The Windy City relies on 100% unverifiable e-voting systems, tied to Hugo Chavez, with a track-record of infamous failure
Just ask Oprah!...
By Brad Friedman on 1/26/2011, 6:05am PT  

[Update 1/27/11: IL's Supreme Court has determined Emanuel meets the residency requirements to run for Mayor in Chicago, overturning the lower court's ruling referenced below. Not that any of that makes any difference in regard to the details about Chicago's voting system as offered in the following article. So please read on.]

Perhaps you've been keeping up with the kerfuffle over the past day or two over former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's bid to be on Chicago's ballot in the upcoming February mayoral race there. On Monday, a court determined his residency status was not sufficient and ordered him removed from the ballot, while on Tuesday the court of appeals has temporarily stayed that order, leaving him on the ballot for now, after agreeing to hear his appeal.

But in modern-day Chicago, "appearing on the ballot" is not quite as straightforward as one might think, given the 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems now forced on hundreds of thousands of voters in the Windy City.

Over the years, we've covered specific failures of the very same Sequoia e-voting systems that are used in Chicago and elsewhere across the country, as well as the remarkable duplicity of the company's top officials. So it seems like this would be a good moment to remind folks of the most disturbing Sequoia/Chicago related incidents.

One involves Oprah's "lost" vote on the Sequoia touch-screen systems used there in the 2008 Presidential general election, the other involves the CEO of Sequoia Voting Systems simply lying to Chicago officials about his company's direct business partnership with a Venezuelan e-voting firm tied to Hugo Chavez, and the fact that the Venezuelan firm, Smartmatic, still owns the intellectual property (IP) rights to the e-voting systems used by Chicago voters --- even as the new owners of Sequoia continue to lie about it...

Oprah's 'Lost' Vote

As The BRAD BLOG reported on 10/31/08, Oprah Winfrey was justifiably horrified to see her vote for President --- presumably for Barack Obama, though she didn't state as much specifically in the video where she described the nightmare --- simply disappear from the Sequoia touch-screen system she used to vote in Chicago during the early voting period:

"When I voted yesterday electronically, the first vote that you vote for on the ballot is the presidential candidate. It was my first time doing electronic, so I didn't mark the X strong enough, or I held down too long. Because then when I went back to check it, it had not recorded my presidential vote," she said.

She then simulated her meltdown, shaking and breathing heavily while stuttering out the words, "It didn't record my presidential vote."

Unfortunately the video of her full explanation, as posted in our original report, has since been removed by YouTube and other video sites "due to a copyright claim by Harpo, Inc.," Winfrey's production company. But the remarks from the video, as quoted above, largely give you the idea.

Lying About Chavez

Earlier that year, in May, we reported exclusively on then CEO and President of Sequoia, Jack Blaine, duping Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke and the Chair of Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners, Landon D. Neal, in answering questions on Sequoia's ties to Smartmatic.

The Chicago officials had sent a number of specific questions to him following Blaine's prior testimony which they had viewed as "evasive" and "deceptive". In response, Blaine sent back an extremely evasive and deceptive set of answers, which specifically avoided supplying a response to their direct request to "Please list any license, royalty and/or other intellectual property agreements between Sequoia and Smartmatic and/or their affiliates."

Rather than respond to that request, Blaine simply skipped it entirely and used a deceptive trick in order to do so, as our detailed investigative report noted.

As we at the time explained in great detail, Blaine had, indeed been duping Chicago and Cook County officials, as well as, most likely, federal investigators from the Treasury Department's Commission on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) about the company's continuing relationship with the Chavez-tied Venezuelan firm.

In fact, The BRAD BLOG obtained confirmation, directly from Blaine himself, from a company-wide teleconference where he admitted to the continuing, contractual relationship with Smartmatic. The conference call, which he believed to be confidential, was called in response to another exclusive story of ours about another e-voting company's attempt at a hostile take-over of Sequoia, and the company's plan to shut down their California headquarters amidst a serious cash crunch. Blaine hadn't informed his own employees about either the take-over attempt or the planned office shutdown, which they had learned from our reporting.

The Sequoia/Smartmatic Deception Continues

The deception in regard to Sequoia's relationship with Smartmatic has continued over the years since then, even following last year's purchase of Sequoia by the Canadian firm, Dominion Voting. As we noted last Summer, following the take-over (which, itself, followed on the heels of Dominion's takeover of Diebold Inc.'s e-voting unit as well --- making the little-known Dominion the 2nd largest voting machine company in the U.S. virtually overnight) Sequoia's new owners also attempted to deceive the public about the still-continuing Smartmatic ownership of Sequoia voting machine Intellectual Property.

In their announcement of the purchase [PDF] last year, Dominion stated that they had "acquired Sequoia's inventory and all intellectual property" for all of the company's optical-scan and touch-screen e-voting systems.

In fact, as we reported at the time, that was simply not true. A Dominion official --- the unfortunately-named Chris Riggall, formerly of Diebold --- subsequently admitted to us via email [emphasis his]: "Smartmatic IP was not included in the Sequoia transaction, since Sequoia did not own it."

When asked why the company's announcement had originally attempted to mislead the public on that point, until we called them on it, Riggall offered this not-particularly-responsive response:

The Smartmatic IP is Smartmatic IP. Sequoia did not own it, and thus it was not part of the transaction. Dominion purchased all of the IP that Sequoia owned. That's what was reflected in the news release.

100% Unverifiable

Hundreds of thousands of Chicago voters, including all that cast early votes there, will use the Sequoia Edge touch-screen voting system, equipped with the Verivote paper audit trail printer for the February 22nd election, whether Emanuel is allowed to "appear" on "the ballot" or not.

During the 2010 election, nearly half a million voters in Cook County voted during the early voting period when there is no choice but to use the 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems.

Those are the same e-voting systems recently used across most of the state of Nevada in the closely-watched U.S. Senate election between Sen. Harry Reid and his Tea Party-backed Republican opponent Sharron Angle. In our coverage of that contest last October, warning both sides about the 100% unverifiability of any and every vote cast on that system, we noted a litany of failures of both the voting system and the company who originally sold it to a number of gullible election jurisdictions across the country.

We noted, at the time, that the Sequoia Edge system, which has been hacked many times, and is still-hackable in a multitude of ways (including a yellow button on the back allowing voters to vote as often as they wish until physically restrained from doing so) includes a so-called "voter verifiable paper audit trail" or "VVPAT," allowing voters to supposedly confirm that the system has recorded their vote accurately.

Unfortunately, that VVPAT is largely a scam. The paper trail is not actually counted by anyone, no matter what it says, as the system relies on the internally recorded, 100% unverifiable, completely invisible-to-voters tally done by the computer system.

But for those who still cling to the false notion that a touch-screen system with a "paper trail" like the one supplied along with the Sequoia Edge could be used to accurately "audit" the results of a race run on it, we'll remind you of the video released in September of 2008 by the University of California, Santa Barbara. That video was made by the university's Computer Security Group as part of California's landmark 2007 "Top-to-Bottom review" of electronic voting systems, and led to the decertification of these machines in the state --- the same machines still in use in Chicago, Nevada, and elsewhere.

Their video, as seen below, shows how simple it is for an election insider, in a matter of seconds, armed with little more than a $10 thumb drive, to game the system in such a way that even a 100% hand-count of those so-called "verifiable paper audit trails" would be unlikely to reveal that the election run on them had been completely rigged...

Of course, if Emanuel is able to convince the court that he should, in fact, "appear" on "the ballot," given Chicago's Sequoia voting systems, there is no way to know if that appearance will amount to much, or if he will literally "appear" on the invisible ballots or not.

If there are any problems with the system, Emanuel can start by blaming himself since, as a U.S. Congressman and part of the Democratic House leadership for years before leaving to become Obama's Chief of Staff, Emanuel took few, if any, steps to ban the type of 100% unverifiable, easily-manipulated, oft-failed voting systems his hoped-for bid for Chicago's Mayor will be relying on next month.

Good luck, Chicago!

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CLARIFICATION: A commenter at charged this report was "plain, unadulteradely FALSE", as he or she had cast a paper ballot in the recent past when voting in Chicago. Early voters in Chicago have no choice but to vote on Sequoia's touch-screen system, while Election Day voters may indeed vote on either paper ballots which are then fed into Sequoia's optical-scanners, or on Sequoia's 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems. Our report never meant to suggest otherwise, but we've clarified it just in case. For the record, in the 2008 election, Cook County had a record number of early voters --- nearly half a million according to news reports. While Cook doesn't include only Chicago, the city makes up the majority of its voters. The growing number of early voters alone could certainly swing an election one way or another, not to mention the 100% unverifiable touch-screen votes also cast on Election Day itself along with the (largely) unverified, and also easily manipulated, result totals reported by the Sequoia op-scan systems. Hopefully that clarifies any unintentional confusion from our report as originally posted.

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