From: "capcomx"


Washington -- Susan Bernecker doesn't believe in grand conspiracies. She's a fitness instructor and local political activist in Jefferson Parish, La. But the events of Oct. 24, 1995 have shaken her faith in one of the basic tenets of democracy: one person, one vote.

As a candidate for parish council, Bernecker stood an outside chance of beating incumbent Nick Giambelluca. But when the votes rolled in after the Oct. 21 election, she wound up with only 33 percent of the total.

Three days later, on a Tuesday, Bernecker and the other candidates were invited to inspect the new, state-of-the-art voting machines that the parish had bought from a New York company, Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment Inc. A "direct-recording" machine, it uses a computer to directly tabulate votes, which are cast by the press of a button.

With a cameraman in tow to record the event, Bernecker tested one of the machines by pressing the button next to her name. To her astonishment, however, the name of her opponent appeared on a display at the bottom. She repeated the process several times, with mixed results.

Bernecker filed suit to challenge the results of the election. But the judge wasn't convinced and threw the whole thing out after a one-day hearing.

Nonetheless, the Bernecker case helps illustrate a chilling -- if very remote -- downside to the increased use of computers to tabulate election results: There is no paper trail, and no way to tell if an election has been tampered with.

The stealing of elections is nothing new in American politics -- and every system has its flaws and vulnerabilities. But mechanical systems allow for a recount. In direct-recording systems, recounts are virtually impossible.

Phil Foster, a salesman for Sequoia Pacific, explains that the wrong name appeared only because Bernecker "rolled her finger" as she was pressing the button, causing her to push two buttons at once. He adds that it would be virtually "impossible" to tamper with the machines without someone finding out. Bernecker insists that she didn't roll her finger, and some of those who've seen the videotape back her up.

There is no evidence that Sequoia Pacific is guilty of any wrongdoing, or that anyone tampered with the machines. Even those who are opposed to computerized voting machines say that Sequoia Pacific's machines are some of the most tamper-resistant models on the market.

Most likely, experts say, election tampering would have to come from the inside -- someone who knows and has access to the sophisticated computer code that is the "brains" behind computerized voting systems. If someone were to tamper with a computerized voting machine in this way, it would be practically impossible to detect -- and even harder to find the culprit.

Eva Waskell of Reston, Va., has studied this problem for more than a decade. She says one major problem is that the computer codes that run the machines are protected as trade secrets, which makes it very had to have an election independently audited.

"The election industry is virtually unregulated," Waskell complains, referring to the companies that provide election supplies and other hardware.

The chances of a local election being rigged through computer tampering are indeed remote, and the risk that a presidential election could be rigged is virtually nonexistent. But by casting our votes via computer, are we opening the door to a day when our most vital right can be tampered with at the touch of a keystroke? God help save our country

contributed by David Icke

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