ES&S Acquires Premier Election Solutions. This is just wrong on so many levels.
By Lani Massey Brown
When Voting News reported on on ES&S acquiring Premier Election Solutions, they commented, “Monopoly anyone?” But this acquisition is just wrong on so many levels.
Yes, the monopoly. ES&S's website boasts that ES&S voting systems counted approximately 50% of the votes in the last four major elections. 67 million registered voters vote on ES&S machines. 97K iVotronic touch screens are installed in 20 states and approximately 30K scanner tabulators are installed in 43 states and worldwide. While Premier Election Solutions (Diebold) Global Election Management System (GEMS) is used in more than 1,000 election environments throughout North America.
While the acquisition of Premier indeed adds munitions to ES&S's arsenal. The monopoly is but a part of the troubling equation.
Consider the Government Accountability Office's (GOA) stunted investigation of Sarasota's 2006 District 13 with its 18,000 missing votes. While the investigation fizzled with inconclusive results and investigative paths not taken, the initial findings of the investigation revealed an end-to-end ES&S election process lacking good business practices and void of independent checks and balances. ES&S virtually owns the election process. ES&S manufactures the machines, produces test data, defines the testing process, counts the votes, determines the winner, and declares the election valid. While Florida's Secretary of State and Sarasota's Supervisor of Elections simply follow the ES&S directions. (1)
Consider the absence of election laws and comprehensive processes that recognize bogus election results and mandate clear and immediate corrective action. This void has actually enabled election blunders since 2000.
More importantly, the lapse in business standards in tandem with the absence of such laws make it all the more possible for a lone techie, a company insider to slip some crafty little program code into the election program mix. As long as this techie stays smart and keeps the win within the margin of error he or she can effectively alter and even spot control election results.
Consider the technical challenges experienced by these two companies. Nine states reported voting problems with their Diebold equipment, including: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Utah, Virginia. Eight states reported problems with their ES&S voting equipment: Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. And five states reported voting problems with both ES&S and Diebold voting equipment: Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. (2)
Consider the ES&S technical problems the GAO did not find and why. GOA's Sarasota investigation fizzled when they wrapped up the investigation by testing only two working machines to assess whether touch screen miscalibration failures caused Sarasota's improbable results. Ironically, the GAO didn't investigate the statewide Attorney General race in which the evidence was abundant and convincing. As in Sarasota race, the ES&S touch screens in Attorney General race incurred a statistically improbable undervote of 137K or 8.65%. All other voting machines including ES&S scanners registered undervotes within normal ranges (2.72 to 3.04%). (3)
Throughout it all, ES&S failed to disclose, failed to accept responsibility, and consistently failed to produce a product that accurately counts our votes. All this and we keep buying their machines and now ES&S is rewarded with a bigger market share.
(1) A closer look at the GAO's Florida District 13. No smoking gun...Not if but when and how often. Could Red be next?
(2) Please note, this is only a partial list of voting errors retrieved from information provided by http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp and does not include any errors occurring prior to October 2008. If your state or voting machine isn't listed here, check the complete report at Voters Unite.)
(3) 1.5 million total ballots were cast on ES&S iVotronic touchscreens in 11 Florida counties. 137K of these electronic ballots, resulted in no votes being counted for Attorney General. An undervote rate of 8.65%. (2)
730K paper ballots were counted on ES&S optical scanners in 21 Florida counties. Of these 730K paper ballots, there were only 22K undervotes for Attorney General. An undervote rate of 3.04%. (Note: Sequoia's touchscreen undervote rate was 3.0%. Diebold's optical ballot scanner undervote rate was 2.72%.) (2).
We are indebted to Florida Fair Elections Coalition for the extensive research and data collected as presented their comprehensive, “Florida's Vanished Votes Reports.” The reports can be found on www.floridafairelections.org.