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Articles by John Gideon

   

John Gideon
John Gideon is the Executive Director of VotersUnite and Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA. He is a disabled Viet Nam Vet (Navy) and a retired federal employee. He has been learning about and working on the issues related to voting reform and voting integrity since early in 2003. He maintains the current news links on the VotersUnite! website and compiles the "Daily Voting News", a clipping service of voting news articles for activists, attorneys, elections officials, elected officials, and others who are interested in voting reform issues. He also chooses Top Five Voting News story each week for VoteTrustUSA's weekly newsletter Election Integrity News. His personal knowledge of current events on these issues has become a trusted resource for voting integrity activists across the country.


Voting System Recommended For Federal Certification By Unqualified Person PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 26, 2006
There is, for good reason, much concern and a lack of confidence in the process for federal qualification/certification of voting systems. Independent Test Authorities (ITA), who test the systems against federal standards, are not really 'independent' because they are paid to do testing by the vendors who also provide the test parameters. They look where they are told to look and go no further than that.

 

The next step in the process is review of the ITA test and the voting system by a panel of 'experts' called the Voting Systems Board Technical Committee. This committee is under the auspices of the National Association of State Elections Directors. One might think that this part of the process would be free-and-clear of any reason for concern. One would be wrong.

 

 

According to a presentation made by Sandy Steinbach, the chairperson of the NASED Voting Systems Board Technical Committee, the three members of her panel are all computer engineers and elections experts. This presentation was made during a conference of federal, state, and local election officials hosted by the California Secretary of State, November 28 and 29, 2005. Slide 10 in Steinbach's Power Point Presentation says:

 

NASED Voting Systems Board

Oversees the Qualification process

Works with the ITAs to assure compliance with the test

standards

Technical committee of 3 people who are both computer

engineers and election experts reviews all ITA reports


Those members are Paul Craft, Steve Freeman and Dr. Britain Williams, none of whom are computer engineers. Arguably, none are elections experts either. And, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) knows this and has said nothing about it. In fact EAC Commissioners Donetta Davidson and Paul DeGregorio and EAC Secretariat Brian Hancock sat on the same panel as Steinbach as she gave this presentation.

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Washington HAVA Complaint Against Certification Of Sequoia Edge I and II with Audio Box 5.0 PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 26, 2006
The following is an example of a HAVA complaint that has been filed with the Washington Secretary of State. Washington state laws mentioned in the complaint are different from other states laws. This is meant as an example only. While all states are required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to provide a complaint process the states may have differing rules on how to regulate the process. Section 402 of HAVA gives specific mandates on how the process must be handled by the state and voters. All complaints must be sworn to, signed, and notarized prior to sending to the state. The complainant also has the right to a hearing on the complaint if they so choose.

HAVA SECTION 301 COMPLAINT

I. PERSONAL INFORMATION

Name
Address etc.

II. COMPLAINT

A.     Summary of Complaint - I allege that the Sequoia AVC Edge I and Edge II voting system (N-1-07-22-22-001) as certified by the Secretary of State of Washington on April 10, 2006 fails to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), Section 301(a)(1)(B) and 301(a)(3). I ask that this system be decertified or conditionally certified so that it cannot be used as a voting system to meet the accessibility mandates of HAVA.

B.     This complaint is made pursuant to Section 402(a)(2) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), P.L. 1070252 and Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 434-263. Briefly, these sections say, " Any person who believes that there is a violation of any provision of Title III, including a violation which has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur, by any state or local election official may file a complaint with the secretary under this chapter." Also, pursuant to Section 402(a)(2) I request that a public hearing, on the record, be conducted on this matter.

C.     Legal Authority Governing Voting System Certification – The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandates in Section 301(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii) that each voting system used in an election for Federal office shall meet the following requirements: In general - the voting system (including any lever voting system, optical scanning voting system, or direct recording electronic system) shall—
            (i) permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted;
            (ii) provide the voter with the opportunity (in a private and independent manner) to change the ballot or correct any error before the ballot is cast and counted (including the opportunity to correct the error through the issuance of a replacement ballot if the voter was otherwise unable to change the ballot or correct any error)
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Key Component of Voting System Undergoes No Review PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 18, 2006

Detailed reference information about ballot programming

 

Every voting system includes a key component, called the ballot definition file (BDF), that is never subjected to an outside review. Given that BDFs determine the way votes are recorded and counted, the lack of independent oversight of these files is a major security vulnerability. If BDFs are incorrectly prepared, the wrong candidate could be elected. Furthermore, while BDFs may be primarily data, they also include logic and perhaps even other software that could change the outcome of an election.

 

BDFs are unique for each election and define all the races and candidates for each precinct. BDFs tell the voting machine software how to interpret a voter's touches on a screen or marks on an optical scan ballot (including absentee ballots), how to record those selections as votes, and how to combine them into the final tally.

Programming election data is a very complex process, especially in counties with hundreds of different ballot styles, and a single error can jeopardize the outcome of an election.

 

Some election districts lack the technical expertise to prepare BDFs, and instead depend on the vendor or outside programmers for the preparation. Others prepare the BDFs themselves. In both cases, however, BDFs undergo very little testing and no independent audit before being used to determine the results of an election. Little wonder that many serious election disruptions have been caused by ballot definition errors. Other BDF errors have probably gone unnoticed, and some may have affected election outcomes.

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Vote-Switching Software Provided by Vendors in Atleast 51 Elections So Far This Year… PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 16, 2006

The map at left shows recent ballot programming flaws across the country. (Click it for details). It is by no means indicative of all flaws. Just the ones we know about. So far.

These are just some of the places where there may be failures in Nov. 2006. How can companies that can't program a couple state's machines for a primary election do 20 to 40 states all at the same time?

Trainwreck ahead. Don't say we didn't warn you.


Too Much, Too Fast, More Than They Can Chew PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 09, 2006
Pottawattamie County, Iowa is a small, urban county in the southwest corner of the state, on the Nebraska border. I-29 nearly cuts the county in half. The county has only 60,536 registered voters who voted in 41 precincts in this year's primary election. They selected Election Systems and Software (ES&S) M-100 Precinct Optical Scan machines for their poll-site tabulators, and they use AutoMark machines as their accessible voting system at the polls. The county is a good example of a small county in the "Heartland" where people tend to know more about other people just because there are fewer people to know.

So it is really no surprise that County Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake knew there was a problem with the vote counting machine at the county, and the poll-site optical scan machines as well. She saw that a 19 year-old college student, Oscar Duran, was taking the lead on absentee ballots in the race to be the Republican candidate for County Recorder, and an incumbent with 23 years in office, John Sciortino, was falling behind. She noticed this when there were only 178 absentee ballots counted, and she watched as the divide between the two grew larger.

Once the totals were nearly complete, Drake had her workers do a hand count of the absentee ballots to see if there was a problem.  The count on the tallying machine made and programmed by ES&S read Duran = 99 and Sciortino = 79. The hand count, however, told a different story – Duran = 25 and Sciortino = 153. There was definitely a problem and Drake knew this problem was probably evident on all ballot positions.

At this point Drake stopped the machine count, called the Secretary of State's office, and talked to her county Board of Supervisors requesting permission to hand-count all of the county's ballots. The state and county gave Drake permission to do the hand-count and it was carried out on Wednesday.

While no statewide race results were changed by the new tallies at least one local race was changed. Machine results were indicating that Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Loren Knauss was trailing in a field of ten candidates in the race for the county board. The hand-count revealed that, in fact, Knauss was the top vote getter, by a wide margin, in a race for three candidates on the Republican ticket to face three Democrats in November.

Of course the county realized they had a problem somewhere and that it was probably with the ballot programming that was provided by their vendor, ES&S. The same ES&S that has failed in Texas, West Virginia, Indiana, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania in this year's primaries. Investigation found that, in fact, the ballot programming was the problem.
Read more...
Another Letter To The Election Assistance Commission PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
June 07, 2006

Dear Commissioners,


Here I am again asking that you do your jobs. When are you going to actually "assist" counties and states in their elections? Are you going to simply sit by and watch the election disasters in this year's elections and pretend that everything is fine? Counties are being told by their Secretary's of State to break state law in order to make up for the incompetence of their vendors. HAVA has forced jurisdictions to be dependent upon the voting machine vendors to administer their elections and the vendors are failing. What are you going to do about this democracy threatening situation? It's not enough to push all of your responsibility onto the states as was alluded to today in an appearance by Commissioner DeGregorio on CNBC. You have been given the responsibility to assist; do it.
 
The following article talks about a state, Arkansas, and a county, White County, that is screaming out for your help. But, they are no different than counties in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states that have already held their primaries and had failure after failure after failure. The article is in The Daily Citizen from Searcy, Arkansas and it clearly shows the frustration of county and state elections officials with their voting vendor, Election Systems and Software.

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NASED Certifies Voting Systems They Know Must Be Modified And No Longer Be Certified PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
May 26, 2006
This open letter was sent to the National Association of State Election directors and the Election Assistance Commission.

It has recently been made public that NASED has been certifying, and continues to certify, electronic voting systems, with the full knowledge that when those systems are used in an election, they will inevitably be running different software than the software NASED certified. Those who certify the systems admit that the ES&S software actually used in an election is unique to that election, and therefore has not been examined by any independent tester, and cannot have been certified either by NASED or by the state.

This information was obtained via Public Records Requests from the Secretary of State of California. The emails that reveal this information can be viewed here.

In an email to Bruce McDannold and Paul Craft dated December 29, 2005,  Steven V. Freeman paraphrases what he has heard from Paul Craft that "...every election gets a new copy [of the ES&S firmware] installed with slight differences in the actual executable code due to the active linking to the election definition tables."

In a response dated December 30, 2005, Paul Craft makes it clear that the problem exists, not just for ES&S optical scanners, but also for the DREs:

"[ES&S products] are annoying because, as with the DRE's, you cannot really directly and easily validate the firmware once it is loaded on the chip with an election definition."

This means that every jurisdiction using ES&S voting equipment is using unique, unexamined, uncertified software to record, count, and tabulate votes. The participants in the email thread are uncertain whether or not this is true for the other vendors' products.

Read more...
E-VOTING TRAIN WRECK 2006: The Wheels Begin to Come Off Diebold As ES&S Meltdown Continues PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
Contributed by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
May 15, 2006
Yes, the wheels are wobbling on the locomotives. The vendors --ES&S, Diebold, and the rest -- attempt to keep a stiff upper lip as they both fail to perform, yet continue collecting tax-payer dollars from the county election coffers. Meanwhile some elections officials have just turned a blind-eye to what is happening while they continue to make excuses for their vendors: The private corporate American Electronic Voting Machine behemoths that are being paid to take over America's Public Electoral system.

And the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) which was put in place by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), theoretically, to keep all of this from occurring? Well, all they do is raise their hands and shrug and tell anyone who asks that they don't do voting systems certification so they just don't know anything. The Sergeant Schultz Defense, perhaps…

And the corporate media? It took the announcement of a huge security chasm with the Diebold TS and TSx touch-screen machines for them to finally wake up and realize the voters in our country may like to hear a bit about what is happening with their elections. Of course, each media outlet spins it in their own way. The Wall Street Journal, reported on the Diebold issue with little or nothing from the computer scientists while overloading their article with plenty of misinformation from Diebold and their showcase state of Maryland. The New York Times did a good job of reporting both sides. The Rev. Moon's United Press International joined the WSJ in mis-reporting and giving their pro-corporate, pro-electronic bias spin. But, hey! The media has woken up a little. Let's hope they will now sit up and take notice and not go back into hibernation.

This next Tuesday we have three more states holding primary elections. Oregon, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are the next locomotives on the tracks. Pennsylvania is of special concern because of the number of ES&S and Diebold counties and the fact that this is the first election to be held on new electronic voting machines in almost every county.

Read more...
Diebold's Deliberate Security Vulnerability PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
Contributed by John Gideon, VoteTrustUSA and VotersUnite.org   
May 12, 2006
Experts Agree: 'It's the Most Serious Security Breach Ever Discovered in a Voting System"Three States Issue Mitigation Plans, Georgia Ignores The 'Black Hole'


As was expected the corporate media picked-up the latest in Diebold's sordid story -- which we reported first here last Friday -- with articles by Ian Hoffman yesterday and today and even the Associated Press stepped in as well.

Unfortunately the headline of Hoffman's article yesterday characterized the security hole as being a 'glitch'; which this certainly is not. It is also not a 'flaw' as it was characterized by today's Hoffman and AP articles. (Ed note: Hoffman has been very good at reporting on all of these related stories, so we don't wish to be overly critical of him, but rather point out the inaccurate characterization.)

This is a 'feature' that was knowingly installed by Diebold. It was not a mistake or something that was overlooked in the design of the software. It is not a 'bug', 'glitch', 'flaw', 'error in programming' or any other simplistic name. Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor and veteran voting-systems examiner for the state of Pennsylvania has said this:

"It's the most serious security breach that's ever been discovered in a voting system. On this one, the probability of success is extremely high because there's no residue.... Any kind of cursory inspection of the machine would not reveal it."
Johns Hopkins University computer science professor Avi Rubin, who published the first security analysis of Diebold voting software in 2003 had this to say:

"I think it's the most serious thing I've heard to date. Even describing why I think its serious is dangerous. This is something that's so easy to do that if the public were to hear about it, it would raise the risk of someone doing it. ... This is the worst-case scenario, almost."
Read more...
E-VOTE TRAIN WRECK 2006: Another Week, Another Wild – and Unfortunate – Ride… PDF  | Print |  Email
John Gideon
Contributed by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
May 07, 2006

Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?

 

This has been another week of "Train Wrecks" across the country. Three states had major primaries with mixed success and failure, a few states had local elections with failures, and some states are preparing for May primaries and they are meeting the "oncoming locomotive" as they can't get machines or software for the machines and are having to revert to paper ballots or lever machines.

 

 Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) is now facing investigations, lawsuits, or just plain pissed-off elections officials in West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, and other jurisdictions. And now we learn that Diebold has a huge security vulnerability that all voting systems experts who know the details are very concerned about.

 

 Next Tuesday, May 9, finds the train barreling down on primary elections in West Virginia and Nebraska. May 16 brings potentially hazardous primary election whistle-stops in Kentucky, Oregon and, the grand central station that is Pennsylvania.

 

 Let's take a look at some of the continuing derailments from the past week, about which prompted Brad Friedman of The BRAD BLOG to ask of D.C. politicians and, more notably, the National Mainstream Media: "Is anybody there? Does anybody care?"…

 

DIEBOLD 'REVEALS' MAJOR SECURITY PROBLEM

 According to an article in The Morning Call Diebold has found a 'glitch' that represents a 'potential security vulnerability'. After a bit of research it became evident that, in fact, Diebold had not found this problem and it is not a 'glitch' as they would have the voters believe. It's far worse than a mere 'glitch' as so many in the media (and at the voting machine companies) like to portray these things.

 

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