Friday, April 22, 2011

STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote - Very Informative Documentary on Real Election System Issues

This week I learned of a very relevant, informative and entertaining documentary from 2008 that highlights many of the prominent issues with our modern election systems. I wanted to watch it before recommending it, but now that I have, I highly recommend this film, especially during this time when our knowledge can make a real difference. It's free to watch online. So why not make plans to watch the movie during the ugly weather this weekend, or watch it now. From the film, "It's time to wake up. What you stand to lose is everything."

The film has extraordinary reviews from many.

Some of the issues the documentary discusses are:
  • Long lines
  • Reporting irregularities
  • Laws that are used to "rig elections"
  • Silence of mainstream media on issues, leaving bloggers digging for information
  • Voter disenfranchisement
But the documentary mainly focuses on issues with computer election systems. Most counties in Wisconsin have computers that, at a minimum, count our votes.

Some of the unresolved issues with computer election systems discussed:
  • Errors inherit in computers and software, vote totals will nearly never match the true count exactly 
  • Vote switching
  • Secrecy by system producers
  • Ease of changing vote counts without detection
  • How computers make changing large amounts of votes much easier than changing large amounts of paper ballots
One of the key points I liked in the film came from a computer professional who works with banks and noted that we have much higher standards for software in banks than we do for the software that counts our votes.

The film then discusses many of the various anomalies with elections in the last decade and the need for hand recounts and paper trails. I believe that by law in Wisconsin all of our machines require a paper trail, but I'm not sure that the Optech Eagle (the machines that we lack memory for) does.

Election officials and computer security professionals are some of the experts whose testimony (some under oath) is included in the film.

There's clips from The Daily Show, and even a clip from Keith Olbermann. So progressives should find Stealing America even more entertaining.

The film contains some speculation, particularly with regard to the 2004 election, but the issues are real. The reason the speculation continues is because we don't get our relevant questions answered and the issues persist.

Here's the trailer:

Don't stop there. You can watch the film in its entirety for free at

The more we know now, the better chance we have of actually fixing these issues for future elections. Some of these issues won't apply to us or everyone in Wisconsin, but most of them do.

I want to thank the film's producer Dorothy Fadiman for putting together such an informative documentary, making it available for free, and bringing it to my attention.

A world-renowned security expert, Bruce Schneier, has also written quite extensively on the issues with computer election systems. If you want more information, you will find his essays and op-eds on the subject very informative.

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