Truth, Lies, & Politics

When is a coincidence too much of a
coincidence to be one?

Fiction Stops Here
A Closer Look at the GAO's Florida District 13.

No smoking gun . . . Not if, but when . . . and how often.  
Could Red be next?
As Americans we the people, individually and independently
can choose to vote for our future. . . or not. Our vote is our
power to be heard, to take an active part in our own destiny.
When that right is taken from us by negligence, error,
incompetence or an accident of technology, it is an insult to
this country and those who sacrificed their lives for our
freedoms. None of us, not red, not blue, not independent, not
indifferent should accept this chipping away at democracy.
Recent U.S. Government Accountability Office reports found no
smoking gun during Florida’s continuing investigation of Congressional
District 13’s 18,000 undervotes.
Not surprising since the GAO
observations could not assure that all 1,499 of Sarasota’s iVotronic machines
contained only Florida certified hardware and software. Moreover, the Florida
Division of Elections’ audit
verified only 6 machines for certified software,
and parallel
tested only 10 machines. (For you programmer types, there
was no mention of resetting the machines’ internal systems date to November
6, 2006 prior to testing.)

Still, contained within the finding of the GAO report is a series of
circumstances that individually reveal an apparent lapse in sound business
checks and balances, and computer security basics with regards to Elections
Systems & Software (ES&S). Together they are troubling.

ES&S effectively holds the power. ES&S manufactures the machines,
dictates the testing process, produces test data, system manages the
voting process, tallies the votes, pronounces the winner, then produces
the reports to declare a valid election.

The following concerns are based on the GAO’s study of Florida’s District
13. However, they are not specific to Florida. All states should review their
voting processes to tighten up security and close loop holes such as these:

1. When Florida load tested the iVotronic touch screens, they used the
ES&S manufacturer’s own test data.   
    Load testing helps to ensure the voting machines can process the
    expected volume of vote data. However, the reliability of this particular
    testing method is diminished by the State of Florida Division of
    Elections relying on the manufacturer’s own data to perform the tests.
    Creating test data can be technically challenging and time consuming.
    But to rely solely on the manufacturer is the equivalent of sending your
    car salesman out alone in the dark to test drive your new car.

2.  Testers DON’T touch the iVotronics touch screens during load
testing.
  
    How do you test a touch screen without touching it? The iVotronic
    touch screens require calibration to in effect align the ballot. The
    calibration process consists of touching the screen at 20 location points
    with a stylus. That in itself could lead to problems. Isn’t it important to
    ensure these touch screens hold up to the entry of 100 plus ballots on
    Election Day?

3. Sarasota County did NOT perform load testing according to the
GAO report.   
    It would be disconcerting if Sarasota or any county anywhere designs
    the ballot, installs it on 1,499 voting machines, but does not perform
    load testing on the ballot design. Otherwise, how can you know your
    ballot design doesn’t lose votes or count them for the wrong candidate
    or produce erroneous results? This concern applies to optical ballot
    scanners as well.

4.  Sarasota County performed logic and accuracy tests on 32 of 1,499
iVotronic DREs prior to the 2006 primary.  
 
    That leaves 98% of the machines untested.

5. When Sarasota County performed logic and accuracy tests for
District 13 in 2006, they tested only 3 out of 112 of the possible data
combinations.   
    That means 97% percent of the possible Election Day data
    combinations were not tested. Tests verified only 3 of the 112 ways
    voters could select their District 13 candidate and cast their ballot. Note
    the total of 112 is in itself misleading since the 112 number isolates
    District 13 from the other contests on the ballot. Factoring in the other
    races and issues would result in over 100 trillion combinations. Testing
    trillions of combinations would be impossible. Testing the more likely
    combinations of a contentious race is reasonable and responsible.

6.  iVotronics voting machines independently count every vote before
uploading machine totals to the ES&S central computer, the Unity
election management system. (As do optical ballot scanners.)  
    Since each machine records the votes and tabulates the votes
    independently, they hold the power to potentially flip votes. While one
    touch screen machine would not alter the outcome of an election in
    most cases, several renegade touch screens or one optical ballot
    scanner might.

7.  The ES&S central computer tallies the votes and declares the
winner.
  
    IF election laws are changed to recognize improbable results and call
    for a re-vote, IF scrupulous controls are in place to ensure the integrity
    of both the touch screen and optical ballot scanner independent vote
    counting machines as well as the central computer, this is less
    disconcerting. However, since the same vendor manufactures all
    machines, collusion as a first step in defense would not necessarily be
    required for a company insider to achieve intrusion from the top or the
    bottom.

8.  Election Day, poll workers use a PEB storage device to load the
appropriate ballot into the iVotronic for each and every voter.
The PEB
is a storage device containing the personalized electronic ballot definition.   
    Each open portal creates a risk point vulnerable to intrusion by an
    outside hacker. The potential exists for an infected voting machine to
    transfer infected data or programs up to the central computer which in
    turn transfers the infected programs to the other voting machines.
 
9.  The iVotronics interacts with compact flash cards to update the
iVotronic computer programs.
     Same concerns as Item 6.

10. At the end of Election Day, precinct counts are uploaded to the
central computer via modem.
Poll workers move or copy data from the
iVotronic to the PEB. PEB precinct level votes are copied to the Election
Reporting Manager.
     Same concerns as Item 6.
 
As Americans we the people, individually and independently can
choose to vote for our future… or not. Our vote is our power to be
heard, to take an active part in our own destiny. When that right is
taken from us by negligence, error, incompetence or an accident of
technology, it is an insult to this country and those who sacrificed
their lives for our freedoms. None of us, not red, not blue, not
independent, not indifferent should accept this chipping away at
democracy.

    ~~~
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we
falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroy
ourselves.”
Abraham Lincoln.  
    ~~~
This article refers to items mentioned within in two Government Accounting
Office Reports:
    “Elections: Further Testing Could Provide Increased by Not Absolute
    Assurance That Voting Systems Did Not Cause Undervotes in Florida’
    s 13th Congressional District, Statement of Dr. Nabajyoti Barkakati.”
    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0897t.pdf

“Elections: Status of GAO’s Review of Voting Equipment Used in Florida’s
13th Congressional District, Dr. Nabajyoti Barkakati.”

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071167t.pdf
~~~
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