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The Voting Machine Company is Deciding Whether or Not the GAO Will be Allowed to Examine Their Shitty Voting Systems...
By Brad Friedman on 8/4/2007 6:01pm PT  

Blogged by Brad from Texas...

Meanwhile...Back in Florida's 13th Congressional District, where Christine Jennings has already announced plans to run again in 2008 for the seat she almost certainly already won in 2006, but hasn't been allowed to sit in it due to ES&S's touch-screen voting machines standing in the way of democracy...

WASHINGTON --- Federal investigators have found several potential shortcomings in previous state and local reviews of the disputed election results in Sarasota County's November election, keeping them from ruling out the prospect that the touch-screen voting machines were compromised.

That, from Sarasota Herald-Tribune, despite Sarasota County's still-unresigned Supervisor of Elections and democracy-hater-in-chief, Kathy Dent hiding shamelessly behind the skirts of the flawed and misrepresented state-convened "audit" of the voting systems used in her disastrously run election. The federal investigators from the GAO seems to be countering the state's and Dent's assertions that their own review proved that 'there was nothing wrong with the voting systems.'

Our sources say that the GAO reports that "gaps" were found during their investigation. Though --- as with nearly everything involving E-voting --- the investigation into what happened last November is shrouded in secrecy for now. So it remains unclear to the lowly voters as to what those "gaps" are that the GAO has discovered and which may have aborted their preferred choice of representation in the U.S. House...

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

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Debra Bowen Announces DRE (Touch-Screen) Machines to be Used Only One Per Polling Place for Disabled Voters with 100% Manual Count of Paper Trails
Dramatic Late Night Press Conference Held at 11:45pm in Sacramento...
By Brad Friedman on 8/4/2007 12:13am PT  

By Brad Friedman from Plano, TX, with help from Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us and Tom Courbat of SAVE R VOTE...

In a dramatic late-night press conference, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified, and then recertified with conditions, all but one voting system used in the state. Her decisions, following her unprecedented, independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all certified electronic voting systems, came just under the wire to meet state requirements for changes in voting system certification.

Bowen announced that she will be disallowing the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by the Diebold and Sequoia companies on Election Day, but for one DRE machine per polling place which may be used for disabled voters. The paper trails from votes cast on DREs manufactured by those two companies must be 100% manually counted after Election Day. DREs made by Hart-Intercivic are used in only one California county and will be allowed for use pending security upgrades.

The InkaVote Plus system, distributed by ES&S and used only in Los Angeles County, has been decertified and not recertified for use after the company failed to submit the system source code in a timely manner to Bowen's office. LA County is larger than many states, and questions remain at this time as to what voting system they will use in the next election.

As The BRAD BLOG has been reporting in great detail for the past week since the reports were released, the "Top-to-Bottom Review" had found that all Electronic Voting Systems certified in California were easily accessible to hacking. A single machine, the testers discovered, could be easily tampered with by an Election Insider, Voting Machine Company Employee, or other individual in such a way that an entire election could be affected without detection.

In Bowen's conditional recertification she re-iterated that "expert reviewers demonstrated that the physical and technological security mechanisms" for the electronic voting systems "were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the elections results and of the systems that provide those results."

The Certification/Recertification documents for each of California's voting systems, including security mitigation procedures and other requirements for use, are now posted on the CA SoS website. The documents, in and of themselves, offer devastating indictments against the security and usability of each of the systems as revealed during Bowen's independent University of California "Top-to-Bottom Review."

Bowen, a Democrat, was elected last November largely on her promise to re-examine the state's voting systems. In an upset victory, she defeated Republican Bruce McPherson who had been appointed as Secretary of State by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger. McPherson had been very friendly to the voting machine vendors, allowing for the continued use of virtually every e-voting system submitted for state certification. Several of those systems had been previously revealed to have had grave vulnerabilities and included source code which was in violations of federal voting systems standards and in violation of state law.

The late-night press conference, following Bowen's decisions, was held at the SoS's office in Sacramento at 11:45pm PT, just in time to meet the state law requiring a six-month notification, prior to an election, for changes to certification of voting systems. California's Presidential Election Primary was recently moved up several months by the state legislature to February of '08.

The BRAD BLOG was able to listen in to the presser via a poor cell phone connection out of Bowen's office. As best as we were able to transcribe, these are our notes from Bowen's announcement and the questions from the media which followed...

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE/touch-screen) voting systems decertified and recertified for use by disabled only.
100% manual count for Diebold and Sequoia DREs.
One machine per polling place.

Diebold – Optical scan system: – decertified and recertified only if meets certain requirements.

Diebold TSx DREs – decertified and recertified subject to certain conditions. Only one machine in a polling place for use by disabled voters. Reduces risk of viral attacks that could infect central equipment.

Sequoia – Optec optical scan: – decertified and recertified – subject to conditions

Sequoia AVC Edge I and II (DREs) – decertified and recertified with a number of security requirements including only one machine in each voting location to allow independent access by disabled voters – concern regarding corruption of software and source code

Hart Intercivic – eSlate DRE: Used only by one county – decertifying and recertifying subject to security requirements. Has the least risk of the three systems.

ES&S InkaVote Plus - optical scan: (LA County only) – ES&S ignored my March demand to submit source code. ES&S eventually submitted source code too late for t2b review. Therefore, "I am decertifying the InkaVote Plus without recertification."

Voters are victims of federal certification process that has not done a job of assuring machines are accurate, accessible, secure.

I reject the notion that I should not require changes in systems solely because we already own them. She compares it to a recall of cars....When NASA finds a problem, they don't continue just because they've already spent the money. They scrub the mission and spend the money to get it right. We must do same with elections.

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

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Attorney Andi Novick Tells NY Officials Why The Vendors Lack Integrity
By John Gideon on 8/1/2007 8:00am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

In a recently released report, New York Attorney Andrea Novick, Esq., tells members of New York state government and now the world that the vendors of the voting machines that most of us use are NOT responsible citizens and why. This report was written for, and addressed to, Governor Spitzer, the State Board of Elections and the State Legislature.

In her report Novick explains that New York state has laws that should bar any of the vendors from doing business in the state.

New York State is about to start testing the products of vendors who by any reasonable application of the State Finance Law (SFL) and New York State Comptroller's Procurement and Disbursement Guidelines (Vendex rules) should be barred from doing business in New York. I have included below a partial documentation of the available evidence revealing the myriad of ways in which the vendors fail to meet the criteria for responsible contractors. The State is responsible for affirmatively requiring all necessary disclosure to satisfy itself of the sufficiency of a vendor's responsibility. To assist in this effort, I have prepared this memo.

New York State Law states the following about corporate integrity...

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

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Detailed Coverage from Historic Hearing in Sacramento, California...
By Emily Levy on 7/30/2007 11:19pm PT  

Guest Blogged from Sacramento by Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us (with assistance from Michelle Gabriel, photos by Bill Lackemacher of Sacramento for Democracy) from the public hearing on 7/30/07, called by California Secretary of State to receive comments on her landmark "Top-to-Bottom review" of the state’s electronic voting systems. No internet access was available in the hearing room, so I wasn’t able to live blog as I’d hoped. I did, however, take copious notes, which are posted in full below this brief summary.

ED NOTE: The video of the hearing, which was not easily available as it streamed live today, is now posted here and here. But I recommend Emily's detailed description below for a great deal of value-added content and perspective! And it's faster! - BF

Note: Story very slightly updated with some corrections in the spelling of names, plus one substantive correction regarding Jim Soper's testimony (the very last one in the entire article).

SACRAMENTO - California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made opening remarks, followed by an overview of the Top-To-Bottom Review by the chief investigator, Matthew Bishop, University of California Davis (UCD) Professor of Computer Science.

Following that, each of the three vendors whose machines went through the Top-To-Bottom Review were given 30 minutes to respond to the report. Diebold went first and only took about five of the 30 minutes, followed by Hart Intercivic and Sequoia.

I’m absolutely thrilled to report that Sequoia knows just how to solve the problems found in the Top-To-Bottom Review: California should just by newer systems from them!

After lunch was the public comment period, the longest part of the hearing. I’ve paraphrased and sometimes quoted the comments of just about every person who testified (including my own testimony). There were maybe 25 or 30 county election officials present, many of whom spoke. Freddie Oakley of Yolo County, an election integrity hero, spoke in favor of the Top-To-Bottom Review and said we bought these systems to accommodate voters with special needs and disabilities and “we have let them down in the most appalling way” by certifying systems with such obvious defects and continuing to use them despite those defects.

I believe every other elections official spoke critically of the Top-To-Bottom Review, most criticizing Bowen for not including county elections officials in the review, not reviewing policies and procedures as part of the Top-To-Bottom Review, and conducting the review in a laboratory setting rather than a real election setting. (I, in contrast, think our elections in recent years have been nothing but one giant beta test!)

It will take some scrolling to find my notes on the remarks of the many election integrity advocates who spoke. Most spoke late in the day, probably because they signed up later, after the pre-hearing press conference they held outside the Secretary of State’s office building. But it’s worth the scrolling, because many important things were said. Many of the EI advocates encouraged Secretary Bowen to decertify not just the three election systems tested, but all electronic voting systems. Many advocated for hand-counted paper ballots. Testimony was frequently backed up with credentials, experience, statistics and technical information. The depth and breadth of expertise in the election integrity movement continues to amaze me. (Note: I’ve posted my own comments in full because I had them available. If others who spoke would like their testimony posted in full, I invite them to paste them into the “comments” section of this blog item.)

Several people with disabilities and advocates for people with disabilities spoke. Some, notably Jennifer Kidder, spoke about the importance of election integrity. Kidder said, “The purpose of any equal opportunity legislation is to get marginalized voices heard,” and went on to note that this purpose is defeated if, after voting privately and independently, the vote of a disabled voter is changed by an electronic voting system.

Most of the people with disabilities and their advocates, however, cautioned against going “back” to paper ballots, saying that would be a move in the wrong direction in terms of the accessibility of voting systems. In general, they were supportive of the types of mitigations recommended by the accessibility team of the Top-To-Bottom Review, despite the findings that none of the systems tested actually met the federal accessibility standards as required by law.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office is accepting public comments by email until Wednesday, August 1 at VotingSystems@sos.ca.gov On Friday, August 3, Bowen will announce what actions she will take in light of the Top-To-Bottom Review. We can only hope that she remembers why she was elected, and will take bold action to protect California's elections.

Detailed notes on the hearing appear below. Where I have paraphrased a speaker, I have done so in the first person, sometimes making my own [occasionally snarky] comments inside square brackets. I hope this isn’t confusing...

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

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PLUS: Following up with Bowen on the ES&S LA County InkaVote Issue, and the Bizarre Comments from Steve Weir, President of CA Election Officials Association
By Brad Friedman on 7/29/2007 10:31am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

We'll certainly have more, from various voices, in the days ahead concerning CA SoS Debra Bowen's landmark independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of electronic voting systems. The reports from the teams at University of California are now available online here.

As well, Bowen will be taking public statements on these reports both via email at votingsystems@sos.ca.gov and, in person, during a public hearing tomorrow (Monday, July 30) at her office in Sacramento beginning at 10:00am. She'll announce her decisions for decertification or otherwise next Friday, August 3rd. So your input is important, as she mentioned on during a media phone call last Friday.

But even while the results, as Bowen described them on that phone call just prior to their release, found that "the independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," and as the report on accessibility for disabled voters found that none of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems met federal disability standards, Democrats and People for the America Way (PFAW) in the U.S. House were busy hammering out a deal to institutionalize the continued use of such disastrous voting systems into federal law.

Out of touch much? Which part of a transparent, counted, paper ballot (not a "trail" or a "record") for every vote cast in America do these guys not understand?

Late Friday, as Bowen's UC Report was being released, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) finally came to terms, reportedly, on a deal for a revision of Holt's HR 811 Election Reform bill which allows for the use of DREs as preferred, almost exclusively, by PFAW, elections offficials, and voting machine companies. We've been reporting for months that PFAW was the main insider advocacy group moving the ball with this disappointing bill, and Saturday's New York Times confirms that it was "Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, [who] helped broker the deal" between Holt and House Leadership.

That despite Neas having previously chided me for suggesting that PFAW had the power to make or break this legislation in Congress. As we've also long reported, of course, by their own written admissions, PFAW prefers unaccountable DRE systems to paper ballot voting systems.

And though Christopher Drew's reporting at the New York Times is getting slightly better with each new story, it would be nice if "The Paper of Record" could learn enough about our voting systems so they could accurately report, and help Americans understand what's really at stake here and how the technology actually works.

Drew reported --- misleadingly --- that "The House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts."

That's just plain wrong. The fact is that adding "cash-register-style printers to...touch-screen machines," as Drew describes it, does not allow a voter to verify that their "ballots had been correctly cast." It allows them only to verify that the paper record of their invisibly-cast electronic ballot accurately matches their intention. Maybe. The fact is: There is no way to verify that a voter's vote is correctly cast on a DRE touch-screen voting machine. Period.

Unless, of course, it's me who is out of touch in presuming that if a "ballot" is "cast" it means it will actually be counted by someone or something. Paper trails added to DRE systems are not counted --- only the internal, invisible, unverifiable ballots are. A "cash-register-style" print-out prior to the ballot being cast and counted internally does not change that.

But more on all of that, and Bowen's UC reports, as we move forward. For the moment, if you'll allow me, I wanted to touch base on a few items I asked Bowen about during the phone call which followed up on several specific issues that we've been reporting on here at The BRAD BLOG over the last several weeks.

Specifically, I asked her whether there had yet been a resolution to the discrepancies in version numbers for LA County's InkaVote system source code as turned in by ES&S, versus the version secretly stored in escrow. And whether or not she could explain the comments reportedly made by Steve Weir, Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County, CA and President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO), that CA election officials could choose to ignore Bowen's recommendations if they wanted to.

According to Bowen (full transcript and audio below) the ES&S LA County InkaVote issue remains unresolved, and she's unaware of what Weir might have been referring to. A transcript of my questions with Bowen follows, and I hope to have more on Weir soon --- and the adversarial comments he's been making in the media on behalf of CACEO --- but this article has already become much longer than I had intended...

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

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Independent Reports to Be Released Friday, Public Comment Hearing in Sacramento on Monday, SoS Bowen's Final Certification Decisions on Aug. 3...
By Brad Friedman on 7/26/2007 8:11am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

Following up on yesterday's report on the latest machinations surrounding the release of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen's unprecedented "Top-to-Bottom Review" --- including independent hack testing and source code analysis --- of electronic voting systems. The BRAD BLOG has received a few more details on official release dates and timing, including a public hearing in Sacramento next Monday, from the SOS's office [emphasis ours]:

-- The independent reports will be finalized and posted to our website this Friday, July 27. These will include all the teams' findings in the four areas of the voting systems review, without opinions about what the state and counties should do.

-- A public hearing will be held in Sacramento beginning at 10:00 a.m. Monday, July 30. It will begin with the two principal investigators presenting an overview of their findings, followed by vendor responses and then a general public comment period.

-- Secretary Bowen's decisions on system certifications will come August 3, after her thorough review of the findings and public input.

We're in Texas, but hoping those within driving, walking, running distance from Sacramento will show up to the Capitol to give their thoughts on the findings on Monday, as we expect the voting machine vendors to be there in droves, and they may need a reminder that they do not own these elections. The citizens do.

We're also still waiting to hear back from Steve Weir, the Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County and President of the California Assoc. of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), for details on his published comments indicating that CA registrars may choose to ignore Bowen's findings. The CACEO has blasted Bowen's review of voting systems previously.

Not sure what Weir's legal theory is for such an action, which seems to fly in the face of both the law and the will of the people --- Bowen was elected precisely on her promises to take the actions she's currently taking after both her predecessor in CA and federal agencies had failed completely to properly test these voting systems before certifying them --- but we'll let you know what we learn. We've invited Weir to appear on the Peter B. Collins Show, which we continue to Guest Host through the end of this week. We'd love to hear from him, of course. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 7/27/07 2:40pm PT: Still waiting for the release of the reports, which I'm told by the SOS will be "any moment". When it's released, it should be right here.

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Luzerne County's Leonard Piazza Furious at Attempt to Charge $300,000 for Extended Warranty on Touch-Screen Voting Systems...
By Brad Friedman on 7/24/2007 12:46pm PT  

Blogged by Brad from Houston...

Michael P. Buffer at The Citizens Voice is reporting that Luzerne County, PA, elections director Leonard Piazza is furious at voting machine company ES&S for their attempt to charge some $300,000 for an extended warranty on their voting machines.

Decrying "the mix of deception this company promulgates" and the "unsavory business practices that vendors, such as ES&S, seemingly have a deep commitment to employing," Piazza penned a letter to state officials recently with his concerns.

We have now booked Piazza as a guest to discuss the issue on this evening's Peter B. Collins show, which we have been Guest Hosting. We also hope to be posting his letter in full here, and will update this item with it after we receive it. (NOTE: See update now at end of this article for full letter, and link to the archive of the radio interview with Piazza.)

For now, here's the lede today from Citizens Voice:

In a letter to state officials, Luzerne County Director of Elections Leonard Piazza bashed the company that provided the county’s voting machines and asked for financial help to pay for a three-year warranty priced at more than $300,000.

The county last year spent $2.4 million in federal money to buy 750 touch-screen voting machines from Election Systems & Software, and a one-year warranty has expired on roughly half of the machines and will expire on the rest this year.

“In addition to not being able to meet the financial burden that ES&S is asking us to meet, we cannot individually deal with such a large, multi-national corporation and the mix of deception this company promulgates,” Piazza wrote in a July 19 letter to Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth Thomas J. Weaver and Harry A. VanSickle, commissioner of the state bureau of commissions, elections and legislation.

Piazza asked the state to help ensure “that voting-system vendors doing business here do not have the opportunity to threaten the democratic process with such unsavory business practices that vendors, such as ES&S, seemingly have a deep commitment to employing.”

UPDATE: The two-page 7/19/07 letter from Piazza to state officials, complaining about ES&S and asking for help ends, "As I’ve come to learn from other jurisdictions, once the confidence is lost, it is virtually un-retrievable—and that would suggest that the democratic process itself has been broken." It is now posted in full here [PDF].

My on-air interview with Piazza --- which was both informative, and at times a bit contentious --- from today's Peter B. Collins radio show is now archived online here (in Hour 3).

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Letter Obtained by BRAD BLOG to Voting Machine Company Confirms Potential Violations Of California Election Law as Revealed During CA SoS Bowen's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems
Matter May Have Far Reaching, National Consequences Concerning the Effectiveness of Escrowing Secret Vote-Counting Software...
By John Gideon on 7/10/2007 9:03am PT  

Blogged by John Gideon and Brad Friedman

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" of electronic voting systems previously approved for use by her predecessor is still underway. But before any of the findings from her teams of security specialists, software analysts and voting systems experts have been made public, the unprecedented analysis has already revealed a disturbing anomaly which may have far-reaching implications for both state and federal voting systems laws across the country.

As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively almost three weeks ago --- precisely zero media outlets bothered to file their own reports on this matter until last weekend --- all voting machine vendors certified in California had submitted their source code to Bowen for the review, except for ES&S, America's largest voting machine company.

After their refusal to submit the code as required for the test, Bowen demanded the source code used for the InkaVote Plus voting systems marketed by ES&S, and used exclusively in Los Angeles, be released to the state by the escrow firm which had been holding it as per state law.

Following Bowen's demand to the escrow company, Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management, ES&S reluctantly agreed to give their own version of the source code to the state.

Oddly enough at the time, the voting machine company, in an arrogant letter to Bowen (posted here in full by The BRAD BLOG), demanded that she withdraw her request to receive the version of the source code already stored in escrow at Iron Mountain. The letter succeeded in keeping our already-raised eyebrows at full perk, as the demand that Bowen not review the code in escrow, but rather look only at the one ES&S was sending, raised several troubling questions. Among them, we wondered at the time if perhaps the version stored in escrow was not the version actually used on the county's voting systems during last year's election. If so, there could be enormous ramifications for the company, and for the idea of escrowed source code for voting systems in general.

Over the weekend, an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the first organization to jump into this matter following our series of reports, filed a story on the matter which began to validate our suspicions. The paper reported that due to the late submission, the InkaVote Plus system would not be included in Bowen's "top-to-bottom review", presenting questions about which voting system would be allowed for use in 2008, in the country's most populous county. LA County is larger than many states in America.

It's as yet unclear whether Bowen will completely decertify the InkaVote Plus system for use, or whether she will take other steps.

Perhaps more disturbingly, however, the Daily News report includes comments from CA's Deputy SoS for Voting Systems, Lowell Finley, indicating that our concerns about differences in the submitted and escrowed source code may have been precisely on target.

We contacted Bowen's office for more details, and they shared with us the letter sent from Finley back to ES&S in response to the company's curious demands. The letter is posted in full at the end of this article. And if the issue Finley raises is indeed true, there may be a whole lotta trouble ahead...

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

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Arrogant Letter Agrees to Comply With Law by Submitting Source Code for Review, But Mysteriously Insists That SoS Bowen Revoke Demand to Release Version of Source Code Held by Escrow Firm...
By John Gideon on 6/28/2007 8:05am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

As The BRAD BLOG reported yesterday, voting machine company ES&S has finally relented and agreed to join all of the other companies operating in the state by cooperating with the Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all electronic voting systems previously certified by her predecessor Bruce McPherson. After previously refusing to supply the state with source code for the company's InkaVote Plus system used exclusively in Los Angeles County, Bowen had demanded the release of the source code from escrow where it was stored by state law, as we also reported previously.

But has ES&S really relented? Or is something else up?

We asked yesterday why ES&S decided to send their source code, instead of allowing Bowen to pull it from the escrow facility at Iron Mountain, as she had previously demanded. And now, based on a letter from the company which The BRAD BLOG was able to obtain from one of our sources, as sent to Bowen's office when they agreed to supply the source code Monday, the smell of something fishy continues to permeate. The complete ES&S letter is posted in full at the bottom of this article.

On Monday, June 25, ES&S sent the letter to Lowell Finley, California's Deputy Sec. of State in charge of Voting Systems Technology and Policy, agreeing to supply the source code for InkaVote Plus is an amazing example of the company's arrogance even as it continues to beg a myriad of unanswered questions.

ES&S opens the letter repeating their desire for changes to the previously agreed upon Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they have with the state. AS well, they believe the cost of Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" is too high, and they have concerns with some of the researchers who are doing the review. Nonetheless, they agree to cooperate.

Yet, after informing Finley that they intend to finally send the required source code, they instruct him that they expect him to send a letter to Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management Inc. to release the firm from the state's request for the escrowed source code. Now why would they need to do that?

"As ES&S is providing the InkaVote Plus voting system source code directly to your office, ES&S requests that you send a letter to Iron Mountain retracting your request for the InkaVote Plus voting system source code," writes ES&S' Steven M. Pearson in the letter.

"This will provide the required notification to Iron Mountain that you are no longer in need of the requested source code and allow Iron Mountain to close your request. In addition, this will avoid ES&S from having to issue contrary instructions to Iron Mountain to prohibit the release of the InkaVote Plus voting system source code."

So what the heck is that all about?...

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

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Last Vendor to Hold Out from State's 'Top to Bottom Review' of Voting Equipment Coughs Up Source Code After SoS Bowen Demands Source Code Be Taken Out of Escrow...
By John Gideon on 6/26/2007 6:02pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

The BRAD BLOG has learned this evening that source code and a check were sent to the state of California by ES&S. Readers may recall that as of last Thursday ES&S had not complied with Sec. of State Debra Bowen's demand for a copy of the source code used exclusively in Los Angeles County.

According to a Secretary of State spokesperson, they received a copy of the source code and a check to cover the expense for the state's "top-to-bottom" review. ES&S finally relented, and sent the code only after Bowen had demanded it be released from escrow as per state law.

Questions still remain and your intrepid correspondent will be following-up with the state.

Why did the code come from ES&S and not from Iron Mountain, Inc., the escrow agent? Is there something in the escrowed code that ES&S does not wish the state to see? How does the state know that the code they got from ES&S is the same code used to build the software running on the machines used in LA County?

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The Republican Who Most Likely Lost the Race, Held on Touch-Screen DRE Voting Systems, Continues to Serve in Congress as the Democrat Who Won Doesn't...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2007 6:08pm PT  

Sarasota's Herald-Tribune highlights why it's imperative to get election results right on Election Night...

Probe of District 13 race is slowing

Democrat Christine Jennings was pinning her hopes of winning the 13th District congressional seat on the Democratic majority in Congress.

But a month after essentially abandoning her legal challenge in a Florida court, Jennings is finding her gamble to rely on Congress could take far longer than her supporters had hoped.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is set to tell Congress on Thursday that it needs until September just to determine what other audits, investigations, and court proceedings have already turned up. Then, the GAO would go before Congress again to determine how much additional time, if any, it needs to produce a formal report for Congress with its own research, said Nancy Kingsbury, a spokeswoman for the GAO.

That would hardly conclude the investigation. The report would need to be vetted by a task force and then voted on by a full committee in Congress before it could then go before the full U.S. House, which has final say over the dispute.

That would all have to happen in the eight weeks between Labor Day and the targeted adjournment on Oct. 27 for the rest of the year.

The Congressional challenge is due to problems with touch-screen DRE voting systems in the district which resulted in 18,000 lost votes, in a race certified as having been "won" by the Republican Vern Buchanan over the Democrat Christine Jennings by a 369 vote margin. Even the machine vendor (ES&S)'s own expert in court admitted that Jennings would have most likely won were it not for problems with their touch-screen DRE voting machines during the race.

A recent study of DRE voting systems found that two-thirds of voters didn't bother to check their review screens at the end of the voting process on such systems, and that even if they check them, they do not notice votes that have been flipped by the system. The study concludes that paper trail records, printed out after the review screen on DREs, would similarly not be noticed or checked for accuracy. Those findings confirm earlier results from an MIT/Caltech study which looked at similar issues.

The embarrassments caused by the District 13 race in Florida helped lead the Republican-controlled House and Senate in Florida to finally legislate a ban on DRE touch-screen voting machines altogether.

Supporters of Rush Holt's HR811 Election Reform bill in the U.S. House, however, have said that it's impossible to get a similar ban in the Democratically-controlled House and Senate, so they've refused to add such a ban to their sweeping bill. Those who have made the claim that a DRE ban could never win passage in the Democratically-controlled House and Senate have yet to offer any evidence for that claim, or even offer a single name of a supporter of the bill who would vote against it if it included such a ban.

The bill currently has 216 co-sponsors, although ComputerWorld today confirmed our report from earlier this week that Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) plans to withdraw his co-sponsorship of the bill.

The FL-13 election, meanwhile, was held back in November of 2006. The earliest timetable detailed in the Herald-Trib article, quoted above, would result in a decision on the matter by October of 2007. The Republican Vern Buchanan, who most likely lost the race by nearly everyone's (but his and Sean Hannity's) estimation, continues to vote with the GOP caucus in the House while the Democratic candidate, whom Sarasota voters had tried to send to the U.S. House, bides her time in Florida.

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Election Supervisor Refuses to Comment; Jennings Camp Says Documents Were Turned Over; Why the Hell Are We Running Our Elections This Way?
By Brad Friedman on 5/17/2007 4:14pm PT  

A number of mainstream news outlets (for a pleasant change) followed up on our report yesterday (full version here, quick summary here) on the SQL Slammer Worm virus which hit Sarasota County's database network on the first day of Early Voting last year, wreaking havoc which disallowed voting for two hours in the now-contest FL-13 U.S. House election between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R). No telling what got into the MSM'ers, but perhaps it's because we ran the story at Computerworld first instead of here at the "dreaded" and "unreliable" blog.

Either way, of the several outlets we found who picked up the story (with more on the way, we're told, and local TV news coverage which we haven't been able to find online), the Brandenton Herald's coverage led the pack in advancing the story which they said "caused a stir Wednesday".

Their report includes a quote from Jennings --- who was named the loser in the race by just 369 votes, despite 18,000 reported undervotes on the county's ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines --- saying "I read the story on the Internet and I was surprised...I need to know more about it. It does bring up some security issues that I think need to be looked at."

Her campaign spokesperson, David Kochman adds, "It makes you wonder what else is there that they haven't done to take care of the machines and protect them."

But Kochman does help answer one very important question we asked in our piece yesterday, about whether or not the county had notified the plaintiff's attorneys about this incident via the discovery process...

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

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SQL Slammer Worm Breached Firewall, Took Down County Database System, Halted Voting, Rewrote Admin Passwords According to Previously Unreleased Document
Further Damagage Unknown; Disclosure to Plaintiffs, Scientists in Election Contest Unclear...
By Brad Friedman on 5/16/2007 12:08pm PT  

Some guy named Brad Friedman has a breaking exclusive over at ComputerWorld on the contested FL-13 election between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R).

As Friedman's brilliant reportage reveals, previously unreleased documents show that Sarasota County's database network was hit by a viral worm attack on the first day of Early Voting last year. The attack, by a variant of the SQL Slammer Worm, wrought havoc on the system, bringing it to its knees for about two hours on that first afternoon of voting, leaving voters at precincts unable to cast their votes.

Details about further damage which may have occurred during, or in the wake of, the successful hack remain unclear. Whether or not the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines --- which failed to record the selections of some 18,000 voters in the election decided by just 369 votes --- or the central tabulator used in that FL-13 race were directly affected is unknown for certain. The security specialist who filed the incident report, interviewed by Friedman, acknowledges that "it's a possibility," though he believes the damage was contained and didn't spread to the Elections Supervisor's network infrastructure.

Also unclear is whether or not the viral attack and the report which documented it were disclosed in the discovery process to the plaintiff's attorneys who are challenging the election in state court and in the U.S. House. It doesn't seem so.

See more in Friedman's compelling exclusive over there, which includes a PDF of the previously undisclosed incident report describing what happened as the worm slammed an unprotected county server (which had been five years behind in security patch updates), spread throughout the system, breached the firewall, rewrote administrative passwords, and brought voting to a halt in Sarasota on October 23, 2006, the first day of Early Voting. An interestingly timed attack to say the least.

As CW only links to a PDF version of the two-page incident report, we'll be kind enough to include a graphic version of both pages below.

The previously undisclosed two-page incident report, as filed by the Sarasota County network security team, housed in the county's Suncoast Technology Center, follows in full...

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

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CA SoS Debra Bowen Names Teams and Methods to be Used for 'First-of-its-Kind in the Nation' Certification, Decertification Process...
By Brad Friedman on 5/9/2007 12:28pm PT  

Doing twelve things at once today, so no time for analysis at this point. I'll just run CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's just released statement on her promised, unprecedented, first-of-its-kind in the nation, "top to bottom review" of all of California's electronic voting systems.

The review will include "red team" hack testing for the first time ever. Done as standard operating procedure for similar security-sensitive, mission-critical commercial systems, this sort of penetration testing has never been performed on America's voting systems. Until now.

The one page summary [PDF] of the plan states:

  • [University of California] will provide specialists from its campuses, as well as experts from public and private universities and private sector companies throughout the United States to create three teams of experts to conduct the reviews.
  • Each system will undergo a thorough document and source code review, red team penetration testing, and a review to determine whether it’s accessible to all voters.
  • The review teams will provide an independent technical evaluation of the voting systems that the Secretary of State will use to carry out her statutory duty with respect to voting systems in determining whether the systems comply with current state and federal law.

There are links within her statement below where you can find more details. For example, the State's review teams will include folks such as computer security expert "hacking" Harri Hursti, and blind technology expert Noel Runyan, who has been highly critical of unverifiable touch-screen DRE voting systems.

More on all of this, perhaps, later after I've had time to review the materials myself. But for now, see the statement below for some killer quotes from Bowen...

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

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New Appointee to Federal Commssion, Rosemary Rodgriguez, Releases Statement Calling for Tova Wang to be Allowed to Address Controversy Concerning the Alteration, Withholding of Her Work
RELATED FOLLOW-UP: EAC Has Still Failed to Notify States of Vote-Flipping Virus Vulnerability in ES&S iVotronic Systems, Media Has Similarly Failed to Cover It...
By Brad Friedman on 4/27/2007 10:11am PT  

A statement has been released by Rosemary Rodgriguez, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s newest, Democratic appointee in reply to yesterday's statement by writer and researcher Tova Andrea Wang, a Democracy Fellow at the Century Foundation.

The statement comes in the wake of our report yesterday detailing Wang's statement calling on the EAC to lift the gag-order that's been placed on her, so that she might respond publicly to the controversy concerning the EAC's alteration and withholding of the bi-partisan report she submitted concerning baseless allegations of an epidemic of "Voter Fraud" in America --- despite longstanding GOP claims to the contrary.

Rodgriquez is calling on her fellow commissioners to lift the gag-order on Wang so she can speak to media and others about the matter. The EAC chairmanship comprises two Democrats and two Republicans, each appointed by the President.

Wang had previously Guest Blogged for BRAD BLOG in an article titled "Where's the Voter Fraud?", written to coincide with the release of the EAC's altered version of her original report. She was unable to speak directly to their report at the time, due to the EAC's extraordinary restrictions on her.

Yesterday, Wang's statement pointed out that the EAC had refused to even respond to requests from her legal counsel on the matter. The controversy is just the latest in the continuing erosion of EAC credibility, suggesting a remarkable inability to carry out their Help America Vote (HAVA) mandate to oversee the nation's electoral system.

This latest embarrassment adds to an ever-growing list which has drawn increased Congressional scrutiny of late. It also serves to reveal still more evidence of the panel's partisan nature, compromised sense of ethics, nearly complete lack of transparency, and utter incompetence.

And following-up on a related BRAD BLOG report revealing EAC failures, the commission has still failed to notify either public or elections officials of the newly confirmed "severe" vulnerability recently discovered in ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting systems. The "security hole" would allow for a vote-flipping virus to be introduced into a voting machine by a single person which could then, in turn, flip an entire county-wide election undetectably. At least one note computer scientist has described the problem as "roughly comparable" to the Diebold Virus Hack revealed at Princeton last summer and first reported here. "Which is to say it needs to be taken very seriously," warned the scientist.

Our report on that matter, early last week, included Email statements from the EAC flatly refusing to notify any of the 16 states that currently use the voting systems which are said by the scientist to feature the "serious security problem." To date, no other media outlet has picked up that report.

EAC Vice-Chair Rodriguez's brief statement calling on the EAC to end their censorship of Wang is posted [PDF] on the EAC website, but follows here below in full...

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

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