Testimony of Diana Finch


Governmental Operations Committee Hearing

Nov 21, 2005




My name is Diana Finch, I am a resident of the Bronx, NY.


I am a literary agent working with Greg Palast, investigative journalist and author of THE BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY, as well as investigations of Florida and Ohio election irregularities published in Harper's Magazine and by the BBC. I also work with Professor Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania who is co-authoring a book on what discrepancies between exit polls and official vote counts reveal about our voting process. Finally, I work with Blair Bobier, lawyer and media director for The Green Party's 2004 Presidential Campaign, whose legal pursuit of a recount after the 2004 debacle in Ohio will now go to trial in August 2006.


All three of these expert authors are deeply familiar with and hugely concerned by the dangers to trustworthy, secure, verifiable voting posed by DREs without paper ballots.


Computer security is impossible to control.


We know this is true when we see the most secure installations in the world being broken into. American financial companies have had millions of accounts compromised and even our Department of Defense has been broken into.

These break-ins are possible because of the communications capability in the computers.


Wireless capability is as simple as adding a wireless card to one of the slots in a computer. Computer manufacturers are even now making display screens with wireless capability in the screen itself, as in IBM and Toshiba laptops.  You'd never even KNOW your voting machine was communicating wirelessly; nor would poll workers.


By the time we vote again, many more wireless networks will be in use.  Partly in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that the Justice Department is moving forward with an effort to build a nationwide wireless communications system for federal law enforcement agencies, the Integrated Wireless Network, a program worth an estimated $2.5 billion. http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=32649&sid=28


And as reported in the January 20, 2004 issue of New Scientist, a voting machine manufacturer, Diebold, did try to get a DRE machine with wireless capability certified in California for the 2004 Presidential election. Diebold spokesperson Mark Radke told New Scientist that wireless capability could be implemented "if required” simply by inserting a card and configuring the machine.


But as computer experts explain, "Wireless capability is almost ideally suited for

hackers."   Says Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: "They no longer have to get physically close to the machines to tamper with them."


In the highly competitive atmosphere of electoral politics, we can’t just assume that everyone involved will always be a saint. 


NY State law should have banned communications capability in all computerized voting and vote tabulating equipment, should have required inspections by candidates and parties before and after elections, should have stipulated felony penalties for violations, and should have required money bonds from voting machine vendors in case elections need to be held again.


Our NY state legislature did not protect us, and now the decisions are all to be made by Boards of Elections under intense sales pressure by powerful lobbyists with long strong ties to top partisan politicians in the State, and Boards of Elections that are not beholden or responsive to the public.


The security of paper ballots is simple to ensure now, a century and a half after Tammany Hall.  At the very least, the NY City Council should pass a resolution to urge our NYC Board of Elections to switch to paper-ballot optical scan.


Like many testifying here today, I am a member of the New Voting Rights Movement.  Many of us subscribe to a daily digest of news articles on voting complied by John Gideon.  In the past two weeks, since the November 8 elections, voters across the country have attended hearings like this one today and have spoken out about concerns over partisan control, security and verifiability, advocating for systems using paper ballots that would address these concerns.  In Pipestone, Minnesota; Brownsville, Texas; Pleasanton, California; Bristol, Connecticut; Shelby County, Tennessee; Spotsylvania, Pennsylvania; St. Louis City, Missouri; Madison, Wisconsin; Roanoke, Virginia; Palm Beach, Florida; Greensboro, North Carolina and Montclair, New Jersey.


On behalf of my borough, I am proud to add the Bronx, New York to this list.