Terminates all contracts - including voter registration system - following California county's discovery, disclosure of major flaws in Diebold/Premier voting systems...
By Parke Bostrom on 3/25/2009, 1:42pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Parke Bostrom of the Humboldt Transparency Project

At the California Secretary of State's public hearing regarding the possible decertification of Diebold's tabulator systems, GEMS v1.18.19, in relation to the "Deck Zero" covert deletion of 197 ballots in the November election, the audit log's magical "clear" button, and the GEMS audit logs failing to report when ballots were manually deleted by the operator, Diebold/Premier representatives tried to shift blame for the 197 deleted ballots onto the Humboldt County, CA, Registrar of Voters, Carolyn Crnich.

Crnich responded, "If you're saying that your system needs to be checked every damn time we turn it on, I agree with you."

Crnich's use of an expletive seems to have pushed Diebold/Premier's legal counsel over the edge, causing them to reach for and firmly press the "nuke" button in response, by petulantly informing the county of termination of licensing for the use of any of the company's products.

Several days after returning to Humboldt, following the hearing in Sacramento, Crnich received two letters from Premier. Both letters arrived in a single envelope, but unlike Premier Khrushchev's two letters to President Kennedy, Crnich did not get to choose which letter to respond to....

The first letter, dated March 17th, was regarding section 25 of the Diebold Information Management System (DIMS) license agreement. The license agreement, for the company's computerized voter registration system, was signed on April 27th, 1999. Apparently section 25 allows Diebold/Premier to terminate Humboldt County's annual license to use the DIMS system on 90 days notice. Additionally, the letter went on to revoke all of Humboldt County's licenses to use any Diebold/Premier election systems and software following the May 19th statewide special election. Diebold/Premier also required that many pieces of equipment would have to be returned.

The second letter, dated March 18th, asked for confirmation that Registrar Crnich had declined Diebold/Premier's offer of a free hardware and software upgrade to GEMS v1.18.24. That version of the software, though it no longer includes the flaw that auto-deletes ballots, still allows for ballots to be deleted without any notation in the system's audit logs (a violation of federal requirements for such software).

An upgrade to the newer version would also require that Humboldt County's fleet of eighty precinct based Diebold AccuVote optical-scan machines receive a hardware retrofit.

Previously, Premier had offered to perform that upgrade at a cost of $324 per AccuVote (a total cost of $26,000), but they generously offered to throw in a free upgrade of the software part of GEMS. A week after Crnich rejected that deal, Premier offered a complete free upgrade of both hardware and software, that Crnich also rejected. Instead of retrofitting Humboldt's current AccuVotes, Premier offered to provide refurbished retrofitted machines direct from the company's headquarters in Texas. According to Crnich, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have accepted a free hardware and software upgrade to GEMS v1.18.24, including retrofitted and refurbished AccuVote optical-scanners.

Apparently, after "every damn time," all offers were taken off the table and the nukes were launched.

I asked Crnich if Premier would be taking back all the AccuVotes, too, or if Premier was merely taking all the "brains" (GEMS & DIMS) and leaving us with "just the useless pieces" (the AccuVote hardware). After pausing for a second, she replied, "they are leaving us with the rest of the useless pieces," referring to the entire system. I asked her if she really wanted me to quote her directly on that. Crnich's reply: "What else can they do to me at this point?"

Back in December and January, when Crnich was discussing the transition to Hart InterCivic equipment, she did say that she was planning on continuing to use Premier's DIMS voter registration system. But now she has to scramble to switch to another system there as well.

The state has a special election scheduled for May 19th. After that, Crnich will have to take delivery of the replacement Hart equipment, test it, be trained on it, train voters and poll workers to use it, conduct a test election on it, and then start preparing for the November statewide election. At the same time, she will have to return Premier's equipment, as they are requiring. Additionally, she will have to transition Humboldt's entire voter registration database to a new system. I think the voter registration system transition needs to be done within 90 days, meaning by June 17th-ish. In other words, the entire voter registration transfer will need to be done during the preparation for and post-election canvassing of the May 19th special election.

I asked Crnich for copies of the two letters from Diebold/Premier so I could post them here. Absurdly, Crnich claimed that after having read both of the letters to members of the public at a public meeting, the letters are still attorney-client privileged because she had sent copies of the letters to county counsel. These are letters from Premier to Crnich terminating contracts between Premier and Humboldt County. (If there are any lawyers out there who think this claim is not absurd, and that the letters are indeed privileged, please let me know.)

Finally, here is some free advice to any Premier public-relations types who may be reading this post and thinking about trying to do some damage control. Call up your corporate lawyers and get them to apologize to Crnich for terminating all the contracts in the middle of an election cycle. Then have them politely request that Crnich propose a schedule for discontinuing the use of DIMS at her convenience. It may take a little longer than 90 days, but I am pretty sure that at this point in time she is very eager to stop using any products that carry the Diebold/Premier name.

A version of this article was originally posted at Parke Bostrom's blog...

UPDATE 4/30/09: Copies of the two Diebold/Premier letters have finally been obtained from Crnich, in response to a public records request. Copies of the letters, and details here...

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Parke Bostrom became a poll worker in 2004 due to concerns with paperless voting machines (which are not used in Humboldt County). He became involved as a volunteer with the local Voter Confidence Committee, the Humboldt Election Advisory Committee, and Humboldt County Election Transparency Project over the course of 2008. Parke has also served as an election night election observer, most recently on behalf of the Humboldt County Republican Party. His professional background is in software and programming.