Landmark Documentary Will Feature Exclusive Footage of First Known Hack of Diebold Optical-Scan Voting System!
Investigative E-Voting Fraud Film --- Three Years in the Making --- to Debut on Cable Channel Nov. 2nd!
By Brad Friedman on 10/11/2006, 6:35am PT  

Think things have gotten bad for Diebold and friends? Something tells us they're about to get a whole lot worse.

HBO has just announced that they will be debuting Hacking Democracy, the long-awaited documentary film by Simon Ardizzone, Robert Carrillo Cohen and Russell Michaels, on November 2nd --- just days before millions of Americans will head to the polls to use all-new untested, inaccurate, hackable, electronic voting systems for the first time.

The BRAD BLOG received the first press release issued by HBO on this film late yesterday; it's posted in full at the end of this item.

We've yet to see the final version of the eagerly anticipated film (though we're told a screener is headed our way) but we've spent hours of time in conversation over the last year or two with both Michaels and Cohen as the pieces --- and the evidence --- were coming together.

We're told there are some remarkably damaging revelations to be seen --- and heard --- in the film, which includes not just interviews with Elections Officials, Computer Scientists, Security Experts, and Diebold Spokesliars, but loads of on-the-scene, first-hand documentary footage of some of the most remarkable and stunning moments during the long road of discovery in the E-Voting Revolution Scam that's been perpetrated on American democracy before, during and since the 2004 Election.

The investigative film, nearly three years in the making, is said to lay out a devasting case against E-voting in general, and Diebold in particular. The film, previously known as VoterGate, was released on the Internet in a very short, barebones "Presidential Election Special" just prior to the 2004 Election. At the time, that early, quickly compiled version --- which was jaw-dropping in and of itself --- followed the early stages of investigations into electronic voting machine fraud, vulnerabilities, and malfunction by Bev Harris and the late Andy Stephenson of

The earlier clips were released for free on the Internet in 2004 when the filmmakers felt they had already acquired so much important footage that they felt a responsibility to do something with it before the Presidential Election.

But as remarkable as the revelations of that short version were, that was then and this is now: some two years, miles of footage, and at least two or more actual demonstrated voting machine hacks later. The now-retitled film includes scores of fresh never-before-seen interviews, damning statements, and documents, and culminates in one of the most devasting moments in E-voting's short and sordid history: The Leon County Florida Hack, by computer security expert Harri Hursti, of a Diebold optical-scan voting machine in December of 2005.

The filmmakers were there for that watershed moment when the legendary Supervisor of Elections in Leon County, Ion Sancho, allowed independent computer security experts the opportunity to try and hack his paper-based Diebold optical scan voting system. The result was a flipped mock election, with no trace of the hack left behind, save for the paper ballots (which, in Florida, are now illegal to examine by hand after they have already been counted by a machine.)

Diebold said it couldn't be done. Diebold, apparently, lied.

That hack resulted in shockwaves across the national electoral landscape as it revealed the very real consequences of what had, up until then, been a largely theoretical fear about the vulnerability of electronic voting machines to malicious tampering.

An election had now been flipped for the first time on an actual voting system, this one a paper-based Diebold model. The touch-screen systems, we would later learn, are even more vulnerable.

The Leon County Hack will be seen, as it occured, for the first time when HBO premiers the film just days before this November's general election, when millions of Americans will be using those same new, hackable, optical-scan and touch-screen voting systems made by Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, Hart InterCivic, and others for the first time.

It's about to get much worse, indeed. We hope to have more on Hacking America in the coming days.

UPDATE 10/15/06: Details now available on HBO's site here...

HBO's complete first press release on the film, including a schedule of air-dates, follows in full...


Electronic voting machines count 80% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud, concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing by the day. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is America's democracy.

The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY exposes gaping holes in the security of America’s electronic voting system when it debuts THURSDAY, NOV. 2 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT) – less than a week before the midterm elections – exclusively on HBO. Other HBO playdates: Nov. 5 (9:00 a.m.), 7 (9:00 a.m., 6:30 p.m.), 13 (12:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m.), 18 (6:00 p.m.) and 26 (1:15 a.m.).HBO2 playdates: Nov. 4 (noon), 7 (11:45 p.m.), 10 (6:30 p.m.) and 15 (3:00 a.m.).

In the 2000 presidential election, an electronic voting machine recorded minus 16,022 votes for Al Gore in Volusia County, Fla. While fraud was never proven, the faulty tally alerted computer scientists, politicians and everyday citizens to the very real possibility of computer hacking during elections.

In 2002, Seattle grandmother and writer Bev Harris asked officials in her county why they had acquired electronic touch screen systems for their elections. Unsatisfied with their explanation, she set out to learn about electronic voting machines on her own. In the course of her research, which unearthed hundreds of reported incidents of mishandled voting information, Harris stumbled across an "online library" of the Diebold Corporation – which counted around 40 percent of the presidential votes nationwide – discovering a treasure trove of information about the inner-workings of the company's voting system.

Harris brought this proprietary "secret" information to computer security expert Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, who determined that the software lacked the necessary security features to prevent tampering. Her subsequent investigation took her from the trash cans of Texas to the secretary of state of California and finally to Florida, where a "mini-election" to test the vulnerability of the memory cards used in electronic voting produced alarming results.

As the scope of her mission grew, Harris drew on the expertise of other computer-science experts, politicians and activists, among them: Andy Stephenson, candidate for secretary of state in Washington state; Susan Bernecker, Republican candidate in New Orleans; Kathleen Wynne, an activist from Cleveland; Hugh Thompson, director, Security Innovations, Inc.; Ion Sancho, Florida’s supervisor of elections; Susan Pynchon of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition; and Harri Hursti, a computer-security analyst. Academics, public officials and others seen in interview footage include: Deanie Low, supervisor of elections, Volusia County, Fla.; Mark Radke, marketing director of Diebold; David Cobb, presidential candidate, Green Party; and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio.

Diebold software, or other software like it, is installed in thousands of counties across 32 states. David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford, says the problem is that there are "lots of people involved in writing the software, and lots of people who could have touched the software before it went into that machine. If one of those people put something malicious in the software and it’s distributed to all the machines, then that one person could be responsible for changing tens of thousands of votes, maybe even hundreds of thousands, across the country."

In Florida, Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho presided over a trial "mini-election" to see if the vote could be hacked without being detected. Before votes were actually cast, computer analyst Harri Hursti "stuffed the ballot box" by entering votes on the computer's memory card. Then, after votes were cast, the results displayed when the same memory card was entered in the central tabulating program indicated that fraud was indeed possible. In other words, by accessing a memory card before an election, someone could change the results – a claim Diebold had denied was possible.

Ultimately, Bev Harris' research proved that the top-secret computerized systems counting the votes in America’s public elections are not only fallible, but also vulnerable to undetectable hacking, from local school board contests to the presidential race. With the electronic voting machines of three companies – Diebold, ESS and Sequoia – collectively responsible for around 80 percent of America’s votes today, the stakes for democracy are high.

One of the executive producers of HACKING DEMOCRACY is Sarah Teale, whose previous HBO credits include "Dealing Dogs" and "Bellevue: Inside Out." HACKING DEMOCRACY was directed by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels; produced by Simon Ardizzone, Robert Carrillo Cohen and Russell Michaels; executive producers, Earl Katz, Sarah Teale and Sian Edwards; edited by Sasha Zik. For HBO: supervising producer, John Hoffman; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.