Chicago ballot chaos: New computer vote machines malfunction, unverifiable
By Christopher Bollyn
Apr 4, 2006, 14:33
COOK COUNTY, Illinois -- Chicago�s use of a flawed
computerized voting system operated by a privately held foreign company reveals
how meaningless and absurd the �democratic� process in America has become.
Having observed voting systems across Europe, from Serbia,
Germany and Estonia to Holland and France, this reporter has noted that the
most honest and transparent elections are also the most simple.
The more complicated methods of voting, such as the
unverifiable computerized voting systems widely used across the United States,
lack the most essential element of democratic elections -- transparency.
The $50 million touch-screen and optical-scan voting system
provided by Sequoia Voting Systems failed across Chicago and suburban Cook
County during the March 21 Illinois primary. However, the leading
corporate-controlled newspapers merely lamented the failures of the system
without addressing its fundamental flaws or even reporting that the company
running the election is foreign-owned.
The �high-tech� computerized voting system was �cumbersome�
and �slow,� one mainstream Chicago newspaper reported. The machines failed
across the county causing �plenty of frustration and confusion for voters,� the
paper reported. The ballots and votes from more than 400 precincts were still
uncounted two days after the election due to machine malfunctions and lost
memory cartridges which contain the results.
Reports from other dailies noted that as of noon Wednesday,
Chicago was missing memory cartridges from 252 polling stations while Cook
County officials �couldn�t find� the results from 162 suburban precincts.
Election officials tried to assure the public that although
nobody knew where all the ballots and computerized memory cartridges were, they
were �most assuredly not lost.�
�I don�t trust that,� U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said.
�This is Chicago. This is Cook County. We created vote fraud, vote scandal and
stealing votes. We created that mechanism. It became an art form.�
�Ballot chaos� is how another large Chicago newspaper
described the situation in which the votes from hundreds of precincts could not
be found or counted on Election Night.
�We have accounted for the votes,� Langdon Neal, city
election chairman told the publication. �What we haven�t been able to do is
In one precinct on the Near South Side, for example, the
Sequoia optical scanner failed to register anything but Republican ballots.
Although �election officials� tried to repair the machine four times, by the
end of the day it had failed to register a single Democratic ballot in a
precinct in which some 86 percent of the voters are Democrats.
When this reporter went to vote, the touch-screen machine
went completely dead as the voter in front of me pressed the button to print.
When the poll workers were asked if other voters had had similar problems with
the equipment they said it had happened all day and showed me an unplugged
machine that had broken down earlier.
When the polls closed at 7 p.m.,
American Free Press was at the Cook County Clerk�s office to see how the
votes were tallied.
Citizens in Chicago, as in most American cities, are,
however, forbidden from viewing or participating in the any aspect of the
The so-called counting of the votes is managed by some two
dozen employees of Sequoia Voting Systems, a privately held foreign company.
These employees, many of whom are not even U.S. citizens, have �full access� to
the �back room area,� a sealed-off section of the 5th floor of the county
clerk�s office which is called the �tally area.�
In Chicago, the person in charge of the tallying of the
votes was a British employee of Sequoia named David Allen from London. Allen,
who ran the �Sequoia War Room� in an office next to that of Cook County Clerk
David Orr, oversaw the �tally room� team, which included a dozen Venezuelan
employees, who operated the hidden computer equipment that counts the votes.
As American Free Press has noted before, there are
wire services such as the Associated Press, who could be seen having direct
connections leading from their computers to the hidden mainframe computer of
the Sequoia tallying system located behind the wall on the 5th floor of the
Senior executives from Sequoia Voting Systems and from its
partner company, Smartmatic, such as company president Jack A. Blaine and Roger
Alejandro Pi�ate Martinez, vice president of special operations, also had �full
access� to the tally area.
Sequoia, which was previously held by the British-based firm
De La Rue PLC, a company, which produces bank notes, travelers' checks and cash
handling equipment, was merged or combined with Smartmatic in March 2005.
Smartmatic, which has a U.S.-based office in Boca Raton,
Fla., is headed by three young Venezuelans along with Blaine, a former vice
president with Unisys. A dozen Venezuelans could be seen managing the most
sensitive aspects of the recent election in Chicago.
Smartmatic, the parent company of Sequoia Voting Systems,
obtained the company for a �ridiculously low amount of money,� Charles D.
Brady, an analyst with Hibernia Southcoast Capital Inc., said at the time of
While De La Rue purchased 85 percent of Sequoia in 2002 for
$35 million, it reportedly sold the growing global company for only $16 million
in 2005. Tracey Graham, then president of Sequoia, said more than 30 organizations
had expressed interest in buying her company, yet no names of other bidders
were given citing �confidentiality agreements.�
The chief officers of Sequoia-Smartmatic are two 32-year old
Venezuelans from Caracas, Antonio Mugica and Alfredo Anzola.
�With the combination of Sequoia and Smartmatic, both proven
innovators with accomplished track records in either the U.S. or abroad, we are
creating the first truly global leader in providing voter-verified electronic
voting systems,� Blaine said in March 2005 when the merger was announced.
There is, however, nothing verifiable about the Sequoia
voting system used in Cook County. The voter has no way of knowing if his vote
has been counted or how it was counted.
The absolute lack of transparency in U.S. voting systems
yields unverifiable election results, which can only be accepted on faith. In
Chicago voters are asked to trust the results produced by malfunctioning
machines operated by a privately owned foreign company.
Asked about the nature of the foreign company that runs
elections in Cook County, Scott Burnham, spokesman for Cook County Clerk Orr
simply said, �Ask Sequoia� and hung up the phone. Asked about the ownership of
the privately held company, Allen, who supervised the tally, refused to answer
and handed the phone to Michelle Shafer, the company�s vice president and
Pressed about Allen�s citizenship, Shafer finally admitted
that the Sequoia employee who oversaw the tally was, indeed, a British citizen
who had been assisted by a team of Venezuelans.
Dimas Ulacio, one of the Venezuelan technicians who worked
in the tally area spoke with American Free Press. �Who really owns
Sequoia?� Ulacio was asked. �Is Sequoia-Smartmatic truly a Venezuelan company
or is it a British-owned company masquerading as a Venezuelan company?�
Ulacio laughed but refused to answer.
While a high percentage of the precinct results -- about 90
percent -- are usually reported within one hour of the polls closing, the
Sequoia system failed to produce any results for nearly two hours. Only 44
percent of the precinct results had been reported four hours after the polls closed.
The widespread failures of the Sequoia voting system in the
Cook County election, Shafer said, made for a �very typical Election Day in a
jurisdiction where they are changing voting technology.� Rather than blame the
machines, Shafer blamed human error.
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