in New Hampshire?
And, are Diebold memory cards
Pokey Anderson interviews Dori
Aired January 13, 2008
The Monitor, http://themonitor.wordpress.com
KPFT Radio, Houston
In this interview, Dori Smith
of WHUS looks at aspects of voting system security. Both her state of Connecticut and New Hampshire contract with
the same vendor, LHS Associates. LHS sells,
maintains, and provides memory cards (the electronic equivalent of the ballot
box) for the Diebold optical scanners used in these states, as well as in
Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.
Below, Dori asks NH Deputy
Attorney Jim Kennedy about the practice of switching defective memory cards out
of optical scan machines on Election Day, during elections.
Deputy Attorney Jim Kennedy: “That's not what's done in the state of New
Hampshire. Actually by state and federal law we're required to retain the
actual memory card that's used in the election and so to interchange a memory
card I think would be odd.”
Dori’s interviews with NH election clerks say different.
also has discovered that failure rates on the Diebold optical scan memory cards
approached 1 in 10 in some Florida counties.
And, in Connecticut, a professor at University of Connecticut has
discovered that a number of the cards have “junk data” on them.
Anderson: And we're back. My name
is Pokey Anderson and my guest tonight is Dori Smith. She's been investigating
election systems for over a year from her home in Connecticut and her radio
station, WHUS in Stores, Connecticut. Her new article just went up today at
BRADBLOG.com and it investigates the New Hampshire primary and problems with
voting machines. They used the Diebold AccuVote optical scan in both New
Hampshire and Connecticut, and also several other states in New England. Her
investigations in the last few years have resulted in an investigation into
violations of Connecticut voting regulations, and that is ongoing. And her
radio show is called Talk Nation Radio
[web site here, scroll down for link to election and voting machine coverage http://talknationradio.com/]. Monitor listeners might like that show
because it covers a lot of the same things that we do here at The Monitor, and she's done some work
for Pacifica as well. Welcome to the show, Dori.
Smith: Thanks so much.
PA: Dori has also prepared some clips for us that
will help us understand what's been going on in New Hampshire. Just to kind of
set the stage, I have been upset that the corporate media haven't really talked
about several things that have happened including the famous optical scan hack
by Harri Hursti in Leon County, Florida where he showed the election official
there, that it was rather easy to use a memory card to change an election
[watch the hack HERE:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=J36Jfkxd1vA]. What kinds of things have you
been looking into as to memory cards going in and out of machines on Election
DS: I want to start by saying that there is a
recent study in Florida, too. And what they found there is that the failure
rate for the Diebold AccuVote op-scan memory cards are, the failure rate is
extremely high [In parts of Florida, the failure rate was nearly 1 in 10; story
HERE: http://www.votersunite.org/article.asp?id=7284]. It kind of shocked
researchers there at the University of Florida who've been looking into this.
But what I found in Connecticut started really in 2006. [LHS Associates say
they would change memory cards during election against CT protocols http://talknationradio.com/?p=572006]
This is when the state first used these machines in a limited use. And I was
rather surprised, you know, the University of Connecticut has a research team
that focused on the AccuVote optical scanners and a lot of people in the state
thought that these machines were going to be a lot safer because they produced
the paper ballots.
PA: Dori, your level is a little bit low. Can you
speak up a little?
DS: Sure. The situation with the memory cards is
really becoming a problem. It's scandalous, really. The University of
Connecticut research team found, when they studied these cards recently, that
there was [see interview http://talknationradio.com/?p=113]
junk data on the cards. That can be an indication of a lot of things. It can
also mean that the cards were hacked. Now this research team, when they first
looked into the machines, found that the memory cards were indeed a problem.
That, you know, really centered on the memory cards. They notified the
Secretary of the State in Connecticut, Susan
Bysiewicz, [See interview http://talknationradio.com/?p=58]
and she issued a protocol, a security protocol, which really falls under
Connecticut's Chapter Nine. This is our
law on elections in the state. And so they faxed a new update to protocol to
LHS Associates in Methuen, Mass. They're the vendor that provided the machine.
And they were also to be at the polls to provide support services. So they had
this in hand. And yet they left for the polls with all kinds of backup
equipment. Now the new security protocol said not only not to bring memory
cards, I mean it really wasn't specific. It said you're not supposed to touch
these machines at all. So the idea of putting a memory card or bringing in a
backup machine or anything like that, absolutely against that protocol.
PA: Let's remind listeners that the memory card
is really the brains of the whole operation and it tells the machine how to
count the votes. You know, if candidate A gets votes you're supposed to put it
in the candidate A column and if it's done wrong or maliciously it can switch
DS: Well, and too, I mean the memory card is a
fragile item, I've come to understand. When Professor Alex
Shvartsman at the University of Connecticut found that this card has
vulnerability to fraud, he also found some other problems. And he's looking
into that and studying data from Florida and other states, where they're
finding that the memory cards failed.
They're trying to understand why and what that means. And so I found
that Connecticut voting machines, like those in Florida, have a kind of
sensitive pin configuration that holds these memory cards in place. And it can
wear out over the years. So you might just have in this problem a real
technical flaw, and that's not all that surprising with Diebold equipment in
general. But in this case it's particularly bad because there was a lot of
dependency on the idea that this was a paper ballot, and so people felt like
they didn't need to bother to do more in the way of preparation to make sure
this vote was going to be secure and accurate. So we have this problem.
Now, in New Hampshire for many years
they've used the AccuVote optical scanners. And my initial calls up there were
surprisingly similar to the calls I made here. A handful of calls, but most of
the time they're finding problems. And very often that centers on either a
memory card failure or a situation where something has happened to make the
machine fail. And so you find that the vendor, LHS Associates, arrives on the
scene and they're going to fix this problem. Most of the time when I find those
kinds of problems and I check with officials, the officials don't know what's
happened. [CT SOTS says she would ‘beg to differ’ that they would change memory
And they're surprised. And they also tend to say, 'That wasn't how it was
supposed to be done.'
Now, I just found that
to be the case in my initial study of New Hampshire where, again, I just made a
handful of calls initially. And, you know, five calls, four problems. So we
really have to start looking into the failure rate of the memory cards, the
security of the machines and, of course, when you have any problem on Election
Day, that means you have a much greater vulnerability to fraud. And so I've
seen a lot of articles about New Hampshire, and the initial articles basically
pooh-poohed the idea that the machines could be a problem or have been hacked.
Because of the paper ballot and because they are the optical scanners. This is a mistake. These machines are just
as vulnerable to fraud, tampering and also just really technical failure as any
other Diebold machine. They may be a little bit more secure if you're going to
do a recount of every paper ballot.
PA: Well, and if you have chain of custody
control of those paper ballots from the time the election closes until the
recount, which we don't really have. If there's insider fraud, that can be a
big problem. Well, let's listen to what you found out when you talked to
election officials in New Hampshire.
And bear in mind, for people who just tuned in, that LHS Associates is a
little-known group, a private company that oversees the counting and training
and so on of the elections for 80% of the vote in New Hampshire. So let's go
ahead and listen.
of Dori Smith’s interviews with NH election officials:
DS: Paul Bergeron said a memory card failed in
Manchester just prior to the election. He burned a new one with assistance from
Bergeron: We noticed that one of
the memory cards wasn't operating properly. It was asking for formatting codes
instead of asking or prompting us if we wanted to test the ballots. And so I
contacted LHS and I had a spare memory card as well, and we also had already
loaded the program onto our laptop so I was able to burn a new card based on
their instructions over the telephone. And then I tested the new card and it
DS: Hanover, New Hampshire Town Clerk
Betsy McLane called the LHS help desk to come out to fix a part in a machine
that had just been in for repairs.
McLane: Our town clerk had the
keys to the machine and this person was telling him what to do, open the back
of the machine. And it ended up that when the machine was in their shop for
repair there was a cable that wasn't completely put together. And so it was
something that should have been done as part of the repair that wasn't, and so
he, as an LHS employee, was able to see that very quickly and make the
connection. So we actually opened the machine. He looked underneath and said, ‘Well,
let me -- that needs to be connected,’ reached into the machine and connected
it while he was being observed.
DS: Linda Hartson is Town Clerk of Exeter,
New Hampshire and she, too, had a problem with the deflector part which LHS
came out to fix during the election.
Hartson: We have had a simple
little piece that needed to be replaced and they were able to drive up here.
The company's an hour away from us. So they were able to come up and fix it. We
were probably down a machine for an hour or two. There was a part inside the
mechanism, when you insert the ballot there's a--have you ever seen the inside
of one of the machines?
DS: Not the inside, no.
LH: Okay, well, when you put the ballot in
there's a deflector. It's a piece of molded plastic. And when you put the
ballot through the machine it goes down in the back through a slot. And if
there's a write-in, it just automatically kicks it over to another bin. And
there was a little piece that broke and caused it to just stop, so they were
able to come and fix that deflector for us. That's a very important piece, but
DS: It is because it helps tell you whether or
not a vote has been written in?
LH: Yes. Otherwise at the end of the night we
have a bin with, you know, the machine still will count the write-ins, the
report that comes out at night still will say you've got so many write-ins but
you now, instead of having a separate department where you can get those
write-ins out of, you have take all of the ballots and go through them all to
find them. And it tells you how many write-ins there were.
DS: I asked Linda Hartson if she would allow LHS
to come and bring her a memory card and to make a replacement during the
election. This is what she said.
LH: If they bring you another one? You would
just put it in. There's no problem.
DS: And it wouldn't be a problem if that
happened during the election?
LH: Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Because you
could run the report off the machine and just put in the new memory card and it
would just keep on going.
LH: That's my understanding.
DS: Trish Pooch [sp?], a clerk in Manchester,
New Hampshire, had a memory card fail in Ward 3 during the election. In that
case she burned a new card with assistance from LHS. I asked her if LHS could
bring a spare card mid-election in the event her back-up had failed.
Pooch: What happened was it
failed and we erred on the side of caution. Instead of just trying to see if it
was the machine or the card we decided to get a new machine and a new card, and
the election after that ran very smoothly, no problems whatsoever.
DS: Now, in the event that LHS was called in, do
they have permission to like put in, I don't know, make an adjustment or put in
a different memory card or something like that? Help you out?
TP: Normally if we have to call LHS in, it
means that -- we have a couple spares -- it means we've gone through our spares
and we need spares. Or we, they will have to take it apart. Now we seal our
machines, both where the memory card is but we also seal the machines over the
screws where they would have to open the AccuVote machine. So if that is the
case then member from our office will be present, we will break the seals,
allow them to fix whatever the problem may be inside the machine, whether it's
a reader or a chip, and then we will reseal the machine. Somebody from our
office is with them at all times.
DS: Has that ever happened, to your knowledge?
TP: Yes it has.
TP: Just recently we just had a new reader put
into one of our machines.
DS: Okay, so, during what time did the
problem come up?
TP: During the testing of the ballots.
DS: Okay, so during the testing of the
ballots for, for this primary on Tuesday?
TP: Yes, that's correct.
DS: And so they put in a different chip?
TP: Yes, and a reader.
DS: What is a chip?
TP: I'm not sure what chip it is. It's a chip
that will, I think accepts the codes and everything like that. So they, again,
err on the side of caution. Where it looked like it was a reader problem they
decided to be safe and replaced both. Because they didn't want us having any
DS: I tried to get New Hampshire's Deputy
Attorney General to verify that LHS could, in fact, come and make mid-election
repairs, specifically memory card replacements. Deputy Attorney General Jim
NH Deputy Attorney Jim Kennedy: That's
not what's done in the state of New Hampshire.
Actually by state and federal law we're required to retain the actual
memory card that's used in the election and so to interchange a memory card I
think would be odd.
mean, to replace it so that the machine could be used.
And I don't know of any circumstance that that's occurred here.
PA: So there we have discussions with New
Hampshire election clerks, interviewed by Dori Smith, who we're talking to.
Dori is host of a weekly show in Connecticut, Talk Nation Radio, and she was kind enough to do those clips for
us. So, it sounds like the election officials are really trying hard but they
can't see inside those boxes and they don't know what's going on.
DS: You know, there's a lot of tension around
elections. And so, for these clerks and clerks of the election there's a lot of
pressure from the media, from candidates and from voters. And they just kind of
want things to work smoothly. And so if there's a fixer who can come in and
make the machine work again, I mean it's just like being in a law office. If
you can't make those documents, if you can't print, you want that printer
repairman there right on the button. And that's the way it is with the voting
machines. And the problem is, that once you start making mid-election repairs
you've opened the door to fraud. And you've also opened the door to all kinds
of irregularities and uncertainties. So really, in Connecticut, voting rights
groups and specifically TrueVote Connecticut, has been quite concerned about
this. And their computer scientist, he's the president of that group, has said
really with all kinds of certainty that these machines are vulnerable to fraud
and you're going to get irregular results if you make mid-election repairs. And
he's gone through these protocols the state has with a fine-tooth comb. And so
right now, Connecticut remains vulnerable. When we vote for our primary
election coming up next week we're going to really be in trouble unless people
at the polls have learned to say, you know, ‘If this isn't machine isn't
working, let's just go to the paper ballot.’
PA: Well, you know, I would argue at this point
-- having looked at this now for four or five years -- that these machines
aren't working, period. And that they can't work and that computer scientists
tell us really, without some sort of paper that you can check 'em with, you
can't trust 'em. Because of bugs, because of possible intrusions, because of insider
fraud, any number of things. You know, they can sit around in a few hours and
think up hundreds of ways to intrude or put malicious code in these things or,
you know, just not be able to find the bugs. So, rather than put new fixes on
the old fixes, of course I think that paper ballots counted by human beings in
public in the voting place is the way to go. But, well, we'll see what
happens. We have time for just a quick
final word, Dori. I knew it would go fast.
DS: I would say, go to your polls for all
elections. Ask questions. Get to know your pollworkers. And as far as LHS
Associates, we're one vendor in this state. Look into the background of the
vendor in your state.
PA: Okay. Thank you very much. And for
more information, again, go to our website, or you can find Dori's show at
TalkNationRadio.org. We've been listening to Dori Smith. You can also find her
recent blog at BRADBLOG.com [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5553].
You can find statistics on the New Hampshire primary at
Bebawi: And our website that
Pokey mentioned is TheMonitor.Wordpress.com, and in fact it's already updated.
You can grab shows going back for the last two months or you can grab tonight's
show. This is KPFT Houston. [end]
Over the past five years, Pokey Anderson has
interviewed dozens of computer experts, attorneys, journalists, election
officials and citizens involved in election issues around the country. Her recent research on the vulnerabilities
of electronic voting machines can be found at "Peering Through Chinks in
the Armor of High-Tech Elections,"
http://www.votersunite.org/info/PeeringThruChinks.pdf. Her radio show, The Monitor, airs Sunday evenings at 6 pm Central, at www.kpft.org.