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LHS, New Hampshire and the Primary and Recount

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LHS handled the memory cards in NH

And other troubling items from the Granite State, from the great Bruce O'Dell:

It's disturbing but hardly surprising to hear that LHS, the vendor that
runs New Hampshire elections, took custody of the Diebold optical scan
memory cards after the 2008 primary election.

In New Hampshire, LHS uses the notorious GEMS central tabulator software to
program individual memory cards for each optical scan device that will be
counting votes in each voting location. The memory cards contain ballot
definition files that are used by the optical scan software to interpret
which marks on the ballot correspond to which candidates on the ballot at
that location. The memory card also contains software, but of course, we
know that software is perfectly benign... if you believe the vendor,
because of course no one is allowed to independently examine those cards before or after the election. Oh, yes, the memory cards also store the "results" of the election.

After the election, each optical scan machine prints out a "poll tape"which
reports the vote totals by race and candidate for that machine at that
location. The poll tapes are signed by local election officials and
couriered to the Secretary of State by NH state troopers. Unlike most
jurisdictions, New Hampshire does not use GEMS to tabulate the vote;
elsewhere, in most places that use Diebold optical scan voting equipment,
the memory cards are couriered to the county election office and plugged
back into the county's GEMS server for upload and "automatic" tabulation.
In New Hampshire, the poll tapes are manually tabulated by an individual
using Excel.

So it's not surprising LHS retains custody of the memory cards, since the
New Hampshire Secrtary of State doesn't use memory cards to tabulate the
vote. But several years ago Harri Hursti and Black Box Voting publicly
demonstrated just one means of altering the contents of a Diebold memory card in such a way as to both alter the outcome of the election and also produce a matching, fraudulent poll tape report.

What is astonishing to me is that New Hampshire continues to use precisely the same Diebold Optical Scan model - 1.94w - on which Hursti first demonstrated his insider attack.

What compounds my astonishment is that last autumn, Hursti presented the
details of that exploit in person to the New Hampshire State House
Subcommittee on Election Equipment - and yet the state still decided to
keep running its elections on precisely that model of Diebold equipment!

Finally, although I did my best to convince New Hampshire legislators in my
own testimony there last September, they also decided not to pioneer the
UBS mandatory in-precinct election-night hand-count audit of a random 10%
sample of all ballots.

This is a remarkable situation, so again let me recap: first, Hursti
personally explained to New Hampshire officials how their specific election
equipment could be manipulated by insiders (oh, say - just hypothetically -
at LHS)in such as way as to change the outcome of an election, while at the
same time producing fraudulent poll tapes that confirm the mistabulation.
The only way to detect Hursti's exploit would of course be to hand-count
the ballots.

Second, New Hampshire also chose to not hand-count a statistically valid
sub-sample of ballots in-precinct on election night - a technique that can
detect accidental or deliberate mistabulation of 1% or more, of both
hand-counted and optical scan ballots, with greater than 99% confidence.
UBS could easily have confirmed - or discounted - allegations that the
unexpected ten point shift from final pre-election polls to election
results in the Democratic primary did not truly reflect the will of the
people of New Hampshire.

Had New Hampshire simply chosen to count a 10% sample of their ballots in
precinct on election night, they could almost certainly have avoided the
need to recount all the Republican and more than half of the Democratic
primary ballots by hand - a week later, in adversarial circumstances, and
under a cloud of suspicion about chain of custody and the legitimacy of
secret vote counting.

Instead New Hampshire chose to continue to rely on secret vote counting by
machine, while at the same time relying completely on the integrity of the
chain of custody of ballots stored out of sight for almost a week before
they were brought back into public view in a different location.

In the absence of citizen-verified chain of custody in the week after the
ballots were cast, the accuracy of the 2008 "recount" in New Hampshire will
- to anyone familiar with even basic auditing principles - remain forever
in doubt.

What I regret is that it did not have to be this way. I bet the good people
I met on the New Hampshire State Subcommittee on Election Equipment last
fall might very well feel the same way.

And it could still be different in November - not just in New Hampshire,
but in Minnesota where I live, and across the country. But will we demand
citizen oversight of secret vote counting in time to make a difference?

-Bruce O'Dell
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Bruce O'Dell is a self-employed information technology consultant with more than twenty five years experience who applies his broad technical expertise to his work as an election integrity activist. His current consulting practice centers on (more...)
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