We've been reporting for the last week or so on the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines which are flipping votes from Democratic candidates to others in, so far, at least four states. We've showed you actual footage of it and how even after being "recalibrated" these machines still continue to flip votes.
(See our special coverage page here for links to our many recent stories on this issue, and advice on what to do if the problem happens to you.)
Unfortunately, it's not just the error-prone, hackable, wholly unverifiable iVotronics from ES&S which are failing. Error-prone, hackable, and wholly unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by Hart InterCivic, Diebold, and Sequoia Voting Systems are also having the same problems across the country. And the Democrats, who have the most to lose, continue to do nothing about it...
In a stunning admission Sequoia Voting Systems has admitted to not printing and mailing over 11,000 absentee ballots to Denver, Colorado, voters. Their spokeswoman claimed they “made an unfortunate mistake.” In fact, the company had failed to notify the city of this “mistake” and when originally asked they lied and told the city they had delivered all 21,450 ballots they were supposed to print and deliver to the post office on Oct. 16. Sequoia claims they will have ballots printed and delivered to the post office by tomorrow, Monday. Voters have until election day to get those ballots marked and either back in the mail or delivered to any early polling site. Not mentioned by anyone is if any overseas voters or military are affected by this failure.
In Jefferson Co, Arkansas, voters will vote on ballots that don’t have some alderman races on them. The county discovered their error too late and they have now fixed it but all early voting has been done without those races being voted on by the voters. The county will just forget all of those voters and hope that none of the races are close, which would open them up for potential lawsuits....
As I briefly reported in Friday night's "Daily Voting News" a New Jersey Superior Court Judge has ruled that a court-ordered Princeton University report critical of the state's Sequoia Advantage DRE (touch-screen) voting machines could be released to the public. The only stipulation was that four paragraphs and a number of appendices were to be redacted.
The lost votes during New Jersey's Super Tuesday elections "were caused by two different programming errors on the part of Sequoia"
"New Jersey should not use any version of the AVC Advantage that it has not actually examined with the assistance of skilled computer-security experts."
"The AVC Advantage’s susceptibility to installation of a fraudulent vote-counting program is far more than an imperfection: it is a fatal flaw."
"The AVC Advantage is too insecure to use in New Jersey."
Before the Princeton report was even released, however, Sequoia Voting Systems issued a press statement [PDF] and a scathing response to the Princeton report. The Sequoia response, all 19 pages, is a strongly worded attack on the Princeton computer scientists and their motives, but fails to respond at all to, perhaps, the most crucial point in the devastating Princeton report...
After failing to count votes accurately in a number of recent elections in FL, NJ, and D.C., a report has now been released by the D.C. Board of Elections noting that, as it turns out, Michelle Shafer, official mouthpiece for both Sequoia Voting Systems and the election industry's PR outfit, Election Technology Council (ETC), has once again been misleading the public about Sequoia's bad voting equipment --- both touch-screen and paper ballot systems --- and the fact that they don't work.
The D.C. Board released its report on its investigation into an incident from last month's primary where some 1,500 phantom votes were recorded on Sequoias tabulator after being uploaded from a paper ballot system. There should have been just over 300 votes, instead of thousands, from Precinct 141.
Shafer had originally claimed (as usual) human error and static electricity were to blame. When the incident was first discovered in September, Shafer told the Washington Post: "There's absolutely no problem with the machines in the polling places. No. No."
Turns out, Shafer lied. Again. As the D.C. report notes Sequoia was "too quick to exonerate itself and the equipment used in the tabulation process" and that "the evidence appears to indicate that there was a problem both in equipment (the server) and in the software"...
John Gideon briefly noted what happened in Florida in yesterday's Daily Voting News, but it deserves a bit more attention. A lot more attention, actually.
A recent contested election for Circuit Judge in Palm Beach County, FL, where the initial results showed a 17 vote margin for one of the candidates, continues to reveal differing counts every time the same ballots are run through the county's new optical-scan paper ballot counters made by Sequoia Voting Systems.
Sequoia is one of America's largest private voting machine vendors, and one of its worst (even though we realize such judgements are akin to determing whether Mussolini was worse than Stalin.) Just 30-some days from America's next and likely-largest election ever, the desperate company is under fire today for recent voting system failures in Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and New Jersey.
For the moment, let's look at what was reported out of Palm Beach yesterday, where re-scans of 262 rejected ballots on Sequoia paper-ballot scanners revealed differing results each and every time they were scanned...
Tomorrow (Friday) there will be a hearing in Washington DC to discuss and take testimony about the failures in the DC primary election. How did one precinct have over a thousand more votes than it had voters? Again this seems to clearly be a machine issue.
The tie that binds Palm Beach Co and Washington DC together is that their voting machines were all supplied by Sequoia Voting Systems...
ADDENDUM FROM BRAD: More details on all of the above now here...
Last week we told you aboutThe Simpsons' upcoming episode wherein Homer, attempting to vote for Barack Obama on a touch-screen voting machine, has a few problems in the process. Here's the very funny, were it not so very unfunny, clip from the upcoming show...
So The Simpsons now get it. Why don't Obama and the Dems? And why are they doing little or nothing to ensure that every voter in the nation is able to cast a vote on a hand-marked paper ballot this year?
Tell your favorite candidate(s) that you'll support them if they support you and your vote by pledging not to concede this year until all votes are counted, counted accurately, or challenged in a court of law. (See StandingForVoters.org more info, the pledge, and stuff you can hand to your favorite candidate to demand they stand up for you this time!)
It is now a bit fun watching some previously silent news organizations fall all over themselves as they suddenly recognize that our election process is seriously flawed. Today CNN reported, and many smaller organizations picked up the report, that the GAO released a report this week on voting system testing that finds that the Election Assistance Commission [EAC] has not notified election officials across the country about electronic voting machine failures.
This has been no secret within the Election Integrity community and has been one of our main complaints about the EAC. Voting systems fail and the EAC does nothing about it. They argue instead that none of the voting systems were certified by the EAC so they have no right/mandate to do anything about them. The GAO recommends that congress step in with legislation to force this issue.
We agree but dislike the fact that we have to wait on a snail-slow congress to do anything. CNN also reports on the CommonCause/Century Foundation report that was also released this week and that points to 10 states that they believe will have problems in Nov. My guess is that the “ten states” will grow substantially to 40 or more by election day and on beyond.
Also in the news is that the re-re-recount of ballots in Palm Beach Co Florida is taking place today and tomorrow. One can only guess what they are going to find. Ballots from 2004? Punch cards with hanging chads?
And a member of the Washington DC council has subpoenaed Sequoia for records that may reveal what really happened in the recent primary. Could it be that the council will find that the Sequoia spokeswoman, Michelle Shafer’s, declaration that the company is not at fault; “No, no, no” is really “Yes, yes, yes”? ...
D.C. election officials blamed a defective computer memory cartridge yesterday for producing what appeared to be thousands of write-in votes that officials say did not exist.
The glitch caused initially inaccurate results in several contests, including two high-profile council races, and created a chaotic scene at Board of Elections and Ethics headquarters Tuesday night. Even with an extremely low turnout, there was no clarity well after midnight, when 50 people, among them candidates and their attorneys, crowded into the election board lobby and demanded answers from officials.
These are voting machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems, whose systems have failed in many recent elections. Their Edge touch-screen system, with its Verivote paper-trail printer, was featured in a video released this week by the UC Santa Barbra Computer Security Group. The video from the scientists at UCSB offers step-by-step instructions on how a single person can hack such a voting system, in about two-seconds, resulting in a county-wide flipped election that even a full post-election hand count of the systems paper trails would not reveal.
It has been pointed out on one of my mailing lists that this same issue may have taken place in Alameda Co, CA, in Feb. 2008.
UPDATE: As expected Sequoia Voting Systems has now made a statement that their investigation shows that the problem was user error or --- in a fresh new excuse for the company --- possibly even "static discharge". The Washington Post reports:
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...
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...
[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...
You would have thought that since there have been so many documented problems in other states over the years that voting machine vendors would have gone out of their way to make sure new systems being deployed in the Empire State were thoroughly tested, met all state requirements, and worked flawlessly.
At a minimum, you would expect that any business fulfilling an enormous, multi-million-dollar contract to a new client would make sure the systems were, well, at least operational. But, incredibly, you would be wrong. The machines which ES&S and Sequoia are providing to New York State are failing initial testing at a rate which would astound anyone – unless you’ve been following the voting machine industry for the last 10 years.
I discussed these problems on my July 2, 2008 Voice of the Voters [MP3] radio show with my guest, Bill Biamonte, Election Commissioner of Nassau County, the second largest Board of Elections in the state which serves over 870,000 voters. In a June 26 letter to Judge Gary Sharpe, who ordered New York State to complete its Help America Vote Act implementation by 2009, Nassau County reports the unbelievably high failure rates they’re finding in the systems they’ve received:
“…of the 156 BMDs [Ballot Marking Devices] received by Nassau through June 26, 2008-after the SBOE acceptance tested them in Albany-have substantial operational flaws that render them unusable or that require major repairs. 29 were rejected immediately when they were unloaded from the truck because of obvious physical defects or damages, such as a broken side of the printer. 62 failed diagnostic testing because of problems with the USB cord and the printer. And 42 failed Nassau’s acceptance testing for a variety of reasons, such as nonresponsive key pads and battery failure. Out of a total of 156 BMDs, only 23 can be used by voters in the condition they were received in.”
The actions and attitudes of election officials all too often seem like Alice's experiences down the rabbit hole. So, it's nice occasionally to report on positive developments by public officials who actually listen to the concerns of citizens, rather than simply ignoring serious defects discovered in our voting systems. I'm happy to report such a story today. For a change.
On May 6, Patty Murphy, Voting Systems Support, Secretary of State’s Office, notified my VotersUnite.org colleague and fellow Washington state resident John Gideon and me that two new voting systems were to be tested for state certification here on May 13 through May 16, and that the Review Board would hold a hearing on May 23. The Board’s job is to thoroughly review certification applications and make recommendations to the Secretary of State. The two systems were:
An ES&S AutoMark/optical scanner system, tested against federal standards and qualified by NASED.
A new, untested touch-screen/optical scanner system made by Sequoia Voting Systems
John and I were concerned about the Sequoia system. Pierce County, WA, voters recently voted to use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a system where voters may specify their preferences in particular races on the ballot as "first choice," "second choice," or "third choice." However, no state-certified system had the software needed to tabulate RCV ballots. So Sequoia developed their software specifically for Pierce County. They had applied for “emergency” provisional certification from the state, which would allow them to bypass state requirements for independent testing to the federal standards.
Tabulating RCV ballots is much more complicated than tabulating traditional ballots. With RCV, after voters mark their first, second, and third choices for certain offices, the tabulation is done in a series of “rounds.” The candidate with the fewest “first choice” votes after each round is eliminated; then in the next round the second choice on those ballots is counted as if it were the first choice. Rounds continue until one candidate has the majority of the votes. For a fuller explanation, see the Pierce County website.
John and I had planned to go to the testing on May 14, but at the last minute the testing for that day was called off so officials could investigate a problem that had shown up the previous day.
As we found out later, officials had found the Sequoia system had tallied votes wrong.
Later in the day, the SoS office's Murphy emailed us to let us know what happened...
"The recount never really happened," notes Kevin Spacey, correctly, about the 2000 Florida election debacle in his interview Wednesday night on Countdown, in advance of Recount, HBO's theatrical retelling of the nightmare. The film premieres this Sunday.
Some weeks ago, we ran an item which included the theatrical trailer for the film and noted that we've neither seen it, nor been contacted by anybody from the production (they didn't purchase an ad here either, boo hoo) but that they did manage to use our "Stuck in the Middle With You" theme song for the film, curiously enough, as you'll see in the trailer. We'll take it as a compliment, as if we have a choice.
We also noted, with evidence, that Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush in the state of Florida in 2000, and that seven whistleblowers from the company, Sequoia Voting Systems, who produced the paper ballots for Florida, have come forward to reveal that they were forced by someone to use bad paper on those ballots (only in Florida) against their objections, and to misalign the chads on them (only in Palm Beach County). To this day, other than Dan Rather at HDNet, who originally ran the report, nobody in the corporate media has found that story worthy of following up, or even merely reporting.
But for the third in our countdown of productions with the word "count" in its title, we turn to our friend Mary Mancini, who smartly blogs at the website of the documentary film Uncounted (We're in it, so see FULL DISCLOSURE at end of this article). Mancini notes that Olbermann, during his interview with Spacey (at left, including clip from film), joined so many other journalists who have taken the opportunity of the premiere of HBO's film to miss more than a few good journalistic opportunities...
With all the publicity surrounding this movie, now would be the perfect time for journalists to take the national conversation to the next level and ask the most logical follow up questions:
1) Why wasn’t our electoral process equipped, as Kevin Spacey says in the interview, “to handle margins of victory so small and margins of error so big” in 2000?
2) Are we equipped to do so now?
Another great opportunity was lost last night when during the interview Spacey explains the punch-card recount process:
That when you have a margin of victory so small, you have to go to what is called an automatic machine recount and yet, 18 counties, over 1,500,00 votes, didn’t bother to put their ballots back through the machine. They just re-tabulated the memory card, and you always get a different count when you do a machine recount. So, when you kind of realize that, well, that’s ’cause people just couldn’t bother to do it, um, it’s pretty stunning that…that…so..when Baker and Bush kept coming out and saying, “The votes have been counted, and they’ve been counted again, and Gore wants to count them a third time,” they were actually never counted.
No, they weren't. And the Supreme Court demanded that they remain uncounted, so Bush could be named "President."
Only the media and academic consortium who actually did bother to count all of those ballots [PDF] afterwards in Florida would know that Gore received more votes than Bush. Period. Even if they've done a superb job of keeping that little fact to themselves ever since. Whether HBO's Recount tells that truth, we'll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
Following below, for your convenience, are both the HBO trailer for Recount and, once again, the breathtaking Dan Rather report on the gaming of the paper ballots in Florida's 2000 election...