Letter from SoS to Voting Machine Co. Warns of Numerous Problems Discovered on Touch-Screen, Optical Scan Machines!
State Senator Outraged, Comments to BRAD BLOG, Calls for Full Release of Information by State!...And Releases Statement on Related Matters...
By Brad Friedman on 12/23/2005, 5:05pm PT  

Holy cow...perhaps this explains why California Sec. of State Bruce McPherson suddenly started turning inexplicably back to Diebold some time around mid-November of this year after having decertified them already back in 2004, and then finding them to have failed massively in a recent mock election test over the summer.

"Information about problems with voting machines should not have been delayed long enough to become a lump of coal in California's Christmas stocking," half-joked State Senator Debra Bowen to The BRAD BLOG upon reading the following astounding new story.

AP's Juliet Williams reports today on a letter written by McPherson's office to voting machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) after the recent Special Election here on Nov. 8th. The letter documents a number of very serious problems discovered on ES&S voting equipment during the election. Apparently the SoS threatened ES&S with decertification in the bargain, similar to the one Diebold faced in the state back in 2004 under the previous Sec. of State Kevin Shelley...

SACRAMENTO - California election officials have told one of the country's largest manufacturers of voting machines to repair its software after problems with vote counts and verification surfaced during California's November special election.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Bradley J. Clark threatened to start the process of decertifying Election Systems and Software machines for use in California if senior officials didn't address the concerns immediately.

"The California Secretary of State is deeply concerned about problems experienced by counties utilizing ES&S voting equipment and software," Clark wrote in a letter addressed to company president Aldo Tesi nine days after the Nov. 8 election.

Software problems included incorrect counting of turnout figures, a malfunction that prevented voters from verifying that their choices were registered accurately and one machine recording the wrong vote during a test, according to the letter.

Eleven California counties used the company's voting machines during the special election. Election Systems and Software equipment also is used in 45 other states.

The problems in California are similar to ones the company has experienced elsewhere. During a 2004 primary election in Hawaii, glitches with the company's optical scanners led to a miscount of about 6,000 votes.
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A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bruce McPherson declined to elaborate further on the Election Day mishaps, the problems discussed in the letter or the company's assertion that state officials are pleased with its proposed solutions.

In other words, it's none of the voters damned business what problems occurred in their own elections just five weeks ago! And had Williams not discovered the letter, none of the citizens in California, or for that matter States and Counties around the country --- all of whom are making their last minute decisions on which vendors to sign with prior to the Jan 1, 2006 HAVA deadline --- would have ever known about any of these problems with ES&S machinery!

CA State Senator Debra Bowen, who has been a leader in the state on issues of election integrity, was clearly irked upon reading this news, as reflected in this comment she just shared with The BRAD BLOG, asking [emphasis hers]: "WHY IS IT THAT WE HAVE BEEN IN THE DARK ABOUT THE PROBLEMS WITH ES&S FOR FIVE WEEKS?"

She went on to call on the SoS to release all pertinent information on these matters in her missive:

When is the public entitled to know? This kind of secrecy is completely unacceptable.

I call on the Secretary of State to immediately release all correspondence to all vendors, and all documentation related to the certification of any and all voting equipment and voting systems. Information about problems with voting machines should not have been delayed long enough to become a lump of coal in California's Christmas stocking.

As well, she promised to reiterate those concerns with a "formal request" in her official capacity soon.

Yet, there's still more that SoS's office doesn't feel, apparently, that voter's have the right to know. Back to the AP coverage:

Clark's letter said that on Nov. 8 a state monitoring team "experienced an alarming error on the iVotronic system in Merced County, where a voter chose one candidate but the vote was recorded for another candidate. This error is documented on videotape and demonstrates that it was not an operator error, but was, rather, an error in the system."
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Fields said company officials have reviewed the state's videotape and blamed the problem on the tester's long fingernails.
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"The iVotronic touch screens are designed to be used by soft-touched objects," he said. "We do not recommend sharp, hard objects like a stylus, a pen or fingernails."

Lovely. A device created to be used by touching the screen with ones finger, won't work if fingernails are used. Good thinking!

In all honesty, however, the entire "fingernail" defense from ES&S sounds like a bunch of nonsense to us. Once again, we've got a documented and video-taped report of "Vote Hopping", not unlike the thousands of similar reports that American's testified to back in November of 2004 after the Presidential Election --- only to be dismissed and called "conspiracy theorists" later when they testified to the incidents, and signed official affidavits along with it.

And just a bit more from the article:

According to the secretary of state's letter, other problems discovered in California Nov. 8 include:

_ The company's software incorrectly counting the total turnout figures for counties that used multiple ballot cards: "This problem was a recurrence of a problem experienced by your customers in November 2004; you have had a year to correct this known problem, and have not done so," the letter stated.
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_ The touch-screen machine used in Merced County did not properly display the summary of votes, "making it impossible for voters to confirm their vote choices in those contests," the letter stated.

We had more on the troubles with the ES&S company --- just in case they were under the impression that Diebold deserved all the BRAD BLOG "love" --- in this previous item.

Between ES&S and Diebold, the two companies currently tally more than 80% of America's votes. They have each been run by two brothers named Urosevich. And while Diebold, Inc. in total, is a larger company than ES&S, the latter is actually a larger provider of Voting Systems and Machinery around the country.

AP's Williams deserves big props her reporting here! So...thank you to her! Please put us out of "business" entirely! And soon if you don't mind!

On further related matters from Sen. Bowen, who is running for Sec. of State in 2006 herself, she's been a rather busy bee of late, even if everyone else in Sacramento has already knocked off for the holidays.

A "Letter to the Editor" of hers was published in today's Tallahassee Democrat down in Florida, lauding Leon County's Ion Sancho for his leadership on the recent Diebold "Hack Test" which revealed that an Electronic Election could be entirely flipped by a hacker without as much as a trace being left behind.

As well, she issued a press release late yesterday spelling out how California's law requiring Voting Machine Companies to place their source code in escrow is virtually identical to the law in North Carolina which Diebold yesterday said they could not abide by and thus stated their intention to withdraw from the state completely. If that was the case in NC, suggests Bowen, then apparently Diebold needs to withdraw from CA as well.

She also states her serious concerns about the so-called "Independent Testing Authority" (not so "independent", they're chosen and paid for by the Voting Machine Vendors, and not so "authoritative" since they seem to rubber-stamp just about anything the companies send to them!) The ITA's are supposed to certify all of this software and hardware on the Federal level. Recently, as Bowen points out, Sec. of State McPherson opted to "punt" the matter of Diebold's hackable memory cards back to the ITA rather than doing what Sancho did; Simply decertify them and their crappy machines once and for all from all further elections!

As her press release on the ITA matters has not yet been published anywhere as far as we know, we offer her our Christmas gift by doing so here, in full, below...Happy Holidays, Senator...We look forward to coming to Sacramento in '07 for your Inaugural as the next California SoS...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2005

DIEBOLD PULLS OUT OF NORTH CAROLINA – IS CALIFORNIA NEXT?

SACRAMENTO – Just one day after a court said North Carolina counties could contract with controversial voting equipment manufacturer Diebold, the company announced today it was pulling out of its attempt to sell machines in the state.

Specifically, a letter from Diebold's Division Counsel, Charles Owen, says:

“. . . moving forward to a formal contract would place [Diebold] in a position of violating State law. Therefore, [Diebold] will be unable to move forward in this procurement process . . .”

The letter references the company's inability to comply with North Carolina Session Law 2005-323, a measure signed into law in August 2005 that established requirements for all voting systems used in the state. The company says it can't comply with the provision of the law requiring voting machine vendors to provide their software source codes to the state and the counties that buy its machines. The North Carolina law requires vendors to, among other things:

o Post a bond or letter of credit to cover damages that may result in defects from the system;

o Provide access to all of any information required to be placed in escrow by a vendor for review and examination by the state, the counties that buy the machines, and others;

o Place all software that is relevant to functionality, setup, configuration, and operation of the voting system into escrow with an independent agent approved by the state;

o Notify the state of any decertification of the same system in any state, of any defect in the same system known to have occurred anywhere, and of any relevant defect known to have occurred in similar systems;

o Have their chief executive officer sign a sworn affidavit that the source code and other material in escrow is the same being used in its voting systems in this State. The chief executive officer must ensure that statement is true on a continuing basis.

“California has a virtually identical requirement for voting machine vendors to provide a copy of their source code to the state, so does this mean Diebold is going to walk away from here as well?,” wondered Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee. “If Diebold won't provide its source code in North Carolina, it'll be interesting to see if the company will provide the code in California, or whether the agenda here is to try and pressure the Legislature into weakening the law, which I have absolutely no interest in doing.”

Specifically, California Elections Code Section 19103 reads:

(a) An exact copy of the source code for all ballot tally software programs certified by the Secretary of State, including all changes or modifications and new or amended versions, shall be placed in an approved escrow facility prior to its use. No voting system may be used for an election unless an exact copy of the ballot tally software program source codes is placed in escrow.

On Tuesday, California's Secretary of State punted the decision of whether Diebold's touch-screen machines should be re-certified for use in California to the federal government and the Independent Testing Authorities, asking for more information from those entities before deciding whether to re-certify the company's touch-screen machines for use here in California.

“The federal testing process is notoriously weak, it's done in secret, and these supposedly ‘independent testing authorities' the Secretary of State wants to rely on are financed by the voting machine industry and conduct their tests behind closed doors as well,” continued Bowen. “The decision about what voting equipment we're going to use in this state needs to be made in the open, right here in California, not behind closed doors in Washington.”

A number of California counties bought Diebold touch-screen voting machines in 2003 and 2004 only to have them decertified after the March 2004 election when the machines prevented thousands of voters from casting their ballots, and Diebold was discovered to have violated state law by installing uncertified software on the machines before the election. Last week, two Florida counties decided to remove all Diebold voting machines from their polling places due to concerns the machine's election results could be manipulated. Also last week, a class action lawsuit was filed against the company by shareholders, alleging Diebold “lacked a credible state of internal controls and corporate compliance and remained unable to assure the quality and working order of its voting machine products.”

“Given the new development North Carolina, Diebold's checkered history in California, what's happened in Florida, and the shareholder lawsuit, it really makes me wonder why the Secretary of State is still considering allowing Diebold machines to be used here,” continued Bowen. “What does this company have to hide?”

Diebold's first attempt to have its touch-screen TSx re-certified this summer failed when 20% of the machines crashed or froze and 10% of them couldn't print the voter-verified paper trail required by state law. According to a staff report from the California Secretary of State, which recommends that the TSx be certified for use in California, those problems didn't recur during a follow-up test of the machines in September 2005.

“The Help American Vote Act was intended to make it easier for people to vote and to improve the accuracy of the vote count,” continued Bowen. “If Diebold and the Secretary of State make it easier for people to vote, yet there's no guarantee those votes will be counted accurately, California will have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and pulled the rug out from under our democracy in the process.”

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