NYT, Reuters, and ACLU Expose Smartmatic and ES&S Chavez Connections, Vulnerabilities, and Fraud

While the left-leaning press and social media platforms continue to flag stories involving voter fraud as either false or contested, the establishment press heavily covered stories of fraud, oppression, and controversy involving Dominion Voting Services Machines and ES&S software in Pennsylvania. As recently as July 2020, the New York Times exposed security and other issues with Dominion voting machines in Georgia that oppressed voters. The ACLU of Georgia also warned about the risks of switching to Dominion voting machines multiple times. The New York Times also ran a lengthy piece on November 30th, 2019, outlining major issues with ES&S software in Pennsylvania.

ES&S Issues in Pennsylvania

The New York Times explained major voting issues in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, that were caused by ES&S. Election Systems and Software manufactured and sold the ExpressVoteXL, which was plagued with problems in Pennsylvania:

“The machines began arriving in the county in August, having gone through a federal and state certification process. The only remaining testing to be done was what officials called a “logic and accuracy test,” which is a quick dry run of roughly 20 dummy ballots. But the ExpressVoteXL has an auto-test function in which the machines can simulate a full digital test, a feature that election security experts say is ill-advised.

It doesn’t test if the touch screen or the scanner work. It doesn’t even cast votes for everyone on the ballot,” Mr. Skoglund said. “It is especially concerning that it can send made-up votes to the vote counting software without needing a real ballot. Fake ballots are a feature no voting machine should have.

The automatic tests in Northampton proved problematic, and did not even cast a test vote for every candidate, according to test receipts shown to The New York Times. But the machines were still rolled out on Election Day. Election day was riddled with problem:

“Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Abe Kassis, a Democrat, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Something had gone quite wrong. Lee Snover, the chairwoman of the county Republicans, said her anxiety began to pick up at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. She had trouble getting someone from the election office on the phone. When she eventually got through, she said: “I’m coming down there and you better let me in.”

With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio.”

The snafu in Northampton County did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest, given how faith in American elections has never been more fragile. The problematic machines were also used in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs — areas of Pennsylvania that could prove decisive next year in one of the most critical presidential swing states in the country.

The New York Times also outlined how ES&S lobbied the city of Philadelphia to use their equipment for elections:

“The lobbying firm for E.S.&S. had donated $1,000 in 2013 to the campaign of Al Schmidt, one of the city commissioners, and again to a group supporting his re-election effort in 2018. They also spent more than $27,000 in direct lobbying of Mr. Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt made a visit to only one company’s headquarters: E.S.&S. In total, E.S.&S. spent more than $425,000 in lobbying expenses related to the City of Philadelphia.

Emails obtained by the city comptroller also found that E.S.&S. had influenced the writing of the city commissioners’ $22 million budget request for new election machines, tilting the process in favor of its machine, the ExpressVoteXL.

The city eventually purchased the machines for $29 million in February. It showed a very, very flawed process,” said Rebecca Rhynhart, the city controller in Philadelphia. “I want to make sure, and the country should want to make sure, that our voting machines are the best they can be.”

Rebacca Rhynhart is a registered Democrat.

The New York Times, in a story entitled “Georgia Havok Raises New Doubts on Pricey Voting Machines,” outlined several issues involving ES&S, which included a link to a graphic outlining the lobbying and special interest the companies used that cause voter suppression.

“The initial rollout in 2019 proved problematic. In Northhampton County, an election for a local judge returned faulty results, with the Democratic candidate receiving just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots. Voters also complained of extremely glitchy touch screens.”

Additionally, Rebacca Rhynhart, Democrat City Controller of Philadelphia, issued a report following a detailed investigation involving voter machine and technology procurement in Philadelphia. ES&S first met with City Commissioners in 2013:

“In July 2013, City Commissioner Al Schmidt visited ES&S’s headquarters – the only visit by a commissioner to any potential voting machine vendor. Commissioner Schmidt stated that he visited on his own accord and did not seek reimbursement, however he could not recall any details regarding the trip, including who he talked to, who he met with, or who arranged the trip. During 2013, ES&S did not report any lobbyists with the Board of Ethics, but emails obtained during the investigation suggest that a lobbyist for ES&S was lobbying then-City Commissioners during this time. Notably, Commissioner Schmidt received two campaign contributions from ES&S’s lobbying firm in April and October of 2013.”

ES&S failed to disclose its use of lobbyists:

“On its mandatory disclosure form, ES&S did not disclose its use of lobbyists, the lobbyists’ activities or the lobbyists’ campaign contributions in its bid to win the contract for the purchase of new voting machines. Specifically, ES&S did not disclose that its lobbying firms, Duane Morris and Triad Strategies, made campaign contributions in 2017 and 2018 to Commissioners Schmidt and Deeley, two of the commissioners who had the final say in awarding the voting machine contract.

Voting Procurement Investigation.

ES&S Issues: ACLU

In 2007, the ACLU of Florida represented voters in a lawsuit that claimed massive issues with ES&S voting machines. The ACLU of Florida alleged that ES&S lied when the company stated there was no evidence that their machines caused 18,000 votes to be lost.

“Sarasota County voters contesting the 13th Congressional District election filed court papers late yesterday charging that Florida election officials and Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S) apparently misled a judge by claiming that there was no evidence that machine malfunction contributed to the loss of 18,000 votes in that race.”

“It now appears that Sarasota election officials and the ES&S voting machine company misled us and the court,” said Becky Steele, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, one of the organizations representing the voters.” After last November’s 13th Congressional District election, we asked ES&S and election officials to turn over any evidence of machine malfunction. They asserted repeatedly both in response to our discovery requests and in court papers that no such evidence existed. Now, many months later, we discover they appear to have withheld essential information.”

ES&S Documented Issues

A 51-page report written 2006 by Voters Unite covers a litany of documented problems with ES&S voting equipment and software. Among the documented issues include:

  • In November 1998 “A software programming error caused Dallas County, Texas’s new, $3.8 million high-tech ballot system to miss 41,015 votes during the November 1998 election. The system refused to count votes from 98 precincts, telling itself they had already been counted. Operators and election officials didn’t realize they had a problem until after they’d released “final” totals that omitted nearly one in eight votes.
  • November 2000, San Francisco, California: “Huge discrepancies occurred between the number of ballots and the number of votes counted. In some precincts there were more votes counted than the number of ballots cast. In others there were more ballots than votes counted.”
  • In June 2006, “Flawed ballot programming by ES&S reported results of all nine contested primary races incorrectly Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Flawed ballot programming by ES&S reported results of all nine contested primary races incorrectly

ES&Sinthenews.pdfDownload PDF

Brennan Center report on documented problems with voting machines and software between 2002 and 2008:

John Kerry and Other Democrats Warn About Voting Machines

Before the 2004 Presidential election, prominent Democrats warned how voter fraud could lead to fraud and voter suppression. John Kerry said the following in an article entitled “How They Could Steal the Election This Time,” published in the left-leaning The Nation:

“I don’t think we ought to have any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted.” Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that “a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election,” Kerry says his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to “challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes.” Robert Reich, who served as the Labor Secretary for Bill Clinton, said:

“Automated voting machines will be easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses.”

“How They Could Steal the Election This Time” opens with a paragraph that today is considered conspiratorial:

“On November 2 millions of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some 98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.

Altogether, nearly 100 million votes will be counted in computers provided and programmed by ES&S and three other private corporations: British-owned Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, California, whose touch-screen voting equipment was rejected as insecure against fraud by New York City in the 1990s; the Republican-identified company Diebold Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, whose machines malfunctioned this year in a California election; and Hart InterCivic of Austin, one of whose principal investors is Tom Hicks, who helped make George W. Bush a millionaire.”

Several publications and notable liberals alleged that the 2004 election was stolen from John Kerry. The issues with the 2004 election focused mostly on Ohio, a key swing state. Election Defense stated the following about the 2004 election:

“Late on Election Day, John Kerry showed an insurmountable lead in exit polling, and many considered his victory all but certified. Yet the final vote tallies in thirty states deviated widely from exit polls, with discrepancies favoring George W. Bush in all but nine. The greatest disparities were concentrated in battleground states— particularly Ohio. In one Ohio precinct, exit polls indicated that Kerry should have received 67 percent of the vote, but the certified tally gave him only 38 percent.

The odds of such an unexpected outcome occurring only as a result of sampling error are 1 in 867,205,553. To quote Lou Harris, who has long been regarded as the father of modern political polling: “Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen.”

Representative John Conyers released a report entitled “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio.”Conyers, a Democrat, concluded the report by stating:

“We believe there are ample grounds for challenging the electors from Ohio as being unlawfully appointed.”

The paper also explains the 12th Amendment:

“The 12th Amendment sets forth the requirements for casting electoral votes and counting those votes in Congress. The electors are required to meet, cast a nd certify their ballots and transmit them to the Vice President in his or her capacity as President of the Senate. In addition, the Electoral Count Act requires that the results be transmitted to the secretary of state of each state, the Archivist of the United States, and the federal judge in the district in which the electors met. Upon receipt of the ballots at a time designated by statute, the “President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”

Mother Jones claimed that George W. Bush stole the election in 2004.

Smartmatic and Venuzuala

Smartmatic faced public scrutiny for its association with Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government.

In 2006, The New York Times ran multiple stories exploring the ties between Smartmatic and Chavez.

“The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.

The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm’s operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said. Smartmatic was a little-known firm with no experience in voting technology before it was chosen by the Venezuelan authorities to replace the country’s elections machinery ahead of a contentious referendum that confirmed Mr. Chávez as president in August 2004.

Seven months before that voting contract was awarded, a Venezuelan government financing agency invested more than $200,000 into a smaller technology company, owned by some of the same people as Smartmatic, that joined with Smartmatic as a minor partner in the bid. In return, the government agency was given a 28 percent stake in the smaller company and a seat on its board, which was occupied by a senior government official who had previously advised Mr. Chávez on elections technology. But Venezuelan officials later insisted that the money was merely a small-business loan and that it was repaid before the referendum.

With a windfall of some $120 million from its first three contracts with Venezuela, Smartmatic then bought the much larger and more established Sequoia Voting Systems, which now has voting equipment installed in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Since its takeover by Smartmatic in March 2005, Sequoia has worked aggressively to market its voting machines in Latin America and other developing countries. “The goal is to create the world’s leader in electronic voting solutions,” said Mitch Stoller, a company spokesman.”

The inquiry was supported by Democrats:

“The government should know who owns our voting machines; that is a national security concern,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who asked the Bush administration in May to review the Sequoia takeover.”

Back in 2006, politicians both in the United States and in other countries were well-aware of allegations of ties between Chavez and Smartmatic:

“The concerns about possible ties between the owners of Smartmatic and the Chávez government have been well known to United States foreign-policy officials since before the 2004 recall election in which Mr. Chávez, a strong ally of President Fidel Castro of Cuba, won by an official margin of nearly 20 percent.”

In 2008, John Bonifaz, a Democrat attorney and activist, published a report entitled “Sequoia Voting Systems, INC. Uses Vote-Counting Software Developed, Owned, and Licensed by Foreign-Owned Smartmatic, a Company Linked to the Venezuelan Government of Hugo Chavez.”

SequoiaSmartmaticReport61208.pdfDownload PDF • 252KB

Stories involving Dominion, Smartmaric, and ES&S:

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