Dear Election-Security Decision-maker [Email or Letter Template]
Several people have asked me for something relatively short that they can cut and paste into an email or letter to send to election-security decision-makers. This is my first attempt. Feel free to cut and paste it into an email if you like it. If it’s still too long, feel free to cut it down as you see fit. Thanks.
The election-security situation in the U.S. is much worse than most people realize, calling for much greater scrutiny of the vendors themselves and of proposed “fixes” to the system.
Control over America’s electronic voting system is dangerously centralized in the hands of just two voting machine vendors that account for more than 80 % of US election equipment: ES&S (44%) and Dominion Voting (37%). Both vendors are owned by private (undisclosed) equity. And what little we do know is distressing.
Dominion, for example, does most of its programming in Serbia, whose government is closely aligned with Vladimir Putin. One of Dominion’s Senior Vice Presidents joined the company in 2016 after serving as an executive of GTech, an international gaming company and former Paul Manafort client.
As for ES&S, it has the contracts in Georgia and Shelby County, Tennessee, where voting machines are “losing” black votes, as reported in Bloomberg, the Root, and Salon. ES&S also:
- Was founded with money from the families of two billionaires who belonged to a Religious Right “umbrella” group called the Council for National Policy (CNP), whose recent members have included many members of the Trump administration
- Acquired another vendor in 2009 (Diebold Election Systems, previously called Global) whose largest shareholder and senior programmer was a convicted embezzler who, per the Guardian, programmed the machines used to tabulate 1/3 of the votes in 37 states in 2004
- Recently leaked voter data for 1.8 M voters, the passwords for ES&S employees, and the passwords for North Carolina’s voting machines
- Installed remote access software in 300 jurisdictions and lied about it
- Lied about internet connectivity to its equipment
- Gave $30K to the GOP
- Recently “mistakenly” tagged 1600 active voters in Ohio for purging.
ES&S, Dominion, and their surrogates have also recently redefined “paper ballot” to include not only unhackable hand marked paper ballots, but also hackable machine-marked Summary Cards from insecure new electronic Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs). The summary cards put selections into a barcode that voters can’t read. Thus, whenever vendors, officials, or even lawmakers omit the “hand marked” prefix before the phrase “paper ballots,” there is a good chance they are about to scam the public with barcode voting.
Although machine-marked barcoded Summary Cards include human readable text, the only part counted as your vote is the barcode. Moreover, ES&S’s own representative admitted during a presentation that most voters won’t look at the paper— as indicated in a recent study — and that the default setting for one of its machines won’t even give voters the option to look at it!
Even if some voters do notice fraudulent machine marks or omissions on the paper, the situation will be no better than when voters reported vote flipping on paperless touchscreens in Georgia, Tennessee, and (most recently) Mississippi. As with the paperless touchscreens, the concern with BMDs and Summary Cards won’t be the voters who notice and correct any such vote-flipping, but rather those who don’t. A corrupted paper ballot will result in a corrupted audit or recount.
One or more counties in the following states have chosen barcode BMDs for 2020: GA, TN, TX, OH, WI, PA, KY, KS, WV, CA, DE, NJ, NY, WV, CO, and SC. North Carolina just certified the ES&S ExpressVote XL for use in the state despite opposition from leading election-security experts and voters. I’m told that Florida recently changed its laws to allow barcode BMDs as well.
Corruption seems to fuel these decisions. ES&S has donated $30K to the GOP since 2013 and (along with Dominion) has made donations to Mitch McConnell, who is blocking election-security legislation, including the SAFE Act, which would ban barcode BMDs. ES&S lobbyists paid the decision-makers in Philadelphia who chose ES&S’s ExpressVote XL barcode BMD, even though Pennsylvania’s own Blue Ribbon Commission advised against barcode systems. ES&S’s agent in North Carolina has made donations to the governor and many others.
Transparency seems to be the only thing that results in meaningful election-security action. In North Carolina, election officials did not ask the DHS to examine electronic poll books in Durham County, North Carolina — which failed spectacularly in 2016 — until after army veteran Reality Winner leaked the NSA report showing that Russia had breached the poll book vendor, VR Systems. Several key state officials considered the leak a public service, as they had been unaware of Russian hacking until the leak.
But the Trump administration sent Reality Winner to prison for five years. Meanwhile, the DHS refuses to identify the second Florida county and two other election-service providers that Russia breached. Nor has it mentioned that VR Systems provides not only electronic poll books and voter-registration software, but also is involved with election websites and election-management systems, which are used to program all voting machines, scanners, and BMDs before each election. The clear implication is that the DHS would not tell the public even if it determined Trump’s presidency to be illegitimate.
If the 2016 election had harmonized with exit polls, there might be some basis to conclude that — despite these gaping security holes — electronic tallies probably weren’t altered. Instead, there was a significant “red shift” between the unadjusted exit polls and the official vote tallies, including key swing states: OH (7.9%), PA (5.1%), WI (4.7%).
Meanwhile, John Kerry admitted earlier this year that his campaign suspected electronic vote tally manipulation during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. There, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell hired partners of Paul Manafort to re-route Ohio’s election results through a backup server in Tennessee. As in 2016, the official results defied the exit polls. Two Ohio election officials were criminally convicted for rigging the 2004 recount.
To protect our democracy against further assault, the House must subpoena ES&S, Dominion, and other voting machine vendors to disclose their ownership, discuss election-system vulnerabilities and prior security lapses, and identify the jurisdictions in which they have installed remote access software and wireless modems that connect systems to the internet. State and county election officials must also demand this information as a condition of certification and contracting.
In addition, Congress and state and county election officials must ban dangerous barcode voting systems, ban remote access and internet connectivity, give all voters the option to use hand marked paper ballots, and require robust manual audits for every federal race. Note that the SAFE Act (which has already passed the House) would accomplish these goals, but the bipartisan Secure Elections Act (promoted by Amy Klobuchar and Republicans for the Rule of Law) would not.
For a more detailed discussion with links to sources for the above facts, please see the Medium article titled “America’s electronic voting system is corrupted to the core” by attorney and election-security advocate and writer Jennifer Cohn. Thank you.