After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Yes, the very same voting systems that are so incredibly sensitive and vulnerable to tampering (and which have failed so often in so many states and in so many elections) that both election officials and Elections Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) have long attempted to keep them out of the hands of the public, can now be yours for just $499.99 or "Best Offer" via eBay! And that includes Free Shipping!
The state of Florida and it's Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) are knowingly violating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in their attempted purge of "potential non-citizens" from the Sunshine State voting rolls, according to a new federal lawsuit [PDF] filed by the ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The complaint follows on the heels of a May 31, 2012 two-page letter submitted to FL election officials by T. Christian Herren, the chief lawyer of the U.S. Justice Department's Voting Rights Division. In his letter, Herren opined that the state's voter roll purge is in violation of Section 5 --- at least in the 6 Florida counties "covered" by that section --- because the state has not sought preclearance from either the DOJ or a federal court, as required by that section of the 40-year old federal law.
Additionally, the DOJ notes in its letter, the purge, coming as it does within the 90 days before Florida's federal primary election, is also in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which covers the entire state.
In response, FL State Department spokesman Chris Cates initially said they would continue the purge nonetheless, as they were "firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot." In his official response to the DOJ a few days later, Detzner all but challenged the feds to bring a suit in order to stop the state from continuing their efforts.
Of the original 180,000 names identified by the state as potential non-citizens, out of some 11.3 million registered voters in the state of Florida, 2,700 were sent to county election officials with instructions to notify those voters that they had just 30 days to prove their citizenship or be removed from the rolls. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, "Before heeding DOJ’s order to stop the purge" county election officials had identified just four noncitizens who "may have voted in past elections, making them potentially guilty of voter fraud," while clearing hundreds of voters who had, in fact, been legally registered voters. Hundreds of others may have been removed from the rolls, despite being legally registered citizen voters.
As The BRAD BLOG previously reported, Herren had demanded that FL officials "advise whether the State intends to cease the practice," but stopped short of issuing an actual "order" that FL immediately cease and desist. Such an order would have to come by way of an injunction issued by a U.S. District Court. The ACLU lawsuit now seeks that injunction even though, according to the Miami Herald, county elections supervisors across the state, led by Leon County's Ion Sancho, are now refusing to carry out a purge which Sancho describes as "illegal."
The ACLU lawsuit alleges facts that suggest the FL GOP is relying upon a FL Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) database that it knows cannot provide an accurate basis for establishing non-citizenship until 2017.
Unfortunately, this year's purge in Florida continues a tradition that has been affecting legal voters in Florida --- and, along with them, the rest of the nation --- cycle after cycle since at least the 2000 election...
The voting systems in use for the nation's first three all-important electoral contests in the 2012 primary --- from Iowa to New Hampshire to Saturday's South Carolina Primary --- go from pretty great to intolerably horrible. And then comes Florida, which deserves its very own special category, thereafter.
As of the "First-in-the-Nation" primary in New Hampshire, however, election transparency for voters and their ability to oversee their own elections began to disappear. While a lucky 10% of voters enjoyed hand-marked, publicly hand-counted paper ballots, the rest of the state's voters were allowed to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, but forced to tolerate secret tabulation on oft-failed, easily-manipulated Diebold optical-scan systems programmed by a company (LHS) with a history of criminal behavior and convictions. The results from those 90% of Granite State voters may have been tallied accurately by the Diebold op-scanners or, as seen in the disastrous 2008 Presidential Primary, not. Since NH doesn't bother to actually check to see if their machines tallied the hand-marked paper ballots correctly, we're unlikely to ever know if they did --- barring a recount request where, by then, the secure chain of custody of the paper ballots would be uncertain (to put it mildly.)
And now we come to the "First-in-the-South" Republican primary in South Carolina, where all evidence of how voters vote disappears entirely as the voters will be forced across the entire state to vote on easily-manipulated, oft-failed, 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems made by the nation's largest voting machine company, ES&S. When the machine-reported results are announced tomorrow night they will either be accurate or not. Either way, there will never be a way for anybody to know one way or the other as there will be nothing to prove how voters voted and nothing to "recount", even if anybody wanted to.
Appropriately enough, perhaps, Saturday's primary in the Palmetto State will offer 100% "faith-based" voting, since it will be scientifically impossible to prove that even a single vote for any candidate on the ballot has been recorded accurately by the ES&S iVotronic touch-screens as per any voter's intent. Known what we mean, Alvin Greene?...
Yesterday, The Post & Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported that a local "Council of Governments [COG] approved a resolution...asking for the state to audit how its voting machines are working."
The "machines" are the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems.
The Post & Courier not only mentions the fact that state election officials insist that the "iVotronic machines reliably tally votes," but buys into the canard that "increased skepticism" is based upon [emphasis added] "human errors made during last year's elections." It adds that the COG resolution expressed "a concern [that the] voting machines...do not incorporate a 'paper trail' that could facilitate unequivocal confirmation of election results."
If there is any state in the nation that should realize that casting a vote on the ES&S iVotronic amounts to an exercise in blind-faith, with or without a so-called "Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT), it would be South Carolina...
Neither the recent claim made by anonymous hacker, Abhaxas, that he/she had hacked into Florida's e-voting database nor the efforts by FL election officials to minimize the breach of its system comes as a surprise to The BRAD BLOG.
In fact, minimization of the vulnerability following the reported hack calls to mind what Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D of the Argonne National Laboratory describes as the Arrogance Maxim:
The ease of defeating a security device or system is proportional to how confident/arrogant the designer, manufacturer, or user is about it, and to how often they use words like "impossible" or "tamper-proof".
One would think that Abhaxas had Johnson's Arrogance Maxim in mind. As reported by Doug Chapin of the University of MN, the anonymous hacktivist responded to the official denials by hacking into the FL voting system a second time; posting "a directory listing of the Florida database with the (sarcastic) observation 'Glad you cleaned up, pretty secure now guys'."
As an encore, Abhaxas then hacked into Montana's government website, where he/she exposed 16 databases.
While Chapin acknowledges the vulnerability exposed by the hack, once again, as is his habit over the years, Chapin draws the entirely wrong lessons in pointing to the need for better training and security procedures...
Aaaand here we go again. Our first report of touch-screen vote flipping of the year during early voting. And, for an added twist, this time it's Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry who seems to be getting screwed by the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting system in question.
Most such reports of touch-screen vote-flipping or vote-hopping, historically, have been from Democratic voters seeing their votes flip to candidates of other parties, though there have been isolated reports over the years of Republican voters experiencing the very same problem. Indeed, another report has been published today from a voter in Collin County, TX, who says his vote flipped from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White over to the Republican Perry.
The Dallas incident was posted as a YouTube video by programmer Don Relyea and began to go viral early this morning, before being set to "private," presumably by Relyea, at YouTube a few hours ago. So, unfortunately (for now), we're unable to show the video itself, though we watched it several times this morning before it was made unavailable, and have a step-by-step analysis of precisely what is seen in the video, as detailed by an Election Integrity expert who reviewed it a number of times to explain what is actually seen in it.
The removal of the video, seemingly shot via a cell phone camera, may be due to Texas law barring recording equipment of any kind in polling places. Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbert told The BRAD BLOG that he has now referred the matter to the District Attorney for investigation, not due the purported incident of vote-flipping, but rather due to Relyea's video-taping of the event.
Sherbert's explanation for what is seen in the video, however, downplays the purported problem and does not appear to sync up with what is actually seen in the video supporting Relyea's contention that his attempted vote for Perry was being inappropriately flipped to a number of Green Party candidates on the ES&S iVotronic system...
Her "solution": Make sure that black pens were available at polling places, and otherwise have election officials duplicate blue-inked ballots by hand (and in secret, naturally, where the voter wouldn't be able to watch).
While an attempt could be made to encourage voters to use black ink at the polling place, there was no real way to ensure that absentee voters used black ink, other than try to encourage them to do so.
So, naturally, the inimitable Ms. Dent sent out thousands of sample ballots [PDF] encouraging votes to use "a blue or black pen"...
Dent, of course, is the same disastrous Supervisor of Elections who presided over the 2006 FL-13 Congressional race in which 18,000 electronic ballots in Democratic-leaning Sarasota disappeared from the county's ES&S touch-screen systems, in a race decided in favor of the Republican by just 369 votes. Later, she actively campaigned --- by placing leaflets in the polling place! --- to keep those touch-screen machines in use, despite that failure, and despite a measure on the ballot in the same election calling for a move to paper ballots.
Since the state now requires paper ballots, Dent chose to install the newest Diebold/Premier optical-scan systems, the ones that don't read blue ink properly, despite the fact that they had not been federally tested or certified for use at the time. Florida does not require federal certification tests for voting systems before using them.
The November 3rd Election Day is nearing, so naturally the words "glitch," "hiccup," "snafu," and "snag" are back in the headlines, instead of the word "failure," which would be the appropriate one to use in such cases.
Today, it's our old friends in Sarasota, under the continuing and now-legendarily failed direction of Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and her latest failed voting system, this one an optical-scan system made by Diebold, featured in the Charlotte Sun's"Scanning glitch in vote machine test":
A handful of individuals were on hand this week at the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office where Supervisor Kathy Dent and staff tested 16 ballot scanners that will be used in the Nov. 3 city council election.
In one test a ballot with both blue and black ink was unable to be scanned. Officials pulled that scanner from service and substituted another. It didn't work either.
The machine that didn't work --- no, it's not a "glitch," it didn't succeed in carrying out the purpose for which it was designed and purchased anymore than a car which didn't start, or whose brakes failed could be said to have a "glitch" --- was the old, failed Diebold Accuvote optical-scan system, similarly used in hundreds and hundreds of counties in dozens and dozens of other states.
The "solution" Dent ultimately settled on in response to the failure of the machines made by Diebold (now calling themselves Premier and recently purchased by their larger competitor ES&S) is as bad, and as offensive, as the original failure itself...
Now comes the vote-flipping on touch-screen machines in Davidson County (Nashville), TN, where early voting has also begun. This time, the problems occurred for David and Patricia Earnhardt, the director and executive producer of the award-winning election integrity documentary, Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections which details the history of problems with electronic voting across the nation and some of the whistleblowers and EI advocates who've helped to bring the matter to light. [Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is prominently featured in the film.]
The Earnhardts' story of what happened to them last Friday when, among other things, Patricia's attempt to vote for Obama on the ES&S touch-screen wouldn't register at all, and at one point, with a poll-worker trying to help, had actually registered a vote for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney --- five rows away from Obama on the screen --- follows below.
The machines in both TN and WV need to be taken out of use and impounded immediately. So far, it's been Democrats, again, who are being affected by these problems, while votes are flipping from Democratic candidates to others. While the DNC and the Obama campaign ought to be raising holy hell, so far they are not...
Today Premier/Diebold has again had to accept the blame for voting machine failures. This time the optical scan machines that had tallied absentee ballots in Sarasota County would not upload the totals to the main server and refused to post elections in Hillsborough County. Election officials in Sarasota ended up having to count 10,000 ballots by hand. It is a good thing they had the paper ballots to count by hand or those votes would have been lost....
Two pieces of malicious software detected Thursday have been removed from Pinellas County's voting tabulation system.
The two bugs, known as Flush.G and W32.SillyDC, work in tandem and go from computer to computer redirecting Internet browsers to sites the user hasn't selected, officials said. The worm is carried through removable media like USB drives, is easily detected and, officials say, rather harmless.
Pinellas Deputy Supervisor of Elections Rick Becker said the worm isn't the kind of Trojan horse that would be used to corrupt a computer voting system and was unsure just where it came from.
And yet, we're often told by voting machine companies that viruses can't get into these systems. Then there are the election officials who have bought into these systems, yet know nothing about them, who respond to the public and the media as if they do, regularly making ridiculous claims that such problems can't happen because "at no time are our systems connected to the Internet."
Whether they are or aren't, it's an absurd response. Malicious software can get into the system any number of ways, via non-Internet networking, USB thumb drives, etc. It can then undedectably affect an election without detection.
In the Summer of 2006, after my organization, VelvetRevolution.us, was given a Diebold touch-screen system from an insider source, we loaned it to Prinecton for testing and they were able to insert a vote-flipping virus via the memory card which could pass itself from machine to machine and flip an entire election without detection.
And, of course, on the first day of Early Voting in the now-infamous FL-13 Congressional race in 2006 where 18,000 votes mysteriously and still-inexplicably disappeared, a malicious viral worm took down a key part of the network infrastructure on which the registration system ran, grinding voting to a halt that day.
Similarly, exclusively reported thereafter, the scientists who studied the ES&S voting machines used in that FL-13 election discovered that the ES&S touchscreen systems --- used in some 16 different states --- were also vulnerable to the same type of virus that Prinecton was able to insert into the Diebold machines. To this day, despite being told about it by the scientists who discovered the problem, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) refuses to warn jurisdictions that use the same machine model about its vulnerability, even though it was described as potentially even more serious than the one discovered in the Diebold systems.
Other than that, everything's fine. Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.
How easy is it to enter any election results you want into the Diebold central tabulator? When you use Diebold's "Manual Override" option, it's exactly this easy...
The video above was shot on the night of the recent Primary at the election headquarters in Florida's Sarasota County, home of the infamous 2006 13th Congressional District where 18,000 votes disappeared on ES&S iVotronic touch-screens in an election decided by a 369 vote margin. The county now uses Diebold's paper-based optical-scan system, which failed to work as it was supposed to on Election Night. So, as seen in the above, the county election staff used Diebold's "Manual Override" to enter voting results into the tabulator with none of the party observers or board of election commissioners bothering to watch.
Kudos to one of Florida's Election Integrity citizen activist/video heroes, Jeannie Dean, for shooting and compiling the above.
Please note her advice tips, at the end of the video, instructing how you can similarly help out big time this November!
"Why in the world would either the Legislature or the secretary of state or anybody object to local elections officials trying to ensure that their system operates as intended and that they get it right?" asked FL Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead as he crawled out of his cave to officiate at a hearing yesterday in Tallahassee.
The nearly-unheard of voice of reason momentarily reared its lonely head on Wednesday, if perhaps just temporarily, from the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole down which American elections have almost entirely disappeared.
Anstead was questioning attorneys representing Sarasota's still-unresigned, democracy-hating Election Supervisor Kathy Dent and FL's Sec. of State Kurt Browning. The pair are attempting to nullify the democratic (small "d") citizens' ballot initiative successfully voted in by a majority of Sarasota voters in 2006. The initiative called for improvements in the county's election system --- including paper ballots with post-election audits --- in hopes of offering more accuracy and integrity.
Needless to say, Dent and Browning are against that idea.
The following snippet of yesterday's extraordinary exchange --- including the attorney's remarkable response to Anstead's question --- comes from a Sarasota Herald Tribune report today.
On Election Day in 2006, in Sarasota County's 13th U.S. Congressional district race, some 18,000 votes cast on ES&S iVotronic touch-screen systems failed to register a vote for either candidate on the ballot. It was an extraordinarily high undervote rate, which has never been explained, in an election outcome determined by just 369 votes. (BRAD BLOG's long series of reports on FL-13 here.)
Nonetheless, just last year, the county's horrible, and still un-resigned, Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent (one of the country's absolute worst), lied to a bunch of colleagues during a speaking engagement at the Pacific Northwest Election Conference.
"It was only after the results were in and the 18,000 undervotes were revealed that all of a sudden there were all of these folks that started saying well they couldn't touch the machines ... and their vote wasn't registering," she tells her colleagues, as seen in the video above right, as captured by Ginny Ross of the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition.
"But they were all after the fact," Dent informs the crowd, "and there were no phone calls coming into my office. So it's a little bit of an indication that there may have been some politics involved in this."
Documentation from her own office, however (yes, a paper trail!), shows incontestably that the Election Director's comments, as caught on tape, are a complete and utter and unrepentant fabrication...
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's column today on the awful Sarasota, FL, Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent --- and the criminal complaint against her outrageous, unlawful Election Day, in-precinct campaigning against a 2006 ballot initiative to ban touch-screen voting machines in the county (the initiative passed, despite her best efforts, and carefully placed brochures on voter sign-in tables!) --- is so good that I don't want to quote from it.
As the Herald-Trib describes, as revealed in Dent's interview conducted by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, concerning her inappropriate (and illegal) placement of pro-touch-screen brochures in polling places, Dent admits she was aware of a voter's complaint about it, but ignored it "because she had assumed it was from 'one of the activists' that had been criticizing her and her machines."
The FDLE report on the matter, including their interview with the apparently-pathological Ms. Dent, as referenced in the column as "good reading", may be downloaded here [PDF, 16mb].
Dent, of course, is the woman who also presided over the FL-13 U.S. Congressional election that same year, when 18,000 votes disappeared in her county only, and only on her precious, now-banned, ES&S Ivotronic touch-screen machines, as the Republican Vern Buchanan reportedly edged out Democrat Christine Jennings by just 369 votes.
If the linked column doesn't give you enough of an idea of what a horrible, anti-democracy villain Dent really is, perhaps the following lovely, 30-second phone message --- left on the voice mail of Tallahassee' Election Supervisor (and democracy hero), Ion Sancho, moments after he appeared on a Fort Myers radio show, heard in Sarasota, in which he was asked about, and praised, the Sarasota citizen ballot initiative to do away with the touch-screens --- will give you some idea:
Sancho adds that Dent was also scheduled to appear on the same program, but begged off, likely after she'd heard that he would also be a guest. Though when he got off the air and checked his cell phone messages, he found she'd called immediately after the program. So she was apparently available to listen to it, at least, even if she didn't have the courage to come on and defend her views.
We hope to have more soon on Dent and this case --- for which she's (incredibly) been exonorated by the FDLE --- in the not-too-distant future.
CORRECTION/UPDATE: We originally characterized the phone call from Dent to Sancho, posted above, as being in regard to the FL-13 election fiasco. In fact, Dent's call to Sancho was made prior to the '06 Election, in reference to his radio interview comments on the Election Reform initiative, as now explained above. We touched base with Sancho just now, and he had some additional thoughts about Dent and her inappropriate campaign to defeat the initiative in question. Said Sancho: "This woman knowingly campaigned against an initiative on the ballot. If she wanted to do that, at a minimum, she should have formed a political action committee to do so. Supervisors of Elections don't give up their right to free speech, but they have to follow the law, particularly if they wish to influence anything on the ballot."
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