Hart-Intercivic E-Voting Tech Blows The Whistle
Hart-Intercivic And ES&S Up To No
Hart-Intercivic Tech Blows The Whistle In Ohio And
By David Allen
I have come into possession of a pair of letters written by a former Hart-Intercivic technician to the Secretaries of State for Ohio and Texas. These letters detail a ''long history of concealing problems'' and a willingness to ignore potentially serious problems ''largely for the sake of corporate profit''.
When I read these letters, I contacted the writer to verify his story and authorship. The technician verified that he was the author and that the letters had been sent, but did not wish to have his name revealed as he had sent the letters privately to the two state Secretaries. He did not object to the details of the letters being revealed as he was concerned about whether the matter had been or would be addressed.
These letters were written the end of July and I held off until now in order to give the relevant states the opportunity to do the right thing and investigate these charges. The writer has never been contacted and I must assume that election officials in Texas and Ohio just don't care.
The tech worked for Hart-Intercivic for over two years and left voluntarily because of what he believed to be "criminal fraud, extreme negligence, and a distinct and troubling pattern of failure to uphold the public trust both in violations of the spirit of its contracts [and] also in concealing problems in an industry which so crucially represents the public interest."
The technician addressed problems in Ohio, which he saw while working for Hart-Intercivic , and problems in Tarrant County, Texas, which is where he went to work after leaving Hart-Intercivic .
In Ohio, he is concerned with three main problems:
- The computer submitted for security testing in Ohio was not the same as the computers being actually used in the field. EVM vendors are supposed to provide "production models" of their units so that they can be evaluated by both InfoSentry and Compuware (the vendors hired by the state to evaluate the voting machines).
- Hart-Intercivic 's eSlate is billed as storing vote data randomly, so as to prevent specific votes from being traced to specific people. The tech says that this is not true and that simple remedial measures which could have addressed this flaw were never made.
- Hart-Intercivic claimed to InfoSentry that it had an "ongoing information security awareness program" which it did not.
- Hart-Intercivic claimed to InfoSentry that it maintained numerous documents on information security systems policy for its employees. Our tech was never able to read any of these documents or even find proof of their existence.
- Hart-Intercivic told the Ohio Secretary of State that election results are not transmitted over public networks, which is not true as unofficial results were transmitted this way. A computer hooked to a public network (like the Internet) is a system vulnerable to outside attack.
- Compuware claimed that safeguards were in place to prevent Hart-Intercivic computers from crashing. One would assume that such a claim was based upon information supplied by Hart-Intercivic . Our source says that system crashes still occurred and that the causes were seldom revealed to the customers.
- Compuware report claims that storage cards containing vote data cannot be altered using the Windows File System. While true, there are still many other easily procured tools which CAN be used to alter the data.
- Compuware claims that error and audit entries are tracked. This is misleading because only SOME entries are tracked, not ALL.
Since Compuware was supposed to audit Hart-Intercivic software we are left to wonder about these misleading claims. Either Compuware failed to look closely at the system or they simply accepted claims from Hart-Intercivic without question.
Something Rotten in Texas
After leaving Hart-Intercivic , our tech took a job with the Office of the Tarrant County Elections Administrator, which had equipment from Hart-Intercivic and ES&S.
Once there, he discovered more of the same problems he had found at Hart-Intercivic in Ohio, along with shenanigans from repeat offender, ES&S.
What makes the situation scarier is the report of "shockingly inappropriate management decisions", "unethical decisions and erratic behavior" by Robert Parten, the Election Administrator.
According to our insider, Parten displayed a "blatant disregard for election law" and a "poor understanding of and interference with important technical aspects of the election systems".
- Invalid entries in the audit trail generated by Hart-Intercivic 's election generation software. These problems could have been corrected, but Parten refused to allow the correction, meaning that any audit of the voting system would be immediately questioned due to the invalid entries.
- Public tests of the voting system were conducted improperly. When problems arose during the tests, they were corrected by altering the election database, which should have required a repeat of the public test, which was not done.
- Individuals required to be present to validate testing were not present for some or all of the tests.
- Hart-Intercivic sold equipment (card readers) to the county claiming that it was faster and would prevent corruption problems with ballot cards. In fact, internal testing showed that it did neither and seems to have been sold only to fatten Hart-Intercivic 's bottom line.
- Hart-Intercivic sent a poorly trained tech in to do contract support work, which then had to be corrected by staff techs.
- Hart-Intercivic knew that despite its claims of "triple-redundant vote storage", problems occurred that still resulted in lost votes. Tarrant County was never told this until the problems appeared in elections. Hart-Intercivic then said it could recover lost votes, but that the units had to be shipped to Colorado to facilitate the repair. This was utter nonsense and the real reason was to keep the process for recovering votes secret. At this point, Hart-Intercivic would also reveal that the process didn't always work.
- ES&S persuaded other counties, and pressured Tarrant Co. to go along with a plan to force approval by the Texas Secretary of State of uncertified software patches. The idea was to get enough counties asking for the patch (with the implied threat that the machines would not function correctly come election day) that the Secretary of State would feel compelled to approve the request. This operation was personally conducted by ES&S vice president Tom Eschberger (the same Tom Eschberger who took an immunity deal for his involvement in a bribery/kickback scandal in Arkansas).
- Sensitive computers engaged in vote tabulation were left unprotected because Parten prohibited the assignment of passwords to them, claiming such changes a violation of election law.
- Sensitive computers, documentation, memory cards, and software media which were not properly secured or kept track of.
- Anti-tampering devices were used improperly or not at all.
- County IT techs would routinely work on election computers, installing anti-virus software which caused the machines to crash due to incompatibility with election software. Remote control software was installed on a computer containing sensitive election information.
- Tarrant county failed to perform regular and routine backups of their computers.
- Hart-Intercivic performed fixes of "on the fly" reports during elections, even while results were coming in.
In summing up his concerns, the tech reports being baffled by Parten's "continued work with these election companies; even after admissions of concealing software problems, inappropriate pressure, hints of backroom deals, and poor support."
I asked him further about "backroom deals" and he replied:
"Both vendors would hint at discounts, extra support that might be available, ES&S drastically cut their price on a software upgrade, the one I mentioned for the February election, to try to entice Tarrant to upgrade further. Nothing dramatic while I was there, but the staff reported, and other people I've worked with as a Hart employee have reported that vendors have either made or suggested things that were inappropriate, or they had heard things and had reason to believe them. I cannot be more specific here, let's just say I know for a fact it was happening in the industry, though I don't know that Hart did anything like that in any specific situation.
As you know, ES&S has repeatedly been investigated for bribery. In a competitive market, when a company like Hart loses a deal unexpectedly, let's just say you hear things. If you want some concrete example of inappropriate influence, an obvious one, look to Diebold offering to put offices in counties that bought their product. It's happened more than once.
Once again, here is a prime example of why our vote should not be in the hands of private contractors. When you mix greedy and unethical vendors with clueless or "pliable" public servants, you get a concoction toxic to democracy.
Texans and Ohioans, you need to get on the phone with your Secretaries of State and find out what they are doing about this problem.
Texas Secretary of
Fax (512) 475-2811
Ohio Secretary of State
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Hart-Intercivic has e-voting machines in:
Orange Co. CA
Tarrant Co. TX
Harris Co. TX
Travis Co. TX
Brazos Co. TX
Yakima Co. WA
Catawba Co. NC