Despite failing to object for months prior, the nation’s largest electronic voting system vendor, ES&S, is now attempting to stop a landmark independent examination of their e-voting systems in a Pennsylvania county dead in its tracks.
An October letter from the company, obtained by The BRAD BLOG, charges that Venango County, PA is in violation of their contract agreements with the Omaha-based e-voting Goliath, even as two volunteer Carnegie Mellon computer scientists are in the midst of a forensic audit of the county’s May 17 primary election. The county’s investigation comes on the heels of apparent failures of the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting system during their recent primary and several other recent elections in Venango.
The 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic system has failed in a number of elections nationwide, but is still widely used across the country and slated for use once again in more than a dozen states in next year’s Presidential election.
The Venango study, which we first reported on in early October as it began, came about after worries arose during a 2008 election when the ES&S system reported that some county candidates “had zero votes”, as the county’s Republican Board of Elections chair, Craig Adams recently told us while we were guest hosting the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show.
Confidence in the system flagged once again, more recently, according to VotePA.usfounder Marybeth Kuznik, after “numerous reports of vote-flipping, candidates missing from screens, write-ins missing, and high undervote rates” in the Republican-leaning county’s May 17 primary.
The county Board of Elections, currently comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat, beg to differ with the ES&S claim that the county is in violation of their contractual agreements. The claim is “disingenuous at best,” according to a legal memorandum obtained by The BRAD BLOG, from the Board’s counsel. We’ve also obtained and reviewed ES&S’ letters to the county and the county’s agreement with the two independent computer analysts. The documents appear to back up the Venango attorney’s assessment…
In an October 13th, 2011 letter [PDF] to the Board, ES&S charges that “proprietary” software, “necessary to read in, consolidate and report the results of the May 17, 2011 election” was given to the two computers analysts, leading the county to “inadvertently violate…the terms of its Agreement…with ES&S.”
If that software is “necessary” for use in examining the results of the election, one wonders on what grounds ES&S could object to independent analysts using it for that express purpose. But more on that in a moment.
The company’s letter, written by Associate General Counsel Timothy J. Hallett, goes on to claim that the state’s Purchase Order Form and the Voting System Agreement “entered into by ES&S and the County dated March 22, 2006…agreed to certain terms respecting its use of the ES&S Software.”
“Specifically,” Hallett writes, “the County agreed that it would not cause or permit any use, display, loan, publication, transfer of possession, sublicense or other other dissemination of the ES&S Software or documentation, in whole or in part, to any third party without the prior written consent of ES&S.”
The letter goes on to claim that “ES&S did not provide its consent for the ES&S Software to be copied and disseminated to the third party Computer Scientists” and that the county “was not authorized” to provide them with the software.
That, however, appears to be a change in position from a letter sent just weeks earlier, also written by Hallett.
The audit, being carried out by the two Carnegie Mellon computer scientists, Greg Kesden and David Eckhardt, has been under way since late September, when the computer hard drives were copied in whole for the analysts to use in carrying out their study. The examination finally began after several “months of legal wrangling,” according to Kuznik and Adams, between county officials opposed to the audit, and the Board of Elections and local Election Integrity advocates troubled by the unexplained anomalies and reports of physical failures in several recent elections.
ES&S, however, had full knowledge that the audit was to begin in late September, following several months of preparation during which the company was kept apprised of the negotiations and other plans.
In a September 22, 2011 letter [PDF], also written by Hallett just days before the audit officially began (and CC’d to top company officials including its CEO Todd Urosevich), the company acknowledged that the county was “free to conduct any such independent audits they deem necessary with respect to ES&S’ voting system used by the County.”