"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." Communist Tyrant Josef Stalin

Investigator Crashes Sacramento County Vote Counting Process!  

March 11, 2000 NA (Network America) e-wire


Investigator Crashes Sacramento County Vote Counting Process!

I hadn't mentioned it yet on this e-wire, but the kind editor, Mr. Schantz, of the internet newspaper, The Lewis News, at www.lewisnews.com has instituted a "Citizens for a Vote Count" section in his internet newspaper.

To my pleasant surprise, while posting my second article, I saw that another columnist had contributed at excellent article. It is not only excellent, but EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY important. Why? Because this intrepid gentleman, Jon Roland, pioneered the way for what needs to be done in every one of the 3000+ counties as fast as possible.

He went to the vote counting center of Sacramento, County and videotaped the vote counting on March 7, 2000 - Super Tuesday.

I hope to post this on our website soon in the section on counties. So, when people go the proper section in the left hand column at www.networkamerica.org and then go to California, and then go to Sacramento County, they will see Mr. Roland's report along with other relevant information as it develops.

If we could do this quickly, and have 3075 teams of citizen investigators go to the vote counting centers on election day, November 2000 in their respective county, then we could post reports for all the counties.

This would demonstrate a pattern of depriving citizens of their right to an honest and verifiable election in the vote counting processes of almost all the counties - which would set the stage for mass pressure in many counties and states at once for a return to honest elections.

As they say in the vernacular - this is hot! What follows is Mr. Roland's report unedited. This is "real" TV! This is REAL investigative reporting - the kind that Geraldo, Rather, Paula Zahn, and Bill Press are NOT allowed to do.

I might add before getting to Mr. Roland's complete and unaltered report - that the late James and Kenneth Collier were pressured out of the Hamilton County Board of Elections in 1985 on that November election night, even though they had a court order obtained by my father, James J. Condit Sr. The court order authorized them and us to "observe all phases of the election process." On the spot, Judge Niehaus, who had issued the court order, "ruled" under pressure from the head of the Democratic and Republican party chiefs, that "observing" did not include allowing the video camera to observe. Even so, before the Colliers were tossed out, they, like Mr. Roland, captured about 20 women on film pulling votes out of ballots with household tweezers. (This one feature of this crooked punch card system, which is also used in Cincinnati and much of the nation, would be more than enough reason to trash such a system of our election officials cared a whit for honesty and public justice.)

So, in light of the experience that I had with Jim and Ken Collier in 1985, what Mr. Roland accomplished here is quite remarkable to me.

Potential for Vote Fraud Great

Posted on: 3/8/00 3:19:22 AM - Sacramento, California, March 7, 2000 -

This is a preliminary report of an on site investigation of the election process in Sacramento County, California, during the combined election, primary, and initiative referendum conducted March 7, 2000, seeking vulnerabilities to vote fraud.

Although no evidence of specific vote fraud has been found thus far, the process was observed to be highly vulnerable. This report will analyze the vulnerabilities and suggest measures to protect the integrity of the election process.

Sacramento County, like most counties in California and across the country, uses punch card ballots. The voter receives a ballot card, which he places in the holder, over which are several tabs which, when turned, expose a column of perforated circles, beside numbers on each tab, and he receives a voter booklet which shows the alternatives represented by each number.

He is provided a punch, like a short ice pick, to drive through the holes in the holder, which punch out the perforated circle to produce a hole in the ballot. He then places the ballot in a ballot box and receives a numbered tab torn off the ballot as a receipt.

My task was to examine what happens to the ballots after they are deposited in the box. I called the Voter Registration and Elections office at 916/875-6451, and asked where to go to observe the vote count. The person who answered referred me to her supervisor, saying that no one had ever asked that question before. A person who identified himself as Al Fossett [sic?], Administrative Director, came on the line, and said that the votes were counted at 3700 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, and that since the polls closed at 8:00 PM, the ballots should start coming in about 9:00 PM.

I arrived about 9:15 PM and was directed into a long line of private vehicles which were delivering ballot boxes. I parked, and began videotaping the process, showing that the ballots were being brought in by civilian election workers or volunteers. The boxes appeared to be locked and sealed, but the locks and seals did not look very secure.

I next followed the ballot boxes into a large room with perhaps 120 people in it, sitting at tables, who were checking the ballots. Each ballot was manually examined, apparently to make sure the holes were cleanly punched out, and the chad, or small circle of paper from the hole, removed. I videotaped this operation in some detail, observing incompletely punched holes having the chad removed from them.

This is the phase of the election process that has often been the focus of previous vote fraud investigations, which have suspected or charged the election workers with altering the ballots, by punching out unpunched holes. Even standing right over the worker, it was not possible to discern whether the holes they were completing the punching of had been previously punched incompletely.

The number of ballot configurations was limited, making it possible for the election worker to deliberately punch out holes to obtain a desired result, and all it would have required was a sharpened fingernail. It could have been done right next to honest workers without any of them being aware of what was being done.

The greatest vulnerability observed in this phase was for ballots where the voter had not voted for any of the alternatives. Based on the rate at which the workers handled the ballots, it would have been very easy for a single such worker to alter the election count for a down-ballot race by as many as a thousand votes, without anyone detecting it.

I was told that all these people were temporary workers, paid for the day, and there was no indication that there had been any kind of background check made on them. It would have been very easy to pack that workforce with partisans, directed or conspiring to alter the election outcome.

The only person who asked who I was, videotaping the scene, was a county election official named Alice, who first asked if I was from Voter News Service. The fact that VNS would be the first agency she would expect me to be from, despite the fact that I was dressed casually, with no identification, and using a consumer camcorder, is indicative. VNS is suspected of instigating and managing vote fraud on a nationwide basis. I asked her what other news services sometimes appeared on the scene, and she said that the TV and radio stations sometimes did.

From this cleaning room, the ballots were bundled and taken across the street to the building where the card readers were housed. The process was very chaotic, and it would have been very easy for anyone to substitute an entire bundle or box of ballots for another, pre-punched set, during this phase.

The card bundles were then placed in one of about four active desktop card readers, and after each bundle was counted, the operator drew a colored mark across their edges to indicate they had already been counted.

The card readers fed their counts into a single PC computer. I asked the operator what software it was running. She said is was a custom program written by "DMS" [sic?] of Orange County, California. When asked what they did to check the accuracy of its count, she said that they checked it before and after with two specially prepared bundles of cards, representing all possible choices on the ballots.

The computer was connected to outside systems, to which it reported the results. This is a vulnerability, as the connection could just as easily be used to send the computer program instructions or data, to alter the count, and the operator would never know it. Their method of checking the accuracy of the count would not detect such an intervention. For that matter, the intervention could be done with a signal delivered through the power line, or by radio, IR, or other means. I saw no signs that any of the needed security measures were in place, or that the personnel involved would know how to use them.

Preliminary Findings

From what I saw, it would have been very easy for infiltrators to alter the results of an up-ballot race by 5%, and a down-ballot race by 20%, without anyone but the actual perpetrators being aware of what was happening. It seems likely that most of the people involved were honest, but they also seemed extremely naive, and ill-prepared to exercise adequate security precautions.

The greatest source of vulnerability is the punched ballot. It has to be manually cleaned before it can be read, and that brings a critical break in the chain of custody. It requires a large number of persons of unknown background, any of whom could easily punch out unpunched holes to alter the count.

The obvious alternative would be a photosensitive ballot that would be marked with a laser of a certain wavelength, then set with a light of another wavelength that would render the entire ballot, including the marks the voter made, unalterable, but leaving the ballot readable by both humans and machines.

Interestingly, one of the initiatives on the ballot was to make "None of the Above" one of the choices for every race. The argument for this measure was to enable voters to register a protest of the alternatives presented to them, but for the purposes of preventing vote fraud, it could make it more difficult to alter a ballot. If everyone punched out one choice for every race, it would leave no unpunched holes that could be manually punched out during the "cleaning" process. It is much easier to do that than to try to fill in an incompletely punched hole.

As for doing the machine count, there is no reason why the ballots could not be counted by multiple readers, each using its own computer and software, provided by several different official and civilian organizations, so that there would be no single point of vulnerability to an accurate count. Let each party provide its own card reader and computer. It would only take one, even for an urban county with a large population, although it might take a couple of days to get the complete count. The card readers and computers are not expensive. Some smaller parties might share the expense of one. It would be money well worth it. If the counts differed, the ballots could be counted visually.

One thing that ought to be done is mark the ballots with a holographic code, similar to that used with some smart cards, and imprint it with a public-key-generated authentication code calculated on the basis of the identity code of the particular ballot and the choices made by the voter, which would enable a computer to immediately identify any altered or substituted ballot.

Another thing needed is to combine all of the above with ballots whose choices are randomly ordered. The voters should also be provided with private voting booths. The booths are open in Sacramento County, and this facilitates obtaining votes by purchase or intimidation, something that might be unlikely in that county, but which is still a real possibility in some other

parts of the country. The secret ballot is still important.

There is a real need for election offices to engage private firms or groups charged to attempt to penetrate the security of the election process as a way to find points of vulnerability and keep the workers more vigilant and cautious. There might even be an open bounty offered for any group who could corrupt the count, if they reported how they did it, and the count is corrected. Many organizations with security issues have found no better way to improve their security measures than by inviting attacks by outsiders which then report how they succeeded, and recommend improvements in their training and procedures.

I have not yet observed the handling of absentee ballots, but the vulnerability of that mode of voting to fraud is well-known, even if the count is honest after they arrive at the election office, which is itself doubtful. My recommendation would be to provide for remote polling places, where the identity of the voter could be verified, and where he could cast a secret ballot.

In closing, based on what I observed, I must conclude that for a fairly small risk and investment, the election process can be manipulated in ways that would have a very large payoff. Given this opportunity, it seems unlikely that the opportunity is not being systematically exploited, and that therefore it is unlikely that any candidates or measures which would seriously challenge established interests would ever prevail, unless or until the security of the election process can be substantially improved.

Jon Roland 916/568-1022 jon.roland@constitution.org

On another day I will pull out some of the most important lines in Mr. Roland's report, and attempt to elaborate on their significance.

Thanks to both Mr. Schantz of The Lewis News and Mr. Roland for making this Network America e-wire possible. And Mr. Roland has given us a model report for citizen investigators in the other 3000+ counties to emulate.


Jim Condit Jr.
Director, Citizens for a Fair Vote Count

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