Voters Insist On Right To Observe Vote Counting


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

New Zogby Poll On Electronic Voting Attitudes
Monday, 21 August 2006, 11:00 pm
Article: Michael Collins
New Zogby Poll: It¹s Nearly Unanimous

Voters Insist On Right To Observe Vote Counting
Plus Other Findings From This Unique Poll
By Michael Collins
³Scoop² Independent Media
Part I of a II part series.
Washington, DC

A recent Zogby poll documents ground breaking information on the attitudes of 
American voters toward electronic voting. They are quite clear in the belief 
that the outcome of an entire election can be changed due to flaws in 
computerized voting machines. At a stunning rate of 92%, Americans insist on the
right to watch their votes being counted. And, at an overwhelming 80%, they 
strongly object to the use of secret computer software to tabulate votes without
citizen access to that software.

The American public is clear in its desire for free, fair, and transparent 
elections. An 80%-90% consensus on the right to view vote counting and 
opposition to secrecy by voting machine vendor is both rare and remarkable in 
American politics. If only the public knew that these options are virtually non 
existent in today¹s election system.

Viewing vote counting will soon become a process of watching computers, somewhat
akin to watching the radio, but without sound. Secret vote counting with 
computer software that citizens cannot review is now a fait accompli. Most 
contracts between boards of elections and voting equipment manufacturers bar 
both elections officials and members of the public from any access to the most 
important computer software; the source code that directs all the functions of 
the voting machines, including vote counting.

As a result of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a majority of these voters
will be using touch screen voting machines with a lesser amount using special 
paper ballots counted by optical scanning devices. There are very few localities
using paper ballots for the November 2006 election. If the federal government 
gets its way, they will be a thing of the past.

we now know that as many as 50,000 black Floridians were wrongly removed from 
the voting rolls through a highly suspect ³felon purge² that missed felons but 
captured legitimate registered voters. And we know further that over 100,000 
ballots in mostly black precincts were disqualified due to the old voter 
suppression standby, ³spoiled ballots. ² Neither of those voting rights and 
civil rights problems is addressed by HAVA. It¹s all about ³the machines.²

A Zogby Poll was commissioned and sponsored by election rights and business law 
attorney Paul Lehto of Everett. Washington. This author, Michael Collins, 
Editor, was a contributing sponsor. It consisted of 
1018 interviews over a five day period beginning August 11, 2006. For further 
details, please see the ³Appendix² at the end of this article.

This article focuses on three key questions from the survey. The responses 
reveal public attitudes as they were measured very recently. The outcome should 
give policy makers and bureaucrats serious pause for reflection upon just 
exactly what they have done to America¹s system of elections and just how far 
from public beliefs they have strayed.


Voters Aware of Risks of Electronic Voting ­ Changing an Entire Election

How aware are you that there have been reports of flaws in electronic voting or 
computerized voting machines that make it possible to tamper with one machine in
such a way as to change the results of an entire election?

Very aware 28.5%
Somewhat aware 31.8 Aware 60.3%
Somewhat unaware 14.9
Very unaware 22.8 Unaware 37.7
Not sure 1.9

The response shows a wide spread awareness of the potential for flawed voting 
machines to overturn an entire election. This is highly significant since the 
change in election outcome represents a violation of the expressed will of the 
people. Elections using touch screens computers or optical scan tabulators would
seem to present entry level doubt concerning any election, particularly the type
of nail biters that are common in America over the past few years.

All subgroups were near or exceeded 50% or greater in awareness ( very, 
somewhat) of the risks of electronic voting.

The breakdown politically is instructive. Combining the ³ very² and somewhat 
aware responses shows a near parity by political identification: Democrats 
59.9%; Republicans 58.3%; and Independents, the highest at 63.8% awareness. 
Dividing the sample by political ideology shows Libertarians with the highest 
level of awareness concerning the risks of computerized voting, 81%, and 
Moderates with the lowest at 55.9%. Of interest, Liberals and those describing 
themselves as Very Conservative were nearly identical in their awareness at 
62.7% and 61% respectively.

Near Universal Demand to See the Votes Counted

In some states, members of the public have the right to view the counting of 
votes and verify how that process is working. In other states, citizens are in 
effect barred from viewing vote counting even if they would like to view the 
process. Which of the following two statements are you more likely to agree with
­ A or B?

Statement A: Citizens have the right to view and obtain
information about how election officials count votes. 91.8%
Statement B: Citizens do not have the right to view and
obtain information about how elections officials count votes. 5.9
Neither/Not sure 2.3

Most all likely voters (92%) agree that citizens have the right to view and 
obtain information about how election officials¹ count votes (Statement A). Just
6% feel citizens do not have this right (Statement B).

Four fifths of respondents within every demographic group selected the right for
citizen review and access, Statement A. This includes overwhelming majorities of
both Kerry (92.8%) and Bush supporters (90.8%); independents (96.9%); Catholics 
(92.8%), Protestants (90.8%), Jews (87.2%), and those with no religious 
affiliation (93.3%); and two points above the average, NASCAR fans, 93.9%.

If and when citizens begin demanding this widely assumed option, they will be 
gravely disappointed. Viewing vote counting in the era of electronic voting 
means something different than it did in the days of paper ballots. In the case 
of touch screen devices, the vote count consists of poll workers or technicians 
taking data tapes out of a computerized touch screen device. With optical scan 
ballots and voting machines, tabulation (vote counting) involves pressing a 
button for a total count after the special paper ballots have been scanned 
through the computerized scanning device.

The process of removing public review of voting and vote counting began in 
earnest with the 2002 Help America Vote Act. In a previous article with Paul 
Lehto, the clear intent to herd local and state governments into the seemingly 
happy pasture of touch screen voting devices is described in depth. In essence, 
the three step process of forcing locals to accept touch screen devices, 
stripping voters and government agencies of their rights to review and 
understand voting, and locking that system in place for the indefinite future is
nearly complete.

The 2006 election represents the brave new world of electronic voting. The 
American people want something entirely different: free, fair, and transparent 
elections with full citizen participation and review. The following questions 
and responses provide convincing evidence to support that claim.

Voters Opposed to Secret Software to Count Votes

With computerized electronic voting machines, votes are counted using 
proprietary or confidential software from corporate vendors that is not 
disclosed to citizens. Do you agree or disagree that it is acceptable for votes 
to be counted in secret without any outside observers from the public?

Agree 13.7%
Disagree 79.8
Not sure 6.5

There is overwhelming objection to vendor specific secret software used to count
votes outside the purview of public observation. This is a sentiment shared by 
no less than 70% of the people in any sub-group in the survey. This includes 
every political party; political ideology; race, religion; age group; 
educational level; and income group. This included 85.5% of rural residents and 
79.8% of NASCAR fans.

Once again, the public is in for a profound disappointment. Nearly every state 
and county board of elections has a contract with the voting machine vendors 
that prohibit access to and review of voting machine ³source code,² the software
that controls all of the key functions of vote counting. These contracts are 
freely entered into by government officials and in place for a period of months 
or years. Even with full access to source code, the level of expertise and 
manpower necessary to police malicious acts, which we know can occur, makes such
disclosure a Pyrrhic victory; a distraction from the return to real ballots, 
counted by real people, open to full supervision and inquiry.


The Public's Right to Know and Their Right to Know What They Don¹t Know

The Zogby Poll makes it clear that the public insists on the right to view vote 
counting. At 92% agreement with Statement A above, the public clearly thinks 
that it should have this option. There is also strong agreement that 
computerized voting should be transparent; that secret software, meaning secret 
vote counting is totally unacceptable.

What will people think and do when they find out that these rights are (a) not 
granted universally either in law or by custom and (b) that even if they are 
granted, they are virtually unobtainable due to the nature of computerized 
voting. Invisible ballots cannot be observed by voters. Computer software 
calculations cannot be observed by voters. Inquiring about and receiving 
information on these invisible processes requires an act of faith of epic 
proportions. Voters are expected to believe summary data and tables from 
election officials who routinely deny and/or discourage access to vote counting 
and who sign contracts with private vendors like Diebold, Sequoia, and ES&S, 
that surrender the right of officials or the public to inspect the most 
important software in the voting machines, the source code.

There has been a virtual media blackout on in depth coverage of these issues by 
the national corporate media. The work of Lou Dobbs and Catherine Crier are 
notable and powerful exceptions. Lou Dobbs¹ coverage includes online polls that 
consistently show 80% and greater preference for a complete dismissal of voting 
machines and a return to paper ballots.

The public has the right to observe the entire election process. It¹s called 
transparency. The public has a right to get information on how that process 
works in order to satisfy the requirement for free and fair elections. These 
rights are unavailable and the public does not even know it. If and when these 
issues are covered by the broader media with insight and attention, there may 
very well be the type of outrage at the loss of our liberties that we have seen 
from Lou Dobbs and Catherine Crier. That would be a most unpleasant event for 
those who have bargained away voting rights for the sake of a free Federal grant
to buy voting machines people inherently distrust.

*** # # # # ***

Copyright. Permission to reproduce in whole or part with attribution to the 
author, Michael Collins, a link to ³Scoop,² and attribution of polling results 
to Zogby International.

Michael Collins is a writer who focuses on clean elections and voting rights. He
is the editor of the election fraud web site, He has 
written articles on a number of topics for ³Scoop² Independent News including: 
The Disenfranchisement of Katrina's Survivors; The Unanswered Question: Who 
Really Won In 2004? ; Secret Vote Counting, a scathing critique of HAVA; and 
Kennedy's Challenge, a detailed response to Salon¹s attack on the Robert F. 
Kennedy Jr. article on stolen election 2004. Special thanks to Stella Black for 
editorial assistance; Paul Lehto for very helpful suggestions; and 
acknowledgement and thanks to the Zogby professional (R) who did such an 
outstanding job summarizing complex data.

MichaelCollins @


The Zogby poll was conducted from August 11 through 15, 2006. 1018 adult voters 
were interviewed by phone. The sample of people interviewed reflects the 
demographic and regional diversity of the United States. Due to the size, it has
a 3.1 % (+/-) margin of error. 95% of Zogby¹s political polls have come within a
1% margin of accuracy in predicting election outcome. The survey was 
commissioned and sponsored by election rights and business law attorney Paul 
Lehto of Everett Washington. This author, Michael Collins, Editor, was a contributing sponsor.

Voters were asked what type of voting machines they used to cast their votes. 
All but 4% knew the answer to this question. A plurality said that they use 
touch screens, 32%. Optical scanning devices for special paper ballots were used
by 18% of voters and the same percent used ³plain² paper ballots. Lever machines
were used by 14% of voters with punch cards representing 12% of the sample.


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