Allowing our votes to be counted in secret by private corporations without public or independent government oversight is undemocratic, dangerous, disingenuous and very, very wrong. Yet, black box or secret tabulation of our election results is the status quo since the advent of use of voting machines that employ technology and programming complexities, the mastery of which is out of the pay grade of the average American. Perhaps, election administrators were naive in the early days of machine voting and only looked at the positive outcomes of using computers to record the vote – the count could be tabulated efficiently and quickly. That was before the vulnerability of machines and programming was proven to be hackable and subject to cheating when alteration of a few lines of programming code in the hidden memory cartridges could flip votes, a threat that has grown exponentially as the money in play in campaigns has grown to an unprecedented level where Perry paid over $100 per vote in this run in the Iowa GOP primary caucus, and Scott Walker paid $35 per vote in the recent Recall election. As the cost per vote goes up on the front side of an election the temptation to spend some of that money to cheat also goes up on the back side of the election. What’s more, the vulnerability of machines to hacking has been proven and the ability of programming to flip votes is well known, even by Wisconsin legislators as pointed out by GOP Representative Priedmore in a Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform meeting last Summer.
Reaction of citizens to the hacking threat
As more and more people looked at the research of these vulnerabilities, they took action and formed groups and a movement to expose the threat to our democracy and to educate and inform voters. Election integrity was the large umbrella or label under which these groups operated and as time went on the movement grew and expanded by fits and starts until today you will find a half dozen different groups on face book that are all very grassroots organizations with volunteer workers and little or no source of funding.
The WAVE of Secrecy
Wisconsin Counts!, Election Integrity, Occupy Rigged Election, Wisconsin Will be Saved are a few of the labels for the grassroots groups on face book. The people under these labels pour out their individual talents, communication skills, and even their hearts to end the black box or secretive shadow of vote tabulation that threatens our most basic freedom of voting – and it all is as exciting, inspiring as it is frustrating and difficult. The people of this movement took something from the words and work of Fighting Bob La Follete and brought the progressive spirit to the task of ending the practice of counting votes in secret… then came The Wave.
A tsunami of secrecy
Like a tsunami the Wave came out of no where and without warning in the days following the Walker Recall Election. Energy was at a peek as many activists that had been working for years to end secrecy by proving the threat of election fraud contained in electronic voting machine tabulation and were hell bent on auditing the “hinky” scenario of the recall vote results. From the perception of many, the Wave organization came out of no where like a splash in the face. The Wave seemed to be offering an organization that was ready and willing to get the job done with offices, organization, and fund raising efforts. Well. OK. Great!
Until someone posted somewhere, “They are making volunteers sign a confidentiality agreement that states counters agree not to reveal information of any count.” Someone chatted back, “why?. The response was, “If anomalies showed up and county clerks heard of it they would close the doors or impose obstruction to the count in their county.” It seemed to make sense through the first cup of coffee, but by the time the pot was drained, more covert and secret polices and practices were perking up and open discussion in groups grew silent regarding any and all of WAVE activities. Nothing.
Share and not share alike
The audit was made possible through the Freedom of Information Act and open records requests were sent to county clerks across the state that originated from three major sources 1) An individual operating under the umbrella of “The A Team” 2) A long time activist attorney 3) An activist group of Ohio “The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism. It remains unclear under which of these open record requests WAVE is accessing the recall ballots. WAVE has never made it clear.
The WAVE organization has requested information and research from any and all parties to share information with them, but it is not quid pro quo; WAVE is unwilling to share information they have documented.
The WAVE has never participated or initiated any discussion in any of the long term groups on face book, which has always been the engine of thrust for strategies, problem solving, and recruitment for the past year and a half. The exclusion of face book discussion seems to have been ruled out by the WAVE organization – No one knows. They never spoke to the issue.
The WAVE orchestrated an aggressive fund raising campaign complete with those blurbs and “donate buttons” to cover the costs of the effort, but they have never disclosed the amount that has been collected or how it was being spent. No one knows.
I am not supposed to say this
“On Counting Votes in Secret” is the title of this post. All groups working for election integrity can agree that counting votes in secret is the elephant in the vote box and call for transparent elections with hand counted paper ballots tabulated with full and open transparency. Do you see the problem? I am sure that vote machine vendors like Command Central and ES&S can supply any number of reasons why vote count programming must remain proprietary and for their eyes alone. Yet, the WAVE has set out to audit recall votes in secret, and they too can site good reasons for propriety of the information.
A culture of secrecy creates suspicion, and leaves a hole through which the worst of human nature can pour through. The WAVE audit is now approaching its third month of an on going, secret, John-Doe-like audit or investigation, and the veil of secrecy which it has cast upon the effort has taken its toll. The participation in the face book group engine of the movement has dwindled to a mere trickle – and finally there is word; an email from WAVE!:
To ALL Election Integrity Activists in WI:
FWIW – If you wanna know what WAVE is doing and what they’ve found, help out!!
Well, nice to hear from you. Oh, just a few questions. Why is an organization that is vehemently opposed to counting ballots in secret, um…counting ballots in secret? Are you requiring me to sign a confidentiality agreement, you know like the Republican legislators were forced to sign before they were allowed to view the redistricting maps? Are you willing to share your research? Will you be accounting for the money that has been raised from the fund raising effort? Have you vacated the face book discussions on purpose, and if so, can you offer a reason why you have done so?
Or should I just join up?