This is the second in a series of articles addressing the security of software code that is used to administer, count, and report votes in elections across the USA. It is used in all or most of the voting districts in Illinois.
This series is inspired and based off of the credible research done by Blackboxvoting.org which has obtained a legitimate copy of the GEMS application. Bev Harris and Bennie Smith have conducted the investigation into voting system software. Blackboxvoting.org has posted Fraction Magic, a 6-part series on the subject, with more EXPLOSIVE information yet to come! Defend the Vote is taking the questions raised in these articles to the election authorities in Illinois.
Part 1 (Does Software Counting Your Vote Have Embedded "Weighted Vote" Capacity?) responds to the research by Black Box Voting which concluded software code running various election systems used across the USA permits weighted voting. This code is a default setting used to change the value of a vote (1) to a fraction. For instance, a vote for candidate X can be set at .75 while allocating the value 1.25 to candidate Z. Last week we sent a letter to the Illinois State Board of Elections seeking to have questions answered about various software systems used to administer, process, count, and report the vote in Illinois.
We have received a couple of responses from Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the ISBE and from the Executive Director, Steve Sandvoss.
Ken Menzel responded in an email and made the following statements:
“As to the fractional voting capability in the Dominion system, it is (as I thought) a fairly common capability in voting systems in general. Staff was aware, right off the top of their heads, that it is present in the Dominion, GEMS and Hart systems (i.e. the vast majority of voters use a system capable of fractional vote counting).
The only system it is approved to be used with (i.e. to have the feature enabled when running) is the Hart system. That is because the Hart system is used by Peoria County and there is a local district (if I recall correctly, it is a school district) that remains under an old federal court consent decree whereby cumulative voting is required (the type of voting that used to apply to the old 3 member district state representative system, which we discussed in our phone call).
The feature is not enabled in the Dominion or GEMS systems (and our staff can tell that from the reports generated when we do our system testing).
If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Illinois State Board of Elections
100 W. Randolph Street, Suite 14-100
Chicago, Illinois 60601”
This is very important news. Through the General Counsel, the Illinois State Board of Elections has acknowledged that they are aware of the ability for various election software systems to process votes in a fractionalized format. Indeed, his statement is that it is common in voting software and that the fractionalized voting system is enabled in the HART voting system (the ESlate) which is used in both Peoria and Kane County.
Speaking with Bev Harris, she reports she is about to release further documentation that provides concrete examples demonstrating how fractional vote counting software code opens a back door permitting undetectable and systemic voter fraud.
Keep in mind many states that use electronic voting systems do not have a paper trail that records the vote on a paper scroll and is a duplicate record of votes cast electronically.
Illinois lawmakers require a paper trail of all ballots cast. If an electronic machine is used to vote, theoretically, a paper copy of the ballot cast is reviewed by the voter before leaving the election booth. The paper copy is stored on a scroll in the machine and should be an exact copy of the votes cast in the election.
Following each election, ILCS mandates that the State Board of Elections randomly select 5% of all precincts and 5% of early voting machines to be recounted by hand as an audit of the machines in comparison to the vote reported. (ILCS 5/24C-15) To be sure, we fully expect that the ISBE and various election jurisdictions will assert that the 5% post-audit conducted in Illinois would catch this type of software voter fraud.
Illinois 5% audit process is flawed and is not an effective tool for catching this type of fraud. Verified Voting classifies Illinois 5% audit as deficient and in need of improvement. We have personally witnessed some of the problems. In a 5% audit we attended two years ago, we learned, when there was a discrepancy in vote totals, there is no legal mandate to discern why there is a discrepancy. In one instance we witnessed an error of two votes in the recount of one precinct’s paper ballots. When the temporary workers could not figure why there was an error, they simply stopped checking, corrected the official vote total, and went on to the next precinct. A follow-up FOIA investigation revealed that there was no effort by Chicago election authorities to find out why there was a 2 vote discrepancy in this precinct’s returns. Without a legal mandate requiring investigations into vote discrepancies, election authorities don’t have to resolve causative factors for the discrepancy.
In an example from the 2016 primary, a group of observers supporting Bernie Sanders at Chicago’s 5% post-election audit noted multiple instances where workers performing the task of manually re-counting ballots from the early voting scrolls, knew what totals they should have while counting and would simply adjust their counts to match. Further, they claim a discrepancy of nearly 20% in one precinct's vote totals. We have not investigated or verified these particular claims, but note they demonstrates that the current audit process is fatally flawed! In audits we have observed, we verify there is a lack of audit controls that compromises the integrity of the audit. More information about post-election audits can be found on Verified Voting.
General Counsel Menzel stated in his email that “The feature is not enabled in the Dominion or GEMS systems (and our staff can tell that from the reports generated when we do our system testing).” In our follow-up, we will challenge that statement. The ISBE only tests voting systems when there are changes requiring recertification of the voting system. Generally, every 2 years or more. This type of testing does not catch fractional vote fraud which can be enabled in the middle of an election.
The second responses to our letter to the Board came from Steve Sandvoss, Executive Director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. Sandvoss stated that the Chairman of the Board (Charles Scholtz) has refused to schedule this matter on the agenda for the Board meeting this Friday. He has stated that the Chairman will permit us to speak during public comments, and that they will decide how long we are allowed to speak and if they want to take action. By refusing to place our letter in the public record, Sandvoss and Chairman Scholtz block it from the records posted on their official site.
Having been before the sometimes hostile Illinois State Board of Election too many times to count… I view this response as typical! Historically, the Board does not like to deal with the security of the vote in Illinois. They generally do everything they can to limit these types of discussions during their meetings, often refusing to respond as a tactic to minimize and frustrate the public’s concerns.
More to come! Friday is soon to arrive, so we shall soon see more of the Board’s response.
In Part 3, we will reach out to every election district in Illinois to get answers to questions such as who has access to the software that runs their voting equipment.