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ES&S for Dummies, 2009: Did Obama really win in 2008? Or did Obama win really, really big? ES&S incompetence or intent?

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Last week in his article, The Most Ominous Monopoly (Diebold sale to ES&S), historian Michael Carmichael referred to Election Systems & Software's (ES&S) purchase of Diebold as "the most ominous monopoly in America's long history." Several others have written articles about the negative aspects of this monopoly, including Brad Friedman's Your Once Public Elections & Your Once-Public Elections on ES&S Monopoly Steroids and my own ES&S Acquires Premier Election Solutions. This is just wrong on so many levels.

However, when one considers ES&S' reckless performance as an election provider the real issue is much more basic. Should we even do business with these people? What do you do when a vendor loses your data? What do you do when your vendor sells you inferior products?

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Whether you're a day clicker or seasoned techie, what are the first serious things you learn about using computers . . . any computers? . . . . . Check your results. Backup your data. Always. From your precious family photos to nuclear secrets . . . back it up. Check it out. Because if you don't, your computer will hiccup when you least expect it, leaving you in a muddled mess of irretrievable, irreconcilable blips and bleeps. If you're so fortunate as to have no firsthand experience of relying on bad data or computers crashing, you will. At the most inconvenient time. You don't need a degree in computer technology to know these things about your computer. You turn it on. Do your thing. Check it out. Turn it off. It works. And when it doesn't, you've got your backup to move you on to the next go 'round.

If Joe-the-day-clicker knows these things, how is it ES&S does not? Today, nine years after that first election meltdown, authenticated vote-flipping and result-altering malfunctions are rampant. Election errors continue to roll in as documented by these states during 2009 and/or 2008: AR, AZ, CA, FL, IN, KS, OH, MA, MI, MN, NC, NM, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, WI, WV . . . Some have actual backups in the form of voter marked paper ballots. Others do not. But all incurred errors with their ES&S equipment that changed the final election results.

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When Jefferson County, TX reported votes flipping from Obama to McCain on ES&S's touch screens and no fewer than nineteen states reported voting errors on their touch screens and/or other ES&S voting equipment it is evident that ES&S can't or won't produce a solid product. Particularly when considering these 2008 failures represent a long-term pattern of prior election failures, only two of which are listed below:

1.The 2006 Sarasota, FL fiasco that took two years of fisticuffs to conclude in an unresolved fizzle with the usurper holding on to his ill-gotten win. Coincidentally, in April 2009, Saline County, KS discovered that vote-flipping is a known problem affecting 22,619 ES&S iVotronic voting machines. Two years after Sarasota's 2006 lost 18K votes played itself out in the courts, ES&S admitted to touch-screen "calibration drift." (See iVotronic Touch Screen Errors below.)

2.2004 in Orange County, FL the ES&S vote tabulation program counted backward resulting in a 9,227 vote margin of victory for Senator John Kerry in the precinct-by-precinct results, while the county summary report showed only an 827 margin of victory. Election Problem Log - 2004 To Date.)

How can it be that five years after the highly suspect 2004 election, seven years after Miami-Dade's nightmare, ES&S can't or won't get it right? Voting machines are merely hyped-up PCs, after all. Except these PCs don't need to do a lot of complex thinking. They just need to slurp in a hundred or so ballots, tally the numbers and spit out results.

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So if you're the non-techie-and-don't-wanna-be-a-techie-guy, you check your stuff and you Click and Save because that's what the geeks tell you to do. But if you're a real live systems engineer, you've been bitten more than a few times. So for every system you put out there, you design solid recovery into your programs and computer hardware. You plan for every conceivable malfunction from programming to crashing hardware to battery fatigue. And you'd better test it and get it right. Or next time it will be more than data you lose. It will be your job.

Yet that's precisely what the folks at ES&S have failed to do from the beginning, when they foisted those first 7,200 ES&S touch screens on Miami-Dade County, FL. The largest voting machine purchase in U.S. history. (With a little bit of help from their BFF friends: Jeb Bush and one of his running mates, former Secretary of State Sandra Mortham. See Players Play . . . from Bush to Bush). As a question of business ethics, did ES&S know at least some of their machines would fail? How could they not? But if you don't get caught, it can't hurt you. If you don't admit the problem while crossing your fingers, there's a chance your customers won't know. And if they don't know, they'll keep on buying your defective products at a hefty cost to the U.S. taxpayers and all those citizens who toss their democracy away on defective ES&S voting machines.

You don't need a degree in computer technology to know your computer doesn't work. And you don't need a degree in ethics to know you don't want to do business with a company that can't get it right and perpetuates the great cover up. How can we entrust our country to these people?


Authenticated Election Failures 2008 -- 2009:

The number of egregious voting machine errors documented in 2008 and 2009 is literally too numerous to list here. However the following summary highlights some of 268-and-counting ES&S failures as reported to and documented at in their interactive Election Problem Log - 2004 To Date.

The intent of this article is to focus on recent ES&S voting related errors, those reported in 2008 and 2009: AR, AZ, CA, FL, IN, KS, OH, MA, MI, MN, NC, NM, PA, SC, TN, TX, WI, WV. If you are interested in errors incurred from 2004 through 2007 or on voting machines manufactured by other vendors, these are available on VotersUnite's Election Problem Log.

States and Counties with Documented ES&S iVotronic Touch-Screen Voting Machine Errors:

1. Saline County, KS. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen machine. In April 2009, The county discovered that vote-flipping is a known problem that affects 22,619 ES&S iVotronic voting machines, whose screens were made by Bergquist Co. In October 2008, the Brennan Center warned the Secretaries of State in 16 states that the screens had "calibration drift." ES&S admits that calibration may not hold through the entire Election Day.

2. Benton County, AR. iVotronic e-voting machines failed to start up at several polling places. Voters used paper ballots

3. Faulkner County, AR. The iVotronic touch screen "voter-verifiable paper trail" did NOT match the electronic count. When early voting data was uploaded from the iVotronic touch screen to the Unity election management system, the system doubled them. White County, AR.

4. Broward County, FL. Precinct shows 79 more ballots than the number of registered voters on the iVotronics.

5. Miami Dade and Broward Counties. iVotronic touch screen machines. Presidential candidates did not appear on the ballots of some voters, both Democrats and Republicans.

6. Crawford County, KS. The iVotronic electronic voting machines in three precincts at a Pittsburg ward may have switched the votes in certain local races. Only 14 votes separates the two candidates for the County Attorney's race.

7. Franklin County, OH. Vote-flipping reported on the iVotronic touch screen machine.

8. Ohio County, OH. Serious calibration problems with the iVotronic touch screen machines. Poll workers have to calibrate after about 10 voters.

9. Ohio County, Putnam County, and Jackson County, OH. Vote-flipping on the presidential contest, on the iVotronic touch screen machines.

10. Guilford County, NC. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen machine.

11. Horry County, SC. iVotronics touch screen machines refused to print results at the end of the day.

12. Horry County, SC. iVotronic touch screen machines throughout the county the machines are not reading an activation card. All 100 precincts in the county have been affected.

13. Davidson County, TN. An iVotronic touch screen malfunction.

14. Decatur County, TN. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen machine.

15. Dallas, TX. A new type of vote-flipping in the straight-party function on the iVotronic touch screen machine. Palo Pinto County, TX. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen machine.

16. Jefferson County, TX. Vote-flipping from Obama to McCain on the iVotronic touch screen machine.

17. Berkeley County, WV. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen voting machines.

18. Hancock County, WV. iVotronic e-voting machines ran out of paper for the voter-verifiable paper record. In one case the printer wasn't working at all.

19. Jackson County, WV. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen.

20. Monongalia and Greenbrier Counties, WV. Vote-flipping on the iVotronic touch screen machines.

21. Putnam County, WV. Vote-flipping from Democrat to Republican on the iVotronic e-voting machines.

22. Wayne County, WV. iVotronic touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned during the primary election.

23. Wood County, WV. iVotronics touch-screen voting machines had to be repaired or replaced and electronic issues with some of the voting machines that caused a delay in tallying the vote.

States and Counties with Other Machine Errors (Not Related to the ES&S iVotronic Touch Screens):

1. Secretary of State's office, AR. Some printer malfunctions, some machines wouldn't start up, a power outage caused machines to shut down, one machine wasn't printing paper records properly.

2. Benton County, AR. Two precincts showed more ballots cast than voters registered.

3. Cochise County, AZ. Computer error caused the accumulated totals for five polling places to be added to the precinct totals every time new figures were added.

4. Los Angeles County, CA. Four of twelve votes (33% error rate) were printed on the ballot incorrectly by the InkaVote Plus ballot-marking device. Write-in votes cannot be cast on an InkaVote Plus "accessible" voting machine.

5. Sacramento County, CA. M100 optical scanners malfunctioned in many ways during the pre-election "logic and accuracy" tests.

6. Sacramento County, CA. ES&S miscalibrated the precinct optical scanners, and the tinting on the ballots was so dark that the scanners misread the votes.

7. Broward County, FL. Computer used to check-in voters malfunctioned.

8. Broward County, FL. The machine count was wrong by as much as 5% in 7 of the 16 precincts randomly selected for spot-check of one race by Supervisor of Elections.

9. Pasco County, FL. Five DS200 scanners broke down, eighteen weren't able to transmit results via modem.

10. Pinellas County, FL. 12 scanners (new DS200) had to be replaced due to paper jams and frozen screens.

11. Madison County, IN. Ballots printed by ES&S were positioned wrong on the paper, preventing the tabulators from being able to count the votes.

12. Wayne County, IN. When local officials tried to tally the vote they received a "system error" message.

13. New Bedford, MA. AutoMark ballot-marking machines "won't work" with Republican ballots.

14. Wayne County, MI. Votes tallied by M100 optical scanners did not match hand counts.

15. Wayne County, MI. The battery on a memory card in one precinct failed, forcing those votes to be recounted.

16. Hennepin County, MN. M-100 Optical scanners aren't working at Brooklyn Center and Buffalo. In Buffalo, lines backed up at the voting machines, despite no lines at the booths. The machine was spitting out ballots and returning error messages.

17. Across the state in NM. Problem-prone ballot memory cards used in voting machines across New Mexico recalled.

18. Curry County, NM. A software programming error caused precinct totals in an early voting location to be counted more than once

19. Craven County, NC. ES&S coding errors caused the software to read the data incorrectly.

20. Onslow County, NC. Approximately 4,000 (Model 100) optical scan ballots from early voting weren't counted by the tabulation software because they were apparently not uploaded correctly.

21. Mecklenburg County, NC. About 2,400 absentee ballots were counted twice by the ES&S Unity tabulation system. About 37,000 optical scan ballots were counted twice by the ES&S Unity tabulation system. Wake County, NC.

22. Polk County, NC. Results for the County Board of Elections flip flops as the county struggled with malfunction in the computer reporting system.

23. Franklin County, Ohio. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Bruner launched a criminal investigation after discovering not every voter has the same ballot. It was discovered that not all the machines were tested before the election and a function that tracks changes in the machines was purposely turned off.

24. Centre County, PA. Discrepancy Model 100 optical scanner votes cast and the actual number of ballots cast.

25. Charleston County, SC. Problems uploading data from the iVotronic touch screen machines caused officials to enter the data by hand into the central system.

26. Pennington County, SD. The ES&S tabulation software added nearly 5,000 votes to the total as votes from the three M650 scanners were combined.

27. Angelina County, TX. A recount of the ballots from five precincts found 959 fewer votes than originally reported. The error had been caused by the ES&S expert who uploaded the results from each memory cartridge twice.

28. Travis County, TX. Only one of about nine eSlate polling machines was working properly.

29. Angelina County, TX. Central tabulators couldn't read the vote-data cards from the M100 optical scanners.

30. Milwaukee, WI. Eagle optical scanners jammed and rejected ballots at several precincts.

31. Marion County., WV. The system failed to read the Personal Electronic Ballot (PEB) cartridges holding the votes of 4,600 early voters.

32. Marion County, WV. The system quit tabulating around 7:30 pm.


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