Bush-Appointed Chair Found Near Center of the Growing Scandal/Cover-Up Which Even Included a Stealth Attack on Election Integrity Advocate (and BRAD BLOG Guest Blogger) John Gideon...
By Michael Richardson on 2/13/2007, 4:07pm PT  

Guest Blogged By Michael Richardson

The more we peel away the layers of the onion, the more we find that it seems to stink to to high heaven. The latest chapter in our continuing series on the hidden world exposed by the recent failures of voting machine test lab CIBER to receive "interim accreditation" from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), is no exception.

The EAC's current Chair, Donetta Davidson, seems to have a long, storied and increasingly well-documented history of silence concerning electronic voting machine test laboratory problems and has been an active partner with EAC Executive Director Tom Wilkey --- whose roll in this mess we've examined in detail in previous articles (here, here and here to link to just a few of our reports in this continuing series) --- in keeping the public uninformed about failures in the secret test labs.

Wilkey is at the center of the controversy surrounding a failure to disclose to both the public and election officials around the nation that CIBER, Inc.,, the country's largest so-called “Independent Test Authority” (ITA), was banned last summer from further testing of voting machines. As previously reported by The BRAD BLOG, Wilkey kept test lab problems hidden from public scrutiny for years in his earlier duties at the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) where he was in charge of monitoring and qualifying the labs.

Davidson is now Wilkey’s boss at the EAC where she landed after serving as Colorado’s Secretary of State since 1999 where she was later tied to significant failures by that state in properly certifying electronic voting systems. A judge last year condemned the state's practices and ordered the state, effectively, to start over from scratch after the debacle. Over the years, the paths of Davidson and Wilkey have crossed many times because of their mutual roles in the hidden world of voting machine testing.

Davidson and Wilkey both have served together on the board of The Election Center, a non-profit group of mysterious background headed by R. Doug Lewis, which provided technical assistance, training, and lobbying support to NASED members. Lewis, a key player in test lab secrecy, mentored Davidson and Wilkey as they gained control of the ITA testing infrastructure.

Davidson has also served on NASED’s Voting Standards Board, as chaired by Tom Wilkey, which qualified the test labs. The two kept in touch, Davidson in Colorado, Wilkey in New York, at conferences, via email, and over the phone. The conferences, often held in tourist destinations, were a special time for the two to get together...

BlackBoxVoting.org was able to obtain under Freedom of Information requests copies of some of the email traffic between Davidson and Wilkey [PDF] (see page 1) as they went about their official business.

On July 15, 2004, Wilkey emailed Davidson arranging a late-night rendezvous:

You are actually reading your emails…WOW!!! Yes I will see you on Saturday. I get in about 9pm so we will have a nightcap if you are not out partying on Bourbon Street. Love, Your New York Brother.

Two weeks later, after the nightcaps in New Orleans, Davidson sent Wilkey an email on July 29, 2004, that shows a deepening relationship between the two voting machine regulators. Davidson gushed:

My Dearest Brother, Life has not slowed down, but I am staying out of trouble. Hope to talk to you soon, on the PHONE. That way I get to hear your voice. Love your Sis.

A month after “Sis” pined to hear Wilkey’s voice she forwarded to a staffer an email she and Wilkey received from Doug Lewis PDF (p.70) warning about the “crazies” who were critical of the Election Center’s acceptance of conference support funds from the very same electronic voting machine manufacturers whose voting machines were being tested. Davidson and Wilkey closed ranks around the Election Center against the voting integrity “crazies”. When Lewis took several weeks off from work for elective surgery Davidson and Wilkey [PDF] (p.28) dipped into their own flower fund for Lewis and shipped him a houseplant as a get-well gift with other Election Center board members.

When Lewis returned to work he fired off a “HEADS UP” notice [PDF] (p.35) to Davidson and Wilkey and others warning, “[T]he attacks are likely to escalate.” This time the”crazie” was John Gideon, a respected voting integrity advocate, of VotersUnite.org as well as a frequent Guest Blogger here at The BRAD BLOG.

Gideon had written to the EAC cautioning about the Davidson-Wilkey-Lewis controlled Election Center. Gideon warned, “In accepting funds from the voting machine industry and putting on a program that is strongly sponsored by the same industry, Mr. Lewis and the Election Center are violating their own principles and standards of conduct.”

That same summer, the U.S. House Science Environment Technology and Standards Subcommittee conducted a hearing on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and “the role of testing and standards.” Wilkey, who had battled to keep the ITA certification process out of federal control during debate on passage of HAVA, was a star witness. To help Wilkey promote their mutual self-interest, Davidson had an advance chat with U.S. Representative Mark Udall (D-UT) [PDF] (p.62) who served on the subcommittee to soften him up.

“Sis” and “New York Brother” made an effective team to protect their true role in monitoring the test labs. Now Wilkey was suddenly championing NASED’s purported efforts in bringing NIST into the process.

Davidson, as Colorado’s Secretary of State, had her own pipeline into the hidden test lab world and cannot deny her own personal longstanding knowledge of failures within the secret labs. In late 2003, J. Kenneth Blackwell, then-Secretary of State in Ohio, issued a report disclosing that an independent review of ITA approved voting machines by Compuware, had discovered 57 security flaws—after the test labs qualified the machines. Drew Durham, Davidson’s HAVA compliance officer, sent her a pointed email memo [PDF] (pages 4-6):

This is yet another report which raises an important issue. How come the ITA’s did not catch these problems? As I have suggested in the past, the structure of the current ITA review process needs to be revisited. First, the ITAs have an improper contractual obligation to the vendors rather than NIST or the EAC or even NASED. The ITAs have to sign a confidentiality agreement with the vendors and have privity of contract with the vendors. The public perception is that they work for the vendor and not the election administrators/certifiers. Legally, they are contractually bound to the vendors.

Second, the ITAs need to be queried about what they are testing. New parameters need to be set.

Now, over three years later, Davidson is being asked similar questions by Senator Diane Feinstein as shocking details about the glaring errors and failures of the CIBER test lab continue to emerge from behind the wall of secrecy after a recent, scathing front page exposé by the New York Times.

This stinking onion may well be rotten to the core. Stay tuned as we continue to peel back each of its malodorous layers...

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