Voting Machine Company Betrays Agreement with Election Director Ion Sancho Just Days Prior to Jan 1 HAVA Deadline!
Is ES&S Paying Back for Their Evil Twin Company, Diebold? Are They Afraid of the Same Scrutiny Those Machine Received in Leon County? Another Sunshine State Mystery Unfolds...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2006, 6:26pm PT  

Additional Reporting by John Gideon

Are the voting machine vendors now teaming up against an election official who dared reveal the vulnerabilities of their voting machines?

As you'll recall, Ion Sancho, Leon County, Florida's courageous Supervisor of Elections stood up against both the state and Diebold and said that he would never again use Diebold's voting equipment after he allowed for a test which demonstrated their election equipment was easily hackable. The results revealed an electronic optical-scan election on Diebold equipment could be flipped without a trace being left behind.

After dumping Diebold, Sancho made a deal to buy machines instead from Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) on the promise that they would supply their optical scan machines for use along with the AutoMARK system which prints a countable paper ballot. AutoMARK has an agreement to allow ES&S exclusive marketing rights for their machines.

But a strange thing happened after Sancho's agreement with ES&S and just prior to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) deadline on January 1, 2006. As reported by Susan Pynchon of Florida Fair Elections Coalition, a voice-mail message was left on Sancho's cell-phone on December 29, 2005 by Gary Crump, ES&S Chief Operating Officer. Crump was calling to inform Sancho that the company had decided to deal only with long-time customers due to equipment deadline considerations. Pynchon says that statement is "patently untrue, since ES&S went ahead and contracted with Volusia County, Florida after agreeing to sell to Leon County."

Pynchon goes on to offer some possible reasons for this odd betrayal and what the Leon County Manager had to say about it:

Since the reason given by ES&S for refusing to do business with Sancho is not valid, what could the real reason be? Is it retribution for exposing the vulnerabilities of the Diebold optical scan system. Is it collusion on the part of Diebold and ES&S? Or is ES&S simply afraid that Sancho might authorize similar "tests" on its equipment, exposing vulnerabilities in the ES&S voting system?

When Sancho explained to the Leon County Manager about the events that had transpired, the county manager responded that he is 100% supportive of Sancho's efforts to fight for paper-based verified voting systems, and urged Sancho not to succumb to intimidation by voting system vendors.

So what the hell is going on here? Black Box Voting has still more details in the bizarre on the story, though we're still left wondering what the real skinny is on this one!

If we can learn anything more, you'll be the first to know.