Nearly a year ago, senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) asked the GAO to investigate electronic voting machines as they were used during the November 2, 2004 presidential election. The request came amidst widespread complaints in Ohio and elsewhere that often shocking irregularities defined their performance.
According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.
The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
Among its findings:
Among other things, the GAO confirms that:
1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, thus making it possible to alter them without detection." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.
2. "It is easy to alter a file defining how a ballot appears, making it possible for someone to vote for one candidate and actually be recorded as voting for an entirely different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.
3. "Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards" can easily be done, according to the GAO.
4. The GAO also confirms that "access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network." This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.
5. Access "to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords," says the GAO. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.
6. "The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy," says the GAO, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.
7. "One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail," says the GAO, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.
8. "GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel," confirming still more easy access to the system.
Highlights of the report here.
The full report here. (PDF here)