Activists Show Alleged Vote Machine Flaws

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Sat Sep 25 2004 - 22:22:25 CDT


I went to the press conference in Washington DC by Bev Harris and others
on Wed Sept 22. I found the technical parts very straight forward and
convincing. I wonder how many others are aware of her information? I
copied one of the press kit documents below. Dr. Herbert Thompson and
Andy Stephenson demonstrated the hacks described below on Diebold
software. Jeremiah Akin demonstrated a hack on Sequoia software.

All this being public information, I wonder why everyone is not
screaming their heads off?

Most of the press, especially the NY Times, blew off the whole thing.

Kim Zetter had a respectful article.,2645,65031,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

Teresa Hommel

Consumer Report Part 1:

Look at this -- the Diebold GEMS central tabulator contains a stunning
security hole

Submitted by Bev Harris on Thu, 08/26/2004 - 11:43. Investigations

Issue: Manipulation technique found in the Diebold central tabulator --
1,000 of these systems are in place, and they count up to two million
votes at a time.

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes
is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer
matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals
from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and
to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security
measures to fully mitigate the risks.

This program is not "stupidity" or sloppiness. It was designed and
tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments.

Public officials: If you are in a county that uses GEMS 1.18.18, GEMS
1.18.19, or GEMS 1.18.23, your Secretary of State may not have told you
about this. You're the one who'll be blamed if your election is
tampered with. Find out for yourself if you have this problem: Black
Box Voting will be happy to walk you through a diagnostic procedure over
the phone. E-mail Bev Harris or Andy Stephenson to set up a time to do

Members of Congress and Washington correspondents: Harris and
Stephenson will be in Washington D.C. on Sept. 22 to demonstrate this
problem for you.

Whether you vote absentee, on touch-screens, or on paper ballot (fill in
the bubble) optical scan machines, all votes are ultimately brought to
the "mother ship," the central tabulator at the county which adds them
all up and creates the results report.

These systems are used in over 30 states and each counts up to two
million votes at once.

The central tabulator is far more vulnerable than the touch screen
terminals. Think about it: If you were going to tamper with an
election, would you rather tamper with 4,500 individual voting machines,
or with just one machine, the central tabulator which receives votes
from all the machines? Of course, the central tabulator is the most
desirable target.

Findings: The GEMS central tabulator program is incorrectly designed
and highly vulnerable to fraud. Election results can be changed in a
matter of seconds. Part of the program we examined appears to be
designed with election tampering in mind. We have also learned that
election officials maintain inadequate controls over access to the
central tabulator. We need to beef up procedures to mitigate risks.

Much of this information, originally published on July 8, 2003, has
since been corroborated by formal studies (RABA) and by Diebold's own
internal memos written by its programmers.

Not a single location has yet implemented the security measures needed
to mitigate the risk. Yet, it is not too late. We need to tackle this
one, folks, roll up our sleeves, and implement corrective measures.

In Nov. 2003, Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris, and director Jim
March, filed a Qui Tam lawsuit in California citing fraudulent claims by
Diebold, seeking restitution for the taxpayer. Diebold claimed its
voting system was secure. It is, in fact, highly vulnerable to and
appears to be designed for fraud.

The California Attorney General was made aware of this problem nearly a
year ago. Harris and Black Box Voting Associate Director Andy
Stephenson visited the Washington Attorney General's office in Feb. 2004
to inform them of the problem. Yet, nothing has been done to inform
election officials who are using the system, nor have appropriate
security safeguards been implemented. In fact, Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger
recently froze the funds, allocated by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley,
which would have paid for increased scrutiny of the voting system in

On April 21, 2004, Harris appeared before the California Voting Systems
Panel, and presented the smoking gun document showing that Diebold had
not corrected the GEMS flaws, even though it had updated and upgraded
the GEMS program.

On Aug. 8, 2004, Harris demonstrated to Howard Dean how easy it is to
change votes in GEMS, on CNBC TV.

On Aug. 11, 2004, Jim March formally requested that the California
Voting Systems Panel watch the demonstration of the double set of books
in GEMS. They were already convened, and the time for Harris was
already allotted. Though the demonstration takes only 3 minutes, the
panel refused to allow it and would not look. They did, however, meet
privately with Diebold afterwards, without informing the public or
issuing any report of what transpired.

On Aug. 18, 2004, Harris and Stephenson, together with computer security
expert Dr. Hugh Thompson, and former King County Elections Supervisor
Julie Anne Kempf, met with members of the California Voting Systems
Panel and the California Secretary of State's office to demonstrate the
double set of books.

The Secretary of State's office halted the meeting, called in the
general counsel for their office, and a defense attorney from the
California Attorney General's office. They refused to allow Black Box
Voting to videotape its own demonstration. They prohibited any
audiotape and specified that no notes of the meeting could be requested
in public records requests.

The undersecretary of state, Mark Kyle, left the meeting early, and one
voting panel member, John Mott Smith, appeared to sleep through the

On Aug. 23, 2004, CBC TV came to California and filmed the demonstration.

On Aug 30 and 31, Harris and Stephenson will be in New York City to
demonstrate the double set of books for any public official and any TV
crews who wish to see it.

On Sept. 1, another event is planned in New York City, and on Sept. 22,
Harris and Stephenson intend to demonstrate the problem for members and
congress and the press in Washington D.C.

Diebold has known of the problem, or should have known, because it did a
cease and desist on the web site when Harris originally reported the
problem in 2003. On Aug. 11, 2004, Harris also offered to show the
problem to Marvin Singleton, Diebold's damage control expert, and to
other Diebold execs. They refused to look.

Why don't people want to look? Suppose you are formally informed that
the gas tank tends to explode on the car you are telling people to use.
If you KNOW about it, but do nothing, you are liable.


1) Let there be no one who can say "I didn't know."

2) Let there be no election jurisdiction using GEMS that fails to
implement all of the proper corrective procedures, this fall, to
mitigate risk.

Consumer Report Part 2:

Problems with GEMS Central Tabulator

Submitted by Bev Harris on Thu, 08/26/2004 - 11:38. Investigations

This problem appears to demonstrate intent to manipulate elections, and
was installed in the program under the watch of a programmer who is a
convicted embezzler.

According to election industry officials, the central tabulator is
secure, because it is protected by passwords and audit logs. But it
turns out that the GEMS passwords can easily be bypassed, and the audit
logs can be altered and erased. Worse, the votes can be changed without
anyone knowing, including the officials who run the election.

Multiple sets of books

The GEMS program runs on a Microsoft Access database. It typically
receives incoming votes by modem, though some counties follow better
security by disconnecting modems and bringing votes in physically.

GEMS stores the votes in a vote ledger, built in Microsoft Access. Any
properly designed accounting program will allow only one set of books.
You can't enter your expense report in three different places. All data
must be drawn from the same place, and multiple versions are never
acceptable. But in the files we examined, we found that the GEMS system
contained three sets of "books."

The elections official never sees the different sets of books. All she
sees is the reports she can run: Election summary (totals, county wide)
or a "Statement of Votes Cast" (totals for each precinct). She has no
way of knowing that her GEMS system uses a different set of data for the
detail report (used to spot check) than it does for the election
totals. The Access database, which contains the hidden set of votes,
can't be seen unless you know how to get in the back door -- which takes
only seconds.

Ask an accountant: It is never appropriate to have two sets of books
inside accounting software. It is possible to do computer programming
to create two sets of books, but dual sets of books are prohibited in
accounting, for this simple reason: Two sets of books can easily allow
fraud to go undetected. Especially if the two sets are hidden from the

A hidden trigger: The data tables in accounting software automatically
link up to each other to prevent illicit back door entries. In GEMS,
however, by typing a two-digit code into a hidden location, you can
decouple the books, so that the voting system will draw information from
a combination of the real votes and a set of fake votes, which you can
alter any way you see fit.

That's right, GEMS comes with a secret digital "on-off" switch to link
and unlink its multiple vote tables. Someone who tests GEMS, not
knowing this, will not see the mismatched sets of books. When you put a
two-digit code into a secret location can you disengage the vote tables,
so that tampered totals table don't have to match precinct by precinct
results. This way, it will pass a spot check -- even with paper ballots
-- but can still be rigged.

How and when did the double set of books get into GEMS?

Black Box Voting has traced the implementation of the double set of
books to Oct. 13, 2000, shortly after embezzler Jeffrey Dean became the
senior programmer. Dean was hired as Vice President of Research and
Development in September 2000, and his access to the programs is well
documented through internal memos from Diebold. The double set of books
appeared in GEMS version 1.17.7.

Almost immediately, according to the Diebold memos, another Diebold
programmer, Dmitry Papushin, flagged a problem with bogus votes
appearing in the vote tables. The double set of books remained, though,
going through several tweaks and refinements. From the time Jeffrey
Dean was hired in September, until shortly before the Nov. 2000
election, GEMS went through over a dozen changes, all retaining the new
hidden vote tables.

For four years, anyone who has known how to trigger the double set of
books has been able to use, or sell, the information to anyone they want.

Black Box Voting Associate Director Andy Stephenson has obtained the
court and police records of Jeffrey Dean. It is clear that he was under
severe financial stress, because the King County prosecutor was chasing
him for over $500,000 in restitution.

During this time, while Jeffrey Dean was telling the prosecutor (who
operated from the ninth floor of the King County Courthouse) that he was
unemployed, he was in fact employed, with 24-hour access to the King
County GEMS central tabulator -- and he was working on GEMS on the fifth
floor of the King County Courthouse. (Dean may now be spending his
nights on the tenth floor of the same building; after our investigations
appeared in Vanity Fair and the Seattle Times, Dean was remanded to a
work release program, and may be staying in the lockup in the courthouse

Jeffrey Dean, according to his own admissions, is subject to blackmail
as well as financial pressure over his restitution obligation. Police
records from his embezzlement arrest, which involved "sophisticated"
manipulation of computer accounting records, report that Dean claimed he
was embezzling in order to pay blackmail over a fight he was involved
in, in which a person died.

So now we have someone who's admitted that he's been blackmailed over
killing someone, who pleaded guilty to 23 counts of embezzlement, who is
given the position of senior programmer over the GEMS central tabulator
system that counts approximately 50 percent of the votes in the
election, in 30 states, both paper ballot and touch screen.

And just after he is hired, multiple sets of books appear in GEMS, which
can be decoupled, so that they don't need to match, by typing in a
secret 2-digit code in a specific location.

Dr. David Jefferson, technical advisor for California voting systems,
told Black Box Voting that he could see no legitimate reason to have the
double set of books in a voting program. He surmised that it might be
incredible stupidity.

Dr. Jefferson should speak to Jeffrey Dean's partners and those who
worked with him. "Stupid" is not how he is described. The descriptions
we get, from Dean's former business partner, and from others who worked
with him, are "sophisticated," "cunning," "very bright," "highly
skilled," and "a con man."

This is the man who supervised the programming for GEMS when the
multiple set of books was installed. Diebold, however, is the company
that did nothing about it.

Internal memos show that Dean was sent the passwords to the GEMS 1.18.x
files months after Diebold took over the elections company. Diebold
clearly did not examine the GEMS program before selling it, or, if it
did, chose not to correct the flaws. And after exposing this problem in
2003, Diebold still failed to correct it.

Elections were run on this tamper-inviting system for more than three
years, and anyone who knew could sell the vote-tampering secrets to
anyone they wanted to, at any time.

It has been a year since this report was first printed, and Diebold has
never explained any legitimate reason for this design, which is rather
elegant and certainly is not accidental.

Consumer Report Part 3:

More GEMS problems, and why current solutions/explanations won't work

Submitted by Bev Harris on Thu, 08/26/2004 - 11:33. Investigations

But do new security measures solve the problem?

The MS Access database is not passworded and can be accessed illicitly
through the back door simply by double-clicking the vote file. After we
published this report, we observed unpassworded access on the very
latest, GEMS 1.18.19 system in a county elections office.

Some locations removed the Microsoft Access software from their GEMS
computer, leaving the back door intact but, essentially, removing the
ability to easily view and edit the file.

However, you can easily edit the election, with or without Microsoft
Access installed on the GEMS computer. As computer security expert Hugh
Thompson demonstrated at the Aug. 18 California Secretary of State
meeting, you simply open any text editor, like "Notepad," and type a
six-line Visual Basic Script, and you own the election.

Some election officials claim that their GEMS central tabulator is not
vulnerable to this back door, because they limit access to the GEMS
tabulator room and they require a password to turn on the GEMS computer.


Any county that uses modems to transfer votes may inadvertently be
giving control of the entire central tabulator to anyone who gets at the
computer through the modem phone lines (even if it is NOT attached to
the Internet). This allows Diebold, or any individual, to manipulate
votes at their leisure, from any personal computer anywhere in the world.

Let's talk about getting at the central tabulator through telephone
lines: Mohave County, Arizona, for example, has six modems attached to
its GEMS computer on election night. King County, Washington has had up
to four dozen modems attached at once.

You will hear that the GEMS machine is stand alone, and is never
connected to the Internet. It does have an Internet component, called
"jresults," but nowadays most counties say that they do not hook GEMS up
to the Internet. They say that they remove the disk from the GEMS
computer and physically take it to another computer, from whence the
Internet feed comes. Very nice -- BUT:

You can access a computer through phone lines as well as through the
Internet. In fact, famous hacker Kevin Mitnick liked to hack through
telephone lines, not the Internet.

If you have the dial-in numbers, it is possible to get at the GEMS
computer from anywhere, using RAS. The dial-in protocols are given to
poll workers, many people in Diebold have them, lots of temps have them,
and the configurations have been sitting on the Internet for several years.

What if your county doesn't use any modems at all? That's excellent,
but here's what we found: Harris & Stephenson visited county elections
officials to ask for lists of names. We asked who was allowed to access
the central tabulator, after it was already turned on, and who is given
a password and permission to sit at the terminal?

Several officials told us they don't keep a list. Those who did, gave
us the names of too many people -- County employees (sometimes limited
to one or two); Diebold employees; Techs who work for the county, like
county database technicians, who also get access to GEMS; Printshops who
do the ballots have some access also.

Diebold "contractors," who are temporary workers hired by subcontractors
to Diebold were also reported to have gained access to the GEMS
tabulator. (Diebold accounts payable reports obtained by Black Box
Voting indicate that Diebold advertises for temps on,, and uses several temporary employment firms, including
Coast to Coast Temporary, Ran Temps Inc, and also works with many
subcontractors, like Wright Technologies, Total Technical Services, and
PDS Technical Services.)

What if there is a password even to get onto the GEMS computer itself?

There usually is. The problem is this: Once that computer is open and
running GEMS (on election night, for example), that password doesn't
much matter. Votes are pouring in pell-mell, and they aren't about to
shut that computer down until hours later, sometimes days later.

Also, Black Box Voting found another problem with the design of GEMS:
Check out the Audit Log, which is supposed to record everything that
happens. In every database, you find everyone logging on is the same
person, "admin."

There is a reason for this. We did not find a way in GEMS to log in as
a new user unless you close GEMS and reopen the file. Now who, on
election night, with votes pouring in, is going to close and reopen the
file? They don't. Instead, everyone calls themselves the same name,
"admin," thereby ruining the audit log (which can be easily erased and
changed anyway.)

What about counties that limit access to just one person, the county
elections supervisor?

We've found nowhere that actually does this. The reason: Elections
officials are dependent on the vendor, Diebold, during the election.

Suppose we have a computer whiz county official who is the ONLY person
who can access GEMS?

Unlikely, but if you do: "Trust, but verify." We should never have to
trust the sanctity of a million votes to just one person.

The following things can be done when you go in the back door in GEMS
using Microsoft Access:

1) You can change vote totals.

2) You can change flags, which act as digital "on-off" switches, to
cause the program to function differently. (According to internal
Diebold memos, there are 32 combinations of on-off flags. Even the
programmers have trouble keeping track of all the changes these flags
can produce.)

3) You can alter the audit log.

4) You can change passwords, access privileges, and add new users.

Let's talk about passwords

How many people can have passwords to GEMS? A sociable GEMS user can
give all his friends access to the vote database. We added 50 people,
and gave them all the same password, which was "password" -- so far, we
haven't found a limit to how many people can be granted access to the
election database.

Election meltdown

We found that you can melt down an election in six seconds, simply by
using the menu items in GEMS. You can destroy all data with two mouse
clicks, and with four mouse clicks, you can destroy the configuration of
the election making it very difficult to reload the original data.

Does GEMS even work as advertised? According to testimony given before
the Cuyahoga Elections Board, the Microsoft Access database design used
by Diebold's GEMS program apparently becomes unstable with high volume
input. This problem, according to Diebold, resulted in thousands of
votes being allocated to the wrong candidate in San Diego County in
March 2004.

The Audit Log

Britain J. Williams, Ph.D., is the official voting machine certifier for
the state of Georgia, and he sits on the committee that decides how
voting machines will be tested and evaluated. Here's what he had to say
about the security of Diebold voting machines, in a letter dated April
23, 2003:

"Computer System Security Features: The computer portion of the
election system contains features that facilitate overall security of
the election system. Primary among these features is a comprehensive
set of audit data. For transactions that occur on the system, a record
is made of the nature of the transaction, the time of the transaction,
and the person that initiated the transaction. This record is written
to the audit log. If an incident occurs on the system, this audit log
allows an investigator to reconstruct the sequence of events that
occurred surrounding the incident."

Since Dr. Williams listed the audit data as the primary security
feature, we decided to find out how hard it is to alter the audit log.

We went in the front door in GEMS and added a user named "Evildoer." We
had Evildoer perform various functions, including running reports to
check his vote-rigging work, but only some of his activities showed up
on the audit log. When we had Evildoer melt down the election, by
hitting "reset election" and declining to back up the files, he showed
up in the audit log.

No matter. It was a simple matter to eliminate Evildoer. We went in
through the back door and simply deleted all the references to Evildoer.

Microsoft Access encourages those who create audit logs to use
auto-numbering, so that every logged entry has an uneditable log
number. Then, if one deletes audit entries, a gap in the numbering
sequence will appear. However, we found that this feature was disabled,
allowing us to write in our own log numbers. We were able to add and
delete from the audit without leaving a trace.

Could the double set of books be legitimate?

 From a programming standpoint, there might be reasons to have a special
vote ledger that disengages from the real one. For example, election
officials might say they need to be able to alter the votes to add
provisional ballots or absentee ballots. If so, this calls into
question the training of these officials. If election officials are
taught to deal with changes by overwriting votes, regardless of whether
they do this in vote ledger 1 or vote ledger 2, this is improper.

Also, if it was legitimate, it would be a menu item in the GEMS program,
not executed in a hidden location triggered by a secret 2-digit code.
Nothing in the GEMS documentation describes the use of any feature like
this whatsoever.

Here's why we need to involve CPAs in vote tabulation regulations,
procedures, and design:

If changing election data is required, the corrective entry must be made
not by overwriting vote totals, but by making a corrective entry.

It is never acceptable to make changes by overwriting. Data corrections
should not be prohibited, but must always be done by indicating changes
through a clearly marked line item that preserves each transaction.

However, according to elections officials we interviewed, GEMS is
improperly designed, and cannot perform an adjustment, and you can't
journal changes that occur for weird reasons that really happen. (For
example, a poll worker might accidentally run ballots through twice.
You need to be able to correct this and still show your work.)

Instead of doing an adjustment and showing the explanation, retaining a
permanent record of everything that happened, a common procedure is to
wipe out the mistake, and simply overwrite it with new data. This is
completely improper, from an auditing standpoint.

It is certainly improper to have the summary reports come from the
second ledger, while pulling the spot check reports from the first
ledger, with a provision in the back door to allow these two ledgers to
be mismatched.

But there is more evidence that these extra sets of books are illicit:
If the extra set of books is legitimate, the county officials, whose
jurisdiction paid for and own the voting system, should be informed of
such functions. Yet Diebold has not explained to county officials why
it is there at all, and in most cases, never even told them these
functions exist.

As a member of commented when we originally published this
information: "This is not a bug, it's a feature."

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Received on Thu Sep 30 23:17:09 2004

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