October 24, 2014 by Marianne Moonhouse and Barbara With
Craig Gilbert’s recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin’s red-blue swings offer a map to victory for each party” is a rather unusual “Get Out the Vote” message.
Election Integrity advocates may see this not so much as a map to victory than as a blueprint for election fraud that has likely been taking place right under our noses for many years.
In Wisconsin there are three options for casting and counting votes:
Optical Scanner. More votes are cast on paper ballots counted by optical scan machines than by other voting methods. They are primarily used in larger towns and cities across Wisconsin. Problems with optical scanners include:
- Losing votes. In Medford Wisconsin, a programming error with ES&S M100 Opscan lost over 25% of the votes in the 2004 election. DS-200 Opscan was confirmed to overheat and mistallied up to 70% of votes, even after careful calibration and testing by voting machine technicians.
- Yielding different results each time the same ballots were run through the machines. In Michigan, this failure was discovered during pre-election testing, but voting machine vendor ES&S failed to perform maintenance on the machines for three years prior, and clerks were not allowed to correct the problem because it would void the warranties.
- Human manipulation. In this video, Rep. Don Pridemore (R-22) explains how opscan machines can be manipulated before elections to count more votes for one candidate than were actually cast.
Touch-screen voting machines. The technology in the computer cartridges used to program these machines—known as “prom pacs” or memory cards—is considered “proprietary information” and the public is not allowed to examine them. With no verifiable paper trail, we cannot know if our votes are being accurately counted.
In 2004, a computer programmer named Clint Curtis who worked for NASA testified before a House Judiciary Committee that he had been hired by Florida Republican Tom Feeney to write a program to steal votes by inserting fraudulent code into touch-screen voting systems. Since then, evidence has accumulated demonstrating that voting machines can be and in fact have been hacked.
The Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois hacked into a Diebold Accuvote touch-screen voting machine with just $26 and an 8th grade science education.
In 2008 the Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen DRE voting machine was used in jurisdictions throughout the U.S. with almost 9 million voters. Alex Halderman and Ari Feldman replaced the voting software with Pac-Man. They did this in three afternoons, without breaking any tamper-evident seals. According to Halderman and Feldman, it would have been easy to modify the software to steal votes, but that’s been done before, and Pac-Man was more fun.
Hand-Counted Paper Ballots (HCPB). While the option of casting a vote on a hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballot is available in over 40 Wisconsin Counties, an extremely low percentage of voters take advantage of it. Often this is due to pressure by clerks and poll workers to use touchscreen machines, which have no credible paper trail.
Even paper ballots, absentee ballots and other election-day documentation are subject to security breaches via human error or malicious intent. During the Supreme Court Election Recount of 2011 and the recall elections of 2011 and 2012, poll watchers witnessed countless examples of ripped open ballot containers, broken security seals, and altered or whited out incident reports and inspector statements.
This doesn’t mean all elections are being rigged; it just means any election can be rigged without detection. That possibility negates their security and erodes public trust by bringing into question the legitimacy of any and all elections.
FLIP-FLOPPING WISCONSIN VOTES
Gilbert states, “Wisconsin has had two political faces since the 2008 election. It has been a blue state for president and a red state for governor. Obama won his two presidential races here by an average of more than 10 points; Walker won his two races for governor by an average of almost seven points.”
Are Wisconsinites really so wishy-washy or schizophrenic as to swing back and forth every two years between the extremely diverse platforms and ideals of Obama and Walker, as recent election results might indicate? It seems unlikely, and such counter-intuitive electoral swings can also be red flags for election fraud.
HOW TO RIG ELECTIONS
Election experts state that it is generally less difficult to rig elections on a local or state level than on a national level. Election Analyst Richard Charnin explains, “A small group of hackers can more easily rig a gubernatorial election in one state than a more complicated effort in a presidential election, which would require rigging key electoral vote states and non-competitive states to beef up the popular vote.”
Gilbert refers to the “dizzying” voting record of many Wisconsin counties, and cites tiny Lafayette County in the southwest part of the state as an example. Traditionally a Democratic Party stronghold, LaFayette County voted for Obama by 22 points in 2008, for Walker by six points in 2010, for Walker again by 14 points in the 2012 recall, and then again for Obama by 15 points only months later.
Taking a closer look, LaFayette is one of 41 primarily rural counties that employ a GAB-approved voting system of old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots and HAVA-compliant touch-screen voting machines in at least some of their municipalities. Many of these counties are located in the western part of Wisconsin, which has traditionally been a Democratic Party stronghold.
Most of the touch-screen machines used in these counties are the AVC EDGE II models provided by the notorious Command Central “Election Management Company,” which operates from a strip mall in central Minnesota and controls the programming and maintenance of over 3,000 voting machines in approximately 46 districts in the State of Wisconsin.
For Scott Walker’s 2012 recall election (and for all presidential and gubernatorial elections in the past 8 years), a very high percentage of votes in these counties were cast on the AVC Edge II touch-screen voting machines without any tangible, verifiable paper trails. Clerks’ reports from LaFayette County show that 66% of the votes were cast on touch-screen machines, 14.3% of the votes were cast on opscan machines, and 19.6% were cast on paper ballots. Some counties in this area had close to 90% of the votes cast on touch-screen machines.
Election integrity advocate and statistician Denny Bartels analyzed the recall election results and discovered that of the 41 touch-screen and HCPB counties, 21 saw the Walker vote share increase by at least 3%.
Using the totals before GAB certification, Mr. Bartels said the average increase for Walker was 3.3% per county. The 21 counties with the big increases for Walker were Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Crawford, Forest, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Lafayette, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Pepin, Price, Rusk, Shawano, Trempealeau, Washburn and Waupaca. Mr. Bartels said while he had not actually calculated the odds of this happening by chance, such odds would be astronomical.
At this point, we cannot be certain what neutralized the Democrats’ traditional advantage in western Wisconsin. As Craig Gilbert himself said after the 2012 Walker recall election, “One of the hardest things to know about elections is: when does something pretty unusual constitute a trend? And when is it just something pretty unusual?” (“Dominance in rural areas ensured Walker’s recall win” ~ Craig Gilbert; MJS; June 12, 2012)
But as long as state election laws allow voting machine technology to be considered “proprietary information” and forbid the public to examine it and there is no actual and verifiable paper trail, we cannot know if our votes are being recorded or counted accurately.
Added to this is the lack of any mechanism or process for investigating fraud, even when evidence of it surfaces. This lack seems to be based on the assumption that fraud doesn’t happen, or the misguided idea that if fraud were investigated it would shake people’s faith in the electoral system. Even extremely suspicious outcomes are not investigated, and in fact, cannot be investigated under current law. (e.g., in Waukesha, where sliced and duct-taped ballot bags were found at the Supreme Court recount, and Clerk Kathy Nicholaus used “special programming software” that counted more votes than voters.)
Rigging an election would require skimming and padding of votes across diverse voting districts in a calculated manner that will not arouse suspicion. There are fewer eyes on state and local elections. It is to the hackers’ advantage to have the public believe that we are truly polarized and split virtually down the middle within a range of approximately 47% to 53%, as hackers would only have to flip a small percentage of the votes from one candidate to the other to swing the election.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
To protect our elections, here are some steps you can take:
- First and foremost, please vote, and encourage others to do the same. A massive turnout can thwart efforts to game the system. And when you don’t vote it’s not rebellion, it’s surrender.
- Ask your clerk to ensure that all citizens are aware of their paper ballot option on Election Day. Encourage her/him to order enough ballots to avoid election day shortages, and to allow all voters equal access to paper ballots in case of power failure or voting machine breakdown.
- Ask for a paper ballot when you vote on Election Day, and encourage others to do so, as well. If poll workers try to convince you otherwise, politely insist on it. While they might tell you touch-screen machines have paper trails, the bottom line is that unverifiable numbers on voting machine print-outs are not verifiable paper trails. Even GAB Director Kevin Kennedy expressed concern over the municipalities in the Badger State that use electronic technology without a paper trail of votes. He said “those machines have no way of proving the real voting numbers in case of a malfunction.”
- If your ballot is rejected by an optical scanning machine, or a touch-screen machine shows you voted for a candidate other than you intended, OR, if you witness a machine malfunction on election day, call Wisconsin Election Protection, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), or tweet @EPWisco. NOTE: if it’s a minor voting machine problem (like a paper jam) we encourage people to first ask the chief inspector (clerk usually) the status and if it is being fixed, some of those issues can be quickly resolved.
- Insist your clerk file a report and enter your incident on the Inspector’s Report, GAB Form 104. If your incident is not filed here, it “did not happen”. http://gab.wi.gov/forms/gab-104
- You have a right as a Wisconsin citizen to observe the election during voting hours or closing procedures after the polls close. For your rights and responsibilities as an election or poll closing observer, see Wisconsin GAB 4.01. http://elections.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=14620
If they steal our vote, they steal our voice and they steal our power. Stand up and help change election systems in Wisconsin. This is not an issue of “left” vs “right.” It’s “right” vs “wrong.”