After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
In his syndicated "California Focus" column (appearing in 93 papers around the state), Thomas D. Elias opines today on the partisan-passed election reform bill we've been yelling about for months now here at The BRAD BLOG. He accurately describes SB 360 as "a prominent entry in the unofficial sweepstakes to determine this year's worst new state law".
Here's the possible threat: This measure will allow the California secretary of state to approve new electronic voting systems that have received no certification at all for use in actual elections. It also ends a long-standing requirement that all electronic voting systems be certified at the federal level before they're used here and allows counties to develop their own voting systems.
This bill cried out for a veto from Brown, considering the problems encountered by electronic voting systems during much of the last decade. Comprehensive testing demonstrated that many could be hacked, with the possibility that programming might be inserted so that - for one example - when a voter touched a screen favoring one candidate, the vote actually went into someone else's column.
Elias continues by pointing out the dishonest way in which the bill was represented to lawmakers and the public by its main sponsor, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D) who also happens to be a leading 2014 candidate for CA Secretary of State and, therefore, a potential main beneficiary of the unprecedented, sweeping new executive powers that the law will grant to the state's SoS.
A new bill that would grant unprecedented and unchecked powers to the California Sec. of State --- including those that could allow him or her to approve new e-voting systems for use in actual elections with no testing at all --- was approved late last week by the state legislature along partisan lines. It is now on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for his signature or his veto.
The Governor should veto SB 360, a sweeping, dangerous, ill-conceived and dishonestly presented piece of legislation, passed with little debate in public or in either chamber of the state legislature.
The measure has been, and is being, deceptively sold to the public and to state lawmakers as necessary to allow CA counties --- specifically Los Angeles County --- to "develop, own and operate public voting systems". In fact, the bill does much much more than that. What it actually does, among other things, is end the long-standing requirement that all electronic voting systems used in the state be tested and certified at the federal level before being allowed for use in California.
The bill also includes a provision allowing for new voting systems to be used in "pilot programs" during "a legally binding election", before the systems have been certified by the state in any way. That, in effect, could allow a new system to be used in an actual election, by actual voters in the Golden State, without any independent testing whatsoever, depending on a Secretary of State's interpretation of this poorly drafted bill. That should be a serious concern to all voters --- particularly given the massive flaws already discovered in e-voting systems used across the state (and country) that were subjected to independent testing by both federal and state authorities before use.
In other words, SB 360, as approved by the state legislature, does away with all federal testing for voting systems used in California, and, to make matters worse, grants the Secretary of State sole power to approve e-voting systems for use in actual elections --- even without certification testing by state auditors either.
As if all of that is not bad enough, the bill's Democratic author, state Senator Alex Padilla --- a leading 2014 candidate for CA Sec. of State himself --- has been misleadingly pitching the bill as necessary in order to allow for the use of non-proprietary, publicly-owned voting systems in the state. But, in fact, CA already allows the use of non-proprietary, publicly-owned voting systems. In fact, the voting system currently in use across L.A. County --- the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation, with more voters than 36 actual states --- is already publicly-owned!
Such facts were not been mentioned by Padilla during his office's advocacy for the bill, and they have failed to respond to our multiple queries on that point and several others since the bill was initially introduced earlier this year. Instead, the state Senator and SoS candidate continues to dishonestly pitch the bill to the public, as evidenced again in his Friday press release (posted at the bottom of this article), touting the bill's approval by the state legislature.
"Allowing counties to develop, own and operate voting systems will increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections," Padilla is deceptively quoted, in bold text, as saying in a number of press releases in support of the bill, including Friday's release. He then adds misleadingly (since we already have such a system here in Los Angeles): "A public voting system will be more transparent, instill public trust, be more accountable and provide greater access to all voters."
In short, SB 360 is a dangerous, irresponsible bill which fails to learn from the recent history of previously irresponsible and/or corrupt Secretaries of State, completely rewrites the state's election code to allow for less testing, rather than more, of the state's already-buggy and insecure collection of e-voting systems, and it's being sold dishonestly to the public and lawmakers by a legislator who is very likely to be the recipient of its new, sweeping, unprecedented, executive powers...
For two weeks since Election Day, we have been working to ensure every vote is counted accurately and fairly. We have made progress towards that goal, thanks to the dedication of our supporters and their unrelenting efforts to protect the integrity of the democratic process. While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election.
While there are certainly still inaccuracies in the results, and the actions of the St. Lucie County and Palm Beach County Supervisors of Elections rightly raise questions in my mind and for many voters, after much analysis and this past weekend's recount in St. Lucie County, our legal team does not believe there are enough over-counted, undercounted or fraudulent votes to change the outcome of the election.
While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change. Given the extremely high evidentiary hurdles involved in a successful challenge, I will not ask my generous supporters to help fund a drawn-out, expensive legal effort with little chance of success. Therefore, we will not contest the certification or challenge the seating of Congressman-elect Murphy.
Serving the people in the House of Representatives has been among the highest honors of my life, but this seat does not belong to me, or for that matter, to any individual. It belongs to the people.
I want to congratulate my opponent, Patrick Murphy, as the new Congressman from the 18th Congressional District. I pray he will serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and put the interests of our nation before his own.
With West's concession, however, there are still a few points to keep in mind moving forward...
It was a crazy weekend --- and that may be an understatement --- in St. Lucie County, Florida, as the fight continued over the questionable, completely unverified-by-humans, and extremely close computer-reported election results between Rep. Allen West (R) and Patrick Murphy (D) in the U.S. House race for Florida's 18th Congressional District.
Two things, if nothing else however, have become clear. 1) The Florida Democrats supporting the unverified computer-tallied results, which reportedly offer a slim margin in Murphy's favor, have become virtually indistinguishable from the Republicans who supported George W. Bush over Al Gore in the state during the 2000 Presidential Election debacle, and for the same, unjustifiable and partisan reasons. 2) Allen West has terrible and incompetent election attorneys.
Here's a recap of all that has happened --- and there has been quite a bit --- over the weekend, since we last covered the race on Friday, just after a St. Lucie Circuit Court judge denied West's motion demanding a retabulation of all eight days of Early Voting ballots in the county and just before the county's Canvassing Board took up the same issue shortly thereafter in what became a seven hour meeting of the board to determine how to proceed.
(And all of that in the wake of a previous partial retally of three out of eight days worth of early votes had resulted in the unexplained disappearance of some 800 votes when the same paper ballots were run through the same machines a second time due to unexplained "issues" with the electronic tabulation systems the first time around. That initial re-tally had resulted in a net gain of some 500 votes by West.)
The insane weekend events included a two-day machine "retabulation" of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie (one of three counties, along with Martin and Palm Beach, that make up FL-18); the discovery of more than 300 previously-untallied early ballots in the same county; new computer-reported tallies resulting in pick-ups by both candidates, for an overall gain of nearly 300 votes by the current leader Murphy; and a County Supervisor of Elections who ended up spending the weekend in the hospital...
A Circuit Court Judge in St. Lucie County today denied Florida's Republican Rep. Allen West's motion to order a re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in the county, after a partial re-tally of Early Votes last Sunday resulted in the disappearance of some 800 votes in the FL-18 U.S. House race between West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
It the second denial for West, a "Tea Party" favorite, in a Florida court room, where he had previously filed a motion to impound paper ballots and voting systems before all ballots had even yet been run through them.
"In denying West's motion," the paper said, "Vaughn noted the [St. Lucie County] canvassing board is considering the issue at a meeting this afternoon. The judge also said that West has other legal remedies - specifically mentioning a statute that allows a candidate to contest an election within 10 days of the final certification of results. That certification is scheduled for Tuesday."
Murphy's attorney argued in response that there was "no basis for a full recount of early votes and if the canvassing board orders a full recount of them, the Murphy campaign will go to court to try to block it."
"If the canvassing board were to decide that they want to do that without any evidentiary basis to do so, we'll be back before your honor with a motion for injunctive relief against them doing it because under the law the statute that we cited for your honor they have absolutely no right to do it," the Post quotes Murphy attorney Gerald Richman as arguing in court today.
No "evidentiary basis"? Really? A partial selection of ballots --- just the last three days of eight days of Early Voting --- are re-tallied by the same machines that tallied them originally, but give a completely different result the second time they are tallied and that isn't "evidentiary basis" for re-tallying all of the votes? If that isn't a basis for a full public hand-count of all ballots, I'm not sure what is. Unfortunately, without a court order, thanks to the state's Republican legislature following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in that state, it's illegal to hand-count paper ballots once they've been tallied by an electronic machine.
[Update: See bottom of story for update on what happened at the canvassing board on Friday, and much more!]
I was on Thom Hartmann's TV show, The Big Picture, last night to discuss the FL-18 U.S. House mess where West currently trails Murphy by a very slim margin, according to oft-failed, easily-manipulated, paper ballot optical-scan computers made by three different private companies in the three different counties that make up Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional District.
As we've covered in detail here at The BRAD BLOG, a margin of some 2,400 votes out of some 330,000 votes tallied as of last Friday was dwindled down to just under 2,000 votes as of last Sunday when St. Lucie County --- one of the three, along with Martin and Palm Beach Counties, that make up FL-18 --- carried out a partial re-tally of Early Voting ballots due, they say, to an unexplained "issue" on the Diebold optical-scan systems used to tally those ballots in the county.
Nonetheless, at this time, West is still some 250 votes shy of a mandated state "recount" which is triggered when the margin is .5% or less. Currently, the margin is just eight one-hundredths of a percentage point shy of that mark, at .58%, with West having filed his court for an expanded re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie earlier this week. While his court motion had called for a full re-tally of all Early Votes in St. Lucie, the motion failed to request a re-tally of either Election Day votes, absentee ballots or any of the ballots in FL-18's other two counties, for unexplained reasons (the West campaign has not replied to our queries on that) as we also discussed on Hartmann's show...
West did file an amended complaint this morning before the hearing, seeking a re-tally of absentee ballots in St. Lucie as well, after the campaign claimed they had found "significant problems" with the records for some of those votes, charging that the number of absentee ballots in some precincts exceeds the number of voters listed as casting absentee ballots there...
A court hearing has been set for Friday in St. Lucie County, Florida, to hear arguments by Republican Rep. Allen West, who is now seeking a recount of all Early Voting ballots cast in the county.
Over the weekend, some 800 votes simply appear to have vanished from the tally in Florida's 18th District razor-thin U.S. House race between West and his Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy (D), after an unexplained partial re-tally of ballots cast during the last three days of Florida's eight days of Early Voting in the county, one of three that make up the new FL-18.
With very good reason, West is demanding that all Early Voting ballots be re-tallied in St. Lucie, on the heels of the unexplained "issues" with memory cards in the Diebold electronic optical-scan tabulators that county officials cited vaguely as the reason for Sunday's partial re-tally.
Where the extreme and extremely controversial West and his supporters have claimed the election is being "stolen" on behalf of Murphy --- a claim for which we are aware of no actual evidence --- The BRAD BLOG has now twice reported in great detail (first here and then here) on the oft-failed, easily-manipulated electronic systems, made by three different companies, in each of the three different counties (St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach) that now constitute FL-18.
Why West has failed to demand a full hand-count of all ballots, in all three counties, as opposed to just the Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie, is a question that West's campaign has yet to resolve for us. Our queries to the campaign, to date, have gone unanswered.
Whether a hand-count, versus another machine count by the same faulty machines, is even allowable in Florida, remains to be seen, since the state's Republican-majority legislature, following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in the state, insanely mandated that paper ballots, once tallied by a computer, could not be examined by hand.
A mandatory "recount" (a re-tally by the same machines) is required in Florida when the margin between the two top candidates is 0.5% or less. The margin in FL-18 is now just 249 votes shy of that threshold.
Given that 800 votes seem to have simply disappeared without explanation --- Murphy lost 667 and West lost 132 votes during Sunday's partial re-tally, decreasing Murphy's lead over West by 535 votes in a race where just 1,907 votes (out of some 330,000 votes cast), or 0.58%, now separate the two --- and given that the different tally occurred while re-scanning the very same ballots on the very same machines, it's almost beyond comprehension that both parties, at this point, aren't calling for a full, public hand-count of all paper ballots in all three counties in hopes of determining who really won and who really lost the race.
At this point, who knows if the machines were right the first time they tallied the same ballots, or the second time they tallied the same ballots, or, for that matter, either of the times they tallied the same ballots? Anybody else without a partisan dog in this hunt, other than us, beginning to see the problem here?...
On Sunday, election officials in St. Lucie County, Florida re-tallied votes from the last three days of Early Voting, citing what county officials described cryptically as "an issue with the memory cards that record the ballots when they're fed through the machines originally."
Among the races which saw a partial re-tally of paper ballots, as they were sent through the same optical-scan systems which scanned them the first time, was the contentious and very close U.S. House race in Florida's new 18th Congressional district. As The BRAD BLOG reported in detail late last week, Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy was said to have been leading Republican Rep. Allen West in the race by a very slim margin --- just .78% at the time --- after initial Election Day tallies in all three counties which comprise the new district. The extreme and often extremely controversial, far Rightwing West currently represents Florida's 22nd District, but is now running in the new, redistricted 18th.
Following Sunday's re-tally, both candidates reportedly lost votes. West lost 132 votes while Murphy lost an extraordinary 667, for an overall pickup by West of some 535 votes.
On Friday, Murphy was said to have been leading West --- whose attorneys have already been in court, unsuccessfully demanding that voting systems and paper ballots be immediately impounded --- by just 2,456 votes out of approximately 318,000 tallied at the time.
After Sunday's partial re-tally, Murphy is still said to be leading West, according to the Florida Division of Elections website, but by just 1,907 votes. The current .58% margin of difference puts West just barely outside of the .5% margin that would trigger an automatic "recount" (albeit by the same faulty machines) in the state of Florida.
In our report on Friday, supporting West's demand for a hand-count of all paper ballots in the race, we detailed the three different electronic tabulation systems used in each of the counties --- St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach --- which now comprise FL-18, and how each of those systems have a long track record for failure during elections, mistallies and the ability to be easily manipulated by both hackers and election insiders alike.
Following the partial re-tally on Sunday, West's attorneys and supporters were predictably outraged and claiming, without presenting any actual evidence to support them, that "liberals" and/or St. Lucie's Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker, a Democrat, was attempting to "steal" the race...
On Election Night, Democrats and progressives celebrated the reported defeat of far Rightwing Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-FL22) by his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional district in Eastern Florida.
With precinct votes unofficially tabulated in the three counties which comprise the new Democratic-leaning district --- Martin, St. Lucie and part of Palm Beach --- Murphy reportedly leads West by 2,456 votes out of 318,200 electronically tallied to date. That number does not include what West's campaign manager describes as "tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and potential provisional ballots across the district."
Nonetheless, Murphy has declared victory, which carries no particular legal weight, while West has filed legal documents in St. Lucie and Palm Beach calling for the impounding of voting systems, paper ballots and a hand-count of those ballots.
West may be a far Right extremist. A fair amount of evidence even suggests that West may be certifiably insane. But, even far right, possibly insane candidates, and especially their supporters, deserve to have their votes counted in a way that they can know, for certain, that they either won or lost an election.
Given the oft-failed, easily-manipulated, unoverseeable electronic voting and tabulation systems --- each with a long and well-documented record of failure and miscounts --- used in the three counties that make up Florida's new 18th district (as well as the rest of the state of Florida, and the rest of the 50 states for that matter), West and his supporters have every reason to demand a public, 100% hand-count of paper ballots before conceding defeat. Particularly in an election with such a slim margin, as reported by the flawed electronic systems, said to stand between the two candidates...
Todd was responding, no doubt, to the many folks who have been justifiably concerned of late, since it was discovered that a bunch of Bain Capital investors, led by Mitt Romney's son Tagg, via a company called H.I.G. Capital (believed to stand for Hart Intercivic Group) took over control of Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machine company, in 2011.
The Austin-based Hart company, according to VerifiedVoting.org's database, supplies electronic voting machines and paper ballot tabulators that will be used to tally votes in the Presidential Election this year in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
I offered my point of view about those concerns earlier this month, explaining that it was not just the private ownership of Hart's machines by Romney backers which voters should be concerned about, but the private ownership of the similar systems in all fifty states that will once again be used to tabulate the results of this year's Presidential Election with little --- and very often zero --- possibility of oversight by the public or even by election officials.
Todd does an extraordinary disservice to the electorate with Tweets like the one above, and I'd be happy to come on his daily MSNBC show any time to explain why, as I have told him via Twitter in response to the above.
As Todd has not responded in kind, and to expand upon my response to Todd there, I'd like to ask him these few respectful questions...
"Several tanker trucks full of political ink have been spilled on Mitt Romney's tenure as a vulture capitalist at Bain Capital," Bello and Fitrakis wrote. "A more important story, however, is the fact that Bain alumni, now raising big money as Romney bundlers are also in the electronic voting machine business. This appears to be a repeat of the infamous former CEO of Diebold Wally O'Dell, who raised money for Bush while his company supplied voting machines and election management software in the 2004 election."
Lee Fang at The Nation recently confirmed the FreePress reporting in a story of his own on the "crony capitalism" of Tagg Romney, whose father's money and high-profile connections present a number of troubling corporate conflicts of interest should Mitt Romney become President. The Daily Dolt also followed up with a very well-documented article on the H.I.G. group, their connections to Bain, and their takeover of Hart Intercivic.
Hart's announcement of the deal describes H.I.G.'s role as as "co-investors", though the financial services firm which brokered the deal described it in their own announcement as a full-fledged acquisition: "Hart Intercivic was acquired by HIG Capital late last week. The deal caps off a 2+ year relationship with Hart! Congrats to both Hart and the HIG team….its going to be a great partnership!"
When the story initially broke, I spoke about it on the radio with Fitrakis, but didn't comment on it at The BRAD BLOG for a number of reasons. One being the time we've been spending, during the same period, consumed by the continuing breaking story of the RNC/Romney consultant Nathan Sproul and his companies at the center of the national GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal which we've been covering in detail since it first broke several weeks ago. Secondly, and not to downplay this story, because it's a very good and important one, the fact is that, though the names of the corporate titans and companies are different, it is essentially the same story that we have been telling here, over and over again --- and warning about with hair afire --- at The BRAD BLOG for nearly a decade.
Moreover, I've been on the road all this week for a conference, with much less time online than usual. But since so many folks have picked up on the Romney/Bain/H.I.G./Hart Intercivic stories and have sent email and Twitter queries to me about it, allow me to very quickly share a few thoughts, on this, some of which I sent to a reporter who also raised this issue with me late this week...
I was first interviewed by Anastasia Churkina of RT America, the English language Russian-sponsored cable and satellite news outlet in the U.S., about the failed e-voting systems in this country (and the failed U.S. corporate media as well) back before the 2008 election.
Here we are, four years later, and Churkina has put together another report or RT, for which I was interviewed again, on the same e-voting and e-tabulation concerns. Four years later and things are arguably no better in the U.S. than they were then, except that now we all know even more about the dangers of the oft-failed, easily-manipulated systems which tally votes in all 50 states --- while still having done almost nothing about it. Her new report ran Friday on RT, and afterwards I was interviewed live, via Skype, about it on their Evening News program.
As I noted earlier this week, when running CBS4 Miami's excellent first-in-a-series investigative report on the issue, focus on the serious concerns about computer tabulation failure and malfeasance have been largely lost this year, once again, amidst the continuing (and necessary) focus on rampant GOP voter suppression efforts. So it's nice to see at least a few outlets keeping their eye on this particular ball, even if it always comes way too late --- just weeks before the election --- to do much about it, other than to raise a bit of needed awareness.
Here's Churkina's very good pre-taped RT special report...
And here's my subsequent live interview following it, on the RT Evening News with anchor Kristine Frazao. Appropriately, a few computer issues, at a key moment, made the interview a bit more difficult, if instructive...
* * *
P.S. For those who may have noticed, yes, I was also interviewed by (gasp!) Fox "News" this week on the latest in the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal. The interview, by their "voter fraud" reporter Eric Shawn, was pre-taped and then parts of it were used first on Special Report with Bret Baier Thursday night, and then a longer portion on one of their afternoon shows on Friday in a separate package. I hope to share both of those videos with you, and, knowing me, a few thoughts on them as well --- as soon as I can get to 'em...
Lost in all of the front-end voter suppression and voter registration fraud news over the past many months this cycle, is the continuing "back-end" threat to Election Integrity still very much present in our unoverseeable, easily-manipulated, oft-failed electronic voting systems --- both touch-screen and paper ballot optical-scan systems.
Helping to balance that, if only a bit this week, we get some excellent investigative local TV news reporting from Miami's Michele Gillen and her CBS4 Investigative team. They have noticed that we still have a very serious problem with the privatization of our supposedly-public electoral system, which now employes proprietary computer systems from private companies to determine the results of our elections...
MIAMI (CBS4) – Ion Sancho is a man on a mission. Just weeks from the presidential election, one of the most veteran election supervisors in the state of Florida, thinks there’s plenty for him and his colleagues to lose sleep over.
What keeps him awake at night? Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on.
“We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.
“I think the citizens should be screaming from the rooftops,” he punctuates with the candor and directness he is known for.
The legendary Ion Sancho, quoted above, is Leon County, FL's long-time Supervisor of Elections, so trusted by both parties that he was named to oversee the (eventually aborted) 2000 Presidential Election recount in the Sunshine State. He was also the first election official in the nation to allow an independent hack test of an electronic voting system. That test resulted in the stunning hack of a Diebold optical-scan system as seen in the shocking climactic scene of HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy.
Despite that very public hack, almost seven years ago, the very same machines are still in use in dozens of states. All the rest use computers that are virtually identical, and as easily manipulated and as often malfunctioning.
Sancho goes on, in the report above, to give today's Florida election system a grade of "F. F. F." He's being kind though.
CBS4's report goes on to add that "other Florida election supervisors" that they have met with to date have similarly stressed that "they are uncomfortable that they must rely so heavily on the machine’s manufacturers for answers as to what’s working…. and potentially not working… in their voting systems."
Just go read the rest and/or watch the video report above from CBS4's Michele Gillen, please.
We spoke earlier this week to the producer of the CBS4 investigative series, and she promises The BRAD BLOG there will be regular, new installments in the series between now and Election Day, including what she described to us as a "very big" story in the weeks ahead.
Apparently, they never learn. Or they just don't care.
It's Primary Election day in Alaska today, with voters heading to the polls to cast mostly paper ballots for U.S. House of Representative candidates, state House and Senate candidates and two ballot measures (one concerning property taxes and another concerning new Alaska Coastal Management Program standards for the review of projects in coastal areas.)
While turnout is expected to be low, at least the Diebold optical-scan machines are fully rested and ready to go after their lengthy "sleepovers" at poll workers' houses in the days prior to today's elections! Yes, the state of Alaska still sends their incredibly vulnerable Diebold optical-scan systems home with poll workers days before the election, where they can do whatever they like with them, so they can bring them to the polls on the morning of Election Day.
For example, here's a photo of one of those machines that will be in use today, as obtained from an Alaskan source over the weekend by The BRAD BLOG. The machine appears as if it has received a full going over at the workshop of one of the poll workers who enjoyed the time spent with their machine during the several days of "sleepover" over the past week...
Alaska, like some 24 states across the country, still uses the exact same system which was used to flip an entire mock election in Leon County, FL in such a way that only a manual hand-count of the paper ballots would have revealed that the results had been reversed after the machine's memory card was accessed and manipulated by a computer security expert. The haunting event was revealed in the climactic final scene of HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy. [The full scene is also embedded below.]
The photo above from an Alaskan poll worker is the same system seen being hacked in Leon County, FL in the HBO film. The only difference is that Diebold removed their name from many machines afterward, given the hit their company took when their then CEO promised to deliver the state of Ohio to George W. Bush in a Republican fund raising letter before the 2004 election.
Of course, there are "tamper-evident" security seals placed over some of the most vulnerable parts of the optical-scan systems, and those could never be defeated without leaving visual clues behind, right?
Well, funny thing. In Alaska, when a security seal is discovered broken on their tabulation computers --- if they are discovered broken --- poll workers are instructed to simply replace it with another one and start the voting, as both several poll workers, as well as an Alaska election official (who has now been fired) confirmed with The BRAD BLOG. Several seals, the now former Alaska election official told us when she still had a job, are provided to poll workers to make replacing broken seals very simple, as seen in this next photo...
We now have yet another ominous sign of trouble that may be on the horizon for this November's election. As if we needed yet another sign. And, once again, the concerns come via failures on paper ballot-based optical-scan computer tally systems.
Election officials in Genessee County, Michigan have acknowledged failures by the county's M-100 model optical-scan system, made by Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), during its Aug. 7 primary.
According to the county's Supervisor of Elections and Vital Records, Doreen D. Fulcher, the system experienced paper jams that resulted in ballots being fed through the system more than once. Fulcher, who also noted that there were a "number of ballots cast" that "didn't initially match poll book numbers," downplayed the scope of the problem. Flint's MLive, however, reported that the County Board of Canvassers were "still unraveling" the problem ten days after the election.
It is not the first time the M-100, set to be used in 32 different states again this November, has caused headaches for election officials and voters. The systems have a documented record of failing to count the same ballots the same way twice during pre-election testing. Nor is it the only optical-scan system made by ES&S, the largest e-voting vendor in the nation, that has failed time and again during elections.
As The BRAD BLOG previously reported, ballots obtained by the New York Daily News through a public records request revealed that ES&S op-scan systems used in a South Bronx precinct in 2010 failed to count some 70% of the paper ballots correctly in that year's primary election. In November's general election that year, some 54% of the ballots were mistallied at the same precinct.
The South Bronx used the newer ES&S model DS200, which the company confirmed could overheat, causing anywhere from 30% to 70% of the votes scanned by the machines to be erroneously discarded or erroneously counted. Thus, in the case of New York, that meant that tens of thousands of perfectly valid votes went uncounted, while thousands of "phantom votes" in races that voters hadn't intended to vote in at all were counted as valid.
The confirmation of the New York failure came almost two years after the election, once the newspaper was finally able to review the paper ballots by hand, under public records laws.
While Genessee County used the earlier ES&S Model M100, as we previously reported, the unreliability of opaque optical-scan computer tallying systems are, by no means, confined to the DS200 or, for that matter, to ES&S systems. Similar systems will once again be used across the entire country this November, to tally the Presidential election and all the races below it...either accurately or not...
New paper ballot optical-scan computer tabulator systems used to tally millions of votes in New York --- as well as "swing states" such as Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin --- do not tally votes correctly. That stunning admission comes courtesy of a new report released by the private company which manufactures, sells, services and programs the systems which are now believed to have mistallied tens of thousands of ballots in New York in 2010.
The votes of more than ten million voters could be affected by a newly revealed failure in the voting systems set for use in those four states in this year's Presidential election, and in more than 50 different jurisdictions in Wisconsin during next month's historic recall elections.
Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), the largest e-voting machine company in the U.S. and the maker of the paper ballot op-scan tally systems in question, have confirmed that their systems may overheat when used over several hours (for example, during an election!), and that they then may mistally and/or incorrectly discard anywhere from 30% to 70% of votes scanned by the machines.
The only way to know that a hand-marked paper ballot had been mistallied by the system would be to examine the ballots by hand to assure that the computer had read and recorded the voters' selections correctly.
The New York Daily News editorial board --- which has been persistently forcing the issue on state Election Officials who initially ignored massive mistallies discovered in the South Bronx during the state's 2010 election --- reports on ES&S' confirmation of the latest failure in a story headlined "We told you so: Newfangled voting machine screwed up". Their article today begins this way...
You know those new electronic vote-scanning machines that are supposed to be foolproof in reading and counting every ballot in an election? Well, they're anything but foolproof.
In fact, they can screw up voter tallies to a fare-thee-well even after technicians carefully calibrate and test them.
So state and city election officials have discovered, along with the machine's manufacturer, thanks to insistent prodding by this page.
Earlier this year, the newspaper discovered --- through public records requests for the paper ballots in a single precinct in the South Bronx --- that the ES&S model DS200 op-scan system had failed to count some 70% of paper ballots correctly in the 2010 primary election. In that November's general election, some 54% of the ballots were mistallied at the same precinct.
The result, as confirmed by ES&S, tens of thousands of perfectly valid votes may have gone uncounted, while thousands of "phantom votes" in races that voters hadn't intended to vote in at all were counted as valid votes.
The Daily News characterizes the initial response by election officials in NY, after the paper had discovered the massive failures, as "a statement of severe psychological denial."
All of the above likely sounds very familiar to long-time readers of The BRAD BLOG, where we are considering changing the name of our news site to "We Told You So: Newfangled Voting Machines Screw Up," as a tip of the hat to the NY Daily News, and to better reflect a great deal of our nearly 10 years worth of content here.
Unfortunately, the latest example of secret vote-tallying computers made by private companies failing to accurate tally our once-public elections, is not only affecting New York. Moreover, the failure isn't isolated to the ES&S model DS200 paper ballot optical-scan system. As we've reported here for years, and on a number of recent occasions over just the past few months, similar failures have been discovered in other states and on other similarly designed paper ballot optical-scan systems.
If you think that simply because you are not forced to vote on a 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting machine that your ballot will be counted and counted accurately this year, think again...