By Ernest A. Canning on 10/30/2014, 9:35am PT  

The Politicus USA headline typified MSM coverage of what Brad Friedman often refers to as the "horse race" --- "Democrats Surge As Michelle Nunn Leads Georgia Senate Race In Third Straight Poll."

For The BRAD BLOG, and for a good many election integrity advocates and computer scientists, that narrow focus ignores "the track conditions," which, in Georgia entails the continued use of touchscreen voting systems courtesy of a 2009 determination by the Georgia Supreme Court that "unverifiable elections are just fine."

Where horse race coverage focuses exclusively on the here and now, this site feels it helpful to look back a dozen years to what took place in Georgia shortly after Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox signed a May 2002 contract with what was then known as Diebold Election Systems Inc....

Privatization and the 'patch'

One of the deeply troubling features of the election integrity movement is how few people are acquainted either with the Velvet Revolution interview of Chris Hood, a former Diebold contractor turned whistleblower, or with "Will the Next Election be Hacked," an explosive investigative piece by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. which appeared in the Oct. 5, 2006 edition of Rolling Stone.

RFK, Jr. reports that Hood had been present in May 2002 when officials from the office of Georgia's then Secretary of State signed a contract with Diebold, which, at that time, was the world's third largest seller of ATMs but a novice in the voting machine business, having just acquired Global Election Systems. Of nine bids for the Georgia contract, Diebold's was the highest, but then Diebold's lobbyist was Lewis Massey, who had preceded Cox through the revolving door as Georgia's Secretary of State.

The contract required that Diebold install the entire system in five months. Hood asserts was a "very narrow window of time" that could be met only if Diebold "had control over the entire environment." And that is precisely what took place.

And, with that, RFK Jr. reports that Georgia's entire electoral system was instantaneously privatized. "The company was authorized to put together ballots, program machines and train poll workers across the state --- all without any official supervision. 'We ran the election,' says Hood. 'We had 356 people that Diebold brought into the state. Diebold opened and closed the polls and tabulated the votes."

Diebold, however, did a bit more. In August of that year, Bob Urosevich, then President of Diebold Elections Systems, personally provided Hood and other Diebold employees with a memory card "patch." Urosevich said it was software intended "to fix the clock in the system, which" Hood says, "it didn't do."

Hood told RFK Jr., "It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state. We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich."

Hood claims Diebold covertly altered software in some 5,000 Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touchscreen) voting systems in two heavily Democratic counties. Diebold employees, who had a "universal key" to all of the DREs, evaded detection by performing the task early in the morning.

The Diebold whistleblower added: "There could be a hidden program on a memory card that adjusts everything to the preferred election results. Your program says, 'I want my candidate to stay ahead by three or four percent or whatever.' Those programs can include a built-in delete that erases itself after it's done."

As reported by Atlanta Progressive News at the time, Hood's account provided independent confirmation of allegations made by another former Diebold employee, Ron Behler, who informed Black Box Voting that "there were several patches illegally applied on Georgia voting machines in the lead-up to the 2002 elections and that efforts were made to prevent the State from learning about them."

Inexplicable results

While RFK Jr. acknowledged that it is "impossible to know" whether the ensuing GA election was stolen, the November 2002 election produced another of those statistical anomalies that have become so common place where 100% unverifiable e-voting is involved. "Six days before the vote, polls showed Sen. Max Cleland, a decorated war veteran and Democratic incumbent, leading his Republican opponent Saxby Chambliss…by five percentage points." The Diebold DRE system declared that Chambliss received 53% of the vote to Cleland's 47%-a twelve-point turn around.

In the Governor's race, the same polls showed Democrat Roy Barnes leading by a whopping 11%. The Diebold DRE system declared that his Republican opponent, Sonny Perdue, had won 51% of the vote. Sonny is the first cousin of the 2014 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, David Perdue.

Those types of anomalies have continued. Earlier this year, statistical analyst and polling whiz-kid Nate Silver found it difficult to explain David Perdue's two point victory in the Georgia U.S. Senate Republican primary run-off against Jack Kingston --- a seven point turnaround from Kingston's five point lead in pre-election polls. Noting that "polling in Georgia's Republican primaries has a history of being accurate," Silver, who looked at every factor, other than the voting machines themselves, described the result as an "unexpected quirk."

Perhaps it was. Nobody can ever know one way or the other.

Judicially approved faith-based voting

In its 2009 decision in Favorita v. Handel [PDF] the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the contention that "the right of 'elections by the people'…is violated by the delegation of critical electoral functions to voting machine processes that allegedly cannot be verified or audited 'by the people.'"

The court said that the mere fact that voters "cannot actually see the electronic record within the machine does not mean that the vote was not accurately recorded or not recorded at all. The machines have an internal storage unit that can be audited in order to count the votes casts." The court added that "the undisputed evidence shows that the touch-screen machines accurately record each vote when they are 'properly operated.'"

This latter contention would no doubt come as a surprise to the 25 to 30 voters who, during the June 2006 Georgia primary, called into the campaign office of then U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D) to complain that they saw their votes "FLIPPED BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES on Diebold machines," as reported by the Atlanta Progressive News. "They pushed the button for Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson came up."

The Georgia Supreme Court's blanket and unknowable declaration that "touch-screen machines accurately record each vote" no doubt would have also come as a surprise to the Center for Information Policy at Princeton University, who, on Sept. 13, 2006, released the results of their "independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine."

That study's principle findings were:

1. Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss…

2. Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute…

3.[Diebold's] AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses --- computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity...

So here we are on the eve of another election, with touch-screen votes flipping all across the country, as they have, election after election since 2002, and with Brad Friedman appearing on Thom Hartmann's TV show this week to lament, with the paraphrased words of the late Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, that its "Déjà Vu All Over Again. Again."

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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