From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]





Over the past several months, the state of California conducted the most comprehensive security review yet of electronic voting machines. People I consider to be security experts analyzed machines from three different manufacturers, performing both a red-team attack analysis and a detailed source code review. Serious flaws were discovered in all machines and, as a result, the machines were all decertified for use in California elections.

The reports are worth reading, as is much of the commentary on the topic. The reviewers were given an unrealistic timetable and had trouble getting needed documentation. The fact that major security vulnerabilities were found in all machines is a testament to how poorly they were designed, not to the thoroughness of the analysis. Yet California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has conditionally recertified the machines for use, as long as the makers fix the discovered vulnerabilities and adhere to a lengthy list of security requirements designed to limit future security breaches and failures.

While this is a good effort, it has security completely backward. It begins with a presumption of security: If there are no known vulnerabilities, the system must be secure. If there is a vulnerability, then once it’s fixed, the system is again secure. How anyone comes to this presumption is a mystery to me. Is there any version of any operating system anywhere where the last security bug was found and fixed? Is there a major piece of software anywhere that has been, and continues to be, vulnerability-free?

Yet again and again we react with surprise when a system has a vulnerability. Last weekend at the hacker convention DefCon, I saw new attacks against supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems — those are embedded control systems found in infrastructure systems like fuel pipelines and power transmission facilities — electronic badge-entry systems, MySpace, and the high-security locks used in places like the White House. I will guarantee you that the manufacturers of these systems all claimed they were secure, and that their customers believed them.

Earlier this month, the government disclosed that the computer system of the US-Visit border control system is full of security holes. Weaknesses existed in all control areas and computing device types reviewed, the report said. How exactly is this different from any large government database? I’m not surprised that the system is so insecure; I’m surprised that anyone is surprised.

We’ve been assured again and again that RFID passports are secure. When researcher Lukas Grunwald successfully cloned one last year at DefCon, industry experts told us there was little risk. This year, Grunwald revealed that he could use a cloned passport chip to sabotage passport readers. Government officials are again downplaying the significance of this result, although Grunwald speculates that this or another similar vulnerability could be used to take over passport readers and force them to accept fraudulent passports. Anyone care to guess who’s more likely to be right?

It’s all backward. Insecurity is the norm. If any system — whether a voting machine, operating system, database, badge-entry system, RFID passport system, etc. — is ever built completely vulnerability-free, it’ll be the first time in the history of mankind. It’s not a good bet.

Once you stop thinking about security backward, you immediately understand why the current software security paradigm of patching doesn’t make us any more secure. If vulnerabilities are so common, finding a few doesn’t materially reduce the quantity remaining. A system with 100 patched vulnerabilities isn’t more secure than a system with 10, nor is it less secure. A patched buffer overflow doesn’t mean that there’s one less way attackers can get into your system; it means that your design process was so lousy that it permitted buffer overflows, and there are probably thousands more lurking in your code.

Diebold Election Systems has patched a certain vulnerability in its voting-machine software twice, and each patch contained another vulnerability. Don’t tell me it’s my job to find another vulnerability in the third patch; it’s Diebold’s job to convince me it has finally learned how to patch vulnerabilities properly.

Several years ago, former National Security Agency technical director Brian Snow began talking about the concept of “assurance” in security. Snow, who spent 35 years at the NSA building systems at security levels far higher than anything the commercial world deals with, told audiences that the agency couldn’t use modern commercial systems with their backward security thinking. Assurance was his antidote:

Assurances are confidence-building activities demonstrating that:
1. The system’s security policy is internally consistent and reflects the requirements of the organization,
2. There are sufficient security functions to support the security
3. The system functions to meet a desired set of properties and
*only* those properties,
4. The functions are implemented correctly, and
5. The assurances *hold up* through the manufacturing, delivery and
life cycle of the system.”

Basically, demonstrate that your system is secure, because I’m just not going to believe you otherwise.

Assurance is less about developing new security techniques than about using the ones we have. It’s all the things described in books like “Building Secure Software,” “Software Security,” and “Writing Secure Code.”  It’s some of what Microsoft is trying to do with its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). It’s the Department of Homeland Security’s Build Security In program. It’s what every aircraft manufacturer goes through before it puts a piece of software in a critical role on an aircraft. It’s what the NSA demands before it purchases a piece of security equipment. As an industry, we know how to provide security assurance in software and systems; we just tend not to bother.

And most of the time, we don’t care. Commercial software, as insecure as it is, is good enough for most purposes. And while backward security is more expensive over the life cycle of the software, it’s cheaper where it counts: at the beginning. Most software companies are short-term smart to ignore the cost of never-ending patching, even though it’s long-term dumb.

Assurance is expensive, in terms of money and time for both the process and the documentation. But the NSA needs assurance for critical military systems; Boeing needs it for its avionics. And the government needs it more and more: for voting machines, for databases entrusted with our
personal information, for electronic passports, for communications systems, for the computers and systems controlling our critical infrastructure. Assurance requirements should be common in IT
contracts, not rare. It’s time we stopped thinking backward and pretending that computers are secure until proven otherwise.

California reports:

Commentary and blog posts:
or http://tinyurl.com/2bz7ks
or http://tinyurl.com/2737c7

California’s recertification requirements:
or http://tinyurl.com/ytesbj

DefCon reports:
or http://tinyurl.com/22uoza

US-VISIT database vulnerabilities:
or http://tinyurl.com/33cglf

RFID passport hacking:
or http://tinyurl.com/sy439

How common are bugs:

Diebold patch:

Brian Snow on assurance:

Books on secure software development:
or http://tinyurl.com/28p4hu
or http://tinyurl.com/ypkkwk
or http://tinyurl.com/2f5mdt

Microsoft’s SDL:

DHS’s Build Security In program:

This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.
or http://tinyurl.com/2nyo8c

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

More Voting News

California Secretary of State Bowen’s certification decisions are online.
She has totally decertified the ES&S Inkavote Plus system, used in
L.A. County, because of ES&S noncompliance with the Top to Bottom
Review.  The Diebold and Sequoia systems have been decertified and
conditionally recertified.  The same was done with one Hart Intercivic
system (system 6.2.1).  (Certification of the Hart system 6.1 was
voluntarily withdrawn.)  To those who thought she was staging this
review as security theater, this seems like evidence to the contrary.
She wants to do the right thing, but has no idea how to conduct a
security review.
or http://tinyurl.com/yto8ss

Florida just recently released another study of the Diebold voting
machines.  They — and it was real security researchers like the
California study, and not posers — studied v4.6.5 of the Diebold TSx
and v1.96.8 of the Diebold Optical Scan.  (California studied older
versions (v4.6.4 of the TSx and v1.96.6 of the Optical Scan).
The most interesting issues are (1) Diebold’s apparent “find-then-
approach to computer security, and (2) Diebold’s lousy use of
cryptography.  More here:

The UK Electoral Commission released a report on the 2007 e-voting and
e-counting pilots.  The results are none too good.
or http://tinyurl.com/yukeot

And the Brennan Center released a report on post-election audits:

My previous essays on electronic voting, from 2004:

My previous essay on electronic voting, from 2000:


This was news to me, and as a web dev, I’m shocked by the brazenness
of this.

As a web dev, you might be interested to read this page and this page
and learn that there are 41 domains that share mailservers with
gwb43.com, including:


Surprised? I wasn’t. Some of the organizations sharing nameservers,
besides those listed in the first link above, include Scooter Libby’s
defense fund and Capitol Resource Group, one of the lobbying firms
implicated in Santorum shoveling hundreds of thousands of dollars
through his charity into the RNC. It’s a wide wide world of fun!

Seriously though, you can go to the robtex lookup and pretty much pick
a link at random that shares nameservers with gwb43.com, Whois it or
ping it whatever you like, and you’ll find something interesting. It’s
just ridiculous. Everything just leads deeper down the rabbit hole.”
posted by spiderwire at 8:40 PM on April 24


In Violation of Federal Law, Ohio’s 2004 Presidential Election Records
Are Destroyed or Missing
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on July 30, 2007, Printed on August 16, 2007

Two-thirds of Ohio counties have destroyed or lost their 2004
presidential ballots and related election records, according to
letters from county election officials to the Ohio Secretary of State,
Jennifer Brunner.

The lost records violate Ohio law, which states federal election
records must be kept for 22 months after Election Day, and a U.S.
District Court order issued last September that the 2004 ballots be
preserved while the court hears a civil rights lawsuit alleging voter
suppression of African-American voters in Columbus.

The destruction of the election records also frustrates efforts by the
media and historians to determine the accuracy of Ohio’s 2004 vote
count, because in county after county the key evidence needed to
understand vote count anomalies apparently no longer exists.

“The extent of the destruction of records is consistent with the
covering up of the fraud that we believe occurred in the presidential
election,” said Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney representing the
King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association, which filed voter
suppression suit. “We’re in the process of addressing where to go from
here with the Ohio Attorney General’s office.”

“On the one hand, people will now say you can’t prove the fraud,” he
said, “but the rule of law says that when evidence is destroyed it
creates a presumption that the people who destroyed evidence did so
because it would have proved the contention of the other side.”

Brunner’s office confirmed the 2004 ballots were missing, but declined
to comment.

“Because this case is still pending, Secretary of State Jennifer
Brunner is unable to comment on this,” said Jeff Ortega, a
spokesperson. “Ultimately, whether the boards of elections are in
violation of a federal court order is a matter for the court to

The missing presidential election records were discovered this past
spring by Brunner, a Democrat and former judge who was elected
Secretary of State in 2006. Her predecessor, Republican J. Kenneth
Blackwell, was sued in August 2006 by a Columbus community
organization that alleged the former Secretary of State and other
“unnamed” officials “selectively and discriminatorily designed and
implemented procedures for the allocation of voting machines in a
manner to create a shortage for certain urban precincts where large
numbers of African-Americans resided,” according to the complaint.

Under federal and Ohio law, all ballots and election records from
federal races must be preserved for 22 months after Election Day,
which fell on Sept. 2, 2006. While election integrity activists and
reporters from a Columbus website, FreePress.org, had sought the
ballots and other election records soon after the presidential
election, Blackwell would not allow county boards to release the
ballots, citing court challenges to the 2004 results and a 2005 suit
from the League of Women Voters alleging the state was not following
the newest federal election law, the Help America Vote Act. By spring
2006, after the League’s lawyers stipulated they were not challenging
the 2004 election results, some counties began to release their 2004
election records. Scrutiny of those records raised questions about the
conduct of the election and some county vote totals.

On Aug. 23, 2006, lawyers for the King Lincoln Bronzeville
Neighborhood Association notified the Secretary of State’s office of
their voter suppression suit. The following day Blackwell’s office
sent letters to all 88 of Ohio’s county Boards of Election, notifying
them of the suit. It is customary for public officials to preserve
potential evidence when notified of pending litigation. Blackwell
negotiated with opposing attorneys and agree to send a directive to
election boards saying the ballots should be retained. Ian Urbina, a
New York Times reporter working on the story, reported that Blackwell
said he would be creating a process whereby county election officials
could eventually review and dispose of the 2004 ballots.

On Sept. 11, 2006, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley ordered the
election boards “to preserve all ballots from the 2004 Presidential
election, on paper and in any other format, including electronic data,
unless and until such time otherwise instructed by this Court.”

Two months after Marbley’s order, Blackwell lost the race for governor
to Democrat Ted Strickland and Brunner was elected Secretary of State.
During the following winter and spring, Brunner and the state’s
attorneys began negotiating a settlement for the voter suppression
suit, according to lawyers involved in those talks. Part of that
agreement, which has not yet been brought before the federal district
court, was the creation of a statewide repository of the 2004
presidential ballots. When conducting an inventory and attempting to
collect those records, Brunner’s office learned that seven counties
had no ballots to turn over and 56 counties only had partial records
from the 2004 vote.

“This is not just a violation of a 22-month ballot retention law. It
is a violation of a court order,” Arnebeck said. “Blackwell told the
New York Times that he would create a clearance procedure before
destroying any ballots. The combination of Blackwell’s directive and
my letter should have been enough to give the counties notice.”

What happened to the 2004 ballots

The presidential ballots and election records were lost, misplaced,
damaged by water, taken to landfills — all apparently by mistake, due
to miscommunications, or because the local election administrators
were not aware of the state ballot preservation law or the federal
court order, according to letters to Brunner’s office from the various
county election boards.

“Our staff unintentionally discarded boxes containing Ballot Pages as
requested in (Brunner’s) Directive 2007-07 due to unclear and
misinterpreted instructions,” wrote Butler County Board of Election
Director Betty McGary and Deputy Director Lynn Kinkaid in a May 9
memo. “Several boxes containing all the wire-bound ballot pages were
discarded into a Rumpke dumpster. The dumpster would have been emptied
into the local landfill.”

“The Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Board of Elections was unable to
transfer the unvoted precinct ballots and soiled precinct ballots,”
wrote John Williams, Hamilton County Director of Elections on May 16,
2007. “To the best if my knowledge, the above ballots were
inadvertently shredded between January 19th and 26th of ’06 in an
effort to make room for the new Hart voting system.”

“No one could remember the disposition of said ballots,” wrote Mike
Keeley, of Clermont County’s Board of Elections on May 10, 2007,
referring to the “unvoted” or unused ballots from the 2004
presidential election.

Since the 2004 election, a handful of media organizations, civil
rights groups, attorneys, historians and authors have been
investigating how the president won in Ohio by 118,775 votes. These
inquiries have had two primary focuses: examining Republican-led voter
suppression tactics and problems with the vote count, suggesting vote
count fraud.

The partisan voter suppression tactics have been easier to document.
Before the election, Blackwell, who was co-chair of the state’s Bush-
Cheney campaign, issued numerous administrative orders that fueled an
extreme partisan climate. One of the most notable came as Ohio was
seeing large voter registration drives in mid-2004. Blackwell issued
an order, which he later rescinded under pressure, saying only voter
registrations on 80-pound paper would be accepted and processed. At
the time, Republican Gov. Robert Taft told reporters that directive
could disenfranchise 100,000 voters. The state Republican Party also
threatened to send thousands of poll challengers to local precincts,
to ensure only properly registered voter exercised that right.

On Election Day in many Ohio cities, the turnout — or voter
accommodation rate — in these traditional Democratic strongholds was
markedly lower than in nearby suburbs, where Republicans have tended
to be the majority. In Columbus, the King Lincoln Bronzeville
Neighborhood Association sued saying African-American voters in
Franklin County were disenfranchised because urban precincts received
fewer voting machines per capita than the whiter, wealthier suburbs.
They noted urban precincts had many more voting machines during the
spring primary.

Ohio’s Secretary of State and Attorney General are engaged in
settlement talks in the neighborhood association suit, suggesting the
voter suppression claims have merit. In contrast, the case for
Republican vote count fraud in the rural areas has been much harder to
prove, even as the certified vote count is problematic in some

Compared to Ohio’s Democratic urban core, turnout in the Republican
districts was higher than the 2000 election. Moreover, in a handful of
counties there were vote count anomalies that made post-election
observers question whether Bush’s vote was padded. The most notable
example is more than 10,000 voters from several Bible belt counties
who voted for Bush and voted in favor of gay marriage, if the results
are true. In a dozen rural counties, virtually unknown Democrats at
the bottom of the ballot received more votes that Kerry, an oddity in
a presidential year.

Reporters associated with FreePress.org and Arnebeck’s legal team
hoped the court order preserving the 2004 ballots would enable them to
investigate how these results occurred. Depending on the ballot type
and vote-counting machine used, they have theories about how Bush’s
vote could have been inflated. But because many of these rural
counties apparently have destroyed the very 2004 election records that
would clarify what happened, it is now virtually impossible to
determine what happened.

In Warren County, where county election officials said on Election Day
that the FBI had declared a homeland security alert — which they
later retracted — ballots were diverted to a warehouse before
counting. The local media was not allowed to observe the vote count.
According to a letter from the Warren County Board of Election to
Brunner’s office, the election board cannot find 22,000 unused ballots
from the election.

“The missing records reveal where the fraud occurred,” said Arnebeck.
“You take as an example, Warren County. It is well documented that
there was a phony homeland security alert and that was the excuse for
excluding the public and the press from observing what was going on
during Election Day. So the missing unused ballots would suggest that
ballots were remade to fit the desired result.”

“The same situation occurred in Clermont County,” he said. “We have
sworn affidavits from people who saw white stickers placed over the
Kerry-Edward ovals in this optical scan county,” he said, referring to
one way of masking a would-be Kerry vote, because optical-scan
machines read ink marks on paper ballots. “So the missing unused
ballots would suggest they were used to remake ballots to reflect the
desired vote for Bush.”

Many rural Ohio counties did not have vote count problems, Arnebeck
said. But enough did have significant problems that called for further

“The Attorney General says the rural counties all say human error was
to blame (for the missing ballots),” he said. “There are some counties
where ballots are missing and we don’t believe anything was wrong with
the vote count. But there are others where that human error covers up
what we think was vote count fraud.”

Another big category of votes that will never be explained are the
nearly 129,000 ballots that were rejected by voting machines and not
counted. Many of these 2004 ballots — a mix of computer punch cards,
paper ballots to be marked by ink and electronic votes — are among
the incomplete 2004 election records. One post-election analysis found
94,000 of these ballots come from Democratic-majority precincts, and
estimated these that ballots could have cost Kerry an additional
26,000 votes.

{Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at Alternet.org and co-author of
What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the
2004 Election, with Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (The New Press,








None Dare Call It Stolen:
Ohio, the Election, and America’s Servile Press
MARK CRISPIN MILLER / Harper’s Magazine v.311, n.1863 1 aug 2005

Whichever candidate you voted for (or think you voted for), or even it
you did not vote (or could not vote), you must admit that last year’s
presidential race was if nothing else pretty interesting. True, the
press has dropped the subject, and the Democrats, with very few
exceptions, have “moved on.” Yet this contest may have been the most
unusual in U.S. history; it was certainly among those with the
strangest outcomes. You may remember being surprised yourself. The
infamously factious Democrats were fiercely unified-Ralph Nader
garnered only about 0.18 percent of the national vote-while the
Republicans were split, with a vocal anti-Bush front that included
anti-Clinton warrior Bob Barr of Georgia; Ike’s son John Eisenhower;
Ronald Reagan’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William J.
Crowe Jr.; former Air Force Chief of Staff and onetime “Veteran for
Bush” General Merrill “Tony” McPeak; founding neo-con Francis
Fukuyama; Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, and various large
alliances of military officers, diplomats, and business professors.
The American Conservative, co-founded by Pat Buchanan, endorsed five
candidates for president, including both Bush and Kerry, while the
Financial Times and The Economist came out for Kerry alone. At least
fifty-nine daily newspapers that backed Bush in the previous election
endorsed Kerry (or no one) in this election. The national turnout in
2004 was the highest since 1968, when another unpopular war had swept
the ruling party from the White House. And on Election Day, twenty-six
state exit polls incorrectly predicted wins for Kerry, a statistical
failure so colossal and unprecedented that the odds against its
happening, according to a report last May by the National Election
Data Archive Project, were 16.5 million to 1. Yet this ever-less-
beloved president, this president who had united liberals and
conservatives and nearly alI the world against himself this president
somehow bested his opponent by 3,000,176 votes.

How did he do it? To that most important question the commentariat,
briskly prompted by Republicans, supplied an answer. Americans of
faith a silent majority heretofore unmoved by any other politician had
poured forth by the millions to vote “Yes!” for Jesus’ buddy in the
White House. Bush’s 51 percent, according to this thesis, were roused
primarily by “family values.” Tony Perkins, president of the Family
Research Council, called gay marriage “the hood ornament on the family
values wagon that carried the president to a second term.” The pundits
eagerly pronounced their amens-“Moral values,” Tucker Carlson said on
CNN, “drove President Bush and other Republican candidates to victory
this week”-although it is not clear why. The primary evidence of our
Great Awakening was a post-election poll by the Pew Research Center in
which 27 percent of the respondents, when asked which issue “mattered
most” to them in the election, selected something called “moral
values.” This slight plurality of impulse becomes still less
impressive when we note that, as the pollsters went to great pains to
make clear, “the relative importance of moral values depends greatly
on how the question is framed.” In fact, when voters were asked to
“name in their own words the most important factor in their vote,”
only 14 percent managed to come up with “moral values.” Strangely,
this detail went little mentioned in the post-electoral commentary.1

The press has had little to say about most of the strange details of
the election-except, that is, to ridicule all efforts to discuss them.
This animus appeared soon after November 2, in a spate of caustic
articles dismissing any critical discussion of the outcome as crazed
speculation: “Election paranoia surfaces: Conspiracy theorists call
results rigged,” chuckled the Baltimore Sun on November 5. “Internet
Buzz on Vote Fraud Is Dismissed,” proclaimed the Boston Globe on
November 10. “Latest Conspiracy Theory-Kerry Won Hits the Ether,” the
Washington Post chortled on November 11. The New York Times weighed in
with “Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried”-making
mock not only of the “post-election theorizing” but of cyberspace
itself, the fons et origo of all such loony tunes, according to the

Such was the news that most Americans received. Although the tone was
scientific, “realistic,” skeptical, and “middle-of-the-road,” the
explanations offered by the press were weak and immaterial. It was as
if they were reporting from inside a forest fire without acknowledging
the fire, except to keep insisting that there was no fire.2 Since
Kerry has conceded, they argued, and since “no smoking gun” had come
to light, there was no story to report. This is an oddly passive
argument. Even so, the evidence that something went extremely wrong
last fall is copious, and not hard to find. Much of it was noted at
the time, albeit by local papers and haphazardly. Concerning the
decisive contest in Ohio, the evidence is lucidly compiled in a single
congressional report, which, for the last half-year, has been
available to anyone inclined to read it. It is a veritable arsenal of
“smoking guns”-and yet its findings may be less extraordinary than the
fact that no one in this country seems to care about them.

On January 5, Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking
Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, released Preserving
Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio. The report was the result of a
five-week investigation by the committee’s Democrats, who reviewed
thousands of complaints of fraud, malfeasance, or incompetence
surrounding the election in Ohio, and further thousands of complaints
that poured in by phone and email as word of the inquiry spread. The
congressional researchers were assisted by volunteers in Ohio who held
public hearings in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, and Cincinnati, and
questioned more than two hundred witnesses. (Although they were
invited, Republicans chose not to join in the inquiry.)3
1Another poll, by Zogby International, showed that 33 percent
of voters deemed “greed and materialism” the most pressing moral
problems in America. Only 12 percent of those polled cited gay

2 Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC, stood out as an heroic exception,
devoting many segments of his nightly program Countdown to the myriad
signs of electoral mischief, particularly in Ohio.

3 The full report can he downloaded from the Judiciary
Committee’s website at www.house.gov/judiciary_ democrats/
ohiostatusrept1505.pdf  [Local copy of the report, Preserving
Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio – Status Report of the House
Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff 5jan2005 (3.13 MB PDF)] and is
also, as of May, available as a trade paperback, entitled What Went
Wrong in Ohio. I should note here that, in a victory for family
values, the publishers of that paperback are my parents, Jordan and
Anita Miller.

Preserving Democracy describes three phases of Republican chicanery:
the run-up to the election, the election itself, and the post-election
cover-up. The wrongs exposed are not mere dirty tricks (though Bush/
Cheney also went in heavily for those) but specific violations of the
U.S. and Ohio constitutions, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights
Act of 1968, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Help America
Vote Act. Although Conyers trod carefully when the report came out,
insisting that the crimes did not affect the outcome of the race (a
point he had to make, he told me, “just to get a hearing”), his report
does “raise grave doubts regarding whether it can he said that the
Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner
that conforms to Ohio law, let alone Federal requirements and
constitutional standards.” The report cites “massive and unprecedented
voter irregularities and anomalies” throughout the state-wrongs,
moreover, that were hardly random accidents. “In many cases,” the
report says, “these irregularities were caused by intentional
misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of
State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign
in Ohio.” 4

The first phase of malfeasance entailed, among many other actions,
several months of bureaucratic hijinks aimed at disenfranchising
Democrats, the most spectacular result of which was “a wide
discrepancy between the availability of voting machines in more
minority, Democratic and urban areas as compared to more Republican,
suburban and exurban areas.” Such unequal placement had the
predictable effect of slowing the voting process to a crawl at
Democratic polls, while making matters quick and easy in Bush country:
a clever way to cancel out the Democrats’ immense success at
registering new voters in Ohio. (We cannot know the precise number of
new voters registered in Ohio by either party because many states,
including Ohio, do not register voters by party affiliation. The New
York Times reported in September, however, that new registration rose
25 percent in Ohio’s predominantly Republican precincts and 250
percent in Ohio’s predominantly Democratic precincts.)
4 When contacted by Harper’s Magazine, Blackwell spokesman
Carlo LoParo dismissed Conyers’s report as a partisan attack. “Why
wasn’t it more than an hour’s story?” he asked, referring to the lack
of media interest in the report. “Everybody can’t be wrong, can they?”

At Kenyon College in Gambier, for instance, there were only two
machines for 1,300 would-be voters, even though “a surge of late
registrations promised a record vote.” Gambier residents and Kenyon
students had to stand in line for hours, in the rain and in “crowded,
narrow hallways,” with some of them inevitably forced to call it
quits. “In contrast, at nearby Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, which
is considered more Republican leaning, there were ample waiting
machines and no lines.” This was not a consequence of limited
resources. In Franklin County alone, as voters stood for hours
throughout Columbus and elsewhere, at least 125 machines collected
dust in storage. The county’s election officials had “decided to make
do with 2,866 machines, even though the analysis showed that the
county needs 5,000 machines.”

It seemed at times that Ohio’s secretary of state was determined to
try every stunt short of levying a poll tax to suppress new voter
turnout. On September 7, based on an overzealous reading of an obscure
state bylaw, he ordered county boards of elections to reject all Ohio
voter-registration forms not “printed on white, uncoated paper of not
less than 80 lb. text weight.” Under public pressure he reversed the
order three weeks later, by which time unknown numbers of Ohioans had
been disenfranchised. Blackwell also attempted to limit access to
provisional ballots. The Help America Vote Act-passed in 2002 to
address some of the problems of the 2000 election-prevents election
officials from deciding at the polls who will be permitted to cast
provisional ballots, as earlier Ohio law had permitted. On September
16, Blackwell issued a directive that somehow tailed to note that
change. A federal judge ordered him to revise the language, Blackwell
resisted, and the court was forced to draft its own version of the
directive, which it ordered Blackwell to accept, even as it noted
Blackwell’s “vigorous, indeed, at times, obdurate opposition” to
compliance with the law.

Under Blackwell the state Republican Party tried to disenfranchise
still more Democratic voters through a technique known as “caging.”
The party sent registered letters to new voters, “then sought to
challenge 35,000 individuals who refused to sign for the letters,”
including “voters who were homeless, serving abroad, or simply did not
want to sign for something concerning the Republican Party.” It should
be noted that marketers have long used zip codes to target, with
remarkable precision, the ethnic makeup of specific neighborhoods, and
also that, according to exit polls last year, 84 percent of those
black citizens who voted in Ohio voted for Kerry.

The second phase of lawlessness began the Monday before the election,
when Blackwell issued two directives restricting media coverage of the
election. First, reporters were to he barred from the polls, because
their presence contravened Ohio’s law on “loitering” near voting
places. Second, media representatives conducting exit polls were to
remain 100 feet away from the polls. Blackwell’s reasoning here was
that, with voter turnout estimated at 73 percent, and with many new
voters so blissfully ignorant as to have “never looked at a voting
machine before,” his duty was clear: the public was to he protected
from the “interference or intimidation” caused by “intense media
scrutiny.” Both cases were at once struck down in federal court on
First Amendment grounds.
5 Let it not be said that the Democrats rose wholly above the
electoral fray: in Defiance County, Ohio, one Chad Staton was arrested
on 130 counts of vote fraud when he submitted voter-registration forms
purportedly signed by, among others, Dick Tracy, Jeffrey Dahmer,
Michael Jackson, and Mary Poppins. Of course, depending on party
affiliation, the consequence of election misdeeds varies. Staton, who
told police he was paid in crack for each registration, received fifty-
four months in jail for his fifth-degree felonies; Blackwell, for his
part, is now the G.O.P. front-runner for governor of Ohio.

Blackwell did manage to ban reporters from a post-election ballot-
counting site in Warren County because-election officials claimed-the
FBI had warned of an impending terrorist attack there. The FBI said it
issued no such warning, however, and the officials refused to name the
agent who alerted them. Moreover, as the Cincinnati Enquirer later
reported, email correspondence between election officials and the
county’s building services director indicated that lockdown plans
“down to the wording of the signs that would he posted on the locked
doors” had been in the works for at least a week. Beyond suggesting
that officials had something to hide, the ban was also, according to
the report, a violation of Ohio law and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Contrary to a prior understanding, Blackwell also kept foreign
monitors away from the Ohio polls. Having been formally invited by the
State Department on June 9, observers from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international consortium based
in Vienna, had come to witness and report on the election. The
mission’s two-man teams had been approved to monitor the process in
eleven states-but the observers in Ohio were prevented from watching
the opening of the polling places, the counting of the ballots, and,
in some cases, the election itself. “We thought we could he at the
polling places before, during, and after” the voting, said Soren
Søndergaard, a Danish member of the team. Denied admission to polls in
Columbus, he and his partner went to Blackwell, who refused them
letters of approval, again citing Ohio law banning “loitering” outside
the polls. The two observers therefore had to “monitor” the voting at
a distance of 100 feet from each polling place. Although not
technically illegal, Blackwell’s refusal was improper and, of course,
suspicious. (The Conyers report does not deal with this episode.)

To what end would election officials risk so malodorous an action? We
can only guess, of course. We do know, however, that Ohio, like the
nation, was the site of numerous statistical anomalies-so many that
the number is itself statistically anomalous, since every single one
of them took votes from Kerry. In Butler County the Democratic
candidate for State Supreme Court took in 5,347 more votes than Kerry
did. In Cuyahoga County ten Cleveland precincts “reported an
incredibly high number of votes for third party candidates who have
historically received only a handful of votes from these urban areas”-
mystery votes that would mostly otherwise have gone to Kerry. In
Franklin County, Bush received nearly 4,000 extra votes from one
computer, and, in Miami County, just over 13,000 votes appeared in
Bush’s column after all precincts had reported. In Perry County the
number of Bush votes somehow exceeded the number of registered voters,
leading to voter turnout rates as high as 124 percent. Youngstown,
perhaps to make up the difference, reported negative 25 million votes.

In Cuyahoga County and in Franklin County-both Democratic strongholds-
the arrows on the absentee ballots were not properly aligned with
their respective punch holes, so that countless votes were miscast, as
in West Palm Beach back in 2000. In Mercer County some 4,000 votes for
president representing nearly 7 percent of the electorate mysteriously
dropped out of the final count. The machines in heavily Democratic
Lucas County kept going haywire, prompting the county’s election
director to admit that prior tests of the machines had failed. One
polling place in Lucas County never opened because all the machines
were locked up somewhere and no one had the key. In Hamilton County
many absentee voters could not cast a Democratic vote for president
because county workers, in taking Ralph Nader’s name off many ballots,
also happened to remove John Kerry’s name. The Washington Post
reported that in Mahoning County “25 electronic machines transferred
an unknown number of Kerry votes to the Bush column,” but it did not
think to ask why.

Ohio Democrats also were heavily thwarted through dirty tricks
recalling Richard Nixon’s reign and the systematic Bullying of Dixie.
There were “literally thousands upon thousands” of such incidents, the
Conyers report notes, cataloguing only the grossest cases. Voters were
told, falsely, that their polling place had changed; the news was
conveyed by phone calls, “door-hangers,” and even party workers going
door to door. There were phone calls and fake “voter bulletins”
instructing Democrats that they were not to cast their votes until
Wednesday, November 3, the day after Election Day. Unknown
“volunteers” in Cleveland showed up at the homes of Democrats, kindly
offering to “deliver” completed absentee ballots to the election
office. And at several polling places, election personnel or hired
goons bused in to do the job “challenged” voters black voters in
particular to produce documents confirming their eligibility to vote.
The report notes one especially striking incident:

In Franklin County, a worker at a Holiday hill observed a team of
25 people who called themselves the “Texts Strike Force” using
payphones to make intimidating ells to likely voters, targeting people
recently in the prison system. The “Texas Strike Force” paid their way
to Ohio, but their hotel accommodations were paid for by the Ohio
Republican party, whose headquarters is across the street. The hotel
worker heard one caller threaten a likely voter with being reported to
the FBI and returning to jail it lie voted. Another hotel worker
called the police, who came but did nothing.

The electoral fraud continued past Election Day, But by means far more
complex and less apparent than the bullying that marked the day
itself. Here the aim was to protect the spoils, which required the
prevention of countywide hand recounts by any means necessary. The
procedure for recounts is quite clear. In fact, it was created by
Blackwell. A recount having been approved, each of the state’s eighty-
eight counties must select a number of precincts randomly, so that the
total of their ballots comes to 3 percent (at least) of the county’s
total vote. Those ballots must then he simultaneously hand counted and
machine counted. If the hand count and the new machine count match,
the remaining 97 percent of the selected ballots may he counted by
machine. If, however, the totals vary by as little as a single vote,
all the other votes must be hand counted, and the results, once
reconfirmed, must be accepted as the new official total.

The Ohio recount officially started on December 13-five days after
Conyers’s hearings opened-and was scheduled to go on until December
28. Because the recount (such as it was) coincided with the inquiry,
Conyers was able to discover, and reveal in his report, several
instances of what seemed to he electoral fraud.

On December 13, for instance, Sherole Eaton, deputy director of
elections for Hocking County, filed an affidavit stating that the
computer that operates the tabulating machine had been “modified” by
one Michael Barbian Jr., an employee of Triad GSI, the corporate
manufacturer of the county’s voting machinery.

Ms. Eaton witnessed Mr. Barbian modify the Hocking County computer
vote tabulator before the announcement of the Ohio recount. She
further witnessed Barbian, upon the announcement that the Hocking
County precinct was planned to he the subject of the initial Ohio test
recount, make further alterations based on his knowledge of the
situation. She also has firsthand knowledge that Barbian advised
election officials how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that
[the] preliminary hand recount matched the machine count.6

The committee also learned that Triad similarly intervened in at least
two other counties. In a filmed interview, Barbian said that he had
examined machines not only in Hocking County hut also in Lorain,
Muskingum, Clark, Harrison, and Guernsey counties; his purpose was to
provide the Board of Elections with as much information as possible
-“The more information you give someone,” he said, “the better job
they can do.” The report concludes that such information as Barbian
and his colleagues could provide was helpful indeed:

Based on the above, including actual admissions and statements by
Triad employees, it strongly appears that Triad and its employees
engaged in a course of behavior to provide “cheat sheets” to those
counting the ballots. The cheat sheets told them how many votes they
should find for each candidate, and how many over and under votes they
should calculate to match the machine count. In that way, they could
avoid doing a full county-wide hand recount mandated by state law. If
true, this would frustrate the entire purpose of the recount law-to
randomly ascertain if the vote counting apparatus is operating fairly
and effectively, and if not to conduct a full hand recount.

6 In May 2005, Eaton was ordered by the Hocking County
Board of Elections to resign from her position.

The report notes Triad’s role in several other cases. In Union County
the hard drive on one tabulator was replaced after the election. (The
old one had to he subpoenaed.) In Monroe County, after the 3 percent
hand count had twice failed to match the machine count, a Triad
employee brought in a new machine and took away the old one. (That
machine’s count matched the hand count.) Such operations are
especially worrying in light of the fact that Triad’s founder, Brett
A. Rapp, “has been a consistent contributor to Republican
causes.” (Neither Barbian nor Rapp would respond to Harper’s queries,
and the operator at Triad refused even to provide the name of a press

There were many cases of malfeasance, however, in which Triad played
no role. Some 1,300 Libertarian and Green Party volunteers, led by
Green Party recount manager Lynne Serpe, monitored the count
throughout Ohio.7 They reported that: In Allen, Clermont, Cuyahoga,
Morrow, Hocking, Vinton, Summit, and Medina counties, the precincts
for the 3 percent hand recount were preselected, not picked at random,
as the law requires. In Fairfield County the 3 percent hand recount
yielded a total that diverged from the machine count-but despite
protests from observers, officials did not then perform a hand recount
of all the ballots, as the law requires. In Washington and Lucas
counties, ballots were marked or altered, apparently to ensure that
the hand recount would equal the machine count. In Ashland, Portage,
and Coshocton counties, ballots were improperly unsealed or stored.
Belmont County “hired an independent programmer (`at great expense’)
to reprogram the counting machines so that they would only count votes
for President during the recount.” Finally, Democratic and/or Green
observers were denied access to absentee, and/or provisional ballots,
or were not allowed to monitor the recount process, in Summit, Huron,
Putnam, Allen, Holmes, Mahoning, Licking, Stark, Medina, Warren, and
Morgan counties. In short, the Ohio vote was never properly recounted,
as required by Ohio law.

7 The recount itself was the result of a joint application
from the Green and Libertarian parties.

That is what the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee
found, that is what they distributed to everyone in Congress, and that
is what any member of the national press could have reported at any
time in the last half year. Conyers may or may not have precisely
captured every single dirty trick. The combined votes gained by the
Republicans through such devices may or may not have decided the
election. (Bush won Ohio by 118,601 votes.) Indeed, if you could
somehow look into the heart of every eligible voter in the United
States to know his or her truest wishes, you might discover that Bush/
Cheney was indeed the people’s choice. But you have to admit-the
report is pretty interesting.

In fact, its release was timed for maximum publicity. According to the
United States Code (Title 3, Chapter 1, Section 15), the President of
the Senate-i.e., the U.S. Vice President-must announce each state’s
electoral results, then “call for objections.” Objections must he made
in writing and “signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the
House of Representatives.” A challenge having been submitted, the
joint proceedings must then be suspended so that both houses can
retire to their respective chambers to decide the question, after
which they reconvene and either certify or reject the vote.

Thus was an unprecedented civic drama looming on the day that
Conyers’s report appeared. First of all, electoral votes had been
contested in the Congress only twice. In 1877 the electoral votes of
several states were challenged, some by Democrats supporting Samuel
Tilden, others by Republicans supporting Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1969,
Republicans challenged the North Carolina vote when Lloyd W. Bailey, a
“faithless elector” pledged to Richard Nixon for that state, voted for
George Wallace.8 And a new challenge would he more than just
“historic.” Because of what had happened-or not happened-four years
earlier, it would also be extraordinarily suspenseful. On January 6,
2001, House Democrats, galvanized by the electoral larceny in Florida,
tried and failed to challenge the results. Their effort was aborted by
the failure of a single Democratic senator to join them, as the law
requires. Al Gore-still vice president, and therefore still the
Senate’s president-had urged Democrats to make no such unseemly waves
but to respect Bush’s installation for the sake of national unity.
Now, it seemed, that partisan disgrace would he redressed, at least
symbolically; for a new challenge from the House, by Representative
Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, would be cosigned by Barbara Boxer,
Democratic senator from California, who, at a noon press conference on
January 6, heightened the suspense by tearfully acknowledging her
prior wrong: “Four years ago I didn’t intervene. I was asked by Al
Gore not to do so and I didn’t do so. Frankly, looking back on it, I
wish I had.”
8 Offended by the president-elect’s first cabinet
appointments (Henry Kissinger, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, et al.),
Bailey was protesting Nixon’s liberalism.

It was a story perfect for TV a rare event, like the return of
Halley’s comet; a scene of high contention in the nation’s capital; a
heroine resolved to make things right, both for the public and
herself. Such big news would highlight Conyers’s report, whose
findings, having spurred the challenge in the first place, would now
inform the great congressional debate on the election in Ohio.

As you may recall, this didn’t happen-the challenge was rejected by a
vote of 267-31 in the House and 74-1 in the Senate. The Boston Globe
gave the report 118 words (page 3); the Los Angeles Times, 60 words
(page 18). It made no news in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today,
Newsweek, Time, or U.S. News & World Report. It made no news on CBS,
NBC, ABC, or PBS. Nor did NPR report it (though Talk of the Nation
dealt with it on January 6). CNN did not report it, though Donna
Brazile pointedly affirmed its copious “evidence” on Inside Politics
on January 6. (Judy Woodruff failed to pause for an elaboration.) Also
on that date, the Fox News Channel briefly showed Conyers himself
discussing “irregularities” in Franklin County, though it did not
mention the report. He was followed by Tom DeLay, who assailed the
Democrats for their “assault against the institutions of our
representative democracy.” The New York Times negated both the
challenge and the document in a brief item headlined “Election Results
to Be Certified, with Little Fuss from Kerry,” which ran on page 16
and ended with this quote from Dennis Hastert’s office, vis-à-vis the
Democrats: “They are really just trying to stir up their loony left.”

Indeed, according to the House Republicans, it was the Democrats who
were the troublemakers and cynical manipulators-spinning “fantasies”
and “conspiracy theories” to “distract” the people, “poison the
atmosphere of the House of Representatives” (Dave Hobson, R., Ohio),
and “undermine the prospect of democracy” (David Dreier, R., Calif.);
mounting “a direct attack to undermine our democracy” (Tom DeLay, R.,
Tex.), “an assault against the institutions of our representative
democracy” (DeLay); trying “to plant the insidious seeds of doubt in
the electoral process” (J. D. Hayworth, R., Ariz.); and in so doing
following “their party’s primary strategy: to obstruct, to divide and
to destroy” (Deborah D. Pryce, R., Ohio).

Furthermore, the argument went, there was no evidence of electoral
fraud. The Democrats were using “baseless and meritless
tactics” (Pryce) to present their “so-called evidence” (Bob Ney, R.,
Ohio), “making allegations that have no basis of fact” (Candice
Miller, R., Mich.), making claims for which “there is no evidence
whatsoever, no evidence whatsoever” (Dreier). “There is absolutely no
credible basis to question the outcome of the election” (Rob Portman,
R., Ohio). “No proven allegations of fraud. No reports of widespread
wrongdoing. It was, at the end of the day, an honest election” (Bill
Shuster, R., Pa.). And so on. Bush won Ohio by “an overwhelming and
comfortable margin,” Rep. Pryce insisted, while Ric Keller (R., Fla.)
said that Bush won by “an overwhelmingly comfortable margin.” (“The
president’s margin is significant,” observed Roy Blunt, R., Mo.) In
short, as Tom DeLay put it, “no such voter disenfranchisement occurred
in this election of 2004-and, for that matter, the election of 2000.
Everybody knows it. The voters know it, the candidates know it, the
courts know it, and the evidence proves it.”

That all this commentary was simply wrong went unnoticed and/or
unreported. Once Bush was reinaugurated, all inquiries were apparently
concluded, and the story was officially kaput. By March talk of fraud
was calling forth the same reflexive ridicule that had prevailed hack
in November-but only now and then, on those rare moments when somebody
dared bring it up: “Also tonight,” CNN’s Lou Dobbs deadpanned
ironically on March 8, “Teresa Heinz Kerry still can’t accept certain
reality. She suggests the presidential election may have been rigged!”
And when, on March 31, the National Election Data Archive Project
released its study demonstrating that the exit polls had probably been
right, it made news only in the Akron Beacon-Journal.9 The article
included this response from Carlo LoParo, Kenneth Blackwell’s
spokesman: “What are you going to do except laugh at it?”

In the summer of 2003, Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.) was
interviewed by Alexandra Pelosi at a barbecue on the White House lawn
for her HBO documentary Diary of a Political Tourist. “It’s already
over. The election’s over.

9 On the other hand, the thesis that the exit polls were
flawed had been reported by the Associated Press, the Washington Post,
the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the
Columbus Dispatch, CNN.com, MSNBC, and ABC (which devoted a Nightline
segment to the “conspiracy theory” that the exit polls had been

We won,” King exulted more than a year before the election. When asked
by Pelosi-the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi-how he
knew that Bush would win, he answered, “It’s all over but the
counting. And we’ll take care of the counting.”

King, who is well known in Washington for his eccentric utterances,
says he was kidding, that he has known Pelosi for years, that she is
“a clown,” and that her project was a “spoof.” Still, he said it. And
laughter, despite the counsel of Kenneth Blackwell’s press flack,
seems an inappropriate response to the prospect of a stolen election-
as does the advice that we “get over it.” The point of the Conyers
report, and of this report as well, is not to send Bush packing and
put Kerry in his place. The Framers could no more conceive of
electoral fraud on such a scale than they could picture Fox News
Channel or the Pentagon; and so we have no constitutional recourse,
should it be proven, finally, that the wrong guy “won.” The point of
our revisiting the last election, rather, is to see exactly what the
damage was so that the people can demand appropriate reforms. Those
who say we should “move on” from that suspicious race and work instead
on “bigger issues”-like electoral reform-are urging the impossible;
for there has never been a great reform that was not driven by some
major scandal.

“If a nation expects to he ignorant and free, in a state of
civilization,” Thomas Jefferson said, “it expects what never was and
never will be.” That much-quoted line foretells precisely what has
happened to us since “the news” has turned into a daily paraphrase of
Karl Rove’s fevered dreams. Just as 2+2=5 in Orwell’s Oceania, so here
today the United States just won two brilliant military victories,
9/11 could not have been prevented, we live in a democracy (like the
Iraqis), and last year’s presidential race “was, at the end of the
day, an honest election.” Such claims, presented as the truth, are
nothing but faith-based reiteration, as valid as the notions that one
chooses to be homosexual, that condoms don’t prevent the spread of
HIV, and that the universe was made 6,000 years ago.

In this nation’s epic struggle on behalf of freedom, reason, and
democracy, the press has unilaterally disarmed-and therefore many good
Americans, both liberal and conservative, have lost faith in the
promise of self-government. That vast surrender is demoralizing,
certainly, hut if we face it, and endeavor to reverse it, it will not
prove fatal. This democracy can survive a plot to hijack an election.
What it cannot survive is our indifference to, or unawareness of, the
evidence that such a plot has succeeded.


Letter To The Editor of Harper’s Magazine

*FOR PUBLICATION* letters [at] harpers [dot] org 26 July ’05

Dear Editor:

Mr. Miller (‘None Dare Call it Stolen’, July 2005) briefly mentions
evidence that a coordinated, nationwide vote fraud was perpetrated by
Bush et al., but he harms democracy by not investigating it. Exit
polls by their nature are very precise: i.e. in only one of every 4.6
billion (!) presidential elections should (as actually happened)
Bush’s announced final margin exceed the exit poll’s margin of error
in the 16 states whose exit polls predicted that Kerry was about to
win, (methodology and discussion at:
The claimed counts are even more unlikely when you consider that every
one of such discrepancies occurred in either a close (“swing”) or an
important high population state, and that all employed secret vote
counting (instantly changeable once uploaded to computers).

A news media consortium conducts the exit polls and admits the
discrepancy, but attributes it to faulty exit polls-e.g. their
pollsters were too far from old Bush voters to reach them, or they
preferred to interview young Kerry voters. They “forget” to ask why
this never happened before! Also, why did a news media commentator,
looking at his laptop on PBS’s Newshour suddenly exclaim “Wait a
minute-something’s changing in Florida!” (paraphrase), at about 6 pm
Eastern? Until late afternoon, both campaigns exuded signs that Kerry
had won. So why was the Bush team suddenly overjoyed (as filmed by
PBS’s Frontline), after consulting their extensive network of local
results in late afternoon (which is why they were previously glum)?

The answers lie in the paper ballots locked away in hundreds of rooms.
Are the party hacks who mostly control access to this evidence in key
states honest enough to allow an impartial recount of them, or have
they already altered this permanent record? Statisticians know what
all such evidence means, and have called for such a recount (see

Tony Tweedale, MS (Env. Studies)
ttweed [at] wildrockies [dot] org


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