp., a Chicago-area company owned by Alex Kantarovick, formerly of Minsk, Belorussia (also known as White Russia, formerly U.S.S.R.), supplies the all-important 'control cards' to Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the world's largest election management company, writes reporter Christopher Bollyn. According to ES&S, they have "handled more than 40,000 of the world's most important events and elections. ES&S systems have counted approximately 60% of the U.S. national vote for the past four presidential elections. In the U.S. 2000 general election, ES&S systems counted over 100 million ballots."
Getting back to Kantarovich, he would not disclose where the control cards are made, except they aren't made in America, writes Bollyn. Nor would he discuss his previous employment. Bollyn says he got some not-too-thinly-veiled threats from Kantarovich.
Kantarovich sounds more like the Russian mafia, than a legitimate businessman.
But the really big deal is this....all of ES&S's touch screen machines contain modems, "allowing them to communicate—and be communicated with—while they are in operation," reports Bollyn. That communication capability includes satellites. "Even computers not connected to modems or an electronic network can still be manipulated offsite, not during the election, but certainly before or after," says voting systems expert Dr. Rebecca Mercuri.
ES&S supplied the touch screens for Miami-Dade and Broward counties where the worst machine failures occurred. But the debacle was nothing new for ES&S. Associated Press (AP) reporter Jessica Fargen wrote in June 2000, "Venezuela's president and the head of the nation's election board accused ES&S of trying to destabilize the country's electoral process. In the United States, four states have reported problems with equipment supplied by the company. Faulty ES&S machines used in Hawaii's 1998 elections forced that state's first-ever recount."
Sequoia is another voting systems company that sends a cold chill down my spine. "Mob ties, bribery, felony convictions, and threats of coercion are visible in the public record of the election services company," according to investigative journalist and filmmaker Daniel Hopsicker, and reported in Spotlight.com. Hopsicker says that Pasquale "Rocco" Ricci, a 65-year-old senior executive with Sequoia, and the firm's Louisiana representative, recently pled guilty to passing out as much as $10 million dollars in bribes over the course of almost an entire decade." According to American Law Education Rights & Taxation (ALERT), Ricci is the president of Sequoia International, which also manufactures casino slot machines.
That's just great. Now, we could possibly have both the Russian mafia and the U.S. mafia involved in our elections.
In May 2002 Sequoia was bought by De La Rue, based in England. By their own estimate, De La Rue is "the world's largest commercial security printer and papermaker, involved in the production of over 150 national currencies and a wide range of security documents such as travelers checks and vouchers. Employing almost 7,000 people across 31 countries, (De La Rue) is also a leading provider of cash handling equipment and software solutions to banks and retailers worldwide." And they develop technology for secure passports, identity cards, and driver's licenses.
Okay, add Dr. Evil to the mix and be on the look-out for international money launderers, drug kingpins, and Nazis.
The Shoup Voting Solutions of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, has a reputation for rigging elections, wrote the late co-author of VoteScam, Jim Collier. According to Collier, in 1979, Ransom Shoup II, the president of the firm, was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice stemming from an FBI investigation of a vote-fixing scam involving the old-fashioned lever machines in Philadelphia."
These reports are just the tip of the iceberg. The numerous instances of U.S. voting systems error and fraud are documented in a 1988 report for the U.S. Commerce Department entitled, "Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying" by Roy G. Saltman, a computer consultant for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Computer Systems Laboratory. Many other experts and observers have been warning and complaining about these problems for decades.
But complaints, warnings, reports, and books like VoteScam, haven't deterred government officials like Pinellas County (Florida) Commissioners Calvin Harris and County Judge Patrick Caddell. They told the St. Petersburg Times in October 2001 that they were aware that all of the voting machine companies had "problems in their pasts." But, Harris said, "We have to look at this objectively and not get tied up into the emotions of, 'Some guy might be a crook."
Dear Commissioner Harris...when it comes to elections in America...assume crooks are in control...and then act accordingly.
Lynn Landes is a freelance journalist specializing in environmental issues. She writes a weekly column which is published on her website www.EcoTalk.org and reports environmental news for DUTV in Philadelphia, PA. Lynn's been a radio show host and a regular commentator for a BBC radio program.