Ohio. The major swing state in this year’s election is believed to hold the power to choose the next president of the United States. As Ohioans rush the voters’ booths today, they will be voting on machines that have just received some controversial upgrades … ordered by Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
“This is highly irregular, and the details of it are shrouded in secrecy and silence — the few, terse statements from Husted’s office on the matter have been self-contradictory and unhelpful,” notes Cory Doctorow.
Allegedly, Husted’s office signed a contract with ES&S, the nation’s largest e-voting system manufacturer, for a “new, last-minute piece of software created to the custom specifications of the secretary of state” According to Salon, the contract itself described the software as “high-level enhancements to ES&S’ election reporting software that extend beyond the current features and functionality of the software to facilitate a custom-developed State Election Results Reporting File.”
In other words, just days before the election, voting machines in 39 counties in Ohio received “secret, last minute, unaudited software updates.”
A November 1 memo from the Ohio secretary of state’s Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske confirmed the use of the the uncertified software. The memo, sent to a number of state election officials, claims that the program’s “function is to aid in the reporting of results [by converting them] into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State’s election night reporting system.”
Journalist Art Levine followed up on the story, noting that FreePress writer Bob Fitrakis – along with lawyer Cliff Arnebeck – are filing a lawsuit against Husted and ES&S. The lawsuit, requiring immediate action, is purposed to “halt the use of secretly installed, unauthorized ‘experimental’ software in 39 counties’ tabulators.” Levine also reported that Arnebeck had discussed the matter with Cincinnati FBI. Arnebeck calls the entire situation a “flagrant violation of the law.”
“Before you add new software, you need approval of a state board,” says Arnebeck. “They are installing an uncertified, suspect software patch that interfaces between the county’s vote tabulation equipment and state tabulators.”
While the software will not be added to actual voting machines, it will be added to voting tabular machines, which ultimately add up the votes at the end of the voting period. Some have requested that a paper trail be allowed for all votes, meaning that once a person electronically votes, a paper slip confirms the vote. That way, voters are allowed to confirm that the machine correctly tabulated their vote. It also allows a paper trail in case votes need to be re-counted (not that that’s even happened before in the history of America.)
Salon notes that “by describing [the updates] it as ‘experimental’ software … the state is attempting to skirt the legal requirements for state testing and certification by the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners.”
Readers: Do you think the last-minute updates to voting machines any cause for alarm?