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Missourians for Honest Elections has been spitting into the wind for the last couple of years about e-voting machines in Missouri. I can’t honestly say the wind has shifted in their favor, but one of their number, Pat Berg, got a thorough, well written op ed piece published today in the Post-Dispatch.

With calm, non-partisan language, she quickly cataloged the number and type of machine malfunctions in St. Louis in the Feb. 5th primary and reminded readers of how touchscreens lost 18,000 votes in a tight congressional race in Florida in ’06.

Pat was wise enough not to mention that the Democrat in that race would probably have won that election had those votes not been lost. Leaving  out that argument kept the issue nonpartisan.

Still speaking in an even tone of voice, she got to the business of deliberate e-voting hanky-pank:

A variety of academic and technical studies and investigations, however, have discovered that the software of some DREs is vulnerable to manipulation and hacking, including some techniques that can erase all traces and evidence of such interference.

An extensive audit by Election Science Institute of the May 2006 primary election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, found different results in four different tallies compiled by DRE machines made by Diebold, Inc., an Ohio company. Differences were noted among the records on a machine’s removable computer memory card, its computer hard drive, individual votes recorded on a removable paper roll and the printed summary on the roll. If the system worked properly, all four numbers should be identical. And the differences were great enough to have affected the outcome of an election, depending on which number was used.

(Similar machines are being used in the city of St. Louis, Kansas City and other counties in Missouri. St. Louis County’s machines, although from a different manufacturer, have essentially the same architecture.)

These kinds of discrepancies have been attributed to the programming of the machines’ software and clearly demonstrate that the software can be corrupted, whether intentionally or as a result of human error.

Pat made it clear that switching to a paper system is practical and easy and praised California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for limiting the use of touchscreens.

Pat Berg made no direct plea to Robin Carnahan, but I’m going to. Carnahan has resisted entreaties to follow Bowen’s lead and has implied that she sees no problem with the machines. But the problems are real and verifiable, and it is her job to protect our votes. I know that standing up against the forces that want these machines would be difficult for Carnahan. She’d be rocking the political boat.

But this year’s election promises record turnouts, with perhaps as much as 80-85 percent of registered voters turning up at the polls. When citizens are that concerned about the direction of the country, they should at least get honest elections. So we need that kind of courage from Carnahan. We need it before next November.