The Right to Vote

by JASON | 8:55 AM in |

Clint Curtis was an everyday computer programmer until he was asked by a powerful Republican legislator in Florida to create vote-rigging software for electronic voting machines.
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COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election.

Blackwell's announcement is still in limbo because of a court challenge over the fairness of the selection process by a disqualified bidder, Sequoia Voting Systems.

New York state is in the process of replacing its lever voting machines with new voting equipment, but the state revealed recently that it has found problems with 50 percent of the roughly 1,500 ImageCast optical-scan machines (shown in the video above) that Sequoia Voting Systems has delivered to the state so far -- machines that are slated to be used by dozens of counties in the state's September 9 primary and November 4 presidential election.

Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the top four voting machine vendors in the country, failed to print and deliver more than 18,000 absentee ballots to Denver County, Colorado, even though the company had assured officials the ballots were delivered, according to the Denver Post.

The mysteries keep piling up around the Sequoia voting machines used in New Jersey. This time Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten has uncovered a phantom vote for Obama in summary tapes from three voting machines used in the state's February 5th primary in Pennsauken District 6.

The county clerk reports that 279 votes were cast in the Democratic primary in Pennsauken District 6. The figure apparently comes from memory cards taken from the machines. This number coincides with the turnout number that appears on the summary tapes from the three voting machines in District 6, which show turnout on the machines as 133, 126 and 20.

The problem, however, is that the summary tapes show that the total number of votes the candidates received doesn't match this number. The tapes indicate that the candidates together received 280 votes instead of 279. When the individual numbers for the candidates on the tapes are compared with the individual numbers that the county reports, Obama is shown as receiving 95 votes on the machine tapes, whereas the county clerk's numbers (.pdf) show him receiving 94 votes (again, from numbers taken from the memory cards inside the machines). The question is, why doesn't information taken digitally from the memory cards inside the machines match the summary tapes that are printed from the machines? And why doesn't the number on the tapes that indicates the total number of votes cast for candidates match the number on the tapes that indicates the voter turnout?

Leading voting technology provider Sequoia Voting Systems is pleased to announce the sale of the company to a group of private U.S. investors led by Sequoia's current executive management team.

"Sequoia is an innovative company with a century-long history; hard-working and talented employees; proven products; a solid balance sheet; essentially no debt, a corporate structure that provides flexibility; an extensive customer base and a very bright future,"
said Jack Blaine, Sequoia President & CEO. "I am very excited and hopeful about the tremendous possibilities and numerous opportunities that lay ahead for Sequoia given the company's new structure and the completion of this sale process."

The investment group, led by Sequoia President & CEO Jack Blaine and company Chief Financial Officer Peter McManemy, purchased Sequoia from former parent company Smartmatic Corporation for an undisclosed sum. As with most transactions involving two private entities, the specific terms of the sale are not being disclosed. However, this transaction does include investment by the management team, a small loan and an
earn-out. This scenario provides an excellent financial structure for Sequoia to leverage and completely eliminates Smartmatic's ownership, control and operational rights of any kind in Sequoia.

On December 22, 2006, Smartmatic Corporation announced the company's intention to sell Sequoia Voting Systems. At that time, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica stated, "Sequoia's customer base has grown substantially and its revenues have increased four-fold. However, given the current climate of the United States marketplace with so
much public debate over foreign ownership of firms in an area that is viewed as critical U.S. infrastructure - election technology - we feel it is in both companies' best interests to move forward as separate entities with separate ownership. As part of this process, we plan to sell our Sequoia Voting Systems ownership."

Confirming rumors I’ve been hearing, the Miami Herald is reporting today that a U.S. Treasury Department entity, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, is spearheading an investigation of the ownership structure of Sequoia Voting Systems, in particular, links to Venezuelans close to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The CFIUS focuses on situations where foreign investment in U.S. corporations might impact U.S. national security.

The CEO and President of one of America's largest voting machine companies, Sequoia Voting Systems, gave both deceptive, and carefully selective answers in his reply to a letter sent earlier this year from two high-ranking officials in Chicago, according to documents recently obtained during an ongoing investigation by the Brad Blog.

Sequoia's chief executive, Jack Blaine, repeated knowingly false answers, at least three different times, in his January 18 response to Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke and the Chair of Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners Langdon D. Neal. The pair had written to the company on January 11, expressing concerns about the truth behind Sequoia's claims that they had completely divested from their purportedly "former" parent company, Smartmatic, the Venezuelan-run firm with direct ties to Hugo Chavez and his government.

Last year, as media reports revealed the true extent of Smartmatic's shadowy foreign ownership -- and with it, the direct control of some 20% of U.S. elections -- the firm came under close scrutiny by federal investigators from Treasury Department, the FBI and the IRS. In November of last year, Sequoia announced that it had "completely" divested from Smartmatic in a management team-led buyout, thus ending an official review by Treasury's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

But in January, the officials from the Windy City -- where Sequoia holds one of the company's most lucrative contracts -- had continuing concerns about whether the sale was legitimate, or simply a dodge to avoid scrutiny by federal investigators. They were right to be concerned.

In their letter, Burke and Neale requested written responses from Sequoia after what was described as "evasive" and "troublesome" sworn testimony from Blaine the previous year, following "malfunctions of Sequoia voting machines during primary elections held on March 21, 2006."

On October, 10, 2002 Bev Harris, author of the upcoming "Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering" in the 21st Century, revealed that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has ties to the largest voting machine company, Election Systems & Software (ES&S). She reported that he was an owner, Chairman and CEO of Election Systems & Software (called American Information Systems until name change filed in 1997). ES&S was the ONLY company whose machines counted Hagel's votes when he ran for election in 1996 and 2002. The Hill, a Washington D.C. newspaper that covers the U.S. national political scene, confirmed her findings today and uncovered more details.

Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory and the revelation that Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel once ran and is still a major stockholder in the company that owns the company that counted 85 percent of the votes cast in his very own 2002 and 1996 election races is a potential doozy. His 1996 victory, some will recall, was considered one of the biggest upsets of that election; he was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Nebraska senatorial campaign.

Let me draw a picture here: about 60 percent (and growing) of the computerized ballots cast in elections in the United States now pass through machines whose software is owned, designed and controlled by people who are soul brothers of the Taliban.

Like the other handful of secretive companies that produce computerized voting systems and depend upon the kind of political patronage that Republicans excel at, ES&S is extremely well-connected. Jeb Bush's first choice as running mate in 1998 was Sandra Mortham who, according to the Tallahasee Democrat (October 6, 2002, Page B6), was a paid lobbyist for ES&S and received a commission for every county that bought its touch-screen machines.

Virtually all of the information in this post (as well as The Hill article) was unearthed in nearly two thousand hours of research by a tenacious writer and publicist named Bev Harris, who is the author of a forthcoming book Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering in the 21st Century. Harris owns a PR firm called Talion in Renton, Washington, which is just southeast of Seattle. She says she began researching voting machine companies when she discovered that unauditable private, proprietary codes are used for vote-counting, and that ownership of voting machine companies is often kept secret.

More info but take it with a grain of salt...the links are all dead...

When voting machines are used, it is technically possible for secret computer programs to be inserted into these machines before elections that can modify the numbers to produce any desired outcome regardless of the votes cast. These stealth programs can be designed to self-destruct once their work is completed without leaving a trace of their presence.