Who “owns” our votes?
by Denis Wright (email@example.com)
“A temporary restraining order is necessary and proper under the facts presented to the Court since release of the CD-ROM today at 5:00 p.m. will significantly and permanently impair the rights and interests of the public and the Secretary of State as the custodian of those rights and interests.”
— Motion and Supporting Authority for a Temporary Restraining Order, filed in DeKalb Superior Court, State of Georgia on behalf of Cathy Cox, Secretary of State
Two months prior to leaving office Cathy Cox, Georgia’s outgoing Secretary of State and the subject of much controversy, felt compelled to stop an effort to perform a citizen audit of the state’s primary and run-off elections of July and August 2006.
Georgia’s elections, like some 38 other states, are conducted on DRE or Direct Record Electronic voting machines which are manufactured, upgraded and serviced by various private corporations who claim they are unaccountable to any outside scrutiny. In Georgia’s case that corporation is Diebold Election Systems, and Diebold supplies not only the machines but the ballots, the training, and the “proprietary” software that counts our votes.
The most recent legal battle in Georgia began after Atlanta attorney Mike Raffauf filed an Open Records request for a copy of the CD-ROM “which contains a copy of the information on each memory card (PCMCIA Card) which shall include all ballot images and ballot styles as well as vote totals and a copy of the consolidated returns from the election management system” for DeKalb County.
Linda Latimore, Director of Elections for DeKalb responded thus on November 3rd: “…by copy of this letter we are putting all interested parties on notice of our intent to provide you with a copy of the requested CD-ROM by 5:00 p.m. on November 9, 2006.”
Ms. Cox and her legal representatives felt that it was improper for the very citizens who cast the votes to audit the results; results that exist only in the inner workings of an electronic voting system that is itself mired in controvery and shrouded in great secrecy. Ms. Cox apparently felt very strongly that Georgians be kept in the dark about their votes: She had the request to deny the release of the CD records filed with the court 25 minutes before the disk was due to be handed to the public, without notifying Mike Raffauf she was racing to beat the deadline.
Cox and her staff contend that release of the files would constitute a “threat to public security or property if released”. One of her staff members, Kathy Rogers, felt it necessary to send an email to county election supervisors equating release of the data to “criminal or terrorist acts” after Georgia citizens requested it in 2004. Also enlisted was Ray Cobb, Director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, who filed a supporting affidavit with the court.
While Ms. Cox claims in her request for the Restraining Order that she and her office “fully support and indeed have advocated” for the Open Records Act, the record shows a different reality. Multitudes of Open Records Requests have been filed by citizens for information regarding the voting process which have been denied or never answered.
To bolster his case, Mr. Raffauf enlisted industry expert Yobie Benjamin to rebut the claims by Ray Cobb and Cathy Cox. Mr. Benjamin describes his experience and expertise in his affidavit, “I have 20 years experience with information systems management technologies… I am an internationally recognized expert in computer information security and have served in this capacity with several notable companies”. Mr. Benjamin inspected and analyzed the Diebold election system for former California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.
According to Mr. Benjamin “Release of election data that was recently publicly available should not cause this level of security risk. There is clearly something deficient with this election system.”
Benjamin continues: “Regarding the claims made by Mr. Cobb’s affidavit that the files ‘contain encryption codes that could be used in an attempt to modify, ‘spoof’, ‘crack’ or ‘hack’ the GEMS [Global Election Management System] software or the receipt or tabulation of votes using the GEMS software’. It is common practice in commercial and government industry to regularly change security codes and points of access as part of a prudent security program.”
In fact, the Certification Test of the Diebold Election System prepared by KSU for the office of the Secretary of State in July 2006 states that the dynamic password on a Poll Manager Card “has a six digit password and allows this password to be changed as often as desired”. Similarly, the password on Voter Access Cards can be changed to ensure security. Surely this most basic of security tenets would be followed in our elections and this information would be changed as often as deemed necessary. Had industry standards been applied in the voting system and passwords and other security related information been changed after the election, Mr. Cobb’s assertion is a red herring. If not, security concerns move well beyond the release of records regarding a closed election and speak to the apparent incompetence of those entrusted to protect our votes.
Furthermore, in response to Cobb’s claim that the CD data cannot be reproduced without copying security information, Benjamin calls this an “ignorant assertion” as any bit or byte of data in any computer system can be isolated securely by any competent computer professional.
Concludes Mr. Benjamin: “Election results and ballots should be made public irrespective of its form or format. It is up to the public to decide how they utilize this information.”
Why is the release of this information so vital to the citizens of Georgia? First there is the question of “who owns the votes”. Diebold and other manufacturers have consistently insisted that the vote tabulation software is private company property and have fought vehemently to stop any independent scrutiny. There are other concerns and issues as well which are specific to this election and merit in-depth study: In almost 50% of DeKalb County precincts the number of cast ballots did not match the number of signed voter certificates; undervotes were unusually high, exceeding 40% in some races; 106,000 ballots statewide (14% of the voters) did not record a choice for the U.S. Senate, the “top of the ticket” race.
According to Cathy Cox, it seems, the interests of a private corporation take precedent over the rights of the state’s citizens to know how their votes are tallied in state elections. As the official “protector” of our votes, just who is Ms. Cox protecting? One has to ask why Ms. Cox would feel the need to halt the release of information that, in fact, already belongs to each and every voter in Georgia. Why rush in just minutes before the deadline in a secret and faulty court filing? Just who are the “interested parties” in our elections, Diebold or the citizenry? And just how do the results of a public election “significantly and permanently impair the rights and interests of the public” as Cox claims?
These and other lingering questions should be asked and answered under oath by Cathy Cox prior to leaving office. It seems likely, however, that the ever-expanding voting scandal will be inherited by incoming Secretary of State, Karen Handel.
In her position papers prior to election Ms. Handel claimed that our voting system is both insecure and outdated and promised to replace it with one that provides a Voter Verified Paper Ballot. But will any new system continue the history of secrecy and subtefuge exhibited by Diebold and their apologists or herald a new era of openness and transparency so desperately needed in this arena so critical to our Democracy?
The fact remains that we already have the capability to provide a Voter Verified Paper Ballot utilizing Optical Scan technology. Not only would this solution be much preferable than would pouring millions more dollars down the Diebold money pit, it would provide something that DRE voting can never attain: clear voter intent. If Ms. Handel hopes to regain public confidence in elections her office should explore and pursue any options that put the votes back where they belong: in the hands of the people.
November 14, 2006
DIEBOLD DOES NOT OWN OUR VOTES
(DeKalb, GA) Georgia citizens will hold a press conference on Tuesday, November 14, at 11:00 am at the DeKalb County Courthouse, 556 North McDonough Street, Decatur, Georgia, to announce the filing of a lawsuit to gain access to public election information.
Georgia voters will challenge Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who is attempting to block public access to voting records. Are Georgia’s elections transparent and fair? Apparently Cathy Cox and Diebold don’t want us to know. Georgia citizens will file suit to demand access to voting information to ensure the fairness of Diebold electronic voting machines, whose accuracy has been questioned.
Georgia’s Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, has filed an injunction to stop a citizen from reviewing public election records. Before Diebold became involved in Georgia, election records were fully accessible to the public. The argument being put forward by the Secretary of State is that the election information is proprietary to Diebold. Cathy Cox, Secretary of State, has no business serving as a prosecutor for Diebold, and has no business telling DeKalb County what they can or cannot give to the public.
Taxpayer dollars pay Kennesaw State University and Ray Cobb; they should not stop the public from having access to election records. Attorney Mike Raffauf will file a motion to dismiss the state’s lawsuit. He also will release voter affidavits as evidence of the need for access to the public records and expert testimony on why these records are necessary and the state is out of bounds in trying to keep the public from gaining access to them. Attorney Mike Raffauf will release evidence that supports the contention that Georgia elections are not transparent, reliable, or fair.
See the documents at the links below:
The Mother Jones article is making them furious. His contact info is in his signature line, so be sure to call for a ride to get your ID:
Subject: Georgia voter IDs
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2006 23:15:50 -0400
From: “Banas, David” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I know ya’ll really don’t care about telling the true facts but in case you care to clarify the information your peddling about the Georgia voter IDs the facts from the secretary of state website is
Georgia Voter Identification Card
If you are a registered voter and do not have a Georgia driver’s license or Georgia identification card, you can receive a free Georgia Voter Identification Card today. Your free Georgia Voter Identification Card is available through the County Voter Registrar’s Office in the county where you live.
In order to receive your free Georgia Voter Identification Card, you will need to present a document confirming your identity to your County Voter Registrar which includes the following:
o your full legal name and date of birth; and/or
o your full legal name and residential address.
You can use the same document to confirm your identity
I realize you have this information as it is SSSOOO easy to find and verify. But if you choose not to adjust your website it just confirms in my mind the truth about your views.
Fiserv Norcross – Operations
5335 Triangle Parkway
And my reply:
Right, David. And I’m sure you’re volunteering all those elderly folks who don’t drive to their local office to GET this free ID, correct?
And, you’re waiting in those long lines so you can drive them back home, correct?
Hey, David, I have an excellent idea. I’m going to help you out with your volunteering by posting this email on the front page of CountTheVote.
And, rather than have you guessing, I’ll proclaim that I am a proud rural DEMOCRAT.
GEORGIA MAKES #1 – WORST PLACE TO VOTE
Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America’s Worst Places to Cast a Ballot (or Try)
By Sasha Abramsky
September/October 2006 Issue
Machines that count backward, slice-and-dice districts, felon baiting, phone jamming, and plenty of dirty tricks.
We used to think the voting system was something like the traffic laws – a set of rules clear to everyone, enforced everywhere, with penalties for transgressions; we used to think, in other words, that we had a national election system. How wrong a notion this was has become painfully apparent since 2000: As it turns out, except for a rudimentary federal framework (which determines the voting age, channels money to states and counties, and enforces protections for minorities and the disabled), U.S. elections are shaped by a dizzying mélange of inconsistently enforced laws, conflicting court rulings, local traditions, various technology choices, and partisan trickery. In some places voters still fill in paper ballots or pull the levers of vintage machines; elsewhere, they touch screens or tap keys, with or without paper trails. Some states encourage voter registration; others go out of their way to limit it. Some allow prisoners to vote; others permanently bar ex-felons, no matter how long they’ve stayed clean. Who can vote, where people cast ballots, and how and whether their votes are counted all depends, to a large extent, on policies set in place by secretaries of state and county elections supervisors – officials who can be as partisan, as dubiously qualified, and as nakedly ambitious as people anywhere else in politics. Here is a list – partial, but emblematic – of American democracy’s more glaring weak spots.
#1 The New Poll Tax
In 2005, Georgia state legislators passed a bill requiring voters to present either a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID that costs between $20 and $35 and is available only from Department of Motor Vehicles offices. Supporters claimed this was necessary to keep people from casting votes in someone else’s name, even though Georgia secretary of state Cathy Cox noted that her office had no evidence of this happening. Either way, the measure is likely to have a dramatic effect on who can vote. Two-thirds of the state’s counties don’t even have a DMV office; Atlanta, the state’s largest city, has just one, where waits at the ID counters often run to several hours. In late June, the secretary of state issued a report finding that more than half a million active-status, registered voters in Georgia don’t have valid photo IDs. Fully 17.3 percent of African American voters, and one-third of black voters over age 65, wouldn’t be able to cast a ballot under the law. When the federal Department of Justice had five experts examine the ID legislation in 2005, four of them objected to it, as the Washington Post discovered. But higher-ups at Justice overruled them and the measure (pushed by conservative think tanks such as the American Center for Voting Rights) went on the books. In October of last year a judge blocked its implementation, and the law – along with another version that offers free voter IDs – remains in limbo as appeals continue.
Read the rest at Mother Jones
CONCERNED GEORGIA VOTERS CALL ON COX TO FIX VOTING SYSTEM AND CONDUCT PUBLIC TEST
January 26, 2006
Secretary of State Cathy Cox
State of Georgia
Recent events in Florida have again shown how vulnerable Georgia is to election tampering. In the past, these charges have been dismissed. There is now even more compelling evidence that Georgia is ignoring, and we write to you today to respectfully request that you address these very important issues immediately.
You have recently indicated that you are now in favor of some type of voter verified paper trail. What, if anything, has your office done to make this happen?
There is a proven security breach with the Diebold Election System Memory Cards; a recent mock election in Leon County, Florida demonstrated that Diebold optical scanners can be hacked into because of the use of interpreted code on the memory cards. As you know, Georgia uses the same Diebold optical scanners (that were tested in Florida) to count absentee ballots and it uses Diebold DREs (Touchscreens) for the rest of its ballots.
The 1990 and 2002 FEC technical standards ban the use of interpreted code on memory cards because it creates a serious security vulnerability (See section 4.2.2, http://www.eac.gov/election_resources/vss.html). On January 5, 2006, Diebold admitted that their OS, TS and TSX voting equipment uses interpreted code in their “Response to Pennsylvania Request for Clarification on Basic Issues” (see attached).
Because of the fact that Georgia must comply with federal law, and federal standards prohibit the use of interpreted code, it appears that the legality of all Diebold election equipment nationally and in Georgia is in question. We urge you to immediately de-certify the OS, TS and TSX Diebold voting systems Georgia intended for use in the upcoming 2006 elections – or to provide extensive documentation showing why this should not occur.
If, for some reason, you question the evidence found in Florida, we would like to request that you allow a similar mock election to occur right here at the state capitol. While it will not be election day, a skilled and tech savvy individual can show the state how and why their votes are at risk. Too often, these charges are dismissed as conspiracy or the discussion of technical aspects blur the reality of the situation. A real exhibition will simplify everything and it will let the people and the public officials see for themselves.
Finally, the public would like to see all of your correspondence with Diebold and we believe this material, these documents that belong to the public should be on the Secretary of State’s website to inform Georgia voters, public officials and the press about this critical and quickly evolving situation.
Please respond as soon as possible on these matters. After all, it is an election year.
Georgians for Verified Voting
Defenders of Democracy
CONCERNED VOTERS CALL ON COX TO FIX VOTING SYSTEM, ALLOW FOR A TEST ELECTION TO PROVE FLAWS
Atlanta – Today, voters concerned about the integrity of Georgia’s elections marched the capitol and demanded that the state’s chief election official, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, back her words on paper trails with immediate action. At the same time, they asked for an opportunity to prove the vulnerability of the system and show how the machines themselves were illegal, contradicted federal standards and are easy to corrupt.
“Voting is one of our single most important rights . . . Recent events in Florida have shown how vulnerable Georgia is to election tampering. In the past, these charges have been dismissed, but there is now even more compelling evidence that Georgia is ignoring. We write to you today to respectfully request that you address these very important issues immediately,” the group, led by Roxanne Jekot, said in a letter of request to the democratic gubernatorial candidate who runs the office that manages elections.
In a recent mock election in Leon County, Florida, a hacker showed how easy it was to alter the results produced from the Diebold machines. Georgia uses the same machines that were tested in Florida to count absentee ballots and it uses DREs (touchscreens) for the rest of its ballots.
To back their claims, the group pointed to the software code on the Diebold memory cards that the machine uses to record information.
The group pointed to federal standards and technical aspects of the machines to prove their claims:
. The 1990 and 2002 FEC technical standards ban the use of interpreted code on memory cards because it creates a serious security vulnerability (See section 4.2.2, http://www.eac.gov/election_resources/vss.html).
. On January 5, 2006, Diebold admitted that their OS, TS and TSX voting equipment uses interpreted code in their “Response to Pennsylvania Request for Clarification on ABasic Issues” (see http://www.countthevote.org/dbd_docs/diebold_pa_ltr.pdf).
“Because of the fact that Georgia must comply with federal law and federal standards prohibit the use of interpreted code, it appears that the legality of all Diebold election equipment nationally — and in Georgia is – is in question,” they said.
As she was holding a capitol news conference to tout her run for governor, the group also presented an official request to let someone try and hack into the Diebold voting machines Georgia uses in its elections.
“If, for some reason, you question the evidence found in Florida, we would like to request that you allow a similar mock election to occur right here at the state capitol. While it will not be election day, a skilled and tech savvy individual can show the state how and why their votes are at risk. Too often, these charges are dismissed as conspiracy. Or, the discussion of the technical aspects blur the reality of the situation. A real exhibition will simplify everything and allow the people and public officials see for themselves,” they said.
Based on federal requirements and the recent comments by Diebold on the machines they use everywhere, including Georgia, the group asked Cox to decertify – or otherwise rebuke the validity of – the current electronic voting system in Georgia.
“We urge you to immediately de-certify the OS, TS and TSX Diebold voting systems Georgia intended for use in the upcoming 2006 elections – or to provide extensive documentation showing why this should not occur,” they said.
Cox recently changed her mind on the need for a voter verified system; the concerned voters rallying at a press conference asked if the Secretary of State’s office had backed her words with action. At this time, no evidence exists that any action has been taken.
For more information, please contact Roxanne Jekot at email@example.com or by phone at 404.806.0035.
Action Alert: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!
December 29, 2005
In December, newspapers across the country reported that computer experts in Florida had conclusively proven that the “electronic ballot box” in Diebold optical scan vote counting systems could undetectably alter the results of an election. Within days, California’s Secretary of State reported that the use of banned software affects Diebold’s touch-screen voting system as well, a fact which Diebold has acknowledged.
VoteTrustUSA has launched a campaign to hold the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) accountable for ensuring that all Diebold software is re-inspected and decertified until it can be shown that all prohibited code has been removed. We also urge the EAC to initiate the re-inspection of the election software of other vendors, which may also include software that is expressly forbidden in the FEC Voting System Standards. Please go to the VoteTrustUSA action page and send an email to the EAC voicing your concern about the use of prohibited software on voting machines.
This breach of security exploits an inherently insecure feature of the Diebold optical scanners and touch screens known as interpreted code, which the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 1990 and 2002 specifically prohibit. For further details about how Diebold uses interpreted code and why it is banned from use in voting software, please click here.
Because this prohibited code exists on Diebold touchscreen machines as well as their optical scanners, the Secretary of State of California has demanded that the Diebold Touchscreen (TSX) software be re-examined by the Independent Testing Authority (ITA), who originally certified that the systems were in compliance with the 2002 Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG).
How did the ITA overlook such an obvious violation of federal standards in the first place? And just as importantly, do the voting systems produced by Diebold’s competitors contain similarly prohibited code?
It is time to put the EAC on notice that violations of federal standards by the ITA, which is now under their jurisdiction, will not be tolerated by voters.
Since the Georgia Democratic party is refusing to get behind any candidate for Secretary of State (they’re concentrating all funds and support on the Governor’s race – Cathy Cox) Bill Stephens (the republican candidate for SoS) is a given. Georgia will have our own version of Katherine Harris and Kenneth Blackwell because the DEM party will hand him the office.
The current DEM SoS candidates can’t even get party help with fundraising.
In the case of Bill Stephens, one should take great care to understand that this should be a “personal” issue with the Democrats.
You see, Bill Stephens was a Democrat elected in 2002 who switched parties 3 days after being elected with Democratic party funds to give the new governor a majority in the state Senate. For that move, Stephens was given the most powerful spot in the state Senate – Majority Leader. You’d think, after Zell Miller, the DEM party would at least TRY to punish some of these DEMS………….
Now, he’s being further rewarded with a more powerful spot in state politics – control of the voting machines.
So, who is surprised?
Sadly, Bill Stephens is MY state Senator. During the last legislative session when I asked him to sponsor (AGAIN – he was co-sponsor of SB-500) our Vote Count Protection Act, he refused. When I asked him if he would prefer to solve the problems legislatively or wait until the scandal hit the news, Stephens said “I’ll take the scandal.”
Today, Stephens and Cox and Perdue and virtually every politician in Georgia announced support for voter verified paper ballots in Georgia. (See the AJC)
Stephens’ legislation would create a pilot project for paper receipts in three counties: Cobb, Columbia (near Augusta) and Cox’s native Decatur (in South Georgia).
Do you suspect Diebold/Stephens intends to make sure Cox loses the Governor’s race? Maybe? As a member of the state Senate (I believe he relinquished his Majority Leader status when he announced for SoS), he can certainly convince the 2005 republican controlled legislature to put his proposed pilot program in place in time for the 2006 election. Cathy Cox and her Democratic party are powerless to stop him. Thanks to none other than Cathy Cox.
If you ask me, that’s an admission that Stephens knows the machines are riggable. In fact, given my meetings with Stephens and presentation to him of evidence of rigged voting machines, I know it.
The republicans intend to wait until Cathy Cox is the “last man standing” and hit her with the coming scandal she created with electronic voting in Georgia. It’s the only way Sonny Perdue can beat her.
It’s time to move Cathy Cox out of the way and ensure her DEM opponent (Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor) become the candidate supported for Governor by the DEM party.
Cox will cost the DEMS ANY chance to re-take the Governor’s mansion, and all the other state offices by turning over these machines to republican control.