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”We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. We must move past indecision to action.”
Martin Luther King, 4/4/67

AT LAST…!

Updated 3/23/08

On Thursday, March 20th, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) following Chair Rosemary E. Rodridguez’s recommendation, voted unanimously to allow states to spend their Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to replace already HAVA-compliant voting equipment, with different HAVA-compliant voting equipment. Contrary to some reports, the EAC’s language does NOTrequire states to first decertify old equipment before purchasing new systems.

The significance of this ruling for Tennesseans is huge! This removes the last roadblock for our state accessing our $36 million in surplus HAVA funds to purchase paper-based optical scan voting systems.

We have the solution. We now have the money. We need action from our legislaters, Secretary of State and State Election Coordinator to get this done BEFORE this November!

You can read the actual EAC ruling here.

(Note: Even though this document has a “Draft” watermark, this is the final version which was adopted with minor language changes.)


Updated 3/8/08

On Tuesday, March 4th, the House State & Local Government committee met, having the Voter Confidence Act (House Bill 1256) first on their agenda. This was the third week in a row the bill was discussed.. This time however – the bill was recommended to the full House for a vote! The vote was 19 to 1 with, with only one member absent.

You can read the final version of the bill here.

Needless to say, this is great progress. Thanks to EVERYONE who called, emailed and visited with legislators. You definitely made an impact on the members of this committee and our sponsor, Representative Gary Moore!

If you have a minute to write Representative Moore and/or the other committee members to thank them for this critical support, that would be wonderful.

Here are the members for the House State & Local Government Committee. “Cut-and-paste” them into the address box of an email and write them all at once. (If you ‘bcc” their address box, your email might look more personal.)

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], tn.us, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

You can also call ther offices or click on the links to email them selectively:

Representative Gary Moore – (Joelton) District 50 – SPONSOR OF HB 1256
Phone: (615) 741-4317
Senator Joe Haynes (Goodlettsville) District 20 – SPONSOR OF SB 1363
Phone: (615) 741-6679

—————————————————————————————————————————

HOWEVER…

House Bill 1256 still has to be brought to the floor of our House of Representatives and Senate for a vote.

Please Email or call your own state House representatives, even if they are not on the above committees. Tell them to support HB 1256. Call your state Senators and tell them to support their version of the bill: SB 1363.

And… that it must take effect for November 2008. Let them know that you strongly support paper ballots that can be read electronically and can also be manually audited or recounted. Ask them to speak up for free, fair and verifiable elections – to let our votes count in ‘08.

Ask them – as your elected voice in government – to support the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, insuring that every Tennessean is allowed vote on verifiable paper ballots in beginning THISelection.

If you don’t know who your state Representative and Senator are, go to www.vote-smart.org. You can enter your zip code at that web-site and get a page listing all your representatives. (The web-site asks for a nine digit zip-code. If you only know five digits, just enter “-0000″ and it will give you the correct information.

HOWEVER…

A critcal piece of this change is, of course, the funding. Even though our state has some $37 million in surplus Help America Vote Act federal funds, and the cost is $25 million, our state election officials are using the normally slow allocation process as an excuse to avoid the hard work of fixing our unverifiable election system. Regardless, if they honestly felt compelled to implement this necessary – and inevitable – change, they could begin planning now. But, as far as we know, they aren’t. Instead, their mantra continues to be, “It can’t be done in 2008.”

We, of course, disagree. Our evidence is that Colorado and Ohio have shown it CAN be done in 2008, working off the very same calendar.

Email, or call our Governor, as well as House and Senate leaders. Tell them that securing our elections by November 2008 is something that must be done. Governor Bredesen, House Speaker Naifeh and Senate Speaker Ramsey need to know that 35 other states have already figured out – voting on insecure equipment is no longer acceptable. Urge them to please use their power and influence in compelling our state election officials to begin implementing a plan, changing from paperless touch-screens to optically scanned paper ballots NOW – as if the funding were already available.

Governor Phil Bredesen
Phone: (615) 741-2001
Fax: (615) 532-9711
Governor’s Office
TN State Capital
Nashville, TN 37243-0001

Lieutenant Governor & Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey
Phone: (615) 741-4524
Fax: (615) 253-0197
1 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh
Phone: (615) 741-3774
Fax: (615) 741-0944
19 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

FINALLY…

Email or call our Secretary of State Riley Darnell and State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson. These are our two public officials directly responsible for implementing this critical change from paperless, unverifiable, insecure elections, to optical scan paper ballots. Let them know that as a voter, this upcoming national election in November 2008 is too important to leave to chance… Or worse. They claim they can’t fix this problem until 2010. Let them know that this is not acceptable.

Secretary of State: Riley Darnell
Phone: (615) 741-2078
312 8th Ave. North, 8th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

Elections and State Election Commission: Brook Thompson
Phone: (615) 741-7956
312 8th Ave., North
Nashville, TN 37243

We have made important strides recently and we need to keep building the momentum for reform NOW.

It is certainly not too late to restore election integrity in Tennessee, but we must act NOW.

We can’t afford another insecure election in our state. Not when the solution is achievable NOW.

Let our votes count in 2008.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!


When the Study Committee on Voter Confidence met on December 18th, the members took a step in the right direction. The 8 members present agreed to “report out” SB 1363 — The Voter Confidence Act of 2007 as amended at their next meeting in early January. “Report out” signals that the amended bill can proceed to be “Introduced” in both houses of the legislature, and begin to wend its way through the committee hearing process.

Senate Sponsor Joe Haynes had sought to have the bill reported out at this week’s meeting, but agreed to wait –- but only a short time — to allow other legislators to write additional amendments to SB1363. This is the bill that Gathering to Save Our Democracy/Common Cause TN has supported and worked for over the past 2 years. If passed it would mandate voter verifiable paper ballots, routine post-election audits, and tighten security and testing for all electronic voting systems. While this procedural step may seem insignificant, it marks forward motion for the bill.

Read the full committee meeting report here.


On Monday, November 12, a full house joined us at the Belcourt Theatre to learn more and to see the theatrical premiere of UNCOUNTED:The New Math of American Elections, a new documentary by Nashville filmmaker David Earnhardt. David began the filming for UNCOUNTED in 2005 at the National Election Reform Conference, an event which brought activists from more than thirty states to Nashville.  

Over the next two years David traveled the country gathering stories of everyday Americans who witnessed elections being manipulated and stolen. UNCOUNTED shows people taking action to try and right the wrongs of U.S. elections — often at great sacrifice to themselves.  The film features a variety of computer, statistical, and election experts who prove how the unethical and illegal manipulation of the vote has changed the outcomes of elections on local, state, and national levels.

DVDs of UNCOUNTED are available for purchase online at www.UncountedTheMovie.com/order-the-dvd.html.


If We Don’t Act Fast, State’s 2008 Voting System Will Be Rife With Errors

The Tennessean
By Deborah Narrigan
October 30, 2007

The next federal election is less than 13 months away. Unless our county and state election commissions start rolling out new voting equipment soon, voters across the state can have no confidence that their votes for U.S. president will be recorded and counted as they were cast.

Further, if after the electronic votes are counted, a race is found to be razor-edge close, no meaningful recount can take place. These machines do not allow a recount of votes. They will simply spit out the same totals over and over again. A meaningful recount requires that most basic of things: a ballot — and a ballot that can be handled, read, and yes, counted by people, not machines.

It is difficult to think of a more essential feature of a true democracy than an accurate recording and tallying of votes.

If we believe that our election administrators, commissioners and also our legislators (elected by us) want to uphold the principles of our democracy, they must ensure that our votes are fully, accurately and verifiably collected and counted. Citizens should be able to trust these well-intentioned officials, but only if our elected officials take the steps needed to assure us that all votes will be counted as cast.

One very simple change in our election system is desperately needed, and is still possible before the November 2008 election: The secretary of state or the governor must mandate that all votes from November ’08 onward will be cast on voting equipment that begins and ends with a paper ballot, marked by each voter. These votes can be tallied electronically with an optical scanner and the ballots retained in a locked box to be recounted or audited as needed.

In 35 other states, this system has been mandated by law or in a few states including New Mexico and Florida, by decree of the governor. Federal funds are expected to be available to cover the cost of this essential step in states with vulnerable voting systems. Tennessee would qualify for this funding. While it may seem time is too short to make this change, counties had just seven months to switch to paperless electronic machines in 2006.

The time for action is now. Tell your state representative, senator and, yes, our governor to take charge. We deserve to vote with confidence, starting in 13 months.


Presentation to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)
By Bernie Ellis
September 27, 2007

I want to thank the TACIR commission members and staff for this chance to address you today. It has been an interesting morning, hearing from voting machine vendors who continue to try to sell us on the virtues of their wares; and from Dr. Wallach, who has pointed out the many serious flaws with surrendering our election processes to private companies using secret software on insecure and poorly functioning equipment. Now you get ten minutes from me, representing two grassroots election organizations, Gathering To Save Our Democracy and Common Cause. It is fitting that my presentation comes at the end, because the organizations I am here to represent are composed of thousands of concerned Tennessee voters of all political parties and persuasions; and in Tennessee, as in all functioning democracies, the voters always have the last word.

Being allowed only ten minutes to address you this morning seemed like insufficient time to cover all the important reasons why Tennessee needs to act now to correct the serious mistakes we have made in changing our voting systems. After all, Tennessee used to be known as a leader in the voting rights movement, the state that insured that women’s suffrage became a reality, that helped break Jim Crow laws and practices before the Voting Rights Act passed and that insured that each voter’s ballot had equal weight through the landmark Supreme Court decision, Baker v. Carr.

Today, we are known as one of the eight most insecure states for election integrity, one of the states that made the worst decisions with our HAVA funds and that would most benefit from pending federal legislation to correct those errors. Ten minutes didn’t seem like enough time, until I remembered that it takes only 7-10 seconds to break into these new voting machines to tamper with the vote-counting hardware and only 30 seconds to infect a single voting machine with a virus that is sufficient to change the vote totals in an entire county. From that perspective, ten minutes is an eternity.

Read the entire presentation here.


Davidson County Voting Machines May Be Vulnerable
July 29, 2007

We recently learned from VotersUnite.org and other national voting reform groups that the ES&S direct recording machines that will be used this week in Nashville’s election may have a serious problem. This iVotronic equipment is almost the same as that used in Sarasota Florida, and we know what using those machines resulted in: thousands of lost votes.

The electronic voting machines voters will use on August 2nd may be vulnerable to a computer virus that could infect the machines, corrupt data, alter vote counts, and go undetected. The ES & S iVotronic voting machines are almost identical to the machines used in Sarasota, FL where 18,00 ballots were lost in the November 2006 federal election. A report by a Florida State University research team of computer scientists that investigated this problem identified vulnerabilities in version 8.0 software.

Read the entire press release here.

Read the University of California research team study which proves all electronic voting systems are vulnerable here.

We decided the responsible action for us was to notify the Davidson County Election Commission of what we learned. The following letter went out July 27, 2007:

Letter To The Davidson County Election Committee

From:Deborah Narrigan, Gathering To Save Our Democracy
Subject: Status of Potential Vulnerability to Virus Attack in the ES&S iVotronic Voting Machine

As we approach Election Day we are once again raising our voices to express our serious concerns for the safety and security of the electronic voting systems now in use in Davidson County. We have discussed these concerns with you and with Ray Barrett on several occasions, but we have not yet obtained sufficient assurances that our voting process is secure and protected from unintentional or malicious attacks that are possible given the identified vulnerabilities within the ES&S iVotronic voting machine software.

Read the entire letter here.


What Is The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)?

The Tennessee Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Affairs, TACIR, is in the midst of a year-long study of the conduct of elections in TN. Their first interim report by the TACIR Exective Director, Dr Harry Green, is titled “Trust But Verify”, and covers electronic voting. It was presented to two legislative committees in May, 2007, and urges the state to convert as soon as possible to equipment that uses or produces voter verifiable paper ballots. In June the report was presented to the full 25 person Commission.

Read “Trust But Verify” here.

Comments before the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)
By Martha Wettemann
June 19, 2007

I am Martha Wettemann, a member of Common Cause Tennessee and active with the state employees association. Thank you very much for inviting us to present comments today. Having the ability to vote and having our vote count is very important. Voting is a basic right for all citizens in a democracy, and they tend to feel about their vote like they do about their money – they have zero tolerance when their vote or their money is not counted correctly.

That’s why Common Cause supports passage of legislation in Tennessee to require voter verified paper ballot systems in all Tennessee counties, and to ensure that all Tennessee voters receive equal protection under the law for their vote. We appreciate TACIR taking on this critical issue and heartily agree with Dr Green’s report and its recommendations that all voting equipment should use or produce a voter verifiable paper ballot; that random audits of all elections should take place, and that security of electronic voting equipment must be improved. See more here


A Reliable, Verifiable Vote in 2008
By New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
June 19, 2007

In November 2008, voters will go to the polls and choose the next president of the United States and their representatives to Congress — or will they?

According to Common Cause, more than a third of our states still use voting machines that do not support hand recounts and provide no auditable paper trail. “One person, one vote” is the hallmark of America’s democracy, but to make sure that our next president is elected by people, not by the malfunction of an electronic voting machine, we must immediately move to a durable paper-ballot system backed by regular audits in every state in the nation. For these reasons, Congress should quickly pass H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and cosponsored by more than 220 Democratic and Republican members of Congress. See more here


The Voter Confidence Act of 2007

The TN legislature is considering HB1256 / SB1363, a bill that would mandate that all voting machines use or produce a paper ballot. The bill sponsors are Senator Joe Haynes and Representative Gary Moore.

What YOU can do NOW to make every Tennessee vote count: CALL OR EMAIL YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY and tell them to vote for: HB1256 / SB1363

Make Every Vote Count!. You can find your legislators’ email address and phone number at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/

To read the bill click here.


Video of Post-Election Townhall Meeting With Election Commission
December 12, 2006

Windows Media Player Click Here To Watch (Windows Media Player)

Apple Quick Timer Click Here To Watch (Apple Quick Time)


Voting System Problems and Irregularities Reported During the
November 7, 2006 Election in Tennessee

March 26, 2007

Election Day, November 7, 2006, saw a large number of voting problems reported throughout the state of Tennessee. In 2006, for the first time, Tennesseans in every county voted exclusively on electronic voting systems. In 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties voters used direct record electronic machines (DREs), while citizens in Hamilton and Pickett counties used optical scanning systems. Overall, two types of problems occurred: long waiting times for voting and malfunctioning machines. For both types of problems, significant numbers of reports surfaced. See more here.


Paranoids may be right about hacked high-tech voting systems

The Louisville Courier-Journal
OPED / E.J. Dionne
October 10, 2006

WASHINGTON — Sometimes, paranoids are right. And sometimes even when paranoids are wrong, it’s worth considering what they’re worried about.

I speak here of all who are worried sick that those new, fancy high-tech voting systems can be hacked, fiddled with and otherwise made to record votes that aren’t cast, or fail to record votes that are.  See more here.


Nashville Eye: Voting machine without paper trail bodes ill for democracy

The Tennessean
By Joe Irrera
August 30, 2006

Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, a great hope of mine was dashed. After the Florida debacle of 2000, when five unelected Supreme Court justices overruled 51 million voters, I like many others had lost faith in our electoral system and felt only impartial, international observers could restore my confidence that next time every vote really would be counted.  See more here.