Friday, April 07, 2006

Allegheny County, PA Tries Again...This Time with ES&S

Plans to use Diebold, then Sequoia Fell Through When their Electronic Voting Machines Surprised them by Failing -- So County is Now Turning to KNOWN Failure, ES&S!

Originally Allegheney County, PA had hoped to use Diebold's electronic voting machines -- until they found out that Diebold machines were hackable.

Then they decided instead to go with Sequoia Voting Systems instead -- until they found out that their machines are hackable too.

Yesterday, with just six weeks left before their primary election, and against the wishes of Allegheny County's Chief Executive who felt it was safer to stay with their old lever systems, Allegheny decided instead to go with new ES&S touch-screen voting machines.

ES&S, of course, is the company whose machines failed all over Texas during the March 7th primary in Texas, leading to state-wide election contest by a Republican former Supreme Court Justice. ES&S saw more than 30% of their memory cards fail in recent pre-election tests in Summit County, OH, more than 1000 cards fail in NC, and their machines failed to work completely this week as early voting began in Indiana.

Good luck with the new ES&S voting machines Allegheny County, PA!

TEXAS: Election Results Challenged by Former TX Supreme Court Justice!

Judicial candidate files challenge
By Anna M. Tinsley
Star-Telegram Staff Writer; April 6, 2006

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith has filed a formal election challenge to determine whether primary election problems in at least 11 counties across the state - including Tarrant County - affected his bid for the state's highest civil court.

Smith lost to incumbent Justice Don Willett in his bid for Texas Supreme Court Place 2 by about 6,000 votes, according to results posted on the Texas secretary of state's Web site.

"I have been unable to get a full and accurate response from government agencies without filing a lawsuit," Smith said in a written statement to the Star-Telegram.

"The bottom line is this: Every candidate has a right to know that all the votes were counted correctly," he said. "We have good reason to believe that the vote total is incorrect, and we believe that the election must not be finally decided until all the votes are correctly counted."

Smith's petition, filed in Travis County's 250th District Court, sets off the formal process for contesting an election and seeks access to inspect election records in the possession of the Republican Party of Texas, Tarrant County and Gregg County, which includes Longview.

Last month, Smith's staff formally requested detailed election data from Tarrant County under the state's public information law, including the audit trail, optical scan ballots and precinct-by-precinct results.

They apparently received some of the information they requested, officials said. Gayle Hamilton, Tarrant County interim elections administrator, could not be reached to comment Wednesday afternoon.

In Tarrant County, a computer programming error counted some votes cast in the March 7 primary multiple times and boosted the final tally in both party primaries by as much as 100,000 votes.

Hart InterCivic, the company that made the equipment and wrote the software, said that a procedural error led to inflated counts when merging totals from early voting, absentee-by-mail voting and election-day voting into one report on election night.

Local election officials say they have fixed the glitches and corrected problems with voting tallies.

"If the counting error in Tarrant County had not occurred, it is quite likely we would not have filed an election contest," said David Rogers, a spokesman for Smith. "We believe, however, that there may have been mistakes or fraud in places other than Tarrant County.

"The Tarrant County irregularities prompted us to look closely at possible problems in other areas of the state," he said. "We are concerned about problems in at least 11 counties across the state."

The court petition states that Smith believes that the final tally does not include legal votes cast for Smith in Armstrong, Cass, Childress, Dimmit, Kent, Limestone and Lynn counties. It also says that the final tally includes illegal votes for Willett in Galveston, Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties and does not include legal votes for Smith in Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties.

The document states that Smith wants to review election results and have an expedited hearing on the issue.
Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610

Indiana: MORE VOTING PROBLEMS! (ES&S Voting Systems)

I-Team 8 Finds More Problems with ES&S Voting Equipment

April 5, 2006 01:42 PM
By Pam Elliot

[Indianapolis TV News] I-Team 8 broke the story that many Indiana counties didn't receive official ballots for early voting that began Monday. On Tuesday, I-Team 8 uncovered a problem even worse.

Once again, a voting machine company is breaking Indiana law and violating county contracts.

Electronic voting machines were supposed to be working for early voting in the Johnson County courthouse. "This machine won't do anything," said Jill Jackson, Johnson County clerk.

Jackson blames the vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

"This is not fair to the voters of Johnson County, the taxpayers. They've paid for this equipment. They've paid for this service, and this is not acceptable," Jackson said.

What's missing is a "smart card" that allows you to vote. For now, copied paper ballots will have to do for absentee voting. Johnson County and nearly two-dozen others across the state don't have the official paper ballots.

The chairman of the Indiana Election Commission is angry. "It's inexcusable that ES&S did not get those ballots to those people," said Tom Wheeler, Indiana Election Commission chair.

The machine that counts the ballots considers a ballot defective if it is not official. If that is the case, when it comes out, somebody from the election board has to count the vote by hand.

I-Team 8 has also learned the batteries that came with Johnson County's $2.4 million equipment are old and failing. At least nine other counties have the same problem. If the battery fails, the internal ballots and all the votes cast will be lost.

"That's the problem with paperless ballots and no trail balloting. They're gone," Wheeler said.

"Although I am concerned about this issue, it is the responsibility of the counties to resolve this with their vendor," said Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

I-Team 8 asked Jill Jackson whether it was time to rethink the county’s choice of vendor. "I am certain that the county commissioners are going to want to revisit this, probably along with a lot of other counties in the state of Indiana," she replied.

Commissioner Wheeler says there's little the state can do. "We will try to hold their feet to the fire. But bottom line, those promises are to the individual counties," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, ES&S said: "We have worked with the counties in an often challenging time frame to provide them with what they need for the start of early voting. That process requires information that is provided to us from the counties and approval of the ballots by the counties. We are certainly focusing our resources on meeting the needs of the counties as we get the necessary approvals and information."

Omaha-based ES&S has been in trouble with the state at least twice before for not following Indiana law, but it's not the only vendor failing Hoosier voters. The certification expired last October on electronic voting machines made by Indianapolis-based Microvote, used by 45 Indiana counties.

Bankrupt AccuPoll CEO speaks out: No vendor "has a system that voters can trust"!

With voting machine company now bankrupt, CEO speaks:
No vendor "has a system that voters can trust"!

Straight from the horse's mouth
by Sean Greene,

The realities of the e-Voting market most recently took its toll on voting-machine maker AccuPoll, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leaving two counties in Texas using its products with no vendor support and a frustrated former CEO in its wake.

The company, which produced the AVS-1000, a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT)-equipped touch-screen machine, has ceased all operations. And it also leaves the company's former head fuming about the nature of the voting-machine business.

"I am not happy about the outcome, or the state of the industry. I think that something needs to be done. I'm not sure what it is, it probably doesn't include AccuPoll at this point, but I do not feel that any of the vendors has a system that voters can trust," said Dennis Vadura, former AccuPoll CEO.

"I think that vendors outright misrepresent the robustness, stability, and security of their systems. You just have to look at the litany of problems and it points at one thing, bad fundamental design, and not enough checks and balances. I also wonder why the other vendors were so adamant in fighting a VVPAT system requirement. They spent much more in fighting it than in implementing it," he said.

"It was too little business too late. Our investors were fed up with funding the company, and not winning business," Vadura said.

He also described a difficult experience in dealing with the government procurement process.

"I am extremely jaded by the government procurement and purchasing game. In some cases I would point the finger at sheer incompetence on the part of the procurement officers. Some of it is also due to them not wanting to take risk, or not wanting to make a decision for political reasons."

Those that did take the risk - the two counties in Texas - reported that both voters and officials that used AccuPoll said they were pleased with the performance of the machines and its VVPAT component during the March primary, even though they know going forward they will be administrating without a support network from the vendor.

"That's why we liked it," said Jane Jones, Delta County clerk, referring to the paper trail.

Both counties had support from former AccuPoll employees during the primary. However, when it comes to future elections, both county clerks noted they are on their own.

"We know the machine well enough. We'll just have to wing it," said Erath County clerk Gwinda Jones.

OHIO Election Workers indicted for fudging ’04 recount

Prosecutor says Cuyahoga skirted rules
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Joan Mazzolini, Plain Dealer Reporter

After the 2004 presidential election, Cuyahoga County election workers secretly skirted rules designed to make sure all votes were counted correctly, a special prosecutor charges.

While there is no evidence of vote fraud, the prosecutor said their efforts were aimed at avoiding an expensive - and very public - hand recount of all votes cast. Three top county elections officials have been indicted, and Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter says more indictments are possible.

Michael Vu, executive director of the Cuyahoga County elections board, said workers followed procedures that had been in place for 23 years. He said board employees had no objection to doing an exhaustive hand count if needed, meaning they had no motive to break the law.

Internet bloggers have cried foul since 2004 about election results in Ohio, one of the key states in deciding the election. They have been tracking Baxter's investigation with online posts about the indictments.

Baxter's prosecution centers on Ohio's safeguards for ensuring that every vote is counted.

Baxter charges that Cuyahoga election workers - mindful of the monthlong Florida recount in 2000 - not only ignored the safeguards but worked to defeat them during Ohio's 2004 recount.

Candidates for president from the Green and Libertarian parties requested the Ohio recount. State laws and regulations specify how a recount works. Election workers in each county are supposed to count 3 percent of the ballots by hand and by machine, randomly choosing precincts for that count.

If the hand and machine counts match, the other 97 percent of the votes are recounted by machine. If the numbers don't match, workers repeat the effort. If they still don't match exactly, the workers must complete the recount by hand, a tedious process that could take weeks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the fix was in at the Cuyahoga elections board, Baxter charges.

Days before the Dec. 16 recount, workers opened the ballots and hand-counted enough votes to identify precincts where the machine count matched.

"If it didn't balance, they excluded those precincts," Baxter said.

"The preselection process was done outside of any witnesses, without anyone's knowledge except for [people at] the Board of Elections."

On the official recount day, employees pretended to pick precincts randomly, Baxter says. Dozens of Cuyahoga County election workers sat at 20 folding tables in front of dozens of witnesses and reporters.

They did the hand and machine count of 3 percent of the votes 34 of the 1,436 precincts and when the totals matched, the recount was completed by machines.

The recount gave Kerry 17 extra votes and took six away from Bush.

But observers suspected that the precincts were not randomly chosen and asked a board worker about it, said Toledo attorney Richard Kerger. The worker acknowledged that there had been a precount.

Kerger wrote a letter to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, complaining and asking for an investigation. Mason recused himself, and Baxter was appointed special prosecutor. He brought elections workers before a grand jury to find out what happened.

"They screwed with the process and increased the probability, if not the certainty, that there would not be a full countywide hand count," Baxter said.

Everyone expected the recount to "be conducted in accordance of the law," he said.

Vu acknowledged that the selection of precincts was not completely random because precincts with 550 votes or fewer were not used. Nor were precincts counted where the number of ballots handed out on Election Day failed to match the number of ballots cast.

Baxter has said he can't understand why the three people indicted - all managers - continue to work at the election office. None has the same duties they had in 2004.

Kathleen Dreamer was manager of the board's ballot department. Rosie Grier was assistant manager. Jacqueline Maiden was Elections Division director and its third-highest-ranking employee. All have been charged with misdemeanor and felony counts of failing to follow the state elections law.

A May 8 trial date is set for Dreamer and Grier, but Baxter wants to combine all three cases, including Maiden's, who was indicted later.

Kerger said he was surprised by the charges. "We wrote, not to have any criminal charges, but just to find out what happened," he said. "The special prosecutor has the ability to conduct an investigation and not file any charges."

Kerger said he believes there are two reasons, generally, why an elections board would precount before a recount. The first is to change the results of the vote, which he does not believe happened. The second, he speculated, was that "the workers were so tired and didn't want to hassle with doing a hand recount."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4563

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Susan Sarandon: "US Elections Should be Monitored!"

Sarandon Wants Monitoring for U.S. Elections
By Jeannette Walls
Updated: 2:44 a.m. ET April 3, 2006

Susan Sarandon wants the U.S. presidential elections to be monitored by outside interests. The “Bull Durham” star says that the 2004 vote was so fraudulent that we need international oversight — like troubled third-world countries do.

I believe our next election should be monitored by international entities, just like it happened in Haiti and Iraq,” Sarandon told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, according to our translator. “The last one was an embarrassment. Everybody knew there was fraud, but nothing was done about it. In some states there were more votes than people able to vote.

Sarandon, who recently made headlines when she expressed her disappointment with Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton — who is widely considered to be a possible presidential candidate — and isn’t terribly optimistic about other Dems. “I honestly hope that the Democratic Party finds a candidate for the presidency, but I recognize that the scenario isn’t inspiring.

Her assessment of President Bush’s administration isn’t upbeat either. “I think we’ve never been as close to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ as before,” she said. “We live in a society where individual rights and legality are definitely threatened and that’s scary.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Warning to Election Officials: Diebold Making Unannounced Visits To Their Machines

Please forward to your local elections officials:

Warning: Black Box Voting has received credible first-hand reports from multiple states that Diebold is making unannounced visits to counties, sometimes when the elections supervisor is out of town. Diebold has prevailed on assistants and managed to gain access to the voting equipment.

Elections employees report to us that their questions to Diebold are not being answered to their satisfaction.

Here is what to look out for, and why this is so important:

1. Program changes: Watch very carefully whether Diebold puts a card into your machine and boots it up. Alert your staff to be on the lookout for this. By inserting one card, either the operating system or the voting software can be altered. Inserting two cards can change both.

Such changes can hide evidence of the kind of security vulnerabilities found by Harri Hursti and Security Innovation Inc. in Emery County, Utah. However, replacing the operating system and programs does not ensure the integrity of your machines, since the security vulnerabilities found appear to be able to survive overwriting both the operating system and the programs.

2. Swapping out equipment or components: We have credible reports that Diebold has swapped motherboards in some machines. We have less firm reports that Diebold has made reference to repartitioning memory and/or other adjustments. Either swapping the motherboard or repartitioning could obscure evidence of programming that shouldn't be there, and/or introduce new vulnerabilities to your system.

3. Swapping or recording serial numbers. The Diebold serial numbers do not appears to be burned into the machine/motherboard itself, but are simply affixed with a plate that can be replaced.

You should, immediately, photograph each of your machines' serial numbers.

Diebold denies that they have sold used equipment. However, a recent response from Deborah Seiler, the former Diebold sales rep who is now Elections Registrar for Solano County, California, gives a perception that someone is not being forthcoming.

Solano County used the Diebold TSx for one election and then rejected the system. Seiler, who took office shortly after Solano rejected the Diebold equipment, has reportedly responded to a public records request for the Solano County TSx documents containing the serial numbers that the documents were given back to Diebold and that Solano County no longer has them.

Diebold's odd explanation in Utah, that there were perhaps Chinese or Asian fonts on touch-screens delivered to Utah, would be consistent with selling machines from California. There were some 800 to 900 TSx machines, apparently, rejected by Solano County.

Black Box Voting encourages all recipients of "new" Diebold TSx machines to log serial numbers immediately, photograph or videotape them, and do so before Diebold arrives to visit your machines if at all possible.

It would be a good idea to take the keys to the voting machine storage facility with you when you are not in the office. Advise your staff not to allow Diebold to access your machines without your presence.

If Diebold comes to visit your machines, you are advised to tape record, videotape, and have several witnesses present to observe exactly what they do.

Better yet, tell them you need a written work order specifying what they will be doing in detail before you authorize it, and stand over them to observe during any access to any part of your system.

Diebold is a private company. As soon as you took delivery on your system, you have the responsibility to be in control of it and observe at all times. You are under no obligation to allow a vendor access (even if your state has mandated that you take these machines).

The upcoming security report, along with the testimony of Wyle Labs at the California Senate Elections Committee hearing last week, provide clear indications as to why preservation of your system AS IT WAS DELIVERED TO YOU should remain "as is."

Supreme Court: Voters Have No Standing To Object To e-Voting Machines!

Supreme Court Denies Standing & Allows Costs Against Voting Rights Activist!

Washington DC -- April 4, 2006: In an alarming wake-up call to voting rights activists accross the country, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand last week a decision by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court ruled (Landes v Tartaglione, et al) that Philadelphia journalist and voting rights activist, Lynn Landes, had no standing to challenge the constitutionality of election laws which Landes claimed deny direct access to a tangible ballot and meaningful transparency to the election process.

Specifically, Landes challenged the use of voting machines and absentee voting in elections for public office. The defendants in the lawsuit were Margaret Tartaglione, Chair of the City Commissioners of Philadelphia; Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States.

Landes says that the court's decision does not mean that the use of obstructive and non-transparent voting processes or technologies is constitutional. But, it doesn't send a good signal, either.

"Since I represented myself without the support of a voting rights organization, this decision may be a matter of the Court not taking me seriously, rather than any reflection on the case itself," says Landes. She points out that the Third Circuit based its dubious decision on three cases that had nothing to do with elections, voting rights, or challenges to the constitutionality of state and/or federal law.

Landes encourages activists to continue to pursue legal action, but adds a strong note of caution. "The Court is now packed with extremely conservative judges who are taking extraordinary steps to discourage civil rights litigants," she warns.

In what appears to be a punitive measure, the Supreme Court let stand the Third Circuit's judgment to tax court costs against Landes as the plaintiff, an unusual move in a civil rights case.

The Third Circuit's ruling ignored previous U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC (1978) and Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.(1994). In the latter case, Justice William Rehnquist stated, "... we found (it) to be the important policy objectives of the Civil Rights statutes, and the intent of Congress to achieve such objectives through the use of plaintiffs as "`private attorney[s] general.'"

In light of the Court's action, Landes is again emphasizing the critical need for 'open voting'. In a January 2005 article, Landes called for activists to conduct Parallel Elections outside of official polling places as a check against official election results.

Activists in California, Texas, and Florida did just that and more Parallel Elections are planned for this year. In Parallel Elections, voters are asked to vote twice, once inside the official polling station and again outside in a Parallel Election. Voters write down their name, address, and signature along with their choice of candidates. Unlike exit polling, Parallel Election ballots can and have been used to challenge official election results.

Landes also suggests that any candidate for elective office request that voters mail that candidate a letter indicating the voter's name, address, signature, a witness's signature, and for which candidate they voted. It should be mailed directly after the voter has voted at the polls. Candidates should delay conceding or declaring victory for at least a week after the election in order to allow sufficient time to receive these unofficial ballots.

Something similar to this idea was put into practice last winter in North Carolina. According to a February 6, 2005 editorial in the Ashville Citizen-Times, "...a voting machine error ...caused 4,400 votes to vanish in Carteret County. As (candidate) Troxler led in the count by 2,287 votes in a race that saw more than 3 million votes cast, the missing votes threw the outcome into disarray. Troxler's campaign rounded up affidavits from more than 1,400 Carteret voters who said they had voted for him." As a result, his opponent conceded.

Lastly, since it appears that America's political parties are particularly vulnerable to the influence of big corporations and the wealthy few (and have only given lip service to the right to vote and to have votes counted properly), Landes is encouraging all voters to consider supporting write-in candidates for political office.


Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. She has also written on the subject of the environment and health. Readers can find her articles and research at Formerly, Lynn was a news reporter for DUTV and commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Contact info: / (215) 629-3553

SoS Kenneth Blackwell (OH) held Diebold Stock! (Running for gov.)

April 3, 2006, 11:20PM

Ohio Official Invested in Vote Machine Co.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state's top elections official said Monday he accidentally invested in a company that makes voting machines.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said he discovered the shares for Diebold Inc. while preparing a required filing for the Ohio Ethics Commission.

"While I was unaware of this stock in my portfolio, its mere presence may be viewed as a conflict and is therefore not acceptable," he said in a letter included in his filing.

Blackwell said his investments are directed by an accountant and financial adviser without his knowledge or help, "similar to a blind trust."

He said a manager of his investments account at Credit Suisse First Boston bought 178 shares of Diebold stock at $53.67 per share in January 2005. Blackwell said the manager did not follow instructions to avoid such investments.

He said 95 shares were later sold at a loss but he still held 83 shares until discovering them and liquidating them Monday, also at a loss.

The state negotiated a deal with Diebold last year for $2,700 per touch-screen machine. In a statement given in May as part of a lawsuit, Judith Grady, who oversees the secretary of state's compliance with the 2002 federal voting act, said Blackwell was not involved with price negotiations.

What had been a mundane political duty took on new meaning last year after Gov. Bob Taft's failure to report several golf outings led to his no contest plea to ethics violations. He was fined the maximum $4,000.

Bob Paduchik, a spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro, Blackwell's rival in the GOP primary, called for further investigation.

Democrats weren't buying Blackwell's explanation.

"If he can't manage to know what's in his checkbook, why would the people of Ohio want to trust this man with the state's checkbook?" said Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.