Monday, July 23, 2018

Voting-machine maker, with remote-access feature, was involved in Alabama's 2002 governor's race -- where Don Siegelman votes disappeared -- and might have made it easier for Russians to hack 2016 race

ESS office in Birmingham
News broke last week that officials with the nation's largest manufacturer of voting software admitted they produced systems in the 2000s that included a remote-access feature. Now we've found evidence that the company, Omaha-based Election Systems and Software (ESS), was involved in the controversial 2002 Alabama governor's race -- the one where incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman was declared the winner, only to have some of his votes disappear overnight due to a supposed "computer glitch," giving the election to Republican Bob Riley.

The ESS story made headlines because of revelations about Russian officials in indictments that Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought recently. But it has profound implications for Alabama, adding to the already considerable evidence that the 2002 election was stolen. For good measure, the company has an office in Birmingham, in the Oxmoor area.

What does a remote-access feature mean for a voting system? It means someone away from the voting site could interfere with the tabulations -- and they likely would get away with it. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) received a letter from ESS officials in April, confirming some of their systems allowed for remote access. It did not take Wyden long to realize that was a bad sign for election security.

The Web site broke the ESS story last Tuesday From the story by reporter Kim Zetter:

The nation's top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.

In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006," which was installed on the election-management system ESS sold them. . . .

ESS is the top voting machine maker in the country, a position it held in the years 2000-2006 when it was installing pcAnywhere on its systems. The company's machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ESS election-management systems. It’s not clear why ESS would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

How did Wyden react to news about remote-access on ESS systems? With alarm -- and concern about the company's apparent stonewalling. Writes Zettner:

Wyden told Motherboard that installing remote-access software and modems on election equipment “is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner. . . .

“ESS needs to stop stonewalling and provide a full, honest accounting of equipment that could be vulnerable to remote attacks,” he told Motherboard. “When a corporation that makes half of America’s voting machines refuses to answer the most basic cyber security questions, you have to ask what it is hiding.”

Don Siegelman
 As Wyden's reference to Moscow indicates, the ESS story has international implications, thanks to the Mueller indictments:

Even if ESS and its customers configured their remote connections to ESS in a secure manner, the recent U.S. indictments against Russian state hackers who tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, show that they targeted companies in the U.S. that make software for the administration of elections. An attacker would only have had to hack ESS and then use its network to slip into a county's election-management system when the two systems made a remote connection.

As for the 2002 Alabama election, ESS's involvement has been a matter of published record for some time. From an article at In These Times, by reporter Bev Harris:

In the Alabama 2002 general election, machines made by Election Systems and Software (ESS) flipped the governor’s race. Six thousand three hundred Baldwin County electronic votes mysteriously disappeared after the polls had closed and everyone had gone home. Democrat Don Siegelman’s victory was handed to Republican Bob Riley, and the recount Siegelman requested was denied. Three months after the election, the vendor shrugged. “Something happened. I don’t have enough intelligence to say exactly what,” said Mark Kelley of ESS.

When I began researching this story in October 2002, the media was reporting that electronic voting machines are fun and speedy, but I looked in vain for articles reporting that they are accurate. I discovered four magic words, “voting machines and glitch,” which, when entered into a search engine, yielded a shocking result: A staggering pile of miscounts was accumulating. These were reported locally but had never been compiled in a single place, so reporters were missing a disturbing pattern.

I published a compendium of 56 documented cases in which voting machines got it wrong.

How do voting-machine makers respond to these reports? With shrugs. They indicate that their miscounts are nothing to be concerned about. One of their favorite phrases is: “It didn’t change the result.”

Except, of course, when it did.

Did a vulnerable system change the result of the Alabama 2002 governor's race? Was Bob Riley ever the legitimate governor of Alabama? Reasonable people have been asking those questions for 15 years or so. The latest reports on ESS provide even more reasons to ask those questions.


Anonymous said...

I read about this last week and didn't give much thought to the Don Siegelman-Bob Riley race. Pretty darned interesting to know this company was involved in that race.

Anonymous said...

Bob Riley probably owns stock in that company.

T Striker said...

If there is a way to cheat, the Rileys will find it.

Anonymous said...

Curious that this Nebraska-based company happens to have a branch office in Birmingham.

Anonymous said...

This needs to be investigated. Did the system in Baldwin County in 2002 have remote access?

Anonymous said...

Bill Pryor needs to lead the investigation. He's the one who made sure there was no recount.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Alabama MSM will be all over this.

They are experts at ignoring big stories that are right under their noses.

Anonymous said...

@10:43 --

John Archibald will be on it as soon as he finishes polishing his Pulitzer Prize.

Anonymous said...

@10:39 --

Pryor's not available. He has a photo shoot scheduled with Bad Puppy.

Anonymous said...

I see the Facebook trolls are attacking again. Amazing that Facebook can't figure out a better way to handle that problem.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:05 --

Agreed. Facebook essentially "blames the victim,: instead of identifying the trolls and shutting them down.

It seems FB treats every complaint as legitimate and immediately cast the burden on complainee, instead of the complainer.

Anonymous said...

I would rank that 2002 Alabama race as the most blatant case of election theft in U.S. history.

Anonymous said...

My memory is that a GOP operative named Dan Gans generally is given "credit" for stealing the votes from Siegelman.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:11 --

Yes, I think Gans pretty much bragged that he changed the numbers. Here is a story about it:

legalschnauzer said...

Here is key info from the Locust Fork article with the URL above --

Siegelman received 19,070 votes in Baldwin County and beat Riley by 3,139 votes there. And he won statewide by an initial count showing him with 674,052 to Rileys 670,913 – a margin of 3,139 votes, the closest ever reported in an Alabama election.

But sometime during the night after everyone else went home, a Riley campaign worker by the name of Dan Gans – who had served as Riley’s chief of staff both in Montgomery and Washington and went on to work with the Alexander Strategy Group, which has been repeatedly implicated in the Abramoff corrupt lobbying scandal – set up a laptop computer in the Baldwin County courthouse and changed the results, sources say. (Other sources say it was not Dan Gans, but another Riley aide. A Congressional investigation could get to the bottom of this).

In other words, he committed “electronic ballot stuffing” by changing the vote totals digitally, subtracting 6,334 votes from the Siegelman column.

Gans bills himself as a Republican “voting technology expert” and brags on a now defunct Website about his role in implementing “a state of the art ballot security system that was critical to securing Governor-elect Rileys narrow margin of victory (3,120 votes).”

legalschnauzer said...

Here is a HuffPost interview with Thom Hartmann and Don Siegelman, where Siegelman discusses Dan Gans and Kitty McCullough, a Rove associate who is believed to have been involved in the election theft:

legalschnauzer said...

From the Hartmann-Siegelman interview:

Don Siegelman: Yes, a couple of other interesting things, Thom, since you brought this up, but the two people who either were given credit or who gave themselves credit for stealing the election and swinging the election to my Republican opponent for catching this ‘electronic glitch’ as they called it, one was Karl Rove’s partner, business partner, her name was Kitty McCullough also known as Kelly, oh gosh, I can’t remember what her second name was but she had a different married name.

Thom Hartmann: But she’s the one who discovered the extra votes that caused you to lose and caused Bob Riley to won, OK.

Don Siegelman: And the other person was a guy named Dan Gans who right after that went to work for an Abramoff/Tom Delay related company, a group called the Alexander Strategies Group. And he claimed credit on his web site that he was responsible for this, because he had an expertese in electronic ballot security.

Anonymous said...

And why Alabamians need to right this wrong and put Joseph Seigleman in office. He will then become the Democrat that the fading Republican Party in Alabama cannot beat.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm opposed to electronic voting machines of any kind. I know paper ballots can be stashed and burned and hidden away. But, it just seems like it is practically impossible to ensure the security of the electronic machines.

Robby Scott Hill said...

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