Here's a welcome sign that at least some in the corporate media are finally beginning to understand the complicated threat to democracy that is the boondoggle of electronic voting.
Bill Mego, in the Naperville Sun, asks all of the right questions (and granted, they are complicated ones to understand, unless one tries) about the junk Diebold voting system irresponsibly employed, at great tax-payer expense, by the DuPage County, IL Board of Elections.
One could as easily replace "Diebold" in the above sentence with any other voting system vendor, and "DuPage" with almost any other county in the nation (even though DuPage features one of the worst Election Boards in the country, and you'll be hearing still more about them soon). But the "good news" for today: at least a few in the media --- okay, at least Bill Mego --- finally "get" it, and are beginning to serve their readership well.
Let's get a few hundred more and we'll be in business. (And I'd be out of it! Happily!)
Experts from CA's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems Demonstrate How to Insert Virus, Access Machines Without Disturbing 'Security Seals' in Hack Which Would Not Be Discovered Even in 100% Audit of 'Paper Trails'
Single Malicious Individual Shown Flipping Entire 'Touch-Screen w/ Paper-Trail' Election in Seconds...
The Computer Security Group at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has released a short, chilling video demonstrating how a single person can hack an election on a touch-screen voting system --- even one with a so-called "Voter Verifiable Paper Trail" (VVPAT) added to it --- in such a way that it is highly unlikely that the manipulation would ever be detected by either the public or election officials.
The video which shows "just examples of the different ways in which the system can be compromised" is the latest in a similar string of such demonstrations that have been released over the last two years, all showing how easily electronic voting systems can be tampered with, often undetectably.
In the UCSB video posted below, the hack of Sequoia voting system being prepared for use in an entire county, is done in approximately 3 seconds, by a single person with simple insider access and a $10 USB thumb drive. Every machine used in the county, in such a case, would be effected. Moreover, the viral hack would not be discovered by pre-election "Logic and Accuracy" testing --- in cases were election officials actually bother to perform such tests prior to elections --- nor would it likely be discovered even in the event of a complete, 100% post-election audit of the touch-screen "paper-trail" records.
The hack demonstration, prepared by the UCSB scientists as part of California's 2007 Top-to-Bottom Review" of all of the state's e-voting systems, also reveals how so-called "security seals" placed on such machines after they've been programmed for an election, can be easily defeated without detection...
The director of elections at the secretary of state's office resigned suddenly Thursday.
The departure of Holly Lowder, former Alamosa County clerk, comes two months before what is expected to be one of the biggest elections in recent Colorado history. Lowder's work centered on the implementation of the new statewide voter registration system, said Richard Coolidge, spokesman for the agency.
Lowder could not be reached for comment.
Coolidge would not give details on why Lowder stepped down. He said Thursday was her last day.
Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle said Lowder was more involved with the voter database early on but had become less involved in recent months.
AP reports that county officials were notified of Lowder's departure via email on Thursday, from the SoS office, which noted only that she had "retired and wanted to 'pursue other opportunities.'"
Sources in CO tell us there will be more coming, likely tomorrow, on this. We're also told that there may be a salacious aspect here that might just make the well-worn euphemism about "election officials being in bed with voting machine vendors," um, somewhat more than just a euphemism. (Talk about your voting machine "sleepovers"!)
[See update for more details on the above, now at bottom of article!]
Aside from the noteworthiness of Lowder's sudden exit, as pointed out in the article, in regard to the importance of Colorado in this year's elections --- the state's 9 electoral votes are thought to be very much up for grabs this year, despite going to Bush in the previous two elections --- BRAD BLOG readers will remember a bit of the background here concerning the utterly dysfunctional state of e-voting in the Centennial State under their current SoS, Mike Coffman...
16,632 votes are unaccounted for in a Palm Beach County election recount following last Tuesday's state primary, according to Ellen H. Brodsky, non-partisan candidate for Supervisor of Elections in Broward County and a long-time Election Integrity advocate.
The machine recount was completed early Saturday morning in the Circuit Court race between Judge Richard Wennet and challenger William Abramson, Brodsky reports via email. The machine recount was completed at 4:30am, in the race in which Wennet and Abramson were separated by just 18 votes in the initial machine tally. Palm Beach County recently changed voting systems again, moving from faulty touch-screen voting systems to --- apparently --- faulty optical-scan paper-ballot systems made by Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc. [PDF].
The still-unexplained "disappearance" of votes in the machine recount "has severe repercussions," Brodsky wrote in an email alert this afternoon describing the re-scan of some 90,000 ballots.
"With 16,632 less votes on summary report," she writes, it "portends dire consequences for the November election and all elections."
The question remains as to how many votes were lost in other races on the same ballot which were not included in last night's re-tally. Florida state law disallows hand-counting of paper ballots which have already been counted by machine, other than in special circumstances. We'll see if this ends up being one of those circumstances. Theoretically, a hand-count would determine the correct totals for the race, where the machine-count has misreported totals. [UPDATE: Palm Beach Post reports the machine recount was close enough to allow for a hand-count of over votes and undervotes. See more in the update at end of this article.]
Sequoia's voting machines have seen notorious failures of late, including lost votes and other problems, around the country...
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....
In an article this morning from the St Petersburgh (FL) Times the reporters report that Diebold/Premier voting systems failed to work properly in Hillsborough County.
By far the largest problem cropped up in Hillsborough, which Browning had criticized when Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson took longer than any other supervisor to buy optical scan technology. Through bidding, Hillsborough picked a company called Premier Voting Solutions. Its voting systems are used in 34 states, and about 30 of Florida's 67 counties.
However, after major computer problems cropped up during Ohio's March elections, the manufacturer acknowledged last week that its software contains a critical programming error. Because of the error, votes can be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards. As a result, the company sent out a nationwide customer alert with recommended actions to deal with the problem.
An hour after the polls closed in Hillsborough, Johnson told reporters that his vote counting system had developed a computer problem that was preventing it from posting the tallies electronically — and he blamed Premier Voting Solutions.
"I haven't been able to get a straight answer from Premier, but I will by the end of the night," he said. "I expect them to fix this issue. We've paid a lot of money. My staff has done a great job.''
Johnson said other counties were having similar problems, but [Secretary of State Kurt] Browning's staff said no other counties statewide had reported a similar glitch. Still, Johnson insisted the problem didn't lie with his office.
However, Florida Today reports that Brevard County had problems with their Diebold voting machines and this problem is recurring...
If you didn't happen to pay close enough attention to Ellen Theisen's guest blog on Friday, now that I'm back on the grid (after a few blissful days in the mountains with family friends on the way to Denver here), let me re-iterate the main points of her article quite directly: Diebold has admitted that their tabulator software, known as GEMS, and used all across the country, in at least 34 states, does not count votes correctly.
In fact, it actually loses votes, by not counting them at all, yet gives the system administrator no indication that the votes were not counted. Instead, it tells them that all votes have been counted correctly. This bug has been in Diebold's software --- where it remains to this day-- for years. Diebold has only admitted it now that it's been found by someone else (a number of counties in Ohio, of all places) and with the 2008 Presidential election less than 80 days away. Washington Post's coverage here.
Coinciding with that startling admission, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s Gracia Hillman, one of the two Democratic-recommended appointees, has gone on public record stating that the federal certification testing process is too stringent.
While all of that was made clear in Ellen's blog item, I found both of the above points so remarkable that I wanted to underscore them now that I've finally made it to Denver (or at least Boulder, for the moment), since I was simply stunned to read it myself after getting back on the grid.
Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
UPDATE: CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight covered the stunning admission by Diebold on their show Friday. Here it is (thanks to Alan Breslauer, as usual!) ...
UPDATE 8:43pm PT:McClatchy's Greg Gordon picks up the ball, and advances it a bit, noting the failure in oversight by the feds which allowed for the failure, as we've been trying to get across here for years. He begins this way...
Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure
WASHINGTON — Disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003.
Texas-based Premier Elections Solutions [Diebold] last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade.
Many jurisdictions are realizing their voting systems are horribly flawed and they want to get them fixed before November. But the new systems currently under test by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) have so many defects that the manufacturers have to keep repairing them before testing can continue. Consequently the EAC has not certified anything yet.
Kudos to the EAC for this!
But Gracia Hillman, one of the EAC Commissioners, recommends a way around this “roadblock” for the jurisdictions using systems that are no good. She suggests a contingency plan that would allow the jurisdictions to use new and different systems that are no good, but at least they would comply with their state laws. Her ideas:
1) Emergency Certification of Voting System Modifications;
2) Waiver of EAC Certification;
The systems are so bad they can’t meet the federal standards, so to get around this “roadblock,” Commissioner Hillman proposes to bypass the testing process.
She wants the EAC to bless new, defective systems for the vendors to sell to replace the old, defective systems that are currently in use.
But that’s what NASED (National Association of State Election Directors) did when it oversaw the voting system testing process, and the decade-long, widespread use of Premier/Diebold’s vote-losing software is one of the results.
After ten years of use in election after election, all across the country, Premier/Diebold’s vote-dropping software flaw has finally come to light — thanks to Butler County, Ohio’s Elections Director Betty L. McGary and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner...
Guest Blogged by Mary Mancini of the Uncounted Blog
Everyone has different tastes, and hey, if you aren’t moved after watching Uncounted that’s your prerogative. But an uniformed and half-assed review that tries to nail the 80-minute movie on one ten-second factoid - like the one delivered to Mother Jones readers by former MJ Senior Online Fellow and current TPM Media News Editor, Justin Elliott - is inexcusable.
In the review, Elliot references the following that briefly appears on screen: “Two voting machine companies --- ES&S and Diebold --- electronically counted 80 percent of the votes in the 2004 presidential election. Both companies have extensive ties to the Republican party.” He then runs the 80% number by Kimberly Brace, “a respected voting expert with the consulting firm Election Data Services” who calls it “totally wrong.” And that’s it. Proof by assertion. No follow up. End of review.
You can, of course, read the rest for yourself at MotherJones.com, where you can also read the comments of some very smart MoJo readers who recognize not only Elliott’s shoddy work but also the importance of the bigger issue - that our democracy is at stake because of bad electoral practices.
You’ll also find Uncounted's filmmaker, David Earnhardt's response, which I am also printing in its entirety...
[Ed Note: Ellen appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight this evening to discuss this report. The video is now posted here.]
As we approach the 2008 general election, the structure of elections in the United States — once reliant on local representatives accountable to the public — has become almost wholly dependent on large corporations, which are not accountable to the public. Most local officials charged with running elections are now unable to administer elections without the equipment, services, and trade-secret software of a small number of corporations (primarily Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Premier Election Systems (formerly Diebold), though a few other corporations have a very small share of the market).
If the vendors withdrew their support for elections now, our election structure would collapse.
However, some states and localities are recognizing the threat that vendor dependency poses to elections. They are using ingenuity and determination to begin reversing the direction.
This week, VotersUnite.Org released a report [PDF] that examines the situation, how we got here, and steps we can take to limit corporate control of our elections in 2008 and reduce it even further in the future.
Case studies presented in our report give examples of the pervasive control voting system vendors now have over election administration in almost every state, and the consequences some jurisdictions are already experiencing. We discovered that such dependency has allowed vendors to...
A lot of voting zeitgeist in the media of late. What took ya so long, folks? Wanted to wait until it was largely too damned late to do anything about it? Same story. New year.
In any case, on the road to Denver right now, so time enough only to round up some of the most notable must-reads on everything from: The GOP "voter fraud" scam growing in intensity between here and November (a theme I'll also be discussing in my column for the UK's Guardian this week); Election officials finally acknowledging their machines don't work, but remaining unwilling to correctly place the blame or otherwise do much about it; Faint glimmers of actual improvement at the previously dreadful U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC); A bit of news from the "Rove Cybergate" election fraud case in OH, and; The one phrase you'll want to get very well familiar with between here and November 2 (hint: my name is in it, but it has nothing to do with me.)
The New York Times has again given a platform to the voting machine vendors to voice their displeasure with a system that is forcing them to actually provide voting systems that are fully tested and certified. The vendors, and some election officials, seem to want to continue the old system of poorly tested and rubber-stamped voting systems counting our votes.
In his article, Ian Urbina, quotes Jennifer Brunner, who says:
“We need the federal oversight to create consistent standards and to hold the manufacturers to a certain level of quality, but we also have to be able to get the equipment when we need it. Right now, that equipment is not coming, and we’re left making contingency plans.”
If Brunner expects high quality and consistent standards, all she needs to do is look to the vendors and question them on why they put out a product that fails in testing. Her state's recent countersuit of Premier/Diebold was a start, but why did she wait until she was sued by the vendor before taking that step? As we asked recently, why did she ignore the pleadings of Election Integrity Attorneys and computer scientists who counseled her to file a suit against Premier/Diebold for breach of contract for so long?
Brunner also needs to question the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) qualification system (most often referred to as "federal certification" by most officials and vendors) and those involved in the process as to why they allowed non-compliant voting systems to be given their stamp of approval on behalf of the federal government in the first place. If the so-called federal Independent Test Authorities and NASED had done their jobs prior to 2007, the machines used in Ohio and the rest of the nation would not now be constantly failing, and the voters would have far more confidence in the electoral system.
Doug Chapin of the Pew Center project electionline.org must have just come from last week's Election Center conference, where election officials and vendor representatives gather and talk about issues of importance to the lucrative American Voting Industry. He is quoted in the Times with this remarkable comment...
If I lived in Butler Co Ohio I would be very concerned about whether my vote was going to be counted this November. If you recall Butler Co uses Diebold/Premier DREs and in the March primary and April recount over 200 votes nearly went uncounted. The cause of the problem proved to be a conflict between the voting system software and anti-virus software. Rather than take action against Diebold/Premier, as recommended by Election Integrity attorneys, the state sat back until the vendor sued them and nearly forced the state to counter-sue. But the county, and many others in the state, will be using the same voting system with the same software in November.
Diebold/Premier claims to have a software patch but also claims it will be years before they can use it because it has to have federal approval. Meanwhile, Secretary of State spokesman Kevin Kidder says, "We've never lost a vote because of the problems we cite in the counterclaim because election officials have caught them. We can't prevent it. We can only catch the problem and correct it."
As good as election officials may be they cannot and will not catch everything and when they don’t find a problem it means votes are lost or incorrectly tabulated. The solution should have been to force the counties involved to go to paper based systems. It’s too late for that now...
For over two years Election Integrity attorneys have been urging the state of Ohio to file suit against Diebold/Premier, ES&S, and Hart for failure to meet their contractual obligations with the state. The Secretary of State ignored that urging. It was only after Diebold/Premier filed suit against the state that the state took action in a countersuit. Rather than being courageous plaintiffs in this case, the state is a defendant and Diebold/Premier chose the most favorable court to hear the case. If the state had done the right thing two years ago they very well may have had the funds to have gotten rid of all Diebold DREs in the state for this November. Instead counties are still at the mercy of Diebold and their flawed voting systems. And remember, it may be Diebold/Premier in this case but the other vendors play the same game in different ball parks. They are all complicit. For more on this issue see HERE....
Today Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio Secretary of State, announced that she has filed a counterclaim in a lawsuit with Premier (Diebold) Election Solutions. The counterclaim asks for damages, including punitive damages, against the vendor for voting machine malfunctions and for the company’s claims that warranties on equipment have expired. Brunner is arguing that problems with the voting systems caused votes to be “dropped” when memory cards were uploaded to the server. There is evidence that this happened in at least 11 of the 43 counties that used Diebold DREs in past elections. The company, apparently, agrees there was a problem, as they issued a product advisory on this problem in May. One question is outstanding now: How many counties in how many states had the same problem and never realized it? It’s time to cut our loses and get rid of those damn machines....