by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
October 24, 2012
Election officials lie to cover the facts
Since the Columbus Free Press broke the story of Tagg, Mitt, HIG Capital and your e-vote, there has been a bi-partisan effort on the internet to restore faith in system. There are Democrats who wish the Free Press would remain silent, fearing that exposure of these facts will demoralize their base and lead to low voter turn out. Pundits like Chuck Todd have used the phrase conspiracy theory and even gone so far as to say “The voting machine conspiracies belong in same category as the Trump birther garbage.” An industry shill, Michelle Shafer, who currently works as media director for Scytl and has worked for all but one of the major voting machine manufacturers, has replied via comment to our reportage and its derivatives with additional falsehoods and misrepresentations.
In Hamilton County, tabulation software which will be used to count the votes on Election Day, is also made and maintained by Hart.
The biggest current lie is that Hart Intercivic has little or nothing to do with its voting machines in the current election. That lie was recently told to the Washington Post by an official in Hamilton County “Hamilton County director of elections Amy Searcy said Tuesday that officials purchased the system five years ago and that Hart is not involved with its operations or maintenance.”
A statement that Hart has nothing to do with the machines Hamilton (Cincinnati) and Williams counties in the key swing state of Ohio and is simply incorrect. In April, as we geared up for the general election, the Free Press requested and received public records relating to hardware, software, contracts, serial numbers and voter registration record storage contracts for all 88 counties in Ohio. According to records given to us by Hamilton (read Hamilton County’s actual response email) and Williams counties, Hart Intercivic still has a contract to maintain and repair its equipment in each of those counties. In Williams county, Hart InterCivic also has the contract to write and maintain the tabulation software which runs on Dell-made computers.
A common practice during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio involved both Triad and ES&S voting machine technicians showing up unexpectedly with “software patches” to install in voting machines just prior to the election. Elect ion protection activists should be on the lookout for this behavior between now and November 6. With a maintenance contract, Hart’s technicians could add software patches right before Election Day that could possibly change the functionality of these machines. Adding patches without them being certified by the Secretary of State is illegal.
A software patch, ostensibly to fix some bug or increase functionality, inserted at the last minute, are one of the best ways to defraud an election. If a malicious attacker waits until the last minute, the software patch can be compiled with the latest poll numbers, thus assuring that votes will be flipped within an seemingly undetectable margin of error.
County election officials from around the country have taken to social media to claim that the machines were bought a long time ago, and Hart has nothing to do with them. Linda Thompson, for instance, wrote:
“I am an Election Authority in the State of Missouri. We use electronic voting equipment….
I can tell you, once we purchased those machines, the company that designed/built them has nothing to do with them. They are programmed by a third company not affiliated with their design.” Posted on ThinkProgress.org.
A former Board of Elections official from Greene County, Ohio posted this misleading statement on his Facebook page 2 days ago:
“Many of my Facebook friends have posted about voting machines being owned by Bain Capital and therefore by members of the Romney family. At least in Ohio that does not threaten the integrity of the vote counting. In Ohio, machines are owned by the individual county Boards of Elections. …The vote tabulations are done in each county, not on a computer in Columbus (or Chattanooga). Spreading fears and doubts about vote integrity may end up suppressing the turnout.”
Voting machines, once purchased, have maintenance contracts. In fact, as is common in the computer industry, most of the money in a contract is in the maintenance of the software, not the sale of the hardware.
Hart could potentially apply software patches in two Ohio counties. Additionally, in many counties these systems interface with voter registration systems maintained by Triad Governmental Services (Triad GSI). Triad, based in Xenia Ohio, is a small family run operation. The Rapp, family, who founded Triad, are hard-right evangelicals. While they have an ideological commitment to an overall Republican victory, Hart is majority owned by a private equity firm run by fundraisers for the Romney campaign.
The Democrats have it half right. The only way to ensure that election fraud will not happen is to have a massive voter turnout that makes cheating within the margin of error impossible. However, a citizens obligation to vote does not negate a citizen’s obligation to vigilantly defend the democratic franchise that lies at the center of our society.
Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is editor-in-chief of the Free Press. He holds PhD in Political Science and a JD.