Election Defense Alliance Blog


Mexico's Lesson In The Dangers Of The Paper Ballot
By Greg Palast / The Guardian / August 7, 2006

In the six years since I first began investigating the burglary ring we call "elections" in America, a new Voting Reform industry has grown up. That's good. What's worrisome is that most of the effort is focused on preventing the installation of computer voting machines. Paper ballots, we're told, will save our democracy.

Well, forget it. Over the weekend, Mexico's ruling party showed how you can rustle an election even with the entire population using the world's easiest paper ballot.

On Saturday, Mexico's electoral tribunal, known as the "TRIFE" (say "tree-fay") ordered a re-count of the ballots from the suspect July 2 vote for president. Well, not quite a recount as in "count all the ballots" -- but a review of just 9% of the nation's 130,000 precincts.

The "9% solution" was the TRIFE's ham-fisted attempt to chill out the several hundred thousand protesting supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who had gathered in the capital and blocked its main Avenue. Lopez Obrador, the Leftist challenger known by his initials AMLO, supposedly lost the presidential vote by just one half of one percent of the vote.

I say "supposedly" lost because, while George Bush congratulated his buddy Felipe Calderon on his victory, the evidence I saw on the ground in Mexico City fairly shrieks that the real winner was challenger AMLO.

President Bush should consider some inconvenient truths about the Mexican vote count:

First: The exit poll of 80,000 voters by the Instituto de Mercadotecnia y Opinion showed that AMLO bested Calderon by 35.1% to 34.0%.

Second: The precinct-by-precinct returns were quite otherworldly. I used to teach statistics and what I saw in Mexico would have stumped my brightest students.

Here's the conundrum: The nation's tens of thousands of polling stations report to the capital in random order after the polls close. Therefore, statistically, you'd expect the results to remain roughly unchanged as vote totals come in. As expected, AMLO was ahead of the right-wing candidate Calderon all night by an unchanging margin -- until after midnight. Suddenly, precincts began reporting wins for Calderon of five to one, the ten to one, then as polling nearly ended, of one-hundred to one.

Potholes on the Iowa Paper Trail

Jerry Depew, Laurens, IA / http://iowavoters.org / Aug. 6, 2006

Several Iowa counties once planned to use paper trails as part of their touchscreen voting equipment even though not required to do so by Iowa law. But in the June primary they did not use the printers. A map at the SoS website shows nine counties that announced plans to use a paper trail. Now a survey of auditors by Iowans for Voting Integrity reveals that only Black Hawk (Waterloo) and Story (Ames) counties actually used the printers. (Linn county did not respond to the inquiry.)

Monona, Audubon, Boone, and Henry counties purchased Diebold printers but never used them. Des Moines county never purchased printers in spite of the map’s indication that they did. Johnson (Iowa City) county was unable to purchase the printers it wanted because vendor E S & S never presented its printer to Iowa for certification.

Strong-arming the Vote: Partisan Federal Intervention

August 3, 2006

Strong-Arming the Vote
A New York Times editorial

Go to the original

President Bush’s Justice Department has been criticized for letting partisanship guide its work on voting and elections. And party politics certainly appears to have been a driving force in a legal maneuver it just pulled off in Alabama, where it persuaded a federal judge to take important election powers away from the Democratic secretary of state and give them to a Republican governor. The Justice Department says it is trying to enforce the election law, but that is unconvincing. There are plenty of ways to enforce the law without creating the impression that it is tilting the electoral landscape in favor of Republicans.

Will Your Vote Count in 2006?

By Steven Hill / Special to washingtonpost.com's Think Tank Town / August 1, 2006
Go to original.

Heading into the 2006 election, fair election advocates need to remain vigilant. Almost bizarrely, vigilance will be aided by the noncompetitive nature of our winner-take-all elections. In the contest over control of Congress, the battleground has become extremely shrunken with only 30-35 out of 435 U.S. House seats and perhaps six to eight races in the Senate up for grabs. That means efforts to monitor elections can occur over a smaller playing field, allowing targeted vigilance.

In the longer term, activists must turn their efforts to a more visionary agenda that will ensure fair and secure elections. That agenda must include: 1) elections run by nonpartisan and unbiased election officials; 2) professionalization and training of election officials and poll workers, and 3) a national elections commission that can partner with states and counties to create national, uniform standards for running elections. Looking even further, the U.S. should consider following the lead of other nations and create "public interest voting equipment," where government contracts with the sharpest minds in the private sector to develop open source software and voting equipment that is owned and managed by the government instead of by shadowy corporations.

[Ed note: if you want to start work right now on these solutions, both short and long term, please join the Election Defense Alliance and help restore US elections to the people]

Watching Mexico live through a controversial presidential election was like holding up a mirror to our own election difficulties in recent years. As we round the corner and head toward the upcoming November elections -- with control of the Congress up for grabs -- what can Americans expect? Will our votes count? There is both cause for worry, as well as signs that effective voting reform advocacy is paying off.

The root cause of our troubled elections is that, unbelievably, the U.S. provides less security, testing, and oversight of our nation's voting equipment and election administration than it does to slot machines and the gaming industry. Our elections are administered by a hodgepodge of over 3000 counties scattered across the country with minimal national standards or uniformity. Widely differing practices on the testing and certification of voting equipment, the handling of provisional and absentee ballots, protocols for recounts, and training of election officials and poll workers makes for a bewildering terrain.

All you need is a screwdriver: Worst Ever Security Flaw Found in Diebold TS Voting Machine

By Alan Dechert / Open Voting Foundation / July 31, 2006
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SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA -- “This may be the worst security flaw we have seen in touch screen voting machines,” says Open Voting Foundation president, Alan Dechert. Upon examining the inner workings of one of the most popular paperless touch screen voting machines used in public elections in the United States, it has been determined that with the flip of a single switch inside, the machine can behave in a completely different manner compared to the tested and certified version.

“Diebold has made the testing and certification process practically irrelevant,” according to Dechert. “If you have access to these machines and you want to rig an election, anything is possible with the Diebold TS -- and it could be done without leaving a trace. All you need is a screwdriver.” This model does not produce a voter verified paper trail so there is no way to check if the voter’s choices are accurately reflected in the tabulation.

Open Voting Foundation is releasing 22 high-resolution close up pictures of the system. (Click the image for a larger view) This picture, in particular, shows a “BOOT AREA CONFIGURATION” chart painted on the system board.

The most serious issue is the ability to choose between "EPROM" and "FLASH" boot configurations. Both of these memory sources are present. All of the switches in question (JP2, JP3, JP8, SW2 and SW4) are physically present on the board. It is clear that this system can ship with live boot profiles in two locations, and switching back and forth could change literally everything regarding how the machine works and counts votes. This could be done before or after the so-called "Logic And Accuracy Tests".

A third possible profile could be field-added in minutes and selected in the "external flash" memory location, the interface for which is present on the motherboard.

This is not a minor variation from the previously documented attack point on the newer Diebold TSx. To its credit, the TSx can only contain one boot profile at a time. Diebold has ensured that it is extremely difficult to confirm what code is in a TSx (or TS) at any one time but it is at least theoretically possible to do so. But in the TS, a completely legal and certified set of files can be instantly overridden and illegal uncertified code be made dominant in the system, and then this situation can be reversed leaving the legal code dominant again in a matter of minutes.

“These findings underscore the need for open testing and certification. There is no way such a security vulnerability should be allowed. These systems should be recalled”

OPEN VOTING FOUNDATION is a nonprofit non stock California corporation dedicated to demonstrating the need for and benefits of voting technology that can be publicly scrutinized.

Lipstick on a Pig: Holt Bill gives "get out of jail free" card for deplorable, unsafe DRE systems

by Michael Collins / www.ElectionFraudNews.com / July 28, 2006
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So here you have it. Local officials looking at optical scan, touch screen or paper ballots, all of which are commonly thought to be allowed under HAVA, can take a valuable "get out of jail free card" indemnifying them from law suits from either federal authorities or advocates for the handicapped if they simply order DREs. As attorney and clean election advocate Paul Lehto points out, this type of advantage is one that a local counsel would find irresistible. The extra cost for machines is a good investment in protection from lawsuits.

DRE's take votes, cause ballots to disappear, and provide no reliable means of determining what actually happens to votes. On the basis of this shaky foundation, the results of elections are aggregated and winners declared. H.R. 550 simply adds a cosmetic touch by giving us a variety of paper receipts which may or may not be the "ballots of record" (probably not) and that can certainly not be used to overturn an election unless counted in whole when questions arise. Were there a count of the entirety of receipts, there would be no need for the machines to produce them in the first place; we would have hand counted paper ballots.

The Diebold Bombshell

by David Dill, Doug Jones & Barbara Simons / Opednews.com / 7/23/06
Diebold spokesman David Bear admitted to the New York Times that the back door was inserted intentionally so that election officials would be able to update their systems easily. Bear justified Diebold's actions by saying, "For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software... I don't believe these evil elections people exist."

Most computer scientists have long viewed Diebold as the poster child for all that is wrong with touch screen voting machines. But we never imagined that Diebold would be as irresponsible and incompetent as they have turned out to be.

Recently, computer security expert Harri Hursti revealed serious security vulnerabilities in Diebold's software. According to Michael Shamos, a computer scientist and voting system examiner in Pennsylvania, "It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system."

Even more shockingly, we learned recently that Diebold and the State of Maryland had been aware of these vulnerabilities for at least two years. They were documented in analysis, commissioned by Maryland and conducted by RABA Technologies, published in January 2004. For over two years, Diebold has chosen not to fix the security holes, and Maryland has chosen not to alert other states or national officials about these problems.

Basically, Diebold included a "back door" in its software, allowing anyone to change or modify the software. There are no technical safeguards in place to ensure that only authorized people can make changes.

A malicious individual with access to a voting machine could rig the software without being detected. Worse yet, if the attacker rigged the machine used to compute the totals for some precinct, he or she could alter the results of that precinct. The only fix the RABA authors suggested was to warn people that manipulating an election is against the law.

Typically, modern voting machines are delivered several days before an election and stored in people's homes or in insecure polling stations. A wide variety of poll workers, shippers, technicians, and others who have access to these voting machines could rig the software. Such software alterations could be difficult to impossible to detect.

Elections and Jesse James

Verifiable Ballot Counts Would Stop Freefall of Public Confidence in Elections

When Jesse James robbed a bank, he didn’t get to be bank president or set future vault security policy. But when someone steals an election, they get to preside over the next election and change election security.
by Paul L. Lehto, Attorney / RealChangeNews.org / June 1, 2006
Go to original.

Jesse James was reportedly asked why he robbed banks and he replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” ** Some things are so blindingly obvious, it’s funny to be reminded. [** This apocryphal quote is also more often attributed to bank robber Willie Sutton -- Ed.]

Another obvious association would be elections and political power. Try asking your least favorite politician why he steals elections and, like Jesse James, he’ll say, “Because that’s where the power is.” Right?

Mark C. Miller, PhD. Responds to Michael Sherer's Salon Article on Voting Machine Hearings

MC Miller's response to Michael Scherer's Salon article (posted below):

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but this (HR 550's "paper trail" requirement) is not a good idea.

Why is our democracy at risk? Is it just because those DRE machines don't leave a paper trail? Or is it that the Bush Republicans detest democracy, since they cannot wield power without subverting the electoral system? The fact is that they're pushing an agenda that could never win majority support in the United States--from liberals or conservatives. They've therefore had no choice but to commit election fraud, repeatedly and on a mammoth scale, deploying every trick and tactic in the book, and then some.

Manually Not Counting: A Voter Describes In-Person Disenfranchisement, Busby Campaign Ignores Situation

Dear Ilene Proctor,

There were no electronic machines in our district, the heart of the Busby-Bilbray district. they were instead very fragile, tacky, old cardboard election boxes in which you dropped your traditional ballot. Inexplicably, the machine refused to accept my husband's completed ballot. I tried mine as well, but the same thing happened, though the woman before us had had no trouble. A poll watcher rushed over, adjusted the machine and said it was working again. We expected to slip our ballots into the box then, but the man stopped us, saying our votes had already rung up. I said I didn't care, my vote was not in the box yet and I was going to insert it. The man literally grabbed our ballots out of our hands and shoved them into another box, which he said was the one containing the absentee ballots. I protested but he claimed they would be counted along with the absentee votes.

Diebold TSx's Flipping Votes in Georgia Primary

From: U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney
Subject: 3:30 in the afternoon and machines still recording votes for wrong candidate
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 19:48:30 -0400

One persistent problem with the Diebold electronic voting machines is their tendency to cast votes against the intentions of the voter. The voting day in Cynthia McKinney's primary began with voters complaining that their votes for McKinney weren't being cast for her, but instead for her opponent.

Interesting, no complaints have been lodged that this is happening in reverse--that is, that the computers are registering McKinney votes intended for any one of her opponents.

Blowing the Whistle on Diebold: Papantonio-Kennedy Lawsuit Filed

Papantonio-Kennedy Lawsit Filed

Blowing the Whistle on Diebold

By John Ireland, In These Times Monday 17 July 2006 http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2750

On July 13, the Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a "qui tam" lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that Diebold and other electronic voting machine (EVM) companies fraudulently represented to state election boards and the federal government that their products were "unhackable."

Kennedy claims to have witnesses "centrally located, deep within the corporations," who will confirm that company officials withheld their knowledge of problems with accuracy, reliability and security of EVMs in order to procure government contracts. Since going into service, many of these machines have been linked to allegations of election fraud.


URGENT ACTION -- San Diego County, CA



**Come to the Board of Supervisors meeting**

Tuesday, July 18 at 9:00 am
County Administration Building
Board of Supervisors North Chamber
1600 Pacific Coast Hwy, Room 310, San Diego

9:00 A.M.
Activists will make a presentation. They need you there to show support.

10: 30 A.M.
Jess Durfee, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, will make a public statement for the media in front of the County Administration Building.

The Stolen Election of 2004

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Michael Parenti, The Columbus Free Press

Original can be found here

The 2004 presidential contest between Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry and the Republican incumbent, President Bush Jr., amounted to another stolen election. This has been well documented by such investigators as Rep. John Conyers, Mark Crispin Miller, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Bev Harris, and others. Here is an overview of what they have reported, along with observations of my own.

Some 105 million citizens voted in 2000, but in 2004 the turnout climbed to at least 122 million. Pre-election surveys indicated that among the record 16.8 million new voters Kerry was a heavy favorite, a fact that went largely unreported by the press. In addition, there were about two million progressives who had voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 who switched to Kerry in 2004.

Yet the official 2004 tallies showed Bush with 62 million votes, about 11.6 million more than he got in 2000. Meanwhile Kerry showed only eight million more votes than Gore received in 2000. To have achieved his remarkable 2004 tally, Bush would needed to have kept all his 50.4 million from 2000, plus a majority of the new voters, plus a large share of the very liberal Nader defectors.

Nothing in the campaign and in the opinion polls suggest such a mass crossover. The numbers simply do not add up. In key states like Ohio, the Democrats achieved immense success at registering new voters, outdoing the Republicans by as much as five to one. Moreover the Democratic party was unusually united around its candidate-or

SAVE R VOTE: The People Can Exercise Their Power

Go to original.
By Paul Jacobs / The Californian / July 8, 2006

SAVE R VOTE's Project Director Tom Courbat [Coordinator for Election Defense Alliance's Election Monitoring Group] was finance director for the county of Riverside from 1992 to 1994. The county won awards when it trusted Courbat with its finances and county officials should support and enact his recommendations to account for our privatized votes.

Fourth of July Fireworks: Unredacted Hursti reports, photos released

States and local jurisdictions did not take sufficient action to mitigate risks.
From blackboxvoting.org / July 4, 2006

Black Box Voting has provided the following to VoterAction.org for its litigation. This will become a public record via the litigation filed by Lowell Finley. Because public officials who have received the unredacted reports have failed to take this risk seriously and arrange for appropriate mitigations, and because Black Box Voting believes this information is of critical public interest for pending litigation and citizen actions, we are releasing it publicly now.

Here's an informal synopsis of the unmitigated risks in the Diebold TSx:
A huge risk to the integrity of elections is a contaminated bootloader. Here's why: If you own the bootloader, you own the machine. The source code for the TSx, along with the technical data package, have been publicly released since 2003. Estimates are that it would take approximately three months for a reasonably skilled programmer to design a working malicious bootloader. You cannot clean a maliciously designed bootloader with the mitigations performed so far by state officials (replacing programs via memory cards).

Here are some specific problems with the Diebold bootloader:
1) It appears not to have been examined by the Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs). Therefore, we don't even know whether the original bootloader contains malicious code.

2) There appears to be no authentication procedure when installing "clean versions" to ensure that the code is the same as that which was examined by the ITAs (and in this case, the ITAs didn't even examine it).

3) There is no forensic test that will reveal a malicious bootloader

4) Because of the design of the Diebold TSx machine, a malicious bootloader can be installed at any time from factory installation to the election itself. Once a bootloader is contaminated, it can control the machine permanently. A contaminated bootloader, especially in combination with other security issues in the TSx, has the potential to allow manipulation on an election-by-election basis, at any time during the election cycle and even years in advance of the election.

5) The Diebold TSx machine's motherboard contains a JTAG connection which can be used to take control of the motherboard. Although you cannot reliably clean a malicious bootloader by reinstalling it with a memory card, you can install a pristine version using the JTAG cable. However, there appears to be no pristine version of the bootloader, since it has never been examined by the ITAs.

6) Unfortunately, the JTAG connector can also be used to overwrite a so-called authentic and proper bootloader with a malicious one. Thus, even if a so-called pristine bootloader is installed via the JTAG connector, the same connector can be used to replace that one with a new one at any time.

7) In order to access the JTAG connection, you must pop open the case to the TSx tablet. Unfortunately, the case on the TSx is designed with no security. You can open it by unscrewing 8 standard phillips head screws, access the JTAG connector, replace the bootloader and control the machine for the rest of its life, despite L&A tests, reinstallations of "clean" copies via memory cards or network connections, etc.

8) TSx machines in California -- 10,000 machines in San Diego alone -- were sent home for "sleepovers" with poll workers in back in 2004, when they were used for the March primary election. Over 1,000 machines originally used in Solano County, Calif, are now being used in Johnson County, Kansas. The TSx machines are now being used throughout the states of Mississippi, Utah, in dozens of Ohio counties, and in many high-population California counties. A case can be made that the Diebold TSx machine will dictate control of the U.S. congress in November. The sleepovers broke chain of custody. The combination of unsecured cases with the ability to quickly alter the bootloader using the JTAG connector means these machines cannot be considered "trusted" until proper mitigations are done.

USA Today: Analysis Finds E-voting Machines Vulnerable

By Andrea Stone / USA Today / June 26, 2006

WASHINGTON — Most of the electronic voting machines widely adopted since the disputed 2000 presidential election "pose a real danger to the integrity of national, state and local elections," a report out Tuesday concludes.

There are more than 120 security threats to the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems, the study by the Brennan Center for Justice says. For what it calls the most comprehensive review of its kind, the New York City-based non-partisan think tank convened a task force of election officials, computer scientists and security experts to study e-voting vulnerabilities.

The study, which took more than a year to complete, examined optical scanners and touch-screen machines with and without paper trails. Together, the three systems account for 80% of the voting machines that will be used in this November's election.

While there have been no documented cases of these voting machines being hacked, Lawrence Norden, who chaired the task force and heads the Brennan Center's voting-technology assessment project, says there have been similar software attacks on computerized gambling slot machines.

"It is unrealistic to think this isn't something to worry about" in terms of future elections, he says.

The report comes during primary season amid growing concerns about potential errors and tampering. Lawsuits have been filed in at least six states to block the purchase or use of computerized machines.

Election officials in California and Pennsylvania recently issued urgent warnings to local polling supervisors about potential software problems in touch-screen voting machines after a test in Utah uncovered vulnerabilities in machines made by Diebold Election Systems.

North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold did not return calls for comment. The company, a major manufacturer of e-voting machines, said earlier this month that security flaws cited in its machines were theoretical and would be addressed this year. The new threat analysis does not address specific machines or companies. Instead, it "confirms the suspicions about electronic voting machines that people may have had from individual reports" of problems, Norden says.

Among the findings:

• Using corrupt software to switch votes from one candidate to another is the easiest way to attack all three systems. A would-be hacker would have to overcome many hurdles to do this, the report says, but none "is insurmountable."

• The most vulnerable voting machines use wireless components open to attack by "virtually any member of the public with some knowledge and a personal digital assistant." Only New York, Minnesota and California ban wireless components.

• Even electronic systems that use voter-verified paper records are subject to attack unless they are regularly audited.

• Most states have not implemented election procedures or countermeasures to detect software attacks.

"There are plenty of vulnerabilities that can and should be fixed before the November election," says David Jefferson, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer scientist who served on the task force. "Whether they will or not remains to be seen."

The report said state election officials could improve voting-machine security if they conduct routine audits comparing voter- verified paper trails to the electronic record and ban wireless components in voting machines.

"A voting system that is not auditable contains the seeds of destruction for a democracy," says Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., a chief sponsor of a bill to improve electronic-voting security.

California Democrats race to file election challenge

By Miriam Raftery / RAWSTORY / July 3, 2006
Go to original.

Southern California Democrats are racing to file a challenge to an election they say was compromised, after being given just one business day to do so, RAW STORY has learned. “This is not about Busby or Bilbray. This is about November and the entire election,” Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com told residents of San Diego County at an emergency town hall meeting in Oceanside, California on June 28th.

Bilbray was sworn into Congress following the special election in the 50th Congressional District, despite the fact that thousands of absentee ballots remained uncounted. According to the Registrar’s office, Bilbray nosed out Busby 49.57% to 45.02% in the final tally, which was certified late Thursday on the eve of the 4th of July weekend.

The holiday-eve certification poses a major hurdle for activists, as California law allows only five days to file for a recount or challenge.

At the Oceanside event, Friedman, who is the co-founder of Velvet Revolution, a voting reform movement, called for a hand-count of ballots and urged that San Diego Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas be held accountable for allegedly lax security procedures, including allowing poll workers to take home voting machines with programmable memory cards up to two weeks before the election. Under state law, violating the chain of custody for voting machines decertifies the machines.

Friedman noted that the national spotlight is focused on voting machine issues in the 50th Congressional District, the first House race of 2006. He added, “This our line in the sand.”

Dispatch from Mexico City: STEALING IT IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES

Gore v. Bush. Kerry v. Bush. Obrador v. Calderon.
By Matt Pascarella (Mexico City) / Greg Palast (London) / Monday, July, 3, 2006

As in Florida in 2000, as in Ohio in 2004, the exit polls show the voters voted for the progressive candidate, but the race is "officially" too close to call. But they will call it -- after they steal it. Reuters News agency reports that, as of 8pm Eastern time, as voting concluded in Mexico, exit polls show Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the "left-wing" Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) leading in exit polls over Felipe Calderon of the ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN).