Voting Systems

How did we move from a voting system where you could be sure who won to voting systems where you have to trust what private companies tell you the results are?

This is good:

“Andrew Appel explores the history of voting and voting fraud as we have transitioned from paper ballots to mechanical voting machines.”

Thoughts On Russia Election Systems Hacking Report

Here are some thoughts on the report that Russia was trying to — or did — hack into our election systems before the election.

1) Why was this a secret? Who from? Obviously it wasn’t a secret to Russia. Maybe they’re keeping the idea that they detected it a secret? (And this tips Russia or whoever off to what we did not detect, by the way.)

Continue reading

Election Results

Imagine this scenario. We are in Russia, and voting is conducted by handing your ballot through a curtain. You are not allowed to look behind the curtain. You are never allowed to see the stack of ballots that was handed through the curtain. Then at the end of the day the ballots are destroyed and Putin comes out and announces who won.

Are you going to take Putin’s word for it?

This is exactly the scenario of our current computerized voting systems. If you have a voting machine and do not have a paper ballot that can be counted with independent observers verifying the count, you are really just trusting Putin to look behind the curtain and then tell you who won.

If you have a voting machine with a “paper trail” but not one compares the paper trail to the reported count you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

Even if you have paper ballots but they are counted by computers, and no one conducts an independent audit to test if the marks on the ballots match the reported results, you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

You should not trust any election unless the system allows anyone including you yourself to count the ballots. That is transparency. If you or someone you trust cannot examine the ballots you can’t trust it and why should you? No other system can be trusted. Billions and trillions are at stake in our elections so there are interests that will go to great lengths to make sure the elections go their way — if they an get away with it.

The question to ask about any election result is, was the process transparent and verifiable and if so DID someone verify it? Otherwise it’s Putin and curtain.

What’s Up With Ohio Vote-Counting Machines?

This might just be a wild-ass rumor, or it might be something to look into. Apparently new software is being installed on Ohio’s vote counting machines, just before the election and without the testing and approval that is required.
This is not about the voting machines, that is an entirely separate story. This is a new story about the vote counting machines. These machines have a different function, and this is a different company from the one that the Romney associates purchased.
Please read this at Brad Blog, Why Was Uncertified ‘Experimental’ Software Installed on ES&S Tabulation Systems in 39 OH Counties Just Days Before Presidential Election?

… text said to be from a November 1 memo sent from the OH SoS Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske to a number of state election officials confirming the use of the new, uncertified software on Ohio’s tabulator systems. The memo claims that “its function is to aid in the reporting of results” by converting them “into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State’s election night reporting system.”

“Said to be from” is a warning bell that this might just be a wild-ass rumor right before the election. On the other hand, if they are installing new software in the vote-tabulating machines this is a very big deal. IF they are changing the software in Ohio’s vote-counting machines just before the election, the public needs to know what is going on.
But then it gets interesting:

According to Pam Smith, President of the non-partisan watchdog group, her organization also sought explanations for the last minute software changes from the Sec. of State’s office.
She tells me that she was told that “the Secretary of State team installed the EXP tool” themselves in the counties that use the ES&S system. “It was not left to the counties to figure out the installation or the configuration.”

So apparently the Ohio Sec State IS confirming that new software is being installed on the machines.
Before going on, this is not a “conspiracy theory” or a charge that vote-rigging is taking place. This is honest questions about some disturbing reports. I and others would like to know what is going on. That does not make us kooks.
Is voting machine company ES&S in Ohio suddenly installing new tabulator software to “improve” the counting that takes place tomorrow, and if so why now, and why without the proper approval process? This is supposed to require the approval of a state board, which has not been given.
Please read this at Huffington Post by Art Levine, >As Ohio Faces Vote-Rigging Lawsuit, Are Dems, Liberals, Election Officials Ready to Safeguard Votes?

Those worries about a rigged election were given new urgency today as The Ohio-based Free Press editor-in-chief Robert Fitrakis, also a Green Party candidate for Congress, announced plans to file a lawsuit later today seeking an immediate injunction against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the ES&S manufacturer to halt the use of secretly installed, unauthorized “experimental” software in 39 counties’ tabulators in an alleged violation of state election law. His attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, has also referred the case to the Cincinnati FBI for a criminal investigation. Arnebeck says, “It’s a flagrant violation of the law. Before you add new software, you need approval of a state board. They are installing an uncertified, suspect software patch that interfaces between the a county’s vote tabulation equipment and state tabulators.”

Art’s post asked the key question,

As one progressive election protection leader told me privately, “Who is watching the election officials [on voting machines]? That’s a good question. Where are the boots on the ground? We don’t have watchdogs on election officials.”

Here is what I want to pin down:
1) Did Ohio allow this company to install new software on the vote counting machines? It looks like this happened.
2) Will all the votes in Ohio be hand-checked against what the various machines report? And if so will this happen before the election is “official?”
If #2 happens, things are fine. If not we have a serious problem as far as being sure about the election results.
All I want to know is, are enough of the election results double-checked against the PAPER that shows how each voter voted? If they are, then it does not matter about the machines. If they are not — or especially when there is no paper that the voter either marked or checked — then there is obviously a problem and the “results” should not be trusted.
It is essential that every voter demand that their county double-checks the paper against the reported results. This is as simple and basic as checking to be sure the ballot box is empty before you open the polling places.
It is not a “conspiracy theory” to say all you have to do is check the results against the paper.
Finally, please visit No More Stolen Elections

Why You Should Worry That Romney Associates Bought Company That Controls Ohio’s Election Voting

I just have to say again that it just blows my mind learning that Romney associates bought the company that makes the voting machines that will be used to vote and count the votes in Ohio, Colorado and other states. This is very serious, and a lot of non-tech people just don’t get it. (I had one person say to me that it doesn’t matter because computers don’t make mistakes.)
Take this seriously, people — the timing and the people involved tell us this is fishy. This isn’t radical conspiracy stuff, talk to computer professionals, many of them really worry about electronic voting machines and the reporting systems in use these days.
Here are some links to stories about this. And please, please click through for links, and expanded details:
Brad Friedman, who has been on the voting machines issue all along, posted About that Voting Machine Company Tied to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital…

Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a “strategic investment” to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic.
Lee Fang at The Nation recently confirmed the FreePress reporting in a story of his own on the “crony capitalism” of Tagg Romney, whose father’s money and high-profile connections present a number of troubling corporate conflicts of interest should Mitt Romney become President. The Daily Dolt also followed up with a very well-documented article on the H.I.G. group, their connections to Bain, and their takeover of Hart Intercivic.
… Also this week, in a video that has gone a bit viral, The David Pakman Show expressed understandable concerns about Romney’s close business partners having this type of corporate control over a large e-voting company whose, extremely vulnerable and insecure [PDF] — and often 100% unverifiable — voting and tabulation systems are now used, according to’s database, in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

PLEASE go read the rest.
Rick Ungar at Forbes: Romney Family Investment Ties To Voting Machine Company That Could Decide The Election Causing Concern,

And while I am not suggesting conspiracies or that anyone would get involved in any foul play here, most particularly the GOP candidate for President, how is it possible that so many people could exercise so much bad judgment?
The sanctity of voting in America is supposed to be one of our most important virtues. So concerned are we with a ‘clean’ process that James O’Keefe has made a career entrapping, video taping and destroying those sympathetic to Democratic Party candidates and causes who cross the line when it comes to the voting process. And that’s just fine. If Mr. O’Keefe can legitimately expose someone engaging in voter fraud, he most certainly should call them out.
So, why would these individuals who serve on the board of directors of Hart Intercivic go out of their way to make a contribution to any political candidate given the critical importance of their company remaining above reproach when it comes to the political process? And why would those who run the company that owns Hart Intercivic be giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political candidate? And why would a political candidate and his family have a financial relationship with a company that owns a chunk of the voting machine company that will be counting the actual votes given to that political candidate or his opponent?

This is one story that Friedman refers to traces Romney connections to the company buying the voting machines company, Romney, Bain Tied To Voting Machine Company To Be Used in Swing States,

Hart InterCivic is a national provider of election voting systems that are used in swing-states Ohio and Colorado, as well as in states we don’t really care about so much because we already know how they’ll turn out (e.g., Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii). Private equity firm H.I.G. Capital, LLC bought out a “significant” portion of Hart in July of 2011, and now the majority of Hart’s board directors are employees of H.I.G. (It’s not entirely clear how much of the voting machine company H.I.G. owns, but the financial advisors responsible for the transaction state that “Hart Intercivic was acquired by HIG Capital.”)
H.I.G., in turn, has ties to Bain & Co. and Mitt Romney directly:

  • H.I.G. was founded by Tony Tamer, a former Bain employee and bundler for Mitt Romney’s campaign.
  • Of H.I.G.’s 22 American directors, 21 donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. …
  • Of these 22 American directors, seven of them (nearly one-third) are former Bain employees. …
  • Four of H.I.G.’s directors, Tony Tamer, John Bolduc, Douglas Berman, and Brian D. Schwartz, are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.
  • Two of H.I.G.’s managing directors, Douglas F. Berman and Brian D. Schwartz, were present at the $50,000 per plate fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his notorious ”47%” comments.
  • H.I.G. employees currently make up the majority of the Hart InterCivic’s five-member board of directors. Two of these three directors of the voting machine company, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have donated directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign.
  • H.I.G. is the 11th largest donor to Mitt Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. employees have given $338,000 to the Romney campaign, outpacing even Bain Capital itself, which gave $268,000.
    (Sidenote: Are we the only ones to notice that every single one of H.I.G.’s 22 American directors is white and male? Not related to the Mitt Romney issue, but sheesh.)

  • PLEASE click through. (Note there is a difference between Bain Capital and Bain&Co. The former is a spin-off from the latter. I also don’t like the term “has ties to,” that’s very Glenn-Beckian, but these are strong and real ties. Also they give the appearance of a problem whether they are actually a problem or not — major supporters of a candidate buying the voting and counting machines that will decide if that candidate wins… and this hurts the public’s — to use Romney’s economy word — confidence.)
    Here is Lee Fang on The David Pakman Show:

    My Thoughts:
    We have to insist that there is sufficient random checking of the paper records in the machines against what the machines report, and of precinct results against what gets reported, esp in Ohio. (Of course it is better if every precinct is checked against reporting, but that is a big job that will be hard to get.) And seriously, if a single precinct result is different from what is reported, we have a potential tampering problem and should demand that all precincts are checked against what is reported.
    Also, if more than a few voters in a precinct are reporting that they see something different on the paper from what they thought they voted, that also indicates a potential tampering problem.
    Anyway it is possible to have secure systems. We certainly knew how to do that — and knew the REASONS we had to do that — back when we all used paper ballots and ballot boxes. “Ballot stuffing” happened all the time, so they came up with checks and balances.
    Now there is much more at stake, but we no longer seem to worry about these things. But obviously if you think about it, there will be even more reason to “stuff ballots” because there is so much money involved!
    History tells us election tampering WILL be a problem! So we should be demanding that the right checks and balances are in place to make it harder to tamper with elections, and I don’t see it happening.
    Once again, back when we had paper ballots and ballot boxes people came up with all kinds of schemes to tamper with elections, and we developed more and more checks and balances to make it hard to do that. It happened all the time. History says people will always be trying to tamper with our elections. Now that we use computers we seem to have less security, fewer checks and balances at the same time as the stakes are SO much higher!
    And of course, there is also the cost in people’s faith in our elections. Never mind if there actually is any tampering, etc, when people hear that Tag Romney and a bunch of Bain partners are involved in buying a voting machine company before an election in which Bain Capital’s Mitt Romney is running for chief plutocrat — and in which one strategy of his party is keeping people from voting … well just for the reason of giving people faith in the choices the voters make, we should demand that every single precinct is carefully double-checked!
    There are barriers to fixing this problem. One is that this privatization of elections is a corporate effort, and they have salespeople and lobbyists wining and dining local election officials around the country, offering to “solve” their resource problems through automation. They have put serious money into selling this. There’s money in selling this hardware and maintenance contracts.
    The technology is not complex, but securing the results and making them transparent is resource-intensive. Actually checking those paper rolls in those machines that at least have them means people sitting there and checking and comparing from each machine. And then checking the reported precinct results against the actual precinct counts is also a major effort. The whole idea of the machines was to save money. And double-checking to be sure thecomputers did it right and were not tampered with costs money.
    But here is the biggest barrier: if you try to say anything about this, this is what happens — typical elite hatred of the citizens and their concerns:
    Update – and of course the great Brad Friedman is on this, too: NBC News Election Expert Chuck Todd: Voting Machine Concerns are ‘Conspiracy Garbage’.
    Update – I should have included this one: The Free Press, Will H.I.G.-owned e-voting machines give Romney the White House?

    Ohio’s very Republican Secretary of State is John Husted, currently suing in the US Supreme Court to prevent the public from voting on the weekend prior to election day. As did Blackwell and Governor Robert Taft in 2004, Husted and Kasich will control Ohio’s electronic vote count on election night free of meaningful public checks or balances
    Hart Intercivic, on whose machines the key votes will be cast in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, was taken over last year by H.I.G. Capital. Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.

    WHY Did Romney Associates Buy A Big Voting Machine Company?

    OK I have to ask this. WHY would a bunch of Romney associates buy up a voting machine company?

    The story has been circulating in the background for a couple of weeks.

    Last year Hart Intercivic was bought by H.I.G. Capital. From The Free Press, Will H.I.G.-owned e-voting machines give Romney the White House? by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, (and please read the whole thing, about all the voter suppression going on, the importance of Ohio, and what happened in Ohio in 2008.)

    Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.

    Why could this matter?

    US courts have consistently ruled that the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer, even though individual election boards may own the actual machines. Thus there will be no vote count transparency on election night in Ohio. The tally will be conducted by Hart Intercivic and controlled by Husted and Kasich, with no public recourse or accountability. As federal testimony from the deceased Michael Connell made clear in 2008, electronically flipping an election is relatively cheap and easy to do, especially if you or your compatriots programmed the machines.

    Brad Friedman writes in, About That Voting Machine Company Tied To Mitt Romney And Bain Capital…, (this quote is full of links, so go to the original.)

    Once again, we’re reminded of the dangers of the privatization of our once-public electoral system. The company’s ties to Romney aren’t the only disturbing ones we’ve seen with similar companies over the years. The fact is, that nobody other than the public should have any sort of control of our elections. The proprietary voting systems now in use in all 50 states, whether owned by Romney associates, a George W. Bush associate (as with Diebold in 2004) or even a company tied to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (as with Sequoia Voting Systems, which blatantly lied about that tie to public officials, and the Canadian firm Dominion which purchased Sequoia and also immediately lied about the fact that Intellectual Property of their voting systems used all across the U.S. is still owned by the Venezuelan firm), continue to be a grave threat to American democracy and confidence in U.S. elections.

    This is likely to be a close election. We are going to see \states reporting for one or the other candidate after possibly hundreds of thousands of people being denied the right to vote. And some counties will pull machines out of key precincts, in an attempt to cause long line — like Ohio did last time — to keep people from voting.

    That is a prescription of serious problems with people accepting the election results as legitimate.

    So along with those problems now we have a bunch of Wall Street types — people directly tied to Romney — controlling the voting and counting in many areas!

    What Republicans Understand About Voting

    Republicans demand hand-counting, onsite registration and no voter ID for their own internal elections. What do you think they know that so many of the rest of us don’t?
    Daniel Becker, at Angry Bear realizes this, in So much for GOP Siren of voter fraud,

    Maybe the appropriate title for this is: Do as I say and not as I do….
    Just listening to Thom Hartman and he noted something that struck a cord (chord?) with me: voter ID, electronic ballots. In the caucuses last night, the Republican party did not require and ID, they allowed onsite registration and hand counted the ballots. This is completely and totally counter to the Republican national position.

    Voting Machines

    I haven’t written about voting machines for some time. Here is an article about evidence of remote tampering: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System "Remotely Accessed" on "Multiple Occasions" by Unknown Computer | Truthout

    …perhaps most troubling, evidence that the system was repeatedly accessed by an unidentified remote computer, for lengthy periods of time, on “multiple occasions.”

    Remember, if they do not have a “paper trail” that the voter looks at before finalizing the vote, there is NO WAY to know what the actual vote count was.
    And if there is no procedure for checking those paper trails against the reported vote. that is just as bad.
    There is just too much at stake to hand democracy over to machines and the companies that make them. PLEASE get involved in your own county and demand that they have paper backup and that they check the paper against the reported totals.

    Must Read!!!

    Please go read this short, powerful post by Max Cleland.
    Max lost three limbs in VietNam. He was head of the Veterans Administration under Carter. Later he was elected to the Senate in Georgia. But in the post-9/11 fear-frenzy Saxby Chambliss, a Republican draft-dodger, ran Karl Rove ads saying Cleland was unpatriotic and a coward. Those ads, with a little help from voting machine problems, put Chambliss in the Senate.
    Now Chambliss has a challenger, Democrat Jim Martin. And Max Cleland wants you to know his feelings about the race. So go read Max Cleland: Georgia On My Mind.
    If you are in Georgia, or know anyone in Georgia, please ask them to read this, too.

    Computer Voting Machine Security — Prove It

    This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
    I have been looking at the issue of computerized voting machine security for several years, and want to write about it today.
    Many people have pointed out that there are a number of problems with the new touch-screen voting machines. They fear that these machines can be used to rig an election. Others feel more confident about the machines because they are “hi-tech” and computerized and make voting easier.
    Computer experts warn that the machines cannot be trusted. Meanwhile, I have a relative who believes that computers can’t make mistakes, so these machines will guarantee accurate vote counting.
    I can give you my position on these machines in just a few words: “Prove it.” Here is what I mean: The standard for trusting the results of an election should be based on what an average citizen can believe about the election results. If the election system that you set up is able to prove to an average citizen that the election results are accurate, then you have the right system in place. Elections are about average citizens making decisions and trusting the results, not about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be. The whole “trust me” thing hasn’t worked out so well in the past so people came up with “prove it” systems so everyone could see for themselves how the elections turned out.
    Yes, I have an election system in mind that meets the “prove it” requirement. It’s simple. I say that it simply doesn’t matter what kind of machine (or no machine at all) is used in the voting booth or to count the votes later, as long as the voter can put a printed ballot in a ballot box. (The voter, of course, is expected to look over the printed ballot to be sure it has the right candidates and ballot measures marked. Just like with the old pen or punch card systems.)
    Everyone understands printed ballots with marks on them, and putting the ballot into a ballot box. Time-honored methods for holding secure “prove it” elections with ballots have been worked out. At the start of the election day you check the ballot box to be sure it is empty. Each voter gets one ballot, marks it, and puts it in the box. At the end of the day the ballots are counted and the total is reported. Etc. I work in elections and I know the system well. It can be trusted.
    If we use touch-screen computers as input devices to help the voter mark the ballot, all the better. This helps prevent mistakes like those in Florida in 2000. When the voter is ready the machine prints out a ballot with clear markings of the voter’s choices. After the machine prints that ballot it doesn’t matter if the machine has been hacked or is just making mistakes because you look at the ballot before putting it into the ballot box. And it doesn’t matter how the count is reported because once you have a printed record of each voter’s intentions, you can count them by hand if necessary. The voters or a trusted representative can watch the counting.
    There is one safeguard that I think is very important. You must randomly test the reported vote counts against the paper ballots they are said to represent. And I am very strict about this part. If the count is off by even a single vote it means something is wrong with the counting system and the entire election needs to be counted by hand!
    The controversy about touch-screen voting machines started because they do not use printed ballots that can prove the election’s results to the average person! The machines come from private companies. Some of these prohibit anyone – even election officials – from knowing how they count the votes. There is no way at all to check whether the machines are reporting correct results. It is a matter of trusting these companies and not of proving to the average voter that the results can be trusted. We are just supposed to trust that the companies are telling us who won the elections! Remember what I said about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be?
    If these machines make mistakes or just break down, there is no way to figure out who really won the election. And if someone is able to rig the machines to change the vote counts, there is no way to know that, either. History tells us that this is a concern. People have gone to great lengths to rig even local elections. So with the huge stakes in today’s election — trillions of dollars and wars — we certainly should understand that highly-skilled and well-funded attempts to dictate election results are likely to occur.
    There are a number of ideas for making voting machines more reliable and harder to hack into and change results. One idea is that the public should be able to examine — and experts allowed to repair and improve — the source code for the programs used in the machines. This is called “open source” and the Open Voting Consortium has done a lot of great work in this area. (Send them some a few $$ to help their effort.) Open-source systems will help make the machines more reliable and easier to use and will reduce the chances that someone can try to rig an election. This is a great approach, but in the end it fails the “prove it” test. The average person doesn’t understand the complicated programming involved. And there is no way to prove that the open-source code is the code that is actually running in every single voting machine on election day.
    Other ideas involve elaborate security to test and guard the machines. This again fails the “prove it” test. Unless average people can see for themselves that the results are accurate, no security is sufficient.
    I say that the system I describe above — involving a paper ballot that the voter can check and put in a ballot box — makes the reliability and security of any voting machines themselves less important because you can “prove it” by counting those paper ballots. You can test a sample of ballots against the reported counts, making it useless to try to hack the voting or counting machines themselves.
    California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen understands these issues and is working hard to make sure that our state’s elections are safe, fair and provable. Let’s hope that the rest of the states can catch up to California.
    Click through to Speak Out California.

    Republicans Kill Safe Voting Act

    I don’t want to get all conspiratorial, but why wiould the entire Republican Party be against a voting system that lets voters say, “Yes, that is how I voted,” and otherwise making sure that votes are counted accurately?
    Voting safeguards measure sponsored by Holt fails in House,

    The bill, dubbed the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, even after clearing a House committee unanimously. The vote was 239-178 in favor, with all but two Democrats supporting it and all but 16 Republicans opposed.
    The bill would have allowed states and jurisdictions to be reimbursed by the federal government for converting to a paper ballot system, offering emergency paper ballots or conducting audits by hand counts.
    The measure was designed to ensure that every vote is properly counted. Voters in all or parts of 20 states including New Jersey now cast ballots electronically without backup paper verification, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.