Things That Make You Go Hmmm — October 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Will your vote be counted properly? Might just depend on where you live.


“He who votes decides nothing; he who counts the votes decides everything” – Joseph Stalin

Last March in Wellington, Florida, City Council candidate Al Paglia was declared the winner only to learn later that the voting machines used to tally the vote had reversed his votes with his opponent’s and he was subsequently informed he had actually NOT been elected.

Even in the world of politics – his honeymoon was shorter than anyone could have imagined. Just days after being declared the victor in a city councilman race, he got a call saying he was indeed… a loser.

It was Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher, and her team who discovered the mistake. In two races, winners including Paglia were announced and certified… when they were actually the losers. Bucher said Palm Beach’s optical scan election system had – unbeknownst to anyone-mixed up the race results. As a result, the wrong winners and losers were called. When asked by CBS4 Investigative reporter, Michele Gillen, what is was like to declare the wrong winners? Bucher said, “It humiliating. It was awful. It was never our intent.”

As it turns out, the company that made the vote counting machines actually KNEW about the software glitch but neglected to inform the city staff about it. It was only after they were able to prove the fault was with the software that they learned it was a known bug. Bucher is calling into question the audit process used in Florida.

Bucher is one of several election supervisors we’ve met, who are taking aim at Florida’s audit process — the review of the paper ballots– only a sampling is done, and only after elections are certified.

Bucher said that if the audit was done on all races there could be other elections where the wrong winner was chosen. {…}

Bucher said its time to hold Florida accountable– the State of Florida tests and certifies the voting machines for the state. Florida is one of just a handful of states that opted out of the federal program that certifies voting machines… deciding to do it on its own. {…}

“What we’re finding out is that there are problems with almost every system in the United States,” said Bucher. This issue is leaving some supervisors to shake their heads about the machines their constituents are voting on and how paper ballots in just random races will ever be checked.

It’s curious why Palm Beach County actually bought these machines, made by Sequoia Voting Systems which is now owned by Dominion Voting Systems, in the first place. They had a well-documented history of problems:

Months before the county agreed to buy it, security experts blasted Sequoia Voting Systems’ equipment as riddled with bugs that jeopardized votes. It was easily hacked. Even the instructions were confusing.

“We found significant security weaknesses throughout the Sequoia system,” scientists wrote in a review ordered by California. “The nature of these weaknesses raises serious questions as to whether the Sequoia software can be relied upon to protect the integrity of elections.”

A group in California studied the Sequoia system and what they found was scandalous:

By their six-week deadline, they had produced a 100-page report. “Virtually every important software security mechanism is vulnerable,” they wrote.

At the same time, a second group, called the “red team,” was trying to break into the system in a lab, hunting for a way to take over the machines. The team succeeded – seven times.

A third group looked at the system’s instructions. It found them long, complicated and incomplete.

The California secretary of state reviewed the findings and slammed the system, calling it “defective,” “unacceptable” and “inadequate.” She allowed the machines to continue being used – but issued 10 pages of security restrictions designed to keep unauthorized people away from the machines.

But, Palm Beach County bought them anyway. On a no-bid contract.

Meanwhile, The Free Press is reporting that voting machines used to count votes in multiple states, including some swing states, are manufactured by a company with ties to Bain Capital and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

In all 234 counties of Texas, the entire states of Hawaii and Oklahoma, half of Washington and Colorado, and certain counties in swing state Ohio, votes will be cast on eSlate and ePollbook machines made by Hart Intercivic. Hart Intercivic machines have famously failed in Tarrant County (Ft. Worth), adding 10,000 non-existent votes. The EVEREST study, commissioned by the Ohio secretary of state in 2007, found serious security flaws with Hart Intercivic products.

Looking beyond the well-documented Google choking laundry list of apparent fraud, failure and seeming corruption that is associated with Hart Intercivic, an ongoing Free Press investigation turned its attention to the key question of who owns the voting machine companies. The majority of the directors of Hart come from the private equity firm H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. has been heavily invested in Hart Intercivic since July 2011, just in time for the current presidential election cycle. But who is H.I.G Capital?

Out of 49 partners and directors, 48 are men, and 47 are white. Eleven of these men, including H.I.G. Founder Tony Tamer, were formerly employed at Bain and Company, and two of those men, John P. Bolduc and Douglas Berman are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.

It’s enough to make you want to scream and is reminiscent of 2004 when Diebold CEO Wally O’Dell promised George W. Bush that he would deliver the states where his machines were used. If the votes are close in these swing states, and, by definition, they WILL be, it’s going to be very hard to trust the results.

It’s like a very bad case of déjà vu