Hot Damn! Design
snowdog <at> juno.ocn.ne.jp
email: "Make vote printouts too costly for MD"
Scandals deepen for e-vote manufacturer
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, December
12th — An internal memo
has just surfaced suggesting e-vote manufacturer Diebold planned to overcharge
the state of Maryland and make voter printouts
An employee named "Ken"
wrote the Jan. 3 letter suggesting the company charge Maryland "out the yin" if
legislators insisted on printouts.
Referring to a University of Maryland study critical of the company's
machines, he added: "[The State of Maryland] already bought the system. At this
point they are just closing the barn door. Let's just hope that as a company we
are smart enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and
legislate voter receipts."
He goes on to say "...any
after-sale changes should be prohibitively
Delegate Karen S.
Montgomery dropped the bombshell on Thursday amid negotiations with Diebold over
its touchscreen voting machines.
Montgomery, who has written
a bill mandating voter-verifiable ballots, described pressure to drop the issue,
saying "scurrilous remarks" were being levelled against proponents of the
measure. She said she believes the cost is being driven up to prevent anyone
from insisting on verifiable printouts.
Steven T. Dennis of
Gazette.net broke the story yesterday; he said spokesman David Bear deflected
criticism by claiming the comments were "the internal discussion of one
individual and [do] not reflect the sentiments or the position of the
Diebold, whose primary
business has until recently been ATMs and ticket-vending machines (all of which
produce paper printouts), made headlines last week when it dropped
copyright-infringement suits against Swarthmore students who had published
thousands of its internal memos on the Internet.
Prominent among the leaked
memos is a missive to Global Election Systems (now Diebold) -- baldly stating
that 16 thousand Gore votes were "disappeared" during the 2000 election. Author
Lana Hires frantically asks how she should explain the problem to an
<I need some answers! Our department is being audited
by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to
why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 [votes] when it was uploaded. Will
someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor
instead of standing here "looking dumb."
Additional memos are
equally candid and suggestive:
<For a demonstration I suggest you fake it. Program
them both so they look the same, and then just do the upload fro [sic] the AV.
That is what we did in the last AT/AV demo.
<Right now you can open GEMS' .mdb file with
MS-Access, and alter its contents. That includes the audit log. This isn't
<Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard
to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so
miss [sic] managed.
County, KS will be doing
Central Count for their mail in ballots. They will also be processing these
ballots in advance of the closing of polls on election day. They would like to
log into the Audit Log an entry for Previewing any Election Total Reports. They
need this, to prove to the media, as well as, any candidates & lawyers, that
they did not view or print any Election Results before the Polls closed.
However, if there is a way that we can disable the reporting functionality, that
would be even better.
Initially brought to light
by activist Bev Harris, these and other alarming disclosures have added weight
to the arguments of computer security experts and legislators nationwide, who
say that Diebold's machines (as well as those of rivals ES&S and Sequoia)
pose a grave risk to America's elections.
Harris received over 7,000
of the Diebold memos from an undisclosed source in early September. For the past
three years, she has been arguing for greater security and accountability in
electronic voting, last year weathering a similar unsuccesful gag lawsuit from
e-vote firm ES&S.
A month after Harris
recieved the memos she went public with them; Diebold immediately launched a gag
lawsuit, and Harris's ISP shut down her activist site. A group of Swarthmore
students and other activists responded by spreading the memos across the
When Diebold threatened to
sue under the auspices of the DMCA, litigators from the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and the ACLU stepped in to defend activists. Presidential candidate
Dennis Kucinich added significant support by hosting the memos on his own
website. Last week, Diebold withdrew its lawsuits.
With a new ISP, Harris has
resumed her activism, and her book "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the
21st Century," can currently be downloaded for free from the site
Meanwhile, on Capital Hill,
Congressman Rush Holt has also raised the issue of security, sponsoring the "Voter Confidence and Increased
Accountability Act of 2003" (H.R. 2239), which calls for paper ballots, surprise
recounts and auditable software in voting machines.
But while Holt's bill adds
a significant level of transparency to the process, Harris says it doesn't go
far enough. In a recent Buzzflash interview, she
"The problem area, and it is a whopper, is that this bill
doesn't attack the crux of the issue, which is proper auditing -- and that is
something that is needed for any computerized system, including optical scan
The very first thing we need to do is get solid input
from auditors who are experienced in fraud
While we are designing amendments to the bill, we also
must get some people with a solid grasp of history, because we need a voting
system that is in keeping with the vision of our founding fathers -- and this is
a public policy issue, not a computer issue. The most important thing that we
keep forgetting is that the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, felt that it
was critical -- not "important," but CRITICAL to democracy, to keep the vote
directly in the hands of the people themselves. Any solution which requires us
to trust a handful of experts will, sooner or later, result in the demise of our
That means we need to retain (and enforce) policies to
tally the votes at the polls, in front of observers. In some countries, they let
as many regular citizens as can fit in the room in to watch the physical
counting. It is this neighborhood tallying, and the open and public nature of
it, that is the embodiment of democracy."
In July, Harris
demonstrated just how insecure a Diebold machine could be, showing in a
step-by-step expose how to reverse a federal election. New
Zealand's Scoop Media posted the illustrated
Author Faun Otter and
others have also raised the issue of impartiality on the part of Diebold's
board, which has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican
campaigns. National headlines were made when CEO Michael O'Dell, who recently
hosted a $600,000 fundraiser for Vice President Dick Cheney, announced in a
Republican fundraising letter that he was "committed to delivering Ohio's votes to the
But controversy doesn't end
with Diebold alone. Rival voting machine company ES&S also came under
scrutiny when it surfaced that it was run by Chuck Hagel until two weeks before
his own election. Senator Hagel won by the biggest landslide in Nebraskan
history; a victory the press characterized as a "stunning upset". His company,
ES&S, counted 83% of the votes.
Hagel left out details of
his ES&S involvement in his SEC filings, and, when the discrepancy surfaced,
two days after a closed-door meeting with Hagel SEC legal counsel Victor Baird
resigned and the matter was dropped.
And Hagel, who prior to his
stewardship of ES&S was head of the Private Sector Council for George H.W.
Bush, has bigger plans: Harris says the domain name "Bush-Hagel2004.com" was
purchased last year but subsequently released and the Senator has already bought
the rights to "hagel2008.com" and "ChuckHagel2008.com".
Meanwhile Hagel campaign
manager Michael McCarthy owns over 30% of ES&S's parent company, and even
the Senator hasn't fully divested himself of ownership -- he still has a $5
million stake in ES&S parent company the McCarthy Group.
Harris says there are firms
offering comparatively secure systems -- competitors Avante, Accupol and Vogue,
for example -- but some activists say any machine offers an opportunity for vote
tampering. They're calling for a return to simple ballots, though such a
solution is unlikely -- Bush's Help America Vote Act mandates a nationwide
migration to electronic voting by 2006.
Secretary of state Kevin
Shelley's recent declaration that all California voting machines must provide
printouts may prompt the rest of the country to follow the west’s lead. But it
may end up being a matter of too little, too late, as Diebold, ES&S and
Sequioa systems are already in place in 37 states.
Harris, for one, is calling
for a legal injunction to halt the use of any insecure systems prior to the 2004
primaries. If her instincts are right, a fierce battle may loom on the horizon
-- a battle for the very heart and soul of America's
Officials to phone, fax and
email about secure voting:
State Attorneys General
(party affiliations listed):
Members, Natl. Assoc. of
Officials and Clerks:
Penelope Bonsall, national
director of the Office of Election Administration
Office of Election
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
vss <at> fec.gov
(202) 219-8500 (fax)
Online e-petitions EFF and
Contact: Eric A. Smith, Hot Damn!