Citing concerns over conflict of interest, voting rights activists today called upon Secretary of State Cathy Cox (pictured at right) to step down from her position as chief overseer of elections during her run for Governor.
"This is no ordinary conflict of interest," stated Mark Sawyer, co-founder of Defenders of Democracy, a state voting rights group. "We have an unprecedented situation in, where a sitting Secretary of State will be counting votes in her race for Governor on electronic voting machines she has personally fought hard to keep insecure. This is a conflict of interest of colossal proportions."
Georgia’s current, paperless electronic voting system was implemented by Secretary of State Cox in 2002, a system she continues to insist is secure because it is tested at both the national and state levels.
However, a longstanding, nationwide consensus of computer scientists, engineers and auditing experts disagree with her. To cite but one example, William Arbaugh, computer scientist with the RABA Technologies team that inspected the same Diebold voting machines in Maryland, says in the New York Times, "I can say with confidence that nobody looked at the system with an eye to security who understands security."
In fact, since 2003 - when Fortune magazine dubbed electronic voting "Worst Technology of the Year - continuing disclosures of voting machine insecurity have spawned a nationwide movement for voter-verified paper ballots, a movement that Cox has attempted to insulate herself from in Georgia.
"Many of us were encouraged when Secretary of State Cox finally announced last fall that she was dropping her opposition to a paper audit trail in," observed computer programmer/activist John Fortuin. "And then what happened? At every crucial point in this legislative session, the Secretary of State’s office was there to obstruct momentum for statewide auditing of these electronic voting results. In light of such outright deception, how can we be expected to believe that Secretary of State Cox will administer her own election for Governor fairly and impartially?"
"As terrible as her record is, the real issue is not Secretary of State Cox," notes Aaron Ruscetta, activist and representative of ’s Electronic Freedom Foundation. "The problem is that our current system provides no physical evidence of the vote, which means that no election official - Cathy Cox or anyone else—can vouch for the accuracy of the machine totals."
"We simply have no idea what’s happening on the insides of these voting machines on election day," Sawyer observes. "And why Secretary of State Cox has fought so hard against auditing the machines is a total mystery to us. Fortunately, I think Georgians are getting more than a little tired of just hoping and praying that their votes are counted on election day. I think we’re waking up to the fact that we have a right to know our votes are counted."
Speaking for Defenders of Democracy, Fortuin concludes, "By stepping down, Secretary of State Cox can signal a new resolve to address the crisis of our electoral system, and start us down the road toward rehabilitating the legitimacy of elections."
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