Take it From Me, a Man Who Knows, She Couldn't Be More Wrong...
By Steve Heller on 4/27/2007, 10:35am PT  

Guest Blogged by Stephen Heller

In an article from the April 24th edition of the Seattle Times, we learn that King County, Washington election officials have recommended Diebold tabulators for use in counting mail-in ballots.

According to Sherril Huff, who has been nominated by County Executive Ron Sims to become elections director, Diebold products represent "the solution with the least amount of risk."

Say what?!

Sherril Huff, nominated by County Executive Ron Sims to become elections director, on Monday told the Metropolitan King County Council that Diebold's tabulators are the lowest-cost option, are compatible with King County's existing Diebold products and represent "the solution with the least amount of risk."

I am astounded (although I guess as a regular reader of The BRAD BLOG I shouldn't be) that any election official can, at this point in time, say that ANY Diebold product is "the solution with the least amount of risk."

And Ms. Huff is recommending the purchase of Diebold tabulators BEFORE they have received federal certification.

Has Ms. Huff been living in a cave?

I'm glad to say some council members are awake enough to know this is a bad idea. They are worried about the lack of federal certification, and they seem to be aware of the various computer experts' tests showing Diebold machines to be hack-friendly and about as risk-free as Dick Cheney's hunting partners....

Councilmember Larry Phillips said election officials seemed not to have considered "the risk associated with making the purchase of software that hasn't been used elsewhere."
Councilmember Bob Ferguson also expressed reservations about Diebold, saying the company "simply has a higher bar, in my mind. ... I pick up the paper and read those articles [about potential hacking] just like everybody else does."

Councilmember Dow Constantine said after the meeting he wants to make sure digital images made by the Diebold tabulators can't be used to determine how an individual voted.

I think it's important that King County residents be alerted to the fact that the Diebold tabulators their election officials are considering buying are run on secret software. Regular readers of BRAD BLOG may think it's obvious to everyone, but sadly, most Americans just aren't aware of it. Not until the very end of the article does the Seattle Times quote a Seattle resident mentioning that the software is secret, but I wish they'd brought that up earlier in the article. I think the "secret software" fact should be hit harder.

By framing the debate as one of 'secret software and secret machines owned by a private corporation' vs. 'complete transparency, nothing secret except the secret ballot,' things might look a little clearer to King County residents.

I would also like to see election officials asked how they can trust Diebold machines if the software is secret. Since the software is secret, no one can verify the machines' accuracy or security. Election officials, along with the voters and taxpayers of King County, must take Diebold's word for it. Based on Diebold's history, that's not a good idea.

California made the mistake of trusting Diebold, and former California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley eventually decertified Diebold machines in California due to what he called "fraudulent actions by Diebold." Shelley said that "their performance, their behavior, is despicable," and that "if that's the kind of deceitful behavior they're going to engage in, they can't do business in California."

I see little to reassure King County voters that Diebold's behavior would be any better in King County than it was in California.

It would seem to me that most, if not all, King County residents would most certainly not want their votes counted by secret machines owned by a private corporation and run on secret software.

The only thing secret about our elections should be the secret ballot. How those ballots are processed and tabulated, and the machines used for this, must be absolutely transparent. The integrity of our entire republic depends on it. This is an important point which in my view has not been stressed enough, not only in King County, but all over America.

A January 2007 audit (pdf) published by the Columbus Free Press provides an in-depth analysis of the 2006 mid-term election results in Ohio. Search for the word "tabulator" and you can find descriptions of the programming flaws inherent in Diebold tabulators.

I call on Sherril Huff to educate herself about the flaws and security risks of Diebold machines. I also hope King County residents will ask her (Sherril.HuffMenees@metrokc.gov) if she really and truly believes that using a private corporation's secret machines and secret software, machines and software with a history of being unreliable, easily hacked and with videos proving how simply and quickly they can be compromised, is really the best way to count the votes in King County.


Steve Heller became known as the "Diebold Whistleblower" when in January 2004, he stole and exposed legal documents providing smoking gun evidence about Diebold Election Systems' nefarious activities in the State of California. Partly as a result of Heller's actions, in April 2004, former California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley de-certified Diebold in California for what he called their "fraudulent," "despicable," and "deceitful behavior."

Heller was charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney with three felonies for his actions. In November 2006, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to a computer. He is currently on felony probation. BRAD BLOG coverage of Heller's story is here.

Steve is an actor, writer, political progressive and election integrity activist. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actor and writer Michele Gregory.

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