Bush Fmr. Elections Chair: E-Voting Ripe for Fraud
Bush's Former Elections Chair: E-Voting Ripe for Fraud
First Bush-appointed chair of US Election Assistance Commission says "no standards" for e-voting devices, system "ripe for stealing elections!"
Bradblog & Truthout.org
Tueday 17 October 2006
The BRAD BLOG has obtained an EXCLUSIVE partial transcript from a recent, unaired interview by a major broadcast network with former U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) chair Rev. DeForest Soaries.
Soaries was appointed by George W. Bush as the first chair of the commission created by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election Debacle. In the interview, available here for the first time, Soaries excoriates both Congress and the White House, referring to their dedication to reforming American election issues as "a charade" and "a travesty," and says the system now in place is "ripe for stealing elections and for fraud."
Having resigned from the commission in April of 2005, Soaries goes on to explain that he believes he was "deceived" by both the White House and Congress, and that neither were ever "really serious about election reform."
The explosive comments are the latest evidence highlighting serious deficiencies in the federal body, created by HAVA for oversight of elections systems, including new electronic voting devices, and standards for the use and security of those systems.
In the unaired interview, conducted last August, Soaries says there are "no standards" for voting systems and that Congress and the White House "made things worse through the passage of the Help America Vote Act."
Due to underfunding and lack of attention to the EAC and the Election Reform it was supposed to oversee, Soaries says we now have an "inability to trust the technology that we use" to count votes in our American democracy, even as "we're spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq."
"We know more today about how to build a machine to take pictures of rocks on Mars than we know about how to build a machine to safeguard the American right to vote," complained Soaries in the interview.
On Electronic Voting System standards - which HAVA mandated would be created by the EAC - Soaries blasts both the White House and Congress for failing to supply them with the needed resources to complete the mandate, both for the federal government and the states that were relying on them to do so.
"[T]he states were forced to comply and they were asking us for guidance. We were ill-equipped to provide guidance. We didn't begin our work until January 2004 and we spent the first three months of our work looking for office space. Here we were, the first federal commission, responsible for implementing federal law in the area of election administration and for the first three months we didn't even have an address. And we physically had to walk around Washington DC looking for office space. This was a travesty. I was basically deceived by the leaders of the House, the Senate and the White House."
"Someone has got to be able to say, no one in America should use machine 'A' ever again," he says, in reference to the EAC's failure to decertify electronic voting systems even after they have been proven to be easily vulnerable to hackers and tampering.
"And if it's not EAC," he continued, "it's got to be someone. Someone in America has got to hold America accountable for protecting the most fundamental right in a democracy and that is the right to vote."
The straightforward comments from the EAC's first chair are in stark contrast to the actions of his Bush-appointed replacement, the current EAC head, Paul DiGregorio. The outgoing chair, DiGregorio, whose term has now ended, made news several days ago when it was discovered he had allowed the commission to withhold the release of a May 2006 report revealing claims of epidemic "Voter Fraud" - as made by GOP operatives in order to push an agenda calling for restrictive, unconstitutional Photo ID laws at polling places - are wholly unfounded.
Where Soaries was disappointed at the lack of interest by officials for true reform by the EAC during his tenure, his predecessor appears to have been using the post as an arm of the White House to continue its manipulation and perversion of the American electoral system.
UPDATE 7:27pm PT: The folks from KTLK in Los Angeles called to say they will have Soaries on the "Harrison on the Edge" show tonight to discuss this interview at 8:30pm PT. You can listen online here...
The transcript of Soaries comments, as taken from the unaired August 2006 interview are posted below...
Transcript from Unaired September 2006 Interview
Rev. DeForest Soaries, Former U.S. Elections Assistance Commission Chair
"I resigned, effective April 30th, 2005 after having served through the 2004 elections and concluding that neither the White House nor the Congress was really serious about election reform.
"Florida 2000, the whole world watched America express embarrassment over the status of the Election Assistance Administration and by November 2004, we had not only not made significant changes but in many ways, had made things worse through the passage of the Help America Vote Act.
"After Florida 2000, the politicians were all on the soap box promising the country that we would 'repair' the problem and the problem was much more than hanging chads and lever machines. For instance, the Help America Vote Act mandates that an electronic voting machine be in every precinct in the country and that mandate preceded the funding of research necessary to ensure that there is some prototype or standard for such machines. If every home were mandated to have a microwave without the prerequisite kinds of safety standards for microwaves, it would be considered scandalous. But we know more today about how to build a machine to take pictures of rocks on Mars than we know about how to build a machine to safeguard the American right to vote.
"There is no prototype. There are no standards. There is no scientific research that would guarantee any election district that there's a machine that can be used to answer these very serious questions. And so, my sense is that the politicians in Washington have concluded that the system can't be all that bad because, after all, it produced them. And as long as an elected official is an elected official, then whatever machine was used, whatever device was used to elect him or her, seems to be adequate. But there's an erosion of voting rights implicit in our inability to trust the technology that we use and if we were another country being analyzed by America, we would conclude that this country is ripe for stealing elections and for fraud.
"What was ironic that was each of us accepted our appointments knowing that EAC had no statutory authority to regulate. But what we were told was that EAC would have sufficient money to do research. And while regulatory authority was not present, we felt that if we could do the proper research, no state would be caught dead using equipment that didn't meet up to the standards that our research proved were acceptable standards. Well, in the absence of regulatory authority and in the absence of money to do the research, we were basically asked to make bricks without straw.
"Well, the states were forced to comply and they were asking us for guidance. We were ill-equipped to provide guidance. We didn't begin our work until January 2004 and we spent the first three months of our work looking for office space. Here we were, the first federal commission, responsible for implementing federal law in the area of election administration and for the first three months we didn't even have an address. And we physically had to walk around Washington DC looking for office space. This was a travesty. I was basically deceived by the leaders of the House, the Senate and the White House. And I decided that it just made more sense to spend my time watching my sons play basketball than to participate in this charade.
"While we're spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq, we're told at EAC, by both the White House and the Congress, here is how much we're going to give you. You tell us what you're going to do with it. They never asked us the question, what would it really take to lead election reform in this country. How much money should the country really spend not only on buying new equipment, but on doing the proper research before using that equipment and how much will it cost over the long haul to keep that equipment up to date and to repair such equipment. Those questions were not asked. So in my view, it was a just a charade that I would chose not to participate in.
"Most people who really know, like election officials. They pray on election day that the election is not close. Because if an election is not close, then the flaws are hidden. But it's when you have this perfect storm of equipment failures like Florida and a close election where there's a call for recounts and an inability to determine who won right away, that's when the glaring issues emerge and when election officials begin biting their nails.
"Either EAC or some agency must have the capacity to hold the entire system, elections officials, public officials and the manufacturers of voting equipment accountable. Where there's no accountability, then you're open for fraud and for inefficiency. EAC has regulatory authority over the National Voting Rights Act but that's a small piece of the voting process. Someone has got to be able to say, no one in America should use machine 'A' ever again. And if it's not EAC, it's got to be someone. Someone in America has got to hold America accountable for protecting the most fundamental right in a democracy and that is the right to vote."