Polly sent me this story this morning and said that Snopes.com had verified it as something to be concerned about. I do not generally pay much attention at all to anything that urges me to "tell everyone you know," but after that whole Hanging Chad mess, I thought I'd just put it out there for people to think about. Could it hurt?
THE PROBLEM: "Straight party voting" on voting machines is revealing a bad pattern of miscounting and omitting your vote, especially if you are a Democrat. Most recently (Oct. 2008), a firm called Automated Election Services was found to have mis-coded the system in heavily Democratic Santa Fe County, New Mexico such that straight party voters would not have the presidential vote counted.
STRAIGHT PARTY VOTING is allowed in 15 states. Basically, it means that you can take a shortcut to actually looking at who you are voting for and instead just select a party preference. Then the voting machine makes your candidate choices, supposedly for the party you requested.
HOW TO PROTECT THE COUNT against Straight Party Trap:
1) NEVER CHOOSE THE STRAIGHT PARTY VOTE OPTION, because it alerts the computer as to your party preference and allows software code to trigger whatever function the programmer has designed.
2) SEND THIS INFORMATION OUT TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN, to get the word out.
3) ESPECIALLY GET THE WORD OUT TO PEOPLE IN THE FOLLOWING STATES, which have straight party voting options: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin
4) DEMAND COMPLETE AND CAREFUL TESTING OF THE STRAIGHT PARTY OPTION IN LOGIC & ACCURACY TESTS.
5) LOOK FOR UNDERVOTES (high profile races with lower-than-average number of votes cast) and flag them, post them, bring them to the attention of others for additional scrutiny.
Details, links to documents, news stories, more specifics here.
Voting machine miscounts of straight party votes were proven by California researcher Judy Alter in the 2004 New Mexico presidential election; in Alabama Democrat straight party votes were caught going to a Republican, and Wisconsin a whole slew of straight party votes disappeared altogether. Both DRE and optical scan machines are vulnerable. Private contractors are involved; private firms like LHS Associates, Automated Election Services, Harp Enterprises, Casto & Harris and others will program almost all systems in the USA this November. ES&S scanners were involved in examples cited, but Diebold has also issued a cryptic Product Advisory Notice in 2006 about unexpected results from certain Straight Party option programming practices.