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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN)
To pick up the morning paper and see the word "recount" in a headline stirs an ominous case of déjà vu.
At issue in recent days in Palm Beach County is a local judicial race that is hardly of national note. But problems with administering the local election, and statements from county officials that some critics call confusing, if not contradictory, have some worried about the coming presidential election
Accurate ballot count in Palm Beach County proves elusive.
Three weeks after a judicial race went before voters, discrepancies in the number of ballots cast are still unresolved.
Just when Palm Beach County election officials thought they were within minutes of putting a three-week nightmare of a judicial race behind them, yet another ballot-counting problem surfaced Sunday.
Instead of announcing a winner in the race between Circuit Judge Richard Wennet and his challenger, attorney Bill Abramson, the election canvassing board adjourned to give its staff time to figure out why the ballot counts did not add up properly.
During the 2000 election, Palm Beach, Fla., resident Sandy Blank watched, horrified, as her county became a mess of butterfly ballots, hanging chads, erroneous votes for Pat Buchanan—and a national punch line. (The Onion rechristened the state "Flori-duh.") The voting disaster inspired civic activism: Blank become a Palm Beach poll worker. "I wanted to change things," she says. Instead, six weeks before the presidential election, the situation there is as messy as ever, and a botched primary in late August only underscored the threat of another calamity. In that primary, roughly 3,500 votes went missing; then, after an audit, there were more ballots than voters, which should be impossible. But this is Palm Beach. "It's a crisis of confidence," says Blank, reporting a paltry 3 percent turnout at her polling station.
Voting-technology experts say that Palm Beach represents a checklist of how not to run elections. The county—with an assist from the state government—responded to the 2000 election in precisely the wrong way: by repeatedly switching voting machines rather than settling on one type and training people on it. "Switching technology is the fun, shiny stuff, but it's pointless," says Thad Hall, author of "Electronic Elections." "You need to focus on the procedures." On Nov. 4, however, Palm Beach will use its third system in three presidential elections. Most systems have similar accuracy rates, and the touchscreens that Palm Beach used in 2004 worked fine—but those were scrapped because of a new state law requiring paper ballots. "It's a lot to ask us and the voters to keep switching," says Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty. That law prompted another potential gaffe: the ballot design that Palm Beach settled on for 2008. Design experts recommend simple, familiar "fill in the oval" ballots; Palm Beach is going with "complete the arrow" ballots, where voters draw a line to finish an arrow next to candidates' names. Research shows error rates with "arrow" ballots are about 33 percent higher than those with "oval" ballots.
The Honorable Kurt S. Browning
Florida Secretary of State
400 S Monroe St
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Dear Secretary Browning:
I am writing to express my grave concerns and those of my constituents in South Florida regarding the preparedness of Palm Beach County for the November elections. With the spotlight of another close national election likely to fall once again on Florida, it is even more critical that every precinct in the State is adequately prepared for the election.
As a long-standing advocate of voter verified paper ballots, I share your belief that the system you and Governor Crist have put in place is fundamentally sound and is indeed the best possible ballot option for Florida. Of course, the election system is much more than simply the ballots and the machines alone, and it is in this regard that I have concerns about Palm Beach County.
I would like to thank you for your willingness to discuss these issues with me at some length. As we discussed, ballot accountability is of paramount importance and must be greatly improved as Palm Beach County adjusts to its new systems. The processes to fully track ballots from the time they are cast, leave the polling places, and are moved to the tabulation sites must be improved so that Palm Beach County can confidently maintain full account of every ballot cast especially during the hectic hours when the ballots are being collected and counted. I trust that your recommendations regarding improving election night processes would also benefit this process greatly.
Your advice and the assistance of your staff, to the extent Florida law permits, with regard to training and augmentation of Palm Beach County Election office staff is essential to help ensure that this election is conducted in the most organized and professional way possible.
I believe that this is the most prudent course of action and know that your assistance in implementing these recommendations would be greatly appreciated by the County.
Furthermore, I look forward to continuing a dialogue with you in the coming weeks and after the election regarding additional improvements to Florida’s voting system, particularly restoring our strong manual recount laws as you have recommended.
Thank you for all your earnest work on behalf of Florida’s voters.
With warmest regards,
Voting machine manufacturer to assist in Palm Beach County elections
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH — The manufacturer of Palm Beach County's new optical-scan voting machines will have technical staff on hand in the Aug. 26 primary and Nov. 4 general election to help prevent a repeat of the county's electoral mishaps.
Vice President Phil Foster of Sequoia Voting Systems said in a memo to the county that he will be on hand to assist in technical matters and field questions from the media. So will at least three specialists trained in the tabulation software, precinct voting machines and the absentee ballot scanner.
One additional expert will be present to assist on Aug. 26, Foster wrote to county Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson.
The in-person support is required under the county's contract with Sequoia, company spokeswoman Michelle Shafer said.
Sequoia had a similar support staff on hand June 24 during a special election that marked the county's first run with the optical-scan machines. Still, nearly 700 votes went undiscovered until the day after the election.
"That type of scenario will be unlikely to happen again," Shafer said. "We all learn from our mistakes."
Foster's memo followed the county commission's demand that Sequoia spell out in writing what support it will supply for the next two elections.
"We're going to have the appropriate people here, and we will be thoroughly prepared for everything," said Robert Weiner, an administrative aide to Anderson.
palm beach post
March 20, 2008 2:42 PM PDT
Sequoia Voting Systems site hacked
Part of the Sequoia Voting Systems Web site was defaced and subsequently taken down on Thursday, according to a report in InfoWorld. As CNET prepared this blog, the entire Sequoia Voting System site was frequently inaccessible.
The defacement and subsequent takedown occurred Thursday morning on the company's Ballot Blog page. Sequoia is one of a handful of electronic voting companies used in the United States. It has in recent days come under fire for apparent discrepancies in voter tallies in last month's New Jersey primary election.
Dear Professors Felten and Appel:
As you have likely read in the news media, certain New Jersey election officials have stated that they plan to send to you one or more Sequoia Advantage voting machines for analysis. I want to make you aware that if the County does so, it violates their established Sequoia licensing Agreement for use of the voting system. Sequoia has also retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any non-compliant analysis. We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property.
Very truly yours,
Sequoia Voting Systems
CEO and President of Sequoia and SVS Holdings, Inc., Jack Blaine's admission, to company employees on a conference call, that SVS/Sequoia, in fact, does not control the Intellectual Property of Sequoia voting systems voting machines, but Smartmatic does.
The arrangement seems to be in violations of an agreement with the U.S. Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) who had been reviewing Venezuela's ties to Smartmatic/Sequoia until Smartmatic agreed to divest of the company, in a deal which purportedly sold off all control of Sequoia to SVS, Holdings, Inc.
Smartmatic is organized around three business areas: Electronic voting systems, integrated security systems , and systems for people registration and authentication for government applications.
Smartmatic has offices in the US, Mexico, Venezuela, Barbados, Spain, Philippines and Taiwan.
Drug Pilot, Drug Pilot, Election Exec Killed on CIA Plane
May 7, 2008
by Daniel Hopsicker
One week after the crash outside Caracas, Venezuela of a twin-engine Piper Navajo (N6463L), an air of intrigue surrounds almost everything about the flight, including the plane's ownership, passengers, and pilot.
Woven into one small story about a plane crash in Venezuela that killed seven people are visible threads from two perennial American cover-ups: one surrounding vote fraud, and one covering-up the CIA's role in drug trafficking.
For anyone interested in the news that gets left out of the newspaper, its’ a Perfect Storm. The Mother of All Scandals.
The downed plane's relevance to the ongoing story of vote fraud in America involves the identity of it's passenger, Jose Alfredo Anzola, a 34-year old founder of Smartmatic, a Venezuela-based election company whose American subsidiary counted one in every three votes in the 2004 Presidential election, while engaged the whole time in heated controversy over allegations the firm counting America's votes had hidden ties to—of all people— Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
The connection between last week's plane crash and the ongoing saga of CIA Drug trafficking begins with 43-year old Mario Donadi Gafaro, the veteran drug pilot at the controls of the twin engine plane.
Donadi boasts a 1999 drug trafficking conviction in the U.S., where he served three years.
Then, even more recently, he was convicted of the same offense in Venezuela, and sentenced to an eight-year stretch at Venezuela’s Big House.
When he crashed and burned last week, reporters noted with surprise, he still had six years to serve. Donadi was supposed to be in prison.
But he apparently has friends in high places.
New York state is in the process of replacing its lever voting machines with new voting equipment, but the state revealed recently that it has found problems with 50 percent of the roughly 1,500 ImageCast optical-scan machines (shown in the video above) that Sequoia Voting Systems has delivered to the state so far -- machines that are slated to be used by dozens of counties in the state's September 9 primary and November 4 presidential election.
Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, expressed frustration with the vendor, saying it appeared that Sequoia was using the state's acceptance testing process to find problems with its machines in lieu of a sound quality-control process.
"There's no way the vendor could be adequately reviewing the machines and having so many problems," he told Threat Level. "What it tells us is that the vendor just throws this stuff over the transom and does not do any alpha- or beta-testing of their own before they apply for certification testing. Then they expect that we'll identify technical glitches and then they'll correct those glitches. But correction of those glitches is an extraordinarily time-consuming process. And its very disappointing that this equipment is not ready for prime time."
Twenty states and the District of Columbia plan to use Sequoia Voting Systems in what is shaping up to be the third questionable presidential "election" in a row
Most recently on September 9th the nation’s capitol saw a meltdown, D.C. election officials blamed a defective computer memory cartridge for producing what appeared to be thousands of write-in votes that officials say did not exist. In the Republican at-large race, 1,560 write-ins at 9:50 p.m. dwindled to 18 by 12:16 a.m. Thousands of votes were added to individual candidates, inflating vote totals. At 9:50 p.m. 8,246 ballots were recorded in the at-large Republican primary, but that shrank to 3,735 by 12:16 a.m. The numbers were so bizarre that the malfunction was caught and corrected. But how it happened remains something of a mystery. Sequoia Voting Systems, says that its database and software functioned just fine, and pointed to static electricity or other possibilities.
Edit: This concludes the OP, I hope you find it interesting if not disturbing.
- In Palm Beach a recount this September 1 found 3,400 fewer votes than the original count. Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson is unable to explain the new totals, the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board is showing veteran jurist Richard Wennet leading by just 60 votes. Three weeks after the election the race is still unresolved and last week after looking for missing ballots, the Canvassing Board now has more ballots than were originally counted.
- In Arkansas during an election this spring 45 votes cast in one race were added to the totals of an entirely different race that wasn’t even on the same ballot.
- Last year, Volusia County Florida was forced to replace over 300 memory cards on their voting machines due to manufacturing defects.
- Last year, Lawrence County Ohio had one race where the voting machines flipped the results between two candidates due to a programming error.
- In a hotly contested Florida congressional race in 2006, decided by less than 400 votes, 18,000 votes went missing.