Posted on Thursday 30 November 2006
Total Running Time: 29:40
Welcome to Talk Nation Radio, a half hour discussion on politics, human rights, and the environment, Iím Dori Smith
We turn to the recount of Connecticutís Second Congressional District once again with part two in our ongoing investigation into voting machine security at towns using the AccuVote Optical Scan machines made by Diebold. The machines were used in 25 towns, ten of which were in the Second District where Democrat Joe Courtney beat incumbent Rob Simmons by a mere 91 votes.
An audit of some of the towns using the optical scan voting machines for the first time revealed differences in the results of as many as six votes in Hartford. If all of the towns in the state had used the machines and all had six vote variations the election results could have been off by as much as 1014 votes. The discrepancies were caused by either voter error or changes made as a result of having poll workers look at the votes with their own eyes.
(Look for upcoming reports on the Audit. We spoke with the Republican registrars in Hartford where a city official race was found to have a six vote varietion. In the high profile race for the Senate Democrat Ned Lamont had a three vote variation and Independent joe lieberman had a one vote variation. Other variations found in the results were also in the single digits.)
Connecticut officials have already purchased the AccuVote Optical Scan machines manufactured by Diebold and provided by LHS Associates in Methuen, Massachusetts. Voting rights groups have expressed satisfaction that a paper ballot is created by the AccuVote machines. But True Vote Connecticut for example, notes the need for more clear and up to date protocols from the Secretary of Stateís office for voting officials in cities and towns who will be the final line of defense against voter fraud.
You can find True Vote Connecticut at Truevotect.org and you can find part one of this investigation online at Talknationradio.org
The Secretary of Stateís office has said that they too will be looking into the Talk Nation Radio investigation of voting machine vulnerabilities in the Second District during the recount. We will hear from the Secretary of State, Susan Bysiewicz and Deputy Secretary of State Lesley D. Mara in the second part of todayís program.
We turn first to Bill Bunnell a voting rights activist who was so troubled by voting machine problems that came up during the election of 2000 that he began to research voting machines and voting rights. An engineer by training Bunnell is now up to date on both the machines and the ongoing efforts in the Connecticut Secretary of Stateís office to ensure the vote.
Bill Bunnell welcome to Talk Nation Radio.
Dori Smith: You have been monitoring the vote tell us about exactly what you saw when you were observing a recount in, I believe you said it was Montville Connecticut?
Bill Bunnell: Yes in the Second District. The problems right from the beginning were that there was as might have been expected confusion as to what to do. They had expected to use their back up machines. The state had provided each of the 25 towns with two Diebold AccuVote machines to be used for Election Day voting. Apparently most towns did prepare both of their machines for use on Election Day but then only put one machine on line.
So the first problem they had in Montville was in getting to put in use machines that had not been used on Election Day and in one case they had to make use of a machine that had not been programmed to run on Election Day and they accomplished that by putting in a new card, as I remember it. With that they went ahead and opened up the cardboard boxes, which they had contained and sealed with tape, as somewhat required by the handbook, with the secure ballots that were taken out of the ballot box of the machine on Election Day night.
They were a scrambled mess of papers and they proceeded to try to set these papers in order and then proceeded with different teams to complete one district and then proceed on to the next. The ballots were to have been looked at by a Democrat and a Republican to decide whether or not that ballot clearly indicated the vote and then that was passed on to the machine feeders who would put the ballot through the previously unused machine and record and this vote being recorded on a fresh memory card. I donít know whether you found somewhat the same procedure in Bolton where I believe you were. (Indeed, we were, and we saw some variations in the details of selecting irregular ballots and determinations as to how paper ballots were screened and recounted by hand that need further review. See Talk Nation Radio report on the recount.)
Dori Smith: You had said something about the introduction of a memory card from the possession of an LHS employee. Talk about what happened when the LHS employee you said took a memory card out of his pocket?
Bill Bunnell: That wasnít actually used. I was surprised that he had it available but they discovered that the card they had the card they needed so they did not have to end up using the card that the LHS rep had in hand. My surprise at that was that it would be that routine for them to take a card which had been under no control, no chain of custody control from the time it had been programmed at LHS.
Dori Smith: We did hear from LHS representatives that they had plans to take memory cards out if there was a machine failure and put those memory cards in what they hoped would be new working machines. Or they were going to reprogram new memory cards or use memory cards that were hopefully going to be on hand. And of course all of this handling of the memory cards was of great concern to the professor working at the University of Connecticut, Alex Shvartsman who has been looking into voting security.
When you were at the Montville sight and the LHS worker was prepared to pull out a brand new memory card and start using that one what ran through your mind? What were your first thoughts when you watched that happen?
Bill Bunnell: The first thought that went through my mind was oh no! (chuckles). Remember Iím there as a public observer. Iím not there as a party observer. They could have spoken. But really as youíve described earlier what weíve got as a concern here is the basic question of how much of this whole process do we outsource? Are we totally dependent upon a well intentioned, well experienced company in another state whoís going to control our election process? I donít think thereís any question that the Connecticut elections this year had been outsourced and would not have gotten done without their (staff from LHS Associateís) presence.
Dori Smith: When weíre observers we donít know what the machines are doing. Weíre only seeing an operation thatís very similar to a hand held calculator. The votes go in they get counted, tally one. But when it comes to counting the overall vote weíre told that itís a fail proof system. Would you say that at this point you have certainty that it is?
Bill Bunnell: No, I donít have certainty but I do have faith that we have a piece of paper, the ballot that has been marked and that humans can sit down and decide from that with a higher degree of certainty what the vote has been. And it is to that ultimate authority if you will that I think establishes the faith as highly as we can get to.
Going on right as we speak in Sarasota Florida is a recount of touch screen voting machines without any paper ballot available to guide a recount or to provide a recount and that is going to be a most interesting study.
Dori Smith: Itís very possible that the problems we are talking about will not be identified by voting officials for lack of will. There does not seem to be a lot of initiative being shown to make sure that these details are ironed out before elections take place.
Bill Bunnell: Well I hesitate to comment on the lack of will. I think there is a lack of experience at the moment which has to be closed. We got a lot of it in the 25 towns in the past month but I must also point out that talking with you is more than the media in Connecticut combined since the time the Secretary of State announced her decisions.
The focus had been on LHS, not Diebold etcetera. But there has to be somebody looking at the details and the Secretary of Stateís office is just not currently facilitated in a way that they can handle that is I think the conclusion that you have to come to from the looking that youíve done into all of this.
Dori Smith: Bill Bunnell thanks so much for joining us.
Bill Bunnell: Thank you.
Dori Smith: Bill Bunnell is a Connecticut voting rights activist. We turn next to our interview with Ken Hajjar of LHS Associates. Although director of sales and marketing at LHS Hajjar was the machine technician on hand during the Second District recount at Mansfield, Connecticut. I asked him to describe any written instructions or protocols he may have received from the Secretary of Stateís office on what he should and should not do in the event of any machine failures. Previously, Mike Carlson of LHS, on hand in Ashford, Connecticut for the Second District recount, told us he didnít know of any written protocols from the Secretary of Stateís office:
Ken Hajjar: Basically the day that we did the recount I was given one sheet of paper which was the Secretary of Stateís rules and I was just told, ďdonít touch anything just answer questions.Ē So I donít have that with me and Iím not even sure what I did with it. I might have just thrown it away once I got through.
You know the Secretary of State has been working with some of our guidance because we have been using the same machine in four other New England states for almost 20 years. So as far as protocols and procedures are concerned a good deal of what the Secretary of State did was based on procedures that are already in place and already proven to be effective in every other New England state.
Dori Smith: What would LHS be on hand to do if the machine were to fail? You know tell me the protocol.
Ken Hajjar: Well in that case, first of all in this case that didnít happen. None of the machines failed. If a machine were to fail either on election day or in any other circumstance it would be merely a matter of removing the memory card, thereís a little card that keeps track of the votes, bring a new machine over, put the memory card in the new machine, when you turn it on the new machine picks up right where the old machine stopped.
Dori Smith: Now what if there were a problem with the memory card itself what would you do?
Ken Hajjar: In that case you would have to bring in another memory card which had been programmed the same way as the original one, and every town by the way, had a back up memory card that had been programmed and tested. So if a memory card fails then obviously that is the worst thing that can happen. Then you would have to re-feed all of the ballots.
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