Tailpipe

City Without Art

Check Out Your Backyard, Bozo

After the disastrous 2000 presidential election, Broward County commissioners, buffeted by a hailstorm of lobbyists and slicked-back salesmen, dropped a cool $20 million on a computer voting system made by Election Systems & Software, an election management firm. Palm Beach County went with similar machines from Sequoia Voting Systems,another election management outfit. OK system, no paper back-up.

A growing number of computer scientists and gadflies complain about the lack of security and transparency in the electronic voting technology used by the two companies. Boca Raton City Council candidate Emil Danciu sued election officials after the 2002 election, claiming voting machines had not tallied votes correctly. Though the suit was eventually thrown out, it raised questions about what sort of back-up electronic voting machines were providing. Like, what are the guarantees? More recently, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Boca Raton) sued to press for paper back-up ballots (again the case was dismissed).

The solution is right in our own backyard. Boca Raton-based Smartmatic, created by entrepreneurs who specialize in creating secure links between software and hardware, produces touchscreen voting machines that offer everything critics have been pleading for. The system recently went through a baptism of fire in Venezuela's recall referendum of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez's opponents cried foul when the vote didn't go their way, claiming that the software had been tampered with. But the beauty of Smartmatic is it's an entirely transparent system.

"Each time a person votes, a ticket comes out the front, and he can check it to see if it matches his vote, then deposit it in a separate ballot box," says Mitch Stoller, a Smartmatic spokesman. "Each ticket has a digital serial number and other security features that allow you to trace it to the machine, to the vote, to the time."

Before the Venezuelan election, the Organization of American States and the Carter Center, the international election watchdog group created by former President Jimmy Carter, were allowed controlled access to the system's computer source code. Each was satisfied that the machines registered votes correctly. Both ES&S and Sequoia have said they wouldn't allow that kind of access.

It's too late for Smartmatic to jump into this fall's Kerry-Bush contest because the company's machines are not yet certified by federal and state election divisions, but the company has begun that process. The bigger hurdle for Smartmatic, of course, would be getting Broward commissioners to scrap the system they've already sunk millions of dollars into. Tailpipe wonders: Does Smartmatic take trade-ins?

Bishop Stedroy?

When somebody said a pastor is the staff you lean on, Rev. Stedroy Williams must have gotten the wrong idea. A few years ago, a number of female flock members at Lauderhill's Grace Christian World Church accused the 43-year-old preacher of sexual misconduct. In March, 2000, after a visit from a fiery-eyed out-of-town bishop, Williams stepped down from his battered pulpit.

Then he moved on, becoming pastor of Victory Christian World Ministries in Tamarac.

Now here comes Abiola Cameron, a 24-year-old member of Williams's current congregation, who filed a restraining order against the good rev on August 20. Her complaint says Williams began sexually assaulting her in 1999, that the abuse continued for the next three and a half years, and that she had an abortion -- at Williams's insistence -- in August 1999. The following May, Cameron gave birth to a daughter, Jennelle, who she claims is Williams's. "I took a paternity test," she says, which proved Williams is the father. "And now he's denying it." Aggressively, she adds.

According to Cameron's court claim, she received a call from Williams in May in which he told her he "missed having sex" with her. But when Cameron pursued child support payments, the pastor allegedly called on August 9 and left an intimidating message. "He used the word of God to threaten me," the complaint says, "saying that God will get me and my daughter for taking him to court [and] for destroying his church and his family."

Williams told Tailpipe he had no idea that Cameron had filed a petition preventing him from being within 500 feet of her or her home. He denied leaving any threatening messages. "Nobody got no phone calls from nobody," he barked. When asked if he was in fact the proud pop of Cameron's young daughter, he answered, "That's old stuff. That's old, stale meat. That's all stuff from a long time ago, gone into the garbage." To Tailpipe, this sounds somewhat short of a denial.

This rigid cylinder understands the temptations of the flesh, but maybe it's time for Brother Stedroy either to hang up his preaching sneakers or to make a tearful public cry for absolution. Which, come to think of it, might make him eligible for a promotion. Can you picture Bishop Williams?

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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