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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, November 25, 2014
No Indictment in Ferguson Shooting of Michael Brown
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Media Appearance Archives...
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GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
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The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


'CIBER Has Absolutely No Idea What It's Talking About'
Testing Secrecy Has Allowed CIBER to Profit From Sloppy Work
By Michael Richardson on 2/1/2007 1:57pm PT  

Guest Blogged By Michael Richardson

CIBER, Inc., the nation’s largest so-called “independent test authority” (ITA) of electronic voting machines, is at the center of a growing scandal about lax testing of voting equipment. The recent release of a long-kept secret assessment of the company by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) detailing a shocking record of sloppy, incomplete or non-existent testing by CIBER led the test lab’s CEO, Mac Slingerlend, to call the report “old news” in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News.

While CIBER’s shortcomings may be “old news” to Slingerlend, unaware election officials around the nation are angered at not being informed by the EAC prior to the November 2006 elections about voting machine models “tested” by CIBER in use by 68.5% of the registered voters in the country.

Last year the EAC took over testing responsibilities for electronic voting machines from the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and refused to grant CIBER interim accreditation because of numerous deficiencies at the test lab located in Huntsville, Alabama.

Slingerlend and CIBER founder Bobby Stevenson both took advantage of the “old news” to unload thousands of shares of stock

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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According to Democratic U.S. Congressman Wexler, New Republican Gov. Crist to Send Touch-Screen/DRE's 'The Way of the Butterfly Ballot'
By Brad Friedman on 1/30/2007 9:24pm PT  

Blogged by Brad --- with elan --- from the road...

This is huge. Though it was buried in today's Daily Voting News, as it broke late, it is most decidedly siren-worthy! Big time!

Florida's new Republican Governor Charlie Crist, working with Democratic U.S. House Member Robert Wexler, will reportedly be recommending millions of dollars to replace every one of Florida's horrendous touch-screen voting machines with optical-scan systems featuring: A PAPER BALLOT FOR EVERY VOTE CAST!

Gov. Charlie Crist is preparing to recommend that the controversial touch-screen voting machines used in Broward, Palm Beach, and 13 other Florida counties be scrapped and replaced with optical scanners that would count paper ballots.

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, said the governor would recommend spending at least $20 million on optical scanners for the 15 counties with touch-screen machines when he presents his proposed budget to the state Legislature on Friday.

Palm Beach Post confirms. So does AP.

Don't be confused by the references to "paper trails" in the linked articles. Optical scan systems use a paper BALLOT, not a "paper trail".

Free at last? Free at last? Thank God Almighty the Sunshine State may be free at last!?

We shall see. But this could be the best news to come down the pike for democracy fans since Woman's Suffrage. We'll be watching. And then, of course, we've got to make certain there are appropriate audits and other measures to ensure the op-scan systems aren't hacked as they were in Leon County, Florida, last December.

But a path is built one stone at a time. And this could be a very big stone. So for tonight, we'll go to sleep, for a change, with a smile on our face...God Bless America.

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Princeton's Computer Science Professor, Ed Felten, Begins to Look at the Failed Jennings/Buchanan U.S. House Race in Florida, But Seems to Buy Into a Flawed Theory and Solution
'Paper Trails' on Sarasota's Voting Machines Would Have Made the Situation Worse, Not Better...
By Brad Friedman on 1/30/2007 1:33pm PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from on the road...

To be clear, despite the headline, we don't mean to call Princeton's computer science professor Ed Felten "stupid" by any means. We do, however, mean to make clear --- in no uncertain terms --- that the oft-floated idea that adding so-called "paper trails" to failed, paperless ES&S touch-screen voting machines, such as those used in last November's U.S. House race in Sarasota between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R), would not have avoided the situation we're now in. In fact, such "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails" (VVPAT) added to Direct Recording Electronic (DRE/touch-screen) systems would likely make our current crisis of democracy worse instead of better.

As we've said before, DREs with or without a VVPAT are a threat to democracy. VVPATs are little more than a band-aid at best, and more likely serve only as a panacea to offer a false sense of security.

Adding a "paper trail" to a DRE/touch-screen system is like requiring a seat belt in a Ford Pinto; what good will the seat belts do when the Pinto explodes?

Today then, Princeton's Felten (he of the infamous Diebold Touch-Screen Virus Hack) has posted an article on his blog looking at what may have happened in the contested U.S. House race in Florida's 13th Congressional District between Jennings and Buchanan, in which some 18,000 votes seem to have disappeared completely on the paperless ES&S touch-screen voting machines. Just 369 votes separate the two candidates in the flawed state-certified final results.

In his essay, the first of a promised series to come this week, Felten correctly points out that the situation can only be attributed to problems with the ES&S voting machines themselves, since the undervote rate for the very same race in the very same county was a reasonable 2.5% on the paper absentee ballots, but jumped nearly 15% as recorded on the ES&S touch-screen machines.

Even ES&S's only expert witness so far to take the stand --- Dartmouth College's political (not computer) scientist, Michael Herron --- in the election contest down in Florida admitted that were it not for problems voters encountered in using those voting machines, Jennings likely would have been named the winner. That point was reported by Sarasota Herald Tribune who reported on the testimony this way: "Had those ballots been cast without problems, Jennings would have won by as many as 3,000 votes, according to the ES&S expert's statistical 'best guess.'" Reporting from both Wired News and our own discussions just after the testimony with Lowell Finley, the attorney for VoterAction.org, one of several non-partisan groups who argued the case on behalf of the Florida voter plaintiffs who joined Christine Jennings in filing an election contest, confirmed that point as well.

So the question --- for those legitimately trying to figure out what went wrong, as opposed to Buchanan and his supporters who simply want to claim the House seat as their own, even if it's an aberration of democracy --- is whether the problem was due to bad ballot design, machine malfunction, or, most likely, some combination of both. With just 369 votes between the two candidates in the state-certified final result (which is being challenged in both Florida courts and the U.S. House), virtually every analysis has determined that even a minor machine malfunction would likely have thrown the race to the Republican in the Democrat's strongest areas in Sarasota. That's where the largest undervote rates occured.

Felten's thesis, however, as he begins to discuss today in his first article on the topic, would seem to suggest --- incorrectly, in our view --- that a "paper trail" on those paperless touch-screens would have avoided this problem. We'll answer by suggesting it would only have made it worse.

In the meantime, an as-yet under-reported affidavit obtained by The BRAD BLOG from a poll worker, which accompanied a complaint filed by a Republican (yep, you read that right) in Sarasota who believes machine malfunction was clearly the culprit, seems to demonstrate clearly that a problem with the ES&S iVotronic system, not a problem finding the race on the ballot, was to blame for the massive undervote rate.

Couple that with two excellent reports from Daniel Hopsicker as filed last week (one here, the second here) analyzing, in crystal-clear detail, a number of contemporaneous news reports from Sarasota before, during, and after the election, it becomes very clear that machine failure was the problem in the FL-13 election and not "bad ballot design" --- the favored theory of folks hoping to keep the "provisionally seated" Buchanan in power.

Hopsicker's excellent review of those news reports, both as the problem was first emerging and just after the election, when voters' and poll workers' recollections were still fresh, reveals that voter and poll worker complaints at that time overwhelmingly focused on problems voters had casting their votes in particular races and not on problems finding particular races on the ballots!

We'll take a look at the complaint filed by the Republican mentioned above, along with the poll-worker affidavit, in a future report this week. But for now, we'll look at Felten's "Paper Trails Would Have Avoided the Problem" theory.

As Felten averred today...

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Federal Voting Machine 'Oversight' Committee Finally Releases 'Soiled Laundry' on Banned Test Lab, CIBER, After Subpoena Threats...
By Michael Richardson on 1/29/2007 6:05am PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Richardson

Hours after our report last week on threatened subpoenas against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and its banned voting machine test laboratory, CIBER, Inc., by the New York State Board of Elections, the company supplied information concerning its lack of accreditation to New York officials. Enraged NY State Election Commissioner Doug Kellner called the secret reports “soiled laundry” that both the company and EAC had been trying to hide.

Friday, the EAC reacted to the disclosure by CIBER of confidential EAC documents by releasing the assessment reports upon which last summer’s decision for non-accreditation of CIBER was based. The documents, kept secret by the EAC for half a year, reveal a shocking level of incompetence and negligence by the “independent testing authority” (ITA) lab which tested electronic voting machines used by 68.5% of the registered voters in the November 2006 election.

By way of reminder, CIBER is one of three labs that had been testing all American voting machines as part of the ITA structure; the group of labs selected and paid for by the voting machine companies themselves to test their hardware and software --- in secret --- for Federal "authorities."

The EAC assessment report from July 2006 of the CIBER test lab in Huntsville, Alabama --- also kept secret until the matter was reported by the NY Times last month --- found “critical processes were not implemented nor procedures followed.”

The finally-released EAC documents reveal a mess at the lab which federal, state and local officials around the country had been relying on for assurance that voting machines actually worked for many years...

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Election Board Ire as EAC Fails to Disclose 'Soiled Laundry' on Failure to Accredit Voting System Test Lab
By Michael Richardson on 1/26/2007 9:35am PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Richardson

Tom Wilkey, former executive director of the New York State Board of Elections, and now the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, has refused to answer questions from New York election officials about the non-accreditation of voting machine test lab Ciber, Inc. A letter from a state election official describes the lack of response for requested information as "truly outrageous and scandalous." That refusal "to open the curtain that hides their soiled laundry," may lead to subpoenas by the State Board.

The ongoing secrecy, and apparent duplicity, of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) surrounding the failure of Ciber to be given federal accreditation to testing voting machines began last summer causing an unknown number of voters around the country to vote on improperly tested electronic voting machines in last November's election. The EAC failed to notify elections officials or the public about what they had already discovered concerning the poor state of testing conditions and procedures by the lab.

The EAC secrecy has been particularly troublesome in New York where Ciber has been testing equipment specifically under contract with the state. The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 and is charged with accrediting "independent testing authorities" to examine and certify electronic voting machines. Ciber failed to gain interim accreditation when the testing duties shifted from the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to the EAC last July.

As discussed in a report yesterday --- which included a series of 'very friendly' notes between Wilkey and the current chair of the EAC, Donetta Davidson --- Wilkey’s silence may stem from his role as chair of the Voting Systems Board at NASED prior to his position at the EAC. The failures of Ciber to properly conduct and document security testing of voting machines that led to the denial of interim accreditation occurred during Wilkey’s watch at NASED where he served with his "Sis", Davidson, as he referred to her in the emails between the two.

Davidson was on Wilkey’s NASED certification board along with "ex officio" member Shawn Southworth of Ciber, Inc. Wilkey and Davidson’s silence about the failures of Ciber has angered election officials around the nation who had relied on Ciber’s certification of their voting machines in the November 2006 election.

As also recently reported, the delay in the public disclosure of the problems at Ciber, conveniently allowed both the firm's founder and its CEO the time needed to unload $1.7 million of company stock before the news would eventually be reported by the New York Times earlier this month.

New York, unlike the rest of the states, did not rush into purchase of new, expensive voting machines without public hearings and more thorough testing and ended up being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for HAVA non-compliance. Commissioner Doug Kellner of the New York State Board of Elections has reacted to the EAC stonewalling about Ciber with a call for a subpoena in hopes of getting some answers.

In an email announcement on Wednesday, Kellner expressed his outrage in no uncertain terms...

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By Michael Richardson on 1/24/2007 10:56am PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Richardson

Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Thomas Wilkey moved to the EAC after serving on the National Association of State Election Directors Voting System Board, which he chaired.

Wilkey's current boss at the EAC is Donetta Davidson, Chair of the federal commission. Davidson is a former president of NASED and served with Wilkey on the Voting System Board, which was tasked with certifying "independent testing authorities" to perform tests on electronic voting machines used throughout America.

In 2002, the Help America Vote Act transferred testing responsibility from NASED to the EAC, which took over the duties in July 2006. When it came time to issue interim accreditation to the test labs, EAC technical specialists found that Ciber, Inc. had failed to adequately document security testing while under NASED's certification. Serving "ex officio" on the Voting Systems Board, headed by Wilkey, was Shawn Southworth of Ciber.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has since recommended to the EAC that two other test labs perform the work formerly done by Ciber. Davidson, who twice testified before Congressional hearings last year on voting machine certification, failed to disclose the problems with the Ciber test lab to members of Congress. Senator Diane Feinstein has since asked Wilkey to explain why Ciber was not issued interim accreditation and why the public and election officials around the country were not notified before the November 2006 elections.

During the six months of secrecy from the EAC about the test lab ban, Ciber founder Bobby Stevenson sold $1.6 million worth of stock in the company. Ciber CEO Mac Slinglend also did some insider trading unloading $115,000 worth of the stock while the public was unaware of the EAC action against the company.

The failures of Ciber testing that led to the denial of interim accreditation were not under the EAC watch but instead arose under certification by Wilkey's NASED's Voting Systems Board.

Can EAC Chair Davidson be counted on to properly supervise her new subordinate? Maybe not, according to emails obtained by BlackBoxVoting from 2004 when both served on the NASED certification panel. Email traffic between the pair raise questions about their relationship.

On July 15, 2004 at 2:21 pm, Wilkey emailed Davidson: "You are actually reading your emails...WOW!!! Yes I will see you on Saturday. I get in about 9 pm so we will have a nightcap if you are not out partying on Bourbon Street. Love, Your New York Brother."

Two weeks later on July 29, 2004, after the nightcaps in New Orleans, Davidson sent Wilkey an email: "My Dearest Brother, Life has not slowed down, but I am staying out of trouble. Hope to talk to you soon, on the PHONE. That way I get to hear your voice. Love your Sis."

Now the cozy relationship between the two former NASED regulators can blossom at EAC where Wilkey reports to Davidson.

Wilkey's role in certifying electronic voting machines goes back a long way. According to his official agency biography, Wilkey helped draft the first voting system standards in country back in 1983 while working with the Federal Elections Commission.

"An early proponent of the creation of the National Association of State Election Directors, Wilkey has served as secretary, treasurer, vice-president and was elected president for 1996-1997. In January, Wilkey was named chair of NASED's Independent Test Authority Accreditation Board, which reviews and approves laboratories and technical groups for the testing of voting systems under NASED's national accreditation program. He was reappointed chair in 2000."

Wilkey's watchdog role over voting system security also gained him appointment to an advisory board of the Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Program, which assists six million military and overseas voters. Ciber, one of Wilkey's NASED approved test labs, since banned, conducted the security testing of the FVAP computer system.

Now "New York Brother" and "Sis" are tasked with protecting the voting machine security for the entire nation. The earlier role of the two EAC leaders in oversight of Ciber's lax work that led to non-accreditation may well be the subject of Congressional hearings before the year is out.

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Ohio's Former U.S. Congressman, Author of Help America Vote Act, Loses Voting Privileges as Felon, Keeps $29,000 Annual Congressional Pension...
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2007 9:55am PT  

It's now just over a year to the day since we first described the now-disgraced and now-former Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) as the "Soon-to-be-Indicted Bob Ney" in our exposé connecting the dots between him, his former Chief of Staff turned Diebold's top lobbyist on Capitol Hill, David DiStefano, Jack Abramoff's Greenburg Traurig firm and the whole Help America Vote Act (HAVA) sham which Ney pushed through Congress via his crooked chairmanship of the U.S. House Administration Committee.

Back then, few had heard of him. But today, Ney was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in the federal pen after pleading guilty to "illegally accepting trips, meals, drinks, tickets to concerts and sporting events and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars in return for official acts performed for lobbyist Abramoff and his clients."

Ney's long-overdue trip up the river comes despite defense pleas for mercy and sentencing to rehab in light of their claims that it was the evil bottle that dunnit. As ever, Ney continues to avoid taking responsibility. Happily, the judge didn't buy it. Oh, well. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

As a felon, Ney will no longer be able to vote in the state of Ohio, even as America will be stuck with his disastrous and cynical HAVA legislation for years. And despite House Democrats' plans to remove pensions for convicted members, apparently the action will not be retroactive. So Ney will get to retain his $29,000 annual pension from the House. Forever. Nice work if you can get it.

Anyway, another one bites the dust. Now, about the soon-to-be-indicted George W. Bush...

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By Michael Richardson on 1/18/2007 12:44pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Richardson

The efforts of the Election Assistance Commission to accredit test laboratories for the nation's electronic voting machines have left the country with only two labs, SysTest and Wyle, operating on interim approval; and one laboratory, Ciber, left unaccredited since the National Association of State Election Directors got out of the certification business last year.

Published reports indicate the Ciber lab was denied interim accreditation last summer for a history of inadequate quality assurance and inability to document that critical tests were performed. The EAC is saying little about the matter to the media and has now been requested by Senator Diane Feinstein to explain why Ciber was not accredited and why disclosure of that fact was kept from election officials around the nation.

EAC regulatory staff might just want to peek at Ciber's website where they will discover that the banned Ciber lab has merged its testing division with EAC approved Wyle lab. Ciber boasts, "The CIBER-Wyle team is your single source for independent voting machine testing."

"With the growing demand for premier independent software/hardware testing of Voting Machines, CIBER and Wyle have joined forces are now offering the quality independent testing solutions needed for voting machine systems supporting the Election Assistance Commission standards."

"Our teams, co-located in Huntsville, Alabama, have now integrated best of breed testing solutions, CIBER for software testing and Wyle for their hardware testing capabilities. By teaming we now offer complete independent voting system testing solutions for voting system vendors and for state governments."

"We combined the two most experienced labs and staffs in the country into one efficient organization. We provide a co-located testing facility on one campus for all your testing needs. Successfully tested and recommended for certification the industry leaders in voting systems. Specialized support for prequalification testing and anomaly resolution/verification."

The Ciber website also has a pitch for state business as well as electronic voting machines vendors but they should have used a grammar check. "The CIBER-Wyle team will help you to make sure that your election is run with little or no room for criticism. They will assist in areas such as assuring that you have the current certified copy of your voting vendor's hardware and software and that you will have implemented a set of state voting standards that will meet the [sic] with the majority of the voters' approval, taking into consideration the usability and accessibility of the voting system."

Ciber's role in testing of voting technology was more than issuing reports to vendors and states, like Florida, which rely upon Ciber reports for their technology advice to local election officials. Despite the growing number of reports about inadequate testing, now leaking out about Ciber's failures, which reveal long-standing problems of deficiency, the test lab also serviced the Department of Defense.

Ciber's self-promotional web page about the Federal Voting Assistance Program provides Senator Feinstein with new areas needing review for sloppy work on the voting system that assists military voters.

"The scope of the work included testing and validation of both the system's functionality and security....based on our certification as an Independent Test Authority, CIBER was awarded this work....Ciber performed system security penetration assessments....Based on this work, CIBER documented system exposures and vulnerabilities. Periodic penetration assessment continued during system operation."

The merger of the two "independent" test labs into one team raises red flags about Wyle's interim EAC accreditation status; while Ciber's voting security testing for the Defense Department, based on its earlier NASED certification, may soon be getting review by Congress.

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State Lawmakers Moving Towards Paper 'Trail' Voting Instead of Paper BALLOTS...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2007 7:21pm PT  

Maryland was one of the first states in the country (along with Georgia) to adopt Diebold's paperless touch-screen voting. Now that they've learned from that mistake, it looks like their legislature is preparing to make the same mistake again by moving to paper trail voting, instead of paper ballots, according to the Washington Post.

If you're still confused about the difference --- and even if you're not --- please see this short and to-the-point Open Letter to Congress Members, and the accompanying e-mail petition, signed and released by more than 35 non-partisan Election Integrity organizations just before the holidays.

It calls for a paper ballot --- not "trail" or "record" --- for every vote cast in America. That is, of course, the only acceptable first-step solution on the long road towards restoring America's electoral system and the voters' confidence therein.

After you've read it and signed it, please pass it on. Maybe Maryland will take notice before they screw things up again. We certainly hope so.

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By Michael Richardson on 1/13/2007 8:35am PT  

Guest Logged By Michael Richardson

Last week Christopher Drew of the New York Times informed a shocked nation that the leading "independent testing authority" of electronic voting machines, Ciber, Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colorado had not been following its own quality-control procedures and could not document that it completed required tests for reliability and security.

The federal Election Assistance Commission, which accredited the Ciber testing lab, secretly pulled its interim accreditation last year, without informing the public or election officials relying on Ciber's results. Independent testing centers, including Ciber, are not really independent at all and are funded by voting machine vendors to whom they issue their testing reports and only recently have come under federal scrutiny.

The EAC has yet to explain why it withheld the accreditation of Ciber from the voting public and the omission has entangled the controversial election oversight panel in the growing national distrust of electronic voting machines and may threaten its continued existence.

How many voting machines might be affected by the lax security inspections of Ciber?

Respected electronic voting machine authority and self-described "politechnologist" Joseph Hall did some digging. "The answer was not something I would have predicted...I knew Ciber did a good deal of software ITA testing, but it looks like, in terms of voting system deployment, that Ciber qualified the voting systems used by 68.5% of the registered voters (67.9% of precincts) in the 2006 election."

Hall explained the difficulty he encountered to acquire his data. "Since the test reports are not public, it is difficult to find information about who tested what when."

Undeterred by the veil of secrecy surrounding the testing of electronic voting machines, Hall used old testing identifiers, called NASED numbers, to track the deployment of voting machines around the nation. Ciber tested any machine that had a NASED number beginning with the digit "1".

"With this key piece of information, we can use published lists of qualified voting systems to determine which models were qualified by Ciber." explains Hall. Discovering that Ciber tested the vast majority of machines in the country Hall says, "In fact, it is much more simple to list which systems were not qualified by Ciber."

Hall concludes, "I suppose it would have been completely impractical to decertify all these systems. Even decertifying those systems in which the qualification testing Ciber performed was specifically lacking would likely be a significant double-digit percentage of voting systems used by registered voters."

One thing the ITA laboratories, or any other testing agency, cannot determine is if an electronic voting machine has been rigged with malicious self-deleting software code. All voting machines and optical scan vote-counters are subject to being hacked with self-deleting code that cannot be detected with any test. Self-deleting software code does its dirty deeds, including flipping or erasing votes, and then deletes itself erasing any sign of tampering.

A growing number of election integrity advocates are realizing that software technology has no place in the election systems of our country because of the inability to even detect mischief. The solution that is emerging is both simple and obvious, a return to time-tested hand-counting of paper ballots.

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Federal Commission Admits There is Paperwork on 'Barred' Voting Machine Testing Lab, Will Release 'When the Process is Complete'
Lab Was Secretly Refused Credentials in July, State and Local Voting Officials Were Kept in Dark Throughout November Elections Until NYTimes' Revelations...
By John Gideon on 1/9/2007 4:20pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon, Executive Director, VotersUnite.Org

Moving the ball forward a bit in regard to New York Times' stunning report last week that Ciber was refused interim accreditation last July. I've been able to learn a bit more about the existence of the paperwork concerning that denial of accreditation.

The refusal, according to the Times front page exclusive last week, was due to an inspection the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) conducted at the lab. Ciber is one of the three e-voting test labs or Independent Testing Authoritys (ITAs) which are paid by the Voting Machine Companies themselves to test their hardware and software prior to federal certification.

But contradictions have been flowing from the EAC in the considerable fallout from the Times report which revealed the commission not only failed to accredit Ciber, they also failed to tell the public, or even state and local Elections Officials who used the systems approved by Ciber for last November's election. What nobody --- except the EAC knew --- was that, according to the Times Ciber "was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests."

While at first the EAC had denied there was any paperwork documenting the reasons why they had denied interim accreditation to Ciber, I've now been able to learn from an EAC source that such paperwork actually exists. The EAC has simply, again, withheld it from the public. So far. I was then able to get confirmation about it from an EAC spokesperson, along with a hint as to when the world might get to see the actual reasons they withheld accreditation from the private testing lab...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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ALSO: LA Times Blogger Calls us 'State's Most Persistent Blogger-Watchdog on the Dangers of E-Voting'
By Brad Friedman on 1/9/2007 11:57am PT  

There's been a fair amount of media coverage (at least in California papers), since our scoop yesterday of new CA SoS Debra Bowen's brilliant appointment of dogged E-voting critic and VoterAction.org attorney Lowell Finley to the post of Deputy SoS for Voting Systems Technology and Policy.

There are a couple more ironic points to the Finley appointment above and beyond the ones we mentioned yesterday. One we knew about, another we hadn't.

In his report on the matter, Oakland Tribune's Ian Hoffman reminds us of the qui tam lawsuit filed by Finley against voting machine company Diebold and joined by the state in 2004, which eventually resulted in a settlement:

Working with Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, Finley sued Diebold Election Systems Inc., alleging the firm made misrepresentations to Alameda County and California to sell its voting machines. Diebold settled the case for $2.6 million.

In a point we hadn't previously known, the Los Angeles Times blogger on state capitol and gubernatorial issues, Robert Sallady, highlighted our coverage here --- describing us as "The state's most persistent blogger-watchdog on the dangers of voting technology" (thank you, sir) --- and advanced the story a bit with this irony-laden chestnut about the man who will now, officially, be working as an appointed member of Schwarzenegger's own Executive Branch:

Almost exactly three years ago, Finley represented Bill Camp of the Sacramento Labor Council. They successfully convinced a Superior Court judge that Schwarzenegger had illegally "loaned" his campaign $4.5 million. The ruling forced Schwarzenegger to pay the money back from his own pocket rather than through campaign contributions. The absurdly optimist governor called the ruling "fantastic," but Finley told the S.F. Chronicle (me, working there) at the time: "He is on some kind of medication that I would like to have a prescription for."

Office Christmas parties next year in Sacramento ought to be a hoot. Hopefully the Governator supplies the medication.

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Debra Bowen Appoints Lowell Finley of Election Integrity Watchdog Group VoterAction.org to Role of 'Deputy SoS for Voting Systems Technology and Policy'
[UPDATED] Critics of E-Voting Hail News as 'Collosal Suprise,' Very Good for Voters, Very Bad for the Nation's Electronic Voting Machine Companies...
By Brad Friedman on 1/8/2007 2:31pm PT  

It may not be a very good day in the corporate offices at Diebold, but The BRAD BLOG has learned some big news that may well indicate today is a very good day indeed for the voters of America and specifically in California.

As incoming Sec. of State Debra Bowen was sworn in to her new office just moments ago, The BRAD BLOG can now reveal that one of the nation's top critics of unverifiable electronic voting systems --- and a key player across several states in the legal battles against voting machine companies such as Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Hart Intercivic --- is today being named by the new California Sec. of State Debra Bowen as Deputy SoS for Voting Systems Technology and Policy.

Lowell Finley, the lead attorney for the non-partisan voting machine legal watchdog organization VoterAction.org, will be named to the position today.

In his new capacity, Finley will oversee testing and certification for all voting machine technology in the State of California. In a phone call this morning, Finley confirmed that he would be working closely in his new role with key national associations like the National Institute for Science and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC).

E-voting critics and at least one California Registrar of Voters have hailed both the swearing in of Bowen as SoS and her appointment of Finley, expressing delight to The BRAD BLOG over the news, characterizing it as a "colossal surprise" and a "very, very good sign for the future of voters' rights in California."

America's voting machine companies are less likely to feel quite as happy about the news.

Finley and VoterAction have filed a number of landmark lawsuits in several states, including in California, over the past year or so, demanding an immediate halt to the use and purchase of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE/touch-screen) voting systems and decertification of many of those systems, as well as improved processes for certification of such systems.

VoterAction is one of over 30 Election Reform organizations who recently went on record with an open letter to Members of Congress demanding federal legislation requiring a paper ballot for every vote cast in America. Such legislation would effectively ban the use of DRE systems, with or without a so-callled "Voter Verified Paper Trail" (VVPAT).

Bowen has been a dogged critic of former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson during her candidacy and in her role overseeing the Elections Committee as a California State Senator. She has criticized his lack of oversight and lax testing procedures, and has championed a "Voters' Bill of Rights" for the Golden State.

While a suit by VoterAction.org filed against former SoS McPherson and several CA Registrars of Voting --- concerning McPherson's certification of Diebold TSx touch-screen systems --- is still pending in state court, the disposition of that suit will likely change due to the fact that the lead defendant, McPherson, is no longer in office.

The Berkeley-based attorney Finley --- also one of the attorneys representing voter plaintiffs in the contested election in Florida's 13th Congressional district in Sarasota --- had one of his most recent and notable successes last September, when a Colorado judge ordered a complete review of certification procedures for voting machines in the state. The court found the official placed in charge of testing and certification didn't have the qualifications necessary, and performed little or no testing. That man, John Gardner, was appointed by former CO Sec. of State Donetta Davidson, who has been appointed by George W. Bush to head the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

The news of Finley's appointment will undoubtedly be of concern to the major voting machine companies that received little oversight from the former Sec. of State McPherson.

"I wish I was a fly on the wall in the offices at Diebold as they learn of this appointment. I'm sure jaws will be dropping and damage control will be ramping up," John Gideon of election watchdog organization VotersUnite.org told us today. (Gideon is also a frequent Guest Blogger here at The BRAD BLOG.) ...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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As Tom Elias Writes the Single Best MSM Article We've Ever Seen on the Current State of E-Voting!
By Brad Friedman on 1/5/2007 2:34pm PT  

Syndicated California columnist, Thomas D. Elias, has written the single best MSM article we've ever read on the problems with the current state of our electoral system. Period.

In covering changes planned by incoming CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Elias --- for the first time, at least that I've ever seen anywhere in the MSM --- squarely places the blame for the entire fine mess we're in exactly where it belongs: On the voting machine companies and the elections officials who have been their enablers and apologists...

An anxious time is just about to begin for the two interest groups that have done more than anyone else in recent years to make Californians feel uncertain about the integrity of their elections.

Those two groups: The makers of electronic voting machines of various types, many of whose devices have been shown to be both hackable and problematic in other ways. And county voter registrars who bought those machines largely with many millions of dollars derived from the federal Help America Vote Act, which was more concerned about speed of conversion to new technologies than whether they were trustworthy.

BOOM! Outta the park!

Those two grafs alone are enough for us to nominate Elias for a Pulitzer. Yes, the reporting on this matter in the MSM has been so indescribably horrible from the get-go that we're willing to give it all up just for those two grafs which finally tell the story correctly.

But Elias doesn't stop there. While we recommend you read his entire piece in full we'll highlight a few of the most notable grafs just to make sure as many eyeballs as possible actually get to see them --- for the good news they offer about a possibly brighter future for elections in California (and thus, the rest of the country) and for the fact that they have actually been printed in a fairly major metropolitan newspaper.

On Bowen's plans for full 'top to bottom review' of outgoing SoS McPherson's rubber-stamp certification of all electronic voting machines...

"We are going to do a top to bottom review of every voting system in use anywhere in California," Bowen said in an interview. "Yes, I would consider decertifying machines that my predecessor approved. Unfortunately, we've spent a lot of money on equipment that's not ready for prime time. Any Fortune 500 company would have sent those machines back with a letter saying they just don't do what they're supposed to."

On the truth (finally!) about the feckless and incompetent McPherson...

Her appointed predecessor and defeated autumn opponent, the former Republican State Sen. Bruce McPherson of Santa Cruz was anything but a skeptic, certifying virtually any machine any county registrar wanted to buy and imposing questionable checks on their performance.

On the infamous voting machine "sleepovers" (as first revealed by The BRAD BLOG)...

"I believe the sleepovers are illegal," said Bowen, an attorney. "If a system is designed so it can't be used without sitting in someone's garage for two weeks, we should not be using that system. We could fix this by using a bonded delivery service like Brinks to deliver machines to polling places at a set time."

In short, the voting machine status quo will not be lasting long in the nascent Bowen era.

On the worthlessness of so-called "paper trails" and the difficulty candidates face in paying exorbitant costs for recounts as capriciously and arbitrarily priced by Registrars...

Bowen recognizes that a paper trail is worthless unless it's usable. "I think $50,000 to do a recount where it might be merited is a tiny price to pay for democracy and to keep people from saying ‘forget about the election, they'll never count our votes anyway.' " So she'll support at least a partial public subsidy of recounts, where they appear justified.

NOTE: The BRAD BLOG covered the cost quoted for a recount in last summer's Special U.S. House Election in CA-50's Francine Busby/Brian Bilbray race. The cost, capriciously and arbitrarily quoted for that recount in order to make it impossible by the horrendous San Diego County Registar of Voters Mikel Haas: $150,000!

Elias also speaks of Sequoia's yellow button "feature" (also first revealed on these pages, but who's counting?) and more. All of which, apparently, forces the Ventura County Star to label the piece, regretablly, as "opinion." But so be it. We'll take what we can get.

If you'd like to send a thank you note to Elias and the VCS Editors, please click here!

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Action Taken Months Ago But Not Disclosed by Compromised U.S. Election Assistance Commission!
UPDATE: Company Reported to be a Big Republican Donor, CEO Dumped Shares of Stock Just Before Year's End!
By Brad Friedman on 1/3/2007 7:19pm PT  

A front page blockbuster set for tomorrow's New York Times reveals that one of the three approved labs which make up the so-called Independent Testing Authority (ITA) responsible for testing all electronic voting systems prior to certification has been barred from testing by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC).

The Times reports that Ciber Inc. was barred from further testing last summer, but that the EAC failed to disclose the information to the public.

Thousands of electronic voting machines "okayed" by the Ciber labs were in use last November, despite what the Times reports as a failure by the company to follow quality-control procedures and an inability to "document that it was conducting all the required tests."

As The BRAD BLOG reported earlier today, thousands of reports of e-voting machine failures were documented across the country in a report released this week by a number of non-partisan election watchdog organizations.

Ciber is one of three companies selected and paid for by the Voting Machine Companies themselves to secretly test their electronic voting systems. The results of the testing by the ITA labs and the documented failures or successes are never released to the public.

As the Times is now reporting on their website:

A laboratory that has tested most of the nation's electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.

The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by the state of New York over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.

Experts on voting systems say the Ciber problems underscore long-standing worries about lax inspections in the secretive world of voting-machine testing. The action by the federal Election Assistance Commission seems certain to fan growing concerns about the reliability and security of the devices.

The commission acted last summer, but the problem was not disclosed then. Officials at the commission and Ciber confirmed the action in recent interviews.
...
Experts say the deficiencies of the laboratory suggest that crucial features like the vote-counting software and security against hacking may not have been thoroughly tested on many machines now in use.

“What’s scary is that we’ve been using systems in elections that Ciber had certified, and this calls into question those systems that they tested,” said Aviel D. Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins.
...
Even though Washington and the states have spent billions to install the new technologies, the machine manufacturers have always paid for the tests that assess how well they work, and little has been disclosed about any flaws that were discovered.

While The BRAD BLOG has documented myriad failures on electronic voting machines over the last several months and years, we've also documented the dreadful failure of the EAC to perform oversight and the fact that they have been wholly compromised by partisan appointments, including their current (though outgoing) chairman Paul DiGrigorio and have withheld important reports from the public when the information revealed in them was not to the liking of the Republicans who head the committee.

As well, we ran shocking excerpts from an exclusive interview with the first head of the EAC, DeForest Soaries, detailing his unhappiness with both the White House and the Republican-led Congress to properly fund the commission formed by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 to oversee the certification of voting systems and other related matters. Soaries was appointed by George W. Bush and charged, in the shocking interview, that there are "no standards" for the voting equipment in use in America, that the White House and Congress misled him about the commission and "made things worse through the passage of the Help America Vote Act," and that due to underfunding and lack of attention, America now has an "inability to trust the technology that we use" in elections which he says are "ripe for stealing."

The excerpts we ran were from a network news interview with Soaries which was never aired by the network.

UPDATE: Lambert from Correntwire has some excellent details on Ciber's big money ties to the Republican party. He's critical of the Times' failure to point that out given they supplied some $72,000 to Republican candidates between 2001 and 2004. As well, he's got an excellent catch concerning the fact that Ciber's CEO dumped a bunch of stock just before year's end, leading Lambert to ask, "Insider trading, anyone?"

FURTHER UPDATE: Howard Stanislavic detailed a number of flaws discovered in Ciber's testing processes in New York last October at VoteTrustUSA.org. Needless to say, the Times gave him no credit for having beat them to a number of the items they reported in their story tonight. We feel ya, Howard.

(Hat-tip RAW STORY who had the early scoop on the Times story.)

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