Leon County Election Supervisor Alleges 'Breach of Contract' After Security Test Revealed Hackable Elections Possible on Diebold Optical-Scan Systems!
E-Voting Monolith and 'Competitors' All Refuse to do Business with County Unless the Elected Ion Sancho is 'Removed from Office'
By Brad Friedman on 3/8/2006, 2:26pm PT  

Ion Sancho is fighting back.

Sancho, the Election Supervisor of Leon County, Florida who exposed a number of security flaws in Electronic Voting Machines made by the Diebold corporation of North Canton, Ohio, today launched legal "breach of contract" proceedings against the company. The action has been filed on behalf of the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office.

In a conversation moments ago with Sancho, he confirmed to The BRAD BLOG that "we filed a breach action this morning, pursuant to a contract which notifies Diebold we are pursuing all available options."

The breach concerns Diebold's refusal to deliver their latest operating system for the optical scan voting systems which had previously been used in Leon County --- until Sancho discovered an alarming security flaw in the system at the end of last year.

"According to our contract with Diebold," Sancho explained, "we have to give them 30 days notice. And so we are requiring them to answer by March 21, as to how they intend to repair the breach."

The only two other Voting Machine Vendors, ES&S and Sequoia Voting Systems, have now officially refused to do business with Leon County and Sancho in the wake of a series of security evaluations held last year in the county on actual Diebold equipment. With the state threatening Sancho with legal action themselves if he is not able to implement a voting system which requires with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), Sancho had been forced to attempt to do business again with Diebold.

The most infamous of the security evaluations held last year by Sancho was a "hack test" in December of Diebold's optical scan voting system. That mock election test revealed that election results could be completely flipped on Diebold's optical-scan system without a trace of the hack being left behind.

With all three companyies now refusing to do business with him, and pressure being applied from Diebold as well as state and local officials to do "do something about Sancho" - he now finds himself with no other choice but to fight back against Diebold, and face this "titanic clash" head on...

Sancho had exposed a flaw in the Electronic Voting Machine Company giant that has had earthquake-like repercussions across the entire electoral system in the United States, as The BRAD BLOG has been reporting in great detail for at least several months.

Now the Republicans in Florida, all the way up to Governor Jeb Bush's office, have taken notice of the situation and instead of lauding Sancho for his actions, have decided to bring political pressure to bear on the elected Sancho.

After the startling December 2005 "hack test", Sancho vowed he would would never use Diebold equipment in another Leon County election. The state's capitol, Tallahassee, happens to be in Leon County.

But Sancho's attempts to contract with another vendor have now all failed. Of the three vendors certified to sell election equipment in Florida --- Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia --- all three have now refused to do business with him.

At year's end, after the Diebold hack, ES&S had promised to deliver new equipment for Leon County --- only to leave a voice message just prior to the January 1, 2006 HAVA deadline for states and counties to sign new contracts for election systems upgrades to be paid for with federal funding. The ES&S representative informed Sancho the company would be unable to supply inventory to Leon County in time for the 2006 elections. Shortly thereafter, however, the company signed a contract to supply neighboring Volusia County with election hardware, and more recently, they informed the state of Maryland that they'd be able to supply machines to the entire state in time for this year's elections.

Sancho's third, and last, option was the Sequoia Voting Systems company. They too had promised to deliver a contract to Leon County. But as of last Thursday, the day after they had promised to deliver that contract, Sancho was informed that they would be unable to do so.

Sancho told The BRAD BLOG moments ago that the excuse he was given by Sequoia, after their sales rep had previous promised there would be no problems, was that Sequoia now says they "have no plans to sell anywhere in the United States. We're at capacity and we're not taking any new orders for 2006."

Apparently, Sancho says, the CEO of Sequoia overruled the local representative and Sancho is now left with none of the three certified Voting Machine Vendors willing to do business with him.

Despite that, as Susan Pynchon of Florida Fair Elections Coalition wrote in an email to Election Integrity Advocates earlier today, "two Republican members of Leon County's seven-member county commission blasted Sancho for failing to provide Leon County with accessible voting machines" in recent Leon County Commission meetings.

According to Pynchon, and confirmed in previous discussions The BRAD BLOG has had with Sancho, Diebold has been putting pressure on the state and the county to remove Sancho from office. As Pynchon wrote today:

At a Leon County Commission meeting on February 28, 2006, county staff revealed that Chuck Owen, Division Counsel for Diebold Election Systems, met with county staff behind closed doors on February 27. According to staff, Owen stated that "Diebold would sell its touch-screen voting machines to the county if, and only if, the county removed Supervisor Sancho from office."

The attacks have also now come from the office of Governor Jeb Bush's own Department of State. That, even though Sancho revealed for them a flaw in their own voting systems which would make Florida's vote unsecure and completely hackable. According to Pynchon:

Florida's Department of State, instead of supporting Sancho, has gone on the attack against him. The DOS demanded the return of $564,421 in Help America Vote Act funds from Leon County and, in a March 3 letter from Secretary of State Sue Cobb, threatened Supervisor Sancho with "legal action" if he does not have a disabled-accessible voting system in place by May 1, 2006. State law allows the governor to suspend an elected official and further allows the state Senate to remove an elected official from office.

Cobb's letter to Sancho can be read in full here [PDF] along with much more history/background on Florida and Sancho.

The Tallahassee Democrat today reports a Cobb spokesperson as claiming "removal from office 'is not part of our thought process.'"

The attacks from the state have come even while the state of Florida itself, as we reported last Friday, sent a late-night "Technical Advisory" to every Election Supervisor in Florida warning them to take make "security enhancements" to avoid the type of election fraud revealed possible by Sancho's tests. The advisory, sent as the weekend was beginning at 4pm on Friday evening, was issued by the Director of Florida's Division of Elections, Dawn K. Roberts. She did not mention either Diebold or Sancho by name in the warning, nor did she refer to Sancho's hack of the optical-scan systems in Leon County.

"The thing that they don't want to admit," Sancho told us, "is that the Diebold breach [of contract] is in large measure due to that hack test."

"As an elected official of the voters of Leon County, I have the constitutional responsibility to do everything in my power to make sure the equipement is accurate and reliable," Sancho told us during a phone interview last weekend on all of these matters. "In fact I'd be negligent if I didn't do everything I could to establish their reliability," he said, especially in light of Diebold's "on-the-record admissions" of attempting to circumvent law and lie about facts in California and elsewhere around the country.

Those admissions in California in 2004 led to the decertification of Diebold touch-screen machines by California's former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

A recent report commissioned by the current SoS in California, Bruce McPherson, confirmed the findings of the Leon County Hack Test. Inexplicably, McPherson then went ahead and re-certified Diebold in the state nonetheless. One of the participants in that analysis, the Tallahassee Democrat reports, has sent a letter of support to Sancho, questioning what may be behind the attacks he is now receiving:

A report by California's Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board recently backed up Sancho's findings of problems with the Diebold system. One of the report's authors, David Wagner, e-mailed Sancho on Saturday to express support for him.

"I think very highly of your contributions, and I am puzzled why others fail to recognize just how much you have done for the voters of Florida," he wrote. "I find it unconscionable what some of the vendors seem to be doing to make life difficult for a supervisor of elections who would put the public interest first and foremost."

When asked whether the refusal by all three companies to do business with Sancho was due to collusion as punishment for exposing Diebold, or whether ES&S and Sequoia both feared their equipment would be submitted to the same rigorous testing the Diebold machines faced, Sancho would say only, "There's an old adage, Brad, where there's smoke there's fire."

He didn't wish to yet elaborate further.

"These are pretty incredible days," he told us. "There's a titanic clash now going on that's almost unfathomable. These are multi-billion dollar corporations that we've caught here and they don't like it," he explained, clearly exasperated by the situation he reluctantly finds himself in the middle of.

"I'm just a citizen," he went on, "and I've never seen or been involved in anything like this."

He vowed, however, to keep fighting --- for both his constituents who elected him to office, and against the powers-that-be who seem to have any number of reasons to take him down. All of those reasons would seem to be other than ensuring Florida's electoral integrity and transparency --- and for that matter, the electoral integrity and transparency of the world's once-greatest democracy.

Additional reporting for this story by John Gideon

Just a reminder that we are almost solely supported by reader donations. Please consider a donation to BRAD BLOG to help support the continuation of these vital, yet under-reported-by-the-mainstream-media stories!