Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Press Release: Vets For Peace Ch. 56 Circulates Open Letter on Election Conditions
PRESS RELEASE: FOR RELEASE TUESDAY FEBRUARY 28, 2006
HUMBOLDT BAY VETERANS FOR PEACE ENDORSES VOTER CONFIDENCE COMMITTEE'S CALL FOR
ANSWERS FROM COUNTY AND CITY LEADERS -
VFP concerned over questionable voting machine software, departmental
accountability, lack of voter confidence
Tuesday, February 28, 2006, Eureka, CA - Humboldt Bay Veterans for Peace
(VFP56) is officially endorsing the Voter Confidence Committee's appeal to
the Humboldt County elections department to take responsibility for ensuring
transparent and verifiably accurate election conditions. Among the
recommendations noted, VFP urges local city councils and the County Board of
Supervisors to adopt the VCC's Voter Confidence Resolution, which outlines
conditions likely to ensure conclusive election outcomes and create a basis
for confidence in the results reported.
In this recently released letter to county government leaders, VFP declared
that "current election conditions guarantee inconclusive outcomes. The
Humboldt elections department needs to be responsible and proactive in
creating transparent and verifiably accurate election conditions."
Regarding the call to action, VFP Secretary Jim Sorter stated; "We need to
have the illegal Diebold machines seen for what they are. We need paper
ballots to have an election or else it is just a selection and our voices
According to the letter, VFP56 is recommending the following:
1. Investigation of Diebold uncertified software installation in voting
2. Election department officials acknowledge and affirm their understanding
of the GAO's findings, and to act in accordance with those findings.
3. Diebold be declared an unfit business partner, ruling out any further
use of Diebold voting equipment and any future contracts with Diebold.
4. Conduct town hall forums to involve the public in discussing preferred
election conditions, and to educate about current conditions.
5. Require the county's new election advisory board to detail steps and
costs for establishing voting processes owned and operated entirely in the
6. City Councils and County Board of Supervisors adopt the Voter Confidence
Resolution outlining conditions likely to ensure conclusive election
outcomes and create a basis for confidence in the results reported.
VCC EXPECTS MORE CITIZENS DEMANDING ANSWERS
Dave Berman, author of the Voter Confidence Resolution, the GuvWurld blog
and co-founder of the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County, says
"I'm glad to have the support of VFP on this matter and expect to see more
citizens and community groups demanding answers and consequences."
Berman added that local media and law enforcement have an obligation to
determine what government official(s) allowed Diebold to install uncertified
software in Humboldt's voting machines. According to Berman, the Board of
Supervisors is long overdue to take responsibility for replacing the
County's illegal Diebold voting machines with a transparent, secure and
verifiably accurate voting system: hand-counted paper ballots.
"Public office holders in Humboldt County should know that personal
accountability comes with the job," he said.
Gordon Anderson, a member of VFP, added; "Vets For Peace is very concerned
about the election process. We want it to be a truly documentable and
accurate representation of citizens' vote choices. Hopefully the election
advisory board and the elections department can find a way to resolve the
discrepancies that still exist with using illegal and questionable
The full text of the open letter follows this release.
Phone: (707) 845-3749 for an immediate live interview
An open letter from Veterans For Peace Chapter 56
February 2, 2006
To the Humboldt County Elections Department, Board of Supervisors, and all employees of our local government.
As Veterans For Peace, our commitment to peace is equal to our devotion to justice. Over the last five years, both peace and justice have eroded. It is not just illegal and immoral wars; our most precious rights have been sacrificed to “free speech zones,” the suspension of posse comitatus and habeas corpus, and disenfranchisement that has become universal and guaranteed.
The Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election; the voting public did not. When paperless electronic voting was introduced, votes could not be recounted. Unverifiable votes ensure inconclusive outcomes that will never receive unanimous acceptance from the public. Arcata took notice of this and adopted the Voter Confidence Resolution(1) stating:
“When elections are conducted under conditions that prevent conclusive outcomes, the Consent of the Governed is not sought. Absent this self-evident source of legitimacy, such Consent is not to be assumed or taken for granted.”VFP56 has twice endorsed this resolution. We seek not to accept election conditions that will continue to guarantee inconclusive outcomes. Vital to this effort is increased awareness of the report(2) released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in October 2005. More than 100 pages meticulously document insecure and unreliable conditions of U.S. elections. Perhaps the most revealing comment occurs on page 38:
“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.”The official non-partisan watchdog arm of Congress has determined that votes were lost and miscounted in recent elections. This necessarily means that the true outcome cannot be known from those “elections.”
The GAO report also cites an April 2004 CA Secretary of State (SoS) Staff Report(3). On page 3, the SoS report confirms that in 2003, Diebold installed uncertified software in voting machines in 17 California counties, including Humboldt. The report indicates this violates state law, and that Diebold confesses to this crime. VFP56 is calling upon the Humboldt County District Attorney and Grand Jury, as well as all local government and media to investigate who is accountable for Humboldt’s voting machines having uncertified software installed, and whether those responsible were complicit in this action or simply negligent?
One other essential reference from the GAO describes problems inherent with using modems for data transfer (vote tallies, from precincts to a “central tabulator”). Page 25 of the GAO report points to a Trusted Agent Report(4) prepared for the Maryland General Assembly. This Maryland report describes (p.20) successful efforts to alter election results by exploiting vulnerabilities in Diebold’s GEMS central tabulator, the same software used for counting votes in Humboldt County. A successful “hack” of GEMS has also been conducted under the supervision of Leon County, FL elections officials, resulting in two Florida counties terminating their relationship with Diebold. The GEMS hack was also demonstrated on national television (CNBC) with the footage immortalized in Votergate the Movie, available for free download on the Internet(5).
Current election conditions guarantee inconclusive outcomes. The Humboldt elections department needs to be responsible and proactive in creating transparent and verifiably accurate election conditions. We know that it is a difficult time. To exhibit our understanding, here is one last citation from page four of the SoS report:
Diebold’s conduct has created an untenable situation for both county and state elections officials. Some county officials have felt compelled to defend untested, unqualified and uncertified Diebold voting systems, having authorized large capital outlays only to find out on the eve of or during an election that the systems do not function as promised. Before the March (2004) Primary, county officials repeatedly warned that, without certification of particular voting system components, the election could not be conducted because it was too late to devise and implement back-up plans.Perhaps this “untenable situation” remains. Before it is too late we are depending upon you as county officials to solve this illegal and immoral dilemma. There are options available. A legitimate system must be in place that creates conclusive and verifiably accurate results. Priorities must be accuracy and transparency rather than expediency. Hand counted paper ballots may be a real option for now.
VFP56 recommends the following:
- Investigation of Diebold uncertified software installation in voting machines.
- Election department officials acknowledge and affirm their understanding of the GAO’s findings, and to act in accordance with those findings.
- Diebold be declared an unfit business partner, ruling out any further use of Diebold voting equipment and any future contracts with Diebold.
- Conduct town hall forums to involve the public in discussing preferred election conditions, and to educate about current conditions.
- Require the county’s new election advisory board to detail steps and costs for establishing voting processes owned and operated entirely in the public domain.
- City Councils and County Board of Supervisors adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution outlining conditions likely to ensure conclusive election outcomes and create a basis for confidence in the results reported.
In Respect and Peace,
Veterans For Peace Humboldt Bay Chapter 56
(1) http://guvwurld.blogspot. com/2005/04/voter-confidence-resolution.html
(3) http://www.ss.ca. gov/elections/ks_dre_papers/diebold_report_april20_final.pdf
NOTE: This letter is archived here: http://tinyurl.com/rvks6
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Monday, February 27, 2006
Diebold Developments and the California Unity Campaign
It is starting to feel sickening to keep leading with Diebold developments, so the only further mention I'll make is that while some possibilities have emerged, I'm still seeking an attorney to help me file for an injunction against Humboldt's continued use of the Diebold OS machines. Contact me if you can work pro bono with me on this.
Diebold Whistleblower Facing Three Felony Counts Alaska Now Refuses Release of 2004 Election Data Incredibly Bad Press for Diebold CA State Senator Says Diebold Re-Certification in Violation of State Law! Why do Diebold's Touch-Screen Voting Machines Have Built-In Wireless Infrared Data Transfer Ports?
The other main thing I've been focused on is the hand counted paper ballots (HCPB) proposal. I've heard a lot of encouraging words for this project and help has come from some unexpected places. One thing I learned is the legal concept of remedial deterrence. The Harvard Law Review mentions it in this series of articles on voting and democracy. In a nutshell, when facing election administration issues, courts can find a violation but no remedy in which case the plaintiff will sometimes receive no relief. The lesson is to present the judge with the preferred alternative. In this case, it would be ideal to have the HCPB proposal handy when asking the court to prevent use of the machines. Pretty common sense, really. At any rate, there is somewhat of a conversation about this project at Democratic Underground.
A lot of what else I've been up to has been promoting these two projects and finding people with whom to collaborate. On that count, I have a very special, very strong exclusive announcement from a prominent Humboldt community group, which I will release separately Tuesday morning. The announcement responds to and reverberates the call to action laid out by GuvWurld in the campaign to unite California election reformers. This campaign was launched in December and endorsed by VelvetRevolution.us about a month ago.
More recently, Dan Ashby from the California Election Protection Network did an amazing job excerpting and summarizing various GuvWurld posts into a single page that was circulated by e-mail and archived at DeepEndNews.com. Please copy and paste the contents of that page into an HTML formatted e-mail message (to keep the links active) and send that to your lists. Note that the injunction and HCPB proposal are both steps that can and should be taken in other CA counties. It is this mirrored tactic approach that is the hallmark of the unity campaign.
I have been receiving a lot of public speaking invitations lately. Another came Monday from Eureka Mayor Peter La Vallee. I did not realize that he teaches at Humboldt State University. Tuesday afternoon I will get about 30 minutes with his graduate class on legal and political social work. I haven't blogged about it previously but Nezzie Wade and Dan Faulk have also put me before their students, a total of four other times in the past few months (HSU and College of the Redwoods).
In addition, Voter Confidence Committee member Kathryn Hedges has relayed to me a request from the HSU Associated Students Voting Committee. Their next meeting is at the same exact time as the next VCC meeting so we'll have to connect in the near future. For the record, that is this Wednesday at 7pm. The VCC meeting is in a private location though you can contact me for details if you would like to participate.
If you missed last Friday's Eureka Times-Standard (archive), there was a story about the Diebold certification that concluded with a quote a bunch of people told me was pretty good. Humboldt blogger Buhne Tribune picked up on it with a link to GuvWurld and several reader comments taboot. I was also interviewed by the Humboldt Advocate over the weekend for an article presumably due out this coming Friday.
There's more, but it will have to wait...big press release in a few hours...
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Response To Diebold Certification Is Strong
CA Senator Debra Bowen is asking everyone to sign on to her petition letter to McPherson.
I urge you to reverse your decision to certify Diebold electronic voting machines in California's 2006 elections -- and to delay any further action until you schedule hearings to allow experts and the general public to review and comment the latest study results.As far as I know, calls to the Senate Rules Committee are still useful in pressing for a subpoena to compel testimony from McPherson and all the election machine vendors before the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee. See this GuvWurld post for more details and contact info. I called all the Senators on Tuesday and each one acknowledged that they were getting a lot of calls on this.
Last December, you announced that you were sending Diebold voting machines back for federal review by the "Independent Testing Authorities" because their memory cards hadn't been reviewed. Now you're going back on your word, approving Diebold machines for use in California even before receiving the results of these federal tests.
Instead, you've based your findings on a supposedly "independent state audit" that didn't even give Diebold a glowing recommendation. In fact, the report determined that "there are serious vulnerabilities" with the Diebold machines "that go beyond what was previously known."
Apparently you've based your decision on a report made a board that you appointed yourself, with no opportunity for public review. That's not how you restore public confidence in California elections.
Why are you so intent to rush through this Diebold certification? Where are the results of tests conducted by the "Independent Testing Authorities?" And why not allow experts and the general public to review and comment on the report you requested BEFORE making a decision?
I urge you to delay certification of the Diebold electronic voting systems until you schedule a public hearing to review the latest study results and until Diebold resolves the many security and performance flaws that have previously been identified.
More locally, I spoke with both Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams and his boss, Clerk/Recorder Carolyn Crnich. I was assured that there wouldn't be an immediate move to close a deal with Diebold, if only because the process of making the deal can take some time, plus the machines likely wouldn't arrive in time for the June 6 primary. I exhaled relief and reprieve.
Of note, McWilliams still has no concerns about the Diebold OS machines currently used in Humboldt County. When I pointed out that the Secretary of State has accepted a security analysis (.pdf) that calls the machines illegal, and describes myriad technical flaws, McWilliams would only say "it's certified."
On the other hand, Crnich was a little more contemplative. She seems to appreciate the strong potential for a morass to develop as a result of legal challenges to McPherson's "conditional" certification. Referring to the lack of guidance provided by Friday's certification announcement (.pdf), Crnich said "I'm not satisfied with what we've got and I'm not sure we're ahead of where we were last week."
In a previous meeting I attended with Crnich and Vets For Peace Secretary Jim Sorter, I encouraged Crnich to consider municipal civil disobedience. She reacted quite negatively. However, yesterday we discussed what an untenable position she is in and it seemed like maybe, perhaps, I hope I'm not just wishing that she began to get the idea that being controlled by others is not a suitable excuse to offer after everything has gone to pot and people are seeking accountability.
I've also talked individually with several members of both the Eureka and Arcata City Councils, and I spoke during the public comment Tuesday night at Eureka's Council meeting. To all of them I said that they should make the opportunity now to speak to County Supes because a stalemate over the machines will not be good for the cities and when it happens it will be too late to influence the situation. Councilmembers can stand to hear more encouragement on this so please see this post for contact info and call them.
And of course we need to work on the Board of Supervisors. A few extraordinary people have come out of the woodwork to help me with a proposal I am developing to offer the Supes an outline of what it would take to be prepared to run the June 6 primary using hand counted paper ballots. Please contact the Supes and tell them the illegal machines are unacceptable and if they want to maintain the legitimacy of local government, it is going to require a transparent, secure, and verifiably accurate voting system: hand counted paper ballots.
I'm hearing/causing lots of rumbles about legal actions against the machines or some other variable in the equation. Lawyers willing to support this cause pro bono please contact me. I also want to recognize my attorney friend in WA, Paul Lehto. I've blogged about him several times before and bring him up now to recommend reading his great new essay "Officials say "Trust Us" When Very Basis of American System is Distrust!!"
I also can't resist recommending Rev. Rich Lang's new essay "We Dare Not Speak Its Name," calling on other preachers to use their pulpits to speak the truth about fascism.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Action Alert: Reject Illegal Diebold Certification
On Friday afternoon, CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson granted conditional certification (.pdf) for use of Diebold voting machines in 2006 "elections." McPherson's decision was based on a security analysis (.pdf) conducted by the Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board (VSTAAB).
Among the many significant findings of the security analysis is that Diebold equipment is currently out of compliance with state and federal law based on the presence of interpreter code. The analysis also confirms many known security flaws, and mentions finding 16 new bugs. This leaves readers wondering how such a document could be used to justify granting certification rather than denying it.
For more details, see this GuvWurld report; also visit BradBlog.com, BlackBoxVoting.org, and VoteTrustUSA for more coverage. Citizen engagement is now needed at every level throughout California to confront the lawlessness of our state's top elections official.
In Humboldt County, last April, the Board of Supervisors approved a proposal (.pdf) from the Elections Department indicating the intent to purchase approximately 110 Diebold TSX machines once certification has been granted. I hope to learn early on Tuesday whether Humboldt's top elections officials still think that's best. If so, there will certainly be a lawsuit challenging the illegality of the machines, despite the state's certification.
The cities of Humboldt, which rely on the County for their election equipment and administration, will likely be caught in the middle, potentially unprepared or unable to conduct an election. For this reason, I have been calling City Councilmembers in Eureka and Arcata to request that they contact the Board of Supervisors ASAP to encourage them not to go through with the purchase immediately simply based on the certification.
And one final bit of background is the story of last Thursday's hearing on voting systems testing. It was chaired by State Senator and Candidate for Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) who writes: "It was an extremely informative session" even though Secretary of State McPherson and the voting machine manufacturers all boycotted the session." Bowen now wants to subpoena McPherson and the machine manufacturers to compel them to appear before the Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee, which Bowen Chairs. To get the subpoena, she needs a majority vote from the Senate Rules Committee, of which she is one of five members.
Action #1 (mostly copied from e-mail circulating heavily over the past 48 hours):
On the state level, call Rules Committee members. What to say:
Be quick, be polite, be professional. Here's your message: ask for "Rules Committee support for subpoenas of election industry and certification insiders who won't otherwise inform the Elections Committee as to what's going on".
The key people: Diebold head programmers, federal testing labs (Ciber, Wyle) that repeatedly certified this stuff, voting system examiners who took taxpayer money, spent hours on "security exams" on systems your 12-year old sister can hack, then repeatedly recommended for certification.
This is about volume of calls logged/emails received. Not only should YOU make calls, but this needs to go out to your list.
Polite, professional, short clear message, FIRM is what works. Read background info above.
Senator Don Perata (Chair) - D (916) 651-4009
Senator Jim Battin (Vice-Chair) - R (916) 651-4037
Senator Roy Ashburn - R (916) 651-4018
Senator Debra Bowen - D - (Senator Bowen requested emails only)
Senator Gilbert Cedillo - D (916) 651-4022
Action #2 (Humboldt specific but appropriate and easily adapted everywhere in CA)
No Deal With Diebold! (.pdf)
Let County Supervisors know that it is unacceptable to spend more of our money on more equipment that is illegal and not secure. Let them know we will not accept the results of future elections held on our current illegal machines. If you are willing, tell them you will be a party to the legal action that is coming against Humboldt's election machines. Supervisors' credibility and legitimacy, going forward, can only come from their dedication to restoring a basis for voter confidence.
Let City Councilmembers know that you are concerned about the status of our voting system and the possibility that the City could get in a jam because of the County. Ask Councilmembers to contact Supervisors with the same message we have above.
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors: http://www.co.humboldt.ca.us/board
Jimmy Smith, District 1: email@example.com, (707) 476-2391
Roger Rodoni, District 2: firstname.lastname@example.org, (707) 476-2392
John Woolley, District 3: email@example.com, (707) 476-2393
Bonnie Neely, District 4: firstname.lastname@example.org, (707) 476-2394
Jill Geist, District 5: email@example.com, (707) 476-2395
Eureka City Council: http://www.eurekawebs.com/cityhall
Peter La Vallee, Mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-441-4172
Mary Beth Wolford, Ward 1: email@example.com, 707-441-4169
Virginia Bass-Jackson. Ward 2: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-441-4168
Jeff Leonard, Ward 3: email@example.com, 707-441-4170
Chris Kerrigan, Ward 4: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-441-4167
Mike Jones, Ward 5: email@example.com, 707-441-4171
Arcata City Council: http://www.arcatacityhall.org/gov.html
Michael Machi, Mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-269-0394
Dave Meserve: email@example.com, 707-441-9846
Paul Pitino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-522-0387
Mark Wheetley: email@example.com, 707-269-0332
Harmony Groves: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-522-0463
Of course we need to be the media...
Local Media Contacts:
Arcata Eye: email@example.com, 707-826-7000
Eureka Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-476-8000
Eureka Times-Standard: email@example.com, 707-441-0500
HSU Lumberjack: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-826-3271
Humboldt Advocate: email@example.com, 707-825-9400
Humboldt Beacon: firstname.lastname@example.org 707-725-6166
Humboldt Sentinel: email@example.com, 707-407-9212
KHUM: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-786-5104
KMUD: email@example.com, 707-923-2513
Mainstream Media Project: firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-826-9111
North Coast Journal: email@example.com, 707-826-2000
Redwood Times: firstname.lastname@example.org(707) 923-1396
The Independent: email@example.com, 707-923-4205
Finally, public notice has been served (why can't I find this at the Secretary's website?) that a hearing will be held in Sacremento on 3/1/06 concerning certification of machines from several other vendors.
Note: media list updated 3/9/06 with thanks to anonymous comment poster #1.
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Saturday, February 18, 2006
Despite Illegalities, Diebold Election Machines Certified In CA
SACRAMENTO, CA - Secretary of State Bruce McPherson today announced his decision to certify with conditions the Diebold TSX and Optical Scan (OS) voting systems for use in California's 2006 elections. The decision comes after months of thorough review of both voting systems, their compliance with both state and federal laws and the completion of an additional security analysis by independent testers from computer labs at the University of California, Berkeley.That's only the first paragraph and we have several problems. In the first sentence we learn that this certification is conditional. We'll get to the conditions later. First consider this summary statement of Diebold's certification efforts published in an April 2004 CA Secretary of State Staff Report (.pdf).
1. marketed and sold the TSx system before it was fully functional, and before it was federally qualified;We've been down this path before. Once again unqualified equipment is given provisional approval, this time despite a clearly documented track record showing Diebold's brazen disregard for such arrangements. They do not genuinely strive to comply with federal laws, and in fact, are currently out of compliance with federal law by inclusion of interpreter code. In his 12/20/05 letter to Diebold (.pdf), Secretary McPherson wrote:
2. misrepresented the status of the TSx system in federal testing in order to obtain state certification;
3. failed to obtain federal qualification of the TSx system despite assurances that it would;
4. failed even to pursue testing of the firmware installed on its TSx machines in California until only weeks before the election, choosing instead to pursue testing of newer firmware that was even further behind in the ITA testing process and that, in some cases, required the use of other software that also was not approved in California;
5. installed uncertified software on election machines in 17 counties;
6. sought last-minute certification of allegedly essential hardware, software and firmware that had not completed federal testing; and
7. in doing so, jeopardized the conduct of the March  Primary.
It is the Secretary of State's position that the source code for the AccuBasic code on these cards, as well as for the AccuBasic interpreter that interprets this code, should have been federally reviewed.So less than two months ago the Secretary recognized the illegal component is present, though without acknowledging that interpreter code is prohibited by both federal guidelines (.doc) and McPherson's own edict (.pdf) requiring compliance with those standards as a condition of state certification. And now he just pretends the equipment is compliant, a fantasy asserted twice in Friday's press release. Let's be clear - the determination of the interpreter code's existence in December and continued presence today should be all that is necessary to reject Diebold's bid for certification.
Furthermore, McPherson's December letter referred Diebold's equipment to the federal Independent Testing Authority (ITA), not the Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board (VSTAAB). Never mind the conflicts of interest Dr. Avi Rubin recently described between the ITA and the election machine manufacturers who fund them.
So we already had reason to be suspect of McPherson's December maneuver even before he broke his word and stealthily tapped VSTAAB, a newish body that seems to have risen from the ashes of the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel which was hastily disbanded late last year. The VSTAAB, in conjunction with UC Berkeley grad students, issued a 38 page report called "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuBasic Interpreter" (.pdf) - again confirming the existence of the interpreter code.
While the analysis is too long to fully dissect here and now, GuvWurld will surely pull more detailed quotes in future reports. For now, a "Security Analysis..." summary:
- We did not do a comprehensive code review of the whole codebase, nor look at a very broad range of potential security issues. Instead, we concentrated attention to the AccuBasic scripting language, its compiler, its interpreter, and other code related to potential security vulnerabilities associated with the memory cards.
- We found a number of security vulnerabilities, detailed below. Although the vulnerabilities are serious, they are all easily fixable. Moreover, until the bugs are fixed, the risks can be mitigated through appropriate use procedures. Therefore, we believe the problems as a whole are manageable.
- Memory card attacks are a real threat: We determined that anyone who has access to a memory card of the AV-OS, and can tamper it (i.e. modify its contents), and can have the modified cards used in a voting machine during election, can indeed modify the election results from that machine in a number of ways. The fact that the the results are incorrect cannot be detected except by a recount of the original paper ballots.
- Harri Hursti's attack does work: Mr. Hursti's attack on the AV-OS is definitely real. He was indeed able to change the election results by doing nothing more than modifying the contents of a memory card. He needed no passwords, no cryptographic keys, and no access to any other part of the voting system, including the GEMS election management server.
- Interpreter bugs lead to another, more dangerous family of vulnerabilities: However, there is another category of more serious vulnerabilities we discovered that go well beyond what Mr. Hursti demonstrated, and yet require no more access to the voting system than he had. These vulnerabilities are consequences of bugs--16 in all--in the implementation of the AccuBasic interpreter for the AV-OS. These bugs would have no effect at all in the absence of deliberate tampering, and would not be discovered by any amount of functionality testing; but they could allow an attacker to completely control the behavior of the AV-OS. An attacker could change vote totals, modify reports, change the names of candidates, change the races being voted on, or insert his own code into the running firmware of the machine.
- Successful attacks can only be detected by examining the paper ballots: There would be no way to know that any of these attacks occurred; the canvass procedure would not detect any anomalies, and would just produce incorrect results. The only way to detect and correct the problem would be by recount of the original paper ballots, e.g. during the 1 percent manual recount.
- Interpreted code is contrary to standards: Interpreted code in general is prohibited by the 2002 FEC Voluntary Voting System Standards, and also by the successor standard, the EAC's Voluntary Voting System Guidelines due to take effect in two years. In order for the Diebold software architecture to be in compliance, it would appear that either the AccuBasic language and interpreter have to be removed, or the standard will have to be changed.
Gee, this report is getting awfully long and I've still only commented on the first paragraph of the certification announcement. I'm not going to take this too much further today but I do want to comment a little on the second paragraph:
"As the State's chief elections official, the decision to certify voting systems is a very serious responsibility, and a number of factors must be carefully weighed before I determine whether to grant certification," said Secretary McPherson. "This is precisely why I created 10 strict standards that must be met for a voting system to be certified, making California's process the most stringent in the nation. We have applied these standards and after rigorous scrutiny, I have determined that these Diebold systems can be used for the 2006 elections."The Secretary of State's website has the "10 strict standards" here (.pdf). Check out step 3:
State certification testing does not begin until the federal qualification testing is successfully completed.That is not the only part of the process developing out of order. Public comment and a hearing are the last two steps before Step 10: "Final review of system and decision by Secretary of State." That would suggest the public will yet still have its chance to be heard. Instead, it would seem McPherson is providing his rubber stamp with disregard for the public forums--held last year, out of the "strict standards" sequence--that ran overwhelmingly in opposition to certification for Diebold.
Battles now seem primed to ensue on at least two levels. There will surely be a response on the state level, likely from a host of election integrity organizations banding together. And there must be county level resistance anywhere Boards of Supervisors appear willing to allow their Registrars to accept the path of least resistance. At a minimum, it would be foolish for counties to begin spending money knowing that major modifications must still be undertaken, and that even then, Diebold's track record leaves no basis for confidence that the equipment will be made secure, transparent, and accurate, let alone "compliant" with optional laws. Perhaps the silver lining is this, from Friday's press release (.pdf):
Diebold will be required to make all recommended long-term programming modifications contained in the report and submit the modified product to the Federal Independent Testing Authority (ITA) for requalification and state certification.So not only is the certification provisional, apparently it is going to be completely up for review again if/when Diebold ever complies with the law. So why certify it now? Notice that the press release only mentions California's 2006 elections.
For broader perspective, Diebold is like the hotshot quarterback whose teachers give him passing grades just so he can play ball. The more potent analogy here is Mr. Bush saying unconstitutional spying on Americans is legal - because he is already doing it. If we are not a people beholden to laws, what inhibits our potential responses? Election reform is not a goal unto itself but rather a tactic in the peaceful revolution. Here's a Blueprint.
Non-violent revolution is necessary, NOW!
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Friday, February 17, 2006
NM Requires Paper Ballots; More Setbacks For Diebold
In Maryland, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. made waves Thursday with this letter (.pdf) obtained by BradBlog.com. Ehrlich wrote the letter to the MD State Board of Elections, stating:
"I no longer have confidence in the State Board of Elections' ability to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2006."Ouch. And all because the Board wants to plow ahead with Diebold despite the mountain of evidence indicting the manufacturer's equipment. Ehrlich cites not only the well known security flaws that have been exposed, but also the partisan connections and the enormous increase in maintenance costs. All of which are arguments that have thus far fallen on deaf and willfully ignorant ears here in Humboldt.
This really isn't too different from my calling for the resignation of local elections officials who have denied these problems and defended our indefensible election conditions. That is, by claiming "no confidence" (a beloved GuvWurld refrain), Ehrlich is helping to establish a zero tolerance policy for the bullshit up-is-down mentality of those advocating voting systems that are already debunked.
Worse still, Raw Story also on Thursday reported:
The Maryland State Board of Elections allowed Diebold Election Systems to operate its touch-screen voting machines during the state's 2002 gubernatorial election and the 2004 presidential primaries before the state agency actually certified the controversial machines, according to recently disclosed documents.GuvWurld has repeatedly addressed Diebold's acknowledged California crime of installing uncertified software. Diebold's problems continue to mount.
That is a violation of state law, according to Linda Schade, executive director of TrueVoteMD.org, an election integrity group.
- In Pennsylvania, activists joined by State Senator Jim Ferlo successfully sued to stop the transition of election systems until voters are given a say via a referendum vote
- Meanwhile, Iowa Voters For Open and Transparent Elections reports that Diebold is cutting prices in its attempt to sell more voting machines, even as they have to extend the deadline for "bargains" they've already offered.
- And last week, Diebold's new CEO suggested that the company may look to sell off its elections division. Do you think maybe it has something to do with various class action suits filed by investors?
At a time when local news has repeatedly reported on vandalism, robbery, identify theft, slow/lost mail and improperly secured mail stored outdoors, who is really convinced that this is going to create a basis for voter confidence? Certainly not Ed Stoner, former Eureka Postmaster put on administrative leave for "undisclosed reasons." As if that lack of transparency weren't enough, consider that mail-in voting will still be subject to the same secret vote counting (scanning) method currently provided by Diebold and other partisan corporate creators of election stealing machines. Mail-in voting in CA right now would be like re-arranging the proverbial deck chairs of the Titanic.
For a set of conditions likely to ensure conclusive election outcomes and create a basis for confidence in the results reported, see the Voter Confidence Resolution.
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Monday, February 13, 2006
Humboldt Revolution (.org)
The event was the most according-to-plan gathering I've ever helped to organize, including the crowd. During the event planning, it took several conversations ultimately to determine the target audience should be "the choir." Typically we lament preaching to the choir as delivering a message to familiar ears who learn nothing new. In this case, targeting the choir was meant to be a distinction from watering down the message for mass media, and honing the message to be a call to a new level of action.
"Non-violent revolution is necessary, NOW"
The event started with a video clip from peace activist and author Arhundati Roy. Then followed seven or so speakers, each touching on different aspects of our current collective condition, all speaking to the need for drastic change. Highlights included:
- Carol Brannan reading from her new Declaration of Autonomy, inspiring harmonized calls of "I Do Not Consent" between stanzas;
- Bill Verick, an environmental attorney, describing the unequal legal treatment given to citizen activists and polluting corporations, concluding with a quote from Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall";
- Four members of Food Not Bombs together describing their work and reminding us of the need for a more open and less controlled and structured community dialog.
When the speakers has concluded, the crowd split up into round table discussions on sustainability, fighting corporate power, the upcoming Eureka peace march (March 18), militarism, a few more I'm forgetting, and a dozen people who came to my table on election reform. We talked about ongoing projects described throughout the GuvWurld Blog, including the outreach program supporting the Voter Confidence Resolution, the CA unity campaign, and the Volunteer Strike.
Some speakers had gone longer than intended and so table discussions were necessarily abbreviated. Fortunately I had leaflets to promote the VCC meeting this Wednesday, 2/15, starting at 7pm at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center. The time allocation was about the only deviation from the "as planned" comment above. Getting people interested in solutions being pursued, and offering a follow-up event for them to plug into these actions, was exactly how the day was planned.
We watched another clip from Arhundati Roy, received some Native American wisdom from Jeannie Covey (sp?), and then the 50 or so people still remaining formed one big circle. Holding hands, each person took a turn saying his or her name and either their reason for attending or what they had gotten from the event. It was hearing this feedback that made me so certain we had really achieved our aims as organizers. Many people said they are ready for more, and I know that I sure am.
Though the ideas were present, next time I'd like to see more continuity throughout the various presentations to build more focus on discovering the many diverse acts of exactly how we can withdraw our Consent and complicity in the broken system. Nonetheless, I believe we made the right call in offering a new lyric sheet to the choir. I believe we hit our goal of wanting everyone to leave with the straightforward thought that "non-violent revolution is necessary, NOW!"
With this event behind us, many new features have been unveiled at www.HumboldtRevolution.org. Others are yet to come, but thanks to Noel Adamson we have an excellent start on a collaborative online organizing tool kit.
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’,
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
Maybe we could start singing about a corrupt fascist regime that's a-gonna fall too? Keep your mind open, the future's coming...
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Friday, February 10, 2006
Human Relations Commission of Palo Alto Unanimously Adopts Voter Confidence Resolution
GuvWurld has been promoting the VCR since April 2004. The first major success came on July 20, 2005 when the City Council of Arcata, CA became the first in the nation to adopt this groundbreaking statement. The strategy behind the VCR has always called for a growing number of communities to adopt their own customized version based on the original template. See the Guide to the Voter Confidence Resolution for more details on the vision for collectively withdrawing the Consent of the Governed.
Wilson says Palo Alto's City Council is now likely to consider adopting the VCR though there is no date set yet and consideration does not guarantee passage. Bay Area readers are strongly encouraged to exert their influence on the Council by whatever means available. For contact info click here.
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Thursday, February 09, 2006
Diebold Opens Secret Code in Alaska; Reminder Palo Alto Tonight
While this is big news that raises many possibilities, another aspect of the story deserves equal billing. In the letter to Dem Chair Jake Metcalfe, Alaska Elections Director Whitney Brewster wrote: "the Division will charge for its costs incurred in manipulating the data to provide the records you seek." WTF? It's not so much the fee that gets me since quality data manipulation is almost always worth what you pay. The whole problem with elections these days is that we have no basis for confidence in the absence of this manipulation. I bet you didn't think you needed another reason to come to that conclusion.
* * *
And a quick reminder for Bay Area readers: tonight (Thurs), 7pm at Palo Alto City Hall (250 Hamilton), Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission will be voting on the Voter Confidence Resolution. I heard from Commission Chair Shauna Wilson via e-mail yesterday and she remains optimistic that it will pass. She also reaffirmed her intention to send the Resolution to the Palo Alto City Council. Attendance from supporters always helps.
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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The Volunteer Strike
February 5, 2006I think this sends a good message to "activists" (the real public servants) about prioritization of time and energy. The suggestion is to withdraw complicity from a broken system, to shatter the assumption of the Consent of the Governed. Rather than working to win in a bogus election, work to make sure the elections aren't bogus.
The Volunteer Strike: Taking the Iniative [sic] back from our political 'leaders'
Power to the People!
By Mary Kiraly
ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER STRIKE
As volunteers, we possess a valuable commodity- our time and our effort. Because this is a political year, our combined contributions provide us with powerful leverage to effect change. Our work is crucial to the success of political candidates and political parties. We man phone banks; raise funds; organize, register, and turn out voters; and serve on election day as judges, poll workers, election observers, and precinct officials. We have more power to change the system RIGHT NOW than we have ever imagined.
We are gearing up for another very important election. As Volunteers, we are being asked to work harder and donate more than we have in the past. We are being told that we need to be better organized, to have a clearer message, and to reach out to more citizens.
But no one is telling us what will happen if this November we witness a repeat of the voting irregularities that have occurred in the past two elections. We know that we have a voting system that is in crisis. Our political leaders are refusing to address this issue. Our national elected officials are failing to act.
All across the United States, activists, just like us, are challenging their state's election system. We have a responsibility to the voters that we organize, register, and encourage to vote. When voters go to the polls, they have a right to expect that they will have their ballots recorded and counted as they intended.
We have done our job well. More voters have participated in the political process, and donated to candidates, than at any time in our history. Now it is time to force our political leaders and elected officials to do their job!
We will demand that we have a secure, reliable, accessible voting system in this country. Such a system is not a legislative nicety. It is the Fundamental institution of our Democracy.
So we are going to change the debate. We are no longer willing to go to our elected officials and Party leaders, "cap in hand," pleading with them to speak out, and to reform our election system. It is their responsibility, inherent in elected office, to provide American citizens with a secure, accurate, accessible system of voting.
Until such time as we are confident that the election system, in the United States, will accurately (1) record, (2) count, and (3) preserve the ballots of American citizens, we will be withholding our valuable volunteer efforts to organize, recruit, and turnout voters.
Please sign and copy this petition. Send copies to: your county party Central Committee, the state chair of your Party, state legislators, your members of Congress, and to Howard Dean (DNC Chair) and Ken Mehlman (RNC Chair). Send faxes when possible. Fax numbers for elected officials can be found by going to www.congress.org, which will also provide links to state officials. Share this petition with other volunteers and friends.
You may wish to add the following phrase: If you are unaware of the threats to our voting systems, I would be happy to provide a briefing and sources for your consideration.
National Volunteer Strike and Petition
I am participating in a national campaign by volunteer activists. American citizens have a right to expect that their elected officials and leaders will provide them with a secure voting system.
A secure, accurate, accessible voting system is not just a legislative priority.
IT IS THE CENTRAL INSTITUTION OF THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM.
As a member of __________________________________, it is essential that I have confidence that the work I do- to organize, register, and turn out voters- will be productive. For these efforts to be productive, we must have a secure voting system. It is, therefore, essential that we have confidence (1) that our voting machines are recording and counting votes accurately, and producing an audit-able paper trail; and (2) that the tabulators, into which the accumulated voting data is fed, are certified as secured against the possibility of tampering, or manipulation of the voting outcome. Until such time as I have been assured that these criteria are being meet, it is inappropriate for me to dedicate my time and my effort to recruiting and turning out voters.
In the past, I have contributed my volunteer efforts in the following ways:
The Honorable Howard Dean, MD
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. SE _Washington, DC 20003
Mary Kiraly is a painter who, in addition to a degree in art and graduate work in studio art, has an M.A. in International Relations (in Strategic Studies). She has devoted much of her time and effort, over the past 3 years, to attemting [sic] to call attention to the suppression of the vote in this country. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Authors Website: www.CountEveryVote.BlogSpot.com
This pledge is a practical way to plant that seed even without taking on the more direct language typically used here at GuvWurld. Here are a few small tweaks I propose, and of course people can ultimately choose to write whatever they want in order to get the point across.
- Both places mentioning confidence would be strengthened by saying it is essential that there is a basis for confidence.
- In the first numbered item, the audit-able paper trail would be more definitive as audit-able paper ballot of record.
- I'm having a little trouble with the second numbered item, mainly because I don't want to perpetuate the need for tabulators. However, putting that aside because I want to give a big, "YES, AND..." to this overall idea, this item would be stronger if it said "tabulators are publicly transparent and certified..."
- "I have been assured" needs to be a higher standard: "Until such time as it is proven these criteria are being met..." Else I assure you, we could be lied to.
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Thursday, February 02, 2006
Election News and Event Announcements
Election results should be a reflection of accuracy rather than expediencyVoteTrustUSA has the contingency plan Memo And Questionaire To Registrars of Voters, circulated not by McPherson but rather Bruce McDannold, Interim Director, Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment. The meat and potatoes:
Thank you for your recent reporting on voting machines. I have to wonder, though, if your Jan. 29 article (“Bruce McPherson requests voting system contingency plans”) accurately reflects the views and priorities of Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich.
According to The Eureka Reporter, Crnich said, “There’s always hand counts, but I don’t see that, (considering) the time involved, as a desirable alternative at all.”
Also: “That would be very late reporting,” Crnich said. “It would mean that we’d have to get the ballots in from Shelter Cove, Orleans and the farthest reaches of the county. The results that normally we have in between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. would probably not be available until morning or midday on Wednesday.”
Is Crnich suggesting that expediency is more important than verifiably accurate results? We shouldn’t sacrifice accuracy for anything. Any other attitude is inappropriate in the elections department.
The truth is, hand-counting paper ballots is a practical and cost-effective way for Humboldt County to conduct elections that will be transparent and verifiably accurate. We should happily trade a few extra hours of uncertainty for a provable outcome, as opposed to earlier returns coming from equipment with proprietary (secret) software that ensures permanent uncertainty about the true outcome.
Creating a basis for voter confidence and establishing proof of an election’s outcome must trump the expediency of rapid returns. Anyone charged with the responsibility of conducting elections should be very clear about this. If The Eureka Reporter has misrepresented Crnich’s position then she is owed an apology. On the other hand, if The Eureka Reporter has it right, Crnich’s priorities as registrar call into question her fitness for that office.
(Editor’s note: We stand by the information reflected in the story, but thank you for writing about this important subject.)
As of Friday, January 20, 2006, the following applications for certification have been received by the Secretary of State’s Office:Today's Oakland Tribune has more on these options, including some fairly ridiculous comments from a few county Registrars. Have they suddenly gone cold on the big push for all mail-in elections? Such an arrangement would fall far short of the standards set in the election reform platform of the Voter Confidence Resolution. And with timing that would be laughable if it weren't so serious, yesterday both the Eureka Reporter and Eureka Times-Standard reported on the recent identity theft outbreak that has involved mail fraud. The T-S also had this story three weeks ago about Eureka's Clark St. post office being remodeled following vandalism and burglary. I think the thieves may have absconded with our basis for confidence in mail-in election results. Ironically, some of the election integrity movement's language crept into the article:The current status of the above applications is as follows:
- DIEBOLD – GEMS/AV-OS/AV-TSX w/ AVPM
- ES&S - Unisyn/InkaVote PBC
- HART INTERCIVIC - System 6
- SEQUOIA VOTING SYSTEMS - AVC Edge Voting System Version 5.0
- POPULEX – Digital Paper Ballot Voting System
- SEQUOIA VOTING SYSTEMS - AVC Edge Voting System Version 5.0
Sequoia has not completed federal testing. Sequoia has advised the Secretary of State’s Office that they anticipate federal testing will be completed on or about January 31, 2006. Based upon this representation, we have tentatively scheduled Sequoia’s state and volume testing to begin February 6, 2006.
- DIEBOLD – GEMS/AV-OS/AV-TSX w/ AVPM
As you are aware, Diebold has successfully completed both state and volume testing, the public hearing has occurred, and public comment has been taken. However, we have required the memory card to be sent back to the ITA to review the AccuBasic code. We are also conducting our own independent source code review, with the assistance of the Voting Systems Technical Assistance Advisory Board. A determination on certification will be made once the reviews have been completed and the reports issued.
- ES&S - Unisyn/InkaVote PBC
The ES&S InkaVote system began state testing this week.
- HART INTERCIVIC - System 6
The HART system is currently scheduled to resume state testing on February 1, 2006, and volume testing to occur on February 20-21, 2006.
- POPULEX – Digital Paper Ballot Voting System
Populex has been asked for additional information to complete their application.
Dino Marsango, officer in charge at the Clark Street Post Office, said remodeling the lobby is a “top priority.” Security issues and accessibility is still being looked at before remodeling can begin. (emphasis added)
Eureka resident Dave Berman keeps track of national news about potential electronic election-rigging on his Guvworld [sic] blog (guvwurld.blogspot.com). Berman is gaining some stature in the larger blogosphere, but local residents may want to stop by to check up on his long-running spat with county Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams over the security and tamperability of Humboldt County's electoral infrastructure.
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