Your home for updated information on the fight for democracy in America

Solar Bus Election Justice Newsletter

March 11, 2005

Greetings fellow Americans,

The Solar Bus is overdue for an update on some important things that are happening in the efforts to restore democracy in our country. In this newsletter:

1) National Conference on the 2004 Election announced

2) Divestment campaign launched to target voting machine companies

3) My concerns about the pending election reform bills

4) Maryland investigation heats up

5) Kerry's legal team turns up the heat in Ohio lawsuit

6) California Teach-ins focus on problems with our election system

7) Voting Rights organizations call for volunteers

8) My letter to Vermont Public Radio and NPR

1) National Conference on the 2004 Election announced

April 8 - 10, Nashville TN
A three day Gathering To Save Our Democracy - A National Conference will provide the appropriate forum for expanding public awareness, for congregating the accumulated knowledge under one roof and for providing a platform for mobilizing support for election reform and justice.

The conference agenda for this important event is impressive. Many of the key players in the honest election movement will be presenting. The lawyers who filed the lawsuits in Ohio will be there, as well as electronic voting experts, exit poll researchers and more. Registration is open to the public. Please see the Solar Bus Election Justice home page (a.k.a. the "front seat") for details.

A representative from the Solar Bus (myself) may be there at the conference if scheduling permits.

2) Divestment campaign launched to target e-voting machine companies

American citizens must do all we can to keep partisan companies like Diebold and ES&S from taking over our election system, and we can't leave it to the legislators to fix it.

An organization called Velvet Revolution has organized one such effort. This divestment campaign attacks the problem right at the core, and it uses a powerful principle to initiate change - "money talks."

The voting machine companies were recently sent a letter by the Velvet Revolution, demanding that they change their policies to produce a paper ballot and open their source code (among other things). They were given 60 days to comply, and if they refuse, a massive divestment (similar to a boycott) campaign will begin. Everyone who wants fair elections in our country will then be asked to make sure none of the their stock portfolios, including their mutual funds and 401K accounts have any investments in these companies. People will be calling up their stock brokers to make sure none of their accounts invest in these companies. The effect is that the stock prices of these companies will plummet and they will be forced to address the issue, or they'll have very real financial problems.

I urge you to participate in the divestment campaign. You can act now, by sending an email to the companies asking them to comply with the request. If they refuse, you can participate in the divesment campaign too. This is something everyone can do. You don't have to take to the streets and carry a sign, you can do it all from home and it will be very effective if we all participate. Please read all about the campaign here:

Dozens of organizations have endorsed this effort. I hope you will participate and tell your friends about it.

3) My concerns about the pending election reform bills

As you probably know, there are several bills now proposed in Congress to address the problems we saw in the last election. I have been mulling over them for weeks now and discussing them with experts. I am working on a feature article about the bills, but today I want to give you some preliminary information about the bills that I feel is very important.

In a nutshell I am concerned that none of the bills adequately address the problems with electronic voting. It comes down to the fact that they all demand a paper record, not an actual paper ballot. The paper record is an improvement from what we have now, but it will not prevent fraud.

The 'voter verified paper record' mentioned in the bills is only used in the case of a recount or audit of the system. It is not used in the first count of the election. In other words, there is a high likelihood that the paper record will never be checked or counted. A voter could see the correct vote on the piece of paper, but the machine could actually cast a different vote to the system, and no one would ever know unless there was a recount. It would be very simple for the voting machine companies to print what the voter said, and actually cast a different vote. The end result is people are more confident in the integrity of the system while fraud could still be going on right under our noses.

In contrast, a true bill that calls for a paper ballot, not a paper record, ensures that the piece of paper that the voter looks at is actually used in the first count of the election. The above scenario with the voting machines casting a different vote would not be possible if the bills called for a paper ballot instead of a paper record.

This is not to say that I don't support the bills. Right now we don't even have the paper record, so a recount or audit of the system is not possible. Making a recount possible would definitely be a welcomed improvement. But I feel relying on recounts will not fix our democracy. We need to try to get the first count right. And that's why we are going to have to look beyond legislation if we really want to close the loopholes that make fraud possible.

More on this coming soon. In the meantime I invite you to check out the Solar Bus' new web page listing all the pending legislation on election issues (there are over 20 now!), which includes a growing section on commentary and comparison:

While the paper ballot is a huge issue, it is not the only problem that needs to be resolved, and many of the proposed bills do address the other issues effectively, like voter suppression, open source code, and partisan election officials. For this reason I will support most of the election reform bills, even though I don't feel they go far enough. And I urge caution in thinking they will fix our election problems and prevent another stolen election.

4) Maryland investigation heats up

While we are told repeatedly to "get over it," some of us don't want to. If the election was stolen, the people should know. Knowing what happened is a necessary step in ensuring fair elections in the future.

There are many investigations and lawsuits still ongoing, concerning what happened on November 2nd. Some are on the state level. One important place to watch is Maryland. It's considered one of the "test areas" for electronic voting, as 100% of their votes were cast on electronic voting machines.

You probably heard in the mainstream media that November 2nd was a huge success for electronic voting, and the election showed how well the system works.

Don't believe everything you hear in the mainstream media.

The truth is that Maryland was a disaster for electronic voting and the facts are starting to come out. We have recently learned that in Montgomery county, 12% of the machines failed. In many cases, the memory card that contains the voting totals for a machine was found to be unreadable and many votes were presumably lost. Diebold, the manufacturer of the machines has been unable to explain any of the problems. As a result all Maryland voting machines have been on "lockdown." The advocacy group TrueVoteMD has called for an independent investigation, and a decertification of all Diebold machines, according to state law.

5) Kerry's legal team turns up the heat in Ohio lawsuit

One of the other states that is still being looked at closely is of course Ohio. Here, there are still pending lawsuits involving the Green and Libertarian party candidates, and John Kerry as well. The main suit concerns the recount, saying it was done improperly and illegally (which is definitely true). A judge is still deciding on a request to "preserve all ballots and machinery connected to the 2004 presidential election and to take limited expedited discovery". Recently the Kerry legal team filed papers in support of the Green Party's requests.

In response, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is named in the lawsuit, asked a federal judge to allow him to take depositions of Senator John Kerry and former Senator John Edwards.

This is somewhat hypocritical because Blackwell himself has been asked on several occasions, by house Judiciary Committee members and others, to allow himself to be questioned about many aspects of the election, and he hasn't even replied to the requests.

It is theorized that this move is an attempt to get Kerry and Edwards to back down, and withdraw their support for the case. If that happens the case will probably be dismissed.

It has yet to be seen if the Judge will approve the request for depositions, and if so, whether or not they will accept or back down.

If the request is approved and if Kerry and Edwards don't back down, hold on to your seats.

6) California Teach-ins

A coalition of voting rights advocates organized Teach-ins in Oakland and Santa Monica recently, to educate the public about the problems with our election system. They were well attended, and the audio was broadcast on public radio in California. Many of the key players in our "movement" were there. The organizers hope to have more Teach-ins and provide materials for others to duplicate the teach-in format they put together. Stay tuned.

7) Voting Rights organizations call for volunteers

Many people write and ask me what they can do to help save our democracy. The "Top Action Items" section on the Solar Bus website always has a handful of ideas, and most only take a few minutes. Now there's more you can do if you have a little time to give. The various advocacy groups have teamed together to create one page where people can see all the volunteer tasks and positions that are needed. The Solar Bus is proud to be hosting this new volunteering information page:

Not only will you be helping this important cause, but you will likely make some great connections with other people who share your concern for having open and fair elections in our country.

8) My letter to Vermont Public Radio and NRP

As has been discussed, there are problems with our national media, and NPR is not immune. As also has been discussed, money talks. Put two and two together, and Public Radio fundraising drives are an excellent opportunity for us to express our concerns and disappointment with the direction NPR has taken recently. (In case you haven't noticed NPR has been virtually silent on the problems with the election and other important issues).

Vermont Public Radio (VPR) is now conducting their yearly fundraising drive. I responded to their mailed solicitation with a letter explaining why I can no longer support VPR and NPR. I've posted the letter on the Solar Bus website to raise awareness of the problems at NPR and also to encourage others to write similar letters. You can read my letter here:


All stories mentioned in this newsletter can be found in more detail on the Solar Bus Election Justice Center home page (now called the 'front seat' of the bus):

Note: The Solar Bus Election Justice Center newsletter will be archived and available online from now on. This newsletter can be accessed online at:

Peace to all,
Gary Beckwith

the solar bus
your home for updated information on the fight for democracy in America