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EFF: Stand Up for Accountable Elections

EFFector - Vol. 17, No. 15 April 28, 2004
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424

Verify the Vote - Stand Up for Accountable Elections!

Democracy is government by the people, and the right to vote is critical to determining what each of us wants of our government. Nearly one-quarter of American voters - more than 35 million people - will exercise that right using electronic voting (e-voting) terminals in the next presidential election. Unfortunately, some e-voting equipment has been hastily developed and poorly tested, putting your right to vote in greater jeopardy than ever before. There are widespread reports of voting terminal failures, and growing concern about the (in)security of these machines is fueling fierce debate over how to ensure the integrity of our elections.

Two key problems are that many machines cannot be audited to verify that they are correctly recording each person's intended vote, and that many do not allow real recounts. And while new voting technology promises fully accessible, private voting for Americans with disabilities and non-English speakers, machines that cannot verifiably record and tally votes break that promise. This is not an acceptable foundation for our democracy. EFF,,, True Majority,, and Working Assets/Act For Change have joined forces to let you, the voters, know what the challenges are for making computerized voting work, and how you can help.

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~ The Challenges

1. Electronic voting machines must provide voter-verifiable paper audit trails. Future election systems may provide integrity through other means, but for now, paper trails are necessary.

2. There must be fully accessible, private voting for Americans with disabilities and non-English speakers.

3. There must be transparency in voting-system development and testing, and especially in computerized voting. Computer code used in elections must be open to independent scrutiny. EFF has made progress on several fronts, including launching a grassroots activism campaign that helped convince California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to mandate voter-verifiable paper trails for state elections by 2006. This is a great start - but we need your help to take the fight nationwide.

~ How You Can Help

1.) EFF is launching a 3-month "Verify the Vote" campaign: Help us raise $250,000 by July 1st, and we'll use the funds to keep the fight for voter-verifiable elections alive through the 2004 election and beyond. Every dollar counts, so donate today at

2.) Write your representatives and ask them to support the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 (S. 1980 and H.R. 2239), which requires openly reviewed software and voter-verifiable paper audit trails for all new e-voting machines.

3.) Since decisions to purchase e-voting machines are made at the county level, let your local elections officials know that any machines purchased should have voter-verified paper audit trails.

4.) Contact your Secretary of State to encourage him or her to pursue policies that establish responsible criteria for the types of e-voting machines that can be adopted by your state.

Finally, we encourage you to support the other organizations joining this campaign. If we work together now, we can help save the November elections, as well as provide a roadmap for preserving our democracy in the years to come.

* Op-ed: "TSA and CAPPS II - Anatomy of a Cover Up"

By Kevin Bankston

EFF Staff Attorney and Bruce J. Ennis/Equal Justice Works Fellow On Good Friday evening, after everyone, including its own spokespeople, had gone home, American Airlines quietly admitted that in 2002, it secretly transferred passenger data to government contractors. Specifically, the airline provided 1.2 million passenger records to contractors developing prototypes for the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) controversial Computer Assisted Passenger-Profiling System (CAPPS II). These records contain detailed personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, travel itinerary - even your credit card number. American admitted to the transfer only after several months of official denials by TSA, which repeatedly claimed that it never used real passenger data for CAPPS II testing. Our conclusion: Either TSA has been lying to us about CAPPS II, or its officers are incompetent. We'll be charitable to the officers and assume that TSA lied.

~ The Tip-off: JetBlue Passes the Torch Data

The first clue was dropped in September of 2003, when Edward Hasbrouck discovered that JetBlue had secretly supplied over five million passenger records to Torch Concepts, a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. Torch was engaged in data-mining research - specifically, to develop techniques for flagging air passengers as potential terrorists. Sounds suspiciously like CAPPS II, doesn't it? And then the situation got even more suspicious: it was revealed that TSA not only knew about but actually facilitated the JetBlue/Torch data hand-off. Yet TSA somehow managed to keep its hands clean: because neither TSA nor its contractors *possessed* the data in question, it violated the spirit rather than the letter of federal privacy laws.

~ The Pattern: A Second "Data Valdez"

Shortly after the JetBlue scandal broke, Northwest Airlines admitted to handing over to NASA three months' worth of passenger records - once more for data-mining research. Again, TSA's hands were technically clean. And again, the denials kept coming: even after the news broke about Northwest, TSA flatly denied possessing real passenger data or using it to test CAPPS II. (Well, not quite - it did admit to using the records of 32 TSA employees who had consented to be guinea pigs.) TSA made these denials to the press; to its bosses at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when the department was investigating the JetBlue scandal; and to the General Accounting Office (GAO) when it was investigating CAPPS II. It even told Congress directly that it never used real passenger records for CAPPS II testing. Yet now we can draw no other conclusion than that TSA lied.

~ Fool Me Thrice

Despite all of this, we are expected to trust TSA with a comprehensive database of all our personal travel details - just as we are expected to trust 1.) a Justice Department handed an astonishing amount of surveillance power in the weeks after 9/11, 2.) an FBI seeking to implement a surveillance state on the Internet, and 3.) government programs working to enable total information awareness of everything we say or do.

We're not buying it, and we don't think you should, either.Please: stand up for your rights as a U.S. citizen and demand that Congress put an end to the lies by fully and publicly investigating TSA and CAPPS II. We deserve to know the truth about our travel privacy. There are already a few Senators asking the right questions, but your voice - right now - could make a real difference:

Wired article on TSA and CAPPS II:,1848,63067,00.html

List of the types of information a passenger record contains:

More about CAPPS II:

miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

~ Another Reason to Order Chinese

Collection agencies are data-mining pizza delivery databases to track down debtors:

~ Diebold's "Pentagon Papers"

Yale's Ernest Miller with an analysis of leaked documents showing that Diebold was warned against using uncertified software in California's elections - but went ahead and did it anyway:

EFF's follow-up post:

~ Deception Loves Company?

A county clerk in Indiana has accused Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of using uncertified software in Marion County elections - then "willfully and purposely" lying about it:

EFFector is published by: The Electronic Frontier Foundation 454 Shotwell Street San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA +1 415 436 9333 (voice) +1 415 436 9993 (fax)


Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist

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