Diebold's Toilet Paper Democracy --- a Photographic Essay
How America's Votes Will be Counted (or not) in 2006 and Beyond...Unless Something is Done About it.
By Brad Friedman on 3/20/2006, 12:00pm PT  

You've heard the reports of the new Diebold touch-screen voting machines which have recently been updated to include a so-called "voter-verified paper trail."

You may also have heard how the printers they've added to produce these "paper trails" on their previously-paperless touch-screen voting machines are reported to jam up in test after test --- like the one last summer in California [PDF] where some 33% of such machines failed due to screen freezes, software failures and paper jams.

You may have heard that Diebold actually includes a magnifying glass with each machine to help voters see these tiny, virtually unreadable "paper trails."

You may even have heard how the virtually uncountable thermal paper rolls, which scroll back into the machine after supposedly being "verified" by the voter, have turned up blank on some of the busiest machines at the end of Election Day --- as occurred in Lucas County, OH during the November 2005 Election in Toledo.

Now, for the first time, a hands-on examination of actual Diebold Accu-Vote TSx "election-ready" machines in Utah --- where the newly state-approved and purchased machines are just now being delivered across the state --- has been conducted by Security Innovations and computer security expert Harri Hursti. The examination was done in Emery County, UT with the approval of the county's elected official in charge of elections, Clerk-Recorder Bruce Funk.

Hursti's complete findings are soon to be released by BlackBoxVoting.org (BBV) who helped to organize the precedent setting examination where, for the first time, independent experts have been allowed to actually study the very touch-screen voting machines being deployed around our country this year for use in the up-coming 2006 Elections. Normally, these machines are guarded by secret non-disclosure agreements of Voting Machine Companies and the mandates of government officials who have allowed these machines and their software, incredibly, to remain the "proprietary" secret of the companies paid to run our public elections.

BBV has already disclosed over the weekend one or two of the items discovered in the initial examination. One of them, in fact, is so "shocking" that it would seem to merit a complete recall of these TSx machines solely on consumer safety grounds!

Amongst the findings from the landmark study conducted last week in Utah that they've shared exclusively with The BRAD BLOG is a first-hand glimpse at the printer module now added to Diebold's Accu-Vote TS machines in light of the national outcry for "paper trails" to be produced when votes are cast in American elections.

These "afterthought" printer modules, and the "paper trails" they produce --- which are largely uncountable and uncounted by election officials not to mention unreadable by mere human mortals --- have failed in all sorts of test situations.

Most states require no actual counting or meaningful audit or even cursory review of these toilet-paper "paper trails" (distinct from a countable paper ballot.) Some states (hello, Florida!) even disallow the hand-counting of such "paper trails" by law! So how well the printing modules actually work, is almost beside the point. Their main purpose seems largely to be instilling a false sense of security in the voter that their vote will actually be counted and counted accurately.

To be clear: These devices provide no assurance that ones votes will actually be counted accurately --- or even at all.

Here then, for first time ever, is a close-up photographic look at how these printers actually work --- or don't as the case may be --- and what it is that Diebold and the other Voting Machine Companies who produce such poorly designed hardware and software to tally the votes in America's democracy, are currently shipping to virtually every state in the union for their 2006 rollout.

We'll see an actual printer-jam in progress, reasons for why it may occur so frequently on Diebold's Accu-Vote TSx machines, and a close-up look at the plastic "fresnel lens" (a cheap Cracker Jack prize-like magnifying glass) which is included with each machine's printer --- theoretically to help voters read their own "paper trail."

The photos which follow are all of the same machine, with the same section of jammed "paper trail" never touched or moved throughout the series of photos.

The following photographs, and the bulk of the information contained in the descriptions of same were provided exclusively to The BRAD BLOG by Republican BlackBoxVoting.org investigator, Jim March as he and the rest of the BBV team were leaving Utah on Sunday afternoon after their first close-up look at the Diebold Accu-Vote TSx...

  1. The "take up reel" where the "voter-verified paper trail" is stored. It becomes a detachable sealed box post-election.
  2. An actual paper jam starting (see close-up below). Note the "crinkle" at the left edge of the paper.
  3. The section of paper that would be displayed for the voter.
  4. The blank paper reel.
  5. The metal tray which supports the paper being displayed, through a clear plastic cover not shown here. (See below for more info.)
  6. There are no "guides" to the paper trail at this point. In the opinion of the BBV investigators, there should be. They report that the total paper run length is abnormally long in this design. Perhaps, they speculate, because it's an "afterthought addition" to the existing base. The takeup spool box ("A") was not opened; There may be a "horizontal slop" contributing to the paper crinkle and impending jam at location "B"...seen in the close-up below.

A close-up of a paper jam in progress.
(NOTE: March reports that this particular paper jam occurred before BBV arrived on the scene, during Bruce Funk's normal "test election process". It was left in place for them to see upon their arrival. The California report [PDF] which documented their tests in the Summer of 2005 also discuss concerns about Poll Workers who would have to open the door on the printer module to try and clear such jams, resulting in the loss of the "secret ballots" for, perhaps, several of the last few voters who had used the jammed machine.)

Paper jam in progress, a little less close up.
Your democracy at work.

A view from the underside of the plastic Cracker Jack box magnifying glass ("fresnel lens") included as a prize with each Diebold Accu-Vote TSx machine.

The voter has the option of flipping the plastic lens up or down. BBV says, "We recommend up. Bigtime." You'll see why in a second.

Also note the small plastic brown door just to the right of the magnifying lens...a very important and troubling note about that little door will follow below. Read on...

Here's what the voter sees if they use their Cracker Jack prize!

Here is the same piece of "paper trail", same segment, but without the plastic magnifying lens. Based on this, The BRAD BLOG would agree with BBV's recommendation to not use it. Bigtime.

Ironically enough, Diebold, along with Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and his former Chief-of-Staff who happens to be Diebold's main congressional lobbyist, built a clause into the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) --- the bill responsible for foisting these machines on America --- to require one disabled-accessible voting device in every precint in the country. Their main purchased "disabled-voter" allies advocating machines such as these? The National Federation for the Blind, who received $1 million from Diebold and has been advocating for these machines for years now on their behalf.

Given the crappy plastic lens supplied with these things, it may be easier for blind folks to "see" their "paper trails" (there is an audio readout of the ballot) than it will be for sighted folks!

Some, however, may see absolutely nothing...Because...

Now you see it! Now you don't!
There's an opaque brown door that can be swung down over the "Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail" rendering it completely invisible!

As March wrote, "If the county elections people want to cheat, just swing this door down and most voters won't know to swing it up!!!"

Could that little brown door be the reason why all of those "voter-verified paper trail" rolls on the busiest Diebold Accu-Vote machines in Toledo, OH in November 2005 turned up completely blank at the end of the day? Is that why nobody even noticed that voters weren't voter-verifying their "paper trails" throughout the entire Election Day there? Just a guess.

To which March adds his final thoughts to democracy fans everywhere..."Happy hacking!"

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