If you’ve been following the story, you’ve seen how Hammer and Scorecard have been used to illegally flip around 3% of the US vote from one candidate to another. This is only a part of the bigger picture though. Previously I mentioned the GEMS software, which has been thoroughly investigated by those nice chaps at Black Box Voting. GEMS introduced us to the concept of Fractional Voting, a system that allows for candidates to receive fractions of a vote, or for voters to be assigned a fractional vote value by party or precinct. By far the most insidious aspect of the GEMS configuration is the ability to set a maximum percentage of the vote for a candidate. I said previously that I suspected that Dominion and others had incorporated similar functionality into their product. Well, I wasn’t wrong.
Let’s follow the trail:
GEMS vote tabulation software was created by Diebold Election Systems, who make and sell voting machines. They later rebranded themselves as Premier Election Solutions. In 2009, the parent company Diebold sold Premier to a competitor called ES&S.
Election Systems and Software (ES&S) are a subsidiary of the McCarthy Group LLC, which is owned by Mike McCarthy. As it is a private equity company we have no idea who has a financial interest. ES&S was formed in 1997 by a merger of American Information Systems (AIS) and the Election Services Division of Business Records Corporation (BRC). As part of the merger they were forced to sell their Optech line of voting equipment to Sequoia Voting Systems. We’ll come back to Sequoia shortly. Needless to say, the world of voting machines isn’t all that large.
When ES&S bought Premier, the DOJ got involved and forced the sale of some of Premier’s assets due to anti-trust laws. For a time, ES&S were the owners of the GEMS software. Take a guess who bought the Premier assets including GEMS? The answer is a little-known Canadian company called Dominion Voting Systems.
ES&S remain the largest manufacturer of voting systems in the US. Despite what the press might tell us, they have had historic issues with security.
Up until 2010 Canada-based Dominion Voting Systems were a non-player in the US. As with ES&S, they are owned by private equity so we have no idea of the financial interests involved. It was post-2010, with the purchase of Premier’s primary assets (including all intellectual property, software, firmware and hardware for Premier’s current and legacy optical scan, central scan, and touch screen voting systems, and all versions of the GEMS election management system) that Dominion began to move up in the world. As with ES&S, they have encountered security issues with their software in the past.
The final player in the US elections market is a company called Hart Intercivic. Once again they are owned by private equity and we have no real idea of the financial interests involved. They are nowhere near the size of ES&S or Dominion and their influence is constrained.
The two biggest players in the US market have both owned GEMS at some point. It’s a certainty that both companies use Fractional Voting algorithms in their voting calculations.
In the course of my digging around, two other names kept on cropping up: Sequoia Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Smartmatic are interesting, but they don’t really have a presence in the US. I’ll cover them in a separate post. Sequoia are/were a player in the US though. It was in 2004 that Smartmatic acquired Sequoia, who at the time provided voting machines for US elections. Sequoia were formed in the 1970s and they have a history of controversy, including the ‘hanging chad’ incident in the 2000 Florida election. As with the other election software companies they’ve also had ongoing issues with security. In 2007, the US Committee of Foreign Investment forced Smartmatic to sell Sequoia. A management buyout followed. Later In 2010, Sequoia were sold yet again. This time the purchaser was Dominion.
As I’ve dug through the history of electronic voting in the US, a number of stand-out red flags have appeared. Firstly, none of the companies involved have a very good track record when it comes to security. Secondly, given that GEMS was passed around like a prostitute at a stag party, Fractional Voting and all of its flaws has become embedded into the current versions of software and are now endemic. Finally, all of the main players are owned by private equity. This means we have no idea who is involved in running these companies or what their true allegiances are. The fact that Dominion have been caught shipping all of the their election results on an unencrypted link to a Barcelona-based third party (Scytl), who use virtual servers based in the Amazon cloud, hosted in Frankfurt, Germany should set the alarm bells ringing. If it doesn’t you’re not paying attention.
Footnote: as of 13th Nov, the US Army are allegedly in possession of the Scytl servers. Someone high up recognises their value. This can only be a good thing. Hopefully, it doesn’t end there and forces a full end-to-end review of how future elections are run.