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Suit Seeks to Stop Last Minute Implementation of ES&S Voting Machines In Allegheny County
By John Gideon on 4/12/2006 2:06pm PT  


Guest Blogged by John Gideon

Just announced by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the news that a group of citizens and People For The American Way have filed suit against the Secretary of State; Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Chief Executive; James Flynn, County Manager; and senior officials at the federal Department of Justice. The citizen group includes members of the disabilities community who want to make sure the County purchases machines that are accessible to all individuals with disabilities.

KDKA reports:

The lawsuit filed today says that decision risks chaos on Election Day because of the lack of time to train election officials and educate voters about the change from lever machines which have been in use for 40 years.

"This rush to a new and flawed technology just weeks before the election threatens to sow chaos in the primary and compromise the fundamental rights of thousands of voters for years to come," says Harry Litman, the former United States Attorney in Pittsburgh and an attorney for the plaintiffs. "It's a bad deal for Allegheny County, and, we believe, a violation of federal law."

The suit, Celeste Taylor v. Dan Onorato asks the court to prevent use of machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software until the County has spent the time necessary to identify voting systems that are secure; reliable; and accessible to voters with disabilities.
...
The plaintiffs cite elections in Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, and North and South Carolina where ES&S machines failed on Election Day.

A report by the Inspector General in Miami of a 2002 election found that the ES&S machines were not properly prepared; their results could not be audited; poll workers were unable to operate machines; and large number of voters simply gave up as a result.
...
The complaint alleges that DOJ has pressured Allegheny to buy the new machines by improperly threatening to take back about $12 million that has been given to Pennsylvania for improved voting systems.

These machines are sold and serviced by Elections Systems and Software, the same company that has played a major role in failures of memory cards and is a large reason why this nation is headed for a "Train Wreck" in our primary elections and, if no action is taken, in November.

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David Shuster: 'This Administration Cherry-Picks Intelligence and Plays by It's Own Rules'
By David Edwards on 4/11/2006 8:32am PT  

Guest blogged by David Edwards of Veredictum.com


Video in Streaming Flash format...
Video in Windows Media format...
Audio in MP3 format...

Yesterday, The President said that he "declassified the NIE" because he wanted people "to see the truth" about intelligence used to bolster the case for war on Iraq.

The corporate media dutifully reported The President's misleading remarks without correcting his misinformation. The Bush Administration is built on lies and, yesterday, Bush added another lie.

MSNBC's Countdown correctly points out that only specific parts of the NIE were leaked to a few sympathetic reporters. The leaked information provided a defense for statements the President made that exaggerated Iraq's desire to acquire nuclear weapons. Other parts of the same NIE that was not given to reporters, show that the leaked information was false.

In fact, the President had been informed multiple times that the information leaked from the NIE to defend his statements about Iraq's nuclear ambitions were "baseless". In short, the President knew that false information was being used to discredit Joe Wilson.

Yesterday, Bush knew that he was misleading Americans by saying that he released the discredited NIE intel because he wanted people "to see the truth." The same lie is being told over and over again and the corporate media refuses to call the President on it.

In this video, Keith Olbermann, Joe Wilson and David Shuster do not hesitate to point out the twisted intelligence, misinformation and outright lies of the Bush Administration. Playing time is about 10 minutes.

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Our Elections are Now Officially 'A National Disaster in the Making'
A MUST READ GUEST EDITORIAL BY JOHN GIDEON OF VOTERSUNITE.ORG
By John Gideon on 4/9/2006 5:24pm PT  

By John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org and VoteTrustUSA.Org

Normally this space is taken with my ideas of what are the "Top 5" voting news stories for the week. Today I am going to use this space to talk about what I see as the beginning of a disaster in the making with our elections. This isn't the election fraud that some point to when they talk about the vendors and some elections officials. It's not about recounts or audits. This is a real, get your hands around it, happening problem that will disrupt our election process if we do not do something about it now. While we have been involved in all of our issues about Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or "touch-screen") voting machines or paper ballots the electronic voting machine vendors have been wreaking complete havoc across the country.

So far this year two states have conducted primary elections. In Texas there is at least one candidate who has stepped forward and has challenged the election because of anomalies in vote counts and known voting machine failures. One county's machines counted some votes up to 6 times which resulted in approximately 100,000 more votes being counted than were cast. Though the vendor, Hart Intercivic, initially blamed the problem on human error, they finally had to admit that it was a programming error and not poll workers or voters who had erred. In Illinois some county officials are threatening to withhold final payment of funds on contracts with Sequoia Voting Systems because of failures with their machines that ended with results in the primary not being known for over a week after the voters went to the polls. In both states the involved vendors were very successful in the media with deflecting the blame from their machines to "human errors" or "glitches". However, when you listen to people who were there and who saw and worked through the problems you get a very different picture...

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

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Paper Ballots Are Used in the Meantime as ES&S Succeeds at Failing Yet Again...
THE GOOD NEWS: A Local TV News Outlet That Reports Actual News!
By John Gideon on 4/5/2006 8:15am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

Proving that local TV News stations actually can serve their viewers by actually investigating stuff that matters, and then reporting on it, Indianapolis' WISH-TV 8 does it again. In yet another report on local election problems, WISH-TV has been keeping their viewers informed with a series of stories on voting issues.

"Well, once again, a Voting Machine Company is breaking Indiana law and violating county contracts," the story by reporter Pam Elliot began.

Last night, WISH TV 8 reported on the failure of Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) to perform up to their contract with their customers. That contract: to provide ballots to voters and touch-screen voting equipment that actually works.

Johnson County Indiana was supposed to have their ES&S iVotronic DRE (touch-screen) machines set-up and in use for "absentee voting". However, contrary to their contract and, as WISH TV reports, in violation of state law, ES&S has failed to program the counties "smart cards" with ballot definitions. Which means the voting machines are of no use.

Also missing are printed paper ballots for Johnson County and nearly two-dozen other counties across the state. Which means that in order for these counties to conduct "absentee voting" they will have to copy paper ballots and provide those to the voters.

But perhaps more troubling, as reported by the WISH-TV 8 "I Team" (Investigative Team):

I-Team 8 has also learned the batteries that came with Johnson County's $2.4 million equipment are old and failing. At least nine other counties have the same problem. If the battery fails, the internal ballots and all the votes cast will be lost.

I-Team 8 asked Jill Jackson whether it was time to rethink the county's choice of vendor. "I am certain that the county commissioners are going to want to revisit this, probably along with a lot of other counties in the state of Indiana," she replied.

And what does the Secretary of State have to say about this situation? He had the same reaction as many who have misinformed their counties into buying voting systems that were not really necessary...

"Although I am concerned about this issue, it is the responsibility of the counties to resolve this with their vendor," said Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

And what does ES&S have to say about all of this? Why, they blamed the counties, of course.

But WISH TV didn't let 'em get away with that. They concluded their report with just the facts m'am:

Omaha-based ES&S has been in trouble with the state at least twice before for not following Indiana law, but it's not the only vendor failing Hoosier voters. The certification expired last October on electronic voting machines made by Indianapolis-based Microvote, used by 45 Indiana counties.

-- WISH TV's written report is here...
-- WISH TV's video report is here...

It seems ES&S has a long and proud history of failing the voters of Indiana. Back in late 2004, just two weeks after the Presidential Election, The BRAD BLOG ran a story highlighting a series of reports from WISH TV filed back in April of 2004. Here's some of our coverage at the time...

The series of reports from WISHTV earlier this year tell of ES&S employees surreptitiously installing illegal, uncertified software, into the voting and tabulating machines in Marion County, Indiana. They then ordered their regional ES&S project manager to lie about it to county officials. She refused. As had her husband in a previous ES&S incident, where he was also a project manager, in a different Indiana county. He was fired for his refusal.

In one of the reports, the Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler is quoted as saying that ES&S "has willfully and purposely deceived me and the Marion County election board...[W]ith complete disregard for business ethics and with intent to deceive, [ES&S] deliberately worked to keep their actions from the Marion County election board and its employees."

The county's election board vice chair added, "Throughout the process, there have been missteps and outright fabrications and mistruths given to us by the vendor implementing the election process."

"Outright fabrications and mistruths" from ES&S?! Knock us over with a feather. See our November '04 story for more details and links to the excellent WISH TV video reports from April.

Feel free to write a thank you note to reporter Pam Elliot for knowing what important news looks like and then caring enough to actually report on it.

Other than that --- sssshhhh --- don't tell anyone! It's better if nobody learns about this stuff.

(Additional snark for this story provided by Brad)

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Former Judge Finds March 7th Texas Primary Results Fraught With 'Absolutely Egregious' Electronic Voting Machine Errors!
May Lead to First Independent Examination of Electronic Machines Made by Hart InterCivic and ES&S!
By Brad Friedman on 3/28/2006 10:53am PT  

Blogged by Brad on the road...

As The BRAD BLOG reported last week, a Conservative Republican former Texas Supreme Court Justice had been considering an Election Contest after electronic voting machine problems and inexplicable tallies plagued the first-in-the-nation March 7th primary in the Lone Star State.

Steve Smith --- who ran for election to the state Supreme Court, Place 2, in the Republican primary against an opponent backed by both Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry and the Bush family --- will be filing an official Election Contest this afternoon in Travis County District Court, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

Since our previous report, the Smith for Supreme Court campaign has been examining election tallies around the state and report that they continue to find anomolies in virtually every county they look into.

"The more research we do, the more irregularities we find," campaign manager David Rogers told The BRAD BLOG this morning.

The problems are being found on machines made by both Hart InterCivic and Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S) --- the two major Electronic Voting Machine vendors supplying the state of Texas.

Rogers says the campaign plans to file the Contest before 5pm (CT) today. The Contest (to be posted in full here when available) will outline some of the many problems they have found so far including counties "where there were more votes than voters."

They hope the Election Contest may allow, for the first time, a closer examination of both the Hart InterCivic and ES&S electronic voting machines used in Texas elections, as well as elsewhere around the country.

An earlier statement from the campaign had detailed a number of the campaign's initial findings including several mysterious totals in Smith's home county of Tarrant where officials admit some 100,000 votes were incorrectly added to the reported results on Election Night.

Smith had outperformed his statewide average in Tarrant County during the 2004 Election by 13%, but this year, his campaign reports, he underperformed the statewide results by 23%. One other such puzzling number reported previously by Smith's campaign:

Winkler County, which went for Smith by margins of 260-92 (74%) and 468-249 (65%) in the 2002 and 2004 elections, went against Smith by an unbelievable 0-273 (100%) margin. Governor Perry received only 83% of the vote in Winkler County, and no other contested candidate topped 80%. The propositions on the ballot topped out at 93%.

Says Rogers, "We are contesting the state as a whole, but looking at specific larger counties where there are problems and a few of the smaller counties where the mistakes were absolutely egregious."

The BRAD BLOG has also previously reported on whistleblower William Singer who had worked at both Hart InterCivic and then as an "Election Programmer" in Tarrant County. Singer had attempted to alert the Texas and Ohio Secretaries of State and Attornies General about concerns, including possible criminal fraud by Hart, ES&S and Tarrant County, as long ago as July of 2004. His letters were all virtually ignored by officials in both states. The Texas Secretary of State was recently forced to shutdown a mandated recount in Tom Green County when it was discovered that recount numbers from the machines differed by some 20% from results reported on Election Night.

Up until now, many critics who have doubted or ignored the many concerns about the hackable hardware and secret software used in Electronic Voting, as expressed for some time by Election Integrity Advocates, have said that it is only Democrats who seem to be concerned about results as tallied on such machines which are now blanketing the country in the wake of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

That flawed law was written and sponsored in large part by Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and passed in 2002 along with heavy lobbying by Voting Machine Vendor Diebold, Inc. of North Canton, OH and their top lobbyist, Ney's former chief of staff, David DiStefano. HAVA's full impact kicks in by statute for the first time this year. Ney recently stepped down from his chairmanship of the U.S. House Administration Committee after being named in one of the plea bargains by disgraced former Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Smith's election challenge, by a conservative Republican Supreme Court Justice from Texas, may well help to change the tenor of the debate over Electronic Voting, as is becoming apparent in several national mainstream publications of late including USA TODAY who published a front page story finally touching on these matters today.

We are on the road for the bulk of today and this evening, but if one of our friendly Guest Bloggers can update this item with a copy of the full Election Contest as filed by Steve Smith later today --- once we receive it --- we will do so.

UPDATE 3:50pm PT: Campaign managaer David Rogers has contacted us to let us know the campaign has found additional information that they wish to investigate before filing their contest. Due to this new information they will be delaying the filing by 24 hours.

UPDATE 4/1/06: The complete Election Contest filing is now attached here. [PDF] We hope to have a new report on the details/specifics later.

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Poll Worker Training Blamed
By John Gideon on 3/23/2006 6:27am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

At noon Wednesday, Chicago was missing 252 memory cartridges, 93 from machines that scanned in paper ballots and 159 from touch screens. County officials couldn't find 162 memory cartridges from suburban precincts--68 from optical-scanning machines and 94 for touch-screen balloting.

The problems led midday to the sight of Cook County Director of Elections Clem Balanoff--his tie loosened and eyes bleary--rifling through blue duffel bags at a county warehouse for precinct returns for uncounted votes on missing memory cartridges.

It was only early last month that the state of Illinois certified the Sequoia voting system that was used in the Illinois primary in Chicago and suburban Cook County this week. In that 6 week period over 23,000 election judges had to be trained to set-up and use the voting machines and they had to learn a completely new set of procedures for opening and closing the polls.

The county and city failed to do that training or failed to do enough of it for those who were trained at all. According to this morning's Chicago Tribune:

Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, further said that 4,000 of Chicago's 14,000 election judges attended no training and instead relied on a judge's manual that was sent in the mail and was written in a complicated and confusing manner.

Training for county judges emphasized videos and not hands-on instruction. None of the 9,600 election judges in suburban Cook County had ever touched the scanning device used to process paper ballots, said Cook County Clerk David Orr.

This clear lack of training and the introduction of new, un-reliable voting machines has caused what amounts to a disaster in vote counting. Three days after the voters went to the polls votes are still being tallied. In fact, memory cartridges were still being located as of Wednesday afternoon.

Not helping with all of the chaos were the machine failures reported all around the city and county:

  • "A high-tech voting system in Chicago and suburban Cook County provided plenty of frustration and confusion for voters during its first test Tuesday, as election officials dealt with missing power cords and ballots, jammed equipment and broken electronic voting machines." LINK
  • "As voting in today's primary election nears an end, some of the new, multi-million dollar voting machines were a hi-tech headache for voters." LINK
  • "As election officials closed the polls Tuesday evening, reports of glitches from throughout the day continued as both voters and election officials learned how to deal with a new, high-tech voting system in Chicago and suburban Cook County."LINK
  • So this week's Illinois primary has been a disaster with machine breakdowns, procedural errors, lost memory cartridges and a complete lack of training. They have to be able to learn from this and make changes; right? Well actually, as reported by VoteTrustUSA, they are going to take all of those Sequoia voting machines used in Chicago and suburban Cook County and they are shipping them all to Clark County, Nevada. Meanwhile, Chicago and Cook County will be getting another brand-new Sequoia voting system that has never been used in any election. Let's hope they can take just a little more time to train their poll judges because November will be here soon.

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    Inexplicable Tallies from Electronic Voting Machines in Tarrant County, Elsewhere in State Require Full Recount and/or Contest, According to Campaign Manager
    'Serious mistakes were made,' Understates Candidate, Former Texas Justice Steve Smith
    By Brad Friedman on 3/22/2006 5:40pm PT  

    A Conservative Republican former Texas Supreme Court Justice, who ran against a Republican opponent backed by Gov. Rick Perry, is considering a challenge to the tremendously flawed Primary Elections held in the state two weeks ago on new Electronic Voting Machines.

    The campaign for Steve Smith announced last week in a Press Release received only last night by The BRAD BLOG (and posted in full below) has filed a "Public Information Act request with the Tarrant County Elections Administrator seeking to review public documents relating to the Republican Party primary election in Tarrant County" on March 7th.

    As discussed in their press release, but elaborated upon to The BRAD BLOG in an interview this afternoon with Smith's campaign manager, David Rogers, the results reported from all across the state seem to make little or no sense.

    For example, though his was a statewide race, Smith's home county is Tarrant where in 2004, according to Rogers, Smith "outperformed the statewide results by 13%, but this year, according to the results, he underperformed the statewide results by 23%."

    "Something doesn't make sense here," he noted, adding that turnout went up this year by 12,000 votes, but apparently a full "11,000 of them did not go to Smith."

    Amongst the many concerns alleged by Smith's campaign are that audit tapes from the voting machines are only available on 103 of the 211 election day voting locations, making it impossible to audit all of the races. "No audit can be correctly performed on more than half of the machines in the state," says Rogers.

    Perhaps more troubling still, is this item from Smith's press release:

    Winkler County, which went for Smith by margins of 260-92 (74%) and 468-249 (65%) in the 2002 and 2004 elections, went against Smith by an unbelievable 0-273 (100%) margin. Governor Perry received only 83% of the vote in Winkler County, and no other contested candidate topped 80%. The propositions on the ballot topped out at 93%.

    Due to time-constraints (we were supposed to hit the road about five hours ago), we weren't able to confirm those incredible Winkler County numbers. But if they are true, they are indeed mind-blowing.

    As previously reported, Tarrant County saw some 100,000 votes added incorrectly to the election totals on Hart InterCivic and ES&S voting machines on Election Day. As well, The BRAD BLOG reported on a whistleblower who worked for both Hart and later at Tarrant County. In July of 2004, he sent letters warning the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General about serious problems which he regarded as both "criminal" and "fraudulent" both at Hart and in Tarrant County's Board of Elections. His letters, he told us, were completely ignored by all of the officials.

    And yesterday, that same Sec. of State in Texas was forced to shut down a mandated recount in Tom Green County when the Hart InterCivic machines were reporting results that differed by some 20% from the original totals as reported on Election Night.

    We wonder if he might decide to go back and talk to our whistleblower now. Apparently both the Smith campaign and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (as we learned earlier today when they contacted us for more info) suddenly have an interest in doing so.

    Rogers indicated to The BRAD BLOG this morning that they were seriously investigating a complete challenge to the election statewide and hope to get a much closer look at those Hart and ES&S machines in order to try and make sense of whatever the hell happened in Texas.

    We'd like to see that happen, of course. And now that a conservative Republican may have had his own ox gored by these infernal machines, perhaps it'll actually become a reality.

    The complete Press Release issued by Smith's campaign --- detailing even more "irregularties" in the race --- follows. [emphasis in the original] ...

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

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    Hart Intercivic Touch-Screen Voting Machines in Tom Green County Fail To Print Ballots for All Votes in Mandated Recount!
    REPORT: 'Electronic machines not providing all info', 20% Discrepany Between Recount and Election Night Results!
    By John Gideon on 3/21/2006 2:53pm PT  

    Guest Blogged by John Gideon

    Just reported by San Angelo (TX) Standard Times.

    The Texas Sec. of State has stepped in to stop the recount of ballots being printed from the Hart Intercivic "eSlate" Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, touch-screen) voting machines during a mandated election recount. The stoppage of the recount is due to failure of the voting machines to print all ballots cast during the Texas state primary two weeks ago...

    On orders from the Texas Secretary of State's office, the recount for the Tom Green County Court-at-Law No. 2 race has been suspended midway through its second day.

    About 1:30 p.m. today, county Republican Chairman Dennis McKerley stopped the recount after workers found discrepancies of as much as 20 percent between what was counted Monday and what was reported Election Night.

    "We're having some trouble with the electronic equipment," McKerley said.

    Apparently, McKerley said, new electronic voting machines provided by vendor Hart InterCivic are not printing ballots for every vote cast on the machines. During recounts, which must be done by hand, the machines are designed to print out separate ballots for every vote.

    A Hart InterCivic representative is expected to arrive Wednesday morning, McKerley said, to determine whether or how to retrieve the remaining printouts.

    The problem affects early votes cast in what appears to be every precinct, McKerley said. All of commissioner's Precinct 1 was affected, he said, as were all the randomly selected voting precincts in other parts of the county.

    Although sign-in sheets match the counts provided by the machines on Election Night, he said, the number of printouts does not match the sign-in sheets.

    More than 3,000 early votes were cast in the race between Assistant County Attorney Julie Hughes, incumbent Judge Penny Roberts and former prosecutor Dan Edwards, meaning the problem likely affects more than 600 votes of the 9,500 cast early and on Election Day.

    Just 12 votes separate third-place finisher Edwards from second-place finisher Roberts to see who will face Hughes in the April runoff election. Edwards requested and paid for the recount."

    This is another instance where a voter verified paper ballot would have saved the day for voters and voting officials.

    If we hear more we will pass it on.

    ADDITIONAL BRAD BLOG BACKGROUND...
    -- Sec. of State Was Warned in 2004: Hart InterCivic Whistleblower's Report
    -- Trouble in Tarrant: 100,000+ Extra Votes on Hart Machines in TX County
    -- March 7, 2006 TX Primary: Loads of E-Voting Problems Across State

    ReddIt this story!



    Governor's Open Letter: 'One person, one vote is in jeopardy if we do not act boldly and immediately'
    But How Long Will the Bill Take To Come Into Effect?
    By John Gideon on 3/1/2006 6:40pm PT  

    Guest Blogged by John Gideon

    "American citizens once took for granted that every vote mattered, but no longer. It is time that we, the elected state officials, work to restore American's confidence in our electoral systems and undertake reform that moves to eliminate skepticism and uncertainty." --- NM Governor Bill Richardson's 3/1/06 Letter "To the State Officials of the 50 United States of America" (Posted in full below)

    Today Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico made a powerful statement to officials in all states (see full letter below) as he announced that tomorrow he would be signing legislation that would require the state of New Mexico to go to a paper ballot based voting system. No longer will the state use Sequoia DRE (touch-screen) voting machines...the machines that reported large numbers of undervotes in previous elections...The same machines that disenfranchised minority voters...The technology Richardson describes as "simply fail[ing] to pass the test of reliability" in his open letter published today.

    The Governor has also announced that the bill's signing ceremony will be webcast. The announcement says:

    We hope you will join the Governor, concerned citizens and legislators as the Governor's signature moves New Mexico forward by ensuring that our democracy continues to flourish. The live webcast will begin Thursday at 11:00am MST (1:00pm Eastern) and can be viewed at:

    www.billrichardson2006.com/reform/paperballots

    Please watch the webcast, take a moment to look at the Governor's proposals, and sign the petition to get your state, and the rest of America, to make every vote count

    This all sounds wonderful, except???opponents of the legislation managed to get the legislation amended so that voting systems "owned or used" as of 1 May 2006 that do not use paper ballots can continue to be used until, among other things, debt on purchases of those machines are paid by the state. Then, the bill that appropriated funds to pay off the debt died in committee. Now the state needs to find the money to pay off the debt.

    UPDATE 3/3/06: Signing ceremony video and petition calling on all states to join NM now here.

    The complete letter from Gov. Richardson of New Mexico follows...

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

    ReddIt this story!



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