Editor Note: Breaking News: Suburban Cook County (about 1.4 million voters) allows staff working for County Clerk David Orr (D) and contractors from Sequoia (Dominion) unfettered access to absentee vote totals before Election Day.
In addition, both Cook County and Chicago violate Illinois law by counting absentee votes before 7pm on Election Day.
Security Lapses with Sequoia (Dominion) Optech 400C ballot-counting machines
The Cook County Clerk’s Office does not follow established and required protocols for securely handling vote tallies and election results obtained from its Sequoia Optech 400C ballot-counting machines; Illinois election results are thus rendered questionable and vulnerable to organized fraud.
Screen shot of the 400C Computer Screen
Defend the Vote positioned observers in the Cook County Clerk’s Office prior to the November 6th, 2012 election to document breaches of security protocol that could allow opportunities to commit fraud or alter election results. Election observers detected endemic security breaches in the Clerk’s Office that included:
- Votes counted before election day and revealed to third parties
- Outside vendors printing and handling official tabulation reports
- Third parties manipulating files on the machines’ hard drives and dragging files onto portable thumb drives
- Copies of vote tallies left on the Sequoia machines that outside vendors can access at any time
- Tabulations placed onto thumb drives but never secured before leaving the room
- No election judges observed the tabulation process nor were present as the results were moved from the machines onto thumb drives; leaving the counting room unsealed and unsecured
- No checks and balances to ensure votes are not changed or tampered with during the counting process
One Defend the Vote election observer named “J.P.” provided a first-hand account of several specific security breaches typical of the Clerk’s Office. His report is as follows:
On November 5th, 2012 at approximately 1630hrs, I observed the Manager of Voter Services for Cook County (Gail Weisberg) closing the counting machines with Jason, a representative of Dominion Voting (the vendor that services the Sequoia Optech 400C ballot counting machines).
Gail and Jason stood in front of the first of three Sequoia machines that are lined up along a long wall in one of the Clerk’s Office’s rooms. Jason showed Gail how to close out the run (which means to shut down the machine at the end of the day after it has completed its counting task). The Sequoia machine has a computer built inside of it, including a display that looks like a regular computer monitor; this is all locked up inside a panel that Jason opened for Gail with a key he has in his possession. Jason showed Gail a folder on the computer screen that contained a file for the results of the first run of that counting machine. This was for the ballots counted on November 5th using that particular Sequoia machine.
Approximately 4.500 votes were counted by all three machines on November 5th, 2012.
Gail carried with her a large Ziplock plastic bag with around 25 blue thumb drives inside. She took one thumb drive out of her bag and inserted it into the computer that’s inside the Sequoia machine. Jason assisted her by unlocking the cabinet’s front panel so she could gain access to this data port. Jason used a mouse to drag the file for November 5th’s results onto Gail’s thumb drive. Jason was identified to me as a third party who was not employed by Cook County, but he was allowed to manipulate the files stored on the Sequoia computer’s hard drive. I asked for, but was never told, Jason’s last name and don’t know if it was even really “Jason” because both he and Gail seemed determined to keep information about his identity secret.
Once the file was copied onto the thumb drive, Gail used a pen to write the date, machine number, and run number onto a long, orange Post-It slip (which she then taped around the thumb drive). A “run number” is the group of votes that are counted at a particular time and date.
While Gail filled out the thumb drive’s label, Jason printed out a hard copy report of the results for that run number; this report was sorted to show the number of votes each candidate received, as counted thus far by that Sequoia machine. Jason printed this report unsupervised and was a third party who thus had unfettered access to the raw data contained in that report of votes cast and counted before election day.
Gail and Jason then proceeded to the second of the three Sequoia machines and repeated on that machine what they did to the first machine. I asked Gail what she was doing and she said, “I’m getting the results so we know how people voted!” Gail then explained she labels the thumb drives before taking them “upstairs to her office” where she claimed she “locks them up safely”.
Jason then printed a “Results Report” for the current run of the second Sequoia machine; I later learned the official name of this report is the “Accumulated Totals Report” and it’s something that a third party like Jason should not be seeing while voting is still ongoing because it tells how many votes each candidate received up to that point. It’s not hard to imagine an unscrupulous person taking that data to a political campaign and then telling them exactly how many votes they need to beat an opponent on election day.
Gail and Jason then moved to the third machine and repeated everything they did to the first two Sequoia ballot-counters. When she had obtained data from all three machines, Gail bundled up all the reports, the bag of unused thumb drives, and then the three thumb drives with results on them (which she kept loose in her hand as she walked around) and left the room to walk towards the elevators. Gail said she was taking the drives and reports back to her office but she could have gone anywhere after heading into the elevator. None of the materials were sealed or secured in any way as Gail transported them from one part of the building to another.
The next day – November 6th, 2012 – Gail and Jason performed the exact same manipulations of the Sequoia machines and followed the same steps to deliver the results to Gail’s office.
On Wednesday November 7th, 2012 at approximately 1630hrs, there were already thumb drives inserted into all three machines when I arrived to observe the process and it was unclear who inserted them or where those drives came from. A full-time Clerk’s Office employee named Trovey Hicks (who is not a manager) stood at the machines with Jason from Dominion Voting and the two of them printed the reports while Gail was elsewhere. Trovoy placed the thumb drives and the reports on a table for Gail to collect at approximately 1700hrs. The reports and thumb drives were sitting out in the open and unsecured for at least 30 minutes before Gail collected them. Anyone walking by could have easily switched the thumb drives on the table for similar drives or tampered with the reports waiting for Gail to show up. It was shocking to see something so important left out in the open like that for so long and to know that data was being culled from the Sequoia machines by third parties like Jason and non-managers like Trovoy.
Defend the Vote’s team of election observers like J.P. witnessed multiple opportunities for data manipulation and vote tampering in the Cook County Clerk’s Office related to third parties and non-managers having unfettered access to the Sequoia ballot-counting machines’ hard drives. Additionally, the Clerk’s Office is not following even the most basic security protocols since thumb drives containing vote tabulations are carried throughout the offices unsealed and unsecured – and at times left out in the open on tables alongside printed Accumulated Totals Reports for anyone walking by to see or tamper with. Clearly, election results in Illinois remain questionable and vulnerable to fraud because the Cook County Clerk’s Office does not make security paramount in its office culture.
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