If there's a more ineffective federal agency than the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), we're unaware of it.
The EAC was created in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), in large part to oversee federal certification and maintenance of e-voting systems for the entire country. One of their key mandates was to be a "clearinghouse" for information concerning such systems. Though they have been twice reprimanded by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) for their failure to set up such a clearinghouse of information concerning known problems with voting systems, another news report over the weekend confirms that they are more determined than ever to avoid any such responsibility.
Incredible comments given by EAC spokesperson Jeannie Layson and EAC Chairwoman Donnetta Davidson to the Daytona Beach News-Journal underscore the agency's hellbent efforts to avoid any and all responsibility for alerting election officials to known failures of electronic voting systems made by private corporations such as Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and others.
The BRAD BLOG has chronicled the short, but storied, history of the EAC's failures, compromised nature, and unwillingness to do their job over the years, but the latest comments --- and subsequent lack of action --- as reported yesterday by M.C. Moewe in the News-Journal are nothing short of astonishing...
A good report from a couple of days ago from the I-Team in Cleveland, Ohio. Unfortunately, they tend to run such reports just before Election Days, when it's too damned late to do a damn thing about it.
Nonetheless, some very good stuff here. Of particular note are the points from Diebold's recommendations which "appear to border on the absurd," that should voting machine memory cards be lost, "elections must be re-scheduled." Or if they fail, as our recent story concerning Diebold's admissions about memory card failures in Florida pointed towards, the company says "all voters will have to be called in to re-vote."
Heckuva voting system guys. Check out the report, above right.
NOTE: Discussion of suing Diebold comes up in this piece yet again. Along with the same concerns, as heard elsewhere, about "the Catch-22" of suing voting machine vendors. Namely, counties are afraid to sue the company they rely on to run their next election! The counties and the vendors are "joined at the hip," as the I-Team report points out. Call it a soft form of extortion, really.
If you haven't already, please sign VoterAction's petition calling on Congress to "conduct a full investigation into the dangers associated with the privatization of our public elections and to determine whether certain US voting systems companies have committed crimes under federal and state anti-fraud laws."
For an early look at concerns, largely of voter-suppression issues, around the country, Alternet has a very good state-by-state preview this morning.
Saturday's Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Diebold Election Systems, now having renamed itself Premier Election Solutions, has admitted that some of its 25,000 optical scan voting machines used in Florida and elsewhere across the nation may have a problem that causes memory card failures during elections.
As we would expect, Florida election officials and Diebold/Premier have downplayed the problem as they say that the problem does not threaten the integrity of U.S. elections. However, the Volusia County, FL Supervisor of Elections, Ann McFall, said [emphasis ours], "I don't think votes are lost". Her office has also admitted that the problem has caused problems and adds to the cost of elections.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has yet to take action on this matter, despite impending elections, the commission's statutory mission as the oversight body for certification of electronic voting systems their mandated mission to be a "national clearinghouse" for information on them and two GAO reports critical of their failure to do any of the above. If they follow previous patterns, they will do absolutely nothing to alert other states and counties who use the same system, about this problem.
Diebold/Premier, of course, and again, is attempting to downplay the severity of their failures in Florida and refusing to release their own information gathered on it, characterizing the true extent of the failure as "proprietary business information"...
In Volusia County during the November 2006 election, 11 of 249 optical scan memory cards had to be replaced, according to a county report. In Flagler County, one of 51 cards failed.
Diebold officials said the 4.4 percent error rate in Volusia was unusual, that the average was about 1 percent. The company conducted a survey of 27 Florida counties that use its machines but refused to release the results, calling them "proprietary business information."
But because the News-Journal could not get the percentages from Diebold/Premier, they submitted public records requests to all counties affected and found the results were not quite as rosy as the company would have us believe...
We were in Nashville a couple of months ago, at a meeting of the Davidson County Board of Elections. We tried to warn them that they would run into trouble with their ES&S touch-screen voting machines, probably sooner, rather than later. But the Kool-Aid drunk Republicans on the board would have none of it. "Paper ballots are the biggest scam ever perpetrated on America," one of them told us. To our astonishment, he actually seemed to believe himself.
That GOP blend must be some very tasty Kool-Aid.
Meanwhile, the nice Democrats who were in the majority on the board sat there and said and did nothing. They were very very nice. And completely clueless.
And now, next door in Memphis (Shelby County), where they use equally bad Diebold touch-screen machines, Mayor Willie Herenton is calling for an end to Early Voting, which began this week, as reports of votes flipping began coming into his office just after polls opened...
She's hinted as much previously, and her new security requirements issued in the wake of her landmark "Top-to-Bottom Review" of e-voting systems would seem to preclude them, but CA Secretary of State, Debra Bowen has now given her most direct comment to date on the matter of voting machine "sleepovers".
"Sleepovers don't comply with the security requirements," Bowen said in response to a question we submitted on the matter during a conference call with the Secretary sponsored by the Courage Campaign.
"It's really simple," she added, after a pause following her immediate, direct reply to the question.
She went on to explain how unauthorized access to a single machine, by a single person, could allow an entire county's election to be flipped, putting everyone's election at risk.
The complete question and Bowen's full answer is transcribed at the end of this article.
The matter of voting machine "sleepovers" --- the practice of sending pre-programmed, election-ready voting systems home with pollworkers, often days and weeks prior to elections, for deliver to polls on Election Day --- first became a controversy last year after The BRAD BLOG exposed the issue as it occurred during San Diego's special election to replace disgraced Republican U.S. House Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Our exhaustive coverage (see: Busby/Bilbray category) of the resulting scandal, continued throughout some 100 articles here.
The special election in San Diego was the first federal contest to have taken place after several analysis of Diebold's e-voting system found that the systems utilized undisclosed software code prohibited by federal standards. The particular type of code is banned at the federal level since it can be exploited to flip an election undetectably.
Subsequent studies at Princeton University and elsewhere revealed that inappropriate access by a single person, to a single machine, could virally affect every other machine used across the same county.
The revelations made the notion of voting machine "sleepovers" all the more stunning to those of us who recognized the remarkable threat the practice posed to the security of our elections...
Cuyahoga County commissioners are annoyed at the growing cost of the county’s electronic voting system, and they vented their frustrations with the county’s election process at their meeting today.
“We should sue Diebold,” said Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, referring to Premier Election Solutions Inc., the new name for the Diebold Inc. subsidiary that sells electronic voting machines. The company sold the county electronic voting machines that have played a role in Election Day problems in recent years.
Bravo, Mr. Dimora. Of course you should!
But, ah, here's the rub...
[A]ssistant county prosecutor David Lambert questioned the wisdom of suing a vendor whose support the county relies on to maintain its voting machines and computer systems.
“We need Diebold to fix (the machines),“ he said.
We'll leave you to parse the phrasing of that last quote as you may.
The article goes on to point out that Dimora wants to "scrap the Diebold touch-screen system" after it turns out the county paid "$6.5 million above the $1.9 million originally budgeted for extra help and training before the November 2006 election."
Yes, but think of all the trees they saved! (That would be irony. For all of you Republicans following along.)
Just prior to the AG's investigation, Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. (now re-named Premier Election Solutions), sent a letter to Jefferson County, KY, election officials to tell them that they had been using an uncertified voting system for the last three elections.
At the beginning of the investigation Stumbo had contacted the Secretary of State, Republican Trey Grayson, who is rumored, like Stumbo, to be a gubernatorial candidate. SoS Grayson assured him that only certified systems were being used in the state.
Joining Karl Rove and Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales in announcing their retirements is Conny McCormack, the much embattled and always friendly to voting machine vendors Registrar of Voters for Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation.
In a statement on the LA County Registrar's website McCormack begins by saying:
After 30 years of public service, I have decided to retire at the end of this year. It has been an honor to serve the residents of Los Angeles County for the past 12 years as Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk and to lead a Department of exceptionally talented and dedicated employees committed to providing top quality service in all three diverse functional areas --- from election administration to recording property deeds to maintaining the public’s official records regarding voting, property ownership, birth, death, marriage, and more.
Here's a picture from a Diebold brochure that features McCormack. Could our question that accompanies the picture, which we used in a recent article on McCormack's expressed concerns for Diebold's profits, be an omen of what is to happen in the future?
UPDATE FROM BRAD: Despite McCormack's exit statement to the contrary, as linked above, she has left Los Angeles County a mess. At this time, we have no idea what voting system will be used in next February's Presidential Primary Election, as she's sided with the vendors, rather than the voters, when it came to meeting the requirements for CA SoS Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of voting systems.
Furthermore, while she joined the throng of California Registrars all too happy to rush to the media, to bitch about having just six months to implement Bowen's new security requirements with just six months before the next big primary, it's telling that she's willing to leave nation's largest county altogether just a month before that primary. What does that tell you about her (and the other Registrars') feigned concern about having enough time to make sure the voters are well served in the next election?
The question is not will she go to work for a voting company, the only question seems to be which one, and how soon.
On a recent Tuesday in August, several days after California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's pronouncement of decertification and then new, restrictive recertification of Diebold, Inc., voting systems, ten officers of the company simultaneously sold off some 10,379 shares of stock at a near 52-week high for the troubled company.
The ten Diebold insiders sold at $53.05 per share, netting more than half a million dollars in the transactions. The stock would begin to plummet nearly 15% a week later, just before it was disclosed that Diebold would spin off its elections division into a new company called "Premier Elections Solutions," after which the stock began a modest recovery.
Two days after the mass August 7th sale, two more Diebold officers would sell another 2,166 shares at the same $53.05 price.
All told, The BRAD BLOG has found the insider sales totaled $665,512 in the week before the value of the company's stock price would plunge in a massive sell-off triggered by a top financial analyst who had lowered the company's rating from "buy" to "hold."
Notably, the sales by the company officers did not occur immediately before or after the release of Bowen's findings of severe vulnerabilities in the company's voting machines, or immediately before or after her decertification/recertification announcement.
Instead, the sales came on a weekday when nothing else publicly --- other than the report we filed concerning security issues noted during our visit to Diebold headquarters in Allen, TX --- would seem to have prompted the sale.
A financial analyst that we spoke to, who asked not to be named, said he saw the spike in sales by the company officers as "a point of interest," noting "some smoke there," and adding that he found it notable that there had been no similar pattern of sell-offs by company officials in Diebold's recent history.
While the public did not yet know, on August 7th, of the impending plan to jettison Diebold's election division into a new, "independent" outfit with a new name, officers of the parent company likely had known long ago about the planned move...
Two Ohio activists have discovered that e-voting machines made by Election Systems and Software and used across the country produce time-stamped paper trails that permit the reconstruction of an election's results--including allowing voter names to be matched to their actual votes.
Ohio law permits anyone to walk into a county election office and obtain two crucial documents: a list of voters in the order they voted, and a time-stamped list of the actual votes. "We simply take the two pieces of paper together, merge them, and then we have which voter voted and in which way," said James Moyer, a longtime privacy activist and poll worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Moyer and fellow activist Jim Cropcho tested this by dropping by the election office of Delaware County, about 20 miles north of Columbus, and reviewing the results for a May 2006 vote to extend a property tax to fund mental retardation services (PDF). Their results indicate who voted "yes" and who voted "no"--and show that local couples (the Bennets, for instance) didn't always see eye-to-eye on the tax.
ES&S machines are used in 38 states, and, of course, the ES&S spokesperson quoted in the article blames Ohio's procedures for allowing such records to be viewed by the public in the first place. Remember, the voting machine companies hate transparency and don't believe citizens should have the right to see anything concerning their own democracy.
They will also try to distract from the fact that the greatest threat to election integrity and security comes from election insiders --- such as voting machine company employees and elections officials --- rather than the public at large.
The well-reported and sourced C|NET article explains that the other major voting machine companies, Sequoia and Diebold, both deny that the same thing --- matching voters to votes --- is possible with their machines. An unnamed Diebold spokesperson, as usual, goes so far as to lie about the matter to the reporter, claiming they don't include time-stamps on the records for security and privacy reason. He/she added, "We're very sensitive to the integrity of the process."
That Diebold spokesperson is, of course, lying.
Last week, The BRAD BLOG detailed fraudulent claims on Diebold's website which said that on their touch-screen systems "the order of cast ballots is scrambled to further insure ballot anonymity." That claim runs counter to the findings of University of California's recent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all certified voting systems in the state. The UC findings [PDF] on Diebold's voting system source code, as commissioned by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, revealed precisely the opposite to be the truth...
Though they show a small picture of their DRE, it's neither identified, linked, nor mentioned on the front page of their new site. That, despite their many years and millions of dollars spent pushing and lying about the hackable, inaccurate, unAmerican voting machine/scams.
Diebold's DREs were recently decertified [PDF] for use in the state of California for anything above one machine per polling place to marginally meet federal disabled voter requirements (even though CA found they failed to even meet disabled accessibility standards). Johns Hopkins Computer Scientist Avi Rubin also enumerated, in an article last Thursday, a few reasons why nobody is any longer interested in the DREs that Diebold/Premier may --- or may not be --- still selling.
Three Pennsylvania counties are considering pulling their old lever voting machines out of mothballs for this November's general election. The counties' "Plan B" comes in the wake of a refusal by e-voting machine company Advance Voting Systems (AVS) to pay the bill to federal "Independent Testing Authority" (ITA) lab iBeta Quality Assurance which has, according to NJ's Express-Times, found "thousands of source code irregularities and 24 documentation irregularities with AVS machines."
A problem in AVS's currently certified systems in PA makes them impossible to use as is in the upcoming elections.
iBeta is one of the private testing labs recently given approval by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) to test voting systems at the federal level. The labs, however, are still paid by the voting machine companies themselves.
The EAC's letter [PDF] also indicated that iBeta discovered AVS machines, contrary to the submitted documentation, used a different motherboard than those on the machines submitted for testing.
It's unclear, according to some of the reports from the PA papers, whether lever machines may legally be used in their elections, or if the counties may have to move to....wait for it...paper ballots in this November's municipal elections.
The Express-Times reveals the extraordinary arrogance of the voting machine companies, who, until heat has recently been brought to bear on both the EAC and the companies, had for years received a rubber-stamp for qualification of their systems by federal testers --- no matter how poorly the systems were built. After the EAC notified the company that certification testing was being suspended at iBeta due to lack of payment, "Howard Van Pelt, Advanced Voting Solutions president, maintained the machines are certified, regardless of what the commission says," according to the Express-Times.
Van Pelt, however, is wrong. But he, and the others like him, are used to receiving a free pass from the EAC and other Federal and local authorities for so many years that they may still be under the impression they can do whatever they want, despite what the federal government tells them and despite what the law says.
Yet AVS may not be the only voting machine company we may soon find unwilling --- or unable --- to pay for testing of voting systems, which could subsequently plunge elections in other states and counties into danger of not being carried out at all...
Diebold Elections Systems, Inc., is no more. At least in name.
After a year and a half of conversely trying to dump their failed voting unit and/or lying to customers about the reliability and security of their voting systems, corporate parent Diebold is giving up the ghost of its election business which, according to an analyst in a Reuters report, was "responsible for less than 10 percent of Diebold's revenue, and 100 percent of its bad publicity."
According to a company statement [PDF] just released, Diebold Elections Systems, Inc., will become Premier Election Solutions as of today. The company president, David Byrd, who has overseen the disastrous election unit for some time, will stay on as president to go down with the ship, apparently.
Applying full lipstick to the pig, the company statement declares, "The change to Premier signals a new beginning for the company." And President Byrd picks up where he left off, furiously polishing his turd with the claim that "This is both a fresh identity for our company and a unique opportunity for us to concentrate our focus solely on providing best-in-class elections solutions for current and potential customers."
No word on when they'd begin that "focus" after years of claiming same, but doing anything but. They have, however, radically lowered their expected revenue statement for the year by $120 million.
After a string of disastrous reports on the quality and security of their voting systems, along with plummeting stock prices since last week, it seems clear that Diebold, the once-great, more-than-100-year old company, is doing whatever it can at this point to save the corporate parent. While its stock price (DBD) plummeted at today's opening bell and is currently down some 5.6% from yesterday, the price has begun to rise again in the last hour or so on news of the spin-off.
More than anything, however, the move may well be a harbinger of a coming declaration of bankruptcy for Diebold/Premier, as we see it. With the unit now spun off from the blue chip Diebold parent, declaring bankruptcy or dissolving the company altogether might be less trouble for investors and the main company as a whole, as their extraordinary legal and financial liabilities continue to mount...
More information about the following report is available here. Since its airing, election legal watchdog Voter Action has called for a full Congressional investigation into the possibility of commercial fraud by the voting machine companies as based upon some of the startling information revealed in this exposé...
NOTE: As the original Google version of this report has been taken down for some reason, we are making it available here, in three easy to watch segments. Additionally, a complete transcript is now posted here, courtesy of Jerry Berkman.
Part 1 (30:09): Concentrates on voting machine vendor ES&S and their previously undisclosed touch-screen sweatshop factories in Manila...
Part 2 (8:07): Dan Rather interviews electronic voting apologist, machine tester, Michael Shamos...
Part 3 (26:25): The "HOLY COW!" revelations about Florida 2000 and the seven whistleblowers from Sequoia who reveal, for the first time, that "somebody" at Sequoia purposely used lower grade paper and misaligned the chads (for Palm Beach County, FL specifically) on the paper ballots used in that Presidential Election (see additional comments from John Gideon and Brad Friedman on this section below)...
UPDATE By John Gideon: The revelations in Rather's report from the Sequoia punch-card printers, that inferior paper was used in the 2000 election in Palm Beach, are stunning. It was all about corporate greed. Sequoia Voting Systems has a big anvil hanging over their heads and it is hanging by a thread. No wonder Smartmatic only paid $16M for Sequoia which had assets over $40M. The previous owners of Sequoia, De La Rue, wanted out and now Smartmatic wants out but who is going to buy Sequoia now with all of their liabilities?
ADDITIONAL UPDATE FROM BRAD: Holy cow! If you haven't seen this thing, you must. The second half of the program, after the stunning revelations of the ES&S sweatshop in Manila, followed by a mostly useless interview with voting machine apologist Michael Shamos, breaks some enormous news concerning Sequoia's apparent effort to create havoc with Florida's punch-cards in 2000. With seven company whistleblowers, all interviewed on camera, and by name, objecting to the company's use of faulty paper and then misalignment of chads, specifically for Democratic Palm Beach County only, this thing could lead to huge fallout.
The remarkable report --- for which Rather should receive some kind of award --- reopens 2000, as nobody at Sequoia is willing to cop to signing off on the bad paper and misaligned chads business after all seven employees interview had refused to do so. Who gamed that election? At whose orders? And doesn't that open up new questions concerning Clint Curtis' allegations that he was asked by Tom Feeney, prior to the 2000 election, to create software to rig a touch-screen voting system. Up until now, one of the criticism of Curtis' claims has been that "nobody was even thinking about touch-screens prior to the 2000 election. This report, and the fact that Sequoia was using touch-screens as early as 1998 in Riverside County, CA, may blow that wide open.
UPDATE 8/28/07: More details on the above update, and this report seals up yet another allegation of the formerly Republican whistleblower Clint Curtis, now here...