Republicans Block Voting Machine Testing in Ohio

by markthshark

Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 05:33:09 AM PDT

This is not good for Democrats in Ohio. Voters there need to rally and organize to countermand this grievous public injustice. All votes must be counted and all votes must count.

That said, if Ohio Republicans have anything to do with it; the state will reprise its ignominious stage role as the "New Florida" in the much-awaited 2008 neocon sequel, "Rigged Election Part Two."

Now, I donít know about you, but Iím a movie aficionado, and to me, sequels are greatly overrated.

It seems that the legend of J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohioís former secretary of state and graduate of the Karl Rove School of Dirty Politics, lives on, bequeathed to other remaining Republicans in the state. In fact, theyíve decided to block proposed tests to the stateís electronic voting machines prior to the 2008 presidential primary.

By a vote of 4-3, Republicans on Ohioís State Controlling Board blocked Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunnerís proposed $1.8 million contract for voting machine testing. Brunner had already set aside the $1.8 million for the test. Her specific request to the Controlling Board was a waiver for competitive bidding. Her office had hoped to complete all testing by November 30, 2007.

Blackwellís successor, and a former judge, Brunner won election as a reform candidate, vowing to guarantee the publicís access to the polls, and an accurate vote count in 2008. But, it seems Brunner hasnít been quite as aggressive as some of her Democratic counterparts like California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who recently completed an extensive array of testing on that stateís electronic voting machines. Bowen decertified many of the machines and is on course to rework how Americaís biggest state casts and counts its ballots. Itís too bad Brunner isnít following her California counterpartís lead.

The Columbus Free Press ran the story last Tuesday, Sept. 11:

When it was recently revealed that 56 of 88 Ohio counties illegally destroyed protected materials from the 2004 election, Brunner showed little reaction. She has also stated publicly doubts that the irregularities that defined the Ohio vote that year could have affected the outcome or that the illegal destruction of more than 2000 ballots could have been intentional.

But in attempting to carry out her promise to test Ohio's electronic voting machines, Brunner has followed through on public demands that the ability of Ohio's electronic machines to deliver a fair and reliable vote count be proven. Tests and studies conducted by the federal Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, Johns Hopkins, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Election Commission, John Conyer's House Judiciary Committee and others have all shown clearly that electronic voting machines are unreliable and easily rigged.

The New York Times has now joined that consensus, calling for an outright federal ban. "Electronic voting has been an abysmal failure," the Times said. "Computer experts have done study after study showing that electronic voting machines, which are often shoddily made, can easily be hacked. With little effort, vote totals can be changed and elections stolen."

Apparently, the Ohio GOP is not anxious to have a state study add to such conclusions. At a Monday hearing, Republican State Representative Matthew Dolan attempted to table Brunnerís request before she was allowed to speak. Only the procedural intervention of Controlling Board President Joe Secrest afforded Brunner the courtesy of presenting her controversial proposal.

Compared to Bowenís tests in California, Brunnerís plan seems half-hearted at best. It calls for contracts with testing companies preferred by voting machine vendors like SysTest Labs and computer security experts from various universities to inspect machines under management of the Battelle Memorial Institute.

But, according to Ohio State Senator John Carey (R-Wellston), tests conducted in California were the work of leftists and extremists. Carey and Sen. Steve Stivers both questioned the independence and objectiveness of the universities listed in Brunnerís plan, including Cleveland State, Penn State, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Cleveland State University Law Professor Candace Hoke, who witnessed the California tests of e-voting machines for hackability, told the Controlling Board that within ten seconds to two minutes . . . they found many different ways to hack the machines.

Both Brunner and Hoke stressed the lack of security measures now used at Ohioís polling places. The issues of so-called sleepovers used in some Ohio counties, like Hocking, were cited. This practice involves often untrained poll workers to take hackable voting machines home with them the weekend before an Election Day.

Brunner repeatedly emphasized the need to establish a chain of custody concerning both the access and memory cards used in voting machines, the latter serving as an electronic ballot box. In recent elections, memory cards have gone missing for hours on election nights in both Toledo and Dayton.

State Senator Ray Miller (D-Columbus) declared that election security is the most important issue thatís come before the Controlling Board. He said, itís way beyond the building of buildings. It goes to the core of our democracy.

Ohio Speaker of the House John Husted (R) initiated the attack on Brunnerís plan on the morning of September 10 meeting of the Controlling Board by sending Brunner a letter demanding she remove the requested contract proposal from the Controlling Board agenda. Husted wrote: "At the present time, too many outstanding questions remain regarding the scope of this request and the intent of the study."

Brunnerís response: "... our testing process allows for parallel independent testing of Ohioís voting systems by both corporate testing entities and some of the nationís best computer security research scientists, allowing them to collaborate as needed. I regret I cannot accede to your request to delay, as I need information to prepare for the early March 4 primary election so that Ohioís voters can trust that we have done all possible to ensure the safety, reliability and trustworthiness of our voting systems in Ohio."

Early voting will begin in Ohio in late January. But the GOP clearly intends to delay the testing in Ohio and conduct yet another election on eminently hackable electronic voting machines.

I canít believe this is happening so close to the primaries. SoS Brunner has to be a disappointment to Ohio voters, who sent a clarion message that Blackwellís brand of Rovian electioneering wasnít welcome in their state.

Iím not saying it was under the same circumstances but we managed to get it done in Florida, and that was with a Republican governor and secretary of state.

Hit the streets Ohioans! Youíre running out of time!

After all, we don't want a sequel.