Who Really Won?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Diebold Pulls Out of North Carolina

Diebold Election Systems told the State Board of Elections it would be impossible to meet a Thursday deadline to account for all software used by the company for machines certified to be sold in all 100 counties.

The decision means that only one vendor currently is cleared to sell equipment, raising more questions about whether counties will have enough time to buy machines that meet the state's technical and security standards.

"We've said that we can't comply with the black letter of the law," said Chuck Owen, a Diebold attorney in Texas who alerted the board of its decision late Wednesday. "And we don't believe any vendor can comply with the black letter of the law."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Diebold Problem Seems Familiar

That hack test that easily changed votes in the Diebold system? Reminds someone of what happened back in 2000....

But when Ion Sancho, Leon County's Supervisor of Elections, tested the Diebold system and allowed experts to manipulate the card electronically, he could change the outcome of a mock election without leaving any kind of trail. In other words, someone could fix an election and no one would know.

"The expert that we used simply programmed it on his laptop in his hotel room," Sancho said.

Sancho began investigating the problem after watching the votes come in during the infamous 2000 presidential election. In Volusia County precinct 216, a memory card added more than 200 votes to George W. Bush's total and subtracted 16,000 votes from Al Gore. The mistake was later corrected during a hand count.

After watching his computer expert change vote totals this week, Sancho said that he now believes someone on the inside did the same think in Volusia County in 2000.

"Someone with access to the vote center in Volusia County put it on a memory card and uploaded it into the main system," Sancho said.

Sancho has been raising red flags about the system for months after other hackers were able to change votes during earlier tests. But Sancho said he's gotten nowhere with the company or with the Florida secretary of state's office, which oversees elections.

"This raises serious questions as to the state of Florida's certification program," Sancho said.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


A political operative with hacking skills could alter the results of any election on Diebold-made voting machines -- and possibly other new voting systems in Florida -- according to the state capital's election supervisor, who said Diebold software has failed repeated tests.

Ion Sancho, Leon County's election chief, said tests by two computer experts, completed this week, showed that an insider could surreptitiously change vote results and the number of ballots cast on Diebold's optical-scan machines.

After receiving county commission approval Tuesday, Sancho scrapped Diebold's system for one made by Elections Systems and Software, the same provider used by Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The difference between the systems: Sancho's machines use a fill-in-the-blank paper ballot that allows for after-the-fact manual recounts, while Broward and Miami-Dade use ATM-like touchscreens that leave no paper trail.

''That's kind of scary. If there's no paper trail, you have to rely solely on electronic results. And now we know that they can be manipulated under the right conditions, without a person even leaving a fingerprint,'' said Sancho, who once headed the state's elections supervisors association.

The Leon County test results are likely to further fuel suspicions that the new electronic voting systems in Florida, in place since the 2002 elections, are susceptible to manipulation.

Nothing to worry about, please move on....

Monday, December 12, 2005

Revisiting Redistricting

The Supreme Court today agreed to consider arguments by Democrats and minorities against a controversial Republican redistricting plan, spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay, that redrew congressional boundaries in Texas and helped the GOP gain House seats in last year's elections.

The high court consolidated four separate appeals in the matter, noted "probable jurisdiction" and allotted two hours for oral arguments in the case. The arguments are likely to be heard in April, and a decision could be rendered by the end of June.

In agreeing to hear arguments in the case, the Supreme Court will review a ruling by a three-judge panel that allowed the 2003 redrawing of the Texas congressional districts. The panel rejected challenges to the constitutionality of the new boundaries by plaintiffs who contended they illegally diminished minority voting rights and constituted unlawful partisan gerrymandering.

The redistricting was approved by the Justice Department over the objections of the department's own staff lawyers, The Washington Post reported earlier this month.

According to a previously undisclosed memo, six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section found that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act by illegally diluting black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts, but senior Justice Department officials overruled them and approved the plan. The lawyers' memo also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

Delay (R-Tex.), then the House majority leader, was a primary instigator of the redistricting. In October 2003, he was admonished by the bipartisan House ethics committee for his role in muscling the new boundaries through the Texas legislature. The committee expressed concern that DeLay had pressured the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and other federal agencies in 2003 to help locate Democratic legislators who had fled Texas in an effort to head off the redistricting by denying the state's legislature a quorum.

DeLay was indicted this fall on conspiracy and money laundering charges in connection with corporate campaign contributions that were allegedly directed to GOP candidates for the Texas legislature in 2002 in violation of state law. The funds were intended to help the Republicans win control of the legislature, which would then be able to redraw the state's congressional districts with the aim of increasing the party's majority in the U.S. House.

The indictment forced DeLay to give up his post as majority leader. The Texas lawmaker denounced the charges as a partisan vendetta and vowed to regain his leadership post once he was exonerated.

But a Texas judge dealt those hopes a setback last week by refusing DeLay's motion to dismiss all the charges. The judge threw out a conspiracy count but let stand a more serious charge of money laundering.

Before the redistricting, Texas's 32 House seats were evenly split at 16-16 between Republicans and Democrats. As a result of the new boundaries, Republicans picked up five seats in the November 2004 elections.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Civil Rights vs Politics, Guess Who Wins?

The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said.

Disclosure of the change comes amid growing public criticism of Justice Department decisions to approve Republican-engineered plans in Texas and Georgia that were found to hurt minority voters by career staff attorneys who analyzed the plans. Political appointees overruled staff findings in both cases.

The policy was implemented in the Georgia case, said a Justice employee who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retaliation. A staff memo urged rejecting the state's plan to require photo identification at the polls because it would harm black voters.

But under the new policy, the recommendation was stripped out of that document and was not forwarded to higher officials in the Civil Rights Division, several sources familiar with the incident said.

The policy helps explain why the Justice Department has portrayed an Aug. 25 staff memo obtained by The Washington Post as an "early draft," even though it was dated one day before the department gave "preclearance," or approval, to the Georgia plan. The state's plan has since been halted on constitutional grounds by a federal judge who likened it to a Jim Crow-era poll tax.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dieb-Throat Again

A whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the company’s electronic voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.

The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation “Dieb-Throat” in an interview with voting rights advocate Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com), was once a staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential to produce more accurate results than punch cards.

But the company insider became disillusioned after witnessing repeated efforts by Diebold to evade meeting legal requirements or implementing appropriate security measures, putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of voters.

“I’ve absolutely had it with the dishonesty,” the insider told RAW STORY. Blasting Wally O’Dell, the current president of Diebold, the whistleblower went on to explain behind-the-scenes tactics of the company and its officers.

“There’s a lot of pressure in the corporation to make the numbers: `We don’t tell you how to do it, but do it.’ [O’Dell is] probably the number one culprit putting pressure on people,” the source said.

Diebold spokesman David Bear rebuts the charges. “Diebold has a sterling reputation in the industry," Bear said. "It’s a 144-year-old company and is considered one of the best companies in the industry."

Previous revelations from the whistleblower have included evidence that Diebold’s upper management and top government officials knew of backdoor software in Diebold’s central tabulator before the 2004 election, but ignored urgent warnings—such as a Homeland Security alert posted on the Internet.

“This is a very dangerous precedent that needs to be stopped—that’s the corporate takeover of elections,” the source warned. “The majority of election directors don’t understand the gravity of what they’re dealing with. The bottom line is who is going to tamper with an election? A lot of people could, but they assume that no one will.”

Concerns about Georgia, Ohio elections

The insider harbors suspicions that Diebold may be involved in tampering with elections through its army of employees and independent contractors. The 2002 gubernatorial election in Georgia raised serious red flags, the source said.

“Shortly before the election, ten days to two weeks, we were told that the date in the machine was malfunctioning,” the source recalled. “So we were told 'Apply this patch in a big rush.’” Later, the Diebold insider learned that the patches were never certified by the state of Georgia, as required by law.

“Also, the clock inside the system was not fixed,” said the insider. “It’s legendary how strange the outcome was; they ended up having the first Republican governor in who knows when and also strange outcomes in other races. I can say that the counties I worked in were heavily Democratic and elected a Republican.”

In Georgia’s 2002 Senate race, for example, nearly 60 percent of the state’s electorate by county switched party allegiances between the primaries and the general election.

Read it all at Raw Story.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Votes For Sale

Thomas Esposito's campaign for the Legislature seemed to be following the usual pattern. The longtime Democratic mayor issued press releases, raised money and bought newspaper ads. Signs bearing his name popped up in yards around rural Logan County.

But less than a month before the May 2004 primary election, Esposito dropped out, saying he had to withdraw because of his ailing mother-in-law.

The real reason surfaced only later: The FBI had planted Esposito among the field of candidates to help find evidence of vote-buying in southern West Virginia.

Federal prosecutors say the gambit worked.

They allege Esposito gave $2,000 in government-supplied money to a resident who had offered to bribe voters on his behalf.

They also credit the undercover sting operation for last year's guilty pleas by the sheriff of Logan County and the police chief in the coal-mining city of Logan, who both admitted to election violations.

The chief judge of West Virginia's southern federal court district condoned the tactic Thursday in an election fraud case against Perry French Harvey Jr., the man who allegedly accepted the $2,000.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Texas Re-Districting Illegal

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

"The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect," the memo concluded.

The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options.

But the Texas legislature proceeded with the new map anyway because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state, the memo said. The redistricting was approved in 2003, and Texas Republicans gained five seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections, solidifying GOP control of Congress.

J. Gerald "Gerry" Hebert, one of the lawyers representing Texas Democrats who are challenging the redistricting in court, said of the Justice Department's action: "We always felt that the process . . . wouldn't be corrupt, but it was. . . . The staff didn't see this as a close call or a mixed bag or anything like that. This should have been a very clear-cut case."

Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

"In this kind of situation, where everybody agrees at least on the staff level . . . that is a very, very strong case," Posner said. "The fact that everybody agreed that there were reductions in minority voting strength, and that they were significant, raises a lot of questions as to why it was" approved, he said.

The Texas memo also provides new insight into the highly politicized environment surrounding that state's redistricting fight, which prompted Democratic state lawmakers to flee the state in hopes of derailing the plan. DeLay and his allies participated intensively as they pushed to redraw Texas's congressional boundaries and strengthen GOP control of the U.S. House.

DeLay, the former House majority leader, is fighting state felony counts of money laundering and conspiracy -- crimes he is charged with committing by unlawfully injecting corporate money into state elections. His campaign efforts were made in preparation for the new congressional map that was the focus of the Justice Department memo.