Brian's Voting Guide – Nov 6

Hello all,

Elections are approaching, and I’m not able to vote, so I’ve decided to help everyone else vote… like I would have.

Unfortunately, my debate partner voted before I had a change to straighten… I mean instruct her in sound voting procedures. 🙂 Oh well. For the rest of you:

1) Federal
> Vote third-party. The mainstream in both parties needs to know that if they toss the constitution out the window, we’ll toss them out after it. And they’d better bring it back.

2) State elections
Several people are up for state election. I honestly don’t have time to research all of them (who does?) so I’m just going with the recommendations of the Texas Home School Coalition.

3) Austin-Area
There are three pieces of voter-approved legislation on the ballot for Austin. The best resource I could dig up on these was the incredibly one-sided endorsements of the Austin Chronicle. (scroll down to the bottom) I make my own conclusions based on their rhetoric… I mean reporting.

a) Proposition 1
Yup

This amendment basically passes several measures that better insulates the city auditor from political pressures. Very important for that job.

b) Proposition 2
Nope

I do not agree with giving the Domain (or any other business for that matter) subsidies that the whole city has to pay for. BUT: once we’ve made the agreement, we need to honor it. The City signed a contract with the Domain, and we should hold to our word.

c) AIDS Tax Ratification

Nope

The City school system does not need more money, it needs to do better with the money it has. My Mom should know. She’s spent a long time in the system as a teacher. More money is nice, but not needed. And certainly not at the expense of more property taxes.

Hopefully this quick overview will be helpful for you! If you beg to differ, are wanting more information, or just feel like saying something, leave a comment!

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Hacking THE REPUBLIC!

Previously I had brought up the great possibility of voting machines being manipulated by an experienced hacker. Now I would like to present a more in-depth documentary my Dad found online that not only further documents the likelihood of electronic machines being hacked, but also documents some very clear instances of voter fraud. Among them, a voting machine in Valusia county, Florida recording negative votes for Al Gore.

I know this video from HBO is somewhat long. Trust me, this will be one of the most politically enlightening hour-and-a-halves of your life.

“If… When people see what’s really going on, there is no way we will allow it to continue.”
~Bev Harris, founder of www.blackboxvoting.org

I have one correction: America is actually a Republic, not a Democracy. But, either way, using a hackable system to determine who will lead is wrong.

Will you let it continue? The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for Good men to do nothing!

01001000 01100001 01101110 01110011 01100101 01101100 + 01000111 01110010 01100101 01110100 01100101 01101100

According to my sources, the above spells “Hansel + Gretel” in binary (base-2) code. This article is going to take a more technological slant and show how local political climates have welcomed easy-to-hack voting machines that may loose Texas’ democracy in the same way Hansel and Gretel lost their bread-crumb path.

In the wake of Florida’s recount mess, there has been a great deal of push to move the ballot from paper to electronics so that votes can be counted with ease and speed. The problem with the electronic solution is that it simply leaves a trail of 1s (ons) and 0s (offs) that can be picked up by a malicious hacker and be more readily lost than any paper trail, just as Hansel and Gretel’s bread-crumb scheme got them miserably lost. I am not against technology; in fact, I intend to pursue a career in electrical engineering. However, when technology has its limits, we must recognize them and not jeopardize the political future of this great state.

Multiple studies from Princeton University, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and independent reports commissioned by states such as Maryland, Ohio, and California have concluded that electronic voting machine, particularly the popular Diebold machines, can be hacked by a determined team. These are high-quality studies that have been performed by experts and, to varying degrees, they show the risk in entrusting any vote solely to a pattern of 1s and 0s.

The Princeton study, probably the most independent yet fairly recent study, specifically focused on one of Diebold’s voting machines. It found multiple ways in which determined hackers could install malicious software on the machine that could completely alter the outcome of the election.

The very ironic thing about Diebold’s response to this study is that they nowhere claim that their new systems remove the problems these researchers found with the old ones, only that the machines are new, have the most advanced data encryption techniques, and that the old ones will not be used in another election. As explained by Professor Edward W. Felten, who lead Princeton’s research team: “Diebold made the same kinds of claims about this [older] version — claims that turned out to be wrong — that they are now making about their more recent versions.”

More than just three crazy computer scientists from Princeton are complaining. I found at least five other quality studies [*] which came to very similar conclusions; an electronic voting machine could be hacked by determined political activists. One such study from an independent corporation commissioned by the State of Maryland stated:

“This Risk Assessment has identified several high-risk vulnerabilities… If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election results.”


Because of the inherent hack-ability of a trail of 1s and 0s, it is important that Texas elections leave a paper trail; a trail that can be verified. A study from RABA, who was also commissioned by Maryland, concludes:

“Ultimately we feel there will be a need for paper receipts…” (p 3)

This is the solution I propose. Allow votes to be cast electronically, but make sure that the people can verify those votes with some kind of paper receipt that voters get to look at and personally verify.

Technology is a good thing in Texas politics, but we must not get so caught up in it that we loose our trail, just as Hansel and Gretel supposedly did.

*Quotes from, citations of, and bios for these studies will be posted later for those who are interested. [edit: see my comment on this post]

My Favorite November Mosquito

Yes, as stated by a simple cartoon character,
“Voting is like choosing your favorite mosquito out of a swarm.”
-Maxine. quoted by: Dr Bob Griffin, http://www.grif.net/

So, I’m going to pick out mosquitoes. Here goes. This is how I would be voting in Today’s Constitutional Election. My default is “no,” since, as I’ve already written about, our constitution does not need to get any longer or less understandable. I think its insane that the most basic law of Texas needs to be changed sixteen times just over the course of one year.

Prop 1-NO I can’t understand what it’s about by reading the ballot language or even by reading the official declaration. I have no clue what change in governance is required. Since they cannot seem to make their law understandable, NO!

Prop 2-NO The government should not encourage students to get into debt, and I’ve already written on the subject.

Prop 3– NO Not readable, makes no sense.

Prop 4– NO

Prop 5– NO This one is barely understandable. Here is one part I got, though. While reading the actual contents of the S. J. R. No 44 I came across the reason for the amendment: “To aid in the elimination of slum and blighted conditions in less populated communities in this state, to promote rural economic development in this state…” Well, I don’t think either is the government’s job, so NO.

Prop 6– YEAH, why not. It gives the government less money to waist. Would be pretty good for my Dad, since it would exempt his work truck from being counted in the property (aka: ad valorem) tax. My only objection is the fact that no where is ad valorem taxation defined.

Prop 7– YES I support property rights. While this amendment is somewhat weak in that it limits the reason property can be returned to only three, it is a step in the right direction by requiring the agency to sell it at the same price it was bought at.

Prop 8– No. This doesn’t clarify anything. If you want to make it clear, shorten the crazy thing so that people can actually read it.

Prop 9-YEAH. I probably have about the same to say on this as on Prop 6 .

Prop 10-Yes. Let’s clean up the constitution by eliminating the office that hasn’t been held in forever.

Prop 11-Yes! Please require that legislators have records of their votes. See, currently, law is sometimes passed when a speaker simply says “all in favor? Aye” “All opposed? No” and decides who’s louder. Usually, its about which side is louder in his head.

Prop 12-No! I’m protesting unnecessary constitutional indecipherability! Yeah…

Prop 13-No. The wording of this provision is insanely long. I’m not voting to make our constitution less understandable.

Prop 14-No. Same problem as prop 13. Geeze… It doesn’t have to be that complicated! How can people be law-abiding citizens when they cannot understand the law.

Prop 15– No. I don’t believe Government’s job is to fund research, and the money that is supposed to help develop a cure for cancer may be used in useless, and morally questionable, stem cell research. I don’t exactly want to take the chance of playing around with innocent human life under the sanction of the state.

Prop 16-No

Final tally: Yes on 5; No on the rest (11). You may agree with me, you may not. Whatever your posision is, however, it is important that you show up and vote as an active citizen. Because Texas will fail when Texans fail to care.

From MySA: What we take for granted

An Editorial published the first of this month at San Antonio Express-News touched me because of all the political opportunities that we take for granted.

“More than two years ago, millions of Iraqis went to the polls.

“About 50 never came back, cut down in shootings, mortar attacks and suicide bombings, according to news reports.

“Thousands of miles away, where voters brave nothing more horrendous than long lines at the polls, civic participation is pathetic.

“The contrast between the two nations is startling.”

Then, U.S. District Judge Robert Junell decided to do something about it.

“On Nov. 6, Texans will consider 16 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, and the turnout for such elections is usually abysmal.

“As Junnell put it, ‘Our government doesn’t ask a lot from us.’ Voting is the least we can do.”

All I can say is amen.