More than 10,000 pre-programmed election-ready Diebold touch-screen voting machines, to be used for the first time across the entirety of San Diego County this November 7th, are now in the cars, garages, homes, and hands of poll workers and lord knows who else across one of Southern California's largest voting regions.
As reported in several first-hand accounts from San Diego poll workers just after recent training sessions (see end of article for one of those first-hand accounts), the voting machines were sent home on so-called overnight "sleepovers" with temporary poll workers beginning on October 16th, allowing for a full three weeks prior to the election for poll workers to find the 60 seconds they might need to hack a single machine. One tampered machine could affect the results on every single voting machine, in every race in the county.
San Diego Registrar Mikel Haas --- easily one of the country's worst and most irresponsible election administrators --- is unconcerned. He's also instructing poll workers not to give out paper ballots despite a recent order from the California Secretary of State.
The ability to easily insert malicious viral code onto Diebold's touch-screen systems has been proven, and video-taped by Princeton University and others. A single person could hack an entire election, flipping votes undetectably, and no trace would be left behind after the election.
But it's not just tampering that should be of concern to the voters of San Diego. It's the fact that these particular systems are amongst the most unreliable in the country. They simply do not work.
Diebold touch-screen voting systems are innacurate. Their screens freeze. Their printers jam and fail to create reliable "paper trails" and frequently they simply fail to start up at all. All of which occurred during Primary Elections in states across the country earlier this year, resulting in thousands of legally registered voters being disenfranchised, or turned away without being able to cast a ballot.
Incredibly, Haas has ordered these systems to be used for the first time in this November's general election, without even a test run during the June 6th Primary & Special Election, when a blended system of both Diebold optical-scan (paper-based) and touch-screens was used.
The few touch-screen systems in place during the June election (one per polling location) went almost completely unused. And yet Haas has ordered them for use across the entire county this November, despite notorious failures by these same unreliable systems in states like Georgia and Maryland and --- perhaps most notably --- Cuyahoga County, OH, where the systems in first-time use failed monumentally during the Buckeye State's Primary Election.
USA TODAY wrote Friday about the aftermath of Cuyahoga's Primary Elections and the extraordinary measures now being taken to turn the county's temporary poll workers into rocket scientists able to trouble-shoot the many expected problems with the systems. After some 300+ recommendations were made by an independent audit of that particular train wreck, elections officials are scrambling and bracing for the worst.
Haas, however, has taken no such measures and, indeed, his poll worker training has reportedly consisted of instructing folks to sing the praises of electronic machines and avoid handing out paper ballots to voters despite the recently unearthed memo from the California Secretary of State's office instructing all Registrar's that all California voters may vote on paper if they wish.
An account of one such training class by Ken Simpkins, the Carlsbad attorney who filed an election contest to challenge the results of the Francine Busby/Brian Bilbray Special Election sleepover fiasco last June, reports that workers are being told not to give paper ballots to voters even if machines are unavailable when voters show up to vote.
"If the machines were not ready at the opening of the polls and voters were there," Simpkins writes about instructions given at a training class he attended, "voters should be asked to wait until the machines are ready." His full description of that and other stunning moments from Haas's training is at the end of this item.
In an accidental fit of reporting, the far-right San Diego Union Tribune yesterday asked Haas about the ongoing "sleepovers" in an article on concerns about the county's upcoming
beta test election. As usual, his obnoxious answer was just another "fuck you" to the voters of San Diego:
Haas disagrees. "We know exactly who has the machines," he said. "We know where they live."
Never mind that we've previously reported first-hand accounts from poll workers who took voting machines home with them during the June 6th election, where they admitted that family members, and any number of neighbors, may well have had easy access to the machines in the "secure storage space" known as their garage or their car. But Haas knows "where they live." So rest easy, San Diegans!
Also, never mind that such sleepovers are in violation of state and federal law. But, hey, it's San Diego! Mikel Haas territory! He makes the rules and can do whatever he wants!
With no practice or experience at running an entire election with their new Diebold touch-screen systems, San Diego may be headed towards a complete meltdown on Election Day and Haas doesn't seem to give much of a damn.
One might think he'd be concerned that his career is on the line if things go South next week. But he doesn't seem to be worried. Leading us to believe that either this man is delusional, or something more nefarious. Either way, San Diego, you know who to blame on November 8th when your reputation is cemented as one of democracy's national laughing stocks.
But don't worry, there's a "voter verified paper trail" now attached to each Diebold touch-screen system in San Diego. The bad news: It won't actually be counted. And since it won't actually be "voter verified" at all, it won't much matter anyway. There are 55 measures and races on the ballot in San Diego this year, and that means they'll scroll by the little view window --- Diebold includes a magnifying glass with every touch-screen machine...seriously --- before any voter can actually verify that so-called "paper trail."
Simpkins reports that poll workers told the class not to worry when they asked about the "paper trail" scrolling by too quickly to actually be "voter verified" as required by California State Law. "You verify the votes from the on-screen summary," the instructor said. "The window on the printer is just to verify that the printer is working."
So the California "paper trail" is useless and a joke. Kinda like Haas! But he knows that very well, and doesn't give a damn, because he hates democracy and San Diego's voters!
Now if we only knew how to make sure that it won't be Haas's uncountable, unaccountable, unverifiable, compromised voting systems which end up giving CA's Secretary of State and Diebold shill, Bruce McPherson, the "votes" he needs to defeat election integrity champion Debra Bowen next week.
Between Haas's no-confidence election and a few others run like it around the state, like that of the awful Registrar Debbi Hench up in San Joaquin, McPherson should be able to get whatever he needs to assure victory. Good thing he re-certified those Diebold machines just in time to be used this year! And good thing he can rely on his buddies in the registrar offices around the state. Now that's what we call oversight! Isn't it wonderful when everyone gets along so well together?!
What a frickin' disaster.
See Ken Simpkins account of poll worker training in San Diego below...
Subject: San Diego Poll Training
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters is holding poll worker training in preparation for the November 2006 election. One of the participants reported that the general theme of the class was: "Voting machines are fun and exciting. More people will come and vote because of how exciting the machines are." The class was taught that security is important, but the words "fraud" and "hack" were never uttered. Precinct Inspectors took their TSx's and other ballot material home today with instructions to keep the material "in the safest place possible," and not in the car.
The class was taught that paper ballots are available, but it was not emphasized. In fact, the class was told that if the machines were not ready at the opening of the polls and voters were there, voters should be asked to wait until the machines are ready. Same thing if they are short staffed or have a line of voters. An instructor was asked why voters were not just offered paper ballots. He didn’t seem to like that idea, but said sure you could do that. Each polling place will have standard notices regarding the election, but nothing will be posted to inform voters that the option to vote on paper is available.
The roster of voters is supposed to be updated every hour. One of the participants said from past experience that she just didn’t have time to do that. The class was told no one would get in trouble if you only do it, say, four times during the 13 hour day.
The printers on the TSx are easy to read, if you can read real fast. When one of the participants pointed out that the voter is supposed to ensure that the paper reflects the votes cast on the machine, and that the ballot scrolls too fast to read what it says, he was told, "You verify the votes from the on-screen summary. The window on the printer is just to verify that the printer is working." The class was not instructed on how deal with printer jams. The instructors were concerned that, "We are giving you so much information that we just don't have time to cover that. If a printer jams, just call the hot line." So confident in the performance of the voting machines, the instructors felt that voters would not need paper ballots if the machines broke down. That’s because the trouble shooting team of technicians would always only be five minutes away, like Maytag repairmen, just waiting anxiously for something to go wrong.
The in-field trouble shooters are county employees and Diebold contractors. Both will be wearing county uniforms with county IDs. The seals on the memory cards are tamper evident numbered tape. While the memory cards, as you are reading this, are being stored under someone’s bed, they are protected with tamper evident tape. According to Bev Harris [of BlackBoxVoting.org], the TSx machines are as vulnerable as the scanners: after removing the screws and opening the case, the memory card doors fall off by themselves. Eliminates the need for an Allen wrench and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. The theme of the class is: Paper is old-school. Be excited about electronic voting.