"We can now speak the most majestic words a democracy can
'The people have spoken'..."
First words spoken by
President-elect, George Bush,
November 8, 1988 victory speech
in Houston, Texas, 11:30 PM EST
"Once, during the time when days were darker, I made a
promise. Thanks, New Hampshire!"
Same speech, final
It was not "the People" of the United States of
America who did "the speaking" on that election day, although most of
them believed it was, and still believe so.
In fact, the People did not speak at
all, and George Bush may have known it or, at least, strongly suspected
The voices most of us really heard
that day were the voices of computers — strong, loud, authoritative,
unquestioned in their electronic finality. The computers counted more than 55
million American votes in 1988 — more than enough to swing election after
election across the nation. In that election, a difference of just 535,000 or
so votes would have put Dukakis into the White House.
The computers that spoke in November
1988 held in their inner .workings small boxes that contained secret codes that
only the sellers of the computers could read. The programs, or "source
codes," were regarded as "trade secrets," The sellers of the
vote-counting software zealously guarded their programs from the public, from
election officials, from everyone — on the dubious grounds that
competitors could steal their ideas if the source codes were open to
You may ask: What "ideas"
does it require to count something as simple as ballots?
Can the "ideas" be much more
complex than, let's say, a supermarket computerized cash register or an
automatic bank teller machine?
The computer voting machines do not
have to do anything complicated at all; they simply must be able to register
votes for the correct candidate or party or proposal, tabulate them, count them
up, and deliver arithmetically correct additions. People with no formal
training, even children, used to do it all the time.
So why can't the public know what
those secret source codes instruct the computers to do? It only makes common
sense that every gear, every mechanism, every nook and cranny of every part of
the voting process ought to be in the sunlight, wide open to public
How else can the public be reasonably
assured that they are participating in an unrigged election where their vote
actually means something?
Yet one of the most mysterious,
low-profile, covert, shadowy, questionable mechanisms of American democracy is
the American vote count.
There is so profound a public despair
about keeping the vote system honest that a man with immaculate academic
credentials can sound the alarm on Dan Rather's CBS Evening News —
charging that America's elections are being compromised by computer felons
— and still get only three calls about it.
Dr. Howard Strauss, a Princeton
computer sciences professor and a member of a tiny nationwide group of worried
citizens who call themselves "Election Watch," says:
"The presidential election of
1992, without too much difficulty and with little chance of the felons getting
caught, could be stolen by computers for one candidate or another. The
candidate who can win by computer has worked jar enough ahead to rig the
election by getting his 'consultants' to write the software that runs thousands
of vote-counting computers from coast to coast. There are so many computers
that use the same software now that a presidential election can be tampered
with- in fact, may already be tampered with. Because of the trade secrecy,
nobody can be the wiser."
Computers in voting machines are
effectively immune from checking and rechecking. If they are fixed, you cannot
know it, and you cannot be at all sure of an honest tally.
In the 1988 Republican primary in New
Hampshire, there was no panel of computer experts who worked for the people and
thoroughly examined the source codes before and after the voting. It is likely
that a notoriously riggable collection of "Shouptronic" computers
"preordained" voting results to give George Bush his "Hail
Mary" victory in New Hampshire.
Nobody save a small group of computer
engineers, like John Sununu, the state's Republican governor, would be the
If you think back carefully to November 8, 1988, it may
strike you that your belief in who won at the polls was not formed as
the result of openly voiced "ayes" or "nays" in a public
Nor was your perception of who won or
lost based on the honest and visible marks on paper ballots that were checked
and rechecked by all concerned parties or their chosen representatives.
The truth, if you recall it clearly,
is that you learned about George Bush's astounding victory in New Hampshire
from a television program or newspaper, which supposedly learned about it from
a computer center into which other computers fed information.
You learned the "predicted
outcome" within minutes after the polls in New Hampshire closed, and by
and large you believed what you heard because you had no cause, it seemed, to
be skeptical or suspicious.
If you had any doubts about how the
vote was counted, you probably dismissed them after asking yourself questions
1) Why would the
computer people lie?
2) How could they lie? There must
be public checks and balances.
3) If they lie, how can they get
away with it? The losers will surely raise hell.
Because you, and most of us, dismiss
the possibility that the American vote is routinely stolen, distorted or
otherwise monkeyed with by corrupt computer wizards, you resist questioning
further and dismiss as crackpots or fanatics those who do.
Yet, not long ago, Robert Flaherty,
the president of News Election Services (NES), the private company that
compiles voting results and feeds them to the major media, was asked to make it
clear how the NES system works.
As usual when asked about how NES
counts and disseminates the vote, he replied:
"This is not a proper area of
Can it be that the methods used to
accept, tally and broadcast the results of the American vote are improper areas
"Yes," says Mr. Flaherty,
"that is a proprietary matter not open to the public."
We will describe the operations of the secretive NES
later on, although it is noteworthy here to mention that this corporation,
which fanatically guards its people and processes from the public view, is a
consortium of the three major television networks: ABC, NBC and CBS, plus the
Associated Press wire service, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington
Post and other news-gathering organizations.
These "First Amendment"
institutions each raise the cry of "impropriety" and "improper
inquiry" when asked about their unspoken role in the American vote
Actually, the major news organizations
foster the illusion that the American press competes to get the correct vote
count to the public, and they imply by omission that "ballots" are
counted in the traditional, accountable ways that once fostered confidence and
a sense of fairness in the hearts and minds of the American voter.
However the American voter has grown
steadily more apathetic in both presidential and off-year elections, with
sometimes less than 25 percent of those eligible taking the opportunity to cast
a ballot The press blames this on the politicians and the public itself, but
the public may be aware, if only vaguely that in some unfathomable way their
vote counts for little or nothing.
There have been too many odd
coincidences and peculiar results over the past quarter century, and the
decline in voter participation in national elections over the past two decades
is directly proportional to the rise of computerized voting.
The People are naive about computer voting and somewhat
less than entirely computer literate. They do intuit, however, that it is a
mistake to put much faith in the integrity of computerized voting systems.
Except in matters spiritual, intelligent people tend not to place much faith in
what they cannot see. They could see paper ballots marked and placed into a
slot in ballot boxes, and except for certain infamous precincts in Chicago,
people generally trusted the American voting process. They could see it, touch
it, and their vote left a paper trail that could be followed if there was a
need for verification. That can no longer be said.
The instant after a voter chooses his
or her ballot selection on a computer, the electronic impulse that is triggered
either records that vote or it does not. Either way, the computer program
immediately erases all record of the transaction except for the result, which
is subject to an infinite variety of switching, column jumping, multiplication,
division, subtraction, addition and erasure.
All these operations take place in the
electronic universe within the computer and are entirely under the direction of
the program or "source code" It is impossible to go back to the
original event, like you can with a paper ballot, and start over again in case
fraud is suspected. With computer voting the results are virtually final, and,
in all cases, hatched in the electronic dark. No human eye can watch or protect
your vote once it is cast in a computer voting machine.
People who mistrust the voting process
cannot, in the traditional American way, accept the defeat of their candidates
gracefully and work loyally with the winners. Instead, more and more American
voters are feeling "had," "scammed," "hoodwinked"
by the voting system. Trust has almost departed. There is the nagging,
unproven, yet pervasive feeling that the "experts," the "spin
doctors," the "covert operators" and the "private
interests" have put their technicians and consultants in absolute control
of the national vote count, and that in any selected situation these computer
wizards can and will program the vote as their masters wish.
All over the United States of America there are people who listen to
the facts about computer voting and then tell horror stories of candidates, who
didn't have a prayer before election day, then slip into office by an
uncheckable computer vote. Most common is the story of the computer that
"breaks down" when one candidate is securely in the lead, and after
the computer is "fixed," the losing candidate pulls ahead and wins.
The evil feelings left behind by such shenanigans are festering across
Among the wickedest recent examples of
possible computerized vote fraud, of the sort that has disillusioned millions
of Americans, is the 1988 New Hampshire primary that saved George Bush from
getting knocked out of the race to the White House.
Was the New Hampshire Primary scenario a modern classic in computerized
vote manipulation? Here is the gist of it.
The Bush campaign of 1988, as
historians have since recollected it, was filled with CIA-type disinformation
operations and deceptions of the sort that America used in Viet Nam, Chile and
the Soviet Union. Since George Bush was one of the most admired CIA directors
in the history of the organization, this was not so surprising.
Yet George Bush stood to lose the
Republican Party nomination if he was beaten by Sen. Robert Dole in the snows
of New Hampshire. He had suffered a terrible political wound when Dole won big
by a show of hands in an unriggable Iowa caucus. Bush came to New Hampshire
with all the earmarks of a loser whom the press had come to identify as a
Political observers were downbeat in
their observations of Bush's chances in the face of Dole's Iowa momentum.
Virtually every television and newspaper poll had Bush losing by up to eight
points just hours before the balloting.
Desperate times require desperate
measures. Perhaps that's what it required for "steps to be taken,"
and phone calls to be made. Then came a widely reported promise made by Bush to
his campaign manager, Gov. Sununu. It happens that Sununu's computer
engineering skills approach "genius" on the tests. If Sununu could
"deliver" New Hampshire, and Bush didn't care how and didn't want to
know how — then Sununu would become his chief of staff in the White
When election day was over the
following headline appeared in the Washington Post:
CONFOUNDED MOST POLLSTERS
Voters Were a Step
Ahead of Tracking Measurements
By Lloyd Grove
Washington Post Staff Writer
For Vice President Bush and his
supporters, Tuesday's 9-percentage-point victory over Sen. Robert J. Dole
(R-Kan.) in New Hampshire was a delightful surprise; for Andrew Kohut, it was a
Kohut is president of the Gallup poll,
whose final New Hampshire survey was wrong by 17 points: it had put Dole ahead
by 8; Bush won by 9. "I was dismayed," Kohut acknowledged
This New Hampshire primary was perhaps
the most polled primary election in American history, and in the end, the
Republican voters in the state confounded the predictions of nearly every
published survey of voter opinion.
Gallup's glaring error and the
miscalls of other polling organizations once again raise questions about the
accuracy of polls, their use by the media and the impact they have on voters'
choices and the public perception of elections. In New Hampshire this year,
news organizations' use of "tracking polls" to try to follow the
movement of public opinion night after night came to dominate news accounts of
the campaigning and the thinking of the campaigns themselves.
Tracking polls usually survey a
relatively small number of voters every night: 150 to 400 in each party, in the
case of The Post-ABC poll. The results are averaged over several days. See
POLLS, A11, Col. 1
Had the terms of Bush's "promise" to Sununu
Whatever magic Sununu was able to
conjure up during those final hours preceding the overnight resurrection of the
Bush campaign, it worked.
There are those who believe that such
a wild reversal of form would have been subject to an immediate inquiry by the
stewards if it had happened in the Kentucky Derby. Any horseplayer would have
nodded sagely, put a finger up to his eye, pulled down the lower lid, and
Yet in New Hampshire, there was some
wonderment expressed in the press, and little more. There was no rechecking of
the computerized voting machines, no inquiry into the path of the vote from the
voting machines to the central tallying place, no public scrutiny of the
mechanisms of the mighty peculiar vote that saved George Bush's career and
leapfrogged the relatively obscure Sununu into the White House.
Nothing was said in the press about
the secretly programmed computer chips inside the "Shouptronic"
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines in Manchester, the state's
These 200-pound systems were so easily
tampered with that the integrity of the results they gave — and George
Bush was the beneficiary of their tallies — will forever be in
doubt. Consider these points:
1. The "Shouptronic" was
purchased directly from a company whose owner, Ransom Shoup, had been twice
convicted of vote fraud in Philadelphia.
2. It bristled with telephone lines
that made it possible for instructions from the outside to be telephoned into
the machine without anyone's dear knowledge.
3. It completely lacked an "audit
trail," an independent record that could be checked in case the machine
"broke down" or its results were challenged.
4. Roy G. Saltman, of the federal
Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology, called the Shouptronic
"much more risky" than any other computerized tabulation system
because "You are fundamentally required to accept the logical operation of
the machine, there is no way to do an independent check."
A year later, in June of 1989, Robert
J. Naegele, who had investigated all computerized voting systems for New York
State, warned: "The DRE (which the Shouptronic was) is still at least a
year and possibly two away from what I would consider a marketable product. The
hardware problems are relatively minor, but the software problems are
conceptual and really major".
A source close to Gov. Sununu insists
that Sununu knew from his perspective as a politician, and his expertise as a
computer engineer, that the Shouptronic was prime for tampering.
How could such an offense against the
United States electoral process have been carried out under the gaze of
professionals from the nation's TV networks, newspapers and wire
There are lawyers who will argue that the party primary
election is essentially an intra-party matter over which "outsiders"
have no legal rights. That, in fact, if a political party wants to rig its
elections, it can do so without violation of federal, state or local
As long as men and women in charge of
the vote count are on the take, or can be persuaded that tampering is
"good for the party," that one candidate should win no matter what
the vote count is — then wholesale vote rigging throughout America can be
accomplished quite easily. It is a sick and vicious way to operate within the
two-party system, and there is reason to believe that it is epidemic on a
The concept is clear, simple and it
works. Computerized voting gives the power of selection, without fear of
discovery, to whomever controls the computer.
Of course, there are problems about
getting control of more and more computers, and that problem has been
brilliantly solved with the help, and in some cases the unwitting
collaboration, of the major news-gathering organizations.
Over the past generation, when television news became an
unstoppable force in America's political life, competition grew between the
major networks to be "first" with the voting results — proving
they had better reporters, better contacts, better organizations than the
At first, the race to call the winners
was sportsmanlike and played much like print journalism played
"scoops." Then, almost imperceptibly, the networks' urge to
"give the public timely results" crossed over the line into territory
The early position taken by network
spokesmen was that slow vote counts increased the likelihood of vote fraud, and
besides, the American people had a "right" to know as soon as
possible how their candidates fared.
You may ask: Why all the
In a fair election, how does the
passage of a reasonable amount of time, less than a day or two, say, negatively
affect the outcome of the election or the people's perception of it? In the
early days of the nation it required months to find out who was elected
president, since the electoral college met in January to cast their
Clearly, democracy can survive without
immediate election results.
Yet the media's clamor for speed went
on, encouraged by inventors who had early knowledge of computers and knew how
to use them to accelerate the processes of ordinary life. It became possible,
with fast counters developed by International Business Machine Corporation, to
use punch cards, with rows of small, rectangular holes, as ballots. These old
cards could be counted at the rate of thousands per minute by an IBM sorting
machine hooked up with a photoelectric cell and a computerized tabulator. It
seemed like progress at the time. Vote counting got a lot faster in a big
But after several years, IBM realized
that the Vote-amatic voting machine, the patents on which IBM had bought from
its inventor, T. K. Harris, was actually a Pandora's box. IBM, following
several disturbing public relations problems brought about by both incompetent
and malicious "mishaps" during elections, took its name off the
product. IBM eventually sold its rights in the company after IBM's president,
Thomas Watson, read an article that implied he might be trying to install IBM
voting machines in enough precincts to win him the first electronically rigged
election for President of the United States. Watson had no ambitions to become
a U.S. president and was mortified that his computers would be implicated in
With the crusty, impeccable IBM out of
the business, the scramble to produce new, improved, less scrupulous voting
hardware and software began in earnest. Entrepreneurs made fortunes peddling
the early computerized counters to towns and cities across America. They sold
the machines as the "patriotic," "progressive" thing to do
for American voters.
Newspaper and broadcast media seldom
bothered to look into the voting machine industry and, in fact, took advantage
of the speed the new machines offered in counting. The press did not
investigate the accuracy, or lack of it, of the final tallies.
All of the computerized machines, from the earliest versions on, were
peculiarly susceptible to vote fraud despite the ingenuous claims made by the
manufacturers. The issue of "speed" in counting actually meant little
or nothing to the voting public, except as it was staged as a competition by
the press. Yes, the computers offered speed on the one hand, but on the other
hand they all, without exception, did their operations in the electronic
dark where ordinary citizens, who had previously taken the responsibility for a
fair and accurate vote, could never venture.
Most Americans did not realize that
such an anti-democratic virus had infected their vote. Most do not realize it
today. If you ask your friends to describe how their vote (if they cast a vote)
is counted, they are unlikely to get much further than the polling booth and
the rudimentary requirements to operate the machine. Beyond that they are
probably ignorant. Most people expect that the Democrat and Republican poll
watchers will watch out for their interests, and if not them, the Board of
Elections or some federal elections commission will keep the fraud down to
Naturally, in the vacuum of ethics and
in the depths of ignorance about computerized voting, the opportunists arrived
on the scene. It was already clear that IBM considered the business too dirty
to mess with. Yet salesmen had placed the machines, along with service
contracts and consulting fees, in thousands of America's precincts.
All over the nation the local election
boards were taking delivery of Trojan horses that could be programmed to bide
their time and then, when the proper moment came, to mistabulate election
results on command. Computer experts with even the most vestigial imaginations
figured out dozens of ways to compromise a vote, many of them so elegant that
getting caught was almost impossible.
During a little-publicized court trial
in West Virginia, it was revealed that there were ways to stop the computers
during a count, while everyone watched. Simply fiddle with a few switches, turn
the computer back on again, and thereby alter the entire vote, or parts of it.
If anyone asked questions, the fixers could make any number of plausible
excuses. Mostly all they had to say was "just checking that everything's
running okay," and that was satisfactory.
With voting machines attached to
telephone lines it was possible to meddle with the actual vote from a telephone
miles away. Getting caught was not possible. "Deniability" and
"untrackability" were built into the secret source codes that
animated the machines.
It was possible to rig elections
electronically in separate communities across the country, but until 1964 it
was not considered possible to rig a national election. Then, in August 1964,
News Election Service was created.
Perhaps the most important piece of history uncovered
during the Votescam probe is a potently candid study of the U.S.
electoral system conducted in 1980 by the CIA-linked Air Command and Staff
College in cooperation with the University of New Mexico. It establishes the TV
corporate networks' interest in NES. The study was commissioned by the CIA and
published in the International Journal of Public Administration that was
distributed to selected government agencies. We discovered a copy in the
Library of Congress.
It is safe to say that almost nobody
in America is aware of the activities of NES on election night. The on-air
scripts of each TV network during the years since the founding of NES have
seldom, if ever, mentioned its existence. The silence smacks of collusion among
press "competitors" to keep NES away from public scrutiny A portion
of the study read:
"The United States government
has no elections office and does not attempt to administer congressional
elections. The responsibility for the administration of elections and
certification of winners in the United States national election rests with a
consortium of private entities, including 111,000 members of the national
League of Women Voters. The formal structure of election administration in the
United States is not capable of providing the major TV networks with timely
results of the presidential and congressional elections. In the case of
counting actual ballots on national election night, public officials have
abdicated responsibility of aggregation of election night vote totals to a
private organization, News Election Service of New York (NES). NES is a
wholly-owned subsidiary joint-venture of national television networks ABC, CBS
and NBC and the press wire-services AP and UPI. This private organization
performs without a contract: without supervision by public officials. It makes
decisions concerning its duties according to its own criteria. The question and
accountability of News Election Service has not arisen in the nation's press
because the responsibility NES now has in counting the nation's votes was
assumed gradually over a lengthy period without ever being evaluated as an item
on the public agenda. (Underlined for emphasis. Ed.)
This privately owned vote counting cartel (NES) uses the
vast membership of the network-subsidized League of Women Voters as field
personnel whose exclusive job is to phone in unofficial vote totals to
NES on election night. NES also operates a "master computer" in New
York City, located on 34th Street. (Because the League of Women Voters
has about it a perfume of volunteerism and do-goodism, the fact that it is
actually a political club with a political agenda and a hungry treasury is
shrouded by the false myth that it is a reliable election-day watchdog.)
The NES mainframe computer has the
capability, via telephone lines, of "talking" back and forth with
county and state government mainframes. During the important 60-day
certification period after an election, the counts in the county and state
mainframes can still be manipulated by outsiders to conform to earlier TV
Without this capability of using the
NES mainframe to "balance the books " between initial network
projections of Bush as "winner" and the final official totals
published two months later, Bush may have lost the election to Dukakis.
It is the prescription for the covert
stealing of America.
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