Saturday, December 11, 2004

Dealing with Voting Machine Ignorance, One media person at a time

Dealing with Voting Machine Ignorance, One media person at a time


For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get the message out about the danger non-voter-verified electronic voting machines present to the trust necessary for our democratic process. I have some results to share with all of you trying to do the same thing.
First the Rules
Rule #1: It has nothing to do with the election results
This is going to be decided in our high court anyway, if the recount efforts are not foiled first, so take that off of the table. Leaving it in only tags you and your message as just another sour-grapes liberal loser wanting to change things.
Rule #2: Fraud must not be part of the discussion
Sadly, proving fraud is going to take a while. Nobody in the media today is going to touch fraud by any measure. It is ok for the Ukraine, but not ok for us. That's the way it is for now. If we succeed in getting the trust message out there, this will naturally follow. Again in the courts.
Rule #3: You cannot broadcast this message and hope to get 'noticed'
That is preaching to the choir; namely, us! We all know this election is a problem, we all want it fixed now and going forward. We don't need to keep hearing the same message over and over again. We do need to hear what works, so others can begin doing it. That is what I am doing here.
Rule #4: Speak only when spoken to
This ties closely with Rule #3. The only response I have gotten after many e-mails to the press is in response to a story. When you challenge a story, they are going to read that challenge because their story could be a problem. That's the most effective time you have for citizen to media person advocacy.
So, how to go forward?
Pick a particular fact you know cold. Know what that fact means and how to back it up. If you want to refine your arguments, register at a nice right-leaning internet message board and roll your sleeves up for the beating you are going to take. Dig in and make your points. Those points taken fairly, should not be a part of your advocacy going forward. Of course, you must use your judgment, or try those points in a few places to see how they go.
I have done this and come away with this factoid that has some significant impact, regarding the election, our trust in it, and can easily be tied in to the events happening in the Ukraine. Feel free to join me, there are a lot of small stories being written and that have been written that you can challenge.
That fact is:
Roughly 30 percent of our national vote was cast on non-voter-verified voting machines. You can say this a number of ways for additional impact: 'about one third', '3 in 10', 'thirty out of one hundred', etc.. Feel free to be creative on this.
What does it mean?
It means we cannot trust the election because the number of unverifiable votes exceeds the winning percentages. It deflates the 'Mandate' easily enough while casting doubt on large areas of the country, currently busy printing feel good stories about their voting machine success.
Almost every person I have spoken this to says really and listens to what you say next. What you say next must fall in line with the rules I just gave. Maybe they are too harsh, but I would rather have more people getting a very basic message across to build on instead of giving the media even more ammo for the crack-pot blogger label they like to use. Wouldn't you? Thought so.
How does it work?
First, you find a story, such as: “Voting machines exceeded expectations in recent election” This story is great because you can put the following in your e-mail subject to the reporter of the story. How do you know those machines worked so well?
Trust me, they are going to read that, particularly if they see it right after a story is posted. They want time to make corrections before the masses get hold of it. Now you have your advocacy time, use it well and follow the rules, try to make a single point.
The one I choose is trust. I lead with: “They can't actually know if the machines honored the will of the people, because nobody bothered to keep a paper record of what exactly that will was.” and go from there. Note I did not say nobody knows if the machines did what they are supposed to, because those that programmed them clearly do. Get it? A media person, reporter journalist will pick up on this.
Example Facts you can use:
The 30 percent number has been cited in a number of sources. It is easy enough to google for that. Pick a couple and keep the links handy. Archive the story.
In my state, Oregon, we do everything on paper, until counting time, then we use the machines. We know absolutely our results are accurate because we can count them if we have to. This means we have a high degree of trust.
The State of Nevada is the only state that required the paper trail on their machines. I am not clear on wether or not it is voter-verified. New Hapmshire requires paper ballots be cast also.
On of the main messages we hear about the Ukraine is one of transparancy. Without it corruption and failed trust result. They are up in arms because the people there cannot trust their election results. They know that because their media reported that.
Back to the states. You cannot just say we cannot trust the election results. That will end your time. Better to ask a more direct question and play off the story challenge you started with. Something like: “If you cannot verify your own votes, don't you owe it to yourself and the people you serve, to let them know that?” Get them to feel bad about that story, maybe they might write a better one. Maybe they might just think a little. Either way we are better off.
Share the successes and failures
You can see one of mine right in my last OpEdNews column. It's a nice publication that only the loyal are going to read. This new approach I have just outlined has resulted in personal communication with some reporters who submit issues to producers. Take it for all it's worth. Watch your news, ask them hard questions right out of the gate, before they can even feel good about the story. It matters, I think it might work.
Remember though, a single point only, such as trust. Know that point cold, be ready to use your one shot at getting the other person to think about what they are doing. Don't get nasty, make sure you spell things right, and try to cultivate empathy.
Comments, suggestions, successes, additional facts? Mail me, or put 'em on my blog, or put 'em here for all to see. I don't care, just share them as I have here.

* This paper, originally published on, is reproduced here, with only a minor edit, for later reference.

I have since learned that people do read our preaching to the choir. My original essay on electronic voting has attracted a number of folks from around the country. After re-reading this piece, I realize it may come off poorly. This is about getting the media people to think about what they are doing while getting some advocacy in at the same time. We all need to keep writing, talking and anything else we can, of course. It all matters, IMHO it's all good!


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