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Free Press’ Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman awarded for 4th Most Censored Story of 2016

Project Censored logo and statue of liberty

Project Censored has chosen Search Engine Algorithms and Electronic Voting Machines Could Swing 2016 Election as the 4th “Most Censored Story of 2016” with contributions by Free Press writers and editors Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman.

“Because courts have ruled that source code is proprietary, private companies that own electronic voting machines are essentially immune to transparent public oversight, as Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis documented,” Project Censored wrote. “On Democracy Now! and elsewhere, Wasserman and Fitrakis have advocated universal, hand-counted paper ballots and automatic voter registration as part of their ‘Ohio Plan’ to restore electoral integrity.”

Every year for 40 years, Project Censored, located at Sonoma State University in California, has chosen the 25 most censored stories of the year.

To read about Project Censored and their top censored stories of 2016, go to:

http://www.cvindependent.com/index.php/en-US/news/features/item/3367-censored-stories-2016-the-10-big-stories-the-media-has-largely-missed-or-ignored-over-the-last-year

or

http://projectcensored.org/

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Another Husted Dirty Trick In Ohio: Secretary of State’s Office admits direct reporting function of untested election software

by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
November 5, 2012

Citizen concerns about untested software have multiplied since the Columbus Free Press broke the news that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office installed uncertified and untested software on the central vote tabulation machines in up to 39 counties in the state.

Memos circulated amongst senior staff at the Ohio Secretary of States’ indicate that they consider this skirting of Ohio Election Law is justified because the software does not directly tabulate or communicate actual votes. Their statements to the mainstream press reveal a different set of facts about the software and a different justification.

In statements to the theGrio, NBC’s political blog, SOS spokesman Matt McClellan said the software is to “assist counties and to help them simplify the process by which they report the results to our system.” and that it was deemed experimental because “It is a pilot project that we’re doing with about 25 counties or so. So it’s not statewide, but it is a pilot project we’re trying.”

Ohio election law does not allow software or hardware to be used in election until it has been tested or certified by the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners unless it is experimental. The confidential internal memos indicate that this software was never tested because of claims that it is not involved with the tabulation or communication of votes. Reporting election results from county tabulation systems to the secretary of state’s office, which is the purpose of this software as explained by McClellan, is in fact communication of votes.

The potential federal illegality of this software has been hidden from public scrutiny by the Secretary of State’s Election Counsel Brandi Seske. In a September 29 memo, Seske wrote, “Please see the attached letter from Matt Masterson regarding de minimis changes – one submitted by ES&S and one by Dominion Voting Systems. He has reviewed and approved the changes.” “De minimis” is a legal term for minute. Federal election regulations have a very specific definition of de minimis. This definition was clarified to all state level agencies in a federal Elections Assistance Commission memo dated February 8, 2012 entitled “Software and Firmware modifications are not de minimis changes.”

Ohio election law provides for experimental equipment only in a limited number of precincts per county. Installing uncertified and untested software on central tabulation equipment essential affects every single precinct in a given county. Nowhere in the memos circulated by Seske, nor in the contract, is the software called “experimental.”

The Secretary of State’s office has given one questionable justification to its own Board of Voting Machine Examiners and another to the public.

The contract provides for testing, performed jointly by the counties and the vendor within 30 days of the software being installed. This testing was required to be independent and overseen by the Board of Voting Machine Examiners, as required by Ohio law.

McClellan told theGrio “I’m not sure the exact timeline of that [the installation and testing], but I know we’ve been working with the counties for the past couple of months on getting these in place, testing them to make sure they work properly, and working with the vendors as well.”

This uncertified and untested software could easily malfunction and corrupt votes on the central tabulation machines, thus destroying any electronic record of the actual votes by citizens. This “experimental” software, as outlined in the contract, has no security protocols. A “man in the middle” attack, like the one that stole the Ohio election for George W. Bush in 2004, could be directly facilitated by this untested and uncertified software installation.

The Secretary of State’s office has used every legal contortion to avoid the use of science and the possibility of public scrutiny of this possibly illegal software. The Free Press will continue to report on this story as it develops.


Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at the Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press. He holds Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

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The Free Press confirms installation, secret justification of uncertified last minute election tabulation reporting software in Ohio


by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
November 2, 2012

The Free Press has obtained internal memos from the senior staff of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office confirming the installation of untested and uncertified election tabulation software. Yesterday, the Free Press reported that “experimental” software patches were installed on ES&S voting machines in 39 Ohio counties. (see Will “experimental” software patches affect the Ohio vote?).

Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske circulated a memo dated November 1st renewing the already shaky justification for installing software made by Election Systems and Solutions on vote tabulation equipment used in 39 Ohio counties. The letter to Ohio Secretary of State personnel Matt Masterson, Danielle Sellars, Myra Hawkins, Betsy Schuster, and Ohio’s Director of Elections Matthew Damschroder, clarified the dubious justification for not complying with the legal requirements for the examination of all election related equipment.

Seske begins by explaining what she purports to be the purpose of the software patch: “Its function is to aid in the reporting of results that are already uploaded into the county’s system. The software formats results that have already been uploaded by the county into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State’s election night reporting system.”

According to the contract between the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and ES&S, this last minute “experimental” software update will supposedly transmit custom election night reports to the Secretary of State’s office from the county boards of elections, bypassing the normal election night reporting methods.

In order to justify this unusual parallel reporting method, Seske explains “It is not part of the certified Unity system, so it did not require federal testing.” This attempt to skirt federal and state law from one of the most partisan Secretary of State offices in the nation ignores basic facts of how modern information systems function.

Seske continues “Because the software is not 1) involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots (or in communicating between systems involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots) or 2) a modification to a certified system, the BVME [Board of Voting Machine Examiners] was not required to review the software.” These claims are factually unsound. The software, although not communicating actual ballot information, facilitates communication between systems upon which votes are tabulated and stored. Although the software purports to not modify the tabulation system software, it is itself a modification to the whole tabulation system. This is why certification and testing is required in all cases.

Just as in 2004, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office has enabled the possibility of a “man in the middle” attack. This software, functioning on a network through which votes are transmitted could act to intercept, alter or destroy votes from counties where it is not even installed, hence the “man in the middle” nickname.

On September 19, the last minute contract between ES&S and the Ohio Secretary of State’s office was inked. Within a week, Seske wrote “He [Matt Masterson] has reviewed and approved the changes.” Masterson is the Deputy Director of Elections. After Masterson’s approval, Seske acted to bypass the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners required review.

“Pursuant to the board’s policy, each change will be approved unless three members of the BVME request a meeting to review a change within 15 days of today’s date. Given the proximately of the upcoming election, please let me know as soon as possible whether you will be requesting a meeting to review the changes,” wrote Seske.

Government reports such as Ohio’s Everest study document that any single change to the system could corrupt the whole voting process.

An unelected, partisan group of attorneys appears to have conspired to install election software without testing and certification that they are professionally unqualified to pass judgment upon. These types of last minute installations of software patches on voting machines are considered suspect by knowledgeable and experienced election protection attorneys, in light of all the voting machine irregularities exposed during the 2004 election in Ohio.

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Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at the Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press. He holds Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

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Wisconsin: The Theft of the Recall Bob Fitrakis interviewed by Jim Fetzer

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Will “Push And Pray” Voting Prevail In 2012? The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

Bob Fitrakis

April 11, 2012

The Private Companies behind The Curtain: The Great And Powerful Advocates Of Faith-Based Electronic Voting

In this election year, the most important companies to watch are two you’ve probably never heard of — Smartech and Triad.

In the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck worked closely with the late Michael Connell, the CEO of New Media Communications. Connell was Karl Rove’s IT guru before his untimely death in a suspicious plane crash. As the FreePress.org has previously reported, then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell contracted with Averbeck to provide back-up computer services to report Ohio’s official election results.

Ohio Secretary of State’s office claimed they were unable to tabulate Ohio’s votes within the state in real time because their computers had a supposed “denial of service” attack in the wee hours of the morning after the 2004 Election Day. Vote tabulations were then shifted to the Old Pioneer Bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Averbeck ran his internet service company Smartech. (See New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked)

Averbeck’s Airnet Group, Inc., doing business as Smartech, is a key company in the private, well-connected Republican world of electronic election systems. According to Airnet Group’s website it is a “…a leading of advanced Internet hosting, network and application solutions for business, delivery services via secure state-of-the-art Internet Data Centers.”

Airnet started as a staffing firm in 1994. The Chattanooga Times Free Press quotes Averbeck as saying he “…backed into political work” when he was hired to solve the Republican National Committee’s internet problems in the 2000 presidential election.

During the 2004 presidential election, Averbeck told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that his company had dedicated six web servers to handle his political business and was “negotiating for more broadband capacity to handle the growing demand for electronic political information.” In August 2004, Smartech hosted the Republican National Convention’s website as well as the Bush-Cheney campaign website – www.georgewbush.com.

The GOP paid Smartech $2.3 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to SourceWatch.

Prior to emerging as owner of the premier internet hosting company for Republicans in the United States, Averbeck had been affiliated with Pathway Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. “Pathway provides award-winning magazines, books, and innovative discipleship curriculum materials for the Church of God and to the wider Evangelical and Pentecostal community,” according to its website.

In 2006, Smartech earned even more money, $3.3 million, from the Republican Party.

Averbeck and Connell not only teamed up in Ohio during the controversial 2004 election in Ohio, but also worked with notorious political operative Paul J. Manafort on the 2004 campaign of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine. The U.S. State Department accused Yanukovych’s campaign of rigging that election. Only a massive outcry by the Ukrainian people reversed those election results.

In 2010, with Connell deceased, Averbeck and Manafort once again worked on Yanukovich’s campaign. Allegations of election rigging emerged once again. This time, despite the charges of an election fix, Yanukovich was declared the winner.

While Connell’s New Media designed the Ohio election reporting system in 2004, Smartech hosted the back-up vote tabulation. The maintenance on the electronic voting machine maintenance in Ohio was done by primarily by a third secretive right-wing company, Triad. The Rapp family owns Triad Governmental Systems, also known as Triad GSI and the following companies: Rapp Systems, Corp.; Psephos Corp.; and Odyssey Online.

Connell, Averbeck and the Rapps — or New Media, Smartech and Triad — were all heavily committed to the Right-to-Life movement and far-right Republican politics.

The Rapp family, led by patriarch Tod A. Rapp of Xenia, Ohio, emerged in the public eye in 2000 after it was revealed that Psephos Corp. designed the infamous butterfly ballot in Florida. Tod Rapp started his first company, Rap Systems Corp. in 1979. In 1983, Tod Rapp and David E. Snoddy incorporated Triad Governmental Systems, Inc. Its stated purpose was “…to develop, promote, sell, distribute, market and service computer systems, software, and hardware and to consult with federal, state and local government authorities and private industry.”

During the recount of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, allegations were made that the Rapp family was aiding in rigging the recount for George W. Bush. Triad Governmental Systems maintained the computers in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, mainly in southern rural counties. In the last statewide election, public records indicate that Triad now services the computers in 57 of the 88 counties. Following their notoriety in the 2004 elections, Triad Governmental Systems started marketing itself as Triad GSI.

The Rapp family is well-known in the Greene County Right to Life movement. In Triad GSI’s website, the company says “It is our desire to develop the highest quality election software and hardware systems available in the elections business.”

In September 2011, Averbeck announced he was planning to build new data centers in Ohio and California but is committed to staying in his highly secured site in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Averbeck, the Rapp family, Smartech and Triad — these are the private, far-Christian Right companies that will be counting the vote on Election Day 2012 in the Buckeye State.


Originally published by http://freepress.org