Among the experts that we have met with since the beginning of the case, Brent Beleskey was one of the first that joined with our team from Canada, where Dominion Voting Systems was born. He brings with him expertise from his life long struggle for election integrity against voting machines and their advocates and has joined us on the front line of this American election lawsuit.
WENDY MESLEY: Hi, I'm Wendy Mesley. Who would have thought that the next US
President would be determined by a vote recount in Florida. But what if
there had been no paper ballots to recount? That's what will happen with
the no paper electronic voting technology coming our way. So can those
voting machines really be trusted? Brent Beleskey is on a mission to save
the country. He's running for city council on a plank of bring back the
BRENT BELESKEY (City Council Candidate / Director International Voters Coalition):
With a private paper ballot you have that ballot you can count and watch it being counted.
You can't watch cyberspace.
MESLEY: This is his cyber nightmare, the voting machine. Beleskey is no
luddite, he works on a computer. He just doesn't trust them with his vote.
So three years ago, from this basement, Beleskey set up the one man
International Voters Coalition. It was right after Beleskey's first run at
City Council when he realized that the city of Barrie, Ontario, Canada had
replaced the ballot box.
BELESKEY: All of a sudden we're faced with this computer. And you just say
oh this is what you've got to do. You've got to test the screen and this
and that and I'm going well, where's my ballot. Oh, he says, we don't need
a ballot any more. I said how can you do recounts? How can you do checks?
MESLEY: In a traditional vote, there are the election officials who run the
vote, and then there are the scrutineers. Someone from each party can watch
as the voters are given their ballots. The scrutineers can also watch as
each ballot is counted. They are the public's eye and ears keeping everyone
honest. Scrutineers also closely monitor recounts, like this one. But with
a computer program rather than paper ballots, what's to recount? Barrie was
the first city in Canada to use computer touch screen technology in an
election. And John Craig is the city clerk who bought the system.
JOHN CRAIG (Barrie City Clerk): Then you push "next".
MESLEY: Here's how it works: When you sign in at the polling station you
are given a smart card that unlocks the touch screen computer and lets you
cast your vote.
CRAIG: This is just a plastic version of the ballot and when you put it in
the equipment here, it shows you the digital version on the screen.
MESLEY: Would my identity be on that card?
MESLEY: Craig's always liked using computers to count votes. Computer
voting just seemed like the next logical step. Why did you go looking for
that sort of thing in the first place?
CRAIG: Paper ballot system is very cumbersome. It takes a long time at the
end of the evening. And with a computer election system, the tabulation is
done at the end of the evening, done very quickly, and ah, so you can
reduce the number of staff that you need.
MESLEY: So it was a money issue?
CRAIG: Uh, money uh, convenience, I think accuracy as well.
MESLEY: When the new computer revealed Beleskey had lost he refused to
believe it, but didn't ask for a recount because there were no real
ballots. All the votes were digital.
BELESKEY: That's why we have the private paper ballot, ballot box, hand
count and scrutineers. And the public's right to witness the process, the
MESLEY: But this way you're handed a smart card instead of a ballot.
BELESKEY: Yeah, but it's not tangible. The people have the right to
scrutinize the process. The process has to be perceived to be fair and
MESLEY: South of the border in Plymouth Township, Michigan, it's a state
primary and people have come to vote for their local and house
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (1): To vote, you touch the name. It'll light up. If you
make a mistake, and you touch the wrong name, touch it again, the light
will go off.
MESLEY: This town has been voting on a touch screen system since 1996.
Instead off ballot boxes, the votes at each station are stored on computer
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (2): The polls are now closed.
MESLEY: At the end of the day they are brought into town hall and the
information is fed into a computer, printed and posted.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (2): Is this precincts or totals?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (3): This is totals.
MESLEY: So far, so good. But a few miles away, Jerry Vorva has chosen to
vote at this polling station to avoid the touch screen computers at other
polls. That's because three years ago in another county vote on school
funding that used touch screen voting, somehow 716 votes simply
disappeared. Why couldn't you just ask for a recount?
JERRY VORVA: Some people did ask for a recount, but what are you
recounting? You're recounting that 716 votes were lost, how do you find out
how they voted? There's no paper trail. That's the bad thing about the
touch screen voting, is one, you can't check the intent of the voter. And
additionally, I'm sorry to say this, I don't wanna sound like a
conspiratorialist, but how do I know it's being recorded properly?
MESLEY: There's mistakes in the old fashioned paper system, too.
VORVA: Yes, but that's allowed for. You see, because you have the paper to
look at it. Here I have an electronic signal that goes off into electronic
signal never never land.
MESLEY: Vorva tried for two years in court to have the election thrown out
but eventually gave up. Back at the mall in Barrie, Vorva's paper ballot
soul mate is still fighting, collecting names for his petition.
BELESKEY: I have a petition to restore the private paper ballot. It's all
cyberspace, it's subject to being tampered with, it's subject to crashing
and eliminating - how many people have had their computer at home and all
of a sudden it crashed and you've lost every data you've got?
MESLEY: Bob Urosevitch isn't worried. For him it's big business. He runs
the company that sold the touch screen package to Barrie. He says people
like Beleskey should get with the programme. That electronic voting is
BOB UROSEVITCH (Global Electronics): Marketplace can be up into the 10
billion or so higher. There is approximately 400 million registered voters
in North America, and if you start doing the math and everybody would
interact with the process, that's a lot of people.
MESLEY: Global Elections touch screen machines were used in seven states in
last week's American elections. And Urosevitch already sees the day when
voting machines are as common as automatic banking machines. There still
are people who are not entirely at ease with ATM's. What do you say to
people who think a paper vote is more secure?
UROSEVITCH: Well, obviously, you know, technology is not for everyone. But
there's always going to be those few people that aren't going to embrace technology.
MESLEY: With paper, you can go back and actually see the individual votes
and you can do an actual re-count and how do you know that there's not been
a mistake with e-voting?
UROSEVITCH: Post election, the system has the ability to print back the
image, in paper ballot form so that you can hand audit it as if it was a
MESLEY: But it's an image. So that means you have to trust the system?
UROSEVITCH: Yes. Just as you have to trust the people who are hand counting
or processing your ballots as you're voting today.
MESLEY: The Barrie clerk who bought Urosevitch's system has full trust in
technology too. What if there were a, a corrupt election official who could
have access to the disc and, and, and mess with the software, mess with the
CRAIG: It doesn't differ from a paper ballot or any other system. Part of
the trust that people have to have is that the election officials are
trustworthy. Because if we're not trustworthy, then it doesn't matter what
kind of election equipment you'll use, paper or electronics.
BELESKEY: Which cyberdisk are we going to choose? Who won the election?
Which one do you want to pick?
MESLEY: You don't trust governments?
BELESKEY: In God we trust, i don't know about anything else.
MESLEY: But Beleskey's own government thinks most Canadians are trusting
technology more and more. In fact, in the next federal election, Ottawa
plans to make electronic voting an option. But it won't be touch screen
technology. The government plans to start with the next level - voting on
the internet. Internet voting is already pretty common in the private
sector. Irene Katzela is voting from her living room in Toronto. She's a
member of an international engineers' association that lets its 55,000
members choose a new executive by the internet.
IRENE KATZELA (International Engineers Association): For the President, uh,
we have in a couple of options.
MESLEY: This internet site was created by election.com, the corporation
that ran the biggest public internet election so far - the Democratic
primary in Arizona last spring.
BILL TAYLOR: We believe that it's very well received. People like it. It's
a good product.
MESLEY: Bill Taylor organized that Arizona election where if voters chose
to vote via the internet, their personal data and how they voted were all
recorded and sent to these servers owned by election.com. What guarantee is
there, how can the public know that you won't ever sell that information to
TAYLOR: The way our technology is designed is that when someone votes, we
split the vote from the voter so we do not know how someone actually voted.
MESLEY: And there's no possible way of actually putting that back.
TAYLOR: There's no way of putting that back, it's encrypted immediately
upon leaving that person's computer so when they cast the vote, that's
split, we have no way of knowing the person and how they voted. We only
know that the ballot has been consumed and a vote has been cast.
MESLEY: What do you think of the issue of the digital divide that the poor
and minorities are much less likely to have access to internet?
TAYLOR: We hadn't seen it to be an issue and we've spoken to the community
MESLEY: Well that's funny because nearly everybody, the people who don't
have an economic stake in this, who go and look at the issue do see it as
TAYLOR: We consulted with a number of minority groups who have helped us,
ah, and spoken with us. We have not seen that to be an issue.
MESLEY: In Canada, sixty per cent of homes are not connected to the
internet. But those computer voting firms are starting to connect with our
politicians. At a recent NDP convention in Ontario, the election.com folks
put on a presentation to pitch their wares.
PRESENTATION: Casting a paper ballot may soon be cast aside.
MARK STRAMA (VP Public Affairs, election.com): Internet voting can decrease
costs while increasing participation.
MESLEY: And in Ottawa with all those referendums in mind, the Canadian
Alliance has been lobbying John Pierre Kingsley. And Canada's chief
electoral officer is not immune to the pitch.
JOHN PIERRE KINGSLEY (Canada's Chief Electoral Officer): As Canadians,
younger Canadians, move into the stream of electors, to them it will be a
very natural thing to express their choice about who should govern them.
Who should hold power in Canada that way.
MESLEY: But there's just one last problem.
KINGSLEY: We don't know who's at the other end, who's voting.
MESLEY: So how can you fix that?
KINGSLEY: You would provide, for example, a shot of your iris and we would
be able to, when you're at the other end, there would be a camera picking
up your iris, transmitting that information to our computer, checking it
MESLEY: So using biometrics?
MESLEY: With a paper ballot now, there's quite a ritual involved. You can
get off early from work, you go home, you meet your kids, you give them a
little speech about democracy. You all troop down to the polling station.
Now, or in the future, with internet voting, it could be like a quick nip
into the bank in between your other errands. Could something be lost?
KINGSLEY: Some of that would be lost, yes. But on the other hand, would
participation rates increase? Would those votes be less valid because
people didn't go to the polls.
MESLEY: Back in Barrie, Brent Beleskey went to the advanced poll for the
municipal election. But just to register, not to vote.
BELESKEY: I refuse to use this card and the computer system.
MESLEY: He's boycotting those computers. Next, on undercurrents.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (1): The global village has become the scene of a
hailstorm of bad campaigns.
TV AD: So tell us, what do you want the internet to be?
TV AD: We are ready. Are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (2): I can't for the life of me figure out what they are
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