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The Philadelphia Inquirer

New machines enough to make you a nonvoter

Wed, Jun. 14, 2006
By Suzanne Cloud

I didn't vote last week. Oh, I went to the polls. But I didn't vote.

Where were the old industrial-age lever machines I had voted on since the 1968 mock election at Pennsauken High School? (I voted for Humphrey.) Gone.

Replaced by Sequoia Voting Systems machines: no fuss, no muss, no clunking check-mark levers, but also no receipts to audit the outcome on this newfangled but easily hackable direct recording electronic (DRE) system.

At least with the old lever machines, a vote cheater had to get to each machine individually and hammer into the odometer to skew the results; now voter fraud can be a breeze.

Coming from the old school of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," I was truly surprised that the Help America Vote Act applied to my little district in Collingswood.

I had never heard of my hamlet's having any problems. ...

I asked the ladies at the polling table whether this new system left a paper trail. "Oh, yes," one said. "We get a readout at the end of the day," not understanding that this particular check on the system would never pass the smell test.

No voter-verified piece of paper for me? ...

Upset, I called the Board of Elections to find out whether I could vote another way ... Provisional ballots? Never heard of them. I was so angry I wept.

Penny Venetis, codirector of the Rutgers Constitutional Law Clinic in Newark, N.J., testified before a judicial panel last month that the electronic voting machines operating in 20 of New Jersey's 21 counties were susceptible to technical glitches and manipulation, easily altering election results without anyone knowing.

Venetis asked for a ban on DREs that could not provide a paper record.


Lawsuits against DRE systems, ... are piling up. One was filed in Colorado by a nonpartisan group of voters ...

Expert testimony from computer-security specialists for the plaintiffs included Douglas W. Jones, professor at the University of Iowa, who said: "Some of the security risks with these machines are so high that it is unconscionable that their manufacturers, who have known of the problems for years, have not taken the necessary steps to correct them."

It is mildly amusing and achingly tragic that the 2000 debacle in Florida resulted in an act of Congress that has virtually ensured that voters cannot be sure how accurately their votes will be counted.


I didn't vote last week, and I won't vote in November. It irks me that exercising my right to choose my leaders makes me feel more like a Stepford wife than a proud American.


Good luck in November; the kabuki dance of citizenship is over for me.

Suzanne Cloud is a jazz singer, a songwriter, and a published writer of young-adult nonfiction books. She is working on a book on McCarthyism and writes from Collingswood.

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