Secret Ballot Counts Jeopardize Our Democracy


“If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal,” Political activist….Emma Goldman 1912

As the twentieth century was ending, a new iteration of election rigging was emerging. With the widespread adoption of computerized digital voting technology, and the outsourcing of election technology to a select few corporations that operate in shadows, with no oversight or accountability, our vote, our most important democratic right, the heartbeat of our democracy, has been hijacked.

Today, and for many years, by the means of propriety CIA owned corporate “cut outs,” and their software, just one programmer can steal hundreds, thousands and millions of votes with the stroke of a key. It is the electoral equivalent of an attack by a drone, wiping out the popular vote.

The privatization of elections by gangster operations of The Pentagon and CIA has occurred without public consent, and has led to a dangerous crisis in American democracy. We have lost the ability to verify our own elections.

In the 21st century a new technology became ubiquitous. Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting, which establishes touch screen voting and does not require a paper trail. That is the system still used in some states, like Kentucky, that just re-elected the reprehensible right wing toadie Mitch McConnell. No paper trail for public verification, just the demonic digital vote. The virtual vote count can be and is manipulated in total secrecy by The Pentagon and CIA “black operations.”

In 1996 Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska millionaire running for the US Senate hid his ownership of the voting technology company that was counting his votes. The company was then called American Information Systems and is now called Election System and Software (ES&S). Hagel easily won the election over the favored Democratic Governor of Nebraska Ben Nelson, by 15 points, handing the seat to the GOP for the first time in 18 years.

Charlie Matulka, who contested Hagel’s Senate seat in 2002, requested an investigation into Hagel who had never disclosed his financial ties to ES&S, by the Senate Ethics Committee. His request was rejected. His request for a hand recount of the 2002 Nebraska Senate election was also rejected. Nebraska state law specifically stated that a recount had to be done by the same “vote counting device,”that was used initially, in this case, the ES&S optical scanners.

The new millennium did not deliver any sort of an idealized promise land, rather it brought us the fraud of the 2000 election, triggered by a faulty computer memory card. Late on election night, Al Gore’s totals in Volusia County Florida when one precinct suddenly reported 16,000 negative votes. At 3am in the morning Gore discovered that he was actually ahead in Volusia County by 13,000 votes.

Gore was cast as a sore loser by the hostile right wing media, and the Supreme Court named Bush the winner, even though Gore won the popular vote.

In 2002, George W. Bush signed the Help America Vote Act, (HAVA), which offered states 3.9 billion to help modernize their election administration and equipment, supposedly in response to the Florida hanging chad debacle in 2000. HAVA actually subsidized the fraud prone touchscreen voting systems, the electoral Trojan horses that have subverted our democracy.

HAVA’s impact been immense, accelerating the deterioration of our electoral system. We are being disenfranchised by losing our ballot, the vital heartbeat of Democracy, the key physical veracity of our power as citizens.

In 2002, the GOP gained control of the thanks to the technical failures and anomalies of Diebold. In Georgia for example, Diebold’s voting machines reported the defeat of of Democratic Senator Max Cleland, who had held a solid lead over the Republican opponent Saxby Chambliss, a favorite of the Christian right, the NRA, and George W. Bush.

Chambliss, who had avoided military service, ran attack ads denouncing Cleland, a Silver Star recipient who had lost three limbs in Vietnam, as a traitor for voting against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Well ahead in all the polls, Cleland lost by seven points. In the month leading up to the election, Diebold employees applied a mysterious, uncertified software patch to the 5000 voting machines that Georgia had purchased in May. Diebold employees were told by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, a Bush fundraiser, not to talk about it with Georgia county employees.

In 2003 the CEO of Diebold Warren O’Dell, a top fundraiser for George W. Bush brazenly stated that he would promise to “deliver” Ohio’s electoral vote to Bush in the 2004 election. In 2004 before the election California banned Diebold’s touchscreen system, the Secretary of State calling Diebold “fraudulent” and “despicable,” and “deceitful.” O’Dell resigned in 2005, just before the filing of a class-action suit that accused Diebold of fraud, insider trading and lack of quality control. In 2009, Diebold got of the election business and sold to ES&S.

In 2004, John Kerry lost the election for president in Ohio. In this important swing state, election monitors were besieged by complaints of GOP organized voter suppression, intimidation and fraud. Thousands of voting machine anomalies were reported, including “patches” that switched votes from Kerry to Bush. Watching over the election was the Republican Ohio Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a partisan fundamentalist Christian, who also served as the co-chair of Ohio’s committee to re-elect George Bush. The major participant in the Ohio vote rigging was GOP computer guru Michael Connell. Connell was the Bush campaigns chief IT strategist. He two Ohio based companies built websites and email systems for the Republican National Committee, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and many of the most powerful figures in the GOP, including Karl Rove, Jen Bush and Jack Abramoff.

Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska millionaire running for the US Senate, hid his ownership of the voting technology company that was counting his votes

In 2004, Connell was hired by Blackwell to design a website that would post Ohio election results to the public. Connell’s contract required him to create a “mirror site,” that would kick in to display the vote totals if the official Ohio servers were overwhelmed by Election Day voter volume.

For the “mirror site,” Connell used SmartTech, a little known company from Chattanooga, Tennessee. SmartTech was a huge Republican partisan, and the company’s servers hosted hundreds of high profile Republican websites, and later anti Obama websites.

Four years later, Ohio attorney and former Republican Cliff Arnebeck started to gather evidence to file a racketeering claim against Karl Rove, claiming that Rove had planned the rigging of the 2004 election. Arnebeck identified Connell as a key witness, and the implementor of Rove’s criminal activities. Connell eventually admitted that he had used the Tennessee servers, but denied any knowledge of the servers being activated in 2004. In actuality, the SmartTech site was activated at 11:14 p.m. on Election Day. The data being routed to Tennessee was then used by GOP partisans to rig Ohio counties votes to republicans. SmartTech’s role was insidious and involved the Republican control of the total vote count. The lack of any documentation available clearly warranted an immediate fraud investigation.

Arnebeck hoped to have Connell testify in open court against Rove. But the potential witness died on December 19, 2008, at age 47, when his single-engine Piper Saratoga, which he was piloting alone, crashed entity’s from Washington, D.C., to Ohio. A criminal investigation on the crash was squashed by Ohio Republican partisans.

Late on Election Day John Kerry showed an insurmountable lead in exit polling, and his victory was considered all but certified. Yet, the final vote tallies in thirty states deviated greatly from the exits polls, with discrepancies favoring Bush. The largest discrepancies were concentrated in battleground states, particularly Ohio. In one Ohio precinct, exit polls indicated that Kerry should received 67 percent of the vote, but the certified total gave him only 38 percent. The odds of such an unexpected outcome occurring only as a result of sampling error are 1 in 867,205,553. Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling stated, that the 2004 National Election was, “as dirty an election America has ever seen.”

The spread of computerized voting has allowed enormous potential for electronic manipulation and deceit directed by the “black ops” of the Pentagon corporate “cut-outs.” The game changing and shocking discovery was that Diebold, one of the primary manufacturers of voting machines had left 40,000 files that made up its Global Election Management System (GEMS) on a publicly accessible website, totally unprotected.

Diebold was never able to explain how it’s proprietary tabulation program ended up being exposed. GEMS turned out to be a vote rigging panacea. It could be hacked remotely or on site, using any version of Microsoft Access. Password protection was missing for supervisor functions. Multiple users could gain access to the system after just logging in, but unencrypted audit logs allowed any trace of vote rigging to be wiped away from any record.

The public unmasking of GEMS by an average citizen who was not a programmer served as an alarm bell to the world’s leading computer security experts. They now turned their attention to America’s most widely used voting systems.

In 2005, the nonpartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, stated unequivocally that the greatest threats to secure voting are insiders that have direct access to the voting machines. They stated that “there was no reason to trust insiders in the election industry or anymore than in other industries.”

In September 2011, a team at the U. S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory hacked into one of Diebold’s Accuvote touch screen systems. They determined that anyone with an eighth-grade science education can manipulate the outcomes of elections. Their warnings went unheeded, and in the 2012 election the Accuvote-TSX, now manufactured by ES&S, was used in 20 states, by more than 26 million voters. Another system manufactured by Sequoia, was also easily hacked using the same “man in the middle” hack, a tiny wireless component that is inserted between the display screen and the main circuit board, which requires no knowledge about actual voting software. The Sequoia machines were used in 4 states, by nearly 9 million voters in 2012.

The voting machine manufacturers are in total denial of these sophisticated cyber-based attacks on our democracy.

Three voting touch screen machine manufacturers now control 88 percent of the U. S. market. These voting machine companies, ES&S, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic, register votes in bar codes that the human eye cannot recognize. Voters end up with print outs that accurately spell out the names of the candidates they picked, but because of a hack, the bar codes don’t reflect those choices. The bar codes are not tabulated, so the voters never become aware that their ballots benefited another candidate. The voting machine companies reject these proven facts. Approximately 1 in 5 voters used ballot marking machines in the 2020 elections.

Today’s ballot marking devices undermine the need to retain a paper record that can be used in audits and recounts. The industry is virtually unregulated, even though election technology was designated critical infrastructure in January 2017. Federal certification guidelines are 15 years old, and are only voluntary. The voting machine vendors have rigorously resisted the public disclosure of third party testing of their systems.

Even where paper ballots exist, now in a majority of states, they counted by optical scanners. These are computers programs just like the DRE machines, by private companies using software that is not subject to public inspection. These scanners are also easily hacked and vulnerable to both fraud and error. They must be checked by an aggressive manual public audit of the paper ballots on election night.

Where paper ballots exist, we must demand that local election clerks allow them to be counted by hand before they leave the precinct. We must organize citizen volunteer groups and establish legislation, to gives the right to count the votes at the local level. We must have citizens file injunctions to impound ballots, memory cards and voting machines after the polls close. This will prevent tampering with any items after the election, and give us access to them with a secure chain of custody.

The Republican controlled senate has refused to take up bills that would require voter-verifiable paper trails and require certifiable post election audits. Republicans say the federal government should not impinge on states’ authority to oversee elections.

Our faith based elections are the result of a new Dark Age in American democracy, brought to us paradoxically by technological advances, and by the corrupt corporate oligarchy, and The Pentagon and CIA that cravenly does its bidding.

The unreliability of new digital technology, when combined with new Election Day domination of a few secretive CIA “cut out” corporations with Pentagon based interlocking directorates and ownership, makes anyone asking if our elections are fair, gratuitous.

The very idea of computers and artificial intelligence has given humans the cover to avoid accountability by kidding ourselves that computer networks and voting machines can take on more and more of our own responsibilities. Digital information gleaned from computers and voting machines, are after all, is just people in disguise. In this way digital modernity represents as sort of soft, cryptic blackmail, and shell game. Once we become accustomed to having an artificial, computer driven information service, our cognitive styles and capacities become unconsciously shaped by the availability of that service.

The recent breakdowns in the real outcomes of elections and the veracity of our votes cast, can be seen as symptoms of a false hope, that information technology can make promises on its own, without people, without verifiable results, without judgement.

Michael Bloomberg’s abrupt exit from the 2020 presidential primary race cleared the path for Joe Biden who had gathered a surge of anti-Trump energy in the Democratic Party, to block the progressive movement of Senator Bernie Sanders. After the disappointing Super Tuesday primaries, where the public was not allowed to verify the vote totals or demand a recount, Bernie Sanders progressive campaign and a rejection of the billionaire class and Wall Street predatory banking was marginalized once again. Instead Mr. Bloomberg and the Democratic Party establishment rallied around Mr. Biden, rigging the primary against what over 70 percent of Democratic voters wanted: a progressive agenda: Medicare for All, free college education, and a green new deal, and a progressive proportional tax system.

Biden received last minute pre- Super Tuesday support from such rivals as Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg, who received a persuasive phone call from former President Barack Obama. The Big Tent Project, an outside “dark money” group backing moderate Democrats had been running anti-Sanders ads throughout the country. The Democratic Party’s superdelegates had begun aligning themselves with Biden to block Sanders from securing the nomination at the July convention in Milwaukee.

Biden was running a campaign heavily supported by the corporate establishment, which was his past history. Biden had received funding from at least 60 billionaires, and corporate oligarchs, while the campaign of the progressive Sanders, had received more campaign contributions from more Americans, averaging $18.50, than any campaign in the history of our country.

Just as computer touch screen voting machines can be rigged by the use of private unaccountable software and optical scanners, so to can our primary elections when the political duopoly of power, both beholden to same corporate cash, and the monopoly power of the private computer voting machine companies that refuse to allow audits and recounts of the primary vote totals.

John Maynard Keynes, the great and prescient demand side economist, had seen the emergence of the computing machine called ENIAC. He was very concerned about its eventual computational power. He understood rightly, that judgement would become overwhelmed by efficiency. He stated, that “judgement is to capitalism, and democracy, what the secret police are to a totalitarian state. Without judgement, you will eventually have anarchy and worse.”


A privatized, secretive ballot count must be regarded as a violation of our civil rights. If we the people, members of the new Peoples’ Party, do not have righteous outrage, and courage to fight for our basic right of American self government, who will?

Tim Duff

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