Nebraska DNC Call For Audits of Voting Machines

Published: Sat 22 Mar 2003 06:53 PM
Nebraska DNC Call For Audits of Voting Machines
To Democratic Partners in Leadership,
This an urgent message to alert you to a major crisis facing our Democratic system. Vigilance has always been required to protect our voting rights and the ballot box from corruption. However, the use of computers to record and count the votes has created a major new problem. Today votes can be stolen electronically with software planted in the voting machines. It only takes one person to change the election results for a whole state.
We are enclosing a draft resolution we are submitting in Nebraska as the first step in dealing with this problem. The resolution suggests four essential features for an audit of voting machines. In addition we have included documentation and Internet sources so you can do your own research into the problem and possible solutions.
Please copy this email into your computer, make a hard copy of the information and pass it along to other people. (If you received this as a Fax message, send us an email so we can give you an electronic copy.) We urge you to put this information into the hands of all the key people in your state who have the power or interest to deal with this issue. Keep us informed of your actions.
It is imperative to get a voter machine audit system in place before the 2004 election.
Lincoln B. Justice and Rachel A. Garner,
Members of the Nebraska Democratic Central Committee
416 East 34th St.
Kearney, NE 68847
Phone 308 234-3571 Fax 308 237-9853
1] When voting machines are used, it is technically possible for secret computer programs to be inserted into these machines before elections that can modify the numbers to produce any desired outcome regardless of the votes cast. These stealth programs can be designed to self-destruct once their work is completed without leaving a trace of their presence. Computer voting machines being used in Nebraska and throughout the nation are presently being manufactured, programmed and controlled by three major corporations owned and operated by Republicans--ES, Diebold Election Systems and Sequoia Voting Systems. (See attached pages for documentation of this information.)
2] Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has ties to the largest voting machine company, Election Systems & Software (ES) located in Omaha, Nebraska. ES was the ONLY company whose machines counted Hagel's votes when he ran for election in 1996 and 2002. ES counts approximately 60 percent of all votes cast in the United States. According to the Omaha World-Herald, which is also a beneficial owner of ES, Hagel was CEO of American Information Systems, now called ES, from November 1993 through June 2, 1994. He was Chairman from July 1992 until March 15 1995. Hagel still owns up to $5 million in the ES parent company, McCarthy Group. He was required to disclose these positions on his FEC Personal Disclosure statements, but he did not. This is clearly a potential conflict of interest.
3] All businesses, government agencies and financial institutions have regular audits of their financial transactions to protect from mistakes, fraud and theft. The votes cast by citizens are the most valuable assets in a democratic election process. Therefore it is imperative that a system of independent verification and audit in every election be required to protect citizens from having their votes lost or stolen.
4] Throughout history unscrupulous groups and individuals have attempted to manipulate elections. Manual voting systems provide a paper trail that permits recounts. However, the computer-controlled voting machines being used do not provide a paper trail. A new technique for auditing votes must be put in place in order to protect our democratic system and the right of citizens to choose their leaders.
5] In this computer age, a voting audit system needs to have the following features.
a) Exit poles should be conducted at randomly selected locations by qualified independent non-political organizations as the first step in verification of the accuracy of the results reported by the voting machines.
b) If there is a discrepancy between the exit poles and the computer reported results of more than the margin of error or 3%, the candidates would be entitled to ask and receive a manual recount at the expense of the government agency.
c) In addition each voter should be furnished with a printed report and the ability to correct mistakes before the machine confirms the vote. This voting receipt should be given to the election committee and kept on file in a safe place for at least one year.
d) In addition, the election commissioner should make a copy of the computer program used in the voting machine immediately prior to the day of election. This copy should be kept in a safe place and made available to independent computer programmers for examination if a recount is called for. Such an examination could help determine if the voting machine was accurately reporting the votes cast.
Such a vote audit system could help prevent vote fraud, help restore faith in government and encourage more people to exercise their right and responsibility as citizens.
(end of resolution)
The information in this resolution can be confirmed by contacting the following persons and web sites.
1] The Hill Article: (listed below)
2] Bev Harris, researcher -- "Black Box Voting,"
425-228-7131 Fax -3965
3] Rebecca Mercuri, expert on computerized voting machines
215/327-7105 or 609 895-1375
4] Dan Spillane, Senior Test Engineer for voting machines:
[May 2003]The foundation of American democracy is not just the right to vote, but also the right to have that vote counted, and counted accurately. In the 2000 election the Supreme Court took away the right to have our vote counted, and corporations have taken away the right of accuracy.
6] Best election sites:
7] Several Nebraska ES machines malfunctioned on Election Day, and Charlie Matulka (who ran against Hagel) filed a request for a hand count on December 10, 2002. It was denied, because Nebraska has a new law that prohibits election workers from looking at the paper ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska are ES
Charlie Matulka, who ran for office against Chuck Hagel:
402-228-1009 916 North 21st St, Beatrice, NE 68310
8] Senate Ethics Committee: 202-224-2981
9] The Voting Rights Act 1965
10] Help America Vote Act
@ @ @
From The Hill 1/29/2003
"Hagel's ethics filings pose disclosure issue" -- "The Hill" 1/29/2003
On October, 10, 2002 Bev Harris, author of the upcoming "Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering" in the 21st Century, revealed that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has ties to the largest voting machine company, Election Systems & Software (ES). She reported that he was an owner, Chairman and CEO of Election Systems & Software (called American Information Systems until name change filed in 1997). ES was the ONLY company whose machines counted Hagel's votes when he ran for election in 1996 and 2002. The Hill, a Washington D.C. newspaper that covers the U.S. national political scene, confirmed her findings today and uncovered more details.
Hagel's campaign finance director, Michael McCarthy, now admits that Senator Hagel still owns a beneficial interest in the ES parent company, the McCarthy Group. ES counts approximately 60 percent of all votes cast in the United States. According to the Omaha World-Herald which is also a beneficial owner of ES, Hagel was CEO of American Information Systems, now called ES, from November 1993 through June 2, 1994. He was Chairman from July 1992 until March 15 1995. He was required to disclose these positions on his FEC Personal Disclosure statements, but he did not.
Hagel still owns up to $5 million in the ES parent company, McCarthy Group. But Hagel's office, when interviewed by Channel 8 News in Lincoln, Nebraska for the evening news on October 22, 2002, said he had sold his shares before he was elected. His office issued a fact sheet claiming that he had made full disclosure.
Last week, Hagel's campaign finance director, Michael McCarthy (currently an owner and a director of ES) admitted to Alexander Bolton of The Hill that Hagel is still an owner of ES parent company, the McCarthy Group, and said that Hagel also had owned shares in AIS Investors Inc., a group of investors in ES itself. Yet Hagel did not disclose owning or selling shares in AIS Investors Inc. on his FEC documents, a required disclosure, nor did he disclose that ES is an underlying asset of McCarthy Group, in which he lists an investment of up to $5 million in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.
Harris spoke with Victor Baird of the Senate Ethics Committee office January 9, and asked him who is responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete. She asked whether anyone had followed up to see why Senator Hagel did not list his positions with the voting machine company, and she asked about his characterization of the McCarthy Group as an "excepted investment fund" and his failure to disclose that it owned ES Baird was silent, and then said "If you want to look into this, you'll need to come in and get hold of the documents."
Unfortunately, according to Alexander Bolton, a reporter at The Hill, when he went to the Senate Public Documents Room to retrieve originals of Hagel's 1995 and 1996 documents he was told they were destroyed. "They said anything over five years old is destroyed by law, and they pulled out the law," says Bolton. However, when he spoke with Hagel's staff, they said had obtained the documents from Senate Ethics Committee files. Copies of the documents are available at -- a repository for FEC disclosures.
In 1997, Baird asked Hagel to clarify the nature of his investment in McCarthy Group on his 1996 FEC statement. Hagel had written "none" next to "type of investment" for McCarthy Group. In response to Baird's letter, Hagel filed an amendment characterizing the McCarthy Group as an "Excepted Investment Fund," a designation for widely held, publicly available mutual funds. He never disclosed his indirect ownership of ES at all, but apparently no one questioned this omission, nor his curious characterization of the McCarthy Group, a privately held company that is not listed on any public brokerage.
Baird told Bolton that the McCarthy Group did not seem to qualify as an "excepted investment fund." He reportedly met with Hagel's staff on Friday, January 25 and Monday, January 27, 2002. Then, also on Monday, he stepped down. On Monday afternoon Baird's replacement, Robert Walker, provided a new, looser interpretation of "publicly available" (though experts disagree, saying that a privately held company like the McCarthy Group cannot be called "publicly available" in order to avoid disclosing underlying assets.)
Hagel's challenger in the Nebraska Senate race, Charlie Matulka, wrote to Baird in October 2002 to request an investigation into Hagel's ownership in and nondisclosure of ES Baird replied, "Your complaint lacks merit and no further action is appropriate with respect to the matter, which is hereby dismissed," in a letter dated November 18, 2002.
Charlie Matulka, the candidate who ran against Chuck Hagel in Nebraska's U.S. Senate race in November 2002, also wrote to the Nebraska Secretary of State and to state elections officials in October 2002. He pointed out that his opponent had ties to ES, and asked them to look into the conflict of interest, but received no answer.
Several Nebraska ES machines malfunctioned on Election Day, and Matulka filed a request for a hand count on December 10, 2002. It was denied, because Nebraska has a new law that prohibits election workers from looking at the paper ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska are ES
The Washington Post characterized Hagel's election in 1996 as the biggest upset of the election season. At the time, voters did not know that he owned and had held key positions with the company that counted his votes. But is it improper for a candidate to have ties with voting machine companies?
Harris examines the issue of tampering security in the upcoming "Black Box Voting" book. One of her sources, Dan Spillane, a former Senior Test Engineer for a voting machine company, believes that the computerized voting machine industry is riddled with system integrity flaws.
"The problems are systemic," Spillane says, and he contends that the certification process itself cannot be trusted. Despite industry characterizations that the code is checked line by line, this does not appear to be the case. Spillane points to frequent, critical errors that occur in actual elections and identifies omissions in the testing procedures themselves. His own experience as a voting machine test engineer led him to address his concerns about integrity flaws with the owner of the voting machine company, who then suggested that he resign. He did not, but shortly before a General Accounting Office audit, Spillane was fired, and so was his supervisor, who had also expressed concerns about system integrity.
Election Technology Labs quit certifying voting machines in 1992. Its founder, Arnold B. Urken, says that the manufacturers, specifically ES (then AIS), refused to allow the detailed examination of code needed to ensure system integrity. Wyle Labs refused to test voting machine software after 1996; testing then went to Nichols Research, and then passed to PSINet, and then to Metamor, and most recently to Ciber.
But even if certification becomes adequate, nothing guarantees that machines used in actual elections use the same programming code that was certified. Machines with adjusted code can be loaded onto delivery trucks with inside involvement of only ONE person. To make matters worse, "program patches" and substitutions are made in vote-counting programs without examination of the new codes, and manufacturers often e-mail technicians uncertified program "updates" which they install on machines immediately before and on Election Day.
Both Sequoia touch screen machines and Diebold Accuvote machines appear to have "back door" mechanisms which may allow reprogramming after votes have been cast. Diebold's Accuvote machines were developed by a company founded by Bob Urosevich, a CEO of Diebold Election Systems and Global Election Systems, which Diebold acquired. Together with his brother Todd, he also founded ES, where Todd Urosevich still works. ES and Sequoia use identical software and in their optical scan machines. All three companies' machines have miscounted recent elections, sometimes electing the wrong candidates in races that were not particularly close.
For more information, call 425-228-7131.
@ @ @
Sample stories of voter machine problems all over the nation
The Dallas Morning News reported this on 10/24/2002:
"Eighteen of more than 400 electronic voting machines were pulled out of service after early voting began Monday. Some voters complained that they selected one candidate but that the touch-screen machine marked a different candidate."
When there are errors in vote-counting, the explanations sometimes don't make sense.
For example, in the October 2002 problem in Dallas, where paperless, unauditable touch-tone screens were used and voters reported that the machines were registering votes for Democrats as votes for the Republican candidate, the explanations by county elections commissioner Bruce Sherbet transmits a ping to the bullshit meter of computer software guys:
"[Sherbet] said technicians were able to 'recalibrate 15 of the 18 machines taken out of service and return them to use.' The other three were replaced, he said. 'Every election, we have machines that have to be recalibrated, Mr. Sherbet said. 'Touch-screens have pluses and minuses.'"
The software engineers I've talked with say there is no such thing as "calibrating" software.
Potential for manipulation
Can voting systems be manipulated?
Experts say yes, and it's getting worse!
Did you know...
- That even when we use paper ballots, most states forbid even their election officials from looking at them? The ballots are removed from the counting machine and sealed in a box; only the number on the counter is used to tally the votes. Even recounts often don't involve looking at the ballots themselves (unless a hand recount is ordered). Yes, it's true. The most progressive states do a spot check with a hand count of 1 percent of the votes. One percent is inadequate! But most states don't even require anyone to look at the paper ballots at all.
- That the public cannot send in its own computer guy to audit the code? Yes, it's true: in most cases, election officials have to ask the company that provided the machines to troubleshoot problems. The voting machine companies went to court to have their counting code declared "proprietary" so no one can look at it. Computer experts who have analyzed the code say it is "spaghetti code" that is almost indecipherable.
- That there are standards for computer software programming, that make the code easy to audit, and even spot changes in the programming, and better yet, even provide a history of all the coding done? These are industry-wide standards that voting companies should use, but they don't.
- That it only takes ONE "true believer" to compromise a voting system? It could be anyone who gets access. There are many ways to do this. Implant a Trojan Horse that, as soon as a particular vote passes a "tipping point" will start throwing votes the other way; or, stick the mischief into the message (when the modem transmits a certain result, the receiving computer sends data back to change the database). For even more fun, a good programmer can have the code erase itself as soon as it does its work. Or, you can have the program perform random "errors" scattered across a system.
- That a touch screen that registers Democrat when you press Democrat doesn't have to count your vote as democrat. What you see on the screen involves a different process than how the machine counts the vote.
Can these things be tampered with? If you have any doubt, read this: article by Ronnie Dugger, who will show you how easy it is for a single individual with access to fudge the vote-counting on these machines, in ways that can never be detected.

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