Denounces Adminstrative Failures, Irregularities, Security Breaches and Diebold Voting Machine 'Sleepovers' in Bellwether June 6th U.S. House Special Election!
Announcement Comes as DNC Chair Howard Dean Set to Address Activist, Election Integrity Convention in San Diego!
By Brad Friedman on 7/14/2006, 11:49am PT  


Filed by Brad Friedman from San Diego...

In a harshly worded statement, the DNC's Voting Rights Institute has issued a statement condemning the administration of the recent U.S. House race between Democrat Francine Busby and Republican Brian Bilbray, joining a growing national outcry in calling for "a swift and verifiable 'manual count' of all 150,000 ballots cast in California's 50th District's 'bellwether' June 6th special election."

"This is no longer about whether or not Busby or Bilbray won the election on June 6th," the just-issued statement reads. "This is about the importance of verifying the facts related to election and voting machine irregularities in this race and the need to ensure an accurate count of all votes cast in this election so that the electorate may have confidence in the announced results in future elections."

The long-awaited announcement of a position on the matter by the DNC comes at the end of more than a month of outrage from both national and state election integrity organizations, many of whom have declared "No Confidence" in the reported results of the race held to replace jailed Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Bilbray declared himself the winner on election night, and was sworn into office several days later, before all votes had been counted, and nearly three weeks prior to the election being certified by either state or county officials.

Massive security breaches were reported the day after the election, in regard to the deployment of the county's Diebold optical-scan and touch-screen voting machines as directed by San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas. The progammed, election-ready voting machines, poll workers have informed The BRAD BLOG, were stored unsecurely in home garages and cars, which Haas has admitted to us would "not be considered secure" in an earlier interview. Due to the presumed-contamination of the extremely hackable voting systems used in the race --- as allowed via the lengthy, unsupervised "sleepovers" in the days and weeks prior to the election --- nobody, even the Registrar's office, has been able to prove the accuracy of the results as announced by Haas.

CNN's Lou Dobbs, CourtTV's Catherine Crier, Tribune Media's Robert Koehler and the far-right conservative Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, Bilbray supporter and San Diego radio personality Rodger Hedgecock have been amongst the mainstream media figures to report on the debacle, decrying the security breaches in the election.

Hedgecock recently excoriated the way in which the electronic voting machines were used in the election, exclaiming on-air: "We now have allowed a system of counting our votes to be presented to us as a system that does it accurately, when it has manifestly been proven that it can be monkeyed with…and the results tampered!"

Today's statement, posted by Greg Moore, Director of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute --- citing "election irregularities" and several points of "new and disturbing information" concerning the mis-administration of the election --- was issued this morning as DNC Chairman Howard Dean heads down to speak at DemocracyFest!, a grassroots activist gathering being held this weekend in San Diego.

'Very Deep Concerns' About Security and the Administration of the Election...

"Very deep concerns" are enumerated in the announcement, describing several of the problems found so far in the special election on which The BRAD BLOG has been reporting almost exclusively since June 6th, when we first revealed that the programmed, election-ready Diebold optical-scan and touch-screen voting systems used in the race were inappropriately sent home with poll workers before the election. The security breaches that occurred during those so-called "sleepovers" were in violation of new state and federal rules, laws and provisions issued in the last few months after recent discoveries confirmed dozens of extreme security flaws in the Diebold voting systems, confirming them to be exceptionally vulnerable to tampering.

Upon violation of the new federal and California state emergency security mitigation requirements, as issued in February and March of this year, the voting machines were effectively and immediately decertified and illegal for use in the election, according to provisions spelled out by both authorities.

The vulnerabilities in the particular Diebold systems used in the election, as referenced in the DNC statement, include: on the touch-screen systems, the ability to completely replace the election and operating system software, as well as the computer firmware in less than two minutes time with no password required or authentication by the system; on the optical-scan systems, the ability to hack the memory cards used to store vote tabulation which may result in a complete reversal of election results, as demonstrated by hackers during a mock-election test held at the end of last year in Leon County, Florida. Such a hack on the optical-scan systems could be accomplished without a trace being left behind, save for a manual count of the paper ballots used in the race.

Indeed, in the recent Iowa primary elections, held on the same day as the California CA-50 election, as many as nine Republican races had their results reversed after a manual hand count of optically-scanned ballots revealed that the original machine count had declared the actual winners to have been losers in their races. Only a hand count would have revealed the erroneous totals.

San Diego County Registrar Haas has stymied the effort by citizen election integrity advocates in San Diego to have the ballots in the Busby/Bilbray race counted by hand.

The election was the first federal race to have been run in the country since the new security mitigation requirements were mandated by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the body tasked the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission as the federal voting machine certification body.

'A Single Person Can Reverse the Results of An Election'

Further underscoring the dangers of allowing unsupervised physical access to the systems is a landmark report released just weeks ago by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, detailing more than 120 security threats to e-voting systems. That study, widely reported by mainstream media outlets, led to a recent Washington Post article headlined "Single Person Could Swing an Election." The Brennan Center study picked up, in turn, on another recent study by computer scientist Harri Hursti and Security Innovation in March, revealing vulnerabilities that have been described by several experts as a "major national security risk" and "the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system." Those discoveries occurred during another landmark analysis of Diebold systems conducted by BlackBoxVoting.org in Emery County, Utah just two months prior to the election.

After the results of that examination were released, one of the leading computer scientists on the California Secretary of State's own voting systems technology advisory board, David Jefferson of Livermore National Laboratories, explained during an interview on the PBS News Hour : "You can affect multiple machines from a single attack. That's what makes it so dangerous." Jefferson was part of the team who advised the CA SoS on the new security mitigation requirements, which were then ignored by Registrar Haas' voting machine "sleepovers".

Demands for a Manual Hand Count Stymied by Registrar

Dozens of election integrity organizations, including California Election Protection Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Election Defense Alliance, the Commonweal Institute, VelvetRevolution.us and many others, along with several candidates and journalists have previously called for a hand count of the paper ballots and "paper trails" in the Busby/Bilbray race to ensure accuracy and accountability in the election.

A request to hand count the ballots was filed by CA-50 voter Barbara Gail Jacobson, but was eventually stonewalled by Haas, who refused to commit to the production of chain of custody documents for ballots and voting machines. Haas also set what appeared to be wholly arbitrary charges for the requested hand count, quoting three different estimates to three different inquiries. His final estimate, as given to the hand-count requester, was for as much as $150,000 to count the election. The price of nearly $1 per vote is in contrast to neighboring Orange County, CA who recently charged just .14 cents per vote to hand count an election. Haas has refused to offer any accounting or explanation for the exorbitant and prohibitive pricing.

A public record request from Jacobson for the results of the state mandated 1% manual audit of ballots has also not been supplied. As of this date, we are unaware of anyone having seen the results of that mandated audit.

The Fight for Accountability Continues...

As citizens organizing to fight for accountability in the race are collecting donations towards the effort at VelvetRevolution.us, they are weighing the legal options in consideration of the next step which will certainly be expensive.

After weeks of frustration, waiting for national organizations such as the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to weigh in on the matter, the DNC's announcement will likely bring encouragement to the election integrity advocates (including The BRAD BLOG. The DCCC, we have learned from several sources, had advised Busby to stay away from discussion of electronic voting machine issues prior to the election, and has still failed to comment publicly on the matter.

This morning's statement by Greg Moore, Director of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute, is posted at the National Democratic Party website, and also posted below in full...

DNC Voting Rights Institute on CA-50 Special Election

For several weeks since the June 6th Special Election in California’s 50th Congressional District there have been reports of election irregularities. The DNC Voting Rights Institute (“VRI”) has been monitoring the developments since Election Day and has raised a number of concerns regarding new and disturbing information.

First and foremost is the fact that any election where there are allegations of machine tampering, break downs in chain of custody, security breaches and other such irregularities must be taken seriously. There are several facts in this race that raise very deep concerns.

On the facts:

1. We know for a fact that San Diego County election officials have admitted that a number of the voting machines were taken home in violation of the federal security regulations and guidelines and that a number of the machines showed evidence of tampering (broken seals, which should also have immediately disqualified those machines from use according to state laws implemented in just the last several months in response to new severe vulnerabilities discovered Diebold's optical-scan and touch-screen voting systems.)

2. We know that under state and federal guidelines, any such breach of security seals or the new "secure storage" requirements for these machines and their memory cards should have immediately disqualified those machines from use in the election for the reason that they became effectively decertified for use upon such security and chain of custody violations.

3. We also know that both the Diebold optical-scan and touch-screen (DRE) machines have been proven to be vulnerable to tampering in test after test by industry experts, including a team of computer scientists and security experts convened by California's Secretary of State in response to recent revelations concerning the hack ability of Diebold voting systems.

4. We know that serious security issues and efforts by Diebold to obfuscate problems with their hardware and software led California’s former Democratic Secretary of State to decertify Diebold touch-screen systems in 2004, only to have the Republican Secretary who succeeded him reinstitute the machines over the objections of scores of computer scientists and experts and hundreds of election integrity advocates.

The San Diego County election official responsible for administrating post-election manual vote counts has given three different arbitrary cost estimates for conducting the hand count. The quoted fees are as much as six times the costs estimates for similar hand counts in surrounding counties. The estimates portray the expense of a manual vote count to be cost prohibitive.

This is no longer about whether or not Busby or Bilbray won the election on June 6th. This is about the importance of verifying the facts related to election and voting machine irregularities in this race and the need to ensure an accurate count of all votes cast in this election so that the electorate may have confidence in the announced results in future elections.

The VRI will continue to monitor facts as they become available and will call for a swift and verifiable "manual count" of all 150,000 ballots cast in California’s 50th District’s "bellwether" June 6th special election in order to ensure the integrity of November 7th general elections and the overall integrity of our country’s voting systems in this still-untested age of computerized voting.

Greg Moore is director of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute.