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E-Vote Questions Linger Over Cleland's 2002 Loss

By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (November 23, 2008)

(APN) ATLANTA – Lingering questions regarding former US Sen. Max Cleland’s (D-GA) loss in 2002 to US Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are resurfacing in the last days of Democrat Jim Martin’s Run-off Election with Chambliss.

Whistleblower Chris Hood, former Diebold employee, spoke with Atlanta Progressive News in detail about an illegal patch, which may or may not be the same “0808" patch Diebold now admits its workers applied during the 2002 Primary Election.

As previously reported in 2006 by Atlanta Progressive News, Hood and another whistleblower, Rob Behler, had given independent accounts regarding illegal Diebold patches used in 2002, to Rolling Stone magazine, as well as Black Box Voting (BBV) and Wired News magazine, respectively.

Hood told Rolling Stone in 2006 that he and other Diebold employees were instructed by then-Diebold President, Robert Urosevich, to install the patch on some 5,000 machines in Dekalb and Fulton Counties in July 2002.

"Those are the Democratic hot spots. If you can control those 2 counties, you can control the election. We don't need to bother with every county; we need to only bother with the Democratic counties," Hood told Atlanta Progressive News.

"We were provided a patch to put into the system that was supposed to fix the clock," Hood said in an interview with Velvet Revolution (VR) posted on Youtube.com.

"It came to me there was no clock fix involved at all. The clock still would not keep time after I patched 56 machines," Hood said.

"I must tell you, there was more than one patch that took place in Georgia as well," Hood told APN, adding that he had previously spoken about the one patch he personally applied although he had knowledge of others.

"There were patches applied in the warehouse in the machines before they went out to the various counties," Hood said.

Hood’s story corroborates that of Rob Behler, another former Diebold employee, who told BBV there were several patches illegally applied on Georgia voting machines in the lead-up to the 2002 elections and that efforts were made to prevent the State from learning about them.

Behler recalls an incident where he admitted to Prof. Britain Williams, of Kennesaw State University, the State’s expert on its E-voting systems and certification, that a patch was being applied to the machines prior to Williams’s testing of the machines. Behler said Diebold officials reprimanded him for telling Williams.

Behler told BBV that he had noticed many of the machines were malfunctioning prior to their certification by the State. Behler said he had contacted Urosevich personally and that this led to Diebold workers piling in vans and dispatching them to apply patches to the E-voting machines.

Hood told APN he remembers the workers in the vans, adding they were manual laborers given a set of instructions by Diebold.

"It was told we have to patch all the machines. So there was a big rush, in Dekalb County, there was a crew there, on site, manpower workers, unskilled, put into sort of a production situation. The patch was applied and there were these various steps. Six to 8 people they brought in, in a warehouse," Hood said.

Bev Harris of BBV alleges that she accessed Diebold’s FTP site and downloaded copies of at least 8 patches used in Georgia, which Diebold posted on its then-unsecured website for employees to access. These patches have been posted on her websites.

Hood confirmed to APN that the FTP site did exist and that it was unsecure at the time.

Diebold has admitted to one patch, the "0808," which may or not be the same one brought to light by Hood, although they had initially denied such a patch ever existed.

Former Secretary of State Cathy Cox asked Diebold–now known as Premier Elections Systems–for "confirmation that 0808 patch was applied to all systems; confirmation that patch was not grounds for requiring system to be recertified at national and state level; as well as verifiable analysis of overall impact of patch to the voting system," in a copy of a "punch list" sent to Diebold after the 2002 election obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

Diebold responded "will confirm 0808 patch on all units at time of firmware upgrade (to be scheduled in coordination with the State and counties)," not addressing the issue of legality.

Diebold did not address the issues directly in their December 10, 2002, response to Cox. "We are happy to discuss your concerns about the Deliverables, as well as your Punch List items, at out meeting scheduled the morning of Tuesday, December 17, 2002," President Robert Urosevich wrote.

Prof. Williams testified in discovery during the recent VoterGA lawsuit that one patch dated August 08, 2008, was applied and that it was illegal, according to an analysis and partial transcript of the case discovery obtained by APN.

"According to Williams, it was to prevent a screen freeze," Favorito said.

Williams initially denied the existence of the patch. Again, Behler claims Diebold attempted to keep Williams in the dark about Diebold’s so-called dirty laundry because Williams was in charge of the State testing.

However, Behler claims Williams did know about the patch at the time when he first denied it.

Hood told APN that he had previously worked with Williams in Maryland when Williams was a contractor for Diebold.

Cox was furious when she learned about the patch, Hood recalled. There were "conversations and emergency meetings--it was quite a serious thing at Diebold, she was threatening holding the funding back."

"Cathy did not know about the patch, she found out about it inadvertently. They weren't supposed to know about this. Keep it quiet was the word."

"There was a problem, Diebold acted illegally," Hood said, adding he believes Diebold provided Cox with concessions to add value on to their contract with the State.

"In return, there's concessions made. It always comes down to money and concessions," Hood said.

"These are little payoffs to get the election director to look the other way. She can't win by fighting them in the street, that would have made her look bad for getting the machines in the first place," Hood said.

"She had an incentive to cover up the inadequate performance in the 2002 election," Favorito said.

"They could have given her staff, extra machines, extra help, supplies, it could've come from any direction you could imagine," Hood said.

In the end, Cox did nothing to hold Diebold accountable for the patch they admitted to, and did nothing to pursue the claims of other patches. Diebold received their full payment and their machines are still in use in Georgia.

"There was not accountability in the Secretary of State's office for anything," Favorito said.

Hood gave a copy of one patch that he had downloaded on his computer to computer science expert, Stephen Spoonamore, to analyze.

Hood is unsure whether it’s the same patch he applied that day in 2002, but he believes the file, "rob-georgia.zip," is the same one based on the date associated with it.

Williams has denied knowing anything about a rob-georgia.zip file, Favorito said.

"The one I had was downloaded from a Diebold site, at the time it was open to the public. Whether the 2 matched is hard to say," Hood said.

Hood didn’t keep the flash drive he used that day in July 2002 because "when I did the patching in Georgia, I firmly believed it was a legitimate patch approved to fix the clock, had no reason to save it, suspect it, or anything else."

"We've got a chain of custody issue- we don't know whether the patch Spoonamore looked at is the same one put on the machines," Favorito said.

"I reviewed the patch they put in Georgia in 2002 that many of them claim is a clock function. It's not a clock function. It's a comparator function. It asked for 3 different fields on the front end, that's information coming down from the screen into the operating system," Spoonamore said in an interview with VR posted on the website, Youtube.com.

The patch "sits on the operating system in an entry platform, at that point, this piece of code asks the three fields, I don't know what the fields are, what the totals are; compares them against each other and sends them somewhere else," Spoonamore said.

Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com explained why Spoonamore may not have been able to detect the full purpose of the patch: "The patches are quite literally that. They don't have the full code in them. You have to sort of guess what they do. It's only part of the source code."

"It's like reading five pages in a novel," Friedman told Atlanta Progressive News.

"Well, if it were me and I were to guess what that code is, it's a vote-flipping, it's not a clock function, that I know," Spoonamore said.

Spoonamore refers to reviewing a patch he says was installed two days before the 2002 General Election. Hood and Favorito concur that Spoonamore likely misspoke and meant to say the Primary Election.

A poll by American media put Cleland ahead of Chambliss in mid-October 2002, 47% to 41%. Pollsters were shocked when Chambliss won 53-46, a 12 point jump for Chambliss; this was the first year Georgia, or any US state, used statewide electronic voting.

To be sure, some polls showed the race tightening in the days leading up to the race, which many attribute to the negative campaign ads Chambliss ran regarding Cleland.

The Saturday before the election, an AJC/WSB poll showed Cleland ahead 48-45. However, that would still mean an 8 point jump in the election outcome for Chambliss.

"If you look at the case of Saxby Chambliss, that’s ridiculous, the man was not elected. He lost election by 5 points, Max Cleland won, they flipped the votes," Spoonamore said.

Democratic Governor Roy Barnes also lost in a shocking upset that year.

"All those lower races trended Democratic and all of a sudden you get to the top of the ballot and they flip Republican," Garland Favorito of elections integrity plaintiff, VoterGA, told APN.

Because of this, Favorito says he is "suspicious" and "skeptical."

The same machines that were exposed to at least one illegal patch in 2002 are still in use in Georgia, Favorito said, and the patch or patches could still be there.

Favorito said the machines were re-certified in 2005, but the State has not released the certification reports from prior to then; and Diebold will not allow anyone to review the source code for its E-voting software.

"The patch could have been made in a way that the software upgrade would not have impacted it because we don't know what the patch did," Favorito said.

"Let's say it's a devious patch. They could have upgraded the software and it would still be in place," Favorito said.

"Any time you hear of things that cause people to have less confidence in the voting process, we're troubled. We're watching the situation closely, we're watching the [VoterGA] lawsuit closely," Martin Matheny, spokesperson for the Georgia Democratic Party, told APN.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable is matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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