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All Diebold Touch-Screens Impounded By PA Judge

All Diebold Touch-Screen Systems Impounded by Judge in PA County

Straight-Party Ticket Votes Failed to Allow Voters to Review Names of Presidential Candidates Before Casting 'Ballot'

Same Flawed, Hackable, Unverifiable Machines Being Used in GA Senate Race, Elsewhere...

By Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG

All 185 of the completely unverifiable Diebold touch-screen voting machines used in Northumberland County, PA's election were ordered impounded by a judge Tuesday night after complaints from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Officials from both parties had filed requested action following reports from voters that straight-party ticket votes were not showing voters the names of their selection for President on the summary screen near the end of the 100% faith-based touch-screen voting process.

Problems with straight-party voting, particularly on touch-screen voting systems, were reported in a number of states that allow the practice, during the early voting period in the days leading up to Election Day.

While one Diebold AccuVote touch-screen machine was impounded by an official in Colorado following reports of votes flipping on the screen from Democratic to Republican candidates in early voting --- and even with hundreds of similar startling problems reported directly to the Obama campaign as The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively on Monday --- no other action was taken on or before Election Day to remove these wholly unverifiable systems from use until Tuesday night's court-ordered quarantine of the Northumberland County machines.

The same unverifiable machines made by Diebold were used in a number of states, including the entirety of Georgia where a run-off has been scheduled following a tight race for the U.S. Senate there. The same models were also found, by a landmark Princeton study in 2006, to be easily susceptible to malicious viruses that could result in a flipped election which would be difficult, if not impossible, to discover...

Kim Zetter, over at WIRED's "Threat Level" blog has been doing tremendous work on this beat of late, so we're happy to associate again with her fine reporting on this news out of PA...

County poll workers discovered around 7:30 am Tuesday morning that voters who chose to vote a straight-party ticket could not see their selections on the summary review screen. The summary review screen allows voters to verify that the machine has registered their selections accurately before they cast their ballot. [Brad note: While the summary review screen on touch-screens allows voters to review their selections, it doesn't actually allow for confirmation that the system has or will count their votes accurately, as there is no way to do so on a Direct Recording Election (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting system.]

Northumberland County uses AccuVote paperless touchscreen machines made by Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold Election Systems), which are supposed to display the chosen candidate's name on the review screen. But voters who voted a straight-party ticket could see only a message saying they had voted a straight-party ticket.

To make matters worse, it seems that misinformation may have been given to voters, instructing them to select their Presidential candidate again after choosing the straight-party option. That action may have actually de-selected the voters' presidential preference as described by Zetter...

After the discovery was made, voters were still allowed to vote on the machines, but Director of Elections Mary Thew told Threat Level that they were told that if they wanted to vote straight-party to also touch their choices individually on the screen after selecting the straight-party option to make sure their vote was registered.

Generally touching a candidate's name after a voter has already selected the straight-party ticket option will de-select the candidate on that machine, not select it. But Thew said the candidate names were showing on the review screen after voters selected them individually.

Zetter goes on to report that, based on the uploads of the Diebold machines' memory cards to the Diebold tabulators, McCain reported defeated Obama by a sizable margin, despite the nearly identical Democratic v. Republican registration in the county. She also notes that turnout totals and undervote numbers have not yet been made available...

Republican Senator John McCain won the presidential race in Northumberland County by 18,012 votes to President-elect Barack Obama's 13,555 votes. The county has about 54,000 registered voters, of which 24,769 are registered Republicans and 24,111 are registered Democrats. The voter turnout number and undervote numbers were unavailable. The county's election results tool was not working when Threat Level accessed it, and Thew said she did not have the numbers immediately available.

The county will begin its canvassing process tomorrow, with 20 days to certify the election results.

There is, however, no way to confirm that any vote cast on one of these systems in Northumberland was actually recorded as per the voters' intent. So, by and large, whatever Diebold says the results are, will be what the results are, with no recourse for any voter or any party.

Diebold's Central Tabulator Also Faulty...

To make matters worse this year, Diebold admitted in late August of this year that their GEMS central tabulator system routinely drops thousands of votes from uploaded totals without notifying the system administrator that there was an error.

That failure, first discovered by election officials in Ohio, and originally denied by the voting machine company, exists on Diebold tabulators used in 34 states on Tuesday. The problem affects all votes cast on both optical-scan paper ballot systems (such as those used in several counties in the razor-thin Franken/Coleman U.S. Senate race, now set for a manual recount in Minnesota) and touch-screen systems manufactured by the company.

The critical programming flaw which causes the problem has been in the GEMS systems for some 10 years before they finally admitted to the problem just over two months ago while being sued by Ohio's Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner, after the failure was confirmed by election officials in Hamilton County, Ohio.

GOP Demanded Similar Action in 27 PA Counties in 2006...

During the 2006 election in PA, then Senator Rick Santorum (R) and the state GOP had demanded the impounding of touch-screen systems used in 27 counties in the state, following complaints of votes flipping on the screens. Their letter to the Secretary of the Commonwealth asked that counties "not recalibrate any Voting Machine that has been identified as being miscalibrated, but rather impound the Voting Machine" and that "a sufficient number of emergency ballots be provided to these affected Counties so that no voter loses his/her right to vote."

During the run-up to Tuesday's elections, the Democratic Party and election officials in a number of states simply recalibrated voting machines --- in the middle of the voting period, an incredibly dangerous moment to allow anybody to access such machines in this way --- when voters reported similar incidents.

After results were reported of Santorum's re-election defeat in 2006, they withdrew their request to impound the machines.

Same Machines Still Used in GA, Despite History of Hacking...

Despite a stunning 2006 report from Princeton University --- revealing that malicious viruses could easily be inserted on the Diebold AccuVote TS, resulting in manipulation of totals from machine to machine, and even to the central tabulator --- the system is still used in a number of states.

[Disclosure: The Princeton analysis was carried about on a Diebold machine we loaned to them, after it was given to by a Diebold insider who has been a source for The BRAD BLOG for some years. The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR, a non-partisan election protection watchdog organization.]

For many more related touch-screen voting machine problems seen during the 2008 general election cycle, please see our Special Coverage Page here...



More Articles By Brad Friedman

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