Voting Scrutiny Gathers Steam

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Voting Fraud is not new in the United States. But a group of 'ordinary' citizens has made important advances in doing something about it

Voting machine fraud investigations led by ordinary citizens are gathering momentum and evidence nationwide.

“Ordinary people are making the difference in whether or not Democracy survives,” said Susan Klopfer, author of a civil rights book focused on Mississippi and voting rights.

Her observation followed announcements Christmas week by California’s Secretary of State ordering both the controversial voting machine manufacturer Diebold and federal testing labs to “clean up their acts.”

“Thanks to California attorney John S. Baker of Black Box Voting, a citizen-led voting project, one more state is going to pause before using controversial voting equipment,” said the author of “Where Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited” (Lulu Press, 2005).

This past November, Black Box representatives asked to examine California’s Diebold Election Systems component, the programmed “electronic ballot box” memory cards used in optical scan and touch screen voting systems.

“The California Secretary of State at first invited Black Box Voting to hack away at some Diebold voting systems, setting the test date for Nov. 30, 2005.

"But specific testing protocol was to be provided by Diebold and the California Secretary of State’s office without participation by the citizens’ group, hence delaying the test.”

At issue was Diebold’s insistence on being involved in setting up the testing procedures, and Diebold’s provision of hand-picked machines, using new voting systems not currently in use in California, Black Box officials reported.

“But ordinary citizens keep hacking away at this and other voting machine issues,” Klopfer said, citing several recent activities reported by Black Box leading up to the California stand:

•Bev Harris’s recent book, Black Box Voting, took state examiners to task as she published interviews with state voting machine examiners “exposing slipshod state certification that relies on the flawed premise of strong federal certification.”

•A Riverside (Calif.) computer programmer Jeremiah Akin wrote of Independent Testing Authority or ITA failure during testing of Sequoia voting software, finding “major security flaws in software” and asserting that Riverside had run elections on software that was later found to contain “major security vulnerabilities that were not spotted in the certification process."

•Susan Pynchon, an ordinary citizen who now runs the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, was able to demonstrate a breakdown in Florida’s state certification process.

“Ordinary citizens led these investigations, gathering momentum and evidence nationwide, resulting in failed security tests in Florida and then culminating in the California Secretary of State ordering Diebold and federal testing labs to go clean up their act while avoiding the state’s own responsibility of testing the machines, itself,” Klopfer said.

The struggle to vote and to have the vote fairly counted has been a theme throughout U.S. history, and Mississippi “has its share of stories,” according to Klopfer.

“After the Civil War, as more blacks tried to register and vote, lynching picked up around the country particularly in the South and especially in Mississippi.

"So by the 1870’s, Mississippi was setting new records for lynching more black people than any other state as many whites felt that the freed blacks were getting away with too much freedom and felt they needed to be controlled,” Klopfer said.

Mississippi had the highest lynching number from 1882 to 1968 with 581. Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493. Some 79% of lynching happened in the South, researchers at Berea College reported in 1997.

Lynching soon became a prominent activity in all Mississippi counties and December is a month that goes down in the state’s history:

In her research, Klopfer found that in two days alone in 1874 – December 7 through 8 – over 26 black citizens of Vicksburg were slaughtered by whites seeking to push black elected officials from office.

“One black man affected by this increased brutality was Charles Caldwell. Born a slave and later elected to the state Senate, Caldwell was blamed for killing the son of a white Mississippi judge in 1868.

"Caldwell argued self-defense in front of an all-white jury and was acquitted – the first black charged with killing a white in Mississippi and going free after a trial. But seven years later, on Christmas Day 1875, a white gang shot Caldwell to death.”

Meanwhile, two recent stories indicate that a Diebold stockholder lawsuit could be imminent, according to Black Box that cite sales revenue issues:

“Diebold’s first "hit" was in late June this year, when the company admitted to mis-stating ATM sales revenues in a stockholder conference call.

"Diebold’s stock dropped again in late September upon the release of a glum sales forecast based on additional problems with its ATM division.”

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Susan Orr-klopfer
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