Hacking Harry Reid (or Sharron's Angle)
Tuesday 26 October 2010
by: Brad Friedman, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis
(Photo: Nathan Gibbs / Flickr)
Sharron Angle should start filing the lawsuits right now. Then again, so should Harry Reid. However, it might be a bit more difficult politically for the Senate majority leader, given the undeserved support Reid has shown in the past for Nevada's 100 percent unverifiable, error-prone, hackable, illegally-certified, electronic voting systems the state forces all voters to use at the polling place.
Given that the Angle/Reid contest in Nevada is likely to be among the closest - and most closely-watched - races for the US Senate this November 2, both parties would be wise to get to court and file for an order to ensure all of the hard drives, flash memory chips and memory cartridges to be used in their electronic voting machines during both early voting and on Election Day are securely retained for 22 months after the election.
The federal law requiring as much, Retention of Voting Documentation (42 USC. 1974 through 1974e), has, however, never been followed in any state to my knowledge, at least in regard to the sensitive memory cards and hard drives from electronic voting systems. Those devices hold both ballot programming and the way the computers have recorded - accurately or not - the way voters have voted. They might also hold the only evidence of any system malfunction or malfeasance. Nonetheless, officials routinely scrub those materials not long after the polls have closed. Key evidence - perhaps the only actual evidence - of how voters had hoped to vote and of any obstruction to that intent, is thereby lost forever.
The voting machine still used across the Silver State - the horrible, hackable, failure-prone Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen voting machines with VeriVote "paper trail" printer add-on - has a storied history. There is also a recent history of very close elections in Nevada. Consequently, both candidates would be wise to bring on experienced Election Integrity experts to advise them in what can and will go wrong with those voting systems this year.
Unfortunately, while Reid seems to have long been in denial about the unverifiability and outright failure of the systems used in his state, Angle has likely been duped into buying into her own party's propaganda about "voter fraud," when the real problem is election fraud ... or just plain failure. Particularly in Nevada ...
Democrats Don't Seem to Care
In 2006, I was invited to address Democratic National Committee (DNC) election attorneys at the party's summer meeting in Chicago.(1) While the younger DNC attorneys listened to my presentation with rapt attention, the old-timers, one senior DNC attorney in particular, seemed to scoff at serious, well-documented concerns about electronic voting machines.
I advised them that they would be wise to compile a database of the nation's thousands of jurisdictions, what type of voting systems are used in each; what vulnerabilities and failures had been discovered for each of them in the past; and what the local election rules, procedures and laws are, so that they could quickly fight before the election (rather than after, when it would largely be too late to do anything about it) to ensure as much transparency and accuracy as could be mustered.
The senior DNC attorney replied with the same chestnut we've heard for years from the party: "Don't worry. On Election Day, we'll have thousands of lawyers on the ground, ready to spring into action if we see any problems."
This strategy did not work out so well for the Democrats in Ohio in 2004, and it won't work now. With the sort of machines that voters are forced to use in so many jurisdictions, a million lawyers on the ground could fail to "see" any signs of trouble. Or, once trouble is manifest, it's often far too late to do anything about it.
In 2006, the DNC largely ignored these warnings. However, by the time the presidential election of 2008 rolled around, they -along with the Obama team - created what they called their "Atlas Voter Protection" database, which compiled much of the information mentioned above and tracked voter complaints and problems as they were called in to local "election protection" phone banks in each state. In theory, they could act proactively to correct any problems that occurred.
Days prior to the general election in 2008, I obtained access to the Atlas database system in Nevada and revealed that widespread problems reported with the Sequoia touch-screen voting systems during the early voting period had largely gone entirely ignored by the DNC and the Obama campaign. When action was taken, it was entirely the wrong action, and machines that had failed were left in place to keep failing. Worse, technicians or election officials were allowed to access those machines while they were in "Election Mode," at the time they are most sensitive to manipulation.
As I documented on the eve of the presidential race, in a story which detailed many of the actual problem reports taken directly from the Democrats' election protection database:
Attorneys monitoring the incident reports coming in to the hotline have taken no action in regard to removing the failed machines from service, despite reports of the presidential race not appearing at all on some ballots; voters having problems selecting their preferred candidates; machines not starting up at all; "paper trail" printers jamming or running out of paper and a number of machines at a number of sites which refuse to work at all.
Those problem reports covered the early voting period only. How bad things ultimately got on Election Day would never be known. The nation's computers and media would declare Barack Obama the winner: my access to Atlas was cut off shortly after I ran my story, and whatever the DNC had learned about problems at the polls on Election Day in Nevada went quickly down the memory hole.
Nevada was by no means the only state to have massive problems with unverifiable touch-screen voting systems in 2008. Nor were touch-screen systems the only ones to cause problems for voters during that cycle. I wrote an entire chapter of Project Censored's 2010 compendium, "Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09," devoted to "Election 2008: Vanishing Votes, Disappearing Democracy and Media Misdirection." There, I detail problem after problem reported across the country with the nation's electronic voting systems, from Oprah Winfrey's "lost vote" on a Sequoia touch-screen voting machine in Chicago, to the Election Integrity filmmakers who saw their vote flip before their eyes (as well as that of a local poll worker) on ES&S iVotronic touch-screens in Nashville, to four out of 12 of my own votes being misprinted by Los Angeles County's ES&S InkaVote Plus system, to untold numbers of votes miscounted on Diebold's AccuVote paper-ballot optical-scan system in the "first in the nation" New Hampshire primaries.
Given Nevada's key role as a so-called "swing state," the record resources being poured into winning the trophy of unseating the Democratic majority leader in the US Senate this year, the fact that the state forces voters to use 100 percent unverifiable e-voting systems at all of its polling places and that those machines have been found exceedingly vulnerable to tampering - as well as having been illegally certified in the first place by its then Republican secretary of state (who now serves in Congress) - the entire situation is rife for disaster this November.
It also begs for court action sooner, rather than later, to protect the voters and their votes in this key Senatorial contest.
However - as Reid made clear to talk radio host Christiane Brown on Reno's KJFK just prior to the 2008 election when queried about such concerns, he's a supporter of the electronic systems. Reid told her he thought that voters in Nevada were "fortunate" to use the flawed, unverifiable computers they were being forced to use. (Three-minute MP3 here.)
The GOP's professed concerns with election integrity also fail to focus on systemic fraud.
Republicans Hoisted on Their Own "Voter Fraud" Myth Petard
Weeks ago, Angle's party had already begun to whip their troops into a lather over massive Democratic "voter fraud," just as it does every election year. Of course, there is no such epidemic of fraud, as even George W. Bush's own Department of Justice (DOJ) - which devoted an unprecedented amount of resources to the purported issue - discovered.
From 2002 to 2005, Bush's DOJ was able to get a total of 18 convictions of voter fraud against people who had voted despite being ineligible and a total of five convictions against people who had voted more than once. The total of 23 fraudulent or inappropriate votes in the entirety of all votes cast in the United States occurred during years when Republicans were alleging that thousands upon thousands of fraudulent votes were being cast by illegal aliens, dead people, people voting more than once and evil ACORN (who has never been found to have been behind even one fraudulently-cast vote) stealing election after election in county after county and state after state for Democrats.
GOP cries of "voter fraud" were, themselves, a fraud, meant to intimidate voters into not voting and officials into not counting legally cast ballots. One prime objective was to create an environment in which lawmakers could pass draconian photo ID restrictions at the polling place to help suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly and students (read: Democratic-leaning voters), who are less likely to have such IDs.
The GOP has been playing the phony "voter fraud" game for so long, it's questionable how many insiders, like Angle, even remember that it's actually a scam that has nothing to do with legitimate election protection.
So, what should they really be concerned about? In Nevada, they ought to be worried about votes being counted accurately by the Sequoia system and whether any voters will be able to cast votes on them at all. Even more disturbing, it will be strictly and scientifically impossible to determine whether even one vote was recorded as per the voter's intent on the machines voters are forced to use in Nevada.
That's why it's so important now to ensure that the memory cards and hard drives from the systems are securely quarantined and retained for a full 22 months following the election. Should any questions arise about their programming, or whether they've been tampered with, the evidence may be found only through a forensic examination of those materials.
A close Senatorial election in Nevada won't be like the razor-thin Minnesota Senate in 2008 where they were able to carry out the longest, most thorough and most transparent election recount in US history, coming to a consensus of all interested and serious parties that one candidate actually defeated the other - by a hair - legitimately, if by a hair. No such certainty will obtain with Nevada's 100 percent faith-based voting systems.
The Voting Machines That Never Should Have Been
With respect to the Sequoia Edge voting machine, the paper trail that Reid seems to rely on is meaningless. Those "voter-verifiable" (but rarely verified) paper printouts are never actually counted by anyone. And were they actually to be counted in a post-election contest, they would offer no assurance to the public that any of them actually reflect voter intent. As UC Santa Barbara found during California's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all of the state's voting systems, those computer printed paper trails can also be gamed in about two minutes time.(2)
The Sequoia systems are so vulnerable to tampering, just a few weeks ago white-hat "hackers" were able to replace the voting software on one of them with Pac-Man - without even disturbing the system's so-called "tamper evident" seals.
The great concern with these systems - as computer scientists and cyber-security experts will tell you - is of insider election fraud, not voter fraud. But if the GOP /Angle camp feel more comfortable worrying about voter fraud, on these machines, they may: there is a little, yellow button on the back of each one of Sequoia's Edge systems, which allows a voter to vote as many times as he wishes until physically restrained from doing so.
Moreover, the Intellectual Property (IP) on Sequoia machines is still owned by a Venezuelan firm tied to Hugo Chavez, even though both the Sequoia company and their new Canadian owners have been lying about that fact for years. Regardless of your political orientation, it should be disturbing that any foreign country - or private company - has such "ownership" of our elections.
California ended up decertifying them from use, but Nevada continues to use these machines, although they never should have in the first place.
Nevada's Sequoia Edge touch-screen voting machines with VeriVote paper trail printer were illegally certified in 2004 by the state's former secretary of state, now Republican Congressman Dean Heller.
Based on a months-long investigative report with Michael Richardson in 2008's "Loser Take All," in the chapter titled "The Selling of the Touch Screen 'Paper Trail': From Nevada to the EAC," we detailed how Heller blatantly lied to the public about the new voting machines brought into his state in 2004.
During a July 14, 2004, press conference, Heller trumpeted the system as the first such touch-screen voting system to employ paper trail printers by declaring: "It is a right of every citizen to feel secure that the voting choices they have made are recorded accurately."
But feeling secure and actually being secure are two different matters.
As noted above, it's strictly impossible to know that even one vote has ever been recorded for any candidate or initiative on the ballot in any election ever run on Sequoia's Edge machines (or another Direct Recording Electronic - usually touch-screen - voting system).
Heller also blatantly misrepresented the federal testing that had been run on the systems. While the new voting machines were failing miserably in the federal testing labs, in test after test, Heller was telling Nevadans they were "the first state in the nation to complete state certification and federal qualification of the voter-verified paper audit trail printer."
He claimed that the new Sequoia system had "passed federal certification with flying colors," although the systems had been failing federal certification tests and would not be properly federally qualified until the following year. They were, nonetheless, used in both the primary and general elections in 2004, in violation of Nevada state law.
Reports we obtained from the federal test labs through public records requests years later showed that the system was failing disastrously in testing at the very same moment Heller was touting their great success. The printer was malfunctioning, the system was locking up when the "Cast Vote" button was pressed, and other major problems persisted in test after test - many of the very same problems that would eventually show up in the DNC/Obama election protection database in 2008 - which were also ignored at that time.
Heller has never been held accountable for lying to his state and illegally using uncertified voting systems there. The new Democratic Secretary of State, Ross Miller, has done nothing about the problem.
Whether or not machines fail this year in Nevada - and there is every reason to believe they will, with however many voters disenfranchised in the bargain - one thing is certain: No matter who ends up being announced the "winner," it will be strictly impossible to prove that that candidate actually received more votes than the other candidate.
Get thee to a court today, Ms. Angle and/or Mr. Reid. You may thank me later. The election you save may be your own.
1. Issues of election integrity are a nonpartisan issue and I'd be equally delighted to address Republican election attorneys if they cared to invite me, just as I've freely advised various GOP candidates and legislatures whenever they've sought such advice.
2. See UCSB's short video on how to hack a Sequoia Edge with paper trail printer, in about two minutes time, without breaking security seals on the machine, in such a way that it can flip the results of an entire election right here.
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