Thursday, November 02, 2006

Diebold On Q; Sequoia yellow button

Cover Story: Voting Machines - November 7th will mark the first general election using the new, electronic voting machines. You'll see how they work and find out what Allegheny County is doing to get ready. Plus, why the new machines can't give you a voting receipt.

Here Ae Go Again: 'Just Push the Yellow Button and Vote as Many Times as You Want' on Sequoia Touch-Screen Voting Machines! (14 comments )
New Vulnerability Discovered on Systems Made by One of Country's Largest Voting Machine Companies Will Affect Elections in Dozens of States!

California's Secretary of State Bruce McPherson Denies Knowledge of Vulnerability Well After His Office Had Been Notified...

"Just push the yellow button and you can vote as many times as you want," Tom Courbat, an Election Integrity advocate from Riverside County, California informed The BRAD BLOG tonight. Not that we're in any mood to report more such stories, but this seems to be a big one. A very big one.

It seems there's a little yellow button on the back every touch-screen computer made by Sequoia Voting Systems, that allows any voter, or poll worker, or precinct inspector to set the system into "Manual Mode" allowing them to cast as many votes as they want.

Concerns about the flaw were first reported some thirty days ago to California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's office by Ron Watt, a Tehama County, CA precinct inspector who has been a poll worker in the county for the last fifteen years. And yet, as recently as a radio interview last Tuesday, McPherson -- who has been crowing about having the country's most stringent security process for voting systems -- denied he was aware of any security issues with Sequoia systems.

"They didn't care about it," Watt told us tonight about his "late September or early October" discussion with McPherson's voting systems chief Bruce McDannold. "He said he didn't think it was an important issue. He said I don't believe this is really a vulnerability."

Watt and Courbat disagreed and placed another phone call to the SoS' office on Friday after Watt received a copy of Sequoia's "Poll Workers Guide, Booklet #5: Troubleshooting" via a public records request in Tehama. On pages 19 through 22 of the booklet -- which is marked as "Confidential and Proprietary" -- he confirmed the simple manual override to the system. He'd learned about it years earlier and the new manuals confirmed that button was still in place. Even in the latest models of the Sequoia Edge voting systems (both models 1 and 2).

The complete sequence to override the system and enter manual voting mode, along with the Sequoia booklet received via Watt's public records request is now posted here at

Watt had been taught to be a poll worker trainer by De La Rue, the former parent company of Sequoia, years ago when the systems were first brought into the county. The two men placed a conference call with McDannold last Friday after receiving the booklet. McDannold again reportedly downplayed the concerns, but said "he'd look into it," according to Courbat...

...Thanks to the dilligence of Watt and Courbat, it is now confirmed that all such systems are completely vulnerable to virtually anybody who wishes to cast as many votes as they please.

"I can do it in 18 seconds," says Watt. "I can train you to do it in 3 minutes. Just push the yellow button, wait 3 seconds and it chimes. Push the yellow button again, wait 3 seconds and it chimes again. Then it's all on the screen prompts. You're asked 'Do you want to enter manual mode?' and you push 'Yes'...And then you're on your way."

"You can then vote as many times as you want. You won't ever have to stop until someone physically restrains you from voting," he explained.

"But wouldn't someone hear the chime?" we asked...

"No, it's barely audible. Quieter than the beep on your computer when it boots up. The systems are usually kept up against the wall to be near a power outlet and away from the poll workers for privacy. Plus, if you really wanted to pull it off, just come in with a friend and have them talk to the poll workers to distract them. Nobody would ever know."

McDannold's message left on Courbat's cell phone Monday confirming the issue. "Sequoia was actually in here this morning giving us a demonstration of the feature and how it works and how you would set it up and put it into that mode," said McDannold.

He claimed that the SoS office had then contacted all California counties using the Sequoia Edge and said "they are all doing poll worker training" and "putting signs up to warn people about the severe penalties for tampering with voting equipment uh which is would fall under---- most of them are putting signs actually on the machines."

"They are also being very conscious of the placement of the equipment so that they can observe, actually many of them are - have already planned to assign staff members to do nothing but just watch the machines for that purpose to make sure ah nobody is reaching around or doing anything," McDannold explained on the recorded message...

Story featured on Lou Dobbs Tonight

DOBBS: Election workers are scrambling all over the country trying to deal with an avalanche of last-minute problems with e-voting machines. With this information just pouring in, it's difficult to understand how the electorate can feel any sense of confidence in our upcoming election.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You really can't miss it, the yellow button at the back of the Sequoia voting machine. Tens of thousand of machines used in 16 state and Washington, D.C. That button puts the machine in manual mode so anyone can vote and repeatedly cast as many votes as they want.

Activists say it's a major problem.

TOM COURBAT, SAVE R VOTE: I worry about the poll captains having access. They're temporary workers. In many cases there aren't background checks done on them. And it's easy for them to go back there, make those changes, and vote repeatedly and not be noticed.

PILGRIM: Sequoia says this button is a standard and deliberate feature. The California Secretary of State's Office says they have security guidelines to alert poll workers to keep a close watch on the button and any tampering. All across the country, activists have called attention to vulnerabilities on all kinds of electronic voting machines, but few of those vulnerabilities have been fixed.

LOWELL FINLEY, VOTER ACTION: We're at the 11th hour and it's too late to do anything to stop the use of these e-voting machines, but it's not too late for voters to do something about it, and we're here to train volunteers so that they can get out there and observe the process and document, shine a light, on the problem that e-voting is causing in this country.

PILGRIM: All sorts of electronic glitches are showing up, screens display the wrong candidate when a button is pushed. Today in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, large print options didn't work properly, cutting off candidate names and election officials struggled with other electronic snafus.

MICHAEL VU, CUYAHOGA CO. ELECTION OFFICIAL: We just got notice from the Secretary of State's Office today that some voting units will not be reflective of Daylight Savings Time. PILGRIM: Potentially causing the machines to close down early. Technicians from the voting companies are working to sort out the last-minute problems.


PILGRIM: Today, activists pointed out that Sequoia will again have Venezuelan nationalists as support workers on the electronic machines. That's in Cook County, Illinois. Now, the workers are project managers from Smartmatic, the Venezuelan company that bought Sequoia.

Election officials say they have no way of knowing how many Venezuelans will be there but they've seen some around. Sequoia today said eight to 10 Venezuelan nationals will help with the voting machines during the elections -- Lou.

DOBBS: Hugo Chavez is sending observers and monitors for our election, I take it?

PILGRIM: I -- you know, Venezuelan nationals taking a look at our machines.

DOBBS: Well, that's wonderful. I mean, there are times I keep expecting the country to just sort of go into a group scream over these e-voting machines because it does not make any sense that we could be in this kind of vulnerable, absurd position this close ...

PILGRIM: Activists are in a group scream, and I think it's important that everyone document anything that goes wrong so that it can be known.

DOBBS: Is there a sense among those activists, in particular, we're going to have enough people monitoring these elections to be aware in time that something has happened?

PILGRIM: They are trying to set up hotlines and volunteer organizations.

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much. We'll continue here in just one moment. Stay with us.

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