Posts

, , , , , , ,

Free Press’ Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman awarded for 4th Most Censored Story of 2016

Project Censored logo and statue of liberty

Project Censored has chosen Search Engine Algorithms and Electronic Voting Machines Could Swing 2016 Election as the 4th “Most Censored Story of 2016” with contributions by Free Press writers and editors Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman.

“Because courts have ruled that source code is proprietary, private companies that own electronic voting machines are essentially immune to transparent public oversight, as Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis documented,” Project Censored wrote. “On Democracy Now! and elsewhere, Wasserman and Fitrakis have advocated universal, hand-counted paper ballots and automatic voter registration as part of their ‘Ohio Plan’ to restore electoral integrity.”

Every year for 40 years, Project Censored, located at Sonoma State University in California, has chosen the 25 most censored stories of the year.

To read about Project Censored and their top censored stories of 2016, go to:

http://www.cvindependent.com/index.php/en-US/news/features/item/3367-censored-stories-2016-the-10-big-stories-the-media-has-largely-missed-or-ignored-over-the-last-year

or

http://projectcensored.org/

, ,

Election protection, electronic voting & the future of America democracy

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 23, 2013

The re-election of Barack Obama was made possible in part by the triumph of a new social movement—a great grassroots upheaval aimed at election protection and meaningful universal suffrage, that must include a transparent and reliable vote count.

The Republican Party’s concerted effort to steal the presidency again failed in 2012, but only because of major breakthroughs that have been forcing their way into the mainstream since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

Throughout these past dozen years, the GOP “suppress and shift” election theft strategy has focused on two main tactics:massive disenfranchisement of citizens (mostly non-white, poor and young) suspected of voting Democratic; and the manipulation of electronic voting machines and tabulating devices with software capable of flipping thousands of votes with a few late night keystrokes.

This year the Republicans’ blatant, barely concealed disenfranchisement efforts evoked a major national outcry, and a significant backlash that carried all the way to the op ed page of the New York Times. Because activists have focused on the issue since Florida 2000, there was in place a fast-growing awareness that millions of legitimate voters were being stripped from the registration rolls, especially in key swing states.

Less widely accepted has been the vulnerability of electronic voting machines. Manipulated tallies were used in Volusia County, Florida in 2000, and throughout Ohio in 2004 to elect and re-elect George W. Bush. In 2008 and 2012, Obama’s popular vote margins were sufficient to overwhelm the potential theft in key swing states. But the possibilities of electronic vote theft are stronger than ever. In the long run, if the US is to ever have a meaningful democracy, electronic voting and tabulating machines must be eliminated in favor of universal hand counted paper ballots.

SYSTEMATIC DISENFRANCHISEMENT:

Preventing unwanted voters from casting their ballots in key elections is a long-standing national tradition. It dates back at least to the Jim Crow days in the post-Civil War south, when the Democratic party and its terrorist wing, the Ku Klux Klan, systematically prevented African-Americans from voting in the eleven states of the former Confederacy , and elsewhere.

In Florida 2000 the Republicans used an old Jim Crow law disenfranchising former felons as a pretext for stripping the voter rolls of at least 90,000 voters. Most were African-American and Hispanic, and the vast majority weren’t ex-felons at all, but people with same or similar names or the same date of birth to other citizens who may or may not have been ex-felons, and may or may not have been residents of Florida.

In Ohio 2004, more than 300,000 voters were stripped from registration rolls in heavily Democratic urban areas throughout state. In the city of Cleveland, nearly 25% of all voters were eliminated from the voting rolls. Also, Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell deployed a wide range of deceptive tactics aimed at misleading voters and suppressing turnout. Democratic areas were shortchanged on voting machines and denied paper ballots. Tens of thousands of voters were forced to use provisional ballots which were then discarded.

Federal Judge Algernon Marbley in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville suit, in which we are attorney and plaintiff, ordered Ohio’s 88 county election boards to preserve their voter records for a statewide recount. But 56 of the counties illegally destroyed all or some of their election records. No prosecutions have resulted and no recount has ever been done.

After losing in 2008, even after purging 1.2 million voters from the rolls, the Republicans came into 2012 with a massively escalated campaign to suppress the vote. The 2012 purge of the registration rolls in Ohio topped 1.1 million voters. Led by Indiana and Georgia, GOP-controlled legislatures began passing laws demanding state-issued photo identification cards. New York University’s Brennan Center estimated such laws could disenfranchise more than ten million voters.

Republican secretaries of state, especially in Ohio and Florida, worked hard to trim early voting opportunities for suspected Democrats. Once again inner city polling places were plagued with long lines and extended waits. But the worst happened during early voting in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland, where Ohioans—mostly African-Americans—waited up to five hours to vote. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted revived many of the tactics used by Blackwell, which were also adopted by GOP operatives in other states. Among other things, Husted would only allow one early voting center in the major urban areas, predictably creating long lines.

Tens of thousands of voters were also forced to vote with provisional ballots. A disproportionate number were African-American. Many were tripped up by detailed demands imposed by Husted apparently designed to nullify as many votes as possible.

But this year the activist community was prepared. Heavily challenged in court, the photo ID laws were largely overturned. As in 2008, thousands of volunteers worked in key states to make sure people came out to the polls and to protect their rights once they did. Angered by the GOP tactics, thousands of nearly disenfranchised voters made a point of waiting through hours of contrived delays to cast their ballots. Many were still standing in line to vote even as Barack Obama was proclaiming victory.

The Obama campaign and various voting rights groups challenged Husted in court over early voting hours, provisional ballot directives, and voter ID rules.

Overall, the response of the election protection movement was powerful and effective. Obama’s re-election was essentially secured by a movement that prevented the Republicans from disenfranchising enough voters to guarantee their victory.

ELECTRONIC VOTE THEFT

But no turnout for Barack Obama or any other candidate could have withstood a full-scale electronic vote shift. Unlike the widely accepted understanding that massive disenfranchisement can swing an election, assertions focussing on electronic vote theft continue to arouse divisive passion.

Yet there remains a simple bottom line: there is absolutely no secure means of monitoring, confirming, recounting or legally challenging a vote count that has been registered and tabulated electronically. In reality, our entire electoral system is sitting duck, and is far more vulnerable to electronic manipulation that it was in 2000.

Back then, at a critical moment on election night, 16,000 electronic votes from Volusia County, Florida, were deleted from Al Gore and 4,000 added to George W. Bush. Though the count was later reversed, Fox News commentator John Ellis—Bush’s first cousin—used the shift to reverse pronouncements that Gore had won the election.

In Ohio 2004, which would decide the presidency, CNN reported shortly after 11pm that John Kerry had defeated Bush by more than 200,000 votes. But at 11:14 pm the electronic tally was shifted to a computer bank in SChattanooga, Tennessee. Soon thereafter the lead definitively shifted to Bush, who officially won the state–and thus the presidency—by some 118,000 votes. The exit polls clearly showed Kerry winning.

Secretary of State Blackwell’s no-bid contract for the Ohio 2004 electronic vote count had been awarded to the Akron-based GovTech Corporation. Its founder, Michael Connell, was a long-standing associate of the Bush Family. Connell ran the GOP’s lead IT company, New Media. New Media processed Ohio’s votes through a server farm in Chattanooga, which also housed the email of the Republican National Committee, and of Karl Rove. The owner of the server farm was born-again political activist Jeff Averbeck of Smartech.

On November 3, 2008, Connell was deposed in Cleveland by attorneys Fitrakis and Cliff Arnebeck as part of the King-Lincoln federal lawsuit. Questioning focused on his possible role in electronically flipping the 2004 Ohio vote count. On December 19, while facing a follow-up deposition, Connell died in a mysterious private plane crash.

By then it had become clear that no recount of the Ohio 2004 election would be possible. Judge Marbley had issued a decision requiring that all 88 county election boards preserve all balloting records from Ohio 2004. But when Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner went to collect them, she discovered that 56 of the 88 counties had violated Marbley’s ruling. Accompanied by a series of widely varying excuses, the boards of election had made it impossible to track the true presidential vote count in the deciding state in one of America’s most bitterly contested elections.

In 2012, the GOP was prepared to repeat history. For a decade the Help America Vote Act had been spreading electronic voting machines throughout the US. More than half the nation’s votes were cast and/or counted this year on electronic devices. Yet the courts have ruled that the software on these machines is proprietary, meaning the public has no access to how they are coded, or how the votes are counted.

In Ohio, nearly all 2012 votes were cast and counted electronically. The Free Press reported that in Cincinnati, the notoriously insecure and unreliable Hart InterCivic voting machines were deployed by a company, HIG Capital, controlled by major Romney campaign associates who are investment partners with Romney family members.

The widespread belief that Ohio could decide the presidential outcome helped make that FreePress story go viral.

Just prior to election day, documents leaked to the Free Press from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office confirmed that an uncertified and untested software patch had been appended to ES&S machines on which 80% of the state’s votes would be cast and transmitted. The software had no safeguards to prevent an inside party from altering the vote count.

Further Free Press research uncovered the operations of Scytyl, a Spanish-owned company hired by a number of states to manage the overseas electronic vote count. But Scytyl’s software was also capable of manipulating the vote count in entire states, again without meaningful public access or recourse.

As Election Day approached, Democrats complained that touch screen machines had them pushing the button for Barack Obama while seeing Mitt Romney light up. In Colorado, Republicans claimed they were pushing Mitt Romney’s name while Barack Obama lit up. The complaints resembled those in Youngstown, Ohio 2004, where voters complained they were attempting to vote for John Kerry while George W. Bush’s name lit up. Mahoning County election officials in Youngstown, Ohio explained that the vote flipping was “only” happening on 31 machines.

This year, amidst saturation election night coverage, Karl Rove urged Fox reporters to refrain from calling Ohio for Barack Obama. Rove’s confused, angry outburst mentioned crashing websites run by the Ohio Secretary of State, and seemed to mirror the fateful Foxist backtracking of Bush cousin John Ellis in Florida 2000.

As in 2008, Barack Obama’s wide margin put the 2012 election out of reach of electronic vote theft. He could have lost Florida, Ohio and Virginia and still won in the Electoral College.

But the outcome in a close election might well have been different. Both Ohio and Florida were vulnerable to electronic flipping by the Republican governors and secretaries of state that controlled the electoral apparatus in both states. In a close election, they could easily have put Mitt Romney in the White House.

The electorate and much of the media reacted this year with great anger to the GOP’s national disenfranchisement campaign. Many people who came out to vote and stayed in long lines voiced angry defiance of the Republican attempt to deny them the right to do so.

But the reaction to the possibility of electronic vote theft has been muted and even hostile. The official lie propagated by the Democratic Party and their apologists is that there has not been a single case of vote tampering. In fact there have been hundreds of such cases (once case in point comes in a 17-page Free Press report (at freepress.org) documenting phantom electronic votes in Miami County, Ohio). Some Democrats worried openly that talk of the possibility of electronic vote theft might discourage people from voting at all.

Clearly this didn’t happen in 2008 or 2012. But it’s also clear that the vulnerability of electronic voting continues to put our democracy at profound risk. Until it is done away with altogether, and replaced with universal hand-counted paper balloting, the sanctity and reliability of our vote counts is moot.

The grassroots election protection movement that has arisen to deal with these issues has attained significant nationwide status. Given its popular momentum and gravity of the cause, it seems destined to take a place among the great political campaigns of our time.

It has already won some tangible victories. US Attorney-General Eric Holder has now endorsed automatic universal voter registration. The palpable anger over GOP attempts at mass disenfranchisement will not soon be forgotten. There is much new talk—nowhere near powerful enough—about abolishing the Electoral College. And the potential for electronic vote theft is at least being discussed as never before. Hard hitting reports by Forbes.com among others was accurate and admirable throughout the 2012 election cycle.

But there are also disturbing developments on the horizon. The courts continue to rule that software on electronic voting machines is proprietary, and thus beyond the control of scrutiny of the public. Thus we are still prey to having our public elections controlled by private corporations.

And in response to another round of long lines and voter disenfranchisement, there is talk of “convenience voting” by internet and cellphone. These are terrible ideas, as they can never be secured and are even more vulnerable to hacking than the touchscreen machines now in place.

So the public has no access, no guarantees, no recourse. The veracity of our electoral vote counts remain a blind item. Though Barack Obama won this election, other down-ticket races—past, present and future—may well have been manipulated.

For example, California’s bitterly contested referendum on GMO food labeling is still being subjected to a detailed recount. Mathematicians and social scientists are now reporting unexplained patterns of vote shifting that appear to be based on the size of precincts. The larger the precinct, the more the vote differs from the predicted norm.

Over the coming years, this new grassroots election protection movement will battle it out over the life-and-death issue of the integrity of our voting process. Banning money from politics, abolishing the Electoral College, automatic universal voter registration, universal hand-counted paper ballots, easier access to voting, the removal of partisan private for-profit companies and more will be at its core.

But even at this young age, the movement has played a critical role in electing and re-electing a president, and in preserving the integrity of countless elections, with an eye toward a vastly reformed system.

Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan and Canada all use universal hand-counted paper ballots. Ireland has just pitched its electronic machines to do the same.

That and a few other key democratic reforms would be a dream come true for this new movement. As election protection activists, we will be proud to watch that happen here in the United States as well.

——————–

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored five books on election protection.

original article posted here:
https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2013/4885

,

Another Husted Dirty Trick In Ohio: Secretary of State’s Office admits direct reporting function of untested election software

by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
November 5, 2012

Citizen concerns about untested software have multiplied since the Columbus Free Press broke the news that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office installed uncertified and untested software on the central vote tabulation machines in up to 39 counties in the state.

Memos circulated amongst senior staff at the Ohio Secretary of States’ indicate that they consider this skirting of Ohio Election Law is justified because the software does not directly tabulate or communicate actual votes. Their statements to the mainstream press reveal a different set of facts about the software and a different justification.

In statements to the theGrio, NBC’s political blog, SOS spokesman Matt McClellan said the software is to “assist counties and to help them simplify the process by which they report the results to our system.” and that it was deemed experimental because “It is a pilot project that we’re doing with about 25 counties or so. So it’s not statewide, but it is a pilot project we’re trying.”

Ohio election law does not allow software or hardware to be used in election until it has been tested or certified by the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners unless it is experimental. The confidential internal memos indicate that this software was never tested because of claims that it is not involved with the tabulation or communication of votes. Reporting election results from county tabulation systems to the secretary of state’s office, which is the purpose of this software as explained by McClellan, is in fact communication of votes.

The potential federal illegality of this software has been hidden from public scrutiny by the Secretary of State’s Election Counsel Brandi Seske. In a September 29 memo, Seske wrote, “Please see the attached letter from Matt Masterson regarding de minimis changes – one submitted by ES&S and one by Dominion Voting Systems. He has reviewed and approved the changes.” “De minimis” is a legal term for minute. Federal election regulations have a very specific definition of de minimis. This definition was clarified to all state level agencies in a federal Elections Assistance Commission memo dated February 8, 2012 entitled “Software and Firmware modifications are not de minimis changes.”

Ohio election law provides for experimental equipment only in a limited number of precincts per county. Installing uncertified and untested software on central tabulation equipment essential affects every single precinct in a given county. Nowhere in the memos circulated by Seske, nor in the contract, is the software called “experimental.”

The Secretary of State’s office has given one questionable justification to its own Board of Voting Machine Examiners and another to the public.

The contract provides for testing, performed jointly by the counties and the vendor within 30 days of the software being installed. This testing was required to be independent and overseen by the Board of Voting Machine Examiners, as required by Ohio law.

McClellan told theGrio “I’m not sure the exact timeline of that [the installation and testing], but I know we’ve been working with the counties for the past couple of months on getting these in place, testing them to make sure they work properly, and working with the vendors as well.”

This uncertified and untested software could easily malfunction and corrupt votes on the central tabulation machines, thus destroying any electronic record of the actual votes by citizens. This “experimental” software, as outlined in the contract, has no security protocols. A “man in the middle” attack, like the one that stole the Ohio election for George W. Bush in 2004, could be directly facilitated by this untested and uncertified software installation.

The Secretary of State’s office has used every legal contortion to avoid the use of science and the possibility of public scrutiny of this possibly illegal software. The Free Press will continue to report on this story as it develops.


Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at the Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press. He holds Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

, , ,

The Free Press confirms installation, secret justification of uncertified last minute election tabulation reporting software in Ohio


by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
November 2, 2012

The Free Press has obtained internal memos from the senior staff of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office confirming the installation of untested and uncertified election tabulation software. Yesterday, the Free Press reported that “experimental” software patches were installed on ES&S voting machines in 39 Ohio counties. (see Will “experimental” software patches affect the Ohio vote?).

Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske circulated a memo dated November 1st renewing the already shaky justification for installing software made by Election Systems and Solutions on vote tabulation equipment used in 39 Ohio counties. The letter to Ohio Secretary of State personnel Matt Masterson, Danielle Sellars, Myra Hawkins, Betsy Schuster, and Ohio’s Director of Elections Matthew Damschroder, clarified the dubious justification for not complying with the legal requirements for the examination of all election related equipment.

Seske begins by explaining what she purports to be the purpose of the software patch: “Its function is to aid in the reporting of results that are already uploaded into the county’s system. The software formats results that have already been uploaded by the county into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State’s election night reporting system.”

According to the contract between the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and ES&S, this last minute “experimental” software update will supposedly transmit custom election night reports to the Secretary of State’s office from the county boards of elections, bypassing the normal election night reporting methods.

In order to justify this unusual parallel reporting method, Seske explains “It is not part of the certified Unity system, so it did not require federal testing.” This attempt to skirt federal and state law from one of the most partisan Secretary of State offices in the nation ignores basic facts of how modern information systems function.

Seske continues “Because the software is not 1) involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots (or in communicating between systems involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots) or 2) a modification to a certified system, the BVME [Board of Voting Machine Examiners] was not required to review the software.” These claims are factually unsound. The software, although not communicating actual ballot information, facilitates communication between systems upon which votes are tabulated and stored. Although the software purports to not modify the tabulation system software, it is itself a modification to the whole tabulation system. This is why certification and testing is required in all cases.

Just as in 2004, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office has enabled the possibility of a “man in the middle” attack. This software, functioning on a network through which votes are transmitted could act to intercept, alter or destroy votes from counties where it is not even installed, hence the “man in the middle” nickname.

On September 19, the last minute contract between ES&S and the Ohio Secretary of State’s office was inked. Within a week, Seske wrote “He [Matt Masterson] has reviewed and approved the changes.” Masterson is the Deputy Director of Elections. After Masterson’s approval, Seske acted to bypass the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners required review.

“Pursuant to the board’s policy, each change will be approved unless three members of the BVME request a meeting to review a change within 15 days of today’s date. Given the proximately of the upcoming election, please let me know as soon as possible whether you will be requesting a meeting to review the changes,” wrote Seske.

Government reports such as Ohio’s Everest study document that any single change to the system could corrupt the whole voting process.

An unelected, partisan group of attorneys appears to have conspired to install election software without testing and certification that they are professionally unqualified to pass judgment upon. These types of last minute installations of software patches on voting machines are considered suspect by knowledgeable and experienced election protection attorneys, in light of all the voting machine irregularities exposed during the 2004 election in Ohio.

——————-

Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at the Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press. He holds Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

, ,

Wisconsin: The Theft of the Recall Bob Fitrakis interviewed by Jim Fetzer

, ,

Will “Push And Pray” Voting Prevail In 2012? The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

Bob Fitrakis

April 11, 2012

The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

In this election year, the most important companies to watch are two you’ve probably never heard of — Smartech and Triad.

In the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck worked closely with the late Michael Connell, the CEO of New Media Communications. Connell was Karl Rove’s IT guru before his untimely death in a suspicious plane crash. As the FreePress.org has previously reported, then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell contracted with Averbeck to provide back-up computer services to report Ohio’s official election results.

Ohio Secretary of State’s office claimed they were unable to tabulate Ohio’s votes within the state in real time because their computers had a supposed “denial of service” attack in the wee hours of the morning after the 2004 Election Day. Vote tabulations were then shifted to the Old Pioneer Bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Averbeck ran his internet service company Smartech. (See New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked)

Averbeck’s Airnet Group, Inc., doing business as Smartech, is a key company in the private, well-connected Republican world of electronic election systems. According to Airnet Group’s website it is a “…a leading of advanced Internet hosting, network and application solutions for business, delivery services via secure state-of-the-art Internet Data Centers.”

Airnet started as a staffing firm in 1994. The Chattanooga Times Free Press quotes Averbeck as saying he “…backed into political work” when he was hired to solve the Republican National Committee’s internet problems in the 2000 presidential election.

During the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that his company had dedicated six web servers to handle his political business and was “negotiating for more broadband capacity to handle the growing demand for electronic political information.” In August 2004, Smartech hosted the Republican National Convention’s website as well as the Bush-Cheney campaign website – www.georgewbush.com.

The GOP paid Smartech $2.3 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to SourceWatch.

Prior to emerging as owner of the premier internet hosting company for Republicans in the United States, Averbeck had been affiliated with Pathway Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. “Pathway provides award-winning magazines, books, and innovative discipleship curriculum materials for the Church of God and to the wider Evangelical and Pentecostal community,” according to its website.

In 2006, Smartech earned even more money, $3.3 million, from the Republican Party.

Averbeck and Connell not only teamed up in Ohio during the controversial 2004 election in Ohio, but also worked with notorious political operative Paul J. Manafort on the 2004 campaign of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine. The U.S. State Department accused Yanukovych’s campaign of rigging that election. Only a massive outcry by the Ukrainian people reversed those election results.

In 2010, with Connell deceased, Averbeck and Manafort once again worked on Yanukovich’s campaign. Allegations of election rigging emerged once again. This time, despite the charges of an election fix, Yanukovich was declared the winner.

While Connell’s New Media designed the Ohio election reporting system in 2004, Smartech hosted the back-up vote tabulation. The maintenance on the electronic voting machine maintenance in Ohio was done by primarily by a third secretive right-wing company, Triad. The Rapp family owns Triad Governmental Systems, also known as Triad GSI and the following companies: Rapp Systems, Corp.; Psephos Corp.; and Odyssey Online.

Connell, Averbeck and the Rapps — or New Media, Smartech and Triad — were all heavily committed to the Right-to-Life movement and far-right Republican politics.

The Rapp family, led by patriarch Tod A. Rapp of Xenia, Ohio, emerged in the public eye in 2000 after it was revealed that Psephos Corp. designed the infamous butterfly ballot in Florida. Tod Rapp started his first company, Rap Systems Corp. in 1979. In 1983, Tod Rapp and David E. Snoddy incorporated Triad Governmental Systems, Inc. Its stated purpose was “…to develop, promote, sell, distribute, market and service computer systems, software, and hardware and to consult with federal, state and local government authorities and private industry.”

During the recount of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, allegations were made that the Rapp family was aiding in rigging the recount for George W. Bush. Triad Governmental Systems maintained the computers in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, mainly in southern rural counties. In the last statewide election, public records indicate that Triad now services the computers in 57 of the 88 counties. Following their notoriety in the 2004 elections, Triad Governmental Systems started marketing itself as Triad GSI.

The Rapp family is well-known in the Greene County Right to Life movement. In Triad GSI’s website, the company says “It is our desire to develop the highest quality election software and hardware systems available in the elections business.”

In September 2011, Averbeck announced he was planning to build new data centers in Ohio and California but is committed to staying in his highly secured site in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Averbeck, the Rapp family, Smartech and Triad — these are the private, far-Christian Right companies that will be counting the vote on Election Day 2012 in the Buckeye State.


Originally published by https://freepress.org

,

Will “Push And Pray” Voting Prevail In 2012? The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

Bob Fitrakis

April 11, 2012

The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

In this election year, the most important companies to watch are two you’ve probably never heard of — Smartech and Triad.

In the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck worked closely with the late Michael Connell, the CEO of New Media Communications. Connell was Karl Rove’s IT guru before his untimely death in a suspicious plane crash. As the FreePress.org has previously reported, then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell contracted with Averbeck to provide back-up computer services to report Ohio’s official election results.

Ohio Secretary of State’s office claimed they were unable to tabulate Ohio’s votes within the state in real time because their computers had a supposed “denial of service” attack in the wee hours of the morning after the 2004 Election Day. Vote tabulations were then shifted to the Old Pioneer Bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Averbeck ran his internet service company Smartech. (See New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked)

Averbeck’s Airnet Group, Inc., doing business as Smartech, is a key company in the private, well-connected Republican world of electronic election systems. According to Airnet Group’s website it is a “…a leading of advanced Internet hosting, network and application solutions for business, delivery services via secure state-of-the-art Internet Data Centers.”

Airnet started as a staffing firm in 1994. The Chattanooga Times Free Press quotes Averbeck as saying he “…backed into political work” when he was hired to solve the Republican National Committee’s internet problems in the 2000 presidential election.

During the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that his company had dedicated six web servers to handle his political business and was “negotiating for more broadband capacity to handle the growing demand for electronic political information.” In August 2004, Smartech hosted the Republican National Convention’s website as well as the Bush-Cheney campaign website – www.georgewbush.com.

The GOP paid Smartech $2.3 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to SourceWatch.

Prior to emerging as owner of the premier internet hosting company for Republicans in the United States, Averbeck had been affiliated with Pathway Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. “Pathway provides award-winning magazines, books, and innovative discipleship curriculum materials for the Church of God and to the wider Evangelical and Pentecostal community,” according to its website.

In 2006, Smartech earned even more money, $3.3 million, from the Republican Party.

Averbeck and Connell not only teamed up in Ohio during the controversial 2004 election in Ohio, but also worked with notorious political operative Paul J. Manafort on the 2004 campaign of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine. The U.S. State Department accused Yanukovych’s campaign of rigging that election. Only a massive outcry by the Ukrainian people reversed those election results.

In 2010, with Connell deceased, Averbeck and Manafort once again worked on Yanukovich’s campaign. Allegations of election rigging emerged once again. This time, despite the charges of an election fix, Yanukovich was declared the winner.

While Connell’s New Media designed the Ohio election reporting system in 2004, Smartech hosted the back-up vote tabulation. The maintenance on the electronic voting machine maintenance in Ohio was done by primarily by a third secretive right-wing company, Triad. The Rapp family owns Triad Governmental Systems, also known as Triad GSI and the following companies: Rapp Systems, Corp.; Psephos Corp.; and Odyssey Online.

Connell, Averbeck and the Rapps — or New Media, Smartech and Triad — were all heavily committed to the Right-to-Life movement and far-right Republican politics.

The Rapp family, led by patriarch Tod A. Rapp of Xenia, Ohio, emerged in the public eye in 2000 after it was revealed that Psephos Corp. designed the infamous butterfly ballot in Florida. Tod Rapp started his first company, Rap Systems Corp. in 1979. In 1983, Tod Rapp and David E. Snoddy incorporated Triad Governmental Systems, Inc. Its stated purpose was “…to develop, promote, sell, distribute, market and service computer systems, software, and hardware and to consult with federal, state and local government authorities and private industry.”

During the recount of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, allegations were made that the Rapp family was aiding in rigging the recount for George W. Bush. Triad Governmental Systems maintained the computers in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, mainly in southern rural counties. In the last statewide election, public records indicate that Triad now services the computers in 57 of the 88 counties. Following their notoriety in the 2004 elections, Triad Governmental Systems started marketing itself as Triad GSI.

The Rapp family is well-known in the Greene County Right to Life movement. In Triad GSI’s website, the company says “It is our desire to develop the highest quality election software and hardware systems available in the elections business.”

In September 2011, Averbeck announced he was planning to build new data centers in Ohio and California but is committed to staying in his highly secured site in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Averbeck, the Rapp family, Smartech and Triad — these are the private, far-Christian Right companies that will be counting the vote on Election Day 2012 in the Buckeye State.


Originally published by https://freepress.org

Diebold, Electronic Voting And The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

Bob Fitrakis
February 24, 2004

The Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, and other prominent state officials, commute to their downtown Columbus offices on Broad Street. This is the so-called “Golden Finger,” the safe route through the majority black inner-city near east side. The Broad Street BP station, just east of downtown, is the place where affluent suburbanites from Bexley can stop, gas up, get their coffee and New York Times. Those in need of cash visit BP’s Diebold manufactured CashSource+ ATM machine which provides a paper receipt of the transaction to all customers upon request.

Many of Taft’s and President George W. Bush’s major donors, like Diebold’s current CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell, reside in Columbus’ northwest suburb Upper Arlington. O’Dell is on record stating that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President” this year. On September 26, 2003, he hosted an Ohio Republican Party fundraiser for Bush’s re-election at his Cotswold Manor mansion. Tickets to the fundraiser cost $1000 per couple, but O’Dell’s fundraising letter urged those attending to “Donate or raise $10,000 for the Ohio Republican Party.”

According to the Columbus Dispatch: “Last year, O’Dell and his wife Patricia, campaigned for passage of two liquor options that made their portion of Tremont Road wet.

On November 5, Upper Arlington residents narrowly passed measures that allowed fundraising parties to offer more than beer, even though his 10,800-square-foot home is a residence, a permit is required because alcohol is included in the price of fundraising tickets. O’Dell is also allowed to serve “beer, wine and mixed drinks” at Sunday fundraisers.

O’Dell’s fund-raising letter followed on the heels of a visit to President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch by “Pioneers and Rangers,” the designation for people who had raised $100,000 or more for Bush’s re-election.

If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt of the vote.

Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.

State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last year mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified paper audit trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt to require a paper trail as an effort to “derail” election reform. Blackwell’s political career is an interesting one: he emerged as a black activist in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform, became an elected Democrat, then an Independent, and now is a prominent Republican with his eyes on the Governor’s mansion.

Voter fraud

A joint study by the California and Massachusetts Institutes of Technology following the 2000 election determined that between 1.5 and 2 million votes were not counted due to confusing paper ballots or faulty equipment. The federal government’s solution to the problem was to pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.

One of the law’s stated goals was “Replacement of punch card and lever voting machines.” The new voting machines would be high-tech touch screen computers, but if there’s no paper trail, how do you know if there’s been a computer glitch? How can the results be trusted? And how do you recount to see if the actual votes match the computer’s tally?

Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, argues that without a paper trail, these machines are open to massive voter fraud. Diebold has already placed some 50,000 machines in 37 states and their track record is causing Harris, Johns Hopkins University professors and others great concern.

Johns Hopkins researchers at the Information Security Institute issued a report declaring that Diebold’s electronic voting software contained “stunning flaws.” The researchers concluded that vote totals could be altered at the voting machines and by remote access. Diebold vigorously refuted the Johns Hopkins report, claiming the researchers came to “a multitude of false conclusions.”

Perhaps to settle the issue, apparently an insider leaked documents from the Diebold Election Systems website and posted internal documents from the company to Harris’ website. Diebold went to court to stop, according to court records, the “wholesale reproduction” of some 13,000 pages of company material.

The Associated Press reported in November 2003 that: “Computer programmers, ISPs and students at [at] least 20 universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received cease and desist letters” from Diebold. A group of Swarthmore College students launched an “electronic civil disobedience” campaign to keep the hacked documents permanently posted on the Internet.

Harris writes that the documents expose how the mainstream media reversed their call projecting Al Gore as winner of Florida after someone “subtracted 16,022 votes from Al Gore, and in still some undefined way, added 4000 erroneous votes to George W. Bush.” Hours later, the votes were returned. One memo from Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now Diebold, reads: “I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.” Another hacked internal memo, written by Talbot Iredale, Senior VP of Research and Development for Diebold Election Systems, documents “unauthorized” replacement votes in Volusia County.

Harris also uncovered a revealing 87-page CBS news report and noted, “According to CBS documents, the erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was directly responsible to calling the election for Bush.” The first person to call the election for Bush was Fox election analyst John Ellis, who had the advantage of conferring with his prominent cousins George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Incestuous relationships

Increasingly, investigative writers seeking an explanation have looked to Diebold’s history for clues. The electronic voting industry is dominated by only a few corporations – Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Diebold and ES&S combined count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic votes.

In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S’s originator, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from the far-Right Ahmanson family in 1984, which purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald. After brothers William and Robert Ahmanson infused Data Mark with new capital, the name was changed to American Information Systems (AIS). California newspapers have long documented the Ahmanson family’s ties to right-wing evangelical Christian and Republican circles.

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported, “. . . primarily funded by evangelical Christians – particularly the wealthy Ahmanson family of Irvine – the [Discovery] institute’s $1-million annual program has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral research.” The chief philanthropists of the Discovery Institute, that pushes creationist science and education in California, are Howard and Roberta Ahmanson.

According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the highly secretive far-Right Council for National Policy, an organization that included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other Iran-Contra scandal notables, as well as former Klan members like Richard Shoff. Ahmanson, heir to a savings and loan fortune, is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are a bit more forthcoming on Ahmanson’s politics.

“On the right, figures such as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President Clinton’s sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster),” wrote The Independent last November.

The Sunday Mail described an individual as, “. . . a fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values . . . by waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda.

Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement’s philosophy advocates, among other things, “mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards.”

The Ahmanson family sold their shares in American Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.

In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman and maintained a financial investment. In both the 1996 and 2002 elections, Hagel’s ES&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel’s first election victory was described as a “stunning upset” by one Nebraska newspaper.

Hagel’s official biography states, “Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems.” During the first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).

Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the United States.

Like Ohio, the State of Maryland was disturbed by the potential for massive electronic voter fraud. The voters of that state were reassured when the state hired SAIC to monitor Diebold’s system. SAIC’s former CEO is Admiral Bill Owens. Owens served as a military aide to both Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who now works with George H.W. Bush at the controversial Carlyle Group. Robert Gates, former CIA Director and close friend of the Bush family, also served on the SAIC Board.

Diebold’s track record

Wherever Diebold and ES&S go, irregularities and historic Republican upsets follow. Alastair Thompson, writing for scoop.co of New Zealand, explored whether or not the 2002 U.S. mid-term elections were “fixed by electronic voting machines supplied by Republican-affiliated companies.” The scoop investigation concluded that: “The state where the biggest upset occurred, Georgia, is also the state that ran its election with the most electronic voting machines.” Those machines were supplied by Diebold.

Wired News reported that “. . . a former worker in Diebold’s Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machine before the state’s 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.” Questions were raised in Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County each received exactly the same number of votes – 18,181 – on ES&S machines.

Following the 2003 California election, an audit of the company revealed that Diebold Election Systems voting machines installed uncertified software in all 17 counties using its equipment.

Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that one of the favorite tactics of the CIA during the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s was to control countries by manipulating the election process. “CIA apologists leap up and say, ‘Well, most of these things are not so bloody.’ And that’s true. You’re giving politicians some money so he’ll throw his party in this direction or that one, or make false speeches on your behalf, or something like that. It may be non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention in other country’s affairs, raising the question of whether or not we’re going to have a world in which laws, rules of behavior are respected,” Stockwell wrote. Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush administration supported computer manipulation in both Noriega’s rise to power in Panama and in Marcos’ attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of the Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were members of the Council on National Policy.

The perfect solution

Ohio Senator Fedor continues to fight valiantly for Senate Bill 167 and the Holy Grail of the “voter verified paper audit trail.” Proponents of a paper trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and CEO of TruVote International, demonstrated a voting machine at a vendor’s fair in Columbus that provides two separate voting receipts.

The first paper receipt displays the voter’s touch screen selection under plexiglass that falls into a lockbox after the voter approves. Also, the TruVote system provides the voter with a receipt that includes a unique voter ID and pin number which can be used to call in to a voter audit internet connection to make sure the vote cast was actually counted.

Brooks Thomas, Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, stated, “I’ve not seen anything that compares to the Gibbs’ TruVote validation system. . . .” The Assistant Secretary of State of Georgia, Terrel L. Slayton, Jr., claimed Gibbs had come up with the “perfect solution.”

Still, there remains opposition from Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell. His spokesperson Carlo LoParo recently pointed out that federal mandates under HAVA do not require a paper trail: “. . . if Congress changes the federal law to require it [a paper trail], we’ll certainly make that a requirement of our efforts.” LoParo went on to accuse advocates of a paper trail of attempting to “derail” voting reform.

U.S. Representative Rush Holt introduced HR 2239, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, that would require electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail so that voters may verify that their screen touches match their actual vote. Election officials would also have a paper trail for recounts.

As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt electronic voting machines without a paper trail, Athan Gibbs wonders, “Why would you buy a voting machine from a company like Diebold which provides a paper trail for every single machine it makes except its voting machines? And then, when you ask it to verify its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’”

Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you believe, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, that democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people.

Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Senior Editor of The Free Press (https://freepress.org), a political science professor, and author of numerous articles and books.