Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #470 Democracy Imperiled

Recorded July 25, 2004
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As the title indicates, this broadcast examines grave threats to what remains of American democracy. Much of the first half of the program examines the issue of electronic voting. Controlled by a small group of interconnected far-rightists, companies like Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia have proved notoriously unreliable in past elections. Significantly, the people in charge of these firms are also closely connected to the covert operations milieu of the 1980’s that spawned the Iran/Contra and Iraqgate scandals. The program reviews the possibility of a man-made earthquake affecting the election. In the context of the Machiavellian nature of this administration, it is worth noting that Machiavelli counseled that a leader destroy a society with democratic traditions, lest it regroup and restore those traditions. The program concludes with an examination of the profoundly anti-democratic attitudes of Paul Weyrich and those in power in the Bush administration.

Program Highlights Include: The Urosevich brothers and their profound influence on the development of both Diebold and ES&S—two of the companies at the epicenter of electronic voting; the relationship of the Urosevich brothers to the far-right wing Ahmanson family; the Ahmanson family’s links to Paul Weyrich’s Council on National Policy; the presence on the Council on National Policy of Iran/Contra players Oliver North and Gen. John Singlaub; the close relationship of Diebold, ES&S and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel; Diebold’s apparent role in helping to swing the calling of Florida for Bush in 2000; the suspicious performance of Diebold machines in the 2002 off-year elections; the suspicious death of Athan Gibbs (who developed a viable alternative to Diebold machines); General Tommy Franks’ prediction that a terrorist incident with WMD’s could lead to the imposition of a military-style government in the U.S.; the explicitly anti-democratic views of Paul Weyrich and his milieu; a statement by the secretary to former President Gerald Ford that the US entered World War II on the wrong side.

1. Beginning with a subject touched on in FTRs 466, 468, the program discusses the issue of electronic voting and the small cabal of extreme right-wingers at the foundation of the companies that manufacture these machines. One of the most important of these is the Diebold company. Headed by Wally O’Dell—an ardent Bush supporter—the company makes a number of automated devices such as ATM machines. Interestingly, Diebold’s voting machines are the only ones that do not have produce a verifiable paper trail. “ . . . If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt of the vote. Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.”(“Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” by Bob Fitrakis; The Free Press; 2/24/2004; p. 1.)

2. “State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last year mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a ‘voter verified paper audit trail.’ Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt to require a paper trail as an effort to ‘derail’ election reform. Blackwell’s political career is an interesting one: he emerged as a black activist in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform, became an elected Democrat, then an Independent, and now is a prominent Republican with his eyes on the governor’s mansion.” (Idem.)

3. The issue at the forefront of this discussion has come into sharp focus as a result of the electoral irregularities in the 2000 election. The 2002 Help America Vote Act may have actually contributed to the problem by mandating that electronic voting machines should take the place of punch card machines. “A joint study by the California and Massachusetts Institutes of Technology following the 2000 election determined that between 1.5 and 2 million votes were not counted due to confusing paper ballots or faulty equipment. The federal government’s solution to the problem was to pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. One of the law’s stated goals was ‘Replacement of punch card and lever voting machines.’ The new voting machines would be high-tech touch screen computers, but if there’s no paper trail, how do you know if there’s been a computer glitch? How can the results be trusted? And how do you recount to see if the actual votes match the computer’s tally?” (Ibid.; pp. 1-2.)

4. Many critics have focused on the irregularities that have plagued Diebold machines in the past. “Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot tampering in the 21st Century, argues that without a paper trail, these machines are open to massive voter fraud. Diebold has already placed some 50,000 machines in 37 states and their track record is causing Harris, Johns Hopkins University professors and others great concern. Johns Hopkins researchers at the Information Security Institute issued a report declaring that Diebold’s electronic voting software contained ‘stunning flaws.’ The researchers concluded that vote totals could be altered at the voting machines and by remote access. Diebold vigorously refuted the Johns Hopkins report, claiming the researchers came to ‘a multitude of false conclusions.’” (Ibid.; p. 2.)

5. “Perhaps to settle the issue, apparently an insider leaked documents from the Diebold election Systems website and posted internal documents from the company to Harris’ website. Diebold went to court to stop, according to court records, the ‘wholesale reproduction’ of some 13,000 pages of company material. The Associated Press reported in November 2003 that: ‘Computer programmers, ISPs and students at [at] least 20 universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received cease and desist letters’ from Diebold. A group of Swarthmore College students launched an ‘electronic civil disobedience’ campaign to keep the hacked documents permanently posted on the Internet.” (Idem.)

6. Irregularities in the Volusia County (Florida) Diebold machines appear to have led to the premature media call of Florida as having been won by Bush. (For more about the Florida electoral irregularities, see—among other programs—FTRs 259, 268.) “Harris writes that the documents expose how the mainstream media reversed their call projecting Al Gore as winner of Florida after someone ‘subtracted 16, 022 votes from Al Gore, and in still some undefined way, added 4000 erroneous votes to George W. Bush.’ Hours later, the votes were returned. One memo from Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now Diebold, reads: ‘I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.’ Another hacked internal memo, written by Talbot Iredale, Senior VP of Research and Development for Diebold Election Systems, documents ‘unauthorized’ replacement votes in Volusia County.” (Idem.)

7. “Harris also uncovered a revealing 87-page CBS news report and noted, ‘According to CBS documents, the erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was directly responsible for calling the election for Bush.’ The first person to call the election for Bush was Fox election analyst John Ellis, who had the advantage of conferring with his prominent cousins George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.” (Idem.)

8. In examining the issue of electronic voting, it is essential to note how a small cabal of closely connected, extreme right-wingers dominates the few companies involved in making these machines. The main names are: Bob and Todd Urosevich, the Ahmanson family, Carolyn Hunt, Chuck Hagel, Diebold, ES&S. Note the relationships between these individuals and companies that dominate the electronic voting market. “Increasingly, investigative writers seeking an explanation have looked to Diebold’s history for clues. The electronic voting industry is dominated by only a few corporations—Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Diebold and ES&S combined to count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic votes. In the early 1980’s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S’s originator, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from the far-Right Ahmanson family in 1984, which purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald. After brothers William and Robert Ahmanson infused Data Mark with new capital, the name was changed to American Information Systems (AIS). California newspapers have long documented the Ahmanson family’s ties to right-wing evangelical Christian and Republican circles.” (Idem.)

9. Deeply involved in the capitalization of the companies that evolved into ES&S, the Ahmanson family is closely connected to the Council on National Policy, an institution dominated by far-right wingers closely identified with the covert operations of the 1980’s, such as the Iran/Contra and Iraqgate scandals. “In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported, ‘ . . . primarily funded by evangelical Christians—particularly the wealthy Ahmanson family of Irvine—the [Discovery] Institute’s $1-million annual program has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral research.’ The chief philanthropists of the Discovery Institute, that pushes creationist science and education in California, are Howard and Roberta Ahmanson. According to Group Watch, in the 1980’s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the highly secretive far-Right Council for National Policy, an organization that included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other Iran-Contra scandal notables, as well as former Klan members like Richard Shoff. Ahmanson, heir to a savings and loan fortune, is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are a bit more forthcoming on Ahmanson’s politics.” (Ibid.; pp. 2-3.)

10. “ ‘On the right, figures such as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President Clinton’s sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster),’ wrote The Independent last November. The Sunday Mail described an individual as, ‘ . . . a fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values . . . by waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda.” (Ibid.; p. 3.)

11. Note the role of Chuck Hagel in the development of ES&S, one of the companies deeply involved in the electronic voting business. The company grew considerably when it purchased BRC, founded in part by the far-right wing Hunt family of Texas. (The Hunts assisted in the founding of the Council on National Policy.) “Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement’s philosophy advocates, among other things, ‘mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards.’ The Ahmanson family sold their shares in American Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.” (Idem.)

12. Did Hagel’s ES&S connection help with his “stunning” electoral upset? “In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman and [in which] he maintained a financial investment. In both the 1996 and 2002 elections, Hagel’s Es&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel’s first election victory was described as a ‘stunning upset’ by one Nebraska newspaper.” (Idem.)

13. “Hagel’s official biography states, ‘Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems.’ During the first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).” (Idem.)

14. Again, note the incestuous structure of Diebold, ES&S and both firms’ relationship to Hagel and the Urosevich brothers. “Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the United States.” (Idem.)

15. “Like Ohio, the State of Maryland was disturbed by the potential for massive electronic voter fraud. The voters of that state were reassured when the state hired SAIC to monitor Diebold’s systems. SAIC’s former CEO is Admiral Bill Owens. Owens served as a military aide to both Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who now works with George H.W. Bush at the controversial Carlyle Group. Robert Gates, former CIA director and close friend of the Bush family, also served on the SAIC Board.” (Ibid.; pp. 3-4.)

16. More on the highly suspicious track record of Diebold and ES&S: “Wherever Diebold and ES&S go, irregularities and historic Republican upsets follow. Alastair Thompson, writing for scoop.co of New Zealand, explored whether or not the 2002 U.S. mid-term elections were ‘fixed by electronic voting machines supplied by Republican-affiliated companies.’ The scoop investigation concluded that: ‘The state where the biggest upset occurred, Georgia, is also the state that ran its election with the most electronic voting machines.’ Those machines were supplied by Diebold.” (Ibid.; p. 4.)

17. Note that Diebold machines returned identical vote counts for three Republican candidates in Texas in 2002. “Wired News reported that ‘ . . . a

former worker in Diebold’s Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machine before the state’s 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.’ Questions were raised in Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County each received exactly the same number of votes—18,181—on ES&S machines.” (Idem.)

18. Diebold installed uncertified software in machines in 17 California counties using their equipment. Manipulating vote counts was a key feature of the foreign covert operations of the Reagan and Bush (I) years. Recall that the Ahmansons (deeply involved with the development of the companies that make electronic voting machines and their software) were associated with people like Oliver North and John Singlaub—prime movers in many of those covert operations. “Following the 2003 California election, an audit of the company revealed that Diebold Election Systems voting machines installed uncertified software in all 17 counties using its equipment. Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that one of the favorite tactics of the CIA during the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980’s was to control countries by manipulating the election process. ‘CIA apologists leap up and say, ‘Well, most of these things are not so bloody.’ And that’s true. You’re giving politicians some money so he’ll throw his [sic] party in this direction or that one, or make false speeches on your behalf, or something like that. It may be non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention in other countries’ affairs, raising the question of whether or not we’re going to have a world in which laws, rules of behavior are respected,’ Stockwell wrote. Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush administrations supported computer manipulation in both Noriega’s rise to power in Panama and in Marcos’ attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of the Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were members of the Council on National Policy.” (Idem.)

19. Athan Gibbs and his TruVote International machines provided one ray of hope for those concerned about the perils of electronic voting. “Ohio Senator Fedor continues to fight valiantly for Senate Bill 167 and the Holy Grail of the ‘voter verified paper audit trail.’ Proponents of a paper trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and CEO of TruVote International, demonstrated a voting machine at a vendor’s fair in Columbus that provides two separate voting receipts. The first paper receipt displays the voter’s touch screen selection under plexiglass that falls into a lockbox after the voter approves. Also, the TruVote system provides the voter with a receipt that includes a unique voter ID and pin number which can be used to call in to a voter audit internet connection to make sure the vote cast was actually counted. Brooks Thomas, Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, stated, ‘I’ve not seen anything that compares to the Gibbs’ TruVote validation system. . . .’ The Assistant Secretary of State of Georgia, Terrel L. Slayton, Jr., claimed Gibbs had come up with the ‘perfect solution.’ . . .” (Idem.)

20. HR 2239 is one piece of legislation that would require a paper voting trail for all electronic voting machines. “ . . . U.S. Representative Rush Holt introduced HR 2239, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 that would require electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail so that voters may verify that their screen touches match their actual vote. Election officials would also have a paper trail for recounts. As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt electronic voting machines without a paper trail, Athan Gibbs wonders, ‘Why would you buy a voting machine from a company like Diebold which provides a paper trail for every single machine it makes except its voting machines? And then, when you ask it to verify its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’ Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you believe, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, that democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people.” (Ibid.; p. 5.)

21. The broadcast then reviews the death of the aforementioned Athan Gibbs, a critic of computer voting machines that do not provide a paper trail. Gibbs, who (as noted above) had developed a technology that assured a viable accounting of votes, was killed in a car/truck collision in Texas. “The subject line on yesterday’s e-mail read: ‘Another mysterious accident solves a Bush problem. Athan Gibbs dead, Diebold lives.’ The attached news story briefly described the untimely Friday, March 12th death of perhaps America’s most influential advocate of a verified voting paper trail in the era of touch screen computer voting. Gibbs, an accountant for more than 30 years and the inventor of the TruVote system, died when his vehicle collided with an 18-wheeled truck which rolled his Chevy Blazer several times and forced it over the highway retaining wall where it came to rest on its roof. . . .” (“Mysterious Death Benefits Bush” by Bob Fitrakis; Coastal Post; 4/2004; p. 1.)

22. Reviewing (from FTR#468) an emphatically speculative item, the program examines recent forecasts of earthquake activity for California later this year. This information is presented in the context of a number of past broadcasts in which it has been established that technology exists for the deliberate triggering of earthquakes, where sufficient slippage exists on a fault system to produce such an event. (For more about this, see FTR#69. FTRs 434, 440 discuss the possibility of a man-made quake in California calculated to affect the election results.) The possibility that a major quake occurring shortly before the election might have a significant impact on the outcome should be carefully considered. Such a disaster could lead to the delay or cancellation of the election in California and would have far-reaching consequences for the U.S. as well. If the quake were severe, it could lead to an imposition of martial law in the U.S., due to the far-reaching economic and ecological consequences attendant upon such an event. A major California quake would also hand political center stage to the Terminator and George W. They could be packaged as the saviors of California. The grateful citizens’ [delayed] votes would go to Bush, even though Schwarzenegger will be the one who garners most of the action. Such an event could well be used to position Schwarzenegger for a run for national office. “Scientists have found striking evidence of a three-year cycle of earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault, a development that might lead to the first practical short-term earthquake forecasting in central California. The new research, which one expert called a tour de force of geoscience, suggests that the next peak of the cycle is likely to come late this year. . . .”
(“San Andreas Quakes Show Cyclical Pattern: UC-Berkeley Study Finds Fault Slipping in Periodic Bursts” by Keay Davidson; San Francisco Chronicle; 1/9/2004; p. 1.)

23. Yet another prediction of a quake for California for later this year. “A US geophysicist has set the scientific world ablaze by claiming to have cracked a holy grail: accurate earthquake prediction, and warning that a big one will soon hit southern California. A Russian-born University of California at Los Angeles professor Vladimi

r Keilis-Borok says he can foresee major quakes by tracking minor temblors and historical patterns in seismic hotspots that could indicate more violent shaking is on the way. And he has made a chilling prediction that a quake measuring at least 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale will hit a 31,200-square-kilometer (12,000-square-mile) area of southern California by September 5. . . .”
(“Expert Warns California to Brace for Big Quake by September” (AFP); Yahoo.com; 4/15/2004; pp. 1-2.)

24. The program notes that Schwarzenegger recently replaced the head of the California National Guard with a Republican. This may, or may not be of significance. Certainly, the National Guard will be centrally involved in any major disaster response in California. Whether or not this is coincidental or of any significance at all remains to be seen. Schwarzenegger also recently replaced the head of the California Highway Patrol—another institution that would be pivotally involved in a major emergency response by the state’s infrastructure. “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger abruptly removed Maj. Gen. Paul Monroe as commander of the California National Guard on Tuesday and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, who has served as director of the guard’s office of homeland security. . . . His [Monroe’s] replacement, Eres, 59, takes over immediately. Eres rose through the ranks during 35 years of service in the National Guard. In civilian life, he is senior partner in the Sacramento law firm of Nossaman, Gunthner, Knox & Elliott. He is a Republican. Monroe is a Democrat. . . .”
(“Schwarzenegger Removes National Guard Commander” by Carl Nolte; San Francisco Chronicle; 3/4/2004; p. A19.)

25. In his introduction to the portion of the program dealing with California quake predictions, Mr. Emory notes that this information falls in a gray area that hovers between “reality” and “paranoia.” In that same vein, a [hopefully] humorous comment by Florida Governor Jeb Bush may well be nothing more than the tasteless joke it appears to be. Let’s hope so, anyway. “ . . . Gov. Jeb Bush joked during a Florida Cabinet meeting Wednesday that the people of San Francisco may be endangered and, ‘That’s probably good news for the country.’ The subject was environmental land and Bush was looking at a map showing locations with a lot of different wildlife. ‘It looks like the people of San Francisco are an endangered species, which may not be a bad thing. That’s probably good news for the country.’ People in the room broke into laughter. ‘Did I just say that out loud?’ the governor asked.’”
(“Jeb Bush Says People of San Francisco Are Endangered Species” by Jim Sparkman; ChronWatch; 11/17/2003; p. 1.)

26. Among the factors mandating discussion of these troublesome and (to some) far-fetched ruminations concerning possible seismic subversion of the electoral and democratic processes is the overtly Machiavellian nature of this administration. One of the stratagems that Machiavelli counseled in The Prince was the deliberate use of annihilation to interdict a population’s renascent democratic instincts. “Indeed, there is no surer way of keeping possession than by devastation. Whoever becomes the master of a city accustomed to freedom, and does not destroy it, may expect to be destroyed himself; because, when there is a rebellion, such a city justifies itself by calling on the name of liberty and its ancient institutions, never forgotten despite the passing of time and the benefits received from the new ruler. Whatever the conqueror’s actions or foresight, if the inhabitants are not dispersed and scattered, they will forget neither that name nor those institutions; and at first opportunity they will at once have recourse to them, as did Pisa after having been kept in servitude for a hundred years by the Florentines. . . .But in republics there is more life, more hatred, a greater desire for revenge; the memory of their ancient liberty does not and cannot let them rest; in their case the surest way is to wipe them out. . . .”
(The Prince; Niccolo Machiavelli; Penguin Classics [translated by George Bull]; ISBN 0-14-044107-7; pp. 48-49.)

27. There has been widespread speculation about the possibility of a terrorist incident that might affect the election. General Tommy Franks gave an interview in late 2003 in which he weighed the grave danger to American democracy that a terrorist incident with WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction) would pose. Those who see Al Qaeda and related organizations as simple agent-provacateurs controlled by the Bush administration are making a serious mistake. Both Al Qaeda and the Bush administration are tools of the Underground Reich—Bush & co. do not control Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, many in this administration would welcome another deadly terrorist incident as a vehicle for eliminating what remains of American democracy. (As discussed in—among other programs—FTRs 372, 412, 441, 471—this administration and its allies might be more closely compared with the French power elite in the pre-World War II period. They actively welcomed the German victory in World War II, which they saw as the ideal vehicle for eliminating French democracy. The relationship between this administration and Al Qaeda is analogous to the relationship between the French power elite and the German invaders. The German invasion of France in World War II was not a provocation intended to expand French influence. Nonetheless, it was anticipated and greatly aided by the French power elite, who collaborated enthusiastically with the Third Reich.) “Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government. Franks, who successfully led the U.S. military operation to liberate Iraq, expressed his worries in an extensive interview he gave to the men’s lifestyle magazine Cigar Afficionado. In the magazine’s December edition, the former commander of the military’s Central Command warned that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of government.”
(“Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack” by John O. Edwards; NewsMax.com; 12/21/2003; p. 1.)

28. “Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that ‘the worst thing that could happen’ is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties. If that happens, Franks said, ‘ . . . the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.’” (Idem.)

29. “Franks then offered ‘in a practical sense’ what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack. ‘It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Weste

rn world—it may be in the United States of America—that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.’” (Idem.)

30. The program takes a look at the ideology of Paul Weyrich. It is worth noting the close relationship between Weyrich’s Council on National Policy and the developers of Diebold, ES&S etc. (Weyrich is also the founder of the Free Congress Foundation, one of the focal points of FTR#465.) As we look ahead to the elections, we should not fail to note the enthusiasm with which the far-right elements associated with the Bush administration view the elimination of the institutions of American democracy. Their French counterparts in the pre-World War II period held similar attitudes. It remains to be seen whether the “Vichy Americans” of the Bush administration facilitate the destruction of our democracy. “On January 28, 2002, The American Prospect, Inc. published ‘Fair-Weather Friend; Going Down as it Came Up; School Sprays; They’re Back!’ a brief excerpt reads: ‘Two years ago, ur-conservative Paul Weyrich stunned the religious right by calling for a retreat from temporal concerns. ‘Conservatives have learned to succeed in politics,’ he wrote in an open letter that’s still available on the Web site. ‘But that did not result in the adoption of our agenda. The reason, I think, is that politics itself has failed. And politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture.’ The right no longer had a ‘moral majority,’ he wrote. The solution? ‘To look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture.’ In essence, he said, the religious right should espouse cultural and political separatism—by setting up its own schools, television networks, and even courts of law. The rest of the country breathed a sigh of relief. No more silly Disney boycotts by southern Baptists. No more flaky school-board members, pushing creationism. No more Paul Weyrich!”
(“Paul Weyrich’s Teaching Manual?”; pp. 1-2.)

31. “ ‘The whew, alas, was premature. It turns out that what Weyrich and his folks really had in mind was less separatism than guerilla warfare—a ‘New Traditionalist’ movement that, according to its manifesto, written by Weyrich protégé Eric Heubeck and bearing the grandiose title ‘The Integration of Theory and Practice: A program for the New Traditionalist Movement,’ would seek ‘to advance a true traditionalist counter-culture based on virtue, excellence, and self-discipline.’ The New Traditionalists—who sound a lot like the Old Traditionalists—will ‘reject the materialism, hedonism, consumerism, egoism, and the cult of self-actualization which permeate modern life.’ Heubeck elaborates: ‘We will not try to reform existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. [Emphasis added.] We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. . .’” (Ibid.; p. 2.)

32. “ . . . The Bush administration is apparently quite cozy with Weyrich. This quote from a Time magazine article is apropos, Time magazine wrote this: ‘Each Wednesday, Rove dispatches a top administration official to attend the regular conservative-coalition lunches held at Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation. When activists call his office with a problem, Rove doesn’t pass them off to an aide. He often responds himself. When Weyrich heard a few weeks that Bush’s budget slashed funding for a favorite project called the Police Corps, which gives scholarships and training to police cadets, he complained to the White House. To Weyrich’s surprise, Rove called back, ‘We’ve taken care of it,’ Rove said. ‘The problem is solved.’” (Idem.)

33. Concluding with an anecdote illustrative of the anti-Democratic, pro-fascist views present in the American political establishment, the program presents an encounter a Washington lobbyist had with a prominent Southern reactionary His views were echoed by the private secretary to then House Minority leader [and later President] Gerald Ford. “In January 1968, Haden Kirkpatrick, publisher of racing’s bible, Thoroughbred Record, and his wife gave a small dinner party at the Pavillon Restaurant in New York. During dinner, we all started discussing the state of national and international affairs. Haden turned to me and said: ‘The trouble is and always has been Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He got us in the Second World War on the wrong side.’ I was speechless.”
(The Washington Pay-Off; by Robert N. Winter-Berger; Copyright 1972 by Robert N. Winter-Berger; Lyle Stuart, Inc. [HC]; ISBN 73-185421; p. 297.)

34. “Several days later, back in Washington, I recounted this story to Mildred Leonard, for many years Jerry Ford’s private secretary. [This refers to former House Minority Leader, Vice-President and President Gerald Ford.] Before I could add my personal reaction to Haden’s remark, Mildred looked up at me and said: ‘You know, he’s right, Mr. Winter-Berger.’ I was even more amazed, hearing this in the Capitol of the United States from the secretary of the House Minority Leader.” (Idem.)

Discussion

3 comments for “FTR #470 Democracy Imperiled”

  1. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is now raising money to promote the GOP’s new push to rig the electoral college:

    The Atlantic
    The GOP Plan to Take the Electoral-Vote-Rigging Scheme National
    Jan 25 2013, 11:35 AM ET

    Republican legislators in several states have begun pushing to apportion electoral-college votes by congressional district, a move that has Democrats up in arms. Had a similar scheme been in effect in 2012, nationally or in a handful of key states, Mitt Romney could have won the presidency despite losing the popular vote. (David Graham explains the idea, and why it’s so controversial, here.)

    Up to now, these efforts appear to have sprouted independently as the work of individual lawmakers in Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The Virginia plan has passed the state House of Delegates and could become law as soon as next week.

    But now a Republican operative has a plan to take the idea national.

    Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who’s worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country, he told me this week.

    Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week. The money would go toward promoting similar plans to apportion electoral votes by congressional district in states across the country, potentially even hiring lobbyists in state capitals.

    A word of advice to any donors to Blackwell’s campaign: don’t plan on any audits for how the money is spent. That’s not how he rolls:

    The Free Press
    Diebold, electronic voting and the vast right-wing conspiracy
    February 24, 2004

    The Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, and other prominent state officials, commute to their downtown Columbus offices on Broad Street. This is the so-called “Golden Finger,” the safe route through the majority black inner-city near east side. The Broad Street BP station, just east of downtown, is the place where affluent suburbanites from Bexley can stop, gas up, get their coffee and New York Times. Those in need of cash visit BP’s Diebold manufactured CashSource+ ATM machine which provides a paper receipt of the transaction to all customers upon request.

    Many of Taft’s and President George W. Bush’s major donors, like Diebold’s current CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell, reside in Columbus’ northwest suburb Upper Arlington. O’Dell is on record stating that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President” this year. On September 26, 2003, he hosted an Ohio Republican Party fundraiser for Bush’s re-election at his Cotswold Manor mansion. Tickets to the fundraiser cost $1000 per couple, but O’Dell’s fundraising letter urged those attending to “Donate or raise $10,000 for the Ohio Republican Party.”

    According to the Columbus Dispatch: “Last year, O’Dell and his wife Patricia, campaigned for passage of two liquor options that made their portion of Tremont Road wet.

    On November 5, Upper Arlington residents narrowly passed measures that allowed fundraising parties to offer more than beer, even though his 10,800-square-foot home is a residence, a permit is required because alcohol is included in the price of fundraising tickets. O’Dell is also allowed to serve “beer, wine and mixed drinks” at Sunday fundraisers.

    O’Dell’s fund-raising letter followed on the heels of a visit to President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch by “Pioneers and Rangers,” the designation for people who had raised $100,000 or more for Bush’s re-election.

    If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt of the vote.

    Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.

    State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last year mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified paper audit trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt to require a paper trail as an effort to “derail” election reform. Blackwell’s political career is an interesting one: he emerged as a black activist in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform, became an elected Democrat, then an Independent, and now is a prominent Republican with his eyes on the Governor’s mansion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 25, 2013, 2:57 pm
  2. The US’s epidemic of voter-fraud fraud just keeps getting worse:

    MSNBC
    Kobach voter-fraud allegations exposed as fraudulent

    By Steve Benen
    02/10/15 04:01 PM

    When it comes to the so-called “Republican war on voting,” few figures are quite as notorious as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). The far-right official’s antics during last fall’s U.S. Senate race in Kansas were themselves remarkable, but even before then, Kobach has earned a reputation as a pioneer in voter-suppression tactics.

    Not surprisingly, frequent claims about “voter fraud” – a phenomenon that largely exists in the imagination of far-right activists – have become a Kobach staple, though one particular incident is proving to be a real problem.

    During last year’s election, the Kansas Secretary of State chastised U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, complaining to the media that Kobach’s office had referred examples of voter fraud to the Kansas-based federal prosecutor, but Grissom has refused to prosecute. Worse, Kobach said the U.S. Attorney didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when Grissom said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas.

    The AP reports today that when Kobach made these claims, he appears to have been brazenly lying (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).

    [I]n a Nov. 6 letter sent from Grissom to Kobach and obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, the prosecutor responded that his office received no such referrals from Kobach, and chided the secretary of state for his statements.

    “Going forward, if your office determines there has been an act of voter fraud please forward the matter to me for investigation and prosecution,” Grissom wrote. “Until then, so we can avoid misstatements of facts for the future, for the record, we have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years. And, I can assure you, I do know what I’m talking about.”

    Wait, it gets worse.

    Kobach now concedes that when he said he’d referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office, he had not, in reality, referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office. But, the right-wing official told the AP, Kobach’s predecessor had alerted the federal prosecutor to two relevant cases and Grissom ignored those referrals.

    It turns out, that’s not true, either: federal investigators looked into those 2011 allegations and, as the AP report noted, they concluded they were not voter fraud.

    Why in the world would Kobach make such demonstrably false allegations? Because he wants Kansas’ legislature to empower his office directly to go after voter-fraud cases – which, remember, are largely imaginary.

    Huh, so Kansas’s Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, was claiming last fall that the US Attorney based in Kansas was ignoring all these cases of voter fraud that his office was sending them. But upon review it turns out that they didn’t send anything at all.

    Clearly, the solution here for how to address the issue of Kris Kobach’s fantasy voter fraud is to give Kobach even more power to prosecute all these cases himself, without relying on federal prosecutors. Or local prosecutors. Yeah, that should do the trick:

    Associated Press

    Kobach seeking power to prosecute suspected voter fraud himself

    The proposed legislation would also expand the Kansas attorney general’s power to independently prosecute local election offenses without getting county prosecutors’ approval. It also increases voter fraud penalties.

    February 10, 2015

    By ROXANA HEGEMAN

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect behind some of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements, is asking lawmakers to give him the power to press voter fraud charges because he says prosecutors do not pursue cases he refers.

    The state’s top federal prosecutor, however, says Kobach has not sent any cases his way. Some county prosecutors say cases that have been referred did not justify prosecution.

    Kobach publicly chastised Kansas-based U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom late last year, telling Topeka television station WIBW he had referred voter fraud cases to Grissom and that Grissom didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when he said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas.

    But in a Nov. 6 letter sent from Grissom to Kobach and obtained by the Associated Press through an open-records request, the prosecutor responded that his office received no such referrals from Kobach and chided the secretary of state for his statements.

    Kobach acknowledged last week that his office never has sent suspected voter fraud cases to Grissom, citing instead what he said was inaction on cases referred by his predecessor. Grissom said the FBI determined two cases referred before Kobach took office in January 2011 were not voter fraud.

    Kobach said last week that his office “felt it would be more productive to refer cases first to Kansas county attorneys rather than sending them first to Mr. Grissom’s office.”

    “That is the approach we have taken for the last few years,” he said.

    Kobach told lawmakers last month that in the 2010 and 2012 Kansas elections, for which there were 1.7 million registered voters, his office found 18 cases in which it appeared someone double-voted by voting in advance and then at the polls.

    He said 15 cases were referred to county prosecutors; one was dropped because the voter had died, one was sent to the FBI, and one was referred to the Texas attorney general, who Kobach said was more aggressive about pursuing voter fraud cases than some Kansas prosecutors.

    Kobach said action was taken in only seven cases, which is why he needs the power to press charges himself.

    The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, located in the state’s largest metropolitan area, said it investigated the one case Kobach referred there, but the facts behind it didn’t warrant prosecution.

    The chief of staff for the Shawnee County Attorney’s Office, Lee McGowan, said Kobach never referred a voter fraud case to him, even though the case Kobach sent to the Texas attorney general’s office involved a Shawnee County voter.

    “We have 105 counties with 105 county attorneys – I don’t know how having 106 is going to make it any better,” said Barry Disney, the senior deputy prosecutor at the Riley County attorney’s office. “I just don’t see the need for it.”

    In addition to giving the state’s top election office prosecutorial authority, proposed legislation being pushed by Kobach would expand the Kansas attorney general’s power to independently prosecute local election offenses without getting county prosecutors’ approval, which currently is required by Kansas law. It also increases voter fraud penalties.

    Proponents of strong voter ID laws say they’re designed to combat voter fraud. Critics say they’re crafted to keep Democratic-leaning constituencies – such as minorities and poor people – away from the polls.

    Studies have shown minority and low-income voters are more likely to lack a driver’s license and have access to secure housing, leading to more frequent changes in addresses and voting precincts.

    Ok, this clarifies things a bit regarding why Kris Kobach claimed there was all this voter fraud going on but didn’t actually send the cases to the US Attorney’s office: Kris Kobach decided to send these cases to county prosecutors instead. Specifically, after review 1.7 million votes cast in 2010 and 2012, Kobach’s office from a whole eighteen cases of possible voter fraud. Fifteen of those eighteen cases were referred to county prosecutors. And since action was taken in only seven of those fifteen cases, Kris Kobach now wants the Kansas state laws changed to give him the power to prosecute all these voter fraud cases all on his own.

    So will Kansas’s legislature grant Kobach his wish and allow an Attorney General was a track record of exaggerating or lying about the extent of voter fraud cases act so he can protect the public from 0.001% voter fraud? Yes. Yes they will:

    TPM DC
    Brownback May Empower Kris Kobach To Prosecute ‘Voter Fraud’ Cases Himself

    By Daniel Strauss
    Published June 4, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has five days before he must decide whether to sign a bill expanding the power of Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to prosecute voter fraud cases.

    If Brownback does sign the legislation, which has already passed both chambers of the state legislature, Kobach would be given the power to prosecute voter fraud cases even when, according to critics, local prosecutors had opted against moving forward with those cases.

    Kobach is a prominent figure in conservative “voter fraud” circles, loudly declaring that voter fraud is rampant and pushing new laws that have the effect of restricting access to voting, especially among voters who tend to favor Democrats. Voting experts, on the other hand, point to studies that show voter fraud is relatively rare with negligible impact on election outcomes.

    “I very much worry about Kobach getting additional prosecutorial authority, as he seems to be someone who is willing to make false or exaggerated claims of voter fraud to fit his political narrative,” election law expert Rich Hasen told TPM in an email.

    Under current Kansas law, Kobach must refer cases of voter fraud to local prosecutors. Under the bill sitting on Brownback’s desk, those prosecutors would still handle voter fraud cases but Kobach’s office could move criminal charges on its own. “The bill also would upgrade penalties for several voting offenses to felonies from misdemeanors,” according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

    Brownback’s office is mum about whether the governor will sign the legislation.

    Kobach has been pushing for this prosecutorial authority for a while. In his re-election campaign in 2014 he portrayed himself as particularly tough on voter fraud. He’s crafted some of the strictest voter ID laws in the country and led the charge in calling for his state to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

    In an interview with the Capital-Journal in May, after the bill passed by a slim 63-57 vote margin in the Kansas House of Representatives (it needed 63 votes to pass), Kobach said his office had identified 100 cases of voter fraud in the 2014 general election cycle alone.

    The Associated Press in February noted that Kobach has griped about prosecutors dragging their feet on voter fraud cases he refers to them. Kobach previously squabbled with Kansas U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom in 2014 over voter fraud cases, telling a local television station that Grissom had no idea “what he’s talking about” when the federal prosecutor said the rampant voter fraud Kobach has warned of doesn’t exist.

    Kobach’s crusade against voter fraud has been underwhelming. In 2013 he reviewed 84 million votes in 22 states but only came up with 14 examples of alleged voter fraud that were referred for prosecution, or a tiny 0.00000017 percent of the 84 million votes..

    In April TPM also reported that the chief data officer for the Republican National Committee suggesting that voter fraud really only constitutes “about 1 percent” of votes cast.

    So the Kansas legislature (barely) gave Kobach the green light to begin aggressively prosecuting all the voter fraud cases he can find. And, interestingly, just last month he claims to have found 100 cases of fraud in Kansas alone in 2014, which, if real, would appear to suggest a massive increase in the amount of voter fraud from previous years given Kobach’s own findings of 18 cases among 1.7 votes cast in 2010/2012 and only 14 cases the 22 million votes his office review in 2013.

    So once governor Brownback signs this new power into law we’ll presumably get to see just what kinds of cases trigger Kris Kobach’s fraud antennae. But since he claimed that those 100 potential cases were cases of “double voting”, that presumably means he hasn’t started looking into other far more serious types of vote fraud. Like this:

    The Associated Press

    Wichita State mathematician sues Kris Kobach, Sedgwick County elections commissioner seeking to audit voting machines
    Woman wants to investigate machines for voter fraud or demographic trend

    By Roxana Hegeman
    Posted: April 1, 2015 – 4:58pm

    WICHITA — A Wichita State University mathematician sued the top Kansas election official Wednesday seeking paper tapes from electronic voting machines, an effort to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country.

    Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, filed the open records lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court as part of her personal quest to find the answer to an unexplained pattern that transcends elections and states. The lawsuit was amended Wednesday to name Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Sedgwick County Elections Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

    Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate “a statistically significant” pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct.

    While it is well-recognized that smaller, rural precincts tend to lean Republican, statisticians have been unable to explain the consistent pattern favoring the Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up. In primaries, the favored candidate appears to always be the Republican establishment candidate, above a tea party challenger. And the upward trend for Republicans occurs once a voting unit reaches roughly 500 votes.

    “This is not just an anomaly that occurred in one place,” Clarkson said. “It is a pattern that has occurred repeatedly in elections across the United States.”

    The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling, she said.

    “I do not know why this trend is there, but I know that the pattern is there and one way to establish that it is or is not election fraud is to go and do a physical audit of paper records of voting machines,” she said.

    Clarkson wants the hard-copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model.

    A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said in an email that the office has not received a copy of the lawsuit and is therefore unable to comment on it. A phone message left at the Sedgwick County elections office for Lehman was not immediately returned.

    Clarkson became more interested in the issue after reading a paper written by statisticians Francois Choquette and James Johnson in 2012 of the Republican primary results showing strong statistical evidence of election manipulation in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.

    Clarkson said she couldn’t believe their findings, so she checked their math and found it was correct and checked their model selection and found it appropriate. And then she pulled additional data from other elections they hadn’t analyzes and found the same pattern.

    So will Kobach takes a look into that kind of voter fraud once he has no excuses whatsoever for ignoring it? We’ll see…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 4, 2015, 12:12 pm
  3. Check out the results of the DEF CON security conference “Voting Machine Hacking Village“, a contest to hack the roughly 30 different voting machines over a three day period. It’s the kind of results that should make one question the results of elections across the US: by the end of the contest every last voting machine was hacked:

    Gizmodo

    Every Voting Machine at This Hacking Conference Got Totally Pwned

    Kate Conger
    Monday 7/31/2017 12:25pm

    A noisy cheer went up from the crowd of hackers clustered around the voting machine tucked into the back corner of a casino conference room—they’d just managed to load Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” onto the WinVote, effectively rickrolling democracy.

    The hack was easy to execute. Two of the hackers working on the touchscreen voting machine, who identified only by their first names, Nick and Josh, had managed to install Windows Media Player on the machine and use it to play Astley’s classic-turned-trolling-track.

    The rickroll stunt was just one hack at the security conference DEF CON, which ran a three-day Voting Machine Hacking Village to test the security of various machines and networks used in US elections. By the end of the weekend, every one of the roughly 30 machines at the village, including those used to tabulate votes and to check voters in when they go to the polls, had been hacked. Even though several of the exploits ended up paying tribute to Astley, they’re not jokes—they also present a serious lesson about the security vulnerabilities in voting machines that leave them open to tampering and manipulation. And the more vulnerable our voting infrastructure is shown to be, the less confidence voters may feel.

    “The real takeaway is that you can install any software on this,” Nick told Gizmodo. “There’s no control.” Nick had simply connected a keyboard to an exposed USB port at the back of the WinVote, which was used in elections as recently as 2014, and was able to install whatever software he wanted from there.

    The voting village is the brainchild of a who’s-who list of security experts: DEF CON founder Jeff Moss, cryptographer Matt Blaze, computer programmer Harri Hursti (whose hack of Diebold voting machines in 2005 bears the name “the Hursti Hack”), and others. Researchers have been uncovering problems with voting systems for more than a decade, but the 2016 presidential election catapulted their work into the national spotlight. Now the entire country, and maybe the world, is paying attention. But poll workers and former campaign officials say that their primary security concerns still aren’t with voting machines themselves but with protecting voter registration systems and defending against basic phishing attacks like the ones used to gain entry to the Democratic National Committee’s network.

    Meet the machines

    “This is the great Satan,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, gesturing dismissively at the WinVote.

    The machine contains a cellular modem chip that allows its software to be updated remotely. “Unfortunately, it also means that you can log into the damn thing from across the street if you know the right credentials,” Hall explained. “What’s hundreds of miles between networked friends?”

    The WinVote was the first machine to fall, with a hacker achieving remote code execution on the machine within the first hours of the village. WinVotes were decertified by Virginia’s election board in 2015 because of their security vulnerabilities.

    American voting systems are largely cobbled together with antiquated technology. Voting machines can vary by state and county, and have to be certified by the Election Assistance Commission. But other devices, like the electronic poll books used in some jurisdictions to check in voters at their polling stations, aren’t subject to the certification process. Add in the voter registration databases themselves—which were reportedly breached in 39 states last year—and you have a convoluted and vulnerable system ripe for attack.

    The machines are mostly new to the hackers at DEF CON. “They’re not very much fun, they’re like very boring ATMs,” Hall joked. It’s obvious that election systems aren’t very secure, but it’s important to understand why the security problems exist in the first place, and why they’re so hard to fix.

    The security industry encourages regular software updates to patch bugs and keep machines as impenetrable as possible. But updating the machines used in voting systems isn’t as easy as installing a patch because the machines are subject to strict certification rules.

    Any major software update would require the state to redo its certification process. “It costs over $1 million to get certified,” Joshua Franklin, a security specialist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity and privacy application unit, explained to attendees. Franklin said that even though the Election Assistance Commission’s most recent election security standards were released in 2015, most state’s machines are only compliant with standards from 2002 because of the prohibitive costs of updates.

    The cost breaks down to about $30-$40 per voter, estimates Tom Stanionis, an IT manager for a county election agency in California who attended the village in his personal capacity. Most states just don’t have the money.

    “The reality is, we’ve known about issues with voting machines for a long time,” Stanionis told Gizmodo. Since purchasing brand new systems is out of the question, Stanionis said most states do their best to protect the systems they have, walling them off from the internet and storing them securely when they’re not being used.

    The rat king of decentralized state vendors and machines might actually be a good defense during a general election—it would force hackers to successfully target many disparate systems. “It would be really hard in most jurisdictions to do anything to affect the voting machines,” Stanionis said.

    Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, though, and that’s what DEF CON’s hackers have set out to prove. If a hacker tucked away in a corner of a Las Vegas casino can alter a vote count, then surely a nation-state attacker can too.

    “The thing you have to ask about any new technology is, compared with the technology that proceeded it, does this make that threat easier or harder? Does it make us better off or worse off?” Blaze told attendees. “Does whatever the technology we’re using make this threat an easier threat or a tougher threat? That’s the question we haven’t really been sharply asking for very long.”

    ———-

    “Every Voting Machine at This Hacking Conference Got Totally Pwned” by Kate Conger; Gizmodo; 7/31/2017

    “The rickroll stunt was just one hack at the security conference DEF CON, which ran a three-day Voting Machine Hacking Village to test the security of various machines and networks used in US elections. By the end of the weekend, every one of the roughly 30 machines at the village, including those used to tabulate votes and to check voters in when they go to the polls, had been hacked. Even though several of the exploits ended up paying tribute to Astley, they’re not jokes—they also present a serious lesson about the security vulnerabilities in voting machines that leave them open to tampering and manipulation. And the more vulnerable our voting infrastructure is shown to be, the less confidence voters may feel.”

    30 different machines and every last one was hacked. Within a few days. And if you happen to think this represents a substantial risk to the integrity of US elections, surprise!, the GOP strongly disagrees, in word and action:

    The Huffington Post

    Republicans Want To Defund The Commission That Fights Voting Machine Hacking
    There is absolutely no justification for abolishing the Election Assistance Commission.

    Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Contributor Democratic Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives & Representing the Fifth District of Maryland
    08/02/2017 12:58 pm ET | Updated

    This past weekend, hackers gathered in Las Vegas with a simple mission: break into America’s electronic voting machines and take control. Within minutes, some had already succeeded – but that’s a good thing. These hackers were part of a workshop held to identify vulnerabilities so they can be fixed well before any Americans cast actual votes next election. This exercise underscores the very real danger posed by outdated and insecure voting-machine software – as well as the important mission our government must continue undertaking to close these vulnerabilities and safeguard our elections.

    However, in their FY2018 funding proposal, Republicans are going after the small but highly successful agency that protects the integrity of our voting systems: the Election Assistance Commission. In June, House Republicans included a provision in their Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would abolish the Election Assistance Commission.

    Many Americans may not have heard of the Election Assistance Commission, a four-member bipartisan agency that Congress established in 2002 as part of the Help America Vote Act, but nonetheless they benefit greatly from its work. Created to address the flaws in our nation’s voting infrastructure, which contributed to the dispute surrounding the 2000 presidential election, the Election Assistance Commission protects Americans’ votes by helping to ensure that state and local authorities adopt best practices and uphold the highest standards of security for voting technology.

    I was proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act legislation that established the Election Assistance Commission and charged it with helping state and local election officials ensure free, fair, and safe elections. Today, in a measure of the Election Assistance Commission’s success, forty-seven of the fifty states rely on its voting machine certification process and for monitoring of reported issues. The Election Assistance Commission is critical in facilitating the sharing of information among states with regard to best practices and rapidly identifying and addressing flaws.

    Given these threats and the Election Assistance Commission’s role in protecting American voters, abolishing the Commission would be downright foolish. For several years, extreme right-wing Members of the House have been determined to abolish the Election Assistance Commission, without success, as a strong bipartisan majority has continued to recognize its benefits. With the inclusion of the dangerous provision to end the Election Assistance Commission’s work now included in one of the most important government funding bills the House will consider, it is now up to senior appropriators and the Election Assistance Commission’s bipartisan supporters to step up and demand the provision’s removal.

    The reasons the Election Assistance Commission’s opponents have given for abolishing the Commission have ranged from an insistence that it costs taxpayers too much to the claim that it has become a bloated bureaucracy to the conviction that the Election Assistance Commission intrudes on states’ rights. None of these reasons hold water. For one, the most Congress has ever funded the Election Assistance Commission over the course of a year was $10 million, and that was early in the agency’s existence when it was focused on initially implementing Help America Vote Act. In recent years, the agency’s annual appropriation has roughly been $5 million. Furthermore, at its peak, the Election Assistance Commission employed just 60 individuals; nearly all of those working at the Commission are experts in the field of election law and voting technology. With regard to the question of its impact on states’ rights, the Election Assistance Commission has virtually no rule-making authority and, therefore, has practically no authority over how state and local election officials carry out their elections.

    There is absolutely no justification for abolishing the Election Assistance Commission. Even the Trump administration included $9.2 million in funding for the Commission in its FY2018 budget proposal. While it’s very disappointing to see this provision abolishing the Election Assistance Commission included in the initial version of House Republicans’ funding bill, there is still ample opportunity to correct this error. That’s why I’m calling on all those from both parties who voted for Help America Vote Act in 2002 and who have supported strengthening our election systems in the years since to do everything in our power to have that provision removed and to enable the Election Assistance Commission to continue its critical work.

    ———-

    ———-

    “Republicans Want To Defund The Commission That Fights Voting Machine Hacking” by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer; The Huffington Post; 08/02/2017

    “However, in their FY2018 funding proposal, Republicans are going after the small but highly successful agency that protects the integrity of our voting systems: the Election Assistance Commission. In June, House Republicans included a provision in their Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would abolish the Election Assistance Commission.

    And what was the GOP’s excuse for gutting the funding of the federal agency tasked with trying to actually address these issues? They says this underfunded and understaffed agency that has no rule-making authority is a waste of money, part of a bloated bureaucracy, and a violation of states-rights:


    The reasons the Election Assistance Commission’s opponents have given for abolishing the Commission have ranged from an insistence that it costs taxpayers too much to the claim that it has become a bloated bureaucracy to the conviction that the Election Assistance Commission intrudes on states’ rights. None of these reasons hold water. For one, the most Congress has ever funded the Election Assistance Commission over the course of a year was $10 million, and that was early in the agency’s existence when it was focused on initially implementing Help America Vote Act. In recent years, the agency’s annual appropriation has roughly been $5 million. Furthermore, at its peak, the Election Assistance Commission employed just 60 individuals; nearly all of those working at the Commission are experts in the field of election law and voting technology. With regard to the question of its impact on states’ rights, the Election Assistance Commission has virtually no rule-making authority and, therefore, has practically no authority over how state and local election officials carry out their elections.

    So for everyone in the US, welcome to Voting Machine Hacking Village! It’s where you live. And have been living for a while, so the welcomes aren’t really necessary. Regardless, welcome home!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 2, 2017, 1:28 pm

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