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Citizen Activists, Increasing Concerns about Diebold Security, Company Integrity Said to Have Been Key to Decision!
ALSO: FOIA Requests Filed About Closed-Door Hearings, Concerns Emerge About ES&S, the Company Chosen Instead of Diebold, and a Diebold Lobbyist Reportedly Inquires About BRAD BLOG...And FAMILY!!!
By Brad Friedman on 12/22/2005 3:23pm PT  

Add St. Louis County, Missouri to the growing list of Elections Boards around the country who have now rejected Diebold, Inc. voting machines in the last-minute scramble to select new election hardware, prior to the Jan. 1, 2006 Help America Vote Act deadline to have such "upgrades" paid for with Federal tax dollars.

The bad news for the once-great, now-disgraced Diebold, Inc. (stock symbol: DBD) of North Canton, Ohio, comes as the latest blow in a long string of disappointments for the company, which last week saw the resignation of its CEO, the filing of several Class Action Securities Fraud lawsuits, and the devasting revelation that their voting machines can be easily hacked, allowing the results of Diebold elections to be completely reversed.

The loss of the contract in St. Louis County, who chose to go instead with Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), is estimated by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to be at least $9.6 million.

The last minute decision came amid intense lobbying by both citizens' election integrity advocacy groups and paid Diebold lobbyists --- at least one of whom was reported to have inquired about both The BRAD BLOG itself and the financial background of the father of yours truly!

There are also growing concerns about the security of voting equipment sold by ES&S, as well, in light of various states and counties around the country selecting them, instead of Diebold, as the contractor to privatize their public elections.

The County's decision to go with ES&S, instead of Diebold, comes just days after the City of St. Louis (distinct from the county) decided unanimously to go with Diebold. The City's decision occurred even after Diebold's machines were exposed as completely insecure in a so-called "hack test" in Leon County, Florida that resulted in the tally of a test election being completely reversed. A few days later Volusia County, Florida decided against Diebold, and shortly thereafter the State of California "punted" the issue, for now, back to the Feds, stating there were "unresolved significant security concerns" with Diebold's voting machines. The California decision, though not yet definitive, is undoubtedly one of the biggest blows for Diebold, since it is regarded by the company as America's largest "voting market."

The City of St. Louis may come to regret their decision as much as they eventually came to regret allowing the County to split off from it, back in the days when the County was sparsely populated and seen as draining tax dollars from the City. Today, St. Louis County's population is over 1 million, while the City continues to stagnate at a population of just over 300 thousand.

According to reports from both grassroots organization Missourians for Honest Elections and Jo Mannies of The Post, information and concerns about about the latest failures of Diebold voting machines, brought to the County's Board of Election by citizens, was crucial to the BoE's decision. As reported by Mannies in a story on The Post website last night:

Board member Anita Yeckel acknowledged that the controversy surrounding one of the contenders, Diebold Election Systems, was a factor in her decision.

"There was a lot of publicity about Diebold that hadn't been resolved," she said.

In the version of the story which ran in today's paper, the following addition to the above was found:

She added that she personally thought Ohio-based Diebold was "a terrific company."

There was no explanation for that added quote and we have been unable to reach Mannies for comment today.

According to Virginia Harris, a volunteer with Missourians for Honest Elections, St. Louis county resident Harvey Friedman (father of this blogger) was instrumental, along with several others, in bringing the latest disturbing news about the Diebold company to the attention of the Board of Elections.

On a personal note; While my father has never shown a proclivity towards political activism in the past, to the knowledge of this exceedingly proud blogger, I couldn't be more impressed with his tenacious efforts to inform the St. Louis County BoE members of the many growing concerns about Diebold, and to hold their collective feet to the fire in the bargain. The tree, apparently, does not grow far from the fallen apple. Thank you, Dad. And congratulations for the positive effect of your good work in my old home town!

The activism of Friedman the Elder, and the reporting of The BRAD BLOG, apparently has not escaped the notice of at least one person, said to be a Diebold lobbyist present at the series of recent BoE hearings in St. Louis. After Mannies of The Post ran a short blog item highlighting both our hometown connection and our father --- whom she met and interviewed at the hearings --- Lou Hamilton, reportedly representing Diebold, was said to have "thanked" Mannies for "the outing of BRAD BLOG" (whatever that might mean) and to have asked her "Who is Brad's father? What does he do for a living?", according to a report of the incident.

Hamilton is apparently the CEO of "strategic communications consulting service" Hamilton & Company, and described in an article by Mannies as "a prominent Democratic consultant." More information on Hamilton and his company is available here. We have been unable to reach either Hamilton or Mannies for additional comment on the information reported above, which was emailed to us yesterday.

While attention to the many anti-democratic maneuvers of Diebold, whose former CEO Walden O'Dell infamously pledged his personal committment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes" to George W. Bush in a fundraising letter to Republicans prior to the 2004 election, has been increasingly well-publicized, ES&S has escaped the scrutiny of many Election Reform advocates.

The fact, however, is that ES&S' voting machines are not known to be any more secure than Diebold's, as reported in an eye-opening article yesterday by Wired News. In the report, adjunct computer science professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, Hugh Thompson, who also took part in the Leon County "hack test" last week, is concerned about the voting equipment being purchased from companies other than Diebold:

"Looking at these systems doesn't send off signals that ... if we just get rid of Diebold and go to another vendor we'll be safe," Thompson said. "We know the Diebold machines are vulnerable. As for ES&S, we don't know that they're bad but we don't know that they're (good) either."

Earlier this year, ES&S acquired distribution rights to the AutoMARK system, which has been described as far superior and far more secure than ES&S' own touch-screen and optical scan voting machines. As well, the AutoMARK system, which produces a paper ballot for every vote cast, is said to be accessible to disabled citizens in ways which ES&S and Diebold machines are not, according to a number of disabled citizen's advocacy groups. In Florida's Leon County, the Board of Elections has decided to contract with ES&S, with the intention of using the AutoMARK system once it becomes certified by the state.

St. Louis County's BoE has decided against the AutoMARK system, and instead will purchase 1,750 ES&S touch-screen machines for use in municipal races, along with 500 precinct-level optical-scan tabulators for use in Federal races, according to Harris, with whom we spoke by telephone earlier today. She suspects that ES&S is not dealing honestly with their newly acquired "partners" at AutoMARK, whom she contends ES&S is "defrauding" by over-pricing and under-representing their machines when dealing with potential clients on State and County elections boards.

"In my opinion, ES&S fraudulently priced the AutoMARK machines so high on their bid, that there was no way they could compete with ES&S's DRE [touch-screen] machines or anybody else's for that matter," she told us. Harris claims to have a copy of the bids submitted and hopes to share them with The BRAD BLOG soon.

The wrangling over which vendor to select in St. Louis County occurred shortly after several "closed door sessions" of the St. Louis County Board of Elections, who met privately with Voting Machine vendors and locked out the public and election integrity advocates. Those "closed door sessions" appear to be in violation of Missouri state law, and since then, The BRAD BLOG has learned, "Freedom of Information Act" (FOIA) requests have been filed with the County for the minutes of those closed door sessions. We will, as always, keep you up to date on details that may be revealed by those FOIA requests if and when the County complies with them.




'Election Center' Becomes Latest Election Reform Group to Have Sold Their Souls to Diebold
Credibility Matters
By Brad Friedman on 6/7/2005 4:02pm PT  

Something stinks to high heaven about these people and their new report. And not simply because they're based in Houston, TX, (though it certainly doesn't help their case) but the fact that they are directly funded by Voting Machine companies such as Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia immediately destroys any credibility they might have otherwise had when it comes to making decisions about our Electoral System in desperate need of reform.

ElectionCenter.org claims to be a non-profit, non-partisan, professional organization of Elections Workers. Today, they have released a new report [large PDF] with recommendations on how to improve America's Electoral System.

The AP covered the new report in a story yesterday which shines a fairly positive light on it yet manages to include a couple of paragraphs which jump out as huge red flags. Here's a couple of them from the AP story [emphasis added]...

In a new, sweeping report, state and local officials focus much of their attention on voters and poll workers rather than voting machines --- the subject of so much debate ever since the 2000 presidential stalemate in Florida.
...
The report also urges state legislators to consider an "independently verifiable" record of each voter's ballot from ATM-style touchscreen voting machines that could be electronic, video or some other form --- pointedly downplaying a widespread push for paper receipts from touchscreens.
...
The Election Center has come in for criticism after reports that the nonprofit, nonpartisan group accepts contributions from voting machine manufacturers. Two members of the task force are former local election administrators who've formed their own election-related businesses.

So here we have yet another "nonprofit, nonpartisan" organization dedicated to Election issues, who have a clear conflict of interest due to their financial alliance with the Voting Machine Companies instead of the American Citizens whose interests they claim to represent.

Unlike the now-discredited "American Center for Voting Rights", a phony front group founded by GOP operatives as a smokescreen for real Election Reform issues, Election Center has been around for a number of years. But their claims that their mission is to "improve service to voters, the public, the taxpayers and to government" is completely belied by the companies they keep...or that keep them...

Here's a screenshot of the agenda from their upcoming August "National Conference" in Beverly Hills/Hollywood. It will likely tell you all you need to know about this group:

A few Googles of the various election officials associated with this organization and their new report should answer any other questions you may have. These people (folks like Palm Beach's Theresa LePore and Los Angeles' Conny McCormack to name just a few) are certainly not in the business of fighting for the voters' best interests.

Suffice to say, if Election Center expects any recognition for their recommendations for Electoral Reform from the Election Reform community, perhaps they should have thought of that before selling that option off to Diebold and friends.




The Higher the Vote Turnout, the Fewer Votes for Kerry!
Go figure!
By Brad Friedman on 11/10/2004 4:54pm PT  

There's been much talk about the 97,489 more votes than voters cast in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. A plausible explanation for the huge difference between votes and actual voters, as reported via the Cuyahoga County website), is being attributed by County Officials to the strange method they have for including absentee ballots into the vote counts separately from the Election Day voters. Or something.

So setting that oddity aside for the moment, take a look at this interesting graph. I have not been able to confirm the specific numbers it shows, so I can't testify to it's accuracy, but I'm posting it here because, if accurate, this seems worth getting out to the world for further scrutiny.

Though it's difficult to read this small, the trend-lines are all that really matter here (The full sized graph is here).

If correct, this graph would seem to show that precinct-by-precinct in Cuyahoga County, Ohio --- where Cleveland is, and thus it's a heavily Democratic county --- the larger the turnout in each precinct, the smaller the percentage of the vote for Kerry!

The GREEN trend line is the size of voter turnout in each precinct, and the BLUE trend line is the percentage of votes for Kerry.

While conventional wisdom is often wrong, if the above numbers are accurate, it does seem a bit odd to say the least that the higher the turnout in a strongly Democratic county (Kerry won Cuyahoga 63%-33% if I recall correctly), would result in a smaller percentage of votes for the Democrat!

I don't know what to make of it, or how to explain it, but it seems worth putting out there for the armchair investigators.

UPDATE: I was asked what the balloting/counting methods are in Cuyahoga County. Apparently punch card, as counted by machines made by our old friends at ...Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S). Source




It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser...
By Brad Friedman on 11/8/2004 10:09pm PT  

I referred to Auglaize County, Ohio in the previous item as having the 4th highest percentage of votes for George W. Bush in all of Ohio.

The Evening Leader is reporting on some very strange goings on in that county just prior to the election when the entire Elections Board was notified by Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office that they were being placed on "administrative oversight". No explanation was has yet been given by the Ohio Sec. of State's office.

The nugget that caught my eye was this report of an ES&S employee reported using the main vote tallying computer --- against election protocol --- about two weeks prior to the election:

In a letter dated Oct. 21, Ken Nuss, former deputy director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections, claimed that Joe McGinnis, a former employee of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the company that provides the voting system in Auglaize County, was on the main computer that is used to create the ballot and compile election results, which would go against election protocol. Nuss claimed in the letter that McGinnis was allowed to use the computer the weekend of Oct. 16.

Nuss, who resigned from his job Oct. 21 after being suspended for a day, was responsible for overseeing the computerized programming of election software, according to his job description. His resignation is effective Nov. 11.

I've attempted, to no avail, to get more information on this story since the original report is not particularly well written, and offers quite a few vagaries. I couldn't reach the original reporter and Mr. Nuss did not return my call. Few other reporters seem to be looking into it. So at this point, I think it's important to get the story out there, and let the Internets take over. (Since apparently the Mainstream Media is more interested in Scott Peterson's hung jury, than the will of the people in the world's most important democracy.)




'Something zapped it'
Something? (ES&S Again!)
By Brad Friedman on 11/7/2004 8:18pm PT  

Why is it only in heavy Democratic counties that votes just seem to disappear? But in Republican counties, votes just seem to get added? This time, "something zapped it" in a heavily Democratic country in Indiana:

"Maybe there was a power surge," LaPorte County Clerk Lynne Spevak said. "Something zapped it."

At about 7 p.m. Tuesday, it was noticed that the first two or three printouts from individual precinct reports all listed an identical number of voters. Each precinct was listed as having 300 registered voters.

That means the total number of voters for the county would be 22,200, although there are actually more than 79,000 registered voters.
...
Spevak said workers at the clerk's office thought a computer correction could be done once they received a software patch from Election Systems and Software, the Chicago company that provided the tabulation software. However, the patch did not work.

"We thought we could get a copy of it e-mailed file to us and start all over, but once the program was downloaded from Chicago, it still didn't work right," Spevak said.

Dots connecting yet for ya? If not, read on. Otherwise, I'm working on trying to organize some "action items" now. Hope to have news on that in the next day or two...




ES&S Strikes/Fails Again
By Brad Friedman on 11/7/2004 8:07pm PT  

How many of these is it gonna take before the "Grownups" in the Media and the DNC realize what seems to be going on here?

Sarpy County election officials are trying to figure out how they ended up with more votes than voters in the general election. As many as 10,000 extra votes have been tallied and candidates are still waiting for corrected totals.
...
For some reason, some votes were counted twice.

Deputy Sarpy County Election Commissioner Ed Gilbert says, "It affected 32 of the 80 precincts. And I suppose as many as 10,000 votes."

Sarpy County borrowed the election equipment from Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. Its employees operated the machines that are now double-checking the ballots.

No one is sure exactly what went wrong.

Uh...perhaps it's the fact that ES&S employees are operating these machines?? Instead of Election Officials?! Isn't that the law in these matters?




Troubling Evidence is Beginning to Mount!
By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2004 5:38pm PT  

Folks are beginning to pay attention, guys!

Wired Magazine is now reporting that three Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee are now calling for an investigation of the troubling incidents that we've been reporting concerning irregularities in Tuesday's vote counting!:

Three congressmen sent a letter to the General Accounting Office on Friday requesting an investigation into irregularities with voting machines used in Tuesday's elections.

The congressmen, Democratic members of the House of Representatives from Florida, New York and Michigan, cited a number of incidents that came to light in the days after the election. One was a glitch in Ohio that caused a memory card reader made by Danaher Controls to give George W. Bush 3,893 more votes than he should have received. Another was a problem with memory cards in North Carolina that caused machines made by UniLect to lose 4,500 votes cast on e-voting machines. The votes were lost when the number of votes cast on the machines exceeded the capacity of the memory cards.

There were also problems with machines that counted absentee ballots in Florida. Software made by Election Systems & Software began subtracting votes when totals surpassed 32,000. Officials said the problem affected only certain countywide races on one of the last pages of the ballot. Elections officials knew about the problem two years ago, but the company failed to fix the software before the election this year.

Reports from voters in Florida and Ohio also indicated that some of them had problems voting for the candidate of their choice. When they tried to vote for John Kerry, they said, the machine either wouldn't register the vote at all or would indicate on the review page that the vote was cast for Bush instead.

Click for complete story...

Keep up the noise, guys! They're starting to listen! I've had other unconfirmed reports about both Dems and the Kerry campaign beginning to take notice of all of this as well!

UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Letter to GAO, as mentioned above, available here in PDF format. (Hat tip "Shari H-D" for the link!)




By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2004 3:13pm PT  

In a different North Carolina incident to the one we've already report where some 4500 votes were lost for good from a single NC E-Voting machine, The Sun-Journal is now reporting additional North Carolina E-vote errors:

A systems software glitch in Craven County's electronic voting equipment is being blamed for a vote miscount that, when corrected, changed the outcome of at least one race in Tuesday's election.

Then, in the rush to make right the miscalculation that swelled the number of votes for president here by 11,283 more votes than the total number cast, a human mistake further delayed accurate totals for the 40,534 who voted.
...
An override, like those occurring when one attempts to save a computer file that already exists, is supposed to prevent double counting, but did not function correctly, [Craven County Elections Director, Tiffiney] Miller said.

This machine in question, by the way, was also an ES&S machine.

The story also notes that "a national Republican political consultant who had watched the returns and had some concern that other precincts were involved in the problem entered the office." --- Hello? Are there "national Democratic political consultants" out there who are watching this stuff as well?!




By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2004 12:56pm PT  

Miami Herald now reporting that 70,000 votes were "discovered" last night in Broward County, FL for a gambling initiative that reversed the previously announced outcome. [emphasis mine, and mostly notable to those who have been following along with previously reported items]:

Broward County corrected a computer glitch Thursday that had miscounted thousands of absentee votes, instantly turning a slot-machine measure from loser to winner and reinforcing concerns about the accuracy of electronic election returns.

The bug, discovered two years ago but never fixed, began subtracting votes after the absentee tally hit 32,500 --- a ceiling put in place by the software makers.
...
The problem was quickly traced to software in what is known as the central tabulation machine, a computer that collects data from optical scanners that read the individual mail-in ballots.
...
County officials blamed Election Systems & Software, the company that sold the machines and counting software to Broward.

County officials say they think ES&S failed to follow through on a problem that was brought to their attention two years ago, during the 2002 general election.

ES&S spokeswoman Becky Vollmer said the glitch --- which limits the number of votes that can be counted in each precinct to safeguard against ballot stuffing --- will be fixed in software updates they are submitting to the Division of Elections next year.
...
Alia Faraj, [FL Secretary of State, Glenda] Hood's spokeswoman, said ES&S had not previously submitted any information about the counting cap in its tabulation software, which is supposed to be certified by the Secretary of State's Office.
...
The tabulation software was set to reverse the vote count at 32,500. It was triggered when Broward counted all 97,535 absentee ballots in one mega-precinct Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Hello? Connect. The. Dots.

(For more on the Optical Scan oddities in Florida, and info on who ES&S is, see this previous item.)




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