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DOES YOUR VOTE COUNT?

Dear Vermonter,

In recent months, several independent tests have shown that there are serious security holes in the Diebold optical-scan voting systems that we use in Vermont.

"I think if most people understood that their vote is in jeopardy, they'd be angry as can be."
-- U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida

As you may be aware, in 2004 Vermont passed a law requiring paper ballots on all votes cast. Members of our group were instumental in writing the bill and getting it passed into law. We thought that would help ensure our election system would be secure, but we have since found that the optical scan systems are just as vulnerable to errors and fraud, and we need to take further action.

It has been determined that anyone with access to a memory card (a removable part of each optical-scan machine) can alter the election results without any trace. Even though town clerks run two separate tests on the memory cards, these tests would not detect such tampering.

In 2005, a computer expert tested the machines we use in Vermont. He found he was able to program the removable memory card to change the results of an election in a completely undetectable way.

While election officials and town clerks have access to these memory cards, this is not the real problem. The real threat is that the memory cards are sent back to a private company called LHS before every election, and many of their employees have unfettered access to the cards there. This company, with direct ties to Diebold, has the ability to control who wins and loses our elections. If they were doing so, we wouldn't know it.

It's important to understand, this now infamous test called the "Husti Hack" (after the Hari Hursti who conducted it) revealed that the election results can be PRE-programmed by Diebold and LHS, before the election actually takes place. This could be done not only with the memory cards, but also on the firmware of the scanner itself. Nothing has to be done to the machines on election day, and no test on the machines could reveal a problem.

As a result of these findings, several states and municipalities across the nation have taken action. The California Secretary of State immediately put certification on hold and ordered the system we use to be inspected by an independent testing agency, which not only confirmed the Hursti Hack but also found illegal software code written on the memory cards. The state of Pennsylvania then decertified the machines that we still use in Vermont. Colorado also put certification on hold. The state of Florida sent out an alert to all election officials, and two Florida counties banned the machines.

"If you go to one of these voting machines and vote for candidate A and the vote gets changed to candidate B, you will never know."
-- Professor David Dill, Stanford University Computer Science Department

Since then, many independent studies have been conducted on the voting machines. All have confirmed the Hursti Hack and found other vulnerabilities.

All of these reports reach the same conclusion, that there is only one way to be sure that the voting machines are counting properly, and that is to have mandatory random audits on all election systems. This means a certain percentage of the paper ballots are hand counted and checked against the computer's count. The reports state emphatically that random hand counts are the only way to verify election accuracy and there is no test on the scanner or computer that can detect a potential problem. The most recent Brennan Report was conducted by a consortium of the most distinguished computer security experts in the world, including the head of security for Microsoft and Lawrence Livermore Labs, and professors from MIT, Berkeley, Yale, and Standford Universities. The report says there must be random audits on every election.

Even without the potential of fraud, we still need the audits because sometimes machines just make errors. As we all know, computers have all kinds of problems. Sometimes they crash. Sometimes software code has an unintentional bug and it doesn't work right. Hundreds of significant errors have been documented on all types of electronic voting systems, including one in Iowa where the wrong candidate was given the victory, until a voting official decided on their own to count the ballots by hand. Just a few months ago Diebold was forced to admit that the vote counting software that they've been using in 34 states for several years has a bug in it and it doesn't count votes correctly.

Vermont currently has no mandatory random audits. Our previous Secretary of State conducted some audits, but not with regularity. The expert recommendations all say we need to have audit standards and they have to be on every single election.

Our new Secretary of State, Jim Condos has expressed an interest in improving the audits in Vermont. We are very pleased that Jim was elected and we look forward to the prospect of having a Secretary of State who understands that the integrity of the election is at the heart of our Democracy and of our country itself.

"Voters and election officials have no way of knowing whether the computers are counting votes properly."
-- U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, New Jersey

Vermonters for Voting Integrity is a group of concerned citizens working to improve the transparency and accuracy of our election system. We are hopeful that the Secretary of State will follow the experts' call for mandatory audits on ALL elections in Vermont, and follow all the recommendations of the Brennan Report.

Vermonters for Voting Integrity is NON PARTISAN. We do not endorse parties or candidates, but we may point out when a candidate or legislator says something or takes action relating to our election system.

We believe in the following democractic principles:

  • Currently our election system in Vermont is not secure, and is prone to rigging, hacking, and errors. This is not a matter of opinion, and is confirmed by virtually every independent study and report on the system.
  • Our system could be much more secure if there were mandatory random audits on the election results and open software code on the scanner machines. Vermont needs an auditing system that is robust and adheres to advice of experts, such as what is outlined in "Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Audits" which has been endorsed by the American Statistical Association.

Virtually every state has an organization fighting for the integrity of their elections, and against the problems of the electronic voting machines. There are many lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, candidates, computer security experts, and voting rights activists all over the country who recognize the seriousness of this situation. There are several lawsuits and investigations underway relating to this subject.

Now it's our turn. Vermont is small but that means each citizen has a louder voice. In order to take the necessary actions, we need more people like you to join with us and help make our election system secure once again. We're not asking for your money. We just want you to learn about this very important subject and help us raise attention with the public and our legislators.

The right to vote and have fair elections was gift that our forefathers gave us, to save us from tyranny and oppression.

Our Democracy is at stake and we need your help. This web page will list some action items and news stories that pertain to the struggle to have secure elections in Vermont. Let your voice be heard!

Here is what you can do:

  1. Sign our PETITION for mandatory audits in vermont's election system.
  2. Contact Secretary of State Jim Condos and tell him you want better audits on our election system. Use your own words to let them know:

    • You are concerned about security holes found the Diebold scanning machines we use.
    • To make our system secure, they should institute audits on all election results. The Secretary of State, under Title 17 Section 2493 of the Vermont Constitution, has the authority to conduct audits. Ask him to use his authority audits on ALL elections and all races, and to follow all of the recommendations of the Brennan Report and the Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Audits.
    • Vermont should conduct an independent study into the security of the machines, and take into account the numerous existing studies.

    Please contact Jim Condos and expresss your concern. Here is their contact information:

    Jim Condos
    Vermont Secretary of State
    26 Terrace Street
    Montpelier, Vermont 05609
    (802)828-2363
    email: jim.condos@sec.state.vt.us

    Kathleen S. DeWolfe
    Director of Elections & Campaign Finance
    Office of the Secretary of State
    26 Terrace St.
    Montpelier, VT 05609-1101
    (802) 828-2304
    email: kdewolfe@sec.state.vt.us

    If you get a response from either of them stating there is no concern because they test the memory cards, or that no one could access the memory cards anyway because they are locked up, do not accept this answer from them. Write back and explain that this study at Berkeley University proved that their tests would not detect any hacking or rigging on the memory cards. Remind them that it's not just a matter of making sure the town clerks keep the cards locked up, because employees of LHS and Diebold have unfettered access. Don't take no for an answer. Nothing short of mandatory audits that adhere to Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Auditscan ensure the integrity of our elections.

    Please send a copy of your correspondence to:

    • your town clerk and local election officials
    • candidates in the upcoming election
    • your local newspaper

  3. Stay informed! Get involved! Your democracy needs you!

    Vermonters for Voting Integrity has a several ways you can stay informed and/or get involved:

    • Join our email list: By signing up for our email list, you will stay informed about our progress and we'll let you know about important action items that need your participation.

    • Join our discussion list: By signing up for our discussion list, also called a "listserv", you can engage in email-based conversations with other people who are concerned about this problem. You can learn more about the situation by asking question, and you can also give input and help us organize efforts and accomplish our goals. You can just read what others are saying, or be as vocal as you want. You can receive the messages in "daily digest" form so that you don't receive too many emails.
    • Print this flyer and distribute it as much as possible. It's amazing how effective grassroots efforts can be if people just take a few minutes to effectively spread the word.
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