Guest: Election integrity advocate, journalist Jennifer Cohn on newly discovered ES&S, EAC failures; Also: Biden endorses filibuster reform...
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2021, 7:12pm PT  

On today's BradCast: While Team Trump spent months pretending the Dominion Voting Systems company stole votes from Trump and flipped them to Biden with their computerized voting and tabulation systems, there is exactly zero independently verifiable evidence to support that baseless conclusion. At the same time, however, recently unearthed documents from the state of Texas and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), reveal a gaping security hole in new systems made by the largest voting system company in the nation, Election Systems and Software, Inc. (better known as ES&S), which has systems deployed in dozens of states. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

But, first up today, some annoying (if long overdue) news that Donald Trump finally made it clear(ish), during a Tuesday interview on Fox "News", that he recommends his own supporters should, indeed, get vaccinated against COVID. He cites the "great" and "safe" vaccines that are now available, describing them as "something that works" to prevent the deadly disease. We hope his supporters listen, since they are currently the most disinclined to want to get vaccinated.

Next, some long overdue encouraging news on the Senate legislative filibuster. In a Tuesday interview with ABC News, President Biden --- a longtime Senate institutionalist previously opposed to filibuster reform --- said he now favors it being overhauled. He says he supports a modification to bring back the "talking filibuster", where obstructionists are forced to hold the floor and keep speaking until they can't anymore. That would place the onus on the minority hoping to block legislation, rather than forcing Democrats, in this case, to try and find 60 votes to pass anything at all. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had no problem unilaterally killing the filibuster entirely to steal and pack Trump nominees onto the U.S. Supreme Court, now vows to grind the Senate to a halt if Dems dare change the legislative filibuster. But, of course, McConnell has already done that with his unprecedented use of the legislative filibuster to block everything! We discuss.

Then, on to our main story today. Shortly after the November election last year, Donald Trump and his gaggle of dopey friends and clueless, corrupt attorneys hatched an evidence-free conspiracy theory that Canadian-based Dominion Voting Systems had participated in an elaborate plot to secretly flip votes and steal the election for Biden. (The theory was based in part on my accurate, deep-dive exclusive investigative reporting from 2010, regarding some voting system vendors --- though not Dominion --- who then had ties to Venezuela and its then living President, Hugo Chavez. Team Trump bastardized that reporting to pretend it had something to do with their dumb theory that Dominion stole the 2020 election from Trump.) Dominion has since sued Team Trumpers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for defamation, slapping them with suits for $1.3 billion each. Last week, news out of Stark County, Ohio and out of Louisiana proved that Dominion is, in fact, being financially harmed by the fraudulent "fraud" plot used to try and discredit them.

But the nation's largest voting machine company, ES&S --- with a years-long, thuggish reputation according to elections insiders, along with a long history of failed elections on their crappy, computerized voting and tabulation systems --- largely escaped scrutiny by Republicans after last November's election. But they shouldn't have, given the disturbing, well-supported, deep-dive exclusive that election integrity advocate and Twitter phenom JENNIFER COHN broke last week at Who, What, Why. She joins us today to explain both her well-sourced report and its far-reaching ramifications.

As it turns out, she reports, there is a flaw in ES&S' installation process that prevents "hash-verification" when software is installed or patched onto their ExpressVote touchscreen voting systems. What that means, in layman's terms, is that its impossible to know if the software installed onto the systems actually matches the certified version of the software that was tested by federal testing authorities under the purview of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

This gaping hole --- discovered by the state of Texas in advance of last November's election --- means that untested, modified software, perhaps containing malware, could potentially have been installed onto ES&S' systems in more than a dozen states last year. Even more maddening is that ES&S was well aware of this flaw, but told elections officials (if they happened to notice the failed hash test) that it was nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, everything is fine --- just trust us.

"The strong implication from the documents which were produced is that [ES&S was] telling them that a mismatch should just be treated as a match," Cohn tells me. "That blanket instruction really concerned the Texas examiners when they found out this was happening."

More maddening still, as Cohn reports, is that ES&S forces jurisdictions to allow their own employees or contractors to do these installations, rather than allowing jurisdictions to do so themselves, which might allow local or state officials to do their own hash-verification (or "acceptance testing", as it is known by some in the industry). Some jurisdictions that refuse to allow ES&S to do the installation will have their warrantees void by the company. As one former voting system employee tweeted in response to all of this, it is "like buying a new home and before the closing the seller says, 'You don't need a final walk-through. Just trust me."

"Normally, the customer is supposed to do it. The whole point of it is to make sure that the vendor is being honest and they're not giving malicious vote-flipping software. So to have the vendor do the hash testing themselves defeats the whole point," Cohn explains. "One of the examiners called it 'the fox guarding the henhouse', and said it was ES&S self-certifying their systems. Even the attorneys for the Texas Secretary of state were appalled."

Cohn's reporting at Who, What, Why is based on a passel of documents obtained via public records requests that reveal, for example, a troubled Texas election examiner complaining via email to their Secretary of State's attorney that this security flaw is "a gift wrapped opportunity to an insider threat," before going on to add: "It’s similar to a bank robber knowing that the camera covering teller #3 is broken."

In addition to Texas, ES&S systems used last year in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Washington, DC, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington state, Wisconsin and Wyoming may all have been similarly vulnerable to running modified, vulnerable and uncertified software during the election, as Cohn details in her report, explaining today that it could be as many as 35 states.

And, as if all of that is not yet maddening enough, she also reports on the disturbing reaction from the EAC to this gaping security hole. The federal agency which is supposed to oversee voting system certification, apparently knew about this issue prior to the election, but failed to inform the public and quietly helped patch it all over for ES&S before, essentially, lying about it all once Cohn started asking questions in February. The EAC, as we have reported at The BRAD BLOG for years, has a long and troubling history of protecting private voting system vendors rather than the voters they are supposed to be watching out for.

When the EAC learned about it, Cohn says, they were "in kind of a panic, I think, because if it had leaked out, they couldn't honestly say they knew what had been installed in those states was what it was supposed to be."

So, is any of this related to why Team Trump focused their phony, evidence-free complaints almost exclusively on Dominion, while ignoring well-documented problems with ES&S almost entirely? We discuss that and much more with Cohn on today's --- yes --- maddening BradCast, where she also notes that, despite Texas officials being as troubled as they were by all of this, "I don't think that anybody ever said, 'Why don't we use pens? They don't require hash testing.'"...

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