I wrote the following letter in response to contact from House Rep. Jason Isaac re: the passage of the absurd Voter ID bill. It is absurd because it does virtually nothing to protect voters and/or to eliminate some conceived notion of ensuring the elimination of voter fraud.
Dear Rep. Jason Isaac:
Thanks for the info on the Voter Photo ID bill and others you are working on; however, the bill pushed through the House and Senate does NOTHING to ensure against voter fraud. This is a bill that enforces some benign ideology promoted by obtuse members of the GOP and the collective Far Right. We desperately need some middle ground intelligent thinking based on REAL facts, not imagined ones.
There is a worse issue of voter fraud perpetrated by the misconception of voting machine integrity than imagined illegal immigrants standing in Texas voter lines waiting to vote for their own special interests.
Below is a letter I sent back on March 15, 2005 to then Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor with a copy to Gov. Rick Perry that outlined the issues prevalent in voting machines throughout Texas and also regarding the voting process and collection of machine and write-in votes, which underscore a much worse scenario than the miniscule almost non-existent issue of voter fraud regarding some need for Voter Photo ID.
My honest and documented concerns were NOT properly reviewed nor taken seriously.
Please review the letter and feel free to contact me with any question or comment. Sec. of State Connor simply passed my letter along to his underlings who could not or would not be bothered with obvious issues with our state's voting machine integrity and with the collection of votes throughout the state. Gov. Perry's Office left it up to the Secretary's office which did nothing, saying that the machines and the collection process was safe. It is NOT safe. There still are mega problems and issues inherent in the Texas voting and collections process that are NOT being considered, reviewed and resolved. The Voter Photo ID issue is insignificant in comparison to the issues discussed below.
Your District Constituent
From: Peter Stern
March 15, 2005
Geoffrey S. Connor
SECRETARY OF STATE
State of Texas
PO Box 12697, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Re: Voting Machine Integrity and Collection of Votes
Dear Secretary Connor:
Thank you for your 3/12/04 letter explaining the logistics and intricacies of the direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems and the rigorous methodology followed by your appointees in ensuring the selection process and ongoing integrity of these voting systems in Texas.
Thank you also for your 3-page enclosure from your Director of Communications, which expanded on the topics and issues outlined in your two-page letter.
For more than 20 years I was the Director of Computer Information Systems & Services in private industry and also for agencies of the Texas State Department and the New Mexico State Department. During that timeframe I have observed the trail of sensitive material processed and filed on increasingly sophisticated technology. While many avenues may be taken to ensure the integrity of any system, the very nature of technological information systems is that at any time such a system’s integrity may be breached.
In addition, all counties of Texas do NOT utilize the same voting system. Many counties still use antiquated forms of voting that do not offer the security and integrity needed in our political system. Furthermore, many counties are in the process of spending tax dollars on more sophisticated voting systems that have not yet been fully tested in the mainstream political arena. While many ES&S and Diebold direct recording electronic voting systems have been certified for some time, in some cases years, these systems still may be at-risk.
Another point is that there is an issue of voter education that needs to be addressed. In retrospect and paying particular attention to the year 2000 Presidential election in Florida, a reasonable amount of time must be dedicated to educating and supervising voters on how to utilize a system correctly. Ignorance or inexperience with a voting system is detrimental to the integrity of the system. To my knowledge, and this issue is not addressed in either your letter or in the letter you provided from the Director of Communication, Texas has no current formal program nor plan for educating its voting population. That may prove to actually cause what is a potentially high percentage breach to one or more of the various voting systems used in Texas.
An example: I reside in Hays County. A local newspaper provided an article on the introduction of new electronic voting machines and the County’s plan to test them during school board and city council elections starting next year, according to County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan. The article is enclosed for your review. After voting, each machine will be taken to the Central Office where the data will be entered into a desktop computer, which will tabulate the votes. Immediately, with my background in electronic systems, I see several possibilities evolving into issues concerning the integrity of the system.
What security is taken to ensure that the population who cares for the voting systems in Texas has the proper training, honesty, and integrity to care for the systems properly? Is there a formal training program to ensure that this population has the professional knowledge to maintain the machines and voting environment? Why is it necessary for a two-step vote tallying process using two computer systems? Has high-speed compatibility testing occurred with similar high volume vote transferring and tallying, as there would be during a regular election? There are many more variables of concern here that must be resolved.
Furthermore, there is another issue requiring oversight. The companies manufacturing voting machines have contributed large dollars to various campaign efforts. This may constitute a conflict of interest. Oversight either by the government and/or independent council must be developed to ensure the integrity of the machines and the voting system.
I offer this concern and information to you based on my years and experience in the industry. I am retired and not affiliated with any group(s) or political endeavors. I have nothing personally to gain from this. I am a concerned Texan, voter, parent, and former business leader. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no system is completely secure or foolproof. Any adolescent hacker or disgruntled government employee has the capability to create havoc with any system. Precautions are needed in every “nook and cranny” of the voting process to ensure the integrity of the entire system, including the machines, and including the compatible integration and compilation of a complex multi-systemic voting process across the state.
Cc: Texas Governor Rick Perry