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SPECIAL REPORT: Voting machine concerns bubble up as WI recall elections near
The Wisconsin Reporter ^ | 5-4-12 | Kirsten Adshead

Posted on 05/04/2012 9:22:09 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic

MADISON — You might be forgiven for thinking John Washburn is paranoid.

Plenty of people do, Washburn admits with some humor.

The Germantown man, who tests computer software for a living, estimates that, when he gets to discussing the perils of electronic voting machines, about 70 percent of people think just that.

Twenty percent think there might be something to his worries, Washburn said.

And about 10 percent — those who do some digging — start to believe.

“Quite frankly, I’m not really concerned by (being called paranoid), because it’s highly correlated with how much people have checked my claims,” he said.

Washburn’s fears — that Wisconsinites and, really, voters nationwide, are putting too much faith in a questionable voting system — may be unfounded.

But he’s not the only one worried.

Vote stealer

As part of a University of California-Santa Barbara study in 2007 that reviewed electronic voting machines similar to some used in Wisconsin, researchers designed software they said “developed a virus-like software that can spread across the voting system, modifying the firmware of the voting machines. The modified firmware is able to steal votes even in the presence of a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail.”

In March, using machines like some used in Wisconsin, Palm Beach County in Florida mistakenly declared the wrong winners in two city council races due to a computer glitch from those machines.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, the state's elections watchdog, said Palm Beach officials didn’t follow the correct procedures, and he isn’t worried about the Wisconsin voting machines.

“They caught the error after the fact," he said. "They should’ve caught it beforehand if they (were) doing the required" testing.

Wisconsin is on the cusp of unprecedented recall elections of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state GOP senators — elections the Wall Street Journal recently called “perhaps the second-most important election of 2012.”

Can Wisconsinites trust the machines to correctly tabulate their votes?

“Everything is fallible,” said Jim Mueller, an attorney with the nonprofit Wisconsin Citizens for Election Protection.

Are vote-machine companies operating on the up-and-up, or are they programming and installing machines that, when necessary, could do their political bidding?

“Are they? Possibly not. Could they? Yes,” Washburn said. “But the more disturbing part is that there’s no evidence to say that it is or is not happening.”

'A technical issue'

Washburn has been studying Wisconsin’s voting systems for six years, has been a regular visitor to GAB meetings when related issues come up and has filed lawsuits against municipalities as he has used open records requests to access voting machine memory card data.

His latest concern is that some communities, particularly in northern Wisconsin, may be using uncertified voting-machine systems.

If true, the allegations could lead to possible criminal prosecution, although that appears unlikely.

The GAB investigates those kinds of accusations, but said it believes Washburn is wrong in his assertion that communities need to have their voting systems recertified after swapping out an optical scan Insight machine for touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Edge machines.

Voting machines have to go through numerous tests involving election officials and the public before being certified for use.

Here's a quick primer:

These are the types of machines being used for Wisconsin elections, said according to GAB campaign finance and elections supervisor Ross Hein:

•The AutoMARK is a ballot-marking device. A voter inserts an optical scan ballot into the system, the ballot is generated on the screen, the voter makes selections and casts the ballot, and then the system marks the ballot to be returned to be counted by optical scan equipment. •The optical scan system allows a voter to complete a paper ballot by marking an arrow or filling in an oval. The ballot is inserted into the optical scan system and is tabulated. •The touchscreen system allows a voter to select candidates by pressing on the touchscreen. The choices are printed out on a VVPAT — voter-verified paper audit trail required by state law for the voter to review. Once the voter is satisfied, the ballot is cast and the DRE will tabulate all votes. Washburn contends that if a municipality changes its voting system — meaning a particular combination of machines — that system as a whole must be recertified, even if the GAB previously approved the specific machines in question.

His belief is based on this:

GAB Administrative Code 7 states that an application for approval of any electronic voting system must include, among other things: “Reports from an independent testing authority accredited by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) demonstrating that the voting system conforms to all the standards recommended by the federal elections commission.”

NASED standards, however, state that “in order to maintain its status as a NASED Qualified system, the hardware and software must be identical to the hardware and software tested . … Should it differ even slightly, it would not meet the definition of a NASED Qualified system and may render the system in noncompliance with state’s certification process … .”

Asked whether communities, including some in Barron County that swapped out an Insight for Edge machines, were allowed to do that without recertification, Hein said in an email that, “In this case of Barron County, yes, as long as the system is certified. … Also, they can also use separate Wisconsin-certified systems at a polling place, but the systems cannot be interconnected. The results have to be provided separately.”

Asked whether there have been instances when municipalities have replaced machines improperly, resulting in an uncertified system, Magney said, "We're not aware of any improper swapping."

He did say that GAB staff will address some concerns about voting machines, including questions about whether the state's voting machines are too old, as part of a report at the GAB meeting on May 15.

Use of an uncertified voting system, Hein said, would violate statute and administrative code, likely lead to an investigation by the GAB and could lead to “additional judiciary action.”

Washburn admits the certification question is “a technical issue.”

But he said the certification issue speaks to larger concerns that the GAB isn’t doing enough to ensure election laws are being followed.

Washburn objects to statements from GAB Elections Division Director Nat Robinson that the GAB sees county and municipal clerks as “partners,” instead of focusing on election-law enforcement.

“It’s easy enough to not find problems when you’re not looking for them,” Washburn said. “But the fact that I didn’t look, doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.”

Robinson recently told Wisconsin Reporter that “We don’t wield a club over our partners. Local election officials are our partners.”

But he said GAB does follow up with clerks to enforce the law when necessary.

"We regularly review clerk's actions, receive complaints about clerks and other election officials and follow up on them," Magney said.

Faith in safeguards

Election officials said they don’t take their responsibilities lightly and say the system has enough safeguards to ensure the security of Wisconsin elections.

Administrative code lays out an extensive process for voting-machine approval, including multiple tests by election officials and the public, culminating in a vote for approval by the judges who sit on the GAB.

Election officials also do spot checks of the equipment.

“I’ve conducted numerous recounts since we’ve had these machines and have yet to find a single discrepancy,” Barron County Clerk DeeAnn Cook said.

Cook said smaller communities in the county opted to exchange Insight machines for Edge machines because the Insight machines are more expensive to program, and most voters prefer the touchscreen technology.

It cost $6,000 to program the Insight machines for the state Supreme Court recount last year, she said — a pricey sum for a little-used machine at a time when the continuous cycle of recalls and recounts are stretching local governments’ coffers thin.

“Our acceptance of those (machines) in this area has been very, very high, and I think a lot of it is because they’ve proved themselves over and over again with the recount,” she said.

For people like Mueller and Washburn, it still feels like too much faith in a system designed by out-of-state companies that control the technology and, thus, the power.

“They’re not sworn in. They’re not subject to our laws,” Mueller said. “They’re the ones that are actually counting our ballots because the machine tabulations (are) being taken as gospel.

“With the big election (the Walker recall) on the line now, we’re hoping that we can ensure that no election fraud can occur."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; Politics/Elections; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: echnology; fraud; gab; votecount

1 posted on 05/04/2012 9:22:20 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic; Hunton Peck; Diana in Wisconsin; P from Sheb; Shady; DonkeyBonker; ...

Wisconsin Voting machine Integrity ping

FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.

2 posted on 05/04/2012 9:25:50 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Machines serviced by SIEU member techs?

What could go wrong?

3 posted on 05/04/2012 9:39:53 AM PDT by RitchieAprile
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Short version: Dems/union thugs know they are likely to lose.

4 posted on 05/04/2012 9:46:55 AM PDT by pabianice (ame with)
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To: afraidfortherepublic

It just keeps getting better and better.

Look at who will be counting votes for DoD and many place in the US.

5 posted on 05/04/2012 10:04:45 AM PDT by khelus
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Be sure and vote with only an absentee ballot!

6 posted on 05/04/2012 10:09:33 AM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Well......that’s all we need.

7 posted on 05/04/2012 10:13:26 AM PDT by no dems (TED CRUZ: A PROVEN CONSERVATIVE FOR U.S. SENATE FROM TEXAS.)
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To: AngelesCrestHighway

I forgot the sarc. in quotes....

8 posted on 05/04/2012 10:15:51 AM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
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To: afraidfortherepublic

“Voting machine concerns bubble up as WI recall elections near “

Nah—it would only be of concern if a majority of citizens found out about the sorosmachines and the msm will be doing it’s best to make sure they don’t find out.

9 posted on 05/04/2012 10:21:14 AM PDT by freeangel ( (free speech is only good until someone else doesn't like it)
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