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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MoveOn asks folks to sign petition in the wake of the NY Times article

Dear MoveOn member,

This Sunday's cover story in The New York Times Magazine makes plain the threat: The winner of the 2008 presidential election could be decided by flawed, insecure, and hackable electronic voting machines.1

This is the most prominent news coverage this issue has ever gotten, so it could be our one last chance to get this right before the election in November.

Congress is poised to consider a new emergency paper ballots bill next week—but we'll have to convince them to act right away.2

Can you sign this urgent petition asking local, state, and federal officials to require paper ballots for our votes? Clicking here will add your name:

The petition says: "We must act quickly to secure our elections with paper ballots and audits before November."

Elections are run at the state level, so we'll deliver your signature and comments to local election officials in addition to members of Congress.

Electronic voting machines are so unreliable and insecure, we might elect the wrong person president in 2008. As The New York Times Magazine reports:

[Voting machines] fail unpredictably, and in extremely strange ways; voters report that their choices "flip" from one candidate to another before their eyes; machines crash or begin to count backward; votes simply vanish. (In the 80-person town of Waldenburg, Ark., touch-screen machines tallied zero votes for one mayoral candidate in 2006—even though he's pretty sure he voted for himself.) Most famously, in the November 2006 Congressional election in Sarasota, Fla., touch-screen machines recorded an 18,000-person "undervote" for a race decided by fewer than 400 votes.3

You can read more from this scary report at the end of this email—and forward it along to your friends and family. It's really compelling.

Congress hasn't been able to solve this problem yet, but there's one more chance next week. Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey is expected to introduce an emergency bill to offer funding to states who switch from unreliable electronic voting machines to paper ballots and audits.4 We'll ultimately need a mandate for these things, but this bill would be a crucial first step to prevent some of the most dire threats to the 2008 election.

But to pass the bill in time, we'll need to light a fire under Congress. At the same time, we'll have to urge local election officials to read The New York Times Magazine story—and replace electronic voting machines with paper ballots and audits before November.

Sign this emergency petition to stop the threat from electronic voting machines right away. Click here to add your name:

Thank you for all you do.

–Noah, Jennifer, Laura, Carrie, and the Political Action Team
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

P.S. Here's more from this week's disturbing New York Times Magazine story. Please forward this along to all your friends and family.

Can You Count on Voting Machines?

By CLIVE THOMPSON, The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 2008

Jane Platten gestured, bleary-eyed, into the secure room filled with voting machines. It was 3 a.m. on Nov. 7, and she had been working for 22 hours straight. "I guess we've seen how technology can affect an election," she said. The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were causing trouble again.

For a while, it had looked as if things would go smoothly for the Board of Elections office in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. About 200,000 voters had trooped out on the first Tuesday in November for the lightly attended local elections, tapping their choices onto the county's 5,729 touch-screen voting machines. The elections staff had collected electronic copies of the votes on memory cards and taken them to the main office, where dozens of workers inside a secure, glass-encased room fed them into the "GEMS server," a gleaming silver Dell desktop computer that tallies the votes.

Then at 10 p.m., the server suddenly froze up and stopped counting votes. Cuyahoga County technicians clustered around the computer, debating what to do. A young, business-suited employee from Diebold—the company that makes the voting machines used in Cuyahoga—peered into the screen and pecked at the keyboard. No one could figure out what was wrong. So, like anyone faced with a misbehaving computer, they simply turned it off and on again. Voilà: It started working—until an hour later, when it crashed a second time. Again, they rebooted. By the wee hours, the server mystery still hadn't been solved.

Worse was yet to come. When the votes were finally tallied the next day, 10 races were so close that they needed to be recounted. But when Platten went to retrieve paper copies of each vote—generated by the Diebold machines as they worked—she discovered that so many printers had jammed that 20 percent of the machines involved in the recounted races lacked paper copies of some of the votes. They weren't lost, technically speaking; Platten could hit "print" and a machine would generate a replacement copy. But she had no way of proving that these replacements were, indeed, what the voters had voted. She could only hope the machines had worked correctly.

Click here to keep reading:

Then sign our urgent petition for paper ballots before the November election. Just click here to add your name:

1. "Can You Count on Voting Machines?," The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 2008

2. "Rep. Holt To Offer New Election Reform Proposal," National Journal Tech Daily, December 10, 2007

3. "Can You Count on Voting Machines?," The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 2008

4. "Rep. Rush Holt to Push for Paper Ballots and Vote Count Audits for 2008," AlterNet, December 27, 2007

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