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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 12:45 PM
Original message
My articles on Voting Machines in SD; arrest of Jim March
Below is an article of mine on problems with San Diego's voting machines which ran in the East County Californian today (7/28/05). Also included is a breaking news alert on the arrest of Jim March from Black Box Voting. More to come in Part II, running next week. You may freely distribute this article as long as you credit the East County Californian and include my byline and copyright.


By Miriam Raftery

The East County Californian

July 28, 2005

When you cast your ballot in the next election, will your vote be counted accurately?

Election reform experts cast doubt on the answer to that question, raising serious concerns about the accuracy and trustworthiness of electronic voting machines and central tabulators used to count votes including the Diebold system used in San Diego County.

There is ample proof reported from voting experiences across the country and in California that Diebold, ES&S and other electronic machines for recording and counting votes are susceptible to fraudulent manipulation, have created voting errors and have failed to operate properly at the polls, said Brina-Rae Schuchman, chair of the Election Integrity Committee at San Diego for Democracy/DFA (Democracy For America). In March 2004, the San Diego Registrar of Voters presided over what became one of the worst elections in the 200 year history of our country. Many, many thousands of San Diego voters were disenfranchised.

She added, Former Secretary of State Shelleys office had found that Diebold was installing federally and state uncertified voting machines, optical scanners and software in California counties, including San Diego. Over 30 percent of Diebold machines in San Diego County in March 2004, were found to be non-starters. Diebold personnel had access to machines during the election, allowing potential vote manipulation, she added.

That election used Diebold touch screen machines, which produced no paper trail and no way to verify results. Those machines have since been decertified by the state.

San Diego County then purchased Diebold optical scanners to scan ballots at polling places. Each scanner contains a memory card, which is later taken to the Registrar of Voters office, where votes are counted on a Diebold GEMS central tabulating computer.

But serious concerns have been raised over both the optical scanners and GEMS central tabulators. These machines, including the Diebold GEMS optical scanners in San Diego County, must all be rejected for vote counting in California because they cant be trusted, Schuchman said.

On July 4, Black Box Voting, Inc. (BBV), a nonpartisan consumer protection group for elections, issued a critical security alert for Diebold optical scan systems, including the version used in San Diego.

BBV security experts proved that Diebold optical scan voting machines and a Diebold central tabulator were vulnerable to manipulation of votes in Leon County, Fla. Dr. Herbert Thompson penetrated the GEMS central tabulator. It took less than a minute, said Bev Harris of BBV. In addition, computer expert Harri Hursti of Finland penetrated the voting machines to alter votes.

BBV experts demonstrated that votes could be changed on an individual voting machine, in groups of voting machines, or in mass through the central tabulating computer itself. Thompson penetrated the central tabulator through use of a Trojan horse program that utilized Windows vulnerability. Hursti concluded that the Diebold optical scan systems include the mother of all security holes. By manipulating memory cards, Hursti was able to take just one memory card from one voting machine in a precinct and infect the whole system, Harris revealed, warning that San Diegos system could be similarly vulnerable.

San Diego Countys new Registrar of Voters, Mikal Haas, insisted that San Diego elections are secure. There are password protections. There are physical protections. There are electronic protections. It is as secure as we can make it, he said of the central tabulator, but declined to reveal whether any security measures beyond those required by the state have been implemented. If I told you, they wouldnt be very secure, he replied. Haas noted that in Leon County, Fla., BBV experts were given the same access to machines as election officials and that no external hacking occurred.

But Harris counters that while no external hack was attempted in Leon County, systems are still vulnerable to hacking from outside as well as inside tampering.

In San Diego, poll workers are allowed to keep voting machines overnight at their homes. . Asked about security concerns, Haas replied that voting machines and memory cards are sealed and tamper-resistant.

But Harris disputed that notion. According to Harris the seals used by the optical scanners have seals that can be removed and reinstalled with pliers.

Harris believes that security measures should also be implemented to protect against vote manipulation by an insider within a Registrars office. A bank does not tell you that you dont need security procedures because we trust our people, she noted, adding that banks use security videos and require at least two people to access vaults.

Computer expert Bruce Sims of San Diego agrees that San Diegos voting system is inherently flawed. The supervisory program running on the card should never be there. The card should simply take data and have data taken from it. It shouldnt execute any sort of program, he observed. Its a poor design, or if you want to be into conspiracies and think back to what the head of Diebold said about the state of Ohio, its actually designed in a way to facilitate vote corruption.

Diebold CEO Walden ODell promised at a GOP fund-raiser to deliver Ohios electoral votes to George W. Bush. Diebold has reportedly installed illegal backdoor software and hired convicted felons to write computer codes, including one senior programmer convicted of 23 counts of felony theft, further raising doubts about the companys impartiality.

Registrar Haas has thus far refused requests from BBV to inspect election equipment and records to determine whether or not indications of improprieties exist. State law does not require such access by independent citizens groups, he pointed out. But Harris countered that the law does not prohibit such access, either.

It would be our contention that the memory card, the ballot box, should be considered a public record, she said. So the original should be maintained and anyone from the public should be able to examine it.

Sims wrote letters to San Diegos Registrar seeking to halt the mayoral special election over concerns about voting security. Ive also contacted every county supervisor, and not one has responded, added Sims, a registered independent who recently filed a complaint with the San Diego County grand jury over Diebolds system. Any citizen, no matter what party they belong to, should be concerned about the integrity of their vote.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob noted that the Registrar of Voters has an obligation to conduct elections with machines certified by the secretary of state (SOS), and that San Diegos current system meets state requirements. In the last election it worked just fine, for all intents and purposes, she said, but added, My preference would be to use touch screen machines. Those would be the safest and the highest level of guarantee of security. Unfortunately, the SOS has not certified the touch screens, but that is the future and that is what we should be having here in S.D. in 2006.

The fall 2005 election will likely be conducted on optical scanners. But in 2006, new laws requiring paper trails take effect. Haas confirms that Diebold touch screen machines will be retrofitted to produce paper trails, if certified by the secretary of state.

But some argue that touch screens are unreliable and that proposed protections do not go far enough. Long rolls of cash register-type receipts with small print on flimsy paper could make recounts difficult, Harris said.

Election reform activists differ on the best solution. Complicating matters are requirements to provide access for disabled voters and those speaking foreign languages.

Ed Kennedy of Open Voting Consortium argues for machines that produce actual paper ballots, with open-source software to be developed by the University of California. Its going to take a sustained effort to get clean elections, he concluded. This is fundamental to a democracy.

Others seek to eliminate electronic voting machines altogether, except for disabled voters. What is required are paper ballots that can be hand counted, audited and recounted if required, Schuchman said, noting that hand counting is done successfully in Canada, Israel, India and the United Kingdom. Sustaining our democracy demands action, she concluded, urging concerned citizens to contact San Diegos Registrar of Voters, the county Board of Supervisors, and California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. Ask them for hand-counted paper ballots to be used by all voters in California for every election henceforth.

Next week: Part II in this series will examine state and federal election reform efforts.


During Tuesdays mayoral election Jim March, a member of the BBV board of directors was arrested for trying to observe the Diebold central tabulator as the votes were being counted.

We will let people observe it (the central tabulator) the screen is facing the window in a computer room and anyone is free to observe it, said Mikal Haas, San Diego Countys new Registrar of Voters, in an interview with The East County Californian before Tuesdays election.

According to a Black Box Voting press release, the Diebold computer was positioned too far away for citizens to read the screen. Citizens could not watch error messages, or even perceive significant anomalies or malfunctions. Unable to see the screen, March went into the office where the tabulator was housed. Two deputies followed him and escorted him out. He is being charged with a felony, interfering with an election official, according to Jim Hamiltons statement on the same press release. Hamilton is an elections integrity advocate from San Diego.

What Jim March wanted to do was to clearly demonstrate that the citizens cannot watch their own election, Bev Harris, member of BBV said.

She also expressed serious concerns about the validity of the results of the election. What struck me was that the result was almost exactly the same in every single return. Usually it fluctuates up and down wildly; its almost like there was a set point. Noting that the percentages did not change substantially for any candidate as precincts came in, even from early returns with just 1 percent. Thats very fishy, she added.
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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 12:55 PM
Response to Original message
1. You know I tried to explain to the poll workers where the
Edited on Thu Jul-28-05 12:57 PM by nadinbrzezinski
weakness was (THE GEMS DATABASE) back at HQ... in the end they threw their hands up, well yo don't expect us to go back to paper after Florida...

I countered you're right we wont, because they want more Ohio's, those who benefit DO NOT want a paper ballot

This has a paper trail

Yes, but the problem is the very hackable with built in back doors, GEMS database...

They had a problem arguing but hey I voted and I THINK my vote went for Donna, I don't know. It is a sad thing to say, that I no longer know if my vote was counted

But one thing that struck me as interesting, over 75% voted for prop A but they did not vote for Francis? HMMM
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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 01:54 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. fishy precinct results
A poll watcher from Ocean Beach told me his precinct recorded over three times more votes for Donna Frye than for any other candidate. Why didn't the election results spike when that precinct came in?

I think it was rigged.
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DemInDistress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 11:48 PM
Response to Original message
3. How can the Democrats ever win
another election..its clearly apparent to me Diabolical Deibold stole elections in 2000----2002----2004,and will again in 2006.How can we defeat a crooked computer thieves? please tell me,I lost faith.
I'm 59,in all the years of elections never did I see the "Democratic Machine " up and running on all cylinders,millions of new voters many who vote democrat 1st time,yet we still lost..1 ga hanna ohio cast 638 votes,238 for kerry---4,230 for the fuck did they do that? how often did they do that? another thing bugging me,software capable of flipping every 5th kerry the stench from this past election permeates the air today..hope DUers can fix it
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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 12:17 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Paper Ballots Hand Counted
ban the machine thats the only way. Spread the truth.
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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 12:31 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Criminals get caught eventually.
Rumor has it that the grand jury is looking into the situation in San Diego. Taking down the national voting theft ring is going to need to start locally. I urge everyone with concerns about voting machines in your community to contact your local district attorney or county grand jury, as well as your local elected officials.

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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 12:44 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Wow I like
what you call it "national voting theft ring" hope you don't mind if I steal it once in a while.
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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 09:53 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Steal away!
As long as you're not into stealing elections, that is. ;-)
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Viva_La_Revolution Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 01:13 AM
Response to Original message
7. Great job Liberty Belle!
Looking forward to part duex!
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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 09:54 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. Thanks!
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Gabi Hayes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 01:42 AM
Response to Original message
8. obviously this has dire consequences, but I hope everybody knows about....

how do Jim March/Bev Harris/ fit here?
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Stevepol Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 12:07 PM
Response to Original message
9. THis is GREAT article. What's the reach of the East County Californian?
An article as good as this one should have a huge circulation.
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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 09:56 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. It's a fairly small community paper.
I'd love to submit this to a wire service or find a way to get broader circulation, if anyone knows how. I asked the editor, but they've never sent anything to AP or another wire before.
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thjay Donating Member (120 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-30-05 01:01 AM
Response to Reply #9
13. I worked for the Daily CA 20 years ago
I'm SHOCKED they would publish this fantastic article. Thank you Miriam for your hard work. For those who don't know East County SD, this is the land of Rep. Duncan Hunter. It is a very conservative area.

I was a production artist responsible for laying out the pages. This was in the days before the computer. I got to read all the letters to the editor and choose which ones I liked for the next days publication. Fresh out of college and liberally open minded, I was appalled at the number of hate letters directed towards gays. The few months working there really opened my eyes and I didn't like what I was seeing.

I can't believe they published this article and plan to publish a follow up. This is really great news. My family and I spent the evening with my parents at the Elks Lodge in El Cajon. My mom and I openly discussed that there was no way Donna Frye would be the next Mayor. The good ole boy republican machine are scared to death of that. They will do anything and spend any amount of money to make sure the election is fixed. The only blessing here is that Francis isn't in the run off.

I wonder if any of the old farts sitting near us were listening?

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AtomicKitten Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-30-05 01:25 AM
Response to Original message
14. Good job.
Thanks for informing the masses. I swore I wouldn't vote again until this EVM crap was cleared up. Seems pointless to me. But I am hopeful when I see good citizens informing the masses.
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