December 27, 2004

An editorial in today's New York Times carries the frightening news that a federal panel is working to grease the skids to make it impossible to detect fraud in future national elections.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

"The Election Assistance Commission, a federal body set up after the 2000 election mess, has created a group called the Technical Guidelines Development Committee to propose federal electronic voting standards to Congress this spring. This committee includes outspoken supporters of electronic voting without paper trails, including Britain Williams, a retired Kennesaw State University professor who has worked closely with Georgia on its controversial adoption of Diebold voting machines. But disappointingly, the commission did not include any of the many respected computer scientists - such as Prof. Aviel Rubin of Johns Hopkins, Prof. David Dill of Stanford or Dr. Rebecca Mercuri - who have been warning about the unreliability of electronic voting in its current form... The chairman of the working group preparing the standards for voting machines is a top executive of Election Systems and Software, a large and controversial voting machine maker."

Verifiable elections are an essential feature of a democracy. Nothing is more critical to our democracy than trust in our electoral process. The 2000 election was indisputably stolen. Four years later, our federal government sanctioned a national election whose suspicious results cannot be independently verified. Several states, including California, have already required the use of voting machines whose results can be verified (with paper ballot back-ups) in the future. But these reforms will accomplish little if other states continue to rely on machines that can be tampered with so easily.

Here's the solution: the state of California and all other states that use voting systems that generate results that can be verified should immediately pass legislative resolutions that notify our federal government that our states and citizens will not respect the results of national elections if those results cannot be independently verified.

The resolutions should also declare that if our federal government conducts another national election in 2008 whose results cannot be verified those of us who live in states that conduct verifiable elections will pay our federal income taxes into an account held in escrow by some uninvolved third party (perhaps Switzerland) until the United States of America once again has a federal government that is legitimately constituted.

This proposal may sound extreme. But not if one considers the sacrifices previous generations made to secure our democratic freedoms, including the right to vote and the right to have those votes counted. We owe it to those who came before us and those who will come after to make sure that our generation does not lose our democracy, without a fight, on our watch.