Saturday, March 25, 2006

Utah testing of the Diebold touch-screen reveals new problems

by Black Box Voting
March 19, 2006

Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk has been running elections for 23 years. He was quite content with his optical scan system. The state of Utah thought otherwise: On Dec. 27, Funk took delivery on 40 Diebold TSx touch-screen machines, part of a statewide directive.

"I had concerns about Diebold," says Funk, "but I thought, 'If the state is going to mandate it, then I guess they'll assume responsibility if anything goes wrong.'"

Not so. He soon learned that he will be responsible but the state will decide what election system will count the votes.

"YOU'RE GOING TO HATE MY GUTS ON ELECTION DAY"

Funk's concerns escalated when he heard a particularly unusual statement by Diebold sales rep Dana LaTour.

"Some of you are going to hate my guts on Election Day," she said to the assembly of elections officials. Later, another Diebold representative named Drew was asked what LaTour meant when she said "Some of you are going to hate my guts..."

"We're going to have problems on Election Day, and we're just going to have to work through them," he said.

FAILURES RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE

Shortly after Funk received his "brand new" TSx machines, Diebold helped him do acceptance testing. Two of the 40 machines promptly failed the test. Diebold arranged to take them away.

The remaining machines showed several defects -- crooked paper feeds that jam, memory card bay doors that wouldn't close, parts getting stuck, coming loose, falling off.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

Funk thought it might be a good idea to take a closer inventory.

He booted each machine up to check the battery. Some of the machines were marked with little yellow dots, and he got to wondering about that, too. He studied the screen messages, and noticed something very odd.

Most machines had about 25 MB of memory available, but some had only 7 MB of free memory left. One had only 4 MB of available memory. For perspective, the backup election file generated by the Diebold TSx is about 7.9 MB. Now why would brand new voting machines have used-up memory?

TIME TO GET A MORE IN DEPTH EVALUATION

This prompted Funk to seek an evaluation. He asked Black Box Voting to help him analyze his voting system.

After several consultations, Black Box Voting determined that the nature of the problems in Emery County might be systemic and might be national in scope. Therefore, we arranged for and underwrote the services of Harri Hursti and also Security Innovation, Inc.

Neither Funk nor Black Box Voting were prepared for the depth and breadth of the problems discovered. Based on these discoveries we will begin with a series of articles followed by concise, but more formal reports.

PART I

Hursti quickly determined the three most likely causes of the low memory problem:

1. There might be completely different software in the machines with low memory.

2. Some machines might contain different external data

3. Or, some of the machines might have been delivered with natively different amounts of memory available.

Hursti approached issue #2 first. If the used memory was due to external data or archived election files stored on the system, he reasoned, removing any such files would clear the memory. He discovered that some of the machines did contain test election data, and he deleted the extra data. This produced only a small improvement in available memory, however.

As for issue #1, different programs on the machines -- or, the existence of something stored in memory which is hidden, such a find would obviously be disturbing.

Issue #3, the possibility that some machines had different amounts of memory left in their life cycle, is particularly troubling. The technology choice Diebold made -- memory storage consisting of flash memory, which is known to degrade over time -- carries with it a possibility that used machines will be near the end of their memory life cycle. If such machines were delivered to Emery County as "new," this would be like buying a "new" car with 100,000 miles already on it.

The only thing that was known about the cause of this problem was that there were different amounts of memory. The reason remained to be discovered. In the course of evaluating the reason for the low memory, we learned much more about the TSx.

IS THERE AN INFRA-RED PORT FOR REMOTE COMMUNICATIONS?

Hursti also examined the remote communications capabilities of this system. He found no infra-red (IrDA) ports.

"The whole thing here is that it's network aware even when RAS is not running. You're not dialing out and it's network aware. And it's actually configured to use an Ethernet board.. .It's all the time network aware...Perhaps all you need is this Ethernet cord and a wireless cord inserted and off you go."

Of course, the software would need to be installed for this kind of communications. Unfortunately, we could find no way for elections officials to find out whether inappropriate software is in the touch-screen.

"I haven't asked any 'pins' (Personal ID Number). It hasn't been hostile to me at all. It's a very friendly guy," Hursti reports.

Hursti made a number of observations about the touch-screen, and connected it to his laptop for further "conversation."

In the interest of brevity, we will return to this issue in a later article in this series.

A "SHOCKING" DISCOVERY

It's common for polling places to have too few outlets for a bank of voting machines. The normal cure is to set up hook the computers up in a daisy-chain configuration, with one plug to the wall, and the rest of the plugs linking voting machines together.

Diebold's output plug falls out readily, exposing live 110 volt wall outlet power on bare wires.

This happened on every TSx we tested, and presents a significant safety hazard for poll workers, especially the elderly. According to Hursti, the electrocution might only result in a burned hand, and probably wouldn't be fatal.

This is a design flaw worthy of a general recall for standard consumer and office electronics.

DIEBOLD: DOWN FOR THE COUNT?

While analyzing the memory storage problem, Hursti discovered a critical security hole in the foundation of the touch-screen. Then he found another in the "lobby," and another on the "first floor." Taken together, these present a potentially catastrophic security hole.

These are not programming errors, but architectural design decisions.

Black Box Voting is turning the "road map" of the most dangerous security findings over to the proper authorities. We won't let anybody sit on this for very long because elections are looming and elections officials need to know what to do now.

A concise and more formal report will be released in a few weeks, and this will discuss the procedures for preparing a recovery path for these security holes.

TWO THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED ALREADY:

1. Source code reviews alone are NOT sufficient. Access to fully functional systems MUST accompany source code reviews.

2. Honest election officials and citizens again take the lead in learning the truth about voting machines. We ask for maximum public support for Bruce Funk, who showed courage and commitment to responsible elections. The important and effective work of Utah voting integrity advocates Kathy Dopp (http://www.uscountvotes.org) and Jocelyn Strait should be applauded by fellow activists. They have played an important role to inspire this study in Utah, which may in turn assist with efforts in many other states.

---
Black Box Voting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501c(3) organization dedicated to investigating issues of election accuracy and fairness.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why did J. Kenneth Blackwell seek, then hide, his association with super-rich extremists and e-voting magnates?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
March 10, 2006

The man who stole the 2004 election for George W. Bush -- Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- has posted a picture of himself addressing the white supremacist ultra-right Council for National Policy (CNP). He then pulled the picture and tried to hide his participation in the meeting by removing mention of it from his website, kenblackwell.com.

First discovered by a netroots investigator (uaprogressiveaction.com), Blackwell's photo at the CNP meeting was found on Blackwell's website on Monday, March 6. Then it mysteriously disappeared.

Blackwell has ample reason to hide his ties to the CNP. When the Free Press investigated the CNP and its ties to the Republican Party, Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates told the paper that the CNP included "a former Ku Klux Klan leader and other segregationist policies." Berlet emphasizes that these "shocking" charges are easy to verify.

Berlet describes CNP members as not only traditional conservatives, but also nativists, xenophobes, white racial supremacists, homophobes, sexists, militarists, authoritarians, reactionaries and "in some cases outright neo-fascists."

Some well-known figures affiliated with the CNP include Rev. Jerry Falwell, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Pat Robertson. But its the lesser-known CNP mainstays that are more indicative of the organization's politics. They include:

Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.

John McGoff, an ardent supporter of the former apartheid South African regime.

R.J. Rushdoony, the theological leader of America's "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which advocates that Christian fundamentalists take "dominion" over America by abolishing democracy and instituting Old Testament Law. Rushdoony's Reconstructionalists believe that "homosexuals . . . adulterers , blasphemers, astrologers and others will be executed," along with disobedient children.

Reed Larson, head of anti-union National Right to Work Committee.

Don Wildmon, TV censorship activist and accused anti-Semite.

Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other principals from the Iran-Contra Scandal.Investigative reporter Russ Bellant, author of OLD NAZIS, THE NEW RIGHT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY;THE RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT IN MICHIGAN POLITICS; and THE COORS CONNECTION, told the Free Press that the "membership of the Council comprises the elite of the radical right in America."

Blackwell is not the only Ohio Republican with ties to white supremacists, according to Bellant. He found ties between Senator George Voinovich and members of fascist groups formerly from Eastern and Southern Europe living in the Cleveland area.

In 1997, the Free Press disclosed that then-Republican Speaker Pro Tempore of the Ohio House, William G. Batchelder, was listed as a member of the little-known and highly secretive cabal, the CNP. Bellant told the Free Press in 1997, "the CNP is attempting to create a concentration of power to rival and eventually eclipse traditional centers of power in the U.S." Batchelder's wife Alice sits on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and was recently considered for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The CNP was founded in 1981. Moral Majority Leader Tim LaHaye assumed the presidency with the backing of Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. In 1982, Tom Ellis succeeded LaHaye as CNP president. Ellis was a director of the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that finances efforts to prove that African-Americans are genetically inferior to whites. Recipients of past Pioneer Fund grants include eugenicist William Shockley, Arthur Jensen and Roger Pearson. Pearson is on record advocating that "inferior races" should be "exterminated."

Newsweek reported that the CNP's first executive director, Louisiana State Representative Woody Jenkins, told CNP members, "I believe that one day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party, or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government."

In 1999, GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush appeared before the secretive white supremacists at a gathering in San Antonio. Bush refused to make public his comments before the group. The CNP may have reached its intended goal of eclipsing all other power groups in U.S. politics when Bush took the presidency in 2000.

Jeremy Leaming and Rob Boston, writing for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, detail the sordid history of the CNP in their article "Who Is The Council For National Policy And What Are They Up To? And Why Don't They Want You To Know?"

Blackwell is Ohio's Secretary of State, and a Republican candidate for governor. He was a highly visible "on the ground" player in the Bush election theft in Florida 2000. On Election Day 2004, he met in Columbus with Bush and Karl Rove to solidify plans for winning the Buckeye State's 20 electoral votes, which turned the election to Bush. Blackwell's extremely controversial handling of the election and the vote count have the prompted widespread belief that it, too, was stolen. The results ran counter to the historically accurate exit polls, and Blackwell has stonewalled three successive court battles against public scrutiny of the results and has resisted a verified, accurate recount.

The idea of an African-American like Blackwell speaking to a racist cabal like the CNP may seem incongruous. But Blackwell has been courting extremist right wing support for a long time. Most importantly he has been embraced and supported by Rev. Rob Parsley of the powerful World Harvest Church. Parsley is a wealthy right-wing extremist with a powerful grassroots network throughout the state, and a major stake in Blackwell's taking to the governorship. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. With Blackwell's continued control of the voting apparatus, the CNP and Republican Party could well step into an era of unchallenged national domination.

Not surprisingly, Blackwell and a few CNP members share crucial ties to the election/vote counting industry.

The electronic voting machine industry is dominated by only a few corporations - Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Together, Diebold and ES&S count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic votes.

In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S's seminal corporation, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from relatives of the far-Right-wing CNP-linked Howard Ahmanson in 1984, who purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald. Ahmanson has also been a chief financier of Rushdoony's Christian Reconstruction movement.

Brothers William and Robert Ahmanson, cousins of Howard, infused Data Mark with new capital. The name was changed to American Information Systems (AIS). The Ahmanson brothers have claimed that they have no ties to their more well-known right-wing cousin.

But in 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that Howard and Roberta Ahmanson were important funders of the Discovery Institute, a fount of extremist right-wing publications, including much that pushes creationism in California schools. The Times said the Institute's " $1-million annual program has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral research."

According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the CNP. Heir to a savings and loan fortune, Ahmanson is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are more informative. They list Ahmanson alongside Richard Mellon Scaife, one of the most important of all right-wing money men. "Such figures as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President Clinton's sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster)," wrote The Independent last November.

The Sunday Mail described an individual as, ". . . a fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values.. . . By waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda."

Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement's philosophy advocates, among other things, "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards."

The Ahmanson brothers sold their shares in American Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.

The presence of Ahmanson relatives and Hunt's sister in e-voting software may be a coincidence. But it certainly raises questions as to why family members of anti-democratic forces are getting heavily involved in non-transparent election software. And why they are forging ties to the man in charge of counting votes in Ohio elections.

In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman, and in which he maintained a financial investment. In both his successful 1996 and 2002 campaigns, Hagel's ES&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel's first election victory was described as a "stunning upset" by one Nebraska newspaper.

Hagel's official biography states, "Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems." During the first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).

Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob later headed Diebold Election Systems, but resigned prior to the 2004 election. His brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold's original electronic voting machine software.
Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic votes cast in the United States.

That J. Kenneth Blackwell would now address an organization so thoroughly entwined with the extreme right wing and the electronic voting machine industry can hardly be seen as an accident. Blackwell's active presence in both Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 make him a critical player in the rise of the Bush regime. As governor of Ohio, he could solidify Republican control of presidential elections for decades to come.

Toward that end, the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature has passed a series of laws making it virtually impossible to monitor electronic voting in the state, or to challenge the outcome of a federal election here. The Free Press has also learned that county election board officials, in Blackwell's employ, have stripped nearly a half-million voters from the registration rolls in the key Democratic urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati.

None of this has been seriously challenged by Ohio or national Democrats. And with Blackwell in the governor's mansion, in control of the state's vote counting apparatus, the Democrats will have virtually no chance of ever retaking control of the Ohio legislature, Congressional delegation or, for that matter, the White House.

Small wonder the powerful right wing extremist Council on National Policy would overlook its racist history to embrace an African-American like J. Kenneth Blackwell. Small wonder, also, Blackwell might want to hide what will certainly be a powerful and profitable association for him in his rise to the Ohio governor's mansion … and beyond.

--Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Did 308,000 cancelled Ohio voter registrations put Bush back in the White House?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
February 28, 2006

While life goes on during the Bush2 nightmare, so does the research on what really happened here in 2004 to give George W. Bush a second term.

Pundits throughout the state and nation---many of them alleged Democrats---continue to tell those of us who question Bush's second coming that we should "get over it," that the election is old news.

But things get curiouser and curiouser.

In our 2005 compendium HOW THE GOP STOLE OHIO'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (www.freepress.org), we list more than a hundred different ways the Republican Party denied the democratic process in the Buckeye State. For a book of documents to be published September 11 by the New Press entitled WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, we are continuing to dig.

It turns out, we missed more than a few of the dirty tricks Karl Rove, Ken Blackwell and their GOP used to get themselves four more years. In an election won with death by a thousand cuts, some that are still hidden go very deep. Over the next few weeks we will list them as they are verified.

One of them has just surfaced to the staggering tune of 175,000 purged voters in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), the traditional stronghold of the Ohio Democratic Party. An additional 10,000 that registered to vote there for the 2004 election were lost due to "clerical error."

As we reported more than a year ago, some 133,000 voters were purged from the registration rolls in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Lucas County (Toledo) between 2000 and 2004. The 105,000 from Cincinnati and 28,000 from Toledo exceeded Bush's official alleged margin of victory---just under 119,000 votes out of some 5.6 million the Republican Secretary of State. J. Kenneth Blackwell, deemed worth counting.

Exit polls flashed worldwide on CNN at 12:20 am Wednesday morning, November 3, showed John Kerry winning Ohio by 4.2% of the popular vote, probably about 250,000 votes. We believe this is an accurate reflection of what really happened here.

But by morning Bush was being handed the presidency, claiming a 2.5% Buckeye victory, as certified by Blackwell. In conjunction with other exit polling, the lead switch from Kerry to Bush is a virtual statistical impossibility. Yet John Kerry conceded with more than 250,000 ballots still uncounted, though Bush at the time was allegedly ahead only by 138,000, a margin that later slipped to less than 119,000 in the official vote count.

At the time, very few people knew about those first 133,000 voters that had been eliminated from the registration rolls in Cincinnati and Toledo. County election boards purged the voting registration lists. Though all Ohio election boards are allegedly bi-partisan, in fact they are all controlled by the Republican Party. Each has four seats, filled by law with two Democrats and two Republicans.

But all tie votes are decided by the Secretary of State, in this case Blackwell, the extreme right-wing Republican now running for Governor. Blackwell served in 2004 not only as the man in charge of the state's vote count, but also a co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign. Many independent observers have deemed this to be a conflict of interest. On election day, Blackwell met personally with Bush, Karl Rove and Matt Damschroder, chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, formerly the chair of the county's Republican Party.

The Board of Elections in Toledo was chaired by Bernadette Noe, wife of Tom Noe, northwestern Ohio's "Mr. Republican." A close personal confidante of the Bush family, Noe raised more than $100,000 for the GOP presidential campaign in 2004. He is currently under indictment for three felony violations of federal election law, and 53 counts of fraud, theft and other felonies in the "disappearance" of more than $13 million in state funds. Noe was entrusted with investing those funds by Republican Gov. Robert Taft, who recently pled guilty to four misdemeanor charges, making him the only convicted criminal ever to serve as governor of Ohio.

The rationale given by Noe and by the Republican-controlled BOE in Lucas and Hamilton Counties was that the voters should be eliminated from the rolls because they had allegedly not voted in the previous two federal elections.

There is no law that requires such voters be eliminated. And there is no public verification that has been offered to confirm that these people had not, in fact, voted in those elections.

Nonetheless, tens of thousands of voters turned up in mostly Democratic wards in Cincinnati and Toledo, only to find they had been mysteriously removed from the voter rolls. In many cases, sworn testimony and affidavits given at hearings after the election confirmed that many of these citizens had in fact voted in the previous two federal elections and had not moved from where they were registered. In some cases, their stability at those addresses stretched back for decades.

The problem was partially confirmed by a doubling of provisional ballots cast during the 2004 election, as opposed to the number cast in 2000. Provisional ballots have been traditionally used in Ohio as a stopgap for people whose voting procedures are somehow compromised at the polls, but who are nonetheless valid registrants.

Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell made a range of unilateral pronouncements that threw the provisional balloting process into chaos. Among other things, he demanded voters casting provisional ballots provide their birth dates, a requirement that was often not mentioned by poll workers. Eyewitnesses testify that many provisional ballots were merely tossed in the trash at Ohio polling stations.

To this day, more than 16,000 provisional ballots (along with more than 90,000 machine-spoiled ballots) cast in Ohio remain uncounted. The Secretary of State refuses to explain why. A third attempt by the Green and Libertarian Parties to obtain a meaningful recount of the Ohio presidential vote has again been denied by the courts, though the parties are appealing.

Soon after the 2004 election, Damschroder announced that Franklin County would eliminate another 170,000 citizens from the voter rolls in Columbus. Furthermore, House Bill 3, recently passed by the GOP-dominated legislature, has imposed a series of restrictions that will make it much harder for citizens to restore themselves to the voter rolls, or to register in the first place.

All this, however, pales before a new revelation just released by the Board of Elections in Cuyahoga County, the heavily Democratic county surrounding Cleveland.

Robert J. Bennett, the Republican chair of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, and the Chair of the Ohio Republican Party, has confirmed that prior to the 2004 election, his BOE eliminated---with no public notice---a staggering 175,414 voters from the Cleveland-area registration rolls. He has not explained why the revelation of this massive registration purge has been kept secret for so long. Virtually no Ohio or national media has bothered to report on this story.

Many of the affected precincts in Cuyahoga County went 90% and more for John Kerry. The county overall went more than 60% for Kerry.

The eliminations have been given credence by repeated sworn testimony and affidavits from long-time Cleveland voters that they came to their usual polling stations only to be told that they were not registered. When they could get them, many were forced to cast provisional ballots which were highly likely to be pitched in the trash, or which remain uncounted.

Ohio election history would indicate that the elimination of 175,000 voters in heavily Democratic Cleveland must almost certainly spell doom for any state-wide Democratic campaign. These 175,000 pre-2004 election eliminations must now be added to the 105,000 from Cincinnati and the 28,000 from Toledo.

Therefore, to put it simply: at least 308,000 voters, most of them likely Democrats, were eliminated from the registration rolls prior to an election allegedly won by less than 119,000 votes, where more than 106,000 votes still remain uncounted, and where the GOP Secretary of State continues to successfully fight off a meaningful recount.

There are more than 80 other Ohio counties where additional pre-November, 2004 mass eliminations by GOP-controlled boards of elections may have occurred. Further "anomalies" in the Ohio 2004 vote count continue to surface.

In addition, it seems evident that the Democratic Party will now enter Ohio's 2006 gubernatorial and US Senate races, and its 2008 presidential contest, with close to a half-million voters having been eliminated from the registration rolls, the vast majority of them from traditional Democratic strongholds, and with serious legislative barriers having been erected against new voter registration drives.

Stay tuned.

--
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available via www.freepress.org. They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, coming in September from The New Press. Important research for this piece has been conducted by Dr. Richard Hayes Philips, Dr. Norm Robbins and Dr. Victoria Lovegren.