City of New Orleans, LA & 36 Other State's Elections Fixed?
City of New Orleans, LA & 36 Other State's Elections Fixed?
By Ed Ward, MD
Take this link for embedded working links within the article:
July 17, 2006
Expert Swears He Wrote an Election Fix for Florida.
During an interview with Maryland's US Senate candidate, Kevin Zeese, cofounder of VoteTrustUSA and leader of TrueVoteMD, the subject of the sad state of Maryland's election process was broached. That interview and the suppositions presented in Common Cause's report of 17 states (LA & MD included in the 17 states) being at high risk for compromised election results formed the beginning basis for this article.
The Common Cause article proved to be lacking specifics for LA and inaccurate, as will be discussed with the Brennan Study. Still, Common Cause is heartily praised in it's efforts to inform regarding the denial of the people's will. One should not condemn, nor even slightly diminish any organization merely because it is not able to do everything. Whether organization or individual, doing what one can for freedom, rights and liberty is a highly commendable task and sorrowfully lacking as a predominate occurrence.
While the specifics of the 36 (pdf pg.19) other DRE (direct recording electronic) states are beyond the scope of this article, comments regarding MD from Zeese, with his years of previous election reform experience, are included. He states: "What has been interesting for me about working on election reform issues is to see voters across the political spectrum showing they care about it. It is a cross partisan issue for voters -- they want democracy to work. Sadly, on the leadership level it is inconsistent. For three years we've worked for transparent elections in Maryland with an organization we started, TrueVoteMD.org, and we have been blocked consistently by Democrat Party leaders. This year by the President of the Senate, Mike Miller, along with the Chair of the key committee, Paula Hollinger." Zeese's statement regarding politicians in office is not isolated to MD. The points made are occurring nationally and in at least 36 other DRE states. If they were not also present in 36 other DRE states, MD would be the only state without verified, accurate, transparent and audited elections.
Email sent to the LA Elections Division, June 22, 2006
After a brief introduction, I requested information on the recently purchased voting machines exact make and model, if these were the machines used in the recent election, and the process of verification of accurate checks and balances to assure voting count accuracy.
Elections Division response from Angie Laplace: The voting system used in New Orleans has been in use for the past 14 years. It is a full faced AVC Advantage DRE machine made by Sequoia. Our employees are responsible for doing a pre-election test on each machine with a readable printout prior to every election to test for the accuracy of the machine, which ensures its accountability. If you would like, you can either schedule an appointment to view the machines and see how they operate and are tested or you can view the testing prior to the next election.
My response and follow-up questions:  denotes insertions/interpretations at the time of writing this article.
Ed: Thank you for your response and efforts to keep voting reliable. Your offer to observe testing of the machines was appreciated. However, I do not feel that is necessary. [In the spectrum of verified accuracy, a waste of time since none of these procedures are done during the time of voting. Some of the present election frauds take place unseen inside the machine and are undetectable except during the voting process. See Curtis oath below.]
Question: Is it possible to receive the outline/procedures done, the timing (on site, pre site, hours prior to polls opening) for this testing?
Elections Division Response: The pre-election testing of each machine is done in the warehouse in the parish prior to the election, depending upon the printing schedule of the ballots. [More follows dealing with watching testing, what is involved in the testing and is NA. Interpretation: Everything is pre-voting site which is a problem, especially if Brennan procedures are not performed.]
Question: Have there ever been any "tamper tests" performed?
Elections Division Response: The AVC Advantages are not connected to the internet. They are stand alone election machines in that they electronically store the results on a machine cartridge that is sealed in the machine after the pre-election test and if the seal is broken, then that is evidence of machine tampering discoverable by the election commissioners on election day prior to the opening of the polls. [Interpretation: No, although not an important point if Brennan procedures are performed. The question was only asked to see the depth of the Elections Division's concern, as some states perform a tamper test for reliability.]
Question: Which version of software is being used with these machines?
Elections Division Response: WinEDS 5.0 is being used until final implementation of the new voting system statewide and then WinEDS 9.0 will be used.
Question: Is there any file verification software incorporated in the system?
Elections Division Response: In addition to physical security, there are numerous redundant integrity checks throughout the complete system (WinEDS, Edge, Advantage). [Interpretation: No. This is a problem if Brennan procedures are not performed.]
Question: There is paper audit that shows individuals their votes are cast reliably. What paper, or any audited verification is there that total votes are accurate?
Elections Division Response: The AVC Advantage audit trail provides an unalterable, randomized electronic record (ballot image) of all votes cast during an election. The voting unit retains a ballot image record for each voter that is securely stored in the system and cartridge memory. The randomizing function in the voting unit uses a mathematical pseudo-random number generator that is further randomized by the value of the AVC Advantage internal real time clock at the time of the random number request. The ballot images are retained in case of a recount as required by Election Law. These ballot images may be printed either from the voting unit itself or from the cartridge through WinEDS and hand tallied. (Emphasis added. Editor)
[This is a very strong statement - 'unalterable', 'all votes' - and seems to go against previous information. The Brennan study completely debunks this information. Was the statement made to stall the article? Was the statement made because that is what the Elections Division had been told by Sequoia? It does not matter for this article's purpose. The Elections Division is currently aware this statement is false via the Brennan study.]
Question: It is my understanding that these machines use a removable cartridge and are not "networked" thereby alleviating offsite "hacking". Is that a correct statement?
Elections Division Response: Yes, see above answers. [See 'tamper test' which did not get answered. See Curtis testimony regarding transmissions to a central computer.]
Question: After testing, what security measures are in place to stop access by unauthorized persons to the machines? (Locked building? Security guard? Active alarm?)
Elections Division Response: The machines are locked after the polls are closed, as well as the polling place. Additionally, the machine cartridges are immediately transmitted to the local election official, the clerk of court for tallying and are retained in the clerk's locked office. [The question asks 'after testing' not 'after voting'. The full answer to security after testing is yet to be answered.]
Question: What is the failure/malfunction rate for these machines? What process is used in those events to insure accurate votes in failed or malfunctioning machines are counted? What steps are taken to make a machine available for the dysfunctional machines? Are and how are these replacement (if any) machines tested and secured?
Elections Division Response: The AVC Advantage complies with the error rate standards, which is less than 1, in 10,000,000. The AVC Edge also complies with the error rate standards for early voting. [The question asks the malfunction/failure rate not the error rate of a functioning machine. Note to self - Never ask more than one question per number even if they are follow-up questions.]
The Brennan study press release (pdf) became available and noted on July 7, 2006. The study states that top scientists from government and the private sector are unanimous in the assessment that software attacks pose a real danger to voting security. Their summary follows:
The Task Force surveyed hundreds of election officials around the country; categorized over 120 security threats; and evaluated countermeasures for repelling attacks. The study examined each of the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems: electronic machines ("DREs") with - and without - a voter verified paper trail, and precinct-counted optical scan systems ("PCOS"). The report, The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World, is the first-ever systematic analysis of security vulnerabilities in each of these systems. The report's findings include:
All of the most commonly purchased electronic voting systems have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities. All three systems are equally vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software or other software attack programs designed to take over a voting machine.
Automatic audits, done randomly and transparently, are necessary if paper records are to enhance security. The report called into question basic assumptions of many election officials by finding that the systems in 14 states using voter-verified paper records but doing so without requiring automatic audits are of "questionable security value."
Wireless components on voting machines are particularly vulnerable to attack. The report finds that machines with wireless components could be attacked by "virtually any member of the public with some knowledge of software and a simple device with wireless capabilities, such as a PDA."
The vast majority of states have not implemented election procedures or countermeasures to detect a software attack even though the most troubling vulnerabilities of each system can be substantially remedied.
Among the countermeasures advocated by the Task Force are routine audits comparing voter verified paper trails to the electronic record; and bans on wireless components in voting machines. Currently only New York and Minnesota ban wireless components on all machines; California bans wireless components only on DRE machines. The Task Force also advocated the use of "parallel testing": random, Election Day testing of machines under real world conditions. Parallel testing holds its greatest value for detecting software attacks in jurisdictions with paperless electronic machines, since, with those systems, meaningful audits are not an option.
Finally armed with verified specific facts. This email was sent to the LA Elections Division on July 7, 2006:
The Brennan Center has recently released a report on electronic voting machines. http://www.brennancenter.org/presscenter/releases_2006/pressrelease_2006...
Question: Automatic random audits. Are those performed presently? Is there implementation toward that outcome here in LA? [Not answered and no they are not being done.]
Question: Do these machines have wireless/infrared components?
Elections Division Response: No. [+ 614 other words. See transcript of this exchange here.]
Question: Are software verification/checks going to be implemented? [Not answered and no there is no verification software to keep files from being overwritten and then being rewritten as is the standard for software election fixes. See Curtis testimony.]
There are several security issues related in this report. Will/has the Elections Division noted these problems mentioned by the security experts and are there any issues in this report that the Elections Division is addressing or going to address? [No.]
The response, entitled 'Reply to your questions on security' came back 4 days later without the accompanying questions and was carbon copied to: Sherri Hadskey, Chrissie Weatherford, Renee Free, and Al Ater. The 615 word essay was a masterpiece of art, if art can be described as avoiding all but one of the questions with superfluous information regarding DRE machines that was proven unsatisfactory security even before the Brennan Study. The response told me what the Brennan Study was really focusing on and what was really important to remember regarding election security.
The following email was sent to Mr. Lawrence Norden, Associate Counsel of the Democracy Program and contact for the Brennan Center for Justice.
I have been in contact with the LA Elections Division regarding your article. They state they are different and are secure, despite not having verified, automatic, random, paper auditing. They further state LA was not considered in the Brennan study. Personally, I find it hogwash. Your insights would be appreciated.
Norden-Brennan Response: I've seen nothing that indicates Louisiana is exempt from the security risks we detail in our report. Our report covered all current electronic voting systems, except central count optical scans (which are often used to count absentee ballots). While such systems are likely vulnerable to many of the attacks we detailed in the report, they were not part of our study, because they are rarely used during polling place voting. To the extent Louisiana uses such machines (and many, if not all parishes, do), our report addresses their systems.
A recent event analogy may put the situation in perspective. You want a cheap levee (election security) on your property to protect yourself against rising water (fraud). You find a contractor (LA officials) and workers (Elections Division) that can build it for the price. The contractor points out that he will use recycled material to build the levee. It will look and work like a regular levee, and due to the height you may not be able to see past it. You agree, it is built, sections tested and it works fine. They finish and come for payment. Indeed, the levee is as all they have stated except for a 10 foot gap where your driveway is located. The contractor says they can't build the levee over your driveway for your access and when the time comes you must fill the gap. Do you buy it? Is it really a levee at all? Or, is it just a useless pile of garbage obstructing your view until a flood gate (random verified auditing) is installed in the gapping hole?
There is no doubt that past and present controls on DRE electronic voting machines are (1.) inadequate, (2.) faulty and (3.) ripe for fraud. Has fraud been performed? Watch computer programmer Clinton Curtis testify under oath that in October of 2000 he wrote a prototype election fixing program for then speaker of the house of Florida and present FL congressman Tom Feeney that was virtually undetectable and even worked on optical scan machines. Clint Curtis is presently running for Florida's 24th district Congressional seat.
What motive could there be for not insuring the primary source of our democratic republic is completely secure? Why would any politician, elected official or candidate, not want, desire and strive for a true election process? Subverting this democratic republic and the will of the people seems to be the only viable answer.
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Ed Ward, MD
Independent writer/Media Liaison for The Price of Liberty
Editor of The Daily DrEd