Post Number: 11750
Best of Black Box?
Votes: 3 (A keeper?)
|Posted on Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 9:16 am: ||
UPDATE: In May 2011, the World Herald sold its interest in Election Systems & Software to the McCarthy Group, according to a World-Herald Article dated May 5, 2011, titled "W-H sells interest in election-services company."
This would appear to remove the relationship of current World Herald owner Warren Buffett from the voting machine company. Except for this: A separate company operating as the Investment arm of the World Herald, World Investments, has reported that it is an owner of McCarthy Group. So unless the World Herald has also divested itself of The McCarthy Group, we still have a problem.
Now about that patch: According to a press release from Election Systems & Software, the much talked-about last minute patch which was the subject of litigation in Ohio was not the only last-minute upgrade. In Michigan, ES&S outfitted its M100 optical scanners and tabulation system with a last minute adjustment enabling wireless communications.
According to the company press release, ES&S writes that "ES&S offered a secure cellular solution for the M100 optical scan tabulator."
"Secure" is a relative term, since you can't really secure the system from its own programmers and administrators, who have configuration details and passwords. "Secure" from outsiders, but certainly not from insiders, and definitely not transparent at all. Public transparency, not security, is the real litmus test for what is or is not a democratic election.
It is unclear whether the term "tabulator" refers to the optical scan voting machine or to the central tabulator which aggregates the votes from the optical scan machines, or both.
At least one county used the new wireless system; the ES&S press release says the new wireless capability was approved by the state.
"The wireless solution utilized by Oakland County was tested by a federally accredited Voting System Test Laboratory and subsequently tested and approved by the State of Michigan for a pilot usage in the November Presidential Election. In total over 600 tabulators were upgraded," Oakland County Election Administrator Joe Rozell is quoted as saying. Rozell states that Oakland County acquired and had wireless cellular modems installed into the voting system.
Here's the ES&S press release:
Like Hart Intercivic, the voting machine company acquired by H.I.G. Capital, a Bain & Company spinoff, ES&S appears to have changed ownership also in 2011.
The Hart acquisition has been criticized for appearance of impropriety due to close ties with the Romney family, but the ES&S acquisition, with its more subtle ownership chain, is equally interesting and had the capability to control a lot more votes. Two Obama advisors, Warren Buffett and Chuck Hagel, appear to be associated with ES&S, with Buffett's acqusition of parent company Omaha World Herald in 2011.
[See Updated information at top of this article. The World Herald sold its direct ownership of ES&S in May 2011, prior to the Buffett acquisition; still to be determined is whether the World Herald's investment arm sold its ownership in McCarthy Group.]
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is reported by the World Herald to be "run by World-Herald executives"; an earlier news report referenced on Wikipedia indicates that Buffet made a bid in 2011 to acquire the World Herald, formerly owned by associates of Peter Kiewit companies. A secondary parent company of ES&S, the McCarthy Group, is also owned in part by the World Herald.
According to earlier World Herald reports, Senator Chuck Hagel had been the Chairman of the Board for ES&S (then called AIS) beginning in 1992; he was interim CEO of the voting machine company in 1994, and stepped down in 1995 as he prepared to run for the US Senate, winning both the primary and the general election in upset results, with approximately 80% of his votes counted on the ES&S machines. As of 2002, Hagel continued to own stock in ES&S, which he had failed to properly disclose on his personal financial disclosure documents. Hagel was at one time a Republican friendly with the George H.W. Bush administration; by 2008, he was politically ambidextrous and supporting Barack Obama.
Wireless capability for reporting voting machine results is controversial, in that it adds middleman possibilities for adjusting results on-the-fly. Particularly for technicians who work for the voting machine company and who have administrative configuration details and passwords, potential capture or alteration of results at the end of day transmission stage is a concern.
The root cause of public concerns with computerized vote counting, whether or not wireless is deployed, is that the public can't see and authenticate the counting of the vote. Wireless adds another layer of complexity and opacity to an already concealed process.
The public must be able to see and authenticate these four essential steps for an election to be public, democratic, and valid: (1) Who can vote (voter list); (2) Who did vote (3) The original count; (4) Chain of custody.