It's Primary Day In Arizona And Maricopa County Voters Have A Problem

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Once again, Diebold/Sequoia voting machines rear their ugly heads. This time it's Arizona -- in Maricopa County. Sheriff Arpaio-land.

Truthout:

Six plaintiffs recently filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County (Phoenix) alleging recently relaxed ballot handling rules ensure a lax chain of control over ballot papers in direct violation of Arizona law. Coupled with unapproved software installed on multiple election department computers, and it creates what the citizen watchdog group AUDIT AZ calls an "interlock." "This makes manipulation of vote counting easy and thus leaves elections vulnerable to undetectable fraud."

In reading the lawsuit, the "unapproved software" is a real eye-opener:

Defendants have installed software on their secure vote processing electronic systems for the specific purpose of communicating critical vote totals over the Internet over cellular communication networks (“cellular modems” or a “tethered cellphone”), in violation of the state-standard procedures manual at section “Election Management System Security” on page 87, items 6 and 7.

This is worse than what I've seen in the past with other voting machines and systems. First, there is no requirement for poll worker certification of the tapes, then observers are ordered not to observe the central tabulator systems, and finally, they intend to transmit the results via unauthorized software on the Internet via tethered cell phones?

Finally, Maricopa County plans to report election totals without segregating mail-in, precinct and provisional totals so that there's no clear audit trail if the count is questioned or a recount is necessary.

Memory Lane: Ohio, 2004

In 2004, Ohio election results were hosted on Republican-controlled servers in Tennessee, inserting a "man in the middle" between the precincts and the Secretary of State. The inserted middle computer -- the Tennessee computers -- can access and modify the data without any way to audit the results for accuracy.

Stephen Spoonamore, a respected security expert with experience in the area of banking and national security, filed a sworn affidavit describing exactly how the hack works:

"The vote tabulation and reporting system, as modified at the direction of Mr. (Kenneth J.) Blackwell (Ohio's former Secretary of State, a Republican and co-chair of the president's re-election campaign in Ohio in 2004), allowed the introduction of a single computer in the middle of the pathway," he said. "This computer located at a company principally managing IT Systems for GOP campaign and political operations (Computer C) received all information from each county computer (Computer A) BEFORE it was sent onward to Computer B (Ohio's statewide vote count tabulator)." (Full affidavit - PDF)

Where the danger lies:

This computer placement, in the middle of the network, is a defined type of attack. It is called a MIM (Man in the Middle) Attack. It is a common problem in the banking settlement space. A criminal gang will introduce a computer into the outgoing electronic systems of a major retail mall, or smaller branch office of a bank. They will capture the legitimate transactions and then add fraudulent charges to the system for their benefit.

This particular vulnerability is serious enough that the Department of Homeland Security has it on their advisory list (and did, as far back as September, 2004, by the way).

While there's no clear evidence of the existence of a middleman, I argue that transmission of results via the Internet and tethered cellular phones invites the possibility, and in a way where there is no real way to track it back.

Combine that with the instruction to poll workers not to sign the poll tapes, and it stinks to high heaven. Why wouldn't they want workers to sign the poll tapes if not to keep an open door for tampering? And why would they allow the poll tapes to be in the possession of one person, and one person only with no observer or neutral party tracking the chain of custody?

I can only think of one reason why: If the results don't turn the way they want them to, they've got options to "amend" the actual returns. In Arizona, the 2006 results were challenged for similar vulnerabilities:

Risner asserts one can determine if the RTA ballot results were hacked by reviewing the polling summary tape totals included with the ballots from the poll site and comparing them with the actual paper ballots from each polling location. A furious legal battle, costing Pima County hundreds of thousands of dollars, ended when AG Goddard's team swooped in and removed the ballots to an undisclosed location from a storage facility in Tucson. He then did his own recount without reconciling the poll tapes and declared the result final.

The problem? Almost one-third of the poll summary tapes, supposedly stored with the ballots, were reported "missing" at the time of his count. No one knows and the AG will not answer whether they were missing when he conducted his recount or before. Too, Pima County officials as "the customer," were allowed unfettered access to the ballot storage facility despite being implicated in the criminal investigation. And the logs of who visited the facility have not been released by the AG.

That's how it works. "Lose" the poll summary tape. Alter the results electronically as they're transmitted from the polling place to the Secretary of State. And just like that, the election is no election at all. It's just a sham.

Just for fun, an added twist:

When Governor Brewer was secretary of state, she wrote the rules for voting machines across the state, however, when questioned repeatedly about them, claimed she had no authority to change the rules or order new ones.

Maricopa County represents between 56-58% of the total number of Arizona voters. It is the sole county in Arizona not to comply with existing election law with regard to electronic voting and chain of custody issues. Why is that?

The issue has been stonewalled because, according to a local attorney wishing to remain anonymous, "by implication, the AG's office ends up looking either incompetent or complicit in a cover-up. With the election just 10-weeks away, the impact it could have on Goddard's election chances to the only office he has coveted since childhood, would be devastating."

Aside from immigration reform, economic loss issues around the "Paper's Please" law and an increasingly radical right-wing agenda, any further light on her otherwise anonymous tenure as secretary of state would create more problems for Governor Brewer's re-election campaign.

Oh well, there's a good reason. The Democratic Party Attorney General in Arizona will look corrupt (which he does) which might help Gov. Brewer's campaign (which it won't), when Gov. Brewer wrote the rules for electronic voting machines (which are ignored in Maricopa County).

Democracy corrupted.

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