Ghost in the Machine


Written by Scott A. Reddick  

Monday, 23 November 2009 06:21


GOUVERNEUR, NY - John Conklin, Communications Director for the New York State Board of Elections issued a statement Friday evening alleging that an article published by our on-line newspaper, The Gouverneur Times, [[   VIRUS in the VOTING MACHINES: Tainted Results in NY-23]] was factually incorrect. This statement was reported Friday in the Watertown Daily Times [[ ]].


Mr. Conklin’s rebuke is a very misleading press release issued on the behalf of the NY SBoE.


Hamilton County Elections Commissioner Cathleen Rogers was accurately quoted by the Gouverneur Times as saying that "there was a virus" in the Dominion ImageCast voting machines used by the county.  She further stated that a technician from Dominion "fixed" the machines just days prior to the election.


The Gouverneur Times quoted a County employee who made the allegations of a virus. Mr. Conklin is now claiming that "There was no virus in the voting machines on Election Day in the 23rd District or anywhere else," and says that Ms. Rogers "mischaracterized the issue in question."


Mr. Conklin went on to say… "The State Board has acknowledged there was a software problem identified during our mandatory pre-election testing regimen prior to Election Day... and that corrective action was applied”… “A software problem caused some voting machines to freeze during pre-election testing”… “The source code did not allow for enough memory in these contests and caused the scanners to freeze during operation”.


According to Bo Lipari [[ ]], a computer specialist quoted Friday in the Watertown Daily Times ]] ]] in another column written by WDT staff reporter Jude Seymour… “The issue was a bug in the Dominion source code that caused the machine(s) to hang while creating ballot images for certain vote combinations in multiple candidate elections. The problem was determined to be in the ImageCast source code, which may not be modified without retesting and certification prior to use. But it was possible to modify the ballot configuration file to contain less ancillary text, freeing up a bit more memory and preventing the crash. The Board of Elections approved the configuration file change, the 10 counties which had races susceptible to the bug were identified, and changes made to the files in plenty of time for the election. Everything worked the way it should have, except for one thing – the process of identifying machines which needed the fix missed some of them, so the modified configuration file was not installed, and, as expected, these machines hung”.


Below is a brief review of the November 3rd, 2009 elections...


In Lewis, Schuyler and Seneca Counties, ImageCast ballot scanners failed.


In Broome County, hand counts revealed the ImageCast ballot scanners in five voting districts had miscounted votes. In some cases the machines rejected valid ballots.


In Cayuga County, again ImageCast ballot scanners crashed. Some rejected valid ballots that other machines accepted.


In Fulton County, ImageCast ballot scanners were impounded after it was found they were not working properly.


In Steuben County, the ImageCast ballot scanner in the first ward malfunctioned.


In Oneida County, at the Vernon polling place, none of the three ImageCast optical scanners would operate.


In Jefferson County, inspectors from four districts claim that "human error" resulted in their "mistakenly" entering 0 votes for Hoffman in several districts, resulting in Owens leading Jefferson County on election night though a recanvas of the computer counts showed that Hoffman was actually leading.


In St. Lawrence County, machines in Louisville, Waddington, Claire, and Rossie "broke" early in the voting process on Election Day.  Republican Commissioner Deborah Pahler said that the machines kept "freezing up... like Windows does all the time". Frank Hoar, an attorney for the Democratic Party, initially ordered the impound of malfunctioning machines but released the order on Nov. 5th so that Bill Owens could be sworn in to Congress in time to vote on the House Health bill on November 7th.


Jude Seymour, a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times, declared the Gouverneur Times story on the ‘virus’ issue a ‘Hoax’. He referred  to a prior article he had authored on the 13th of November [[  ]], where he quotes Anna E. Svizzero, the state’s Elections Operation Director in her claims that the state's pilot program "was very successful."


The State elections on November 3rd, using the Sequoia/Dominion ImageCast machines were a ‘pilot program’.


Mr.Lipari states that the corrective action applied was modification of the configuration file; but according to a technician for Dominion, the owners of the ImageCast system, “the insertion of a line of code, into the source code of the machines” was the corrective action taken.


Regarding what was done to correct the ‘memory’ problem just days immediately prior to the elections; pursuant to State Election Law 7-202.2, "When any change is made in the operation or material of any feature or component of any machine or system which has been approved pursuant to the provisions of this section, such machine or system must be submitted for re-examination and re-approval pursuant to the provisions of subdivision one of this section"


Subdivision one states that… "The state board of elections shall cause the machine or system to be examined and a report of the examination to be made and filed in the office of the state board. Such examination shall include a determination as to whether the machine or system meets the requirements of section 7-202 of this title and a thorough review and testing of any electronic or computerized features of the machine or system.... Any form of voting machine or system not so approved, cannot be used in any election."


Given the now known number of machine failures that occurred on election day, due in part to the ‘known bug’ in the software, it is apparent that a thorough review and testing of the ImageCast machines utilized throughout the 23rd congressional district and other districts throughout the State of New York was not accomplished according to the explicit requirements of New York State Election Law.


Additionally, to the best of Gouverneur Times determination, the machines immediately affected by the technician’s changes were not re-examined by an independent lab as required and therefore, under the same section of law related to in the above paragraphs, could not be used during the election... but they were used… state wide.


Howard Stanislevic wrote the following [[  ]]… “If the problem was caught by a pre-election logic and accuracy test(ing) as claimed by the State Board of Elections, then why wasn't the problem caught on every machine where it existed? The SBoE has said that not all machines with multi-winner races were identified, but all machines were supposed to be tested. This means that the tests may not have been run as required; or the tests may have failed to detect the problem in all cases; or the test results may have been ignored”.


“The Gouverneur Times concerns about even the possibility of a system-wide machine failure --- be it from a "virus", a "memory problem" as Lipari and Mr. Conklin claim happened in NY-23, or from hackers either inside or outside of election official offices are very real and substantiated concerns illustrating the direct threat to confidence in the election results”.


“Paper ballots hold an authentic record of the voter’s intent only until they are removed from observers’ view. New York law allows paper ballots to be removed from observers' view for up to 15 days after close of polls on Election Day, before audits and recounts take place”.


We in the 23rd were the subject of a ‘beta test, pilot program’, in the midst of a very important election. There were many problems as a result of this ‘test’. The integrity, credibility and voter confidence in this election is severely challenged as a result. A manual hand count needs to be accomplished in order to assure the voters that the Sequoia/Dominion ImageCast machines worked and worked accurately. Not doing so will forever taint the results of this 'beta test' election as well as future elections.


It is not a matter of who won or who lost [[  ]]… it is a matter of our constitutional right to a fair, open and honest election process without vendors protecting their interests (Sequoia), or a State covering their collective <actions>… at the expense of the voting process itself.


"We the people...";


One person, One vote.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 November 2009 12:42



Ref#9391.1  To Gouverneur Times Article


It's good to see that the Gouverneur Times is asking the right questions. I did a set of news searches after Election Day. There is no doubt that the ImageCast machines failed in many counties, and I'm glad to see that exposed here.


It should be noted that Bo Lipari is with a pro-technology organization called Verified Voting New York, which has lobbied vigorously for replacing the lever machines with optical scans. He's now joined at the hip with the optical scans after assuring New York decisionmakers that the opscams are keeno and dandy.


The distinction between what is a "bug" and what is a "virus" is not particularly important in the context of democratic elections. Either a bug or a virus can traverse many machines at once. Either a bug or a virus can produce miscounts or voter disenfranchisement. A key disadvantage of software-driven voting systems is that a single "bug", "virus" or tampering incident can affect many machines at once. This alone makes the software-driven systems far more dangerous than lever machines.


Lipari attempts to reassure voters that it wasn't a source code change, just a change in a configuration file. That really doesn't matter, except in the somewhat arcane sense that a source code change might violate New York certification laws more than a configuration change. No one really knows what the technician was doing while he was having his way with that voting machine. That's the whole point: This process is concealed from the public, and even from the elections officials who are legally responsible for certifying that the results are accurate.


Now, the reason the New York certification laws don't really amount to a hill of beans is that no one knows whether the software on any given machine is the same version that was certified. The voting machine certification industry has quite a sad little history. Based on what we've seen certified so far, I think it's not far off to say that you can jam a pocket calculator into a banana peel, call it a voting machine, and if you pay them enough they'll certify it.


The core problem is that with these machines the counting of the vote is concealed from the public. Now, let me pose this question: If you conceal crucial election processes from the public, is it actually a public election at all?


The high court in the nation of Germany concluded in March 2009 that you cannot conceal the counting from the public, deeming this to be unconstitutional because the public, without need for special expertise, must be able to see and authenticate all essential processes in a public election. Germany dumped its software-driven system following that court decision.


Bev Harris

Founder -

A national, nonpartisan, nonprofit elections watchdog organization