This article is about our right to know, not about Martha Coakley or Scott Brown. And lest you think something here favors a Democrat, just you wait, I’m still working on anomalies in the NY-23 election that are just plain hard to ‘splain. As Richard Hayes Phillips says when people tell him to forget it, “I’m a historian, I’ve got all the time in the world.” NY-23 still has history to be written. My public records are starting to arrive. But that’s another story.
According to preliminary media results by municipality, Democrat Martha Coakley won Massachusetts overall in its hand counted locations,* with 51.12% of the vote (32,247 hand counted votes) to Brown’s 30,136, which garnered him 47.77% of hand counted votes. Margin: 3.35% lead for Coakley.
Massachusetts has 71 hand count locations, 91 ES&S locations, and 187 Diebold locations, with two I call the mystery municipalities (Northbridge and Milton) apparently using optical scanners, not sure what kind.
The greatest margin between the candidates was with ES&S machines — 53.64% for Brown, 45.31% for Coakley, a margin for Brown of 8.33%. It looks like ES&S counted a total of 620,388 votes, with 332,812 going to Brown and 281,118 going to Coakley. Taken overall, the difference — 8.33% Brown (ES&S) added to 3.35% Coakley (Hand Count) shows an 11.68% difference between the ES&S and the Hand Counts. Of course, as Mark Twain used to say, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. These statistics don’t prove anything, and probably shouldn’t be discussed without a grain of salt handy before examining more detailed demographics.
As a point of reference, however, in the Maine gay marriage issue recently there was no significant overall difference between machine count and hand count locations.
Diebold’s results are 51.42% for Brown, with 791,272 Republican votes counted by Diebold, vs. 47.61% for Coakley, with 732,633 Democratic votes counted by Diebold, for a spread of 3.81% favoring Brown.
It’s always interesting to watch hand counts beat machine count results to the newspaper.
In the Massachusetts special senate election, results from six of 71 hand count locations were reported about 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed, with the remaining 65 hand count locations in right away. The slower hand count results represent 8.45% of all hand count locations.
These latecoming hand-counted results favored Coakley very heavily (she got 55.68% of these, earning 4,610 votes to Brown’s 42.9%, representing 3,552, a 12.78% margin) Whether the reports came to the media late or the media posted them late is unclear.
ES&S SLOWPOKE VOTES
ES&S had 12 of its 91 locations reported at least 2 1/2 hours after polls closed, a total of 13.2% of all its locations (as compared with just 8.45% of slower reporting hand count locations). So ES&S certainly wasn’t faster than hand counts, overall!
These slow-arriving votes represented 88,288 of ES&S’s 620,388 votes. Overall Brown got 46,257, for 52.39% of the late-arriving ES&S votes, and Coakley got 41,238, for 46.71%, yielding a margin of 5.68% of the late-arriving votes going to Brown, for a net gain of 5,019 votes to Brown.
North Attleboro and Paxton appear to be the last locations in the state to be reported, and they are both ES&S. North Attleboro brought in 10,881
very late votes, 71.48% of them going to Brown; Paxton brought in 2,036 votes, 65.37% going to Brown.
THE SLOW BOAT FROM DIEBOLD
Yes, I know they’re supposed to be called Premier machines now, and ES&S bought the company so it’s now all one big monopoly family, and then the whole kit and kaboodle in New England — Premier and ES&S — is programmed by the juicy little LHS Associates guys. But I like to just call them Diebold, that familiar name which we all know and love.
Twenty-four of Diebold’s 187 locations wandered in late, smoking cigarettes and wearing a bathrobe. That’s 12.83% of all its locations. Apparently it was faster to hand count 8,497 ballots, as they did promptly in Newburyport, or 7,339 ballots, as they hand counted in public for all to see in Milton, than to push a button and wait five minutes for the machine to spit out a Diebold results report in Pelham where they had 725 votes. East Brookfield’s 899 Diebold votes must have run out of gas somewhere; they weren’t reported for hours.
All in all, a total of 170,594 Diebold votes took a long time to stumble in the door, These votes — surprise! — favored Coakley. She got 86,214 of them, for 50.54%, and Brown got 82,911 tardy Diebold votes, for 48.60%, putting Coakley on the plus side of the late arrivers by a 1.94% margin, for a net gain of 3,303 slow-moving votes.
They’d called the election by the time the 170,594 tardy Diebold votes showed up. Coakley had conceded. And of course, there are many ways to look at this if you don’t trust voting machines, and why should you? It’s hard to know who was fooling around, or if anybody was.
You see, the Diebold latecomers represented the strongest showing for Coakley of all and in some heavily populated areas. 32 of 33 Cambridge polling place results couldn’t find their way to the media for a long time. Cambridge finally came in with 27,268 votes for Coakley — 84.11%. Brown was only able to locate 4,921 votes from Cambridge when all was said and done.
And the media couldn’t seem to rustle up any Amherst votes for any of its 10 polling places until races were called and candidates had conceded. Amherst generated 84% of its votes for Coakley with only 15% going to Brown.
So this is all very interesting, and hopefully is accurate because I’m spreadsheeting after midnight. And we’re talking statistics based on premature and unofficial results which came from the media and not the government, and the Massachusetts Secretary of State doesn’t officially tell us which place is using which system, so we’re relying on volunteers from the VerifiedVoting Web site who hunted it down.**
** A public service announcement from Disclaimers-R-Us, a subsidiary of the US Elections Industry.
GET OVER IT, SCOTT BROWN WON
Actually, I think any intellectually honest person will see that Brown garnered financing and executed brilliantly, and that’s just politics.
He probably DID win. In 71 Massachusetts locations we could watch the counting (woops, he lost those, overall). But in 277 locations, the counting was on computerized voting machines and concealed from the public.
So we can never really know who won, and that is unfair to both Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. But it’s most unfair to the citizens of Massachusetts, who have an inalienable right to choose their own governance. You can’t hold sovereignty over the choosing process if you can’t see it.
Black Box Voting is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501c(3) elections watchdog organization. We need your support in 2010 very much. If you think our work is important, do support us.
Barack Obama was overwhelmingly elected by citizens in all
regions of the country. Unlike the past two elections where the results
were contested in two states run by partisans who rigged the results, this election was won hands down by the person who ran the best campaign. This is not to say that there were not massive problems with voting systems in many states. But this election did not come down to one state or county controlled by corrupt officials.
Four years ago, VR was formed out of the chaos of the 2004 election. Since then, we and all of you have fought a long battle to ensure that our elections are fair, honest and transparent. We demanded accurate voting machines and paper ballots. In this election, both Florida and Ohio, now with paper ballots, went Blue and there is no one questioning that result.
Over the past several months, we have raised the specter of a Man in the Middle computer attack on the vote tabulators controlled by partisan evangelicals. We identified Michael Connell as the key GOP IT expert who created these nefarious networks. We took legal action against Connell in the form of a federal deposition. Karl Rove responded by threatening Connell to either take the fall or keep his mouth shut. Connell’s Bush/Cheney attorneys did everything possible to keep Connell from testifying.
Well, last Friday, something important happened: Michael Connell was forced to appear before Solomon Oliver, a Clinton appointed Afro-American federal Judge in Cleveland. After Attorney Cliff Arnebeck accused Connell in open court of rigging elections for Karl Rove, the judge ordered Connell to submit to a sworn deposition 18 hours before the polls were to open. On Monday at noon, Connell was placed under oath and grilled about election fraud, Man in the Middle attacks, Trojan horse manipulations and threats
In short, at VR, with all the help from you, our affiliates, our supporters and others, we played a role in helping to make this presidential election more fair than the past two. Our education campaign, our paper ballot campaign, our whistleblower campaign and our legal strategies worked. That’s what democracy is all about.
Thank all of you for your confidence in our work, your dedication and your kind and generous support. We hope to continue to do our small part to make our government more accountable to everyone.
GAO report a reminder that EAC has failed entirely, says Brad Friedman
March 08, 2007 (Computerworld) — Here we go again: Yet another confirmation by the non-partisan GAO on Wednesday, in yet another a sure-to-be-ignored report, that our electronic voting systems across the country are a hellish patchwork of un-overseen technological mayhem and disaster. This latest is entitled “ELECTIONS: All Levels of Government Are Needed to Address Electronic Voting System Challenges” (PDF format).
But what are the chances that anyone in the mainstream media is paying attention?
The report was released yesterday along with testimony given by Randolph C. Hite, the GAO Information Technology Architecture and Systems Director, at a hearing on “Ensuring the Integrity of Elections” in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government this afternoon.
Among the folks on the hot seat at the hearing was U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) chair Donetta Davidson, of whom we at Brad Blog been more than critical on a number of issues, including her failure to release information to the public (or even to elections officials) concerning the disastrous state of the federally approved CIBER test lab.
That lab was one of three private companies which secretly test all American voting systems at the federally level, until they secretly failed to receive accreditation last year from the EAC. The three made up the “Independent Testing Authority” — all of which are paid for by the Voting Machine Companies themselves.
CIBER had signed off on nearly 70 percent of the electronic voting systems used last November. Despite the discovery of those serious problems at the lab by Davidson’s EAC last July, it wasn’t until a front-page story in the New York Times in January of this year that anybody learned about the mess. Instead, the EAC inexcusably allowed America to vote on those systems last November with no warning — even to elections officials — that there were known problems.
The secret EAC reports — yes, more secrecy — revealed the sloppy, incomplete and frequently non-existent “testing” performed by CIBER. The testing process (such as it is) is now documented online, if you’ve got the tech-stomach for them.
But more on Davidson and the remarkable, documented failures of the EAC in a later detailed investigative report which we’ve been working on for many weeks. For now, Hite’s 56-page report, released Wednesday, summarizes many of the GAO’s excellent, recent, and all-but ignored reports on voting systems from over the past year or two.
Utter HAVA disarray — documented
The report covers the lack of security and reliability standards and testing for all electronic voting systems across the country at the federal, state and local levels. It reveals a system of democracy in utter disarray in the wake of the ill-conceived and ill-administered Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 and the technological nightmare now facing voting jurisdictions across the United States.
One of those ignored reports, which The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively about in 2005, was also referenced in the new GAO report.
We highlight the point referenced again here, since few people (see above) heard about it the first time out:
We concluded in 2005 that these concerns have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.
Doesn’t get much clearer than that, does it.
But the take-away point from the latest report is the underscore, once again, of how the entire system would be immeasurably and immediately simplified by doing away with all disenfranchising, unreliable, inaccurate and hackable — easily hackable — Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems.
As well, Hite’s report underlined yet again that the e-voting activists once criticized as “conspiracy theorists” have been right all along. It’s hard for someone who’s been following the trail for years not to break into a chorus of “I told you so,” dedicated to the Republicans, Elections Officials, Voting Machine Companies (and a few utterly reckless and reprehensible Democrats to boot) who simply refused to handle the truth.
Hite finishes big, and with an important warning:
[E]lectronic voting systems are an undeniably critical link in the overall election chain. While this link alone cannot make an election, it can break one. The problems that some jurisdictions have experienced and the serious concerns that have surfaced highlight the potential for continuing difficulties in upcoming national elections if these challenges are not effectively addressed.
Note the word “effectively” in the above paragraph. Election Reform legislation is not enough; if it’s not effective, it’s meaningless and sends democracy back over the same cliff over which the process pitched in Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 and Sarasota 2006. Without a DRE ban — as in Holt’s bill if it’s not amended — there’s nothing to stop us from heading off that same cliff all over again in 2008.
The buck passes here
One last point. The issue of a DRE ban came up in an extraordinary and enlightening phone call I had last week with the top honchos at the EAC, including Davidson. Davidson and the others at the EAC claim that they do not have the power to decertify any of the voting systems which have been approved prior to now.
They claim that voting systems approved as meeting federal standards by the Voting Systems Board of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), who handled certification of systems prior to the EAC’s newly announced program (which has yet to certify anything) cannot be decertified by the EAC’s program. That despite Davidson herself having been a member of the NASED Voting Systems Board prior to her appointment at EAC, and Tom Wilkey, the EAC’s current Executive Director, having been the chairman of that NASED board.
It wasn’t “us” (EAC) that made bad certification decisions, goes the message — it was “them” (NASED). “We can’t decertify something we didn’t certify,” EAC spokesperson Jeannie Layson told us during the call, as they each passed the buck.
But the GAO report today would seem to indicate otherwise:
“[E]xamples of EAC responsibilities include…testing, certifying, decertifying, and recertifying voting system hardware and software through accredited laboratories…”
Luckily, it’s only American democracy and the future of the entire world at stake, so it’s no big thing. Anyone know the latest on Anna Nicole?!
New Jersey Attorney to Ask Judge for Decertification of Company’s ‘AVC Advantage’ System After Machines Found Untested by State
Princeton Professor Paid $86 For Online Purchase of 5 Machines That a NJ County Paid $40,000 for…
Guest Blogged by John Gideon, with additional reporting by Brad Friedman
“We can take a version of Sequoia’s software program and modify it to do something different — like appear to count votes, but really move them from one candidate to another. And it can be programmed to do that only on Tuesdays in November, and at any other time. You can’t detect it,” Princeton’s Professor of Computer Science Andrew Appel explains in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger today.
Like Diebold’s touch-screen machines before them, Sequoia’s voting machines have now been found to be hackable in seconds by a Princeton University professor who says the systems could be “easily…rigged to throw an election.” Someone may wish to let the folks in Riverside County, CA, know since County Supervisors there recently issued a “thousand to one” bet that their Sequoia voting systems couldn’t be manipulated.
In the same report, it was revealed that an attorney has filed suit, claiming the Sequoia AVC Advantage Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines used in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties were never reviewed by the state before they were improperly certified for use and that Princeton’s Appel was able to acquire five Sequoia voting machines for only $86. The same machines were recently purchased by the state for $8,000 apiece.
According to the Star-Ledger…
[Attorney Penny] Venetis filed legal papers Friday claiming the state never certified some 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines as secure or reliable as required by law.
“There is zero documentation — no proof whatsoever — that any state official has ever reviewed Sequoia machines,” Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic, said in an interview. “This means you cannot use them. … These machines are being used to count most of the votes in the state without being tested in any way, shape or form.”
Venetis argues that the state certification is in violation of NJ state law which says such systems must “correctly register and accurately count all votes cast,” be “of durable construction” to be used “safely, efficiently, and accurately.”
The lack of documentation and testing, however, is hardly the only problem, as reported by the paper today. “Had the machines been tested,” Election Integrity advocates have found, “they would have proved to be a hacker’s dream.”
Princeton Computer Science Professor Andrew Appel revealed that he bought 5 of the Advantage voting machines from an on-line government equipment clearinghouse for a total of $86. Virtually identical machines were bought in 2005 by Essex County New Jersey for $8,000 per machine.
“Appel had to submit only minimal personal information and a cashier’s check to close the deal,” the Star-Ledger reports. He and his team then put the 5 machines to good use…
A Princeton student picked one machine’s lock “in seven seconds” to access the removable chips containing Sequoia’s vote-recording software, Appel said.
“We can take a version of Sequoia’s software program and modify it to do something different — like appear to count votes, but really move them from one candidate to another. And it can be programmed to do that only on Tuesdays in November, and at any other time. You can’t detect it,” Appel said last week.
And what does Sequoia systems vaunted crisis-management team have to say for itself?
Citing more than a century in the election business, Sequoia Voting Systems asserts on its Web site that “our tamperproof products, including … the AVC Advantage, are sought after from coast to coast for their accuracy and reliability.”
While promising to look into Appel’s claims, Sequoia’s Michelle Shafer asserted that hacking scenarios are unlikely. “It’s not just the equipment. There are people and processes in place in the election environment to prevent tampering and attempts at tampering,” she said.
But Appel said voting machines often are left unattended at polling places prior to elections. He is confident his students and other recent buyers of 136 Sequoia machines sold on GovDeals.com — where bidders also can find surplus coffins, locomotives and World War I cannons — will crack Sequoia’s code.
Then, he said, it will be fairly simple for anyone with bad intentions and a screwdriver to swap Sequoia’s memory chips for reprogrammed ones.
Of course, this is not the first time that Sequoia’s “tamperproof products” have been found to be highly tamperable.
In March of 2006, just prior to the Pennsylvania’s Primary Election, Carnegie Mellon University’s Dr. Michael Shamos, — a long-time advocate of electronic, touch-screen voting — accidentally “hacked” a Sequoia system during a demonstration of the system’s “invulnerability” to tampering. Shamos was in charge of testing systems for the state.
As well, last November, just days before the General Election, in a stunning report by The BRAD BLOG we revealed the “yellow button” on the back of every Sequoia touch-screen machine which, when pressed once in a simple sequence, places the machine into “manual mode,” allowing anybody to cast as many votes as che or she wishes on that machine.
In Riverside County, CA, just before the end of last year, County Supervisor Jeff Stone challenged Election Integrity advocates during a public, video-taped meeting to bring a hacker in to try and manipulate the county’s Sequoia voting systems. Riverside was the first county in the country to move to touch-screen voting in the late 90’s. Election Integrity advocates on the ground there have been challenging that decision ever since.
Though noted computer security expert Harri Hursti, who has hacked several Diebold systems, quickly agreed to meet Stone’s “thousand to one” challenge, Stone has been balking ever since. So far, he has failed to allow Hursti and the Election Integrity advocates from DFA-Temecula Valley to take him up on his ill-considered challenge, citing unsubstantiated concerns about state law and universally attempting to establish “ground rules” which have been dismissed as unrealistic by both Hursti and a number of internationally recognized computer scientists and security experts.
We suspect there will be much fallout from this latest chapter in New Jersey. Stay tuned…
UPDATE: Princeton Professor Appel has described the act of purchasing the Sequoia Advantage machines and what he found on opening the machines and the actions that students are taking in his blog “How I bought used voting machines on the Internet”. His blog includes the following:
I was surprised at how simple it was for me to access the ROM memory chips containing the firmware that controls the vote-counting. Contrary to Sequoia’s assertions in their promotional literature, there were no security seals protecting the ROMs. Indeed, I found that certain information in the “AVC Advantage Security Overview” (from Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc., 2004) was untrue with respect to my machine. Sequoia’s document states,
“The vote counting instructions in each voting machine are written into integrated circuit chips during the manufacturing process. These chips are incorporated into each machine’s circuit boards. Access to the machine should be limited by administrative procedures and is also limited by the physical design of the machines. Design features include door locks and a numbered seal on the CPU cover.”
I found this to be incorrect, with respect to the machines delivered to me. I did not have to remove any seals, whether of tape, plastic, or wire. The sheet-metal panel covering the computer circuit board is the only component I found that could possibly be described as a “CPU cover”, and it had no numbered seal. (If there ever was a numbered seal holding the CPU cover down, then Buncombe County’s technicians would have to remove it and replace it every time they change the four AA batteries on the motherboard!)
The AVC Advantage can be easily manipulated to throw an election because the chips which control the vote-counting are not soldered on to the circuit board of the DRE. This means the vote-counting firmware can be removed and replace with fraudulent firmware. Under the sheet-metal panel (the “CPU cover”), I found the circuit board containing computer chips, other electronic chips, and four chips that–unlike most of the chips on the circuit board which are soldered in place–are mounted in sockets so that they can be removed and replaced. These are ROM (read-only memory) chips that hold the computer program (firmware) that operates the voting logic. These chips are not held in place by any seals. They can be removed using an ordinary screwdriver and they (or other ROM chips containing other firmware) can be replaced simply by pressing them into place. You can see the ROM chips in the picture above; they have the white labels pasted onto them, and you can see me in the process of prying one loose with a screwdriver.
Like the purchasers of all the other lots sold by Buncombe County, I am now at leisure to examine the contents of the firmware on the ROM chips, and to modify it. If I had the inclination to cheat in an election (which I do not) I could prepare a modified version of the firmware that subtly alters votes as the votes are cast, with no indication of the alteration made visible to the voter. I would write this modified firmware onto new ROM chips. Then, if I had access to one of New Jersey’s voting machines (for example, in an elementary school or firehouse where it is left unattended the night before an election), I could open the door of the machine, unscrew 10 screws, replace the legitimate ROM chips with my own fraudulent ones, reinstall the cover panel with its 10 screws, and close the door of the machine.
That headline was from a satirical column written by Andy Borowitz published last Monday, the day before Tuesday’s midterm elections. Unfortunately, given the post-election coverage by some of the nation’s leading media — or at least their headline writers — it seems that only an event such as a Diebold voting machine becoming “unmoored from the floor and…trampling everyone and everything in its path,” as Borowitz wrote, would qualify as anything more than a “glitch,” “hiccup,” “snag” or “snafu.”
“Voting System Worked, With Some Hiccups,” declared the AP headline on Wednesday. “Polling Places Report Snags, but Not Chaos,” echoed The New York Times. “Hiccups”? “Snags”? Try telling that to the thousands of voters around the country who were unable to simply cast a vote last Tuesday because new, untested electronic voting machines failed to work. Monumentally. Across the entire country.
“Not Chaos”? Apparently the Times headline writers failed to check with the folks in Denver who were lined up around the block for hours to vote. They didn’t even bother to read the Denver Post article headlining the problem as a “Voting Nightmare” during the day on Tuesday and quoting voter Lauren Brockman saying, “We will not get to vote today,” after he had shown up before work to vote at 6:45 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens only to wait on line for an hour before giving up.
They didn’t check with Bill Ritter, the Colorado gubernatorial candidate, who had to wait almost two hours to vote, or with Sean Kelley, a Denver resident, who said to the Post, “I can’t believe I’m in the United States of America,” before he gave up and went home without voting after waiting three hours in line when electronic machines broke down. Despite an emergency request, the courts in Colorado refused to allow the city’s new consolidated “Election Centers” to remain open for extra hours that night.
Similar problems led to slightly more responsible officials ordering polls to be kept open longer than scheduled in at least eight other states due to voting machine problems.
In a Times story published the day before (which apparently the headline writers of the previously mentioned piece failed to read), it was reported that in Illinois “hundreds of precincts were kept open … because of late openings at polling places related to machine problems” and in Indiana “voting equipment problems led to extensions of at least 30 minutes in three counties.”
Other states where polls remained open late due to the inability of legally registered voters to vote when they showed up earlier in the day include Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio.
But the list of problems and, yes, meltdowns is still pouring in from around the country. My in-box has been beyond readability since polls opened on Tuesday morning, and my ability to keep up had already been near the breaking point in the weeks prior just from similar reported disasters that occurred with these failing, flipping and flimsy machines during the early voting period in Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and California, just to name a few.
On Election Day, the Electronic Frontier Foundation had received about 17,000 complaints on its toll-free hot line by 8 p.m. Common Cause received 14,000 calls by 4 p.m. John Gideon at VotersUnite.org performed the herculean task of logging as many news reports as he could in a searchable online database of reported election problems that day.
The nation dodged a significant bullet when George Allen conceded in his Virginia Senate race Thursday. Had he not chosen to do so, America would have found itself smack-dab in the middle of another Florida 2000 crisis with the balance of Congress depending on voting machines that offer absolutely no way to recount ballots to achieve any form of accuracy or clarity in the race. The battle of the forensic computer scientists trying to figure out what happened would have been another long national nightmare.
But that didn’t happen, so everything’s cool. Right?
We dodged another bullet when Sen. Rick Santorum conceded. Earlier in the day, he and the Pennsylvania Republican Party sent a letter to the secretary of the commonwealth demanding that voting machines in 27 counties be impounded after they received reports of touch-screen votes flipping from the Republican candidate to his Democratic opponent.
Imagine, by the way, if Democrats had taken such a responsible position to impound machines every time votes were reported to have flipped from Democrat to Republican — certainly the more commonly reported occurrence on Tuesday. There wouldn’t be a voting machine left in the country. It’s a pity the Democrats haven’t figured that out. Yet.
They’re so delighted to have won anything they haven’t stopped to realize they might have taken 40 seats in the House instead of just 30 had they bothered to fight for an accountable, secure, transparent electoral system and instructed their candidates to concede nothing until every vote was counted, verified and audited for accuracy.
And still, the Times and AP headline writers — who seem to have failed to read the stories they were headlining, given that each outlined a litany of such meltdowns — believe there’s nothing to be concerned about.
18,000 votes seems to have vanished into thin air via ES&S iVotronic touch-screen machines (no paper “trails,” much less countable paper ballots ) in Sarasota County, site of Florida’s 13th U.S. Congressional District contest between Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings. There’s currently a 368-vote difference between them, but there’s no paper to to examine to figure out what may have gone wrong and explain how a 13% undervote rate was found in only in that race.
On the very same ballot above that race, the gubernatorial contest had only a 2.6% undervote rate. A hospital board election below it had only a 1% undervote rate. On absentee ballots for the Jennings/Buchanan race, the undervote rate was just 1.8%. Some of the 120 complaints from touch-screen voters that came into the Herald Tribune on Tuesday are published on the newspaper’s site.
18,000 undervotes. In Florida. With no paper ballots to go back and check to see if all of those voters simply chose not to vote in that race for some inexplicable reason. Faith-based voting in a race that Florida election officials in the secretary of state’s office have said they have no plans to investigate.
Good thing the balance of the U.S. House doesn’t hang on that race. Or a presidential election. But why worry about something like that? After all, a mere 18,000 disappeared votes on an electronic voting machine in a single county in Florida could never affect the outcome of a national presidential race. (Again, for the sarcasm-impaired: Right.)
In San Diego, thousands of hackable Diebold voting machines were sent home for three weeks prior to the election with poll workers (most of them apparently high-school teenagers hired by the county’s registrar of voters, Mikel Haas) on “sleepovers.” As Princeton University demonstrated, a hotel mini-bar key and just 60 seconds of unsupervised time with a single machine is just about all a single person would need to steal votes from every machine in the county. Nobody would ever be able to prove it. Thus, there is no basis for confidence in any reported results from any election this year in San Diego County. 50th Congressional District candidate Francine Busby has, so far, appropriately refused to concede despite the wide margin being reported in her race from the tainted, effectively decertified voting machines Haas disgracefully used for the first time this year across the entire county.
In Orange County, Calif., voters were turned away without being able to vote at all when machines failed to work and there were not enough paper ballots for voters to cast their votes. Many reportedly opted to vote on Chinese and Vietnamese ballots when English emergency paper ballots had run out (in places where they even had paper ballots to chose from), just so they could exercise their franchise. Many voters were simply told to “come back later,” when poll workers hoped the machines would be working again.
It is not yet a felony in the United States of America to turn a legally registered voter away from the polls without allowing him to cast a vote. But it damned well should be.
Victoria Wulsin currently trails Jean Schmidt by less than half a percentage point in their Ohio 2nd Congressional District race for the U.S. House. Wulsin has also appropriately refused to concede until every vote is counted, accounted for and verified. But a recount will rely on both the same hackable Diebold AccuVote TSx touch-screen machines used in San Diego and the same ES&S optical scan machines that were found to have mistabulated at least nine Republican primary races in Pottawatomie County, Iowa, last June.
Ten other House races still remain “too close to call.” Many of them will rely on “results” reported by inaccurate, unreliable, untested electronic voting machines.
Fortunately, the balance of the House doesn’t rest on any of those races either, so all is well.
They agree that the election went “better than expected,” “relatively smoothly,” with “isolated problems,” “just a few glitches,” “minor issues,” “no major problems.”
So, with multi-hundreds of news reports of election problems across the country — a fraction of the problems that actually occurred — you have to wonder what a meltdown would have to look like.
What would it look like, indeed?
I guess before the voting machine company flunkies and Times and AP headline writers would notice, it would have to look like Borowitz’ “Diebold Rampage” scenario. Though even that would likely have a predictable ending…
The touch-screen terror then cut a swath of death and destruction across the state, despite attempts by the state police to apprehend it.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared on television later in the day to urge calm, telling residents, “Clearly, Florida’s electronic voting machines are still very much a work in progress.”
At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow did not directly address the issue of the voting machine’s deadly rampage, choosing instead to make general remarks about the electoral process.
“This administration remains steadfast in its support of free and fair elections,” he said, adding, “in Iraq.”
It’s a tricky issue to bring up the possibility of voter fraud in 2006 because most election protection activists are liberals who have waited six years for the Bush administration to be stopped.
Don’t confuse a good political outcome with a bad electoral process.
Election integrity activists face a quandary this week. After an Election Day where new voting machines failed from coast to coast, and GOP-favoring voter suppression tactics unfolded in state after state, this largely liberal-leaning community knows all too well that the machinery used to slam the breaks on the dreadful Bush administration is deeply flawed, that Tuesday night’s vote counts shouldn’t fully be trusted.
But will they say so? Will they stand with, gag, the apparently dethroned Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and demand the electronic machines in 27 counties be impounded and examined for vote-count problems? That could reveal, once and for all, why new electronic machines need to be junked. Or will political victory throw a wet blanket on a fired-up election integrity movement?
Election integrity activists were true model citizens on Tuesday. As people turned out in droves to vote, activists helped citizens in state after state document failing voting systems. They noted voting system breakdowns that went beyond the nasty partisan mailings, robo-calls, registration challenges and other tactics that largely were GOP ploys to suppress Democratic turnout.
The 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, created by People for the American Way, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others, logged thousands of complaints about misbehaving machines, in addition to poll worker confusion. Indeed, thanks to the spunk of videographers and YouTube, Americans could watch elected officials — including members of Congress — seeing their ballots rejected by optical scan voting machines.
Election integrity issues are no longer conspiracy theory. Too much of Middle America saw just how real voting problems have become. This raises a thorny question: How can new electronic voting systems, used by one-third of the electorate for the first time, fail so miserably during the voting phase of the day but be trusted during vote counting on election night, especially when there is no paper trail to audit results?
That question — of which races are affected and which electronic tallies can be trusted — is very hard to answer and won’t be known for days, if at all. Unless candidates challenge results and demand machines be impounded and examined, the new electronic voting systems may be packed up until the next problem-plagued election. But even that happens — and it shouldn’t — there was so much else that went wrong on Tuesday that must be addressed.
As coauthor of the recently released book “What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election” (The New Press), it was striking to see that much of what unfolded on Tuesday across the county had direct precedents in the election that gave George W. Bush a second term. The same voter suppression tactics and voting machine problems that occurred in Ohio in 2004 plagued state after state on Tuesday, despite efforts by the election protection movement to bring them to the nation’s attention.
The story of Ohio in 2004 broke down into two main categories: massive voter suppression and widespread vote count problems, some of which we believe produced fraudulent results. As in 2004, the midterm elections experienced: voter purges (this time done with new electronic poll books), voter intimidation (this time letters threatening jail if voters showed the wrong I.D.), long lines causing people to leave and not vote (because machines didn’t start up or were pulled from use, and/or delays due to voters not being on precinct lists), the high use of provisional ballots (which were not counted Tuesday and many of which will be disqualified for technicalities), vote hopping (where one candidate is picked but the machine records a vote for his/her opponent). All of these trends happened in multiple states, according to the 2006 election incident reports.
What voters experienced on Tuesday was not conspiracy theory. But the voter suppression and early signs of vote count problems aren’t the full Election Day story. The rest of the story is the electronic vote count, which is still hidden and not verifiable. Voting integrity experts, such as Warren Stewart from VoteTrustUSA.org, said on Tuesday night that too many congressional results were simply not verifiable — even if Democrats were reportedly winning.
This is not to say that Democrats didn’t turn out in droves, didn’t tell exit pollsters that a majority of Americans wanted Republicans removed from power, and didn’t win big. But do we really know how votes were and weren’t counted on Tuesday night? No. Can we say the systems that failed so miserably in the day performed flawlessly on Tuesday night? No. Is this a difficult question to ask because most election protection activists are liberals — and have been waiting for six years for the Bush administration to be stopped? Yes.
But doesn’t America deserve a voting system that can be trusted no matter who is in power?
It’s going to be up to us to make the case. We can’t solve a problem if we refuse to look. Citizens are fed up with black box elections, and are mustering up evidence of improper behavior that will swing the pendulum back in the direction it belongs.
Examples of the astonishing evidence uncovered by candidates and extraordinary citizens follows.
At first, we proved that the machines “theoretically’ could be tampered with. Then, in experiments in Leon County and Emery County, citizen-led investigations machines could ACTUALLY be tampered with.
At first, public records requests from Black Box Voting and others proved that election results were not authenticatable using available audit records. And now, Black Box Voting and citizens are coming up with audit records that show strong indications of improper behavior.
Be aware that we are not going to see a Perry Mason moment. Proof of corruption will be incremental, but it will come.
In 2006, your job will be to embark on the biggest citizen evidence-gathering expedition in history, to take this past the tipping point and achieve real change. Nothing will do but a reversal of the pendulum, back to citizen ownership and oversight of our own government and its electoral processes.
Let’s take a look now at some of the evidence citizens — and Black Box Voting — are uncovering:
1. Memphis: Candidates in Memphis asked Black Box Voting for help securing public records from the Aug. 3, 2006 election. Black Box Voting recommended getting a copy of the Diebold GEMS database, along with the Windows event log. What we found shocked us: The sheer number of legal and security violations in the event log were horrifying, and it also showed that Shelby County — or someone — was accessing the file during the middle of a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting this.
– A remote access program called PC Anywhere was found resident in the system
– Evidence of insertion of an encrypted Lexar Jump Drive was present
– Evidence of attempts to alter or write HTML files (used to report results) was present
– Apparently without a firewall, the GEMS system was opened up to the County Network
– A prohibited program, Microsoft Access, which makes editing the election chimpanzee-easy, was installed on the system AND USED shortly after the election.
2. Alaska: In early 2006, the Alaska Democratic Party asked Black Box Voting for help. The election numbers simply didn’t add up. BBV’s Jim March urged them to fight for the right to obtain the Diebold GEMS database, which Diebold had until then been asserting proprietary rights over. After months of hard-fought battling, they prevailed. That database was released publicly at Black Box Voting here: http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/2197/44183.html
You can open it yourself in Microsoft Access, and when you do, choose the table called “audit.” In this table you will see evidence that someone was changing things as recently as July 2006 — after the matter was in court, before the file was released. The changes are substantial, and involve redefining ballot and candidate items, along with a reference to a second memory card.
3. In Georgia, Cynthia McKinney contacted Black Box Voting. Very odd things were happening in the 2006 primary and the runoff election that followed — Democrats were being served up Republican primary ballots on the Diebold touch-screens, McKinney’s name was left off some ballots, but reportedly appeared on other ballots nowhere near her district. The electronic poll books — something Georgia voters never asked for and a whole new source of glitches — were malfunctioning regularly.
Black Box Voting advised McKinney to seek the troubleshooter and pollworker logs. What we found on these shocked us — in an election reported as “smooth” by the press, was evidence of dozens and dozens of voting machine malfunctions, electronic pollbook glitches, and most disturbing of all (given the dire consequences available based on the Hursti and Princeton studies), the seals for dozens of voting machines were missing, broken, and mismatched — yet the machines were used anyway.
4. In Ohio, Richard Hayes Phillips examined ballots from the 2004 presidential election. They’d been kept locked up for 22 months, and he was under immense pressure to look at as many as he could before they were destroyed. What he found shocked him: Patterns of tampering, as evidenced by statistically impossible overvotes, strategically placed and favoring George W. Bush. He listed his findings here: http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/2197/44285.html
This is the tip of the iceberg. The missing ingredient is, and has been, the active oversight of the citizenry. In 2006, please join the movement as an active participant in overseeing and authenticating your election. We’ll help. Start here:
“...our elections are easy to rig because of how we vote. It wasnâ€™t always this way. Prior to the Civil War, voting was a completely observable process. It was only after the Civil War, as the right to vote expanded to African Americans, that the voting process itself began to recede from public view and meaningful oversight. It started with absentee voting by the military in the 1870â€™s, the use of secret ballots in the 1880â€™s, and voting by machine in the 1890â€™s. Today, approximately 30% of all voting is conducted early or by absentee, 95% of all votes are processed by machines, and 100% of all ballots are secret and anonymous.” Lynn Landes
PARTIAL “The Fix Is In” TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
(VIDEO CLIP)“The election is over. We won.” (Reporter’s voice – “How do you know that?”) “It’s all over, but the counting. And we’ll take care of the counting.”
That was Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He made those remarks just BEFORE the 2004 presidential election.
Hi. Iâ€™m Lynn Landes. Iâ€™m a freelance journalist and publisher of the website, EcoTalk.org. I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this brief video.
Our elections are in deep trouble. Many Americans no longer believe that voting results are accurate. More and more voters are learning first-hand that voting machines are completely unreliable and that many of our election officials are untrustworthy. But whatâ€™s at the core of this crisis? The secret ballot.
Any ballot in America can be easily miscounted either by accident or design, regardless of whether itâ€™s a paper ballot or electronic vote. That’s because modern Americans vote by secret ballot. A secret ballot is an anonymous ballot, which means it canâ€™t be traced to the voter. Weâ€™ve been told thatâ€™s a good deal for us, that it protects us against harassment and vote selling. But, itâ€™s a much better deal for those who want to rig elections and not get caught. Itâ€™s time we scrap the secrecy and go public with our votes.
In this video youâ€™ll hear a startling admission from a voting company representative, I offer some practical advice on how to verify or challenge election returns through the collection of voter affidavits, And I make the case for a return to total transparency in voting, what I call â€œOpen Votingâ€
The fact is our elections are easy to rig because of how we vote. It wasnâ€™t always this way. Prior to the Civil War, voting was a completely observable process. It was only after the Civil War, as the right to vote expanded to African Americans, that the voting process itself began to recede from public view and meaningful oversight. It started with absentee voting by the military in the 1870â€™s, the use of secret ballots in the 1880â€™s, and voting by machine in the 1890â€™s. Today, approximately 30% of all voting is conducted early or by absentee, 95% of all votes are processed by machines, and 100% of all ballots are secret and anonymous.
Worse yet, most of the voting process in America has been privatized and outsourced to a handful of domestic companies and multi-national corporations. One company, Sequoia, is foreign-owned. And just two companies (ES&S and Diebold) process 80% of all votes in the United States. These companies make, sell, and service both ballot scanners and touchscreen machines.
Although most of the debate over security issues has been framed to target suspicion on outside hackers and backdoors, it is in fact company insiders who have the keys to the front door and complete access to the electronic ballot box. For all practical purposes, voting machine companies are self-regulating, and as such, their employees are in a perfect position to rig elections nationwide. But even if these companies were regulated, it is virtually impossible to guard against insider vote fraud, as you will see.
The following are video clips of an examination of the Danaher voting system by Pennsylvania state authorities in November of 2005.
Notice, the Danaher representative assured state officials that the company would not be able to rig elections because their programmers would have to know well in advance all the candidates names and their positions on the ballot. But thatâ€™s ludicrous. Thereâ€™s nothing to stop programmers from using secret company code to manipulate votes for a particular candidate. This can be done while making a service call before, during, or after an election. It could be accomplished remotely via the Internet, modem, or through wireless technology. And it can be done without the knowledge of election officials.
But, setting that issue aside, what if it is not a specific candidate the company wants to rig an election for, but a particular party instead?
The Danaher representative just admitted that their computer program includes a party identifier next to each candidateâ€™s name. Therefore, the company can easily write a program that shifts a certain percentage of votes from one partyâ€™s candidates to another party before the machines ever leave the factory floor. That shift could make the difference in tight races.
Most voting machine companies have close ties to the Republican Party and most voting machine irregularities appear to favor Republicans, but I must emphasize, that is not always the case. Even in Republican and Democratic primaries, where the race is between members of the same party, voting machines are exhibiting suspicious irregularities. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party and the Green Partyâ€™s measured response to the gravity of this situation makes one wonder.
Pending congressional legislation that would require ballot printers for paperless voting machines is a woefully inadequate response to the threat these machines represent, as a long history of equipment malfunctions and failures can attest.But, even more disturbing are the actions of some candidates, particularly Democratic candidates, who are conceding extremely close races without waiting for all the absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. It appears that the fix may be in across the political spectrum.
Whatâ€™s the solution? Perhaps voters should support candidates that have no party affiliation. But, regarding the voting process itself, Congress should return to a policy of open and transparent elections and ban voting by machine, absentee, early, and by secret ballot. Until that day, we must go public with our votes. We must provide candidates with hard evidence of how we voted so that election results can be verified, or challenged, if necessary. Exit polls do not constitute hard evidence. Only voter affidavits can provide that. Itâ€™s time voters sign up and be counted.
Specifically, candidates or activists need to conduct a Parallel Election, of sorts. They need to collect affidavits from voters or, at the very least, get signed statements that include the voterâ€™s name, signature, address, and for whom they voted. These can be collected in three ways: 1) on Election Day as voters leave the polls, 2) door to door after the election, or 3) by asking voters, particularly absentee voters, to mail-in affidavits or signed statements immediately after they mail in their ballot. If manpower is a problem, then target only a few polling places or precincts. Keep in mind that a list of those who voted is a matter of public record. Most precincts have about 500 voters and most voters donâ€™t vote.
So, for many races weâ€™re not talking about contacting a lot of people. Naturally, you want to first contact voters that belong to the same party as your candidate. Depending on your results, that may be sufficient to challenge election returns. You donâ€™t need 100% participation from voters. Any number of signatures collected that exceeds the official vote count is an indicator of a miscount.
Something similar to this idea was put into practice last winter in North Carolina. A Republican candidate gathered more than 1400 affidavits from voters in precincts where voting machines malfunctioned and lost thousands of votes. On the basis of those affidavits his Democratic opponent conceded.
Last year I wrote my first article calling for Parallel Elections. See – http://www.ecotalk.org/ParallelElections.htm A few activists around the country did just that. On the basis of signed statements collected at 11 polling places in a California election, a recount was granted. Unfortunately by the time the recount was held, there was plenty of opportunity for election officials to minimize the miscount. So, be careful about asking for a recount when whatâ€™s actually needed is a new election thatâ€™s free from voting machines at the very least. And remember, even a new election needs a Parallel Election to serve as a check.
If no one is organizing a Parallel Election, then voters can on their on initiative send the candidate of their choice a card or letter indicating that they voted for them. That might spur more candidates to action. You may not win an election challenge in a court of law, but the court of public opinion is more important in the long run.
If we want a real democracy we must take our elections out of the corporate boardroom and back into the public square. We cannot continue to hide behind the secret ballot. Remember John Hancockâ€™s large and flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence? He did that in the face of certain hardship and possible death. Itâ€™s now our turn to sign up and be counted.
Iâ€™m Lynn Landes. And thanks for watching.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Is there any evidence that voting machines have been rigged? Yes. Lots of it. An extensive history of voting machine irregularities can be found in the following:
CincinnatiBell security supervisors ordered wire-taps installed on county computers before elections in the late 1970s and early 1980s that could have allowed vote totals to be altered, a former Bell employee says in a sworn court document. Leonard Gates, a 23-year CincinnatiBell employee until he was fired in 1986, claims in a deposition filed Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to have installed the wire-taps. (1989) Pandora’s Black Box & http://www.votefraud.org/expert_strunk_report.htm (contains case number)
The easiest way to rig elections nationwide is for voting machine company-insiders to program the firmware (permanently installed software in touchscreens and ballot scanners) to favor one political party over another. That way they don’t need to know the candidates’ names nor their position on the ballot. They can even rig the top of the ticket only, in which case the winning candidate can claim a crossover vote in a opposing party’s district, as may have happened in Florida 2004 – See Lynn’s data table
Don’t some voters need these machines, such as non-English language voters and disabled voters? No. Voters who want a ballot in their own language should be able to order such a ballot in advance of any election. Secondly, voting machines present the same violation of voting rights for disabled voters. And contrary to popular belief, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) does not require election officials to purchase electronic voting machines. Besides, anecdotal evidence suggests that these machines are difficult for the disabled to use. Election officials and voting machine companies admit that it takes the sight-impaired voters ten times longer to use a touchscreen machine than able-bodied voters. However, there is a way for the sight-impaired to vote privately and independently. They can use tactile paper ballot with audio assistance. Tactile ballots are used around the world and in some states such as Rhode Island. Unfortunately, many disabled voters are unaware of these kinds of ballots. That may not be an accident. Two organizations for the blind, The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), are ardent supporters of paperless touchscreen voting machines. They also have received over $1 million dollars from the voting machine industry, according to news reports.
Can you conduct Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) using paper ballots? First, I do not support IRV or proportional voting because they are unnecessary, complicated, and cannot be easily observed. But, yes, Britain, Ireland, and Australia have used paper ballots to conduct Instant Run-Off Voting. However, some advocates of IRV are aggressively promoting the idea that voting machines are necessary. Regarding proportional voting, it is the wrong answer to the obvious problem presented by “at-large” elections where the winners take all. Instead, political entities (such as townships) should be divided into voting districts (which many already are), thereby allowing the development of Democratic, Republican, etc. strongholds which could result in more equitable representation.
Aren’t machines faster than a hand count and isn’t that important? They should be, but often they’re not. Machines breakdown routinely, thereby taking longer to report election results. In Maryland in the 2004 election, 9% of machines observed by a voting rights group, broke down. Essentially, a speedy hand count is based on a sufficient number of poll workers per number of registered voters and the length of the ballot. Canada uses 2 election officials per approximately 500 registered voters. In addition, election officials don’t need to depend on volunteers. Citizens can be drafted to work at the polls on Election Day, as is done routinely with jury duty. The right to direct access to a ballot and meaningful public oversight of the process supersedes the perceived convenience of voting machines.
What about states that have really long ballots, including initiatives and referendum? Most countries keep their ballots brief. For instance, in America state and local judges could be elected by legislative bodies instead of the voters. But, there are other issues. The initiative/referendum movement is called Direct Democracy. However, it is really an end-run around the legislature. Some activists think this is a good idea, but others disagree. California’s ballot has become a nightmare. Clearly, those with the money get their issues on the ballot. And consider this. The initiative/referendum movement allows those who control the voting machines to also control which candidates win and what legislation gets passed.
Aren’t voting machines more accurate than a hand count? There is no way to know. There is no way to test the accuracy of voting machines during the actual voting process on Election Day. Citizens vote in secret. The machines count those votes in secret. If ballot scanners are used, then election officials can run an audit to check accuracy. But, few states require audits. Even with an audit, election officials decide where and when the audits occur. Public participation and oversight is not meaningful. Any test done prior or after an election cannot ensure that during the election the machine did not manipulate votes, either by accident or design. The accuracy of voting machines is often correlated with the number of overvotes and undervotes it records. One could have nothing to do with the other. There is no way to know the intention of the voter, or if a voting machine is filling in votes that the voter deliberately left blank. Although a lever and touchscreen machine can prevent overvotes, all in all, “The difference between the best performing and worst performing technologies is as much as 2 percent of ballots cast. Surprisingly, paper ballotsâ€”the oldest technologyâ€”show the best performance.” This is the finding of two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) political science professors, Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere and Dr. Charles Stewart III, in a September 25, 2002 study entitled, Voting Technology and Uncounted Votes in the United States.
Which is more expensive, voting by machine or paper? For legitimate elections, expense can never be a consideration. That said, paper is cheap and requires no special servicing, storage, or trained personnel, while a single voting machines can cost thousands of dollars and require servicing, storage, and trained personnel. Furthermore, election officials never need to rely on volunteers to staff the polls. Citizens can always be drafted as they are for jury duty, at little or no cost to the tax payer.
Shouldn’t we allow absentee voting for overseas military at least? No. Again, think in terms of jury duty. There are certain rights and responsibilities of citizenship that require your personal appearance. In addition, the polling place provides the voter protection from intimidation and allows poll watchers the opportunity to detect vote fraud or system failure.
If someone wins by a large enough margin, isn’t that a sign that the election wasn’t rigged? No. It only stands to reason that if someone is going to rig an election, it will be done by a sufficient number of votes to avoid triggering a recount. Otherwise, this could happen: In August of 2002, in Clay county Kansas, Jerry Mayo lost a close race for county commissioner, garnering 48% of the vote, but a hand recount revealed May won by a landslide, earning 76% of the vote.
If the voting machines are being used at my polling precinct, is it better to vote by absentee? Most absentee ballots are not counted by hand, but instead scanned by computers. The same corporations (ES&S, Diebold, Sequoia, etc) that dominate the touchscreen market, also control the ballot scanners. In addition, some counties, like King County Washington, have even outsourced the mailing of their absentee ballots to private industry.
Can’t elections be rigged by stuffing ballot boxes, as well? Yes, but it is a detectable kind of vote fraud, whereas voting by machine, early or absentee is nearly impossible to detect. The problem of stuffed ballot boxes may be more fiction than fact. In his book, The Right To Vote, The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, Alexander Keyssar, of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, writes, “…recent studies have found that claims of widespread corruption were grounded almost entirely in sweeping, highly emotional allegations backed by anecdotes and little systematic investigation or evidence. Paul Kleppner, among others, has concluded that what is most striking is not how many, but how few documented cases of electoral fraud can be found. Most elections appear to have been honestly conducted: ballot-box stuffing, bribery, and intimidation were the exception, not the rule.”
Doesn’t the federal government regulate the voting machine industry? No. There is no federal agency charged with regulatory oversight of the elections industry. There are no restrictions on who can count our votes. Anyone from anywhere can count our votes. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) doesn’t even publish a complete list of all the voting technology companies whose business it is to count Americans’ votes. see: voting companies info
Can a voting machine company be owned by foreigners and run by felons? Yes. Sequoia is the third largest voting machine company in America and is owned by a British-based company, De La Rue. Diebold is the second largest voting machine company in the country. It counts about 35% of all votes in America. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as senior managers and developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in 30 states. Jeff Dean, Diebold’s Senior Vice-President and senior programmer on Diebold’s central compiler code, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree. Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a “high degree of sophistication” to evade detection over a period of 2 years. see: fraud & irregularities
Isn’t that a threat to national security? Yes.
What was the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) all about? It established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute billions of dollars to the states to upgrade their voting systems, but failed to mandate any meaningful standards. http://www.eac.gov/law_ext.asp
Doesn’t the federal government certify the voting machines? No. The federal government has a loose set of technical guidelines for voting machines that are voluntary and may be actually harmful. The Federal Voting Systems Standards (FVSS) used by the three NASED’s approved Independent Test Authorities (ITA) to “certify” companies are outmoded guidelines and voluntary, and not all states have adopted them. According to industry observers, the FVSS guidelines allow one in ten machines to fail. There is no enforcement of these guidelines, such as they are.
Who, then, certifies the nation’s voting machines?The FEC coordinates with the industry-funded National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), a private non-profit group, to have machines inspected certified by industry-funded private contractors. NASED selects and approves the testing laboratories. Only prototypes of the machines and software are available for a very superficial inspection. The inspection is conducted by three private companies who are not themselves subject to any regulation. Technical Issues & Standards “An unelected person named R. Doug Lewis runs a private non-profit organization called “The Election Center.”
Lewis is possibly the most powerful man in the U.S., influencing election procedures and voting systems, yet he is vague about his credentials and no one seems to be quite sure who hired him or how he came to oversee such vast electoral functions. Lewis organized the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS, now heavily funded by voting machine vendors); he also organized the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and, through them, Lewis told (author Bev) Harris he helps certify the certifiers.” “Wyle Laboratories is the most talked-about voting machine certifier, probably because it is the biggest, but in fact, Wyle quit certifying voting machine software in 1996. It does test hardware: Can you drop it off a truck? Does it stand up to rain? Software testing and certification is done by ShawnSouthworth. When Ciber quit certifying in 1996, it was taken over by Nichols Research, and Southworth was in charge of testing. Nichols Research stopped doing the testing, and it was taken over by PSInet, where Southworth did the testing. PSInet went under, and testing functions were taken over by Metamore, where Southworth did the testing. Metamore dumped it, and it was taken over by Ciber, where Southworth does the testing. Here is a photo of ShawnSouthworth:” scoop.co.nz
the industry guy who “certifies” America’s voting technology
17. But, wouldn’t it take a vast number of people to rig an election? Not with today’s technology. One programmer working at either ES&S or Diebold could write code that could manipulate votes across the country. If a voting machine has computer components, it can be rigged or accessed through the firmware, software, wireless, modem, telephone, and simple electricity. Main tabulating computers can be rigged in a similar fashion. Lever voting machine are also easily rigged, although it would be more labor intensive. Still, anyone with the keys to the county warehouse where the machines are stored could rig the machines. Labels can be switched, gears shaved, odometers preset, or printouts preprinted.
18. Can’t we detect vote fraud through exit polls? Exit polling is conducted by one organization that is hired by the major news networks and the Associated Press. Since they first started “projecting” election night winners in 1964, the major news networks have never provided any ‘hard’ evidence that they actually conducted any exit polls, at all. The late authors of the book, VoteScam: The Stealing of America, concluded that some of the major news networks, including the polling organization that they hire for election night reporting, have been complicit in vote fraud.see: exit polls
19. If someone wins by a large enough margin, isn’t that a sign that the election wasn’t rigged? No. It only stands to reason that if someone is going to rig an election, it will be done by a sufficient number of votes to avoid triggering a recount. Otherwise, this could happen: In August of 2002, in Clay county Kansas, Jerry Mayo lost a close race for county commissioner, garnering 48% of the vote, but a hand recount revealed May won by a landslide, earning 76% of the vote. http://www.ecotalk.org/BevHarrisBook2.pdf (page 45)
20. Aren’t you just a conspiracy theorist? No. In the words of Greg Palast, “I’m a conspiracy expert.” Election officials have outsourced and privatized a uniquely public function. Corporations have gained near total control over the process of voting. Corporations also control the process of reporting exit polls. Both processes are completely non-transparent.