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AN INSIDE STORY OF HOW 2 MILLION GEORGIA VOTERS HAVE BEEN DISENFRANCHISED

 

 

By Garland Favorito

November 3, 2004
NewsWithViews.com

Imagine living in a state where the Secretary of State was repeatedly on public record as opposing verifiable, auditable elections. Imagine also that no citizen in the state can verify whether or not his or her vote in an election was recorded correctly. Imagine still that no poll worker in the state can audit whether or not votes were summarized correctly at the precinct, city or state levels. Imagine further that the state has no capability for an election recount but only a reprint of election results. Finally, imagine that few, if any, state officials care enough about these problems to want to restore verifiable, auditable elections. If you can visualize all of this then welcome to Georgia, home of the most potentially corrupt voting systems and procedures in the nation.

The Free Congress Foundation recently identified Georgia as having the worst voting systems implementation in the nation by giving Georgia a report card grade of F- on a national average of C+. This was after Georgia became the first state in the union to implement new electronic voting machines statewide. So why did Georgia receive such a low score after adopting such modern technology? What is wrong with the new machines and procedures? Here is the incredible story:

ACQUISITION ISSUES

In 2000 and prior years, most Georgia voting was conducted on punch card and optical scan equipment that had inherent external audit trails and few problems. This equipment allowed voters to verify that the correct number for each candidate was selected for the ballot while also allowing poll workers to verify that the correct totals were produced for each number. Roughly 53% of Georgia voters used optical scanning equipment and about 83% of the voters had a system that produced some form of paper, which could be used in a recount.

In 2001, the Georgia Sec. of State’s office, under the direction of Cathy Cox, conducted an evaluation of electronic voting machines led by Professor Brittain Williams of Kennesaw State University. As soon as the public was informed, citizens including myself, raised concerns about the lack of security and external audit trails. The concerns were so numerous and vocal that a series of public seminars was cancelled after the first meeting. In addition, a July 2001 joint Cal. Tech / MIT study entitled “Voting: What IS, What Could Be” pointed out that direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines were the most error prone of any voting machine type except lever machines. DRE machines had error rates more than 60% higher than the optical scan equipment Georgia already had in place. Nevertheless, the Secretary Cox recommended implementing the machines statewide and Professor Williams was eventually retained to head certification and deployment.

In May of 2002, the State of Georgia agreed to purchase AccuVote-TS electronic voting machines from Diebold Election Systems through a secret, confidential contract that the Georgia Technology Authority claimed is exempt from the state’s Open Records Act in a response to an August 2003 Open Records Act request. After Professor Williams completed certification and deployment for the November 2002 election, the percentage of two million Georgia voters who can cast an auditable ballot that can be recounted was reduced from 83% to 0.

DESIGN ISSUES

Diebold, and specifically their AccuVote TS series voting machines, have been the subject of intense nationwide criticism by thousands of technologists who contend that they are insecure. Several of the most prestigious educational institutions in America, including Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins have produced detailed studies defining specific fallacies of current paperless voting systems particularly those from Diebold. Professor Avil Rubin of Johns Hopkins testified before the Federal Elections Assistance Commission on May 5, 2004 that: “With respect to the Diebold AccuVote TS and TSx, we found gross design and programming errors”.

In Maryland, Governor Ehrlich ordered the Science Application International Corp. (SAIC) on August 7, 2003, to produce an independent assessment of the security concerns noted by the Hopkins Report. SAIC found 26 critical security weaknesses out of a total of 328 for the Diebold AccuVote-TS electronic voting system. They concluded that the Maryland elections were at “high risk of compromise”. The Maryland General Assembly ordered RABA Technologies on November 3, 2003, to produce an independent assessment of the security concerns noted by the Hopkins Report and the SAIC report. They found “considerable security risks” that could cause “moderate to severe disruption in an election.” They determined that “a pervasive code rewrite would be necessary” but questioned whether Diebold had the technical expertise to accomplish this task. They stated that: “the introduction of voter-verifiable paper receipts is absolutely necessary in some limited form”.

In Ohio, Compuware was ordered to conduct a study of voting machines including those from Diebold and three other vendors. The study found that Diebold machines had the largest number of high security risks. It specifically noted that all supervisor cards have the same personal identification number (PIN) nationwide. Therefore, any unauthorized person who knows the PIN that is used as a password can perform supervisor functions on any machine with a supervisor card. The study also found that an unauthorized person with access to the basic database server could change election results. This has long been known and even demonstrated by concerned voting activists who downloaded the Diebold software from their unsecured web site.

In Georgia, even the director of the Internet Security Systems’ XForce organization, which consulted with the Georgia Technology Authority, stated publicly in an April 14, 2004 Information Security Conference at Emory University that the Diebold election system used in Georgia cannot be secured in time for the 2004 election.

CERTIFICATION ISSUES

Diebold, their AccuVote TS series voting machines and accompanying software, have also been the recipient of punitive action by several state governments and their citizens. The California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel unanimously recommended (8-0) that the Secretary of State decertify Diebold AccuVote-TSx electronic voting machines for reasons such as they were “not federally qualified” and there was “improper installation of uncertified hardware, software and firmware”. The California Secretary of State permanently banned the AccuVote-TSx and decertified all electronic voting machines for use in California, including all those manufactured by Diebold, until 23 security measures recommended by a RABA technologies report for the Maryland General Assembly are met. The Secretary of State eventually turned over evidence to the Attorney General of California for potential civil and criminal charges against Diebold.

In Ohio on July 16, 2004, Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, halted deployment of Diebold electronic voting machines that were originally planned for the 2004 primaries and general election. Blackwell required that the security risks identified in the Compuware study be corrected before the Diebold machines can be implemented in Ohio, which has a voter verifiable paper audit trail requirement. The study was originally ordered after a flurry of citizens expressed concerned about an invitation written by Walden O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, for a 2003 Ohio Republican Party fund-raiser at his home. O’Dell stated in the invitation that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

In Nevada, the Secretary of State requested a voting machine security assessment by the State Gaming Commission Electronic Services Division chief who concluded on November 26, 2003 that: “I believe the Diebold electronic voting machine, operating on the software analyzed in the John Hopkins report and the SAIC Risk Assessment Report, represents a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process”. On December 10, 2003, the Nevada Secretary of State mandated a voter verifiable receipt for existing and newly purchased electronic voting machines although he failed to fully protect voters with a mandate that the receipts be used to establish the actual precinct vote count.

In Maryland, a citizens organization, TrueVoteMD, filed suit through the law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, against the state of Maryland for “improperly certifying the Diebold AccuVote-TS electronic voting machines used in Maryland and then failing to either correct or decertify the machines – as required by state and federal law – once it became clear that the machines could neither preserve the security and reliability of the November 2004 election nor create a voter verified paper audit trail”.

OPERATIONAL ISSUES

The Diebold voting machine implementation in Georgia has characteristics and improprieties nearly identical to those that that led to banning and decertification in California, halted deployment in Ohio, rejection in Nevada and a lawsuit by citizens in Maryland. These include:

Unsecure Software – Documentation received from the Secretary of State's office in response to an Open Records Act request shows that the software used in California on the banned Diebold AccuVote-TSx machines is the exact same software also used in Georgia (AVTS-R6, Diebold Version 4.3.14, Jan. 15, 2003). This software in its various versions is the root cause of the numerous design errors and security risks cited in the previously mentioned studies.

Illegal Software Patches – A sworn deposition by Rob Behler, a Diebold contractor, and other corroborating evidence shows that multiple illegal software patches were installed several times on different occasions after the Diebold machines were supposedly certified for the 2002 election. In March 2003, Diebold machines were patched a week before the mayor’s race to support write-in candidates even though they still failed to distinguish the number of votes for each write in candidate according to Tony Caldwell, vice chairman of the board of elections. In February 2004, Diebold patched Walker County machines for the March 2004 primary, according to Barbara Berry, Board of Elections and Registration Chief Clerk. In all cases, these machines were never recertified after being patched.

Improper Certification - No documentation has ever been produced to prove that Diebold AccuVote machines were certified for the 2002 election. Upon request, Clifford Tatum, Assistant Director of Legal Affairs at the Election Commission stated: "we have determined that no records exist in the Secretary of State's office regarding a certification letter from the lab certifying the version of software used on Election Day." Even if the machines were physically certified, that certification could not have occurred after software patches were applied to the machines.

Inappropriate Vendor Conduct – Diebold employees, who have not taken any sworn oath to uphold Georgia election law, have been granted abnormal access to election results during the actual election. The Diebold contract with Georgia provides for Diebold to electronically connect to county servers and perform real time monitoring of results during an election. In 2004, a Dekalb County elections observer noticed Diebold employees handling voting machines that still contained memory cards with completed absentee ballots in them. On election night of the March 2004 primary, a Diebold employee repeatedly transmitted inaccurate Walker County results while working on a modem problem. The Diebold technician commandeered the office of Barbara Berry, while a representative from the Secretary of State’s office was present.

Stolen Equipment – On June 10, 2002, six Diebold servers with Gem software and other equipment were stolen from a Bibb county Ramada Inn. The Gem software installed on county servers in Georgia does not have controls to prevent the stolen servers from being used to observe, intercept or distort election results. Other than a local police report, B0219464, the State of Georgia has made no specific attempt to recover these machines. Voting machines were still delivered unsecured for the March 2004 primary as illustrated in pictures from Georgia Tech.

Negligent Ballot Control –In Fulton County, 67 memory cards containing just over 3,100 ballots were misplaced for over a week after the 2002 election and not included in the election night count. In DeKalb County, 10 memory cards were misplaced and later recovered from terminals that were removed from service. In many other instances, voting machines have failed and been swapped out without any controls being placed on the ballots that are contained by either machine involved in the swap. But worst of all, no procedures are in place to ensure that the memory card issued for any voting machine is the same memory card that supplied the count for that machine. The voting machine memory cards that contain the ballots have serial numbers that can be used for auditing and control purposes but these serial numbers are totally ignored in Georgia.

Uncounted Votes – The Diebold AccuVote TS software used in Georgia has no way to distinguish the votes of separate write in candidates. In the March 2003, Macon mayor race, ballot images had to be printed and manually counted to determine the results of the race where two write-in candidates garnered over 30% of the total vote.

Unlawful Secrecy – Although Title 21 Chapter 2-Subchapter 2-406, 408 of the state elections code require state election workers to conduct the business of elections in public, Dekalb County elections supervisor, Linda Lattimore, refused to admit an election observer during the July 10, 2004 primary.

LEGALITY ISSUES

The state of Georgia is obligated to enforce "fair, legal, and orderly conduct of primaries and elections" according to Title 21, Chapter 2 and Subchapter 31 of the Georgia code. Chapter 183-1-12-.02 (5) (a) 5 requires that the poll manager produce documents “showing the total votes cast for the precinct” and that results “shall be posted on the door of the polling place for the information of the public”. Chapter 590-8-1-.01 (g) (v) states that: “The source code shall be supplied in the form of a listing and in a machine-readable form on media that is acceptable to the Georgia Certification Agency”. These are just two of the basic audit capability provisions required by State Election Board laws that are not being followed by the Georgia Secretary of State.

The Help America Vote Act, Public Law 107-252, that was used to federally reimburse funds spent by Georgia for electronic voting machines requires that: “the voting system shall produce a permanent paper record with manual audit capacity”. Secretary of State Cox, a Democrat, has adamantly fought against implementing this federal law in Georgia. This act that was passed by a Republican led Congress and signed by President Bush on October 29, 2002. It allowed states to upgrade voting equipment with up to 3 billion dollars of federal funds that never actually existed due to 300 billion dollar annual budget deficits.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), confirmed its previous decisions on vote counting by stating: "It has been repeatedly recognized that all qualified voters have a constitutionally protected right to vote . . . and to have their votes counted". In United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383, the Supreme Court stated that it is "as equally unquestionable that the right to have one's vote counted is as open to protection . . . as the right to put a ballot in a box". The Secretary of State has repeatedly refused to protect the right of Georgia citizens to ensure that their vote is counted properly as required by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

COUNTING ISSUES

Verification procedures provided by external audit trails are critical because electronic voting machines can be accidentally or intentionally programmed to record and count the vote differently than what was intended by the voter. Here are some examples of things that could happen:

  • The ballot screen can be interpreted incorrectly when a ballot is recorded;
  • Ballot recording can be programmatically distorted during a certain date range;
  • Ballot recording can be programmatically distorted after a certain number of ballots are processed;
  • Ballot recording can be programmatically distorted after an abnormal combination of votes on a ballot;
  • Ballot recording or accumulations can be distorted after receiving a signal or false results via a modem.
  • Counts can accumulated incorrectly from the voting machines to the precinct totals;
  • Counts can be accumulated incorrectly from the precincts to the county totals;
  • Counts can be accumulated incorrectly from the counties to the statewide totals;

In case you have difficulty believing that electronic voting machines would be intentionally programmed to distort vote counts, consider these cases. Ransom Shoup, owner of one of the first Direct Recording Electronic voting machines called the “Shouptronic”, was convicted of voter fraud twice in Philadelphia. The founders of IMark, forerunner of Diebold, Global Election Systems and ES&S were convicted of Vancouver Canada stock market manipulation dubbed the “Vancouver maneuver”. Global employee, Jeffrey Dean, was convicted in 1990 on 23 counts of embezzlement totaling $385,000. Dean was released from prison in 1995 and now works for Diebold.

VERIFICATION ISSUES

To help ensure verifiable elections and protect the voters right to have his or her vote counted, these basic principles must be enforced: Each voter must be able to verify each vote case at the time of their vote against the permanent record that is used to establish the actual vote count for each candidate in that precinct; Election workers of each precinct must verify immediately upon the poll closing that each vote cast for each ballot was counted correctly in the totals produced by each machine at the precinct; The election officer of each precinct must verify immediately upon the poll closing that the vote counts for each machine were accumulated correctly into the final precinct total; The election officer of each precinct must verify that the precinct totals for each candidate were incorporated correctly into the county totals; An election officer of each county must verify that the county totals for each candidate were incorporated correctly into the final state totals; Certification must be based exclusively on the full count of the paper ballots. Any electronic results must always be stated as unofficial results until they are confirmed by the paper count. The full certification period should be used as needed to ensure the integrity of each election.

Even the simplest of the external audit procedures are not followed in Georgia to protect voters. For example, an observer of a July 10, 2004 primary noticed that precinct reports are typically dumped into a bin and ignored while unverified precinct results transferred by modem are used to establish county totals. An example of why this is a problem occurred in the 2002 election when the state reported that Republican Sonny Perdue and Democrat Roy Barnes each received 1357 votes in Dooly County. Dooly has a majority black, historically Democrat, population that voted 1862 to 733 for Barnes over a Republican opponent in 1998. It should be clear to an observer that the 2002 totals are very unlikely to be correct, however, they are the “official” state results.

THE POLITICAL BLOCKADE

To help ensure verified elections, members of the Voter Choice Coalition, a group representing every political party in Georgia proposed a solution. Their computer experts, having over 100 combined years of professional computer experience, unanimously agreed that existing Diebold software can simply be redeployed to the voting machines so that Ballot Summary Screen results can be printed in view of the voter. The voter can then verify that the summary confirms the voter intent and the ballot can be used as an audit trail. These changes could easily and inexpensively be made in accordance with all existing Georgia law while the existing hardware and software remain in place. The coalition members explained the situation in an April 2004 conference call with Trey Childress, the Policy Director for Governor Sonny Perdue and sent documentation for a planned May meeting. But Childress cancelled the May meeting and has since repeatedly stated that he has no time to meet about this issue.

Childress may not be motivated to restore verifiable elections in Georgia since his boss, Gov. Sonny Perdue, was a primary beneficiary of the 2002 election results. Perdue, the Republican challenger who was outspent 7-1 by incumbent governor Roy Barnes and considered a major underdog on the day of the election, upset Barnes at the same time Congressman Saxby Chambliss upset incumbent Max Cleland for the U.S. Senate seat. The results were so surprising that Fox News talk show host, Sean Hannity, called it “The Earthquake in Georgia”.

In 2004, Republican State Senate leader, Tom Price, authored SB500, a bill that would provide a paper audit trail, however, like U.S. House Bill H.R. 2239, sponsored by Rush Holt D-NJ, and U.S. Senate Bill S.1980 sponsored by Bob Graham D-FL, it had no provision to ensure that the paper record is used to establish the actual precinct count. I proposed a simple two-sentence procedural change to the bill that would ensure every election in Georgia could be verified and audited on the day of the election. Price reviewed the changes, told me that he liked them and said he would include them in the bill but never did. Even still, Senate Democrats crippled the bill with an amendment to delay implementation indefinitely and House Democrats voted in a solid block to defeat it thinking that they had to protect their fellow Democrat, State Secretary Cathy Cox.

Cox has consistently and adamantly opposed efforts to restore verifiable or auditable elections in Georgia. Some examples include opposing Georgia Senate Bill SB500 in 2004, failing to respond to 15 items of a March 4, 2003 Open Records Act request and stating to Senate committees in 2004 that there were no federally certified electronic voting machines which produced a voter verified paper ballot. Her claim was contradicted after machines certified through the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) were subsequently demonstrated to a Senate SLOGO committee by Avante Inc. and TrueVote Inc, whose founder, Athan Gibbs, was killed in a Nashville automobile accident approximately one week after the demonstration.

THE INEVITABLE CONCLUSION

The political blockade against auditable voting in Georgia was not simply an effort to cover up a mistake after the electronic voting machines were implemented. As soon as the voting machine evaluation began, civic discussion was suppressed and almost anyone who publicly raised a concern about the need to retain auditable elections was attacked in some way. One example was when I wrote an editorial about how the vendor machine types chosen for evaluation had no external audit trails to verify ballots or counts. I spoke with and Emailed Professor Williams about the problem and mentioned that other available machines had the appropriate controls. Professor Williams could have included the other vendors in the evaluation, established a requirement for auditable voting or otherwise made sure that any machine type selected had appropriate audit trails. Instead, he wrote a memo containing several lies about me to another evaluation team member and the memo was published in a statewide electronic newsletter.

Thus the intent from the beginning was not to improve a Georgia voting process that was already sufficient, but to eliminate existing audit procedures so that the outcome of elections can be controlled. That is best illustrated by summarizing the facts in this report: Key Georgia officials entered into a secret contract to acquire voting machines known to have faulty software, improperly certified those machines, established vulnerable control procedures, ignored federal and state election laws, opposed legislation that attempted to alleviate the problem and attacked citizens making honest attempts to restore auditable elections. All of this cannot just be a series of accidents resulting from mass incompetence. It was a clear, concerted effort to remove auditable voting in the state of Georgia so that election results can be manipulated. Improperly implemented electronic voting machines are a gateway to controlled election results and Georgia has become a national test bed for disenfranchisement.

The Democrat Secretary of State instigated the scheme, federal Republicans helped fund it with money they did not have, the Republican governor ignored the problem, state Democrats blocked proposed solutions while both state Republicans and federal Democrats offered deficient alternatives that do not really solve the problem.

Next month another election will be held, the citizens will cast electronic ballots and a winner will be announced. But Georgia citizens will never really know for sure who won because that is the way Georgia Democrats and Republicans want it. You would expect that the voting tactics implemented for Georgia in America would more likely to have occurred in Georgia of the former Soviet Republic, where dictator Joseph Stalin was born. Stalin, who is considered by many historians to be the greatest mass murderer in history, has been quoted as follows: “Those who cast the votes control nothing. Those who count the votes control everything”. This is the real reason Georgia Democrats and Republicans do not want to restore auditable voting and why they worked so hard to eliminate it.

© 2004 - Garland Favorito - All Rights Reserved

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Garland Favorito is an independent computer consultant who became concerned about government corruption after viewing and verifying the accuracy of videos about the murders of Vince Foster, Kevin Ives and Don Henry. When he realized that a cover-up of these and other serious crimes were linked to Clinton administrations, he planned and helped organize America's first National Impeachment Town Hall. After the Republican leadership protected Bill Clinton from facing the more serious charges that initiated the impeachment movement, Garland decided to find out why. His remarkable findings are published in his book, Our Nation Betrayed, available from Epic Books at 888 808-5440.

 


 

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The Free Congress Foundation recently identified Georgia as having the worst voting systems implementation in the nation by giving Georgia a report card grade of F- on a national average of C+.