This is a must-read piece from Harper’s Magazine on the topic of election integrity, and the increasingly obvious threat to it from electronic voting. Its publication before the election in no way diminishes its all-too-relevant importance towards gauging real democratic legitimacy to the weilding of power within our society.
In fact, there has been a lot of talk about defacto GOP boss and SuperPAC king Karl Rove and his strangely nervous behavior on election night (in noticable contrast to his normal unflappable self), while serving as a commentator for Fox News when discussion the election results as they were coming in from Ohio, even after they were no longer necessary for an Obama win. As Tom Tomorrow posited, perhaps he knew something - or thought he did - that his Fox co-hosts didn’t know. Perhaps he expected Ohio’s Secretary of State John Husted to deliver another nick-of-time vote tally surge, just like former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (who was also simultaneously serving as the Bush/Cheney reelection campaign chair) did in 2004. Rove must have been dumbstruck that Husted couldn’t pull this one out, ala 2004.
Of real interest was the fact that while Rove was publicly objecting on network television to calling the Ohio results, Romney would not concede (even though every other news source had been calling the election for Obama for nearly an hour and a half). That seems fishy, perhaps a sign that Rove’s Crossroads SuperPAC operation and the Romney campaign had interlinking coordination to an extent that is almost assuredly illegal (even by the already thin and flimsy standards that have been established regarding this kind of thing).
What is important to note is that this report is not a matter of ‘conspiracy theory,’ but is the logical conclusion from empirical evidence compiled through ever-more sophisticated electronic forensics and statistical research.
Old-school ballot-box fraud at its most egregious was localized and limited in scope. But new electronic voting systems allow insiders to rig elections on a statewide or even national scale. And whereas once you could catch the guilty parties in the act, and even dredge the ballot boxes out of the bayou, the virtual vote count can be manipulated in total secrecy. By means of proprietary, corporate-owned software, just one programmer could steal hundreds, thousands, potentially even millions of votes with the stroke of a key.
As recently as September 2011, a team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory hacked into one of Diebold’s old Accuvote touchscreen systems. Their report asserted that anyone with $26 in parts and an eighth-grade science education would be able to manipulate the outcome of an election. “This is a national security issue,” wrote the Argonne team leader, Roger Johnston, using the sort of language that would normally set off alarm bells in our security-obsessed culture. Yet his warning has gone unheeded, and the Accuvote-TSX, now manufactured by ES&S, will be used in twenty states by more than 26 million voters in the 2012 general election.
HAVA’s [Help America Vote Act of 2002] impact has been huge, accelerating a deterioration of our electoral system that most Americans have yet to recognize, let alone understand. We are literally losing our ballot - the key physical proof of our power as citizens.
Even a former major elections official has heaped scorn upon HAVA’s mission. DeForest Soaries was appointed by George W. Bush to head the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which HAVA created to oversee security standards for new voting devices. Soaries stepped down in 2005, calling his office a “charade” and claiming that he had been deceived by both the White House and Congress. Washington politicians, Soaries declared in a 2006 radio interview, have apparently concluded that our voting system can’t be all that bad?after all, it got them elected. “But there’s an erosion of voting rights implicit in our inability to trust the technology that we use,” he added. “And if we were another country being analyzed by America, we would conclude that this country is ripe for stealing elections and for fraud.”
[Georgia Senator Max] Cleland lost by seven points. In his 2009 autobiography, he accused computerized voting machines of being “ripe for fraud.” Patched for fraud might have been more apt. In the month leading up to the election, Diebold employees, led by Bob Urosevich, applied a mysterious, uncertified software patch to 5,000 voting machines that Georgia had purchased in May.
“We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn’t do,” Diebold consultant and whistle-blower Chris Hood recounted in a 2006 Rolling Stone article. “The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done. . . . It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state. . . . We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from [Bob] Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level.”
This brings to mind this attempt by Ohio Secretary of State John Husted to add “software patches” to Ohio’s electronic voting machines, only days before being used in the 2012 election.
Others argue that SmarTech’s role was far more insidious and involved partisan control of the total vote count. Stephen Spoonamore, an IT specialist (and Republican) who has consulted on cybersecurity for Boeing, MasterCard, the Navy, and the State Department, has studied the electronic “architecture map” used by Ohio during the 2004 election. He speculates that SmarTech might have been able to use Connell’s interface to gain access to and modify vote totals. In a sworn affidavit, Spoonamore said that the “variable nature of the story” and “lack of documentation available” would, for any of his banking clients, provoke “an immediate fraud investigation.”
Arnebeck hoped to have Connell testify in open court against Rove. But the prospective witness died on December 19, 2008, at age forty-seven, when his single-engine Piper Saratoga, which he was piloting alone, crashed en route from Washington, D.C., to Ohio. The circumstances of his death were viewed with suspicion by his family and close friends and sparked a firestorm of conspiracy chatter on the Internet, but no criminal investigation was launched. Whether Rove and his collaborators orchestrated the electronic theft of the 2004 election will likely never be known. Still, Election Day exit polls make a compelling case that somebody may have been tampering with the presidential vote count, in Ohio and elsewhere.
Late on Election Day, John Kerry showed an insurmountable lead in exit polling, and many considered his victory all but certified. Yet the final vote tallies in thirty states deviated widely from exit polls, with discrepancies favoring George W. Bush in all but nine. The greatest disparities were concentrated in battleground states’ particularly Ohio. In one Ohio precinct, exit polls indicated that Kerry should have received 67 percent of the vote, but the certified tally gave him only 38 percent. The odds of such an unexpected outcome occurring only as a result of sampling error are 1 in 867,205,553. To quote Lou Harris, who has long been regarded as the father of modern political polling: “Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen.”
It is Germany, however, that has now become the standard-bearer for clean elections. In 2009, that nation’s constitutional court upheld the basic principle of the public nature of democratic elections. By ruling that the vote count must be something the public can authenticate, and without any specialized expertise, the decision directly challenged the use of computers in elections.
Ireland followed suit in June 2012, sending all its electronic voting machines to the scrap heap. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan called the computerized voting system a poorly conceived, scandalous waste of money and said he was “glad to bring this sorry episode to a conclusion on behalf of the taxpayer.”
If there is a weakness to this report, it is that none of this is information is really new, and author Victoria Collier, far from being the first to document this problem, does not go into nearly enough detail referencing previous investigations into this disturbing subject. USTV Media has published extensively on this subject, referencing a whole host of information and journalistic sources that have been following this issue for decades. Most notably is Greg Palast’s essential work over the years, including in his book Armed Madhouse where he describes voting irregularities and vote stealing in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Avi Rubin’s work, as well as Bev Harris’ BlackBoxVoting.org, and Brad Friedman at The Brad Blog are just a few more among many in this field.
Read Victoria Collier’s complete report in Harpers Magazine.