Acording to the Initial Report from a landmark independent forensic audit of Venango County, PA’s touch-screen voting system — the same system used in dozens of states across the state and country — someone used a computer that was not a part of county’s election network to remotely access the central election tabulator computer, illegally, “on multiple occasions.” Despite the disturbing report, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG and posted in full below, we may never get to learn who did it or why, if Venango’s County Commissioners, a local judge, and the nation’s largest e-voting company have their way. And that’s not all we won’t get to find out about.
The battle for election integrity continues in Venango, with the County Commissioners teaming up with e-voting vendor Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) on one side, and the county’s renegade interim Republican-majority Board of Elections on the other. The Commissioners and ES&S have been working to spike the independent scientific forensic audit of the county’s failed electronic voting machines that was commissioned by the interim Board of Elections. Making matters worse, the Board has now been removed from power by a county judge, a decision they are attempting to appeal as the three-person board and their supporters continue to fight the entrenched establishment for transparency and accountability in the rural Western Pennsylvania county.
The extraordinary battle began when the interim Board was appointed by a county judge to oversee elections in the Republican-leaning PA county last spring. Normally the County Commissioners serve as the Board of Elections. But when they themselves are up for election, as they were this year, the county court judge names a specially appointed Board to over the election and serve until the end of the year, or until they are dismissed by the same court.
When the interim Board of Elections — comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat — took power this year in Venango, they unanimously set about commissioning the landmark, independent forensic audit of the county’s 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting systems, on the heels of sworn testimony from voters about several failed elections over recent years, beginning in 2008.
After months of legal wrangling, with County Commissioners in opposition, the special Election Board’s independent study of the County’s ES&S iVotronic voting system finally got under way in late September. At that time, a hard drive clone of the computer which runs the ES&S central tabulator system (known as the “Unity Election Reporting Manager”) was created and given, along with other data, to two Carnegie Mellon computer science professors who had volunteered to carry out the analysis on behalf of the Board. The Board also announced that the November election this year would be carried out on an optically-scanned paper ballot system, also made by the county’s vendor, ES&S, while the reported anomalies from their May 2011 primary election, run on the unverifiable touch-screen systems, were being examined by the scientists.
But now, as documents and letters obtained by The BRAD BLOG reveal, the voting machine company, Omaha-based ES&S, who had issued no objections prior to the start of the study, but who changed their mind quickly after it began (as we detailed in an Exclusive report in late October) has now hardened their position, sending threatening legal letters to both the county and the two computer scientists. The e-voting firm has warned them they are likely to face a lawsuit if they do not agree to complete confidentiality and if results of their analysis are released publicly without their prior review and approval.