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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-11-08 05:21 AM
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Humboldt At The Tipping Point (WDNC Blog) - X post - GD

Originally blogged at We Do Not Consent:

Humboldt At The Tipping Point: Who Dares Defend Diebold?
By Dave Berman

Here in Humboldt County, CA a local story of national interest broke last Thursday on the websites of the Eureka Times-Standard (archive) and North Coast Journal. The next morning I wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in today's T-S (archive). I'll let this serve as a summary then provide links to much of what's been published already and add some further reasons for optimism at the bottom.
Any defenders?

Letters to the editor

Posted: 12/10/2008 01:15:38 AM PST

First I'd like to congratulate Kevin Collins, Tom Pinto, Mitch Trachtenberg, Parke Bostrom and all the volunteers of the Election Transparency Project.

Their work revealed a discrepancy caused by Humboldt's electronic voting equipment last month.

Over the last few years I've made many different arguments for getting rid of the Diebold (now Premier) equipment used to count votes in Humboldt County. Somehow it wasn't enough that they count in secret, can be easily manipulated without detection, and report results impossible in a legitimate election.

Somehow local decision makers weren't deterred from doing business with a company that admitted to illegally installing uncertified software here and elsewhere; that was sued in class action suits filed by company shareholders; and whose then -- CEO said he was committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to Bush in 2004.

Now we learn that Humboldt has finally experienced what is euphemistically called a glitch. In reality it was a bug in Diebold's central tabulation program, GEMS. This caused the results of November's election, already certified as accurate by Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, to be proven inaccurate.

Worse still, Diebold knew about the bug at least four years ago and never fixed it. Other counties were made aware of the problem and told how to work around it. Crnich says she never knew, and I believe her.

This raises many questions, most important among them: Who dares defend the continued use of these machines and the county's relationship with Diebold/Premier?

Dave Berman
# # #
So here's a summary of links from the past several days, then I've got a few more observations.

T-S, 12/5/08: Software glitch yields inaccurate election results (archive)
T-S, 12/7/08 Local elections office commended (archive)
T-S Editorial, 12/7/08 - A glitch that should never have been (archive)

Wired - two Kim Zetter articles from 12/8/08:
Serious Error in Diebold Voting Software Caused Lost Ballots in California County
Unique Transparency Program Uncovers Problems with Voting Software

Election Transparency Project volunteers:
Parke Bostrom - (main site)
Mitch Trachtenberg - (main site)
Tom Pinto - /

John Gideon & Brad Friedman at, 12/8/08 - 'Humboldt Transparency Project' Reveals Diebold, U.S. Federal E-Voting Scam

The BradBlog piece includes this link to an .mp3 of Crnich with Brad on the Peter B. Collins show on the afternoon of 12/5/08.

* * *
Hopefully it is already clear why this is a story of national interest. BradBlog's 12/8 article points out:
The fact that Diebold/Premier did not take the action to recall the systems, actually puts them into a situation where they may very well have violated federal law. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 Title III Section 301(a)(5) mandates an acceptable error rate for voting systems in use in federal elections. That error rate, not counting any error caused by an action of the voter, cannot exceed 0.00001%.

However, in the case of the Humboldt County vote count, the error rate was 0.31%.

We have asked both the Secretary of State of California and the EAC if they plan to take action by asking the US Attorney Office to investigate this seemingly clear violation of federal law. Neither the CA SoS, nor the EAC has yet replied to our queries on that matter.
Parke Bostrom's post above describes how "deck zero" became the batch of ballots that were handled properly by the elections department, and yet vanished from the final certified total. He comments further that the audit log for the Diebold GEMS central tabulation software matched the wrongly decreased total:
This means the audit log is not truly a "log" in the classical computer program sense, but is rather a "re-imagining" of what GEMS would like the audit log to be, based on whatever information GEMS happens to remember at the end of the vote counting process.
This demonstrates the system will cover its tracks when reporting an inaccurate result, destroying assurances of built-in memory redundancies and making a mockery of logic and accuracy testing. Not just here, everywhere. Frankly this is just another example of something we've known a long time.

Crnich herself has been very interesting through all of this. In the "Serious Error..." article above, Zetter reports:
Crnich told Threat Level the issue has made her question her confidence in the voting system because, even though the company provided officials with a workaround, the problem indicated a fundamental flaw in the company's programming. She said she'd heard a lot of stories from other election officials about problems with voting machines, but never thought they applied to California.

"I've always sort of listened to those anecdotal incidents with a jaundiced ear because California has some very stringent requirements of election systems that are in use here as well as some very strict security procedures and I didn't think those things affected us here," she said. "But this has sort of put a cloud over any confidence that I had in the Premier equipment that's been in this department since 1995."
Crnich losing confidence of course should be music to our ears. She also said a great thing in the interview with Peter B., explaining why she's been willing to work with citizen volunteers. As Humboldt County Clerk/Recorder and Registrar of Voters, Crnich is an elected official and I'm glad she acknowledged a responsibility to listen to constituents.

In all, the media coverage above practically lionizes Crnich, which I think goes too far. Consider this analogy. Someone builds a fire in the middle of their bedroom and burns down the house. Would this person be praised for the wisdom of having an insurance policy? Using secret corporate vote counting computers, whether by Diebold or any other vendor, is playing with fire.

I've been unable to reach Crnich by phone in the past two days, repeatedly getting voice mail that could not accept more messages.

Also today, The North Coast Journal came out with Hank Sims' "Town Dandy" column called Deck Zero. Sims writes in reference to the known failure of the GEMS central tabulation software:
The fact that Diebold/Premier let it stand for over four years, potentially undermining the first principle of American democracy, is an absolute outrage. These people should be shunned. Maybe indicted.
Throw in a little validation from the T-S editorial board...:
They were loud, and they were strident in proclaiming that they didn't trust election technologies as much as they trust the ability of actual human beings to count votes.

The recent discovery, thanks to the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, of a discrepancy in election results due to flawed software reveals that these activists were right to make noise, and right to complain about a company that has been less than responsible in dealing with the problem.
...and it is starting to sound like we may be at a tipping point here. You might expect me to be frothing about hand-counting paper ballots right about now. You'd be wrong. Thinking as an organizer, I would hope now to establish three things that would be widely agreeable throughout the community:
  • An alternative to Diebold is needed
  • A careful evaluation of the possibilities would be appropriate and desirable
  • The input of the fully informed community would be appropriate and desirable
That said, if this is the nature of the opportunity now, I will re-offer to the community the materials I've developed to evaluate hand counting, most notably the forecast tool (spreadsheet) for estimating time, cost and labor needs for hand-counting in the precinct on election night. Back in the summer of 2007, when I first made this public, Sims noted: "Initial twiddling with the numbers suggests that it wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly -- and wouldn't you rather wait a few days and spend a little more for a trustworthy count?"

I'd like to see more consistency in Sims' election integrity advocacy. And bottom line, I hope he'll push for a thorough examination of Diebold alternatives, as I'm sure Transparency Project volunteers will have other preferences and ideas to contribute to what could become the most envied process and dialog in the country.

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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-11-08 11:00 AM
Response to Original message
1. Here's my suggestion: 100% handcount of optiscan ballots, to check for fraud or error,
over the next four major elections (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016) and if the machines are accurate, reduce to 55% (Venezuela's standard), and possibly an eventual further reduction to 10%, the minimum needed to detect fraud (according to statistical experts whom I respect), if the machines continue to produce accurate results. That will give us time to purge most of the felons, thieves, warmongers, torturers, mass murderers, congenital liars, servants of global corporate predators, shredders of the Constitution, privatizers, hijackers of our military for corporate resource wars, plunderers, looters and other corpo/fascists from our political system, while we re-develop the skills to return to handcounted paper ballots, or develop an "open source" code system, if the people decide to dump these extremely expensive electronic systems, which require on-going maintenance and expensive testing and monitoring--as well as upgrades, "patches," and replacement of parts and entire systems--basically forever--a corporate boondoggle.

We need a plan for when we can't pry these high-end vendor contracts from the white-knuckled fingers of corrupt, power-drunk election officials. The sheer amount of money they dispense to corporate profiteers attracts the wrong people to the job, and corrupts the entire system. It was also, in my opinion, the means used TO corrupt the entire system, so that 'TRADE SECRET,' PROPRIETARY vote tabulation could be installed everywhere, in a very short period of time, before the general public caught on. The Anthrax Congress flooded the country with $3.9 billion for e-voting systems, with no requirements for auditing; that is how these non-transparent systems were fast-tracked all over the country during the 2002 and 2004 period. Money!

The purpose was to keep Bush-Cheney in office, keep their horrible war going and loot the American people unto the 7th generation, the final looting just having been accomplished (the Bushwhacks' recent Financial 9/11). The method--'TRADE SECRET' vote counting--is so obvious now, it makes you want to cry. And the bill that did it--the "Help America Vote (for Bush) Act"--was passed in the same month as the Iraq War Resolution (Oct 02). The IWR guaranteed unjust war and continued looting, and HAVA provided the means to shove the unjust war and continued looting down the throats of the American people.

You look at this, and the mind boggles. HOW COULD LOCAL/ELECTION OFFICIALS, STATE LEGISLATORS AND DEMOCRATIC OFFICE HOLDERS have all bought into unaudited 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting? As Deep Throat said, "Follow the money." When I read about the week of fun, sun and high-end shopping at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, in August 2005, for election officials from around the country, sponored by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia, then I knew. I had been puzzling since November 2, 2004, on how our Democrats could have let this happen. What were they thinking? How could they be so stupid? No audit requirement? 'TRADE SECRET' voting machines? Diebold CEO a Bush-Cheney campaign chair? ES&S funded by a reclusive, far rightwing billionaire who gave one million dollars to the extremist 'christian' Chalcedon foundation (which touts the death penalty for homosexuals--among other things)? Are they nuts? Really, I asked myself this question. Had the anthrax got to their brains?

Nope, it was money. Some were collusive. Some were afraid. Many were corrupt. The election system was already corrupt. Add more money to it, and it turns outright fascist, which is what occurred. But now you have all of these election officials, county supervisors, state legislators and congress critters, tied to this highly corrupt, expensive voting system--tied by the contracts, tied by lobbyists, tied by career ambitions, tied by the power of Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia programmers to steal their next election and remove them from office. The money changing hands has become the obstacle to reform.

How to un-corrupt the system as quickly as possible? Stop trying to throw these election theft machines into 'Boston Harbor' (where they belong), and instead demand the 100% hand-count that should have been required in the first place. That is the only transparent test of these machines. Verify their count vs. the paper ballot count. A full handcount audit is easier to achieve than dumping the lucrative machines. It helps to sidestep the money motive. And we should demand 100%, with the 10% minimum needed as our fallback position. Even with just a 10% audit, we can start electing real representatives of the people. And then we have much work to do, to improve transparency, start cleansing our political system of private money and elect more of them.

GuvWurld, you and your team are deserving of Congressional Medals of Honor for what you have done so far. (Some day!) Truly, you are the Paul Reveres and Tom Paines of American Revolution II. I urge you to add the recommendation of a 100% handcount for the next several elections, no matter whether Diebold is dumped for another company or not. They all use 'TRADE SECRET' machines. The paper ballot audit of these machines is clearly, obviously inadequate. CA law provides for a mere 1% audit, and only in cases of extremely close results--within 0.05%--is a larger audit triggered. We need that larger audit (10%) for all elections in the near future. And if we demand 100%, maybe we can get 10%.

Meanwhile, we all re-learn how to count.
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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-11-08 02:21 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks PP
This is a significant strategic shift based on the circumstances. Rather than continuing to scream for HCPB, I recognize "the least we can do" is change the overall public dialog around this issue. If we can all agree we need an alternative to Diebold, we can get that conversation started and give HCPB the fighting chance it has been largely deprived simply by including it among the range of options.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-12-08 01:45 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. ES&S is as bad as Diebold, if not worse, as to its far rightwing connections and
its attitude, and Sequoia isn't much better. The fundamental wrong is 'TRADE SECRET' programming code in our election system. And that is true no matter which private corporation is running it. It would be bad even with a politically neutral corporation selling technology that works. The potential for fraud is immense without a substantial audit.

I understand that you have to deal with what's in front of you. And what you are doing is an excellent approach--dialoguing with people, doing studies, pointing out the obvious flaws. You and your team have been great in this regard. You get people thinking independently of corporate propaganda! That is so important. And if what they are thinking about is Diebold, fine. They SHOULD think about and question Diebold. Also, local/state action is THE key to the success of the election reform movement, in my opinion. National reform has been blockaded, and, if it occurs, it will more than likely make things worse. It won't be real reform. Look what they did with HAVA, my God. They nearly destroyed our election system, very fast. More dictates from Washington, and more centralized technology, is very bad, in my opinion. We need to DE-centralize, down to the precinct level, where the citizens of this country can comprehend what's going on, and do something about it. So your focus on Diebold in Humboldt County is exactly the right strategy. I'm just suggesting a general strategic principle from what I've gathered in readings about other local/state movements and the entire election reform issue: that one of the biggest obstacle to moving election officials, county supervisors and state election officials and legislators, toward reform are the big shiny contracts, with the money going through their fingers.

So, let them keep their boondoggle, but focus on the transparency that can be achieved with the existing system: a) a paper ballot for every vote (which we already have in CA, mostly--though, if we lose Bowen, we could quickly lose the paper ballot backup); and b) COUNT those ballots in sufficient numbers to detect fraud and error. Start by demanding a 100% audit for a period of time, until the machines prove themselves (which they probably can't do), and, in bargaining, settle for less, if 100% is impossible to get, but never go below 10% in the demand (the minimum needed to detect most fraud). They can go on wasting the taxpayers' money and enhancing their careers, if they just COUNT the goddamn votes.

With more accurate, verified vote counts, we will see fewer Saxby Chamblisses in Congress, and more of the real representatives of the people at all levels. We will see more accountability, because our reps will begin to understand that We, the People, are back in charge. They sell us out, they will be dis-elected.

But we should also never lose sight of the goal: full transparency, and no private corporations involved in our election system in any way.
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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-13-08 04:42 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. There is no money in building optical scan voting machines
the money is in controlling the outcome of the election with that machine, my guess is if we were to audit 100% of the optical scanned ballots, Diebold and ES&S would get out of the voting machine business faster than a cat trying the sh*t on a hot tin roof, because there wouldn't be any real money in it for them any more.

You could go to radio shack or any science surplus and build a machine to count and scan ballots, probably for under hundred bucks.

Just saying :)
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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-13-08 12:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. Never ever reduce the audit to 10%, 60% the very least and the ballots have to be hand counted
before they leave the polling place,

"And if we demand 100%, maybe we can get 10%" if we demand 100% of the ballots we get 100% of the ballots, the ballots don't belong to the politicians or any one person, they belong to the voters. What we demand is that the politicians do their job and put a procedure in place that if a voter wants to hand count 10%,60% or 100% of the ballots at a polling place, that there is a procure in place to do it. No ifs ands or buts!

When you say "maybe we can get 10%" that just makes me irate, not at you, but just the thought that there is someone who would think that they can prevent the voters from hand counting their own paper ballots.


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