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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-06-05 10:15 PM
Original message
Scanners are not simple calculators!
I started to post this deep in a thread, and then I realized I want a discussion and feedback. I mean that. If my thinking is flawed I am open to your truth.

I am in a situation where my town has voted to purchase a scanner after 200 years of hand counted paper ballots. The reason? They are tired of counting. There are a bunch of us, not enough yet, that are more then willing to take over but no one asked and we were unaware it was a problem. In the process of trying to figure out how to explain the draw-backs of the scanner, my brother sent me some info that shook me up and I am a full fledged hack possibility believer.

I thought that scanners were the best of the bunch as long as there was no tabulator. I still thought hand counts were better, but I understood the push toward scanners; paper ballot...can always be long as it is not networked it is no problem.

I was extremely confused, though, when Blackwell in Ohio all of a sudden declared that all of Ohio was going to use scanners in 2006. It didn't make sense to me because I just know in my bones there is something wrong going on.

Well... what shook me up is it appears that the scanner it's self has a in a computer chip. It also turns out that that chip is set up to LOOK for instruction from the PORTABLE memory card, and has no "checksum" or something. My brother is a programmer and explained that this is a bad thing. There is no alert of any kind if the memory card has over-riding instructions.

The card can appear empty. Have you ever burned a CD? The CD looks empty, but there actually are invisible files that show up on your burning program. Invisible files are fine, but the card SHOULD be empty of executable programs. The scanner SHOULD only have one job... count! Not to look for instruction from a program on a portable card! ANYWAY... sorry to be so long winded but I have a hard time explaining this...the card could have instructions for ANYTHING on it.

One possible scenario is that if you know the turn over amount as in what is the highest number the scanner is set to count to before it goes back to zerolike an Odometer. If you know that number, the card could have instructions to give candidate "A" 25 less then that turn over number, and candidate "B" an extra 25 votes. What would happen is that after Candidate "A" gets 25 votes their total would be starting back at zero. Since Candidate "B" has an extra 25 votes, the missing votes would not show. You would have this illegal spread of 50 votes created digitally! With no evidence. Digital ballot stuffing!

There is no proof that this happened...but it could.

There is another much less sinister problem with scanners. They sound so perfect because they have these paper ballots and we are allowed to assume we can just count them if things go wrong. That is mis-leading. You have to have a legal reason to do a re-count, or you pay money. If the margin is big enough there is no automatic right to a re-count. If there is fraud the margin will ALWAYS be big enough. The vendors don't tell you you have to fight for a hand count.

Once you introduce the scanner, you are "officially" using a scanner. If you want to count a ballot that the scanner reads wrong, or not at all, it has to be authorized. Washington State was a perfect example. The Republicans screamed that the Democrats kept "finding" new ballots to count. Those "new" ballots were ballots that the scanner had read as having no vote for president when that wasn't accurate. The Democrats had to prove they were worthy of being counted. In the Ohio "re-count", scanner techs from TRIAD "got the scanners ready" for the re-count with the objective of a MACHINE recount, subverting the possibility of a hand count.

Now I KNOW a scanner is better then a touch screen with no paper trail...puhleez...

I am coming from 24 years of folding my hand marked ballot and one at a time stuffing it into a wooden box with a cool slidy thing...I guess a clear box would be my modernization change..

I would choose an Accumark for the disabled to comply with H.A.V.A.

A scanner because it is too much work to count our ballots? NO...

What it comes down to is that the hand counting of paper ballots keeps our vote where it belongs...IN OUR HANDS! Can we cheat? You betcha...

Can we cheat to the tune of 5 million unexpected votes for one candidate? MMMmmmmm... As Jon Stewart would say, not so much...
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yowzayowzayowza Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-06-05 11:38 PM
Response to Original message
1. You sound on track.
I am a full fledged hack possibility believer. we ALL should be.

...scanner it's self has a chip.... My brother is a programmer and explained that this is a bad thing.

As a programmer, I'd say it COULD be a bad thing without quality control audits.

Digital ballot stuffing! ...have to have a legal reason to do a re-count....

Thatz why validation tests with a batch of actual hand-counted ballots must be mandatory in EVERY election for EVERY machine. The counting device should have to PROVE ITZ VALIDITY, not be trusted by default due to a combination of certification, configuration, environment, and some salesmanz werd.
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Kip Humphrey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. 3 keys to validating digital vote counting and processing
1. Mandatory Manual Random Audits of sufficient sample size to ensure adequate accuracy results and to circumvent stealth exploits defeating those results. Think of a shell game where tampered votes are shifted around by the system giving clean comparison results while maintaining false vote totals in the aggregate. Keep in mind, Diebold GEMS software has 3 data tables that can be readily unlinked. Again, think of a shell game (where the three data tables are three walnut shells and a tampered vote is the pea) and you will begin to understand the possibilities for undetectable fraud. Also note: this shell game recipe already exists in the design and implementation of GEMS software currently in use.

2. Real-time election day auditing - pre and post testing are easily rigged by software that is date and time sensitive - a condition inherent in all current digital processors. Since real elections occur for durations and set times/dates known well in advance, any activity outside those time/date parameters intrinsically identifies that activity as NOT being actual election day activity. An election manipulatory software exploit need only be triggered by the time/date parameters of actual election voting to escape the scrutiny of pre and post election testing.

3. Audits that do NOT inform the system it is being audited - So-called "test-modes" defeat any true auditing in digital systems where data accuracy, reliability and security are the criteria being tested. Any malicious software code can readily circumvent system-informed testing either by hibernating or triggering "shell game" algorithms to monitor and shift switched votes internally such that the "chosen" ballots in the test sample appear to be untampered and consistent with the machine results. Indeed, in a networked precinct environment, the "switched" votes can be surreptitiously hopped to other networked voting machines to avoid detection and "demonstrate" accuracy where none actually exists. To catch such exploits, the audit sample would necessarily require a sample size that exceeds the the total number of untampered ballots to "capture" any actual tampered ballots.

Not informing a digital system of testing is tricky and challenging to actually accomplish in a environment where machine behavior patterns can be easily monitored by software for suspected process patterns. If ballots are typically scanned during elections with a mean time between scans of, say 1 minute, and a scan test is performed whereby test ballots are scanned at, say 1 every 30 seconds, the tester has just inadvertently informed the system (and any potential malicious code) it is being tested. Indeed, by running simple heuristic algorithms, the average time between scans can be dynamically monitored with variations identified on-the-fly and resulting in self-defensive code being initiated dynamically. Thus, even the mean time between scans during actual election day voting need not be determined or coded in beforehand. The fact that computers are particularly adept at pattern matching and human beings are notoriously susceptible to patterned behavior are key factors that hampering efforts to trap malicious software manipulating votes.

When it comes to Digital Vote processing, there are three axiom to keep in mind:

1. "Be very, very careful what you ask for. You might get it and make the system that much worse in the process."

Expanding on Axiom #1: Ask for and receive a voter verified paper trail on digital voting systems without mandatory, manual, real-time random audits of that digital system and you may get a system that satisfies voter confidence in an otherwise eminently corruptible vote processing system. Take New Jersey's recently enacted VVPT: there is no provision for effective audits AND the paper is only used in the event the delta between candidate vote totals is less than 1.5%. With an algorithm designed to ALWAYS produce results exceeding this 1.5% differential, the paper trail would NEVER be used. This result is much worse provided the intent is to improve the reliability, accuracy and security of the digital vote processing system. It is a much better result if the intent is to provide the voter with a false sense of confidence and to reduce the possibility for a reliable, accurate, secure vote processing system. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR; YOU MIGHT GET IT!

2. "While one person will anticipate and devise a protection against a particular digital exploit, another person will devise a method to circumvent that protection."

Expanding on Axiom #2: Just as with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, the battle to preserve computer system and data integrity and security is a never-ending cycle of exploit and remedy. Furthermore, technological advances continually outstrip human ability to monitor, manage, and control that technology. One year, wired network security might be accomplished only to have wireless technology take hold the next year and cause prior remedies to become obsolete or useless.

3. "Computer systems perform only by explicit instructions."

Expanding on Axiom #3: When a vote switches from one candidate to another (incidents of which were amply reported across the country in the 2004 election), it is a result of explicit instructions designed and coded into the computer system. Unlike animal behaviors, machines behave only rationally, according to those instructions coded in. While such machine behavior might be deemed irrational by human beings in so far as such behavior contradicts human intent, the machine, nonetheless, is performing rationally according to coded machine instructions."

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yowzayowzayowza Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 07:43 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. My 3 Keys to validating digital vote counting and processing
1. An election is the collection of evidence of the peoples' will, the trust of which demands a record that the people can readily understand, a PAPER BALLOT.

2. An automated counting process must include sufficient election-day mandatory manual audits to validate the counting devices.

3. The counting process must publicly post results for all batches, thus decoupling the tabulation process from the evidence.

Once totals generated by validated counting devices are posted publicly, I don't care if the SoS wants to total with
... memory cards and crappy ole GEMS ... er
... the net and a SQL database ... er
... floppy disks and Excel ... er
... carrier pigeons and an abacus ... er
... smoke signals and their fingers and toes, cuz ...

As much as I admire the efforts to reign in the various "digital processing" shell games, ultimately they all amount to boondoggles.
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Amaryllis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. kick
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-08-05 07:03 AM
Response to Reply #10
16. Are you talking about GEMS? Or the scanner alone?
Everything you are saying is true! I know all about how easy it is to open the DB file in GEMS and change numbers and it is easy to program software that makes sure candidate "A" always has 51% of the total. That is the kind of stuff that computers are designed for. BUT if I am told, "no no we will never network to a tabulator", What do I tell them? I thought the bad thing about changing from hand counts to a tabulator was that our next battle would surely be a central tabulator in the future. Now I find out that the scanner it's self has a computer in it and the cards can carry hidden software with commands for anything. My belief is that this software may be used to not necessarily give candidate "A" a win, but add it might be used to add a little padding. For example the Candidate has a 51% rate in the exit polls and wins with 51.5%. If people expect a candidate to win they are not going to audit with hand counts to check if the numbers are accurate after he wins. Same with a loss. If it is expected, and it is just by a little bit higher number, no one will check. A little padding across this country could add up to....a mandate!
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-05 06:08 AM
Response to Reply #10
28. Thank you Kip!
I have been so busy, I have not thanked you for this great info! I agree with everything you advise. It seems like we could save ourselves so many headaches if we would just stick to hand counts...
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 12:21 AM
Response to Original message
2. You can test it with real ballots, hand counted for comparison.
You can run a bunch through the scanner on election day enough times to equal the number of registered voters in the precinct. Shuffle them each time to avoid a repetitive pattern. The only hack that I can see in this case is that if you run them through too fast, something in the machine may detect that it's just a test. (I first saw this one in the DNC Ohio report of all places!)

You have to keep the test deck and the way it's used as realistic as possible. Will your Board of Elections, or whatever, be willing to do this publicly and transparently?

Also, the scanner may be programmed by the vendor, such as Diebold, who has partisan (Republican) ties. This is unacceptable and so you will need to have your poll workers trained to do it for every election. Otherwise, you are totally outsourcing your vote counting.

In a small town, it's probably easier to hand count than to train someone to program a scanner, especially if the person quits and you have to retrain. Also, you really should train one person from each party to do it. It's a lot easier said than done in my opinion, but at least the scanner can be tested, unlike DREs.

I think you should stick to hand counts if it's feasible.
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yowzayowzayowza Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 01:13 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Gotta be careful with those test decks too.
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 01:34 AM by yowzayowzayowza
IIRC, there were a coupla counties in the sElection 2k Fla panhandle using opti-scans with large numbers of undervotes even tho the test decks ran fine. Turned out the contrast setting on the scanner was (conveniently) not detecting the markers in use during that election.

We may have entered a situation wherein our elections are truly being ransomed. We may have to fund manual recounts on a nationwide basis to detect sufficient of these problems to force changes in the law. I wonder how many Democrats running for office would fore go a few commercials to put the fear of detection in the minds of the election thieves?
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 02:23 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. This is why I'm trying to improve the just-enacted NY recount law
before we actually have to use it!
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adolfo Donating Member (525 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 12:34 AM
Response to Original message
3. Flaws
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 12:37 AM by adolfo
They both have similar components such as hardware and software. It is the software that controls the hardware that gets the job done (or not). When you have a corporation or organization that controls both aspects it is a recipe for corruption, especially when there are no mandatory auditing procedures or oversight committees. The price tag for U.S presidency or Senate can be worth billions so the problems we face now should not come as a surprise.

Dont blame the scanners; blame the corrupt organizations behind them. Optical scanners can be reliable and useful if there were true checks and balances. Right now most states dont have this basic element to help secure our elections so we are screwed until it is fixed.

Like you, I favor hand-counted paper ballots but when you consider the logistics involved it is just not realistic for many places. This issue has been discussed before on another post.

The large hill gets steeper as we add more demands to our list. It not only makes it harder to accomplish our goals but also pushes away valuable allies. One of our most valuable ally is the election official. We must stop treating them as if they are the enemy. We need them on our side since they have a huge influence over the process. Yes, there are bad ones but not all are the same.

E-voting machines are the biggest threat to fair elections and should be our highest priority since there is no way to independently verify their results.

Andy was working on mandatory voter verifiable paper ballots which is one of the most basic but crucial steps towards achieving fair elections. I think we should follow his lead.

Let us focus and strategize. Remember, the election fraud was not planned overnight.
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Carolab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 01:26 AM
Response to Original message
5. EXCELLENT! Thank you for getting it!
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 01:28 AM by Carolab
I keep saying, we need to address the SECURITY issues of optiscanners.

There are TONS of loopholes, not just the chips, but who has custody of them after the election and are they "clean" media to begin with? Are they being "swapped" out for others with programs to switch votes? How do we know what's going on inside? We can't LOOK!!! So what happens? Precinct or county "tabulators" could have the wrong results from the get-go. So even if we declare no modem transmissions of the data, corrupted data could still be going to the central tabulators! And then, of course, someone can still mess with the databases within the central tabulators!

Then, of course, there are other issues dealing just with the paper ballots. Things like the way the marks are read--how the sensors are set to read them...whether they read "across fields" so they'll count stray marks as "overvotes", etc.

And what about people messing with ballots that are sent absentee? Or substituting some ballots for others? Or even, as in Clermont county, Ohio, putting stickers over the Kerry ovals and filling in the Bush ovals for the "recounts"?

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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 01:46 AM
Response to Original message
6. Question, and if you
don't want to answer I will understand, I am not sure how old you are, so you may have to ask your parents or grand parents, you say your town has been counting paper ballots by hand for 200 years, what is the some of the worst problems your town has ever encountered after an evening of counting the ballots by hand?
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 07:40 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. No problems hand counting, just tired of it...
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 08:19 AM by mirrera
I talked at length with our new Town Manager. I asked him why we were getting the scanner, and it was all about speed. His comment was that with the high turn out it took them until almost or after midnight to count using the scanner.

They had rented one for this last election, and when I saw it I was shocked. I live across the street from our old Town Manager who had just retired. I didn't know this new guy well enough to start grilling him on election day (I was a poll watcher). I assumed that it had been bought without a meeting, or I had missed a meeting. in any case I thought it was a done deal.

A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed me that it had been voted in as a line item on the budget at this last town meeting which I missed. He and I tried to rally people to see if we could get a petition going before they spend the money, but it is summer and mostly the sound of crickets...

The day I got my friend's email and realized that all of these months it has not been a done deal and that it was just now approved, I felt like an idiot!! Working globally and dropping the ball locally. That is when I had my conversation with the Town Manager. I wanted to ask him the same question you asked me. Is there problems that I did not know about?

After his comment about how long it took them with the scanner he said,

"Imagine how long it would have taken us if we had hand counted!"

We talked back and forth and I tried to discern any other real problems, like inaccuracy, cheating, anything. He was very definite it was about speed. I asked him what the hurry was? And he said that the counters get very discouraged when the News announces a winner and they are not even done counting.

THAT amazed me.

So we count for the News!

I emailed my whole group..

I got a really nasty set of emails from one of the counters basically asking
"where were you when the counting was going on?"
"Who do you think does the counting the election elves?"

I replied that I really thought the counting was done by election officials, and had no idea that volunteering was an option and that despite her lack of enrollment skills I would be thrilled to count.

I am not trying to divert attention from people who are trying to get verified paper ballots. We will not lose people by speaking the truth. All this worry about how we are perceived is a red herring. I am here to say I have for the last 24 years voted by hand counted ballot, and I think it is a good place to stay. I see plenty of reasons to switch from DRE to Optical Scan. That is moving in the right direction. I see NO reason to go from hand counts to machine.

We have layers of nuance in the fraud groups, some think it is all about the Civil Rights and know nothing about the privatizing of our count. They don't want people talking about the privatization of the vote count because it will make us look crazy or something. Now you have the people who are fighting to at least get a verified paper ballot and they do not want the "hand counting" group to get in their way. It is ALL important. People must not forget that there is a lot of hand counting going on in this country and it works. If it disappears we will have no proof that it is possible.

The only thing we are obligated to change by law, is that each polling place must add something for the disabled to comply with HAVA. It is possible to do that without giving up the hand count. There is a machine that will mark a ballot which can be scanned OR hand counted.

I also think that scanners should be able to work, but you would need an expert in each office and you would need to trust them.

Faith Based elections...

I did not do well being yelled at by this counter, who is a fellow Dem and had no idea who I was. It is a small town, and I do not want to become embroiled in a battle unless I can find at least 20 other people who care. I have maybe 8 and we can't even come up with a day we are all In State...

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Cookie wookie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Good luck with fighting the change.
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 10:57 AM by Cookie wookie
I'd love to have detailed information on how those hand counts are conducted. Would it be possible for you to PM me on this?

We are pushing hand counts at the precinct level after elections as a provision in our proposed legislation, the Vote Count Protection Act, in Georgia. Practically everyone in power here opposes that provision. They say because there are so many races and other things on the ballot, hand counting is just too hard and too onerous on the poll workers. I'd love to have an example of successful hand counting to use.

Your town could actually be used as a model, if your election officials realized that in the future (maybe the long-time future, but hopefully not), if we still have a democracy, we'll all be going back to paper ballots and hand counts. Scanners, DREs and other electronic voting devices will be all stacked up somewhere in the desert, covered with lizards and sand, a monument to stupidity.
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 07:34 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. I am woefully ignorant!
Edited on Sun Aug-07-05 07:35 PM by mirrera
I wish I knew how they worked, but all I have ever done is pencil an "x" next to my choice and stuff it in a wooden box. I have never counted. Your post though gives me food for thought on a way to approach the "counters". A "Tell me what you did as a record of history". A monument to a time going by! Maybe in the process, there will be an epiphany. I do know that election issues were seperated on different ballots, on different colored sheets of papers. They had to be put in the slot one at a time so that the poll worker could see each one going in. I am sure that is what makes hand counting possible. A yellow stack, a blue stack, etc.
I think anyone that acts like hand counting is not possible is being disingenious. Of course it is possible! I also consider that the fact that our banks and credit bureaus can process every financial move we make, that machine voting SHOULD be possible, but unlike a bank account where if they cheated we would soon know, with our vote...we can never know.

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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-08-05 02:02 AM
Response to Reply #8
14. Wow,so the biggest problem
we would face in PBHC is that people got tired of counting the ballots, so you have to tell the Clerks to inform the public that they can volunteer to count the ballots, the public may not have known that they can volunteer to count the ballots. Problem solved.

With e-voting or e-counting,corporate America will pick the next candidate for your town, tell them right now when you count the votes by hand (you may be tired) but you will know who the true majority voted for in your town, and you will have hard physical evidence of it.

With e-voting you will not know if the true majority voted for the candidate, and you most certainly won't have hard physical evidence of it. The voting machine makers want to send us off on a wild goose chase trying to get laws and bills passed on their new and improved machines , Don't buy it, the voting machines are a vote rigging scam.

Try to stop e-voting from getting started in your town. Good Luck.
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-08-05 06:42 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. They think scanners are just like hand counts.
I don't think my town would ever do an e-voting machine. The problem is scanners are presented to them as just a fast and easy way to count. Thus my original post. I agree with you that the problem would have been solved had the need for volunteers been put out to the public. Now it has been voted in in Town Meeting, the only way to change it is to get enough signatures to vote it out. I don't know if we can find enough people who care. Out of about 45 people I emailed I got 2 or 3 responses. Then I ran into 2 or 3 more who care. It could become a full time job...
I know it is an important job, but in the scheme of things keeping my mortgage paid has to come first.
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Stevepol Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-08-05 01:11 PM
Response to Original message
17. Many thx for posting this Mirrera. It answers a lot of questions I had.
Indeed the scanners are just as unsafe as the touchscreens. This is what I suspected all along.

I believe that the biggest fraud has occurred in connection with the scanners. For example, in MN in 02, Mondale lost by 7% after leading in the pre-election polling by about 5% across the board and MN was using scanners.

In FL in 04, the biggest discrepancies between pre-registration by party and reported vote occurred in precincts using the scanners not the touchscreens.

And many other examples could be given.
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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-05 12:06 AM
Response to Original message
18. kick.nt
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-05 07:19 AM
Response to Original message
19. A scanner is not *necessarily* a counter
in fact ES&S has a scanner (i.e. an image degitizing process) which is later "read" by software subject to various settings on how to interpret ballots and what constitutes an ambiguous ballot and whether or not the software should "autoresolve" such questionable ballots, preventing pesky human intervention (ala Florida) and creating a miraculous-seeming result, but having every bit of the wackiness of Florida plus much much more.

See report on Yakima county Washington's scanner and how they admit to finding many votes, allegedly because a white line made by dirt went straight down column four of the ballot, and autoresolve interpreted this as an undervote even though 90% of the ballot boxes were completely filled in.... It seems most likely the problem was even bigger than admitted by Yakima, but in any event you even have a scan of the email by ES&S purporting to explain this process and a picture of an offending ballot.

A couple things emerge from the Yakima process:
1. A "recount" in the historically close governor's race merely involved running the post-scanning Ballot Now program set to autoresolve, thus REPRODUCING all of the original errors of the first count in the intermediate mechanical recount, prior to the hand count. Same garbage process, same garbage result.
2. Scanners are "stupid" in ways humans never would be, but invisible digitized images aren't evaluated by humans.
3. The white line down the ballots seems less than credible, since dirt or objects on the scanner surface (the explanation proffered by ES&S) creates BLACK lines, not white lines. This line then apparently cleaned itself, unlike streaky copiers most of us are familiar with.
4. A scanner should only be digitizing, not counting per se, a separate process or program is used to count. That being said, once digitized the ballot image is inherently modifiable. In a different case (of course) it would be an easy matter to program a white line to be drawn down a column in a ballot to provide ready explanations for discrepancies if ever discovered in recounts.
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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-05 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. White line would be more like a sensor failure...
rather than a piece of dirt.

Yakima Report - Hart Intercivic with Kodak Scanner
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smalltowninmaine Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-14-05 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. photo shop for voting
I live in a small town in Maine

As previously mentioned, we just purchased an optical scanner to speed the process so that tallies can make the news..............

I want to know more about what scanner we purchased and have full disclosure at our next town meeting.

From my reading of the previous post on the Hart Intercivic with Kodak Scanner there are selection settings within these scanners which can be set to determine how recounts are done? A bit of well place 'dirt' can alter the tabulations of these machines ?

It sounds like we are entering an era of photoshop for voting

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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-14-05 02:30 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. Here's some things to ask
And if the folks who bought the scanner (and accompanying software etc) don't know the answers to these questions immediately, then I would suggest that THEY haven't done their due diligence and have made an acquisition without a proper implementation plan.

Some of what you may want to find out is:

What make and model of scanner was acquired?
Is it brand new or acquired from another jurisdiction?
If not new, from what jurisdiction did it originate?
Does this particular scanner use a visible light read head or an infrared read head? (not all of the same make and model use the same type of read head)

What type of writing utensil is required to be used in order to mark a ballot for use in this scanner? (different read heads require different writing utensils)

What steps are your town taking to ensure that voters are provided with and understand the need to use, ONLY the proper writing utensil?

What are the ballot-printing specifications for this particular scanner? (paper type, paper grain, paper reflectivity, paper dimensional stability, ink type, ink color, ink reflectivity etc)

Will your town be printing their own ballots, contracting with a local print shop, or contracting with the scanner vendor to print the ballots?

If the town itself is not printing the ballots (and even if they are) do they have a written quality assurance and inspection process to ensure that the printing is done to the proper specifications? What town official will ultimately hold the responsibility to ensure that the ballots meet proper specification?

What process do they have in place as a contingency, in the event that the ballots ordered and printed do not meet specification? (in almost all cases, 'photocopying a blank ballot form at the local copymat' is NOT a good answer)

In the town's election day plan, what are the eventualities under which the town would revert to performing a hand count of the ballots, rather than using the scanner as intended? (and if they haven't thought this one through already, fire them!)

Who will setup or program the scanner for each election? Town staff, contractors, the vendor? (at what cost?)

Will the person(s) setting up the scanner for each election be a sworn election official? If not, why not?

This should get you started.

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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-16-05 09:40 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Those are fabulous questions to ask!
Thank you so much. This is exactly what we need, good questions to ask. What is the significance of the "visible light read head or an infrared read head". My big fear is I will ask a question and not know the significance of the answer. As for it being from another jurisdiction, same question, what is a good answer? Why is it significant ? You seem to know a lot about this. A friend has emailed the Town Manager asking what the model is so that is a start. Is that you "Small Town"? I hope this stays kicked long enough for us to keep people informed of this process. We are like a microcosm of what is happening across this country.
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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-16-05 10:46 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. Significance of questions
Visible light vs infrared
The type of read head determines the type of writing utensil to use, and has a direct impact on the type of ink to use when printing the ballots. If it's an infrared head, then the writing utensil generally needs to be a soft pencil or a carbon-pigment pen (pencil with a high carbon or graphite content, or pen with a high carbon content pigment - not a pen with dyes) in order to absorb the infrared light, so that the read head can differentiate between absorbed (there's a mark) and reflected (there's no mark) segments of the ballot. If the read head is infrared, the timing marks (black lines at the edge) on the ballot need to be printed with an ink that the read head can read, and the marks (ovals or arrows) that the voter fills in or connects need to be printed with an ink that the read head doesn't see.

If the scanner uses a visible light read head, it's important to know the color of the light. Visible light is good in that there typically isn't the limitation of needing to use carbon or graphite writing utensils, (in fact, the opposite is true - visible light sometimes demands that pencil NOT be used because of the sometimes shiny mark it leaves behind) BUT there's a difference between visible light and white light. White light covers the widest range of possible ink colors, however to the best of my knowledge very few ballot scanners use white light. Of those that DO use visible light, most seem to use either red, or reddish-orange light.

There's good reason for this choice of color - $$$$$. They use Light Emitting Diodes - LEDs. Remember the first digital LED calculators? What color were the digits? RED of course. The red LEDs are well-established technology and are now the lowest cost to produce. But that does present a new problem. If the writing utensil used by the voter happens to be a red pen, and the ballot is illuminated with red light, there's not much chance that the sensor will actually be able to see the mark as being any different from the paper. The type of read head determines the conditions for ballot printing and for ballot marking.

Was the machine acquired from another jurisdiction?
An older, used machine may be a model that still uses the IR heads. It's my understanding that at least one manufacturer no longer uses the IR heads, however there are still MANY of their scanners out there that do. A second-hand machine may increase the liklihood that the there's an IR head. (So that my message doesn't get misunderstood, I'm not advocating one over the other. Either IR or VL is capable of doing the job of reading marks on paper, PROVIDED that the appropriate conditions are in place to ensure that poll-workers and voters KNOW to use the right writing utensil) To have any sort of integrity at the polling site, all the writing utensils need to be of the same brand and model, throughout the voting period - that way everyone gets the same type of utensil, without any possible hanky-panky of who gets handed what type of pen or pencil.

If the unit is a used one from another jurisdiction, it could also be well worn, out of spec, full of paper dust or pencil dust, etc. Before a unit is acquired from another location, it may be worthwhile doing some basic research to inquire what if any troubles the other jurisdiction had during their past few elections, and to also find out why they are getting rid of their scanner(s).

Microcosms offer the opportunity for local governments to LEAD and to do the CORRECT thing. Not to be mis-lead by other centers, not to do the politically most-popular thing, but to lead and do the right thing.

Hope this helps

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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-18-05 09:40 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. HG thank you for this info! I know the model...
The model we have is
I am about to visit the link as it was just sent to me. I understand the importance of your questions now, which will make it much easier to ask them. I hate to keep bothering you, but what do you know about checking the memory cards for hidden or more accurately, rogue software. I just read an article ( on this wonderful group CAPE running parallel elections hand counting, and the scanners having a 4% discrepancy compared to the hand count. It has been my feeling all along that these machines are programed to simply keep to a programed percentage. It is the only explanation for some of the races where the percentage remains EXACTLY the same all through the race.

What do we do if everything else is checked and proper and there is software that keeps the margins beyond automatic recounts?

Any thoughts or advice for our model is GREATLY appreciated.

I just checked the site for our model, and I am horrified. It sounds like it is hooked to a computer running GEMS, and has a modem, surprise surprise.

It is a Visible light read head.

I thought it would at least be a stand alone thing with no computer. I thought hooking to a central tabulator was for bringing together multiple results, and optional. Here I was thinking that would be a future fight. I am very aware of how easy it is to hack the GEMS. If it were on a MAC I could demonstrate it to them. As it is i may have to borrow someone's PC and practice the demo.

I am really having my eyes opened here...
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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-18-05 11:02 PM
Response to Reply #25
26. Is it visible light 'cuz the web page says so?
or is your particular scanner visible light? The Accu-vote OS is one of the scanners where early models were infrared and only later models were visible light.

Looking at their web page there are some confusing choices of words used.

AccuVote-OS Tabulator: we've commonly called this the scanner.

The Application Software with the Host Computer: we've commonly called this the tabulator.
I understand how this all gets confusing.

To the best of my knowledge the Accuvote scanner is useless without its memory card having been programmed via GEMS. Ballot styles need to be defined, and that definition (never certified by the way) gets loaded into the scanner.

An over-simplified description of the programming is that:
If there's a 'definite' mark in column 3, Row 5, then add one to the total for candidate 4. Of course the definition of a definite mark is pretty vague. As is the definition of candidate 4.

What about rogue software?

It seems that their Accu-basic, which I thought was JUST the reporting system, can be manipulated far more easily than thought before. Apparently you can gibble the results using just ms-write or any other text editor.

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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-05 06:04 AM
Response to Reply #26
27. Visible light is what it says on the web site...
I assume the model itself will have some paper work. It sounds like we would need to see the specific specs to make sure it is visible light. What I have to do is put together a comprehensive information sheet that illuminates some of this information, for the selectman. If anyone can point me to good articles on scanners, I would appreciate it. I have been collecting fraud articles since november, but it is tough remembering which ones have specific scanner info. Harmony Guy, thank you so much.
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mirrera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-05 01:52 PM
Response to Reply #26
29. I just read the BBV report VERY carefully...
I am really starting to get this I think. When you are not a programmer, the language can be daunting. I am very good at operating a computer and I finally get the gist of the process from PC to scanner to card...from ballot to scanner ...from card to scanner. The chain of command so to speak. The most important generality is that our election officials have a duty by law to make our elections "as secure as possible". With this software it is impossible to secure as is. I will try and find out what the firmware is on our scanner, though according to the report, nothing has shown up in previous upgrades to suggest that any of the security concerns has been addressed.

One of the scariest and most believable scenarios, is election officials receiving an "upgrade" cd or dvd from the vendor that has a "patch". It is the most likely way to re-write the Accu-basic program. I had read about the elections in Georgia where technicians installed patches on all the machines, and I really didn't get the significance. I knew it was suspicious and the upsets in the elections were also suspect. I really didn't understand WHAT was being patched. Even the hack into GEMS to switch columns would involve a lot of corrupted individuals. It is really unnecessary. All one would have to do is re-write the Accu-basic to flip column "A" to column"B" if certain conditions are met.

It sounds like the tests are useless because they are run under "test" mode, and every thing could be time sensitive anyway. Just like our email calendars know what day it is so would the election software.

I will read the other report...
Thanks for the links
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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-21-05 05:16 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. Another important piece of reading for you...
can be found at

One thing VERY important to understand with these scanners is the resolution. These days, you can pick up an image scanner at your favorite office products store and it will have a resolution of 600 or more dots per inch (dpi). That means that on any square inch of a scanned document, the scanner will 'see' 600x600 (36000) individual dots with shades of color described by anywhere from 8 bits to 32 bits of data. The light source is a Cold-Cathode Flourescent Lamp (CCFL) which emits a visible light that can best be described as white (although some lamps emit slightly warmer shades of white)

The Diebold Accuvote-OS has a resolution of 34 columns over an 11 inch space, by either 4 or 6 (I don't remember which) lines per inch. That means that on any square inch of a scanned document, the scanner will see only about 16-24 individual dots with shades of color described by 1(one) bit of data - on or off. There's a BIG difference between 36000 dots by 8 shades, and 24 dots that are either black or white.

Now, one could ask why they don't use the more modern technology, and the answer is simple. COST & SPEED. When a page is scanned at such a high resolution, it produces a vastly greater amount of data that has to be sent, interpreted and stored. A small amount of data means that very little needs to be sent, which also means that what little data there is, can be sent quickly.

Because the entire page isn't being imaged, don't let anyone fool you into thinking that the 'ballot images' printed out by the GEMS system, are actually 'scanned images' of the paper ballots. They are actually the data created by the ultra-low resolution scanner, printed overtop of a ballot-looking template. They are absolutely-positively NOT an image of the original ballot.

(In fact, in the case where a supposed 'manual recount' is going to be performed by hand-counting the printed 'ballot-images', an individual with physical access to the GEMS system could very easily alter the ballot template AFTER an election but prior to the printing of the 'ballot images', in order to alter the outcomes. Oh, and of course it CAN be done without any entries being made into the audit log)

Here are a couple of more good reads for you.

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harmonyguy Donating Member (589 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-26-05 10:35 PM
Response to Reply #29
31. Another important read....
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tommcintyre Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-27-05 08:32 AM
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32. kick nt
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