Tuesday, January 29, 2008


January 29, 2008 at 11:49:52

Headlined on 1/29/08:

by Teresa Blakely (Posted by Victrola) Page 1 of 1 page(s)


Crony Capitalism and the Demise of Our Democracy
The final chapter?

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's EVEREST study has demonstrated how badly the Ohio taxpayers were ripped off by dishonest voting machine vendors and complicit Board of Election Officials. Brunner has been forced to act decisively ahead of the presidential election to address a crisis of election integrity that she inherited from former Secretary J Kenneth Blackwell and former Ohio Republican Party Chair and Director of Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Bob Bennett. Bennett's "kill the messenger" attack on Brunner is a way to divert blame for the consequences of years of corrupt and incompetent "bad old boy" election management. Bennett remains true to his crony constituency, the voting machine vendors, by refusing to address the dangers posed to our democracy by notoriously fraud-friendly touchscreen voting machines. Push a button, accept the computer output, no audits, no questions asked. A most excellent way to choose the next leader of the free world.

It boggles my mind that Bennett, can tell reporters that he had not seen the EVEREST report yet claim there is nothing wrong with the voting machines. This sort of willful ignorance is what contributed to the purchase of inadequately tested, fraud-friendly electronic voting machines in the first place. Secretary Brunner does not want to have insecure, defective voting machines in use in Ohio for the next presidential election. Any attempt to thwart this goal is suspect.

--What confidence crisis?

The following Republicans have not conducted themselves in a manner that inspires trust in their judgment and integrity in managing our elections. Jack Abramoff represented Diebold at the time when the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Bob Ney, was establishing rules for electronic voting systems. Diebold contributed at least $275,000 in lobbying fees to Jack Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig. Former Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, another convicted felon and the lead sponsor of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)strongly opposed legislation requiring a paper audit trail[1]. Ney spearheaded the hasty move to electronic voting machines [2]. Diebold's then CEO Wally O'Dell, who promised to deliver Ohio votes to George W. Bush [3], resigned amidst securities fraud litigation [4]. Ken Blackwell was Secretary of State while co-chairing the Bush/Cheney campaign[5]. Now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers' report on "What Went Wrong in Ohio" described massive and unprecedented voter irregularities in 2004 caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Blackwell [6]. Mitch Given, a Diebold lobbyist contributed $10,000 to Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign. [7] Looking back to the early 1990's, convicted computer fraud felon Jeff Dean programmed what became Diebold's optiscan software.[8] In 2004 Franklin County Board of Election Director Matt Damschroder accepted $10,000 from a Diebold intermediary and donated it to the Franklin County Republican party. [9] Remarkably, in 2007 Damschroder was unanimously elected President of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.[10] In 2006 the Republican dominated Ohio Legislature removed the HB-3 requirement for a random audit of the electronic voting machine tallies. Ethically challenged individuals will always be drawn to high stakes political endeavors. This is precisely why our method of vote counting must be above reproach.

-- Read the Report. I call this broken.
( The following section was previously posted by this author to OP ED news on 1/6/08)[11]

EVEREST like the countless credible, critical, reviews of electronic voting machines that preceded it, found numerous serious security vulnerabilities in basic electronic voting machine system design and implementation. The academic reviewers on the EVEREST team describe the electronic voting system put in place under Ken Blackwell as possessing "critical security failures that render their technical controls insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election." As part of the EVEREST project, MicroSolved, Inc. (MSI), performed penetration tests of three voting machines systems in use in Ohio: Premier (Diebold), ES &S and Hart Intercivic. MSI's Executive Summary report concluded that all three vendors had failed to adopt, implement and follow "even the most basic set of information security guidelines" used in other industries.

MSI uncovered a myriad of common vulnerabilities and weaknesses many of which have been known for several years and still exist in the system components. They reported that many components lacked basic security controls such as firewalls, antivirus and other mechanisms for protecting system integrity. [12]

Princeton computer scientist Ed Felten considered the EVEREST report to be the scariest e-voting security report yet. He questioned how the ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machine ever got certified, noting that a machine with so many design errors must be susceptible to misrecording or miscounting votes due to ordinary glitches that plague computer systems. He considered the iVotronic too risky to use even if all poll workers and voters were angels. Among the many potential touchscreen security breaches that alarmed Felten was an undocumented backdoor function that allows a voter or poll worker to alter vote totals using a magnet and a personal digital assistant. [13]

-- Expensive. What's an honest election worth?

How is it that the cost of moving to a more secure accountable method of vote tabulation is now too expensive? In 2003 Blackwell was moving full speed ahead to purchase Diebold DRE's that he explicitly did not want to have a paper trail. Blackwell issued this directive in January of '05, the same month in which it was discovered he had acquired Diebold stock worth almost ten-thousand dollars. [14] Blackwell and company could not spend 100 million fast enough when purchasing incompetently designed electronic voting machines from disreputable vendors. Ask Ken Blackwell what sort of election official opts for voting technology that is unaccountable in the first place. How does one explain the expenditure of $100 million of taxpayer money on voting machines that are so insecure as to be untrustworthy in our elections? Ohio still has never had a complete accounting of how Blackwell spent HAVA money in 2005. What we see here is unregulated, partisan, crony capitalism from the Federal Election Commission all the way down to our County Boards of Election.

It would be a serious mistake to continue to use DRE voting machines that are extremely fraud friendly in a time when it is widely known how insecure these voting machines are. When a DRE voting machine is corrupted or malfunctions on election night, votes are irretrievably lost. If our election outcomes are to be decided by competing hackers or election insiders who infect electronic voting machines with computer viruses then our democracy is history.


[1] Abramoff-Diebold connection: http://coloradovoter.net/bcv-archive/msg03062.html
[2] Ney opposes audit trail for DREs: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=2262
[3] O'Dell fundraising letter (2003): http://rawstory.com/printstory.php?story=1570
[4] O'Dell securities fraud litigation: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5468
[5] Blackwell co-chairing Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign: http://www.thesentinel.com/283370491126756.php">href="http://www.thesentinel.com/283370491126756.php">http://www.thesentinel.com/283370491126756.php/>
[6] Massive and unprecedented irregularities in 2004: Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff (Rep. John Conyers, Jr.), January 5, 2005. Page 4:

[7] Diebold lobbyist donates to Blackwell: http://www.wtol.com/Global/story.asp?S=5012724/>
[8] Jeff Dean: http://www.defendersofdemocracy.com/drupal/node/54
[9] Damschroder: $10,000 donation: http://www.thesentinel.com/283370491126756.php
[10]Damschroder OAEO: http://vote.franklincountyohio.gov/boe/assets/pdf/press-releases/PR-03092007.pdf
[11] Blakely: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_teresa_b_080106_everest_3a_the_truth_a.htm
[12]Ohio SOS Everest Executive Summary>http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/info/EVEREST/04-Microsolved--Comprehensive-ExecSummRpt.pdf
[13]Felton's comments: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1236
[14]Blackwell buys Diebold: http://www.dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2006/04/04/20060404-A1-01.html
[15]Blackwell can't account for how all HAVA money spent;

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