There has been some question of election voting machines being “rigged” to swing elections for certain candidates. For the last several presidential voting cycles, the issue has surfaced. Obama whined about rigging as well as Al Gore. Yet, when Donald Trump states “the elections are rigged,” Democrats come out in force declaring that is not so and telling Trump to “stop whining.” However, as one website has shown, a certain election management system has been proven to be “skewed” in its tallying of votes in 16 states, accounting for 25 percent of all votes in the US. Blackboxvoting.org contains several reports detailing how elections can and have been “rigged” or “adjusted” in order that a predetermined candidate can win. The elements allowing the alteration of vote counts is not visible to observers and traces of the manipulators are removed.
In Part I: Fraction Magic – Votes Are Being Counted as Fractions Instead of as Whole Numbers, their report summarizes the review of the GEMS election management system, “which counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States.” This system is used in 16 states: Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont, and for counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. It is also used in Canada.”
The results of this study demonstrate that a fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes. This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer. Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.
GEMS vote-counting systems are and have been operated under five trade names: Global Election Systems, Diebold Election Systems, Premier Election Systems, Dominion Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software, in addition to a number of private regional subcontractors.
In other words, the one person equals one vote is a myth. Some votes count less than one while others count more. These “weighting” of votes can control the results. Regardless of what the actual vote counts are, a candidate can be assigned to receive a percentage of the votes.
In Part II: Fraction Magic – Context, Background, Deeper, Worse, the organization identifies in great detail how the research was conducted. It covers totals dropping mid-count; poll tapes didn’t match; missing single-votes like round-off errors; e-mails from programmers; and votes being “weighted” for unequal value.
The way the research was conducted is detailed and fairly technical. One area in which it was found that votes were being weighted was based on race. In other words, voters of an identified race would be weighted “based upon the idea that not all voters should have the same amount of influence over the outcome of an election.” Several examples that occurred in various elections are cited as well as an experiment conducted to see the difficulty of weighting votes. To fully understand what is going on, it is best to read each of these parts, which are not very long.
In Part III: Fraction Magic – Proof of Code, the researchers found the code in the GEMS election management system that programmed the system to “treat votes as decimals.”
The term “DOUBLE” means to store and process numbers with “double precision floating points” – in other words, to enable large numbers of decimal values.
In contrast, the term “INT” instructs the program to treat numbers as whole integers.
Below are clips from GEMS source code showing that it converts votes from whole numbers (previous version, GEMS 1.17) to store and process them as decimal values by setting them to “double” in GEMS version 1.18:
“ALTER TABLE SumCandidateCounter”
“ALTER COLUMN TotalVotes DOUBLE”
“ALTER TABLE SumRaceCounter”
“ALTER COLUMN NumberOfUnderVotes DOUBLE”
“CREATE TABLE SumCandidateCounter (
TotalVotes DOUBLE )”
“CREATE TABLE SumRaceCounter (
NumberOfUnderVotes DOUBLE ) ”
“ALTER TABLE CandidateCounter ”
“ALTER COLUMN TotalVotes DOUBLE ”
“ALTER TABLE RaceCounter ”
“ALTER COLUMN NumberOfUnderVotes DOUBLE”
# Contains the candidate counts for the race
“CREATE TABLE CandidateCounter (
# Number of votes ) ”
“CREATE TABLE SumCandidateCounter (
TotalVotes DOUBLE ) “
As the researchers explain, “Because the ‘double’ configuration for votes is built into the source code, the most important requirement for sophisticated, configurable election tampering exists wherever the program is used.”
Part IV: Fraction Magic – Presidential Race in an Entire State Switched in Four Seconds proves the investigators could use the “GEMS fractional vote feature to alter an actual statewide vote database, rewriting all the polling place votes in the state of Alaska for the 2004 presidential election to change the outcome.” In just a few seconds, the researchers altered the outcome of the 2004 in favor of Kerry/Edwards instead of the actual results of Bush/Cheney. Because of the short time frame, this particular formula and “quick change” can be used on election night and as often as necessary.
Part V: Fraction Magic – Masters of the Universe proved precision control could be exacted to weight results.
Using the GEMS “double” configuration, users can control election results using amazingly accurate vote percentages. We demonstrate this by assigning vote percentages using a children’s letter-number cipher. A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. For example, H=8 and A=1 so 81.8181% is “hahaha.” We helped Bush/Cheney dominate Alaska’s Cheney Lakes, assigning 38.514525% of the votes, spelling CHENEY.
We used a simple Excel spreadsheet to plan desired results for each location, then injected allocations into GEMS. Smith, a programmer, used a USB stick containing a Visual Basic script to interact with GEMS. For Harris, who has no programming skills, Smith created a demonstration utility to read GEMS, display races, candidates and vote subgroups, then inject percentages typed into it to GEMS. Using exactly the same utility, Harris weighted results in Glades County, Florida against Mark Foley (U.S. Representative) and Charlie Crist (Florida Attorney General) races. In Marin County, California she controlled Measure F to defeat a private corporation named Veolia’s bid to take over a water project, this time using only the absentee votes. She weighted the 2010 Shelby County, Tennessee sheriff’s race to give it to Randy Wade.
Votes everywhere were instantly redistributed to match the planned result with no need to reprogram for different elections, races, precincts, candidates or voting methods. This demonstrates that the fractional vote capability in GEMS enables any private contractor to weight elections in different jurisdictions, even if he lacks programming skills. Wherever he can get the contract he can set the result.
The report can be accessed to see the results using the hyperlink to Part V above.
In all of this mix, it was found that districts being investigated and tested used a number of middlemen and private contractors for certain functions. The researchers wrote, “Use of middlemen and private contractors to report results makes it easier to hide round-offs and lost value errors.”
In Part VI: Fraction Magic – Execution Capacity, researchers discussed middlemen, inside access and manipulation. In summary:
A fractional voting framework is treacherous because it can be scaled to run across multiple jurisdictions very quickly. False results precisely mimic known patterns to appear plausible. In the demonstration we performed, Smith’s one-size-fits-all utility showed that a person without any programming skills at all could seize control of election results in several counties at a time, even though each county had different precincts, races, and candidates. Vendors and well-placed middlemen can alter results in multiple states. GEMS’ unique design offers both product and service.
We have discussed two ways to weight a race:
a. By candidate (assign percent to candidate)
b. By voter (assign weight to each voter)
Weight by candidate allows the greatest breadth of execution.
What is needed to weight by candidate?
1. A set of desired percentages;
2. An inside manipulation utility;
3. A trifling moment of access to the GEMS election database.
1. Creating desired percentages
Such information is gathered for various reasons, such as targeting voters for advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Percentages can be shaved or enhanced, then cut and pasted into a fractional voting utility.
When testing ‘fraction magic’ Smith searched out prior precinct results to mimic plausible results. When he explained to Harris that such research is necessary, Harris recalled a questionably timed results file, found on one of Shelby County’s computers. It contained precinct results for Shep Wilbun – a candidate who had exposed a slush fund and subsequently was hit with successive voting system irregularities when he tried to regain his seat. For some reason a 2006 precinct results report for Wilbun’s prior election was created shortly before Wilbun’s 2010 election. Certainly not a claim of tampering, but precisely the type of strategic planning document one would need in order to target Wilbun’s election.
– Russell Michaels, producer of Hacking Democracy
For 15 years, GEMS has been described as flawed and full of security holes. Smith may be one of the first researchers to express respect for GEMS’ sophistication. Researchers have pointed out that with GEMS, votes can be flipped to reverse candidate totals. Smith counters that in a real election such an approach would appear almost cartoonish, with Black Democratic strongholds voting for White Republicans and vice versa. At the very least, simple vote-flipping is reckless and imprecise. On one level, GEMS enables crude manipulations by local users, but on a deeper level it offers refined and scaled-up control to persons who are provided with a specific kind of utility.
Parts VII and VIII are yet to be released. However, what we can presume from their research and testing is that voting is truly not “one person-one vote” and weighting can occur, does occur and alterations of results can happen in real time on election night as results are being broadcast as often as necessary with little fuss and barely a trace it occurs.
While electronic voting machines make life easier for election workers who are responsible for administering the elections, it presents an opportunity for manipulating election results without the voting machine being connected to the internet, without any programming knowledge whatsoever. And, these problems go all the way back to 2000. Moreover, Donald Trump and any other candidate who expresses concern about “rigged elections” are on point as Blackboxvoting.org has demonstrated this does happen across the nation.