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We May Never Know Whether Georgia 6th Congressional Election Stolen?

By Ernest A. Canning

“I follow the vote. And whenever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that’s an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to…make bad things happen” – CIA Cyber-Security Expert Steven Stigall

I wasn’t at all surprised when my colleague, Brad Friedman, an investigative journalist who Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. describes as a “Paul Revere” of the Election Integrity movement, was amongst the first to weigh-in as events unfolded during last month’s Special Election that pitted Democrat Jon Ossoff against a bevy of Republicans in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District,

Friedman’s website, The BRAD BLOG, has, since 2004, compiled one this nation’s largest repository of articles from a multitude of sources, including computer scientists, investigative journalists and election integrity advocates, dealing with the threat posed to democracy by all forms of e-vote counting.

A funny thing happened on the way to the final results of last month’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. One hundred percent of the precincts in two of the district’s three counties, Cobb and DeKalb, had posted their votes. Democrat John Ossoff had received 50.3% of the vote up to that point. If that percentage held, Ossoff would have won outright.

Yet,  none — not one — of Fulton County’s precincts had been reported.  An hours-long delay was attributed to an “error” that occurred within the county’s computer tabulating system. On election night, this was said to have been caused by a faulty memory card from one of the voting machines — a “glich”.

Noting that he is all too familiar with the massive vulnerabilities of Georgia’s 100% unverifiable and easily-manipulated, oft-failed Diebold touch-screen voting system, Friedman Tweeted:

“If I’m Ossoff, I get to court and have ALL of those memory cards in Fulton locked down and sequestered for forensic inspection.”

Hours later, when the computer “error” was reportedly resolved, the 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting machines reported that Ossoff had only received 48.3%. He would be paired with the closest of his distant Republican rivals, Karen Handel, who’d received only 19% of the vote.

Small world

Handel, who resides in Fulton County, is a former GA Secretary of State.  Her previous certification of the state’s 100% unverifiable Diebold touch-screen voting system was upheld by a factually erroneous GA Supreme Court decision, Favorito v. Handel (2009). The court rejected the contention that, because there is no way to assure that touch-screen voting systems accurately count the vote, the Diebold touch-screens violate the electorate’s statutory and constitutional right to have their votes accurately counted.  The court claimed that it was “undisputed” that touch-screen systems “accurately record each vote when they are ‘properly operated’.”

“Undisputed?” Multiple studies by computer scientists reveal otherwise. For example, a previous study of the 100% unverifiable Diebold touch-screen systems used in the April 18 U.S. House Special Election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District revealed an election insider could undetectably flip the results by inserting a malicious code.

In 2009, the same year that the GA Supreme Court handed down its decision in Favorito, Germany’s highest court, relying upon expert testimony, came to precisely the opposite conclusion.  The German high court banned all forms of e-voting (optical scan, as well as touch screens and Internet voting) because the only means of assuring accuracy is a transparent “publicly observed count.”

The Germans, and more recently the Dutch, have adopted what Friedman refers to as “Democracy’s Gold Standard”: hand-marked paper ballots, publicly hand-counted with the results posted for all to see at each precinct on election night.

Root Cause Analysis

Following last month’s GA 6th debacle, the election integrity group, Voter GA, “a coalition of citizens and organizations founded to advocate open and secure election procedures and processes to ensure accurate and verifiable elections,” conducted and published a preliminary Root Cause Analysis of last month’s Special Election.

Their analysis revealed that the vulnerabilities of the 100% unverifiable touch-screens had been enhanced by the fact that Fulton County had conducted three unrelated elections on the same day as the GA 6th Congressional District Special Election. This entailed voters having to cast votes on separate touch screens, using separate memory cards. This rendered the election vulnerable to a “critical software flaw [that] allows memory cards for a foreign election to be loaded and transmitted into results in a different election.” (Emphasis in original text).

Their analysis exposed a second “security flaw that is even more critical than the first.” The database of system’s central tabulator, known as the GEMS, “has no feature to distinguish invalid data and protect the integrity of election results.” Georgia’s governor committed a scheduling error, according to Voter GA, by scheduling multiple redundant elections on the same date. In this instance, they noted, a memory card from one of the other elections “became mixed in with the 6th District election” producing an invalid result. (Emphasis in original).

A third “serious security flaw” was found in the inability of the GEMS “export facility on the Windows 2000 central warehouse tabulation server that cannot specifically identify the problem it encountered when it malfunctioned as it did on April 18.” (Emphasis in original).

The group noted that this analysis should come as no surprise. “During the past thirteen years hundreds of critical and serious securities flaws have been documented by a variety of [academic] studies.” They stressed, in particular, that “the GEMS servers are vulnerable to fraud and critical errors that can dramatically alter the results of the election.” (Emphasis in original).

Was it stolen?

In relation to his on-air comments during an April 19 BradCast (audio available below), Friedman asked:

“So, was the election stolen? Or was the all-too familiar problem during the tally just a routine error on the state’s unverifiable, easily-manipulated, oft-failed voting system? The state’s Diebold voting systems and tabulators were first installed in 2002. They are, shamefully, still used today, despite multiple massive vulnerabilities, including one that allows results to be flipped without detection, as first reported by The BRAD BLOG as early as 2006.

It’s a question that will never be answered with any certainty precisely because, unless and until Georgia eliminates touch-screen voting, no count will ever be verifiable.  Something to consider as the runoff election day approaches.

Download MP3 to listen to complete BradCast…

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968) and a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. He has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing