Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Humboldt Election Problems Seen In GAO Report

Last Thursday I wrote about a report released by the official Congressional watchdog body, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). The corporate media has mostly blacked out this story which should otherwise reveal to every American that there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. federal elections. Let's see if the Humboldt implications, and your provocations, Dear GuvWurld readers, will be enough to get some local coverage. Consider this a call to action.

Almost at the very beginning, on page 5, the GAO report says:
We also note that there is a lack of consensus on the pervasiveness of the problems, due in part to a lack of comprehensive information on what system makes and models are used in jurisdictions throughout the country.
We are being asked to believe that nationwide vote tallies are counted entirely accurately but we can't account for what type of machine recorded and counted each vote. Does this defy logic or is it just me? Also, this mention of a "lack of consensus" should be obvious. Inherent uncertainty (such as unverifiable votes) is created all the time to keep us divided about what constitutes reality. Please send me ANY examples of national consensus, if you can find one. This is the Intentionally Divided States of America.

On page 23, the authors make GuvWurld's case for media coverage:
In light of the recently demonstrated voting system problems; the differing views on how widespread these problems are; and the complexity of assuring the accuracy, integrity, confidentiality, and availability of voting systems throughout their life cycles, the security and reliability concerns raised in recent reports merit the focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration.
And with a few Humboldt-related items, the focused attention of our election officials will surely warrant the focused attention of our local media:
--p.24-25: Weak system security controls
  • The Humboldt County website has a memo to the Board of Supervisors dated 2/22/05. It is from Carolyn Wilson Crnich, Clerk-Recorder. It is also signed by the preparer, Lindsey McWilliams, County Elections Manager. Regarding storage of voting equipment, they wrote:
    Since Public Works has unfettered access to our equipment at present, there is little reason to seek a security audit which we would undoubtedly fail.
    Are security protocols inherently bad or worthless? Should audits be banned or eliminated? No, it seems we just shouldn't conduct them if we know we won't pass. Which is more easily excused, disregard for confirming the security status of election machines, or disregard for the machines' security? No apologies can be accepted for either.

  • Humboldt County uses modems for data transfer (vote tallies) between the precincts and the "central tabulator." The GAO report mentioned problems with modems:
    In addition, one of these reports found that it was possible to gain full control of a regional vote tabulation computer—including the ability to modify the voting software—via a modem connection.
    The report referenced above is a study by the Maryland General Assembly:
    By successfully directing Canvas [commercial software] at the GEMS modem interface, the team was able to remotely upload, download and execute files with full system administrator privileges. All that was required was a valid phone number for the GEMS server.
  • Humboldt County uses GEMS which is vote counting software made by Diebold. Other problems with GEMS include:
    1. GEMS contains trade-secret ("proprietary") programming kept private from election officials and the public at large.

    2. While no one can explain precisely how GEMS works, it is known that GEMS operates on Microsoft's Access platform, which has long been proven to be highly unsecure by industry experts.

    3. Votergate the Movie (www.votergate.tv), available for free download, contains footage from a national TV broadcast of Bev Harris instructing Howard Dean how to hack GEMS and untraceably alter vote tallies in under two minutes. Additional vulnerabilities have since been found and publicized at www.blackboxvoting.org.

    --p.37: Poor version control of system software
    The GAO report cites an April 2004 CA Secretary of State Staff Report on the investigation of Diebold Election Systems, Inc.:
    [T]he VSPP [Voting Systems and Procedures Panel] initiated an audit of all 17 California counties using Diebold voting systems. The audit discovered that Diebold had, in fact, installed uncertified software in all its client counties without notifying the Secretary of State as required by law, and that the software was not federally qualified in three client counties. Diebold eventually acknowledged that it had failed to notify the Secretary of State of its proposed system modifications, and that its failure to obtain certification for those modifications violated state law.
    Who allowed Humboldt's voting machines to have uncertified software installed in them? Was someone in the Humboldt County elections department complicit in this crime or merely negligent? Is this person still employed by the elections department, and if so, why? Humboldt voters deserve answers and local media that will pursue accountability.
    --p.38: The GAO report is a mix of concerns for what could happen, and evidence of what has happened. The former illustrates the need for transparency and greater awareness while the latter is proof of the fallout for continued willful ignorance:
    Nevertheless, there is evidence that some of these concerns—including weak controls and inadequate testing—have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.
    Since day one of the GuvWurld blog, the premise has been that our elections are held under conditions which ensure inconclusive outcomes. Clearly, when votes are lost and miscounted, as reported by the GAO, the world cannot be sure of the true results from U.S. elections. This has been demonstrated time and again, and yet we still face reticent media and apologist community members sticking up for election officials out of misplaced and misguided loyalty. It doesn't matter who you are, your friends are not more important than our Democracy.

    GuvWurld readers, your call to action is to make all local media aware of the GAO report and its implications for Humboldt County; and to encourage the Board of Supervisors to consider whether our elections department is staffed by people committed to election reforms that will ensure conclusive outcomes, create a basis for confidence in the results reported, and establish accountable government representing We The People with the Consent of the Governed. This is what Democracy looks like.

    Local Media Contacts:

    Arcata Eye: news@arcataeye.com, 707-826-7000
    Eureka Reporter: editor@eurekareporter.com, 707-476-8000
    Eureka Times-Standard: editor@times-standard.com, 707-441-0500
    HSU Lumberjack: thejack@humboldt.edu, 707-826-3271
    Humboldt Advocate: news@humboldtadvocate.com, 707-825-9400
    KHUM: info@khum.com, 707-786-5104
    KMUD: news@kmud.org, 707-923-2513
    Life & Times of Southern Humboldt: 707-923-2824
    Mainstream Media Project: info@mainstream-media.net, 707-826-9111
    North Coast Journal: ncjournal@northcoastjournal.com, 707-826-2000
    The Independent: indie@asis.com, 707-923-4205

    Local Government:

    Humboldt County Board of Supervisors: http://www.co.humboldt.ca.us/board

    Jimmy Smith, District 1: jrsmith@co.humboldt.ca.us, (707) 476-2391
    Roger Rodoni, District 2: roger.rodoni@co.humboldt.ca.us, (707) 476-2392
    John Woolley, District 3: jwoolley@co.humboldt.ca.us, (707) 476-2393
    Bonnie Neely, District 4: bonnie.neely@co.humboldt.ca.us, (707) 476-2394
    Jill Geist, District 5: jill.geist@co.humboldt.ca.us, (707) 476-2395

    Eureka City Council: http://www.eurekawebs.com/cityhall

    Peter La Vallee, Mayor: plavallee@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4172
    Mary Beth Wolford, Ward 1: mbwolford@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4169
    Virginia Bass-Jackson. Ward 2: virginia@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4168
    Jeff Leonard, Ward 3: jleonard@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4170
    Chris Kerrigan, Ward 4: kerrigan@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4167
    Mike Jones, Ward 5: mjones@ci.eureka.ca.gov, 707-441-4171

    Arcata City Council: http://www.arcatacityhall.org/gov.html

    Michael Machi, Mayor: mmmp@htan.org, 707-269-0394
    Dave Meserve: greenarcata@hotmail.com, 707-441-9846
    Paul Pitino: ppitino@arcatacityhall.org, 707-522-0387
    Mark Wheetley: mwheetley@arcatacityhall.org, 707-269-0332
    Harmony Groves: harmony@harmonyinarcata.com, 707-522-0463



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