Voting machine investigation leads to serious issues and cover-up

Brad Friedman articulated the details last week  <read>

Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer

Battle for independent election investigation rages in rural Republican county, pitting renegade Election Board against County Commission, giant E-Vote firm ES&S…

What is wrong in this situation?

  • Illegal software found on vote accumulation machine
  • On several occasions the system was accessed remotely, unauthorized
  • Evidence of an illegal flash drive mounted on the system
  • The log shows out of sequence events
  • The Election Board that should be leading the charge to get to the bottom of the problem is fighting to cover-up the evidence and avoid investigation
  • The vendor, ES&S who should be offering to assist in the investigation is keeping the code secret and suing the investigators to stop, to keep the evidence hidden
  • There is no paper record of the votes such that investigators and citizens can determine if votes or elections were comprised

This is serious stuff. The words that come to mind are: Illegal, unacceptable, unconscionable, ridiculous, unconstitutional, and undemocratic.

Hats off to the citizens of Pennsylvania who fight for voting integrity, the researchers at Carnegie-Mellon, and the interim Election Board.

According to the Initial Report from a landmark independent forensic audit of the Venango County, PA, touch-screen voting system — the same system used in dozens of counties across the state and country — someone used a computer that was not a part of county’s election network to remotely access the central election tabulator computer, illegally, “on multiple occasions.” Despite the disturbing report, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG and posted in full below, we may never get to learn who did it or why, if Venango’s County Commissioners, a local judge, and the nation’s largest e-voting company have their way. And that’s not all we won’t get to find out about.

The battle for election integrity continues in Venango, with the County Commissioners teaming up with e-voting vendor Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) on one side, and the county’s renegade interim Republican-majority Board of Elections on the other. The Commissioners and ES&S have been working to spike the independent scientific forensic audit of the county’s failed electronic voting machines that was commissioned by the interim Board of Elections. Making matters worse, the Board has now been removed from power by a county judge, a decision they are attempting to appeal as the three-person board and their supporters continue to fight the entrenched establishment for transparency and accountability in the rural Western Pennsylvania county…

Omaha-based ES&S, which had issued no objections prior to the start of the study, but changed its mind quickly after it began (as we detailed in an Exclusive report in late October) has now hardened their position, sending threatening legal letters to both the county and the two computer scientists. The e-voting firm has warned them they are likely to face a lawsuit if they do not agree to complete confidentiality and if results of their analysis are released publicly without their prior review and approval…

There were real, not just theoretical, concerns motivating the investigation in the first place:

As the analysis finally began, Election Integrity advocate Marybeth Kuznik, founder of the non-partisan watchdog organization VotePA.us explained that the Board was calling for the investigation after the county had experienced “numerous reports of vote-flipping, candidates missing from screens, write-ins missing, and high undervote rates in their May 17 Primary.”

While reporting on the Venango Board’s efforts to get their analysis under way during one of our regular fill-in stints as guest host for the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show in late October, we received an unexpected call from Adams to offer more details on why his Board had sought the forensic audit.

“It started with an election in 2008 when the machines were basically showing a large number of undervotes,” he explained. “And then there were candidates for positions in the county and they had zero votes, but there was like 250 or 260 undervotes.”

“Wait a minute, there were people who had zero votes on the ballot? Is that normal?” we interrupted to ask.

“No. No, it is not normal,” he responded directly, describing the anomaly as “a red flag.” When pressed to explain why he believed the the County Commissioners and their legal representatives had been working so hard for months to keep the audit from happening, Adams told us bluntly: “They know there’s something wrong.”

This provides one more reason to scrap unverifiable election systems without a voter verifiable paper record in favor of more economical, auditable optical scan technology. But that is not enough!

  • Every state, every ballot should be subject to sufficient post-election audits. But that is not enough!
  • Strong security and chains of custody is needed for ballots.
  • And a total audit of voting systems and election systems should be required: e.g. Do pollbook counts match ballot counts? Are voters given a fair opportunity to vote? Are absentee ballots properly secured and submitted? Is there any evidence of machine tampering or irregularities?
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