I have come into possession of a
pair of letters written by a former Hart-Intercivic technician to the
Secretaries of State for Ohio and Texas. These letters detail a "long history of concealing problems" and a willingness to ignore potentially serious problems "largely for the sake of corporate profit".
When I read these letters, I
contacted the writer to verify his story and authorship. The technician
verified that he was the author and that the letters had been sent, but
did not wish to have his name revealed as he had sent the letters
privately to the two state Secretaries. He did not object to the
details of the letters being revealed as he was concerned about whether
the matter had been or would be addressed.
These letters were written the end of July and I held off until now in order to
give the relevant states the opportunity to do the right thing and investigate
these charges. The writer has never been contacted and I must assume that
election officials in Texas and Ohio just don't care.
The tech worked for H-I for over two years and left voluntarily because of what he believed to be "criminal
fraud, extreme negligence, and a distinct and troubling pattern of
failure to uphold the public trust both in violations of the spirit of
its contracts [and] also in concealing problems in an industry which so
crucially represents the public interest."
The technician addressed problems
in Ohio, which he saw while working for H-I, and problems in Tarrant
County, Texas, which is where he went to work after leaving H-I.
In Ohio, he is concerned with three main problems:
- The computer submitted for
security testing in Ohio was not the same as the computers being
actually used in the field. EVM vendors are supposed to provide
"production models" of their units so that they can be evaluated by
both InfoSentry and Compuware (the vendors hired by the state to
evaluate the voting machines).
- H-I's eSlate is billed as
storing vote data randomly, so as to prevent specific votes from being
traced to specific people. The tech says that this is not true and that
simple remedial measures which could have addressed this flaw never
- H-I claimed to InfoSentry that it had an "ongoing information security awareness program" which it did not.
- H-I claimed to InfoSentry that
it maintained numerous documents on information security systems policy
for its employees. Our tech was never able to read any of these
documents or even find proof of their existance.
- H-I told the Ohio SoS that
election results are not transmitted over public networks, which is not
true as unofficial results were transmitted this way. A computer hooked
to a public network (like the Internet) is a system vulnerable to
- Compuware claimed that
safeguards were in place to prevent H-I computers from crashing. One
would assume that such a claim was based upon information supplied by
H-I. Our source says that systems crashed still occurred and that the
causes were seldom revealed to the customers.
- Compuware report claims that
storage cards containing vote data cannot be altered using the Windows
File System. While true, there are still many other easily procured
tools which CAN be used to alter the data.
- Compuware claims that error and audit entries are tracked. This is misleading because only SOME entries are tracked, not ALL.
Since Compuware was supposed to
audit H-I software we are left to wonder about these misleading claims.
Either Compuware failed to look closely at the system or they simply
accepted claims from H-I without question.
Something Rotten in Texas
After leaving H-I, our tech took
a job with the Office of the Tarrant County Elections Administrator,
which had equipment from Hart-Intercivic and ES&S.
Once there, he discovered more of
the same problems he had found at H-I in Ohio, along with shenanigans
from repeat offender, ES&S.
What makes the situation scarier
is the report of "shockingly inappropriate management decisions",
"unethical decisions and erratic behavior" by Robert Parten, the
According to our insider, Parten
displayed a "blatant disregard for election law" and a "poor
understanding of and interference with important technical aspects of
the election systems".
- Invalid entries in the audit
trail generated by H-I's election generation software. These problems
could have been corrected, but Parten refused to allow the correction,
meaning that any audit of the voting system would be immediately
questioned due to the invalid entries.
- Public tests of the voting
system were conducted improperly. When problems arose during the tests,
they were corrected by altering the election database, which should
have required a repeat of the public test, which was not done.
- Individuals required to be present to validate testing were not present for some or all of the tests.
- H-I sold equipment to the (card
readers) to the county claiming that it was faster and would prevent
corruption problems with ballot cards. In fact, internal testing showed
that it did neither and seems to have been sold only to fatten H-I's
- H-I sent a poorly trained tech in to do contract support work, which then had to be corrcted by staff techs.
H-I knew that despite its claims
of "triple-redundant vote storage", problems occurred that still
resulted in lost votes. Tarrant County was never told this until the
problems appeared in elections. H-I then said it could recover lost
votes, but that the units had to be shipped to Colorado to facilitate
the repair. This was utter nonsense and the real reason was to keep the
process for recovering votes secret. At this point, H-I would also
reveal that the process didn't always work.
- ES&S persuaded other
counties, and pressured Tarrant Co. to go along with a plan to force
approval by the Texas SoS of uncertified software patches. The idea was
to get enough counties asking for the patch (with the implied threat
that the machines would not function correctly come election day) that
the SoS would feel compelled to approve the request. This operation was
personally conducted by ES&S vice president Tom Eschberger (the
same Tom Eschberger who took an immunity deal for his involvement in a bribery/kickback scandal in Arkansas).
- Sensitive computers engaged in
vote tabulation were left unprotected because Parten prohibited the
assignment of passwords to them, claiming such changes a violation of
- Sensitive computers, documentation, memory cards, and software media were not properly secured or kept track of.
- Anti-tampering devices were used improperly or not at all.
- County IT techs would routinely
work on election computers, installing anti-virus software which caused
the machines to crash due to incompatability with election software.
Remote control software was installed on a computer containing
sensitive election information.
- Tarrant county failed to perform regular and routine backups of their computers.
- H-I performed fixes of "on the fly" reports during elections, even while results were coming in.
In summing up his concerns, the
tech reports being baffled by Parten's "continued work with these
election companies; even after admissions of concealing software
problems, inappropriate pressure, hints of backroom deals, and poor
I asked him further about "backroom deals" and he replied:
Both vendors would hint at
discounts, extra support that might be available, ES&S drastically
cut their price on a software upgrade, the one I mentioned for the
FEB[ruary] election, to try to entice Tarrant to upgrade further.
Nothing dramatic while I was there, but the staff reported, and other
people I've worked with as a Hart employee have reported that vendors
have either made or suggested things that were inappropriate, or they
had heard things and had reason to believe them. I cannot be more
specific here, let's just say I know for a fact it was happening in the
industry, though I don't know that Hart did anything like that in any
As you know, ES&S has
repeatedly been investigated for bribery. In a competitive market, when
a company like Hart loses a deal unexpectedly, let's just say you hear
things. If you want some concrete example of inappropriate influence,
an obvious one, look to Diebold offering to put offices in counties
that bought their product. It's happened more than once.
Once again, here is a prime
example of why our vote should not be in the hands of private
contractors. When you mix greedy and unethical vendors with clueless or
"pliable" public servants, you get a concoction toxic to democracy.
Texans and Ohioans, you need to
get on the phone with your Secretaries of State and find out what they
are doing about this problem.
Fax (512) 475-2811
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Letter to Geoffrey Conner
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to J. Kenneth Blackwell
Hart-Intercivic has e-voting machines in:
Orange Co. CA
Tarrant Co. TX
Harris Co. TX
Travis Co. TX
Brazos Co. TX
Yakima Co. WA
Catawba Co. NC