Remember the fiasco created when Karl Rove’s IT guru routed Ohio’s 2008 election results through a partisan (GOP) company’s servers in Tennessee before being sent to Ohio SoS Kenneth Blackwell’s office? Ohio secured Bush’s re-election and we all know what a disaster that was. Mysteriously, Karl Rove’s IT guy, Mike Connell, died in a private plane crash days before he was to testify about the program he wrote for SoS Blackwell at Mr. Rove’s instruction. If there is even a remote possibility that a presidential election could be hacked, it should create enough alarm requiring a thorough investigation.
If you clicked on the election reporting link on your county web site, you may have noticed that your county is one that now has a new election reporting page. That is because Secretary of State Brian Kemp has purchased a new Election Night Reporting System (ENR) system even though he has said there was not enough money to buy cost effective auditable voting equipment. This reporting system purchase was mentioned by several south Georgia media outlets on July 26 just five days before the election and I have found no mention of it on the Secretary of State web site since. We discovered it when a local TV station complained that county election results were no longer accessible for reporting.
The system that was purchased is of special concern because it is the notorious SOE software from Tampa, Florida based, Clarity Elections, a subsidiary of Spanish owned SCTYL. This system introduces a new vulnerability into the elections reporting process by expecting counties to upload votes directly to SOE servers in Florida before the counties have produced their own election reports. The counties then link their election reporting web page to the Florida servers to produce election results throughout Election Night. This procedure opens the door for remote tampering of county results.
The Secretary of State contends that “the data uploaded from each county is extracted to a secure flash drive then uploaded to the State’s website” and that “there is no networked link between the counties’ election server and the Internet”. We have found these statements to be very deceptive if not blatantly false for the following reasons:
- First, the new page is branded to look like the Secretary of State’s web page but if you notice the URL in the web address bar you can see that the page is served from Clarity Elections not the Secretary of State,
- Second, I confirmed with a county office that the results are uploaded directly to Clarity Elections for reporting purposes, not the office of the Secretary of State.
- Third, the direct upload procedure is consistent with the way that other states or jurisdictions use the Clarity Elections SOE software.
- Fourth, results are uploaded many times during the night to report interim results, not just once at the end of the evening.
- Fifth, it is not practical for a flash drive to be used repeatedly to upload interim results but even it was, external tampering routines could be introduced when the drive is reused after the initial upload.
To combat this new threat I recommended that candidates or other parties concerned with a specific referendum:
- Have representatives present as observers at selected precincts just before 7pm when the polls close.
- Record or photograph the total precinct result tape for selected races
- Verify that the totals recorded from the precincts and counties are incorporated correctly into the totals on the county web site
We employed this verification procedure in sample precincts on Election Night and have not found any significant discrepancies yet. However, all future county election results are still vulnerable to remote tampering when this new reporting system is employed. Therefore, I believe that we should continue with these or similar procedures in future elections. The procedures I suggested can only verify that there was no tampering in regards to the totaling system used to summarize votes at the county and state level. There is still no way to verify that the voting machines recorded the votes correctly on Election Night. That would require use of voting equipment that can produce an independent audit trail of each vote cast. The Secretary of State does not consider that to be a priority for Georgia elections.
404 664-4044 CL
P.S. Special thanks to Field Searcy, David Weldon and Linda W. Brown for raising this election night reporting concern. My apologies for not giving it more attention earlier.