How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts..

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 4:37 PM EST

Before you head out to vote tomorrow, you may want to take a look at some of the basic advice given us today from three different groups: Warren Stewart at VoteTrustUSA, Mary Boyle at Common Cause, and Joe Irrera of a Tennessee group called Gathering to Save Our Democracy.

Begin with this simple advice: In general, if challenged on eligibility, says Warren Stewart of VoteTrustUSA, "don't leave the voting place without casting a provisional ballot."

However, be careful what you do, for Common Cause points out "if a poll worker tells you you're at the wrong precint, don't try to vote on a provisional ballot because in many states provisional ballots won't be counted unless they are cast in the right precinct." Try to go to the correct precinct and then cast your vote.

If you vote by machine, and something looks fishy and you don't think your vote is being accurately tabulated, ask to vote on another machine.

Finally, says Common Cause, "if you run into problems, ask a poll worker for help. They are there for assistance. If your right to vote is being challenged, you can call for legal assistance at 1-800-OUR-VOTE and to report a problem or find your polling place, call 1-866-MYVOTE 1."

A real gloomy view about all this comes from Tennessee where Joe Irrera ,Vice-President of Information Systems at Gathering to Save Our Democracy, said the following:

Unfortunately, as a voter tomorrow there's not a whole lot you can watch out for except screen calibration errors on your touchscreen voting machine. In other words, candidate flipping in the final voter selection review, before confirming your vote.

As the recent Princeton University study confirms, illegal software can easily be introduced into that touchscreen voting machine via the memory card, which secretly miscounts votes. The voter would never know it when the final machine totals tape is printed after the polls close.

Most of the danger is unseen below the surface. I'm referring to the central tabulator computers. These are the ordinary Windows computers that are fed the totals from each of the voting districts. In Shelby County (Memphis area), Tennessee we're already dealing with illegal software and a network connection that was found on both the main and backup Diebold GEMS computers which would facilitate manually altering vote totals in the database. We only discovered this because several local primary candidates contested the final vote tally and were able to bring in their own computer expert to examine the equipment.

The Diebold GEMS central tabulator software is frighteningly insecure and when you couple this with an internet-enabled network connection to the PC, you have the capacity to alter tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of votes for that county, from anywhere in the world! Thanks to the internet, I have a downloaded, working copy of GEMS on my home PC, including the Shelby County primary vote totals database. I'm less knowledgeable of the ES&S central tabulator because of the wall of secrecy the voting machine manufacturers have been legislatively allowed to hide behind. However, considering both Diebold Election Systems and Election Systems & Software originated from the same company (Data Mark), I'm not optimistic.

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