Nel's New Day

November 7, 2015

Will Computer Hackers Determine Elections?

“Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.” It’s an old saying that might be true in Ohio during the most recent election. A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana miserably failed with a tally of almost two-to-one. I assumed that many of the no votes came from people who disagreed with the part of the amendment that would give sales control to just t, essentially a monopoly. According to Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, the vote may have a much darker reason. Their article, published in the Columbus Free Press, claims that “televised screen shots taken Tuesday night of live election returns in Ohio provided by the Secretary of State’s office showed hundreds of thousands of votes flipping from the “yes” to “no” column of Issue 3, the ballot measure to legalize marijuana.”

Secretary of State Jon Husted, the man who provided the election returns, was “vehemently opposed” to the measure, Issue 3, and “threatened its proponents with legal action.” Live television showed the flips of hundreds of thousands of votes going from yes to no in just minutes. The shot on the right was taken just 11 minutes after the one on the right although the number of reporting precincts increased by only 6 percent. The first screenshot, with 39 percent of precincs reporting, showed the measure ahead by 65 to 35 percent.

television shot 1

television shot 2

 

Ohio has a history of voting problems.

 

Over a decade ago, James Q. Jacobs published a lengthy article about the “voter irregularities and anomalies” that may have caused John Kerry to lose Ohio—and the presidency of the United States. He claims that an analysis of Cuyahoga County votes shows that Kerry votes were changed to George W. Bush votes. In a study of 166,953 votes, one of every 34 Ohio voters, the Kerry-Bush margin shifted six percent through punch card cross-voting. Jacobs said, “Seven-eighths of voters in heavily-Democratic Cuyahoga County, more than one of every eight Ohio Kerry voters, could have cross-voted at an adjacent precinct using the wrong ballot order.” By Ohio statutory requirement, candidate names rotate to the top of the ballot list an equal number of times. If ballots cast for one precinct are counted with a different precinct’s ballot order, the votes can be reversed or assigned to a third-party candidates, a situation that had an unusually high incidence in several Cuyahoga County precincts.

An investigation by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.”

The CEO of one of the most crucial suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren O’Dell of Diebold, pledged before the 2004 campaign to deliver Ohio and thus the presidency to George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush’s margin of victory was only 118,775 out of 5.6 million votes, 800,000 of them cast on electronic voting machines.

Other GAO conclusions:

Some electronic voting machines “did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected,” meaning than an entire vote count can be slipped.

“It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate.”

“Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level,” leaving the opportunity to use altered memory cards.

The GAO also confirms that access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected. Access to one machine provided access to the whole network allowing a small group of people to change large numbers of votes.

Access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords.

The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail.

A voting machine in Mahoning County recorded a negative 25 million votes for Kerry. Election officials in that county also agreed that voters reporting at least 18 machines visibly transferred votes for Kerry to Bush. Franklin County voters experienced the same problem, and dozens of voters swore that their vote for Kerry disappeared without a paper trail. Kerry’s margins were very low in both counties compared to exit polls. In Gahanna Ward 1B, recording 638 people voting, Bush had almost 4,000 extra votes. On 1:43 am after Election Day, Miami County reported an additional 19,000 votes after the central tabulator had reported 100 percent of the vote; 13,000 of the votes were for Bush. Shelby and  other counties admitted that they discarded key records and equipment before any recount could take place.

In 2007, Lawrence County officials reported votes going to the wrong candidates. At the end of an election that year, a tally printed and posted on the door of the county precinct got numbers one way, but a tabulation machine at the county’s headquarters flipped the numbers, exchanging the number of votes for two candidates. E-voting machines were made by Election Systems & Software. Lawrence County Election Director Catherine Overbeck didn’t say how they determined which tabulations were correct.

Furious with President Obama’s 2008 win, Karl Rove promised to deliver Ohio for Mitt Romney in 2012. Fox network called the Ohio vote for President Obama soon after 11:00 pm, but Rove told them to wait. He claimed a shift to the right immediately after 11:00 am as it had in 2004. That’s when the GOP secretary of state, Ken Blackwell, called SMARTech to fix the computers that had just gone down, and they rerouted he vote through its company in Chattanooga. Kerry’s lead reversed by over 6 percent. SMARTech’s top client was the Bush-Cheney campaign, and the company worked for Jeb Bush and the Republican National Committee. Journalist Craig Unger gives the details in his book, Boss Rove.

In 2012, Rove predicted the same reversal from the same counties that had flipped right in 2004. It never happened, and Karl Rove’s jaw dropped. I watched him as the votes kept on coming for President Obama in Ohio. Here is his meltdown.

A few weeks before Election Day, Anonymous, a hacktivist group, issued a video statement warning Rove that he was being watched. Two days after Election Day, Anonymous released a press statement claiming that it prevented Rove’s attempt to steal the 2012 election for Romney.

 “We began following the digital traffic of one Karl Rove…After a rather short time, we identified the digital structure of Karl’s operation and even that of his ORCA. This was an easy task in that barn doors were left open and the wind swept us inside.”

“ORCA” was a Romney’s high-tech get-out-the-vote system to keep tabs on potential voters and to target who hadn’t voted yet on Election Day. Anonymous claimed that ORCA’s purpose was to rig the vote and that the group blocked Rove’s access to “digital tunnels” for vote changing.

Election Day is one year from tomorrow. The United States is the only major democracy that allows private partisan corporations to secretly count and tabulate the votes with proprietary non-transparent software. As of now computers are no better than they were when Ohio gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2004, and Karl Rove was positive that the state would put Mitt Romney into the presidency in 2012. Matt Bevin won governor in Kentucky by a tidy margin despite polls indicating either a Democratic win or a very tight margin. How many elections in the United States have been decided by those in power who are willing to electronically steal elections for their own benefit? We won’t know because the government refuses to provide the same security that computers in banks and large corporations require. Will computer hackers decide the presidency of the United States in 2016?

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