Anchorage election: Duke confirms she told election workers not to worry about broken security seals on voting machines
by Mel Green
Anchorage Deputy Municipal Clerk Jacqueline Duke has confirmed an election worker’s report that she instructed election workers not to worry about broken security seals on the Diebold AccuVote voting machines used in the April 3 Anchorage election, according to a story published this morning on The Brad Blog. Duke’s instruction directly contradicts instructions in the election handbook, and creates additional questions about the integrity of the election process.
The Brad Blog is a national blog with a focus on election integrity. Its publisher and executive editor, Brad Friedman, is an investigative journalist/blogger, political commentator, broadcaster, author, and Commonweal Institute Fellow. Friedman’s story this morning followed up on a story published on the Alaska blog The Mudflats, which, like Bent Alaska, has been closely scrutinizing the April 3 election irregularities.
The Mudflats reported Sunday about an interview with election worker Wendy Isbell about instructions given by Jacqueline Duke to election workers when they were being trained:
According to Isbell, Duke told the trainees at the session she attended that (paraphrasing) ‘if the seal over the memory card was broken when they picked up the Accu-Vote machine they should not be concerned. The seals break all the time.’ Further, Isbell states that the seal on the Diebold machine for her precinct was, in fact, broken.
Duke’s instruction directly contradicts instructions contained in the Municipality of Anchorage’s official election handbook, which state:
Make sure the small silver bar covering the memory card on the front of the Accu-Vote is sealed and the seal is not broken.
Brad Friedman told The Mudflats that day,
If and when any seal on these machines are broken they are to be immediately taken out of service and quarantined for forensic investigation. If that is not already the law in AK or Anchorage, then it is a grave security hole in the law.
Anyone who instructs someone to not report a broken seal and use such a machine anyway should be investigated for malfeasance, misfeasance and/or criminal election fraud.
In today’s story at The Brad Blog, Friedman pointed out exactly why the plastic security seals are so important:
Plastic seals over memory cards — the extremely sensitive cartridges that hold the ballot design and track the election results tallied from the scanned paper ballots throughout the day — became a mandatory security precaution in the wake of the shocking 2005 hack of a mock election in Leon County, FL which succeeded in completely flipping the results of the election in such a way that one would never know it had been manipulated unless all of the paper ballots were counted by hand.
That startling hack was accomplished by tampering with the memory card before the election. It was all captured on film in HBO’s Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy. Here’s the actual hack, as it happened, as seen in the film…
Friedman goes on to report on the conversation he had with Duke yesterday:
Duke confirmed to me that she had instructed poll workers not to worry if security seals on memory cards are found broken when setting up machines on Election Day.
“They come sealed in the Accuvote cases and often times in transit they bust off because they’re the flimsiest pieces of plastic ever,” she told me. Sometimes that leads poll workers to “freak out.”
She tells them that if they “open the case and can obviously tell the broken seal was from transport, you do not have to be worried. There are more in your supplies.”
Duke instructs the workers to “re-seal it, and then run the zero report tape” to “confirm that your poll count is zero.”
In the Leon County hack, as seen in Hacking Democracy, the zero report tape before the mock election also showed that the poll count was zero. That’s because when the memory card was hacked before the mock election, the “No” votes were set to -5 and the “Yes” votes were set to +5. Thus, when the machine reported how many votes were already on it at the beginning of the election, the answer came back as 0. That’s how the election was flipped. The results to the mock election question about whether Diebold machines could be hacked via their memory cards were completely flipped when the “Yes” votes were reduced by 5 and the “No” votes were increased by 5.
When I asked Duke if she’d seen Hacking Democracy she flatly stated “no.”
“We don’t talk to them [poll workers] about conspiracy theories or about how Diebold machines were hacked.”
She insisted the memory cards were not accessible during the election, so no “voters” could possibly access them during the day.
“No one has access to the memory cards,” she explained. “Only the Municipal Board staff, the Testing Board and then, theoretically, they are locked after that.”
She then confirmed that the Accuvotes are sent home for days before the election with poll workers, who have unfettered access to the machines and the memory cards before transporting them to the polls on Election Day.
If “voting machine sleepovers” at poll workers’ homes lead to broken security seals, no problem: Duke’s instruction to election workers was
to simply put another seal over it on election morning — instead of taking the machines out of service, as is required in California and other jurisdictions in the event of a broken memory seal — run a zero test, and then get on with the election.
The potential for vote tampering by is obvious — and whether intentional or not, Duke’s instruction to election workers to disregard broken security seals serves to make discovery of any such tampering less likely.
When interviewed by Friedman, Duke claimed ignorance of any problems with Diebold AccuVote machines, as did Election Commission chair Gwen Matthew, who also spoke with Friedman — this in spite of widely documented problems with the machines (described in both the Mudflats and the Brad Blog stories), including a years-long lawsuit in Alaska about the (lack of) integrity of the 2004 statewide elections.
These are (two of) the officials entrusted with guaranteeing the integrity of our election process. Whether out of malfeasance or out of willful blindness and/or incompetence: they have failed.
Was Prop 5 flipped?
Friedman points out:
Just days before the election, a poll [PDF] by the conservative firm of Dittman Research & Communications found the incumbent Republican Mayor Dan Sullivan likely to defeat his Democratic opponent Paul Honeman, 56% to 35%. The same poll, however, showed Prop 5 set to win 50% to 41% with 9% of respondents still undecided.
On the night of the election, Sullivan was reported as the winner of his race by the paper-ballot Diebold optical-scan systems. The margin was 59% to 38%, pretty close to the results Dittman had predicted. Several bond initiatives on the ballot also reportedly passed, by even larger margins.
Yet Prop 5 was said to have gone down in flames. According to the Diebold results that night, it lost 58% to 42% — a full 25-point swing from Dittman’s pre-election poll just days earlier.
[emphasis in original]
So… maybe so.
But Proposition 5 is not the most important question of this highly irregular, and very possibly corrupted, election. The integrity of all elections are at risk — not only in Anchorage, but in the state as a whole.
Alaska election integrity at risk
Although these problems come — again — to light by way of a local election in the Municipality of Anchorage, make no mistake: this is a statewide issue. Friedman writes:
According to the Verifier Database at the non-partisan e-voting watchdog site VerifiedVoting.org, the Diebold Accuvote op-scan system is used in more than 1,000 jurisdictions in the U.S., across all or parts of 24 different states. Of course, it will be used once again to tally paper ballots for the 2012 Presidential Election in all or parts of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin (including in next month’s recall elections) and Wyoming.
There also needs to be a full audit and recount by hand of paper ballots and the chain of custody of those ballots.
And it’s time to get the easily tampered-with Diebold AccuVote machines out of Alaska’s elections. Write to your Assembly members. But write to your state legislators, too — no matter where in Alaska you live.
Bent Alaska will be livetweeting again (@bentalaska) from tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, where it is expected that Assembly members will again take up the question of appointing a special counsel to investigate the April 3 Anchorage election.
- 15 Apr 2012. “Indications of Malfeasance and Election Fraud Surface in Anchorage” by Jeanne Devon and Linda Kellen Biegel (The Mudflats).
- 17 Apr 2012. “Baked Alaska: Yet Another Election Crashes and Burns in The Last Frontier” by Brad Friedman (The Brad Blog).