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Changing the voting machines, shutting out citizens

Reader feedback - 1.25.06 

MALL SECURITY

Apparently Krestia DeGeorge is forgetting that "soft targets" like places of worship, office buildings, or anywhere that people assemble have historically been where terrorists strike ("Safety First at the Mall," January 4). Carla Palumbo, new leader of the County Legislature's Democratic caucus, also seems to have forgotten this. She views the Rochester Water Authority as a "high-level area," but Marketplace Mall doesn't strike her as a location to be concerned about.

In reviewing the State Department's Patterns of Terrorism Report, I did not find that water supplies have been targeted, nor have poisons or biological weapons been employed. Public areas and buildings and the people within them have been targeted worldwide, with bombs and guns being the weapons of choice.

Terrorism's purpose thus far has been the immediate destruction of people. With that in mind, it is reasonable for the Department of Homeland Security to perceive shopping malls as vulnerable targets worthy of funding.

BL Hawk, Coachman Drive, Penfield


NEW VOTING MACHINES AREN'T ACCESSIBLE

By the end of this month, the New York Board of Elections will be making decisions about what kind of voting machines we will be using. The incredible reports from area residents of voting-machine irregularities in Florida and Ohio are fresh in our minds. Can we trust these new computer machines?

The Board of Elections isn't inspiring our confidence. In fact the federal Justice Department announced recently that it is suing New York State for being a total slacker about complying with the Help America Vote Act.

The new federal regulation means that we won't be able to use the lever machines that we have grown used to. HAVA requires all states to upgrade their voting machines so that they are accessible to people with disabilities and provide voter verification. In other words, there needs to be a way for the voter to see their vote on a printed ballot.

But the voting machines on display this month at the Dome Arena just weren't acceptable. Disability rights advocates pointed out that the machines weren't accessible. That's a deal breaker right there.

Moreover, voting machine corporations are arguing that their computer voting-machine software code is a trade secret. And so far, the Board of Elections, in its draft of the standards, has allowed the voting machine companies to get away with putting their "proprietary code" in escrow. This is a major security problem, especially considering that at least one of the CEO's of these voting machine corporations has made partisan electoral contributions and statements.

What could happen? The computerized voting machines could be programmed to "verify" a voter's choice but actually tabulate the vote differently. In other words, voters could think they have voted for candidate "Washington" but the vote would actually be tabulated for candidate "Jefferson." And the computerized voting machines could be programmed to randomly do this only a few times on each machine so that in a close race the results could be reversed and the problem might not be noticed.

If a recount is required, the voting machine's computer tabulation could be compared to the verified paper ballots, but by that time it would be too late. If the election was invalidated, there would have to be another vote, and the-get-out-the-vote circumstances would have changed, which might favor one candidate over another.

The bottom line is that the computer corporations shouldn't be allowed to get away with holding their computer code as a proprietary secret. Board of Election officials have to be able to look at the code before the election and compare it to the code that is actually in machines.

Recently the Connecticut attorney general decided that Connecticut will not be moving forward in 2006 with new voting machines because none of the machines were acceptable. Unless the New York Board of Elections requires that the voting-machine corporations hand over their code and make their machines accessible to people with disabilities, New York State should follow Connecticut's example.

The integrity of our vote is too important.

Jon Greenbaum, Arlington Street, Rochester (Greenbaum is a Metro Justice organizer)


SHUTTING OUT VOTERS

I was dismayed to read remarks made by County Legislature Majority Leader Bill Smith (Urban Journal, January 4). He told the Democrat and Chronicle that "the way a minority gets its views heard is to put its own ideas out and get elected to the majority based on those ideas." When I ran for County Legislature in November, more than 45 percent of the voters in District 10 supported me.

The idea that only the majority can come up with good solutions kills initiative on both sides of the aisle, creates an unnecessarily partisan atmosphere, and erects a barrier to real problem solving.

City Newspaper's columnist comments: "I know that Smith didn't mean it this way, but facts are facts: in shutting out Democratic legislators, the Republicans are shutting out most of the county's African-American and Latino residents." His remarks also mean that he is shutting out the large minority of voters in Pittsford and East Rochester who voted for me in the last election.

It is vital to our future that everyone's ideas be heard. There is real value to a second opinion. As Anna Quindlen writes in the October 24 Newsweek, "Insiders come with deeply ingrained assumptions and the inevitable sense of business as usual. Outsiders often bring clarity of vision, as well as a sense of discovery and innovation." To exclude diversity of opinion is a mistake. As voters, we must insist that our representatives use the talents that are available, wherever they may be.

Ted Nixon, Sunset Boulevard, Pittsford


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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