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The nightmare haunts me as I doorknock for Dems in Minnesota.

Norman Solomon worried about the Bradley effect.

Projection is a psychological hazard of politics. What's "obvious" to some doesn't occur to others. ...
   The poll numbers so far this month, combined with ample media hype, have fostered the belief that the current economic crisis is close to dooming the McCain campaign. But any crystal ball that offers assurance of an Obama victory is a piece of junk.

I worry... that a microscopic Bradley effect will be exploded and used to provide a cover for grand theft. Obama's current lead in the polls is too small for security. And I worry that the Dems in charge are carefully barring the windows and front door--while leaving the back door unlocked.

Analysis below the fold....

2000 was hijacked in Florida; 2004 was shoplifted in Ohio. I fear burglary in 2008.

We've had lots of fun blaming the Republicans for fighting the VietNam war in Iraq. But the tendency to prepare to refight the last war is a human one--and we are just as susceptible as anyone else.

Generally speaking, battles are won by surprise; the winner uses a strategy or tactic that the loser did not expect and had not prepared to counter. And all to often, the user was warned and refused to listen--consider Cassandra in Troy, or a PDB entitled "Bin Laden prepared to attack inside the US".

We know from past experience that election "dirty tricks" will happen. We are prepared for many of them.

For example, in an email today:

There's less than a month to go until Election Day, and here at Common Cause, our Protect The Vote efforts are going into overdrive. For example,

* in North Carolina, we're training college students to go out into their communities and register new voters. * in Indiana, we're educating people about the new voter ID law and what they'll need to bring to the polls on Election Day -- so that no one will be unfairly turned away. * in Colorado, we're recruiting hundreds of poll monitors, election judges and call center volunteers to help protect the vote.

Election protection is no small job. We're working in states around the country to make sure our voting systems run as smoothly as possible and that all our votes are counted.  And we can use your support....

Common Cause and the Obama team are carefully locking the front door.

Greg Palast has a wonderful comic available at
It does a wonderful job of teaching voters how to bar their windows.
Sample page.

And from "Steal Back Your Vote in 7 Easy Steps" near the end of the comic:

Step 4:  Vote Unconditionally, Not Provisionally
In 2008, they’ll be handing out provisional ballots like candy, especially to Hispanic voters. If your right to vote is challenged, don’t accept a provisional ballot that will likely not get counted no matter what the sweet little lady at the table tells you. She won’t decide; partisan sharks will. Demand adjudication from poll judges on the spot; demand a call to the supervisor of elections; or return with acceptable ID if possible. And be a champ: defend the rights of others.

If you’ve taken Step 1 above and voted early, you have Election Day free to be a poll watcher. You’ll need training and credentials, either from a voter group or, in some states, a designation from a political party. Then challenge the challengers, the weird guys with Blackberrys containing lists of "suspect" voters. Be firm, but no biting.

So we're locking the front door and barring the windows. What about that back door?

JS (full name redacted) of the Election Defense Alliance has responded to Solomon, but the letter is not posted online. A copy was emailed to the EDA analysis team, however, and I'm posting it here:

From: VerifiedVote2004
To: mediabeat
Sent: xxxxx
Subj: The Bradley Effect and The Diebold Effect

Dear Norman--

   I will be very brief, though these waters run very foul and very deep indeed.
   We who doggedly collect the evidence of wholesale, outcome-determinative, computer-based election fraud in America (see, e.g., Landslide Denied and Fingerprints of Election Theft at recognize that "The Bradley Effect" will be trotted out by the MSM to "explain" why McCain so dramatically out-performs the polls on his way to "victory." It, along with the Likely-Voter Cutoff Model now being employed by the pollsters as a kind of red-shifting fudge factor, can together manage to turn what should be a very obvious Obama landslide--given the prevailing political gestalt--into a "shocking" McCain "victory."

   Look, Diebold (now Premier) and ES&S have complete proprietary control over the machines that count (in utter black-box secrecy) 80% of the nation's votes. They were taken over prior to 2004 by the Urosevich brothers (Bob and Todd, respectively), a pair of extremely wealthy radical right-wing Christianists who could have gone into soda machines or slot machines or a myriad of other enterprises but rather magically each chose a voting machine corporation producing the computers that Mitch McConnell's HAVA essentially forced the states to buy and put into service.

   The wall of denial that grand election theft could happen here in our beacon of democracy is 400 feet high. Denial is a psychologically useful but pragmatically extremely dangerous phenomenon. The unthinkable corruption of our electoral system--that can allow a regime devoted to misrule to exercise perpetual rule--has to be faced at some point.
   Instead of playing up The Bradley Effect, and thereby playing into the hands of those who fully intend to use it to explain away yet another "shocking" result, please start examining The Diebold Effect. It will have a hell of a lot more to do with who "wins" not just the presidency but the many critical elections this November.

   With appreciation and best wishes, and always open for discussion--JS (Election Defense Alliance); 000-000-0000

Gimmicked tabulators--Call for the tinfoil. This is America; it can't happen here. Deny.

Projection--we humans keep assuming that other humans think the same way we do. And since the vast majority of us aren't programming geeks, (and most of the geeks we do know are honest) we fail to protect against computer fraud.

JS is paranoid, right? Register enough voters, block the caging, and we'll be fine--right?

Well, consider these quotes from Chuck Herrin, a Republican "White Hat" computer security expert:

Enron was a conspiracy theory, too. Were their whistleblowers Crackpots?
Were the people who lost their retirements to those corporate criminals just "sore losers"?
I've never been part of the "Tin Foil Hat" conspiracy theory crowd.  I'm just a voter who happens to be a Professional IT Auditor.

A sample from Herrin's evoting archive page:

The original HackTheVote  page with the demo and time stamped audit logs. There's also SpeedHacking The Vote - for those with a flair for the overly dramatic. Both of these are demonstrated on NASED certified software written by Diebold.

Then there's the HackTheVoteFAQ - check it out. Worth a read - there were a lot of good questions posed there. My responses to a lot of other good questions on my "Since you asked..."  page. If you've seen the demo, you'll want to see these two pages.

My recent PowerPoint given to the NC Joint Select Subcommittee on E-Voting, January 7th, 2005. The first part talks about what we do in business vs what we do in e-voting, and the second part rips apart Diebold's vote tabulation software, showing it for the criminal piece of crap that it is.

Chuck's explains his positions further in this clip from theHackTheVoteFAQ:

Q: How'd you get involved with this? Aren't you a Republican?

A: I get asked this a lot, and it really shows how focused our country is on partisan politics.  I am a voter, first and foremost.  That being said, yes, I am a Republican and have been since being sent to Republican Indoctrination Camp at age 2. That's where we are taught supply-side economics and the values of mutually assured destruction. :-)

I got involved with this because I have been against the adoption of these voting systems for years. It's a dumb-ass idea to implement them this way - our votes are too important. I wouldn't trust my Bank with computer systems this insecure; Hell, I wouldn't keep recipes on a system this insecure. When I saw all of the documentation regarding Diebold and their heavy partisan leanings, and then when the results came flooding in with a clear Bush victory when I seriously expected Kerry to win, I put two and two together. I am, by trade, a professional White-Hat Hacker, so I know how easily "secure" systems can be breached, especially by insiders. Roughly 80% of all computer crimes are perpetrated by insiders, so that's always the best place to look first.  When the insiders also write the code and roll the machines out, there is no question that they have too much power and can not be trusted, whether they support my party or not.  It's called "Segregation of Duties" in the professional world, and it is vital for system integrity.

But that was all theory and conceptual before I tried it myself. I knew that the descriptions and ideas were bad, but I hadn't actually seen a copy of the software. So I went to following a link off of some website, I don't remember which, and saw Bev's plea - "Computer Guys - Test it yourself!". I thought, all right, I will. After all, this IS what I do for a living. It's like asking an accountant to balance debits and credits - nothing special, and besides, I was curious. Surely if our states are rolling this out to Hundreds of Millions of voters, somebody checked it. It can't be as bad as these liberal whiners are making it out to be - they're just pissed off that our folks turned out in mass.

What I found truly shocked me, and made me physically ill.  That's what is documented on the other page. It IS that bad. I personally don't have conclusive evidence that voter fraud was perpetrated, but I can tell you as an Information Security professional that it would have been very, very easy to do. If I had to choose between someone conspiring with exit poll workers nationwide or someone changing values in an Access Database as the cause of the difference between the poll numbers and the "actual" results, I'll go with the easier, more effective option every time. Why choose the hard way when it's more trouble and you're less likely to succeed? Again, I'm staying clear of making specific allegations - I'll leave that to the activists who are gathering data - but I would be much more surprised if the election weren't hacked than to find out that it was.

It was too easy, the companies were too partisan and unethical, and there was too much at stake for them NOT to hack it. It looked like Bush was going to lose, and they had this tool available to pull out a victory.  

Why do I call Diebold partisan and unethical, you ask?  How's this:

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." - Walden O'Dell, Diebold's CEO in a fundraising letter to Republicans, Fall 2003. O'Dell and other Diebold Senior Executives are Republican "Pioneers", which is the designation you get when you raise over $100,000. Brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich co-founded ES&S, another voting machine company, before Bob became President of Diebold Election Systems. His brother Todd is a Vice President of ES&S, the #2 vote machine maker, and is also a "Pioneer". According to campaign finance records at, of the over $240,000 given by Diebold’s directors and chief officers to political campaigns since 1998, all has gone to Republican candidates or party funds. Is that partisan enough for you? Well, what about calling them unethical?

Check this out - No less than 5 people (Cooper, Lee, Graye, Elder, and Dean - ) involved with the management and development of Diebold's systems are convicted felons, including Senior Vice President Jeff Dean, and topping the list are his twenty-three counts of felony Theft in the First Degree. According to the findings of fact in case no. 89-1-04034-1 (Washington State, King County District Court):

"Defendant’s thefts occurred over a 2 1/2 year period of time, there were multiple incidents, more than the standard range can account for, the actual monetary loss was substantially greater than typical for the offense, the crimes and their cover-up involved a high degree of sophistication and planning in the use and alteration of records in the computerized accounting system that defendant maintained for the victim, and the defendant used his position of trust and fiduciary responsibility as a computer systems and accounting consultant for the victim to facilitate the commission of the offenses."

To sum up, he was convicted of 23 felony counts of theft from by - get this - planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection.  The reason for the embezzlement?  He needed the money because "he was embezzling in order to pay blackmail over a fight he was involved in, in which a person died."  A little more:'s associate director Andy Stephenson obtained the court records of Jeffrey Dean which noted that the King County, Washington prosecutor was after him for over $500,000 in restitution.

"So now we have someone who's admitted that he's been blackmailed over killing someone, who pleaded guilty to 23 counts of embezzlement, who is given the position of senior programmer of the (Diebold) GEMS central tabulator system that counts approximately 50 percent of the votes in the (Bush-Kerry) election, in 30 states, both paper ballot and touch screen," said Stephenson.  

In addition, Dean told prosecutors (whose offices were on the ninth floor of the King County courthouse) that he was unemployed, when in fact he was working for Diebold who afforded him with 24-hour access to Diebold's King County, Washington GEMS central tabulator, according to Stephenson. (Dean worked on the GEMS tabulator on the fifth floor of the same King County courthouse!)

Do you trust computer systems designed by this man?  Is trust important in electronic voting systems?

So here we are - Means, Motive, Opportunity - the whole package. And since the systems are so poorly designed, no audit trail to show any wrongdoing. Add some cries of "conspiracy theories" and "sore losers", and you've got yourself a mandate.  Four more years, indeed.  Surprise, surprise.

BUT - what happens in 2006 or 2008, now that tens of thousands of activists know about the holes and how easy it is to steal votes? Well, it'll be interesting, that's for sure. These systems appear to be DESIGNED to be easy to Hack, so one can only imagine what will happen.  But I for one will embrace President Homer Simpson and will fully support his new 2008 doughnut agenda as a welcome change. I hope that we can all stand together and welcome him as we Republicans continue to bring "dignity back to the White House."

OK, so how do we lock the back door?

In the long run, we move back to hand-counted paper ballots. There are many excuses for not doing so, but Chuck mananges to debunk them thoroughly at various places on his site.

In the short run, we need to anticipate multiple attempts to hack votes at the county and state level. Fortunately, with paper ballots becoming more common, we can use targeted recounts to spot-check for fraud.

In Minnesota, we use paper ballots with automated counting at the precinct level. We had an excellent check on the system's accuracy last month when an obscure judges' race triggered a state-wide hand recount last month.  I was contacted to observe the recount, and I posted two dKos diaries afterwards.

If you will be observing a recount after the election, read them and learn how observers should be treated at recounts.

To spot central tabulator fraud, we need to choose a number of precincts in advance and get the precinct results on election night from one of the judges.  Then we wait and check the official posting at the SoS website for a match.  If no match--we need to ask for a recount. And we need to watch races for Senate, Congress, Governor, and SoS very carefully, also, not just the presidential race.

Another possibility (but more complicated to pull off, and with smaller rewards) is to program the precinct counting machines in advance to skew the vote. This would probably be done by altering the code that actually programs the machines for the election. A hand recount would catch this for paper ballots, but knowing that a recount was necessary would be difficult. DREs, of course, can do whatever their programmers want. At present, we're pretty much unprotected against this kind of hack.

Open source code, posted online, might prevent this--assuming that the posted code is the same as was actually loaded onto the machines.

What else can we do to protect our back door?

For starters, visit one or more of these three sites
and volunteer your services. If you aren't a techie, (or even if you are) vote early and spend election day as a precinct judge, a poll watcher, or check with your local party HQ and help get out the vote.

If you are a poll-watcher, be particularly alert for polling places that serve multiple precincts. You will want to watch for possible cross-voting situations, and take appropriate action. If you know in advance that you will be observing such a location, check with your supervisors beforehand to learn what steps you can take on site and afterwards to minimize damage.

Originally posted to chriscol on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 03:12 PM PDT.


What will you be doing to protect the vote this year?

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