By Teresa L. Benns
SAGUACHE COUNTY — When Secretary of State Scott Gessler held his town hall in Saguache March 15, he told county residents that he had requested the distributor of the M650 voting machine to provide him with a report of Saguache election records.
On March 28, Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) sent Gessler a copy of the M650’s Unity software system log and a report on the election tabulation issues for his office to examine.
The system log reported the activity on the election reporting software resident on the laptop used by County election staff.
The Unity System software logs were preserved on the hard drive of the laptop accompanying the Unity software County Clerk Melinda Myers’ office borrowed to operate then accumulate report results from the M650 voting machine. The laptop was used to transfer data from the M650 machine via zip disks, which were then transferred to the laptop to be printed out and saved. The data was then compiled into reports to be printed on paper and was saved to electronic files.
Before Myers sent the laptop back to ES&S Dec. 3, she wiped out the tabulation data on the computer’s hard drive. The software system logs, however, were preserved.
The 22-page ES&S report released by the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) earlier this month has been studied by election and voting system experts across the country. While most are not willing to go on record yet with their findings until further study is completed, they warn that there are alarming indicators within the system logs that show either serious software malfunctions, significant errors by machine operators, improper activities or a combination of all these.
Election night logs
The election was off to a bad start Tuesday Nov. 2 after an initial log-in to the laptop at 12:34 p.m. to upload, count and print early voting (“Group 2”) results. “To start uploading early voting results before the close of the polls is very bad practice,” Aspen vote integrity advocate Marilyn Marks said last week.
Additional reports also were printed at 5:36 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. before the 7 p.m. poll closure deadline. Marks said the tabulation of early results could have allowed Myers to see how she and other candidates were doing in the election.
Once counting officially began following the close of the polls, things quickly became confusing. The first batch of ballots selected for counting at 7:10 p.m. were the early voting ballots. The ballots appear to be counted over and over again, registering “forced” on the log.
At 8:30 p.m., “Group 3” or mail-in ballots were counted and added as precinct reports came in throughout the evening. Eventually these first totals appeared to be entirely erased, starting over from zero, when the “replace” command was entered at 12:59 a.m., for all counted precincts. At certain points, reported totals in the report vary from the actual count, and in one instance they vary by nearly 450 votes.
At 1:14 a.m. tallies for Prec. 5 (Crestone) are replaced again, resulting in different totals. Some of the discrepancies can be “explained” by the reported overwriting of files that occurred around this time, but other (and later) discrepancies are not so easily explained.
Nov. 3-5 and Nov. 8 log entries — suspicious activity
When the Unity system or the M650 system is in use — whether uploading, tabulating or report writing — the Secretary of State security rules require that witnesses be present and that the events be recorded on video surveillance cameras. Special security precautions are mandated because of the numerous documented security weaknesses in the M650/Unity system.
Although Myers, in earlier public reports, claimed that election workers never used the Unity software on the laptop after Nov. 2, 2010, scores of log entries appear on Nov. 3 and Nov. 8, using the tabulation and reporting capabilities of the system. Entries were made during the SOS review of the Nov. 5 retabulation on Nov. 15-16 and entries also were made Nov. 17 following the departure of the SOS.
Nov. 3 entries show that once again, tallies for all precincts were replaced, changing the totals. Curiously, the laptop system comes on at 10:25 a.m., Nov. 3, reverts to the Nov. 2 date showing a time of 10:32 a.m., then reverts back to Nov. 3 at 10:33 a.m. Some believe this indicates either a major software malfunction or deliberate tampering. That day the machine ran until 3:21 p.m. Several instances of “all precincts,” run in either replace or reset mode are listed on the report.
On Nov. 4, another time-stamp mystery appears. The system is entered at 8:06 a.m. to print “group detail” to the election software run on the laptop. Inexplicably, the next chronological entry occurs at 7:17 a.m. Nov. 3, when the program is exited.
There is no record on the log for any activity on the system for the morning of Nov. 5. This despite the fact that clerk’s office staffer Christian Samora is clearly seen in video surveillance records operating the laptop, transferring information between the laptop and memory cards and running and printing the reports that morning prior to the retabulation.
On Nov. 8, Clerk Myers and Samora reportedly conducted a precinct count. Former Center Town Clerk Bill McClure and County Assessor candidate Jackie Stephens were present during the event. No one was notified that the count, which typically is part of the election-day process, would be conducted that day. No Canvass Board members, Republican Party officials, Democrat judges or watchers were present.
This operation began at 8:58 a.m. and log entries were run for a total of nine pages, including one blank page in the middle of the Nov. 8 report. By way of comparison, the entire Nov. 2 General Election report only runs four pages. There are numerous listings of replaced, reset and updated tabulations in the log on Nov. 8.
At 9:42 a.m., after replacing the tabulations in all precincts, the Unity System clock returned to or was returned to 8:50 a.m., preceding even the 8:58 a.m. starting time entered on the log. The tabulation of the precinct totals then began all over again.
The entire database was reset at 1:18 p.m. erasing any record of the Nov. 2 election tabulation and Nov. 5 retabulation. An error message also was sent. Shortly afterwards, a blank page appears, (1:39 p.m.). The Nov. 8 report ends and the system was exited at 3:07 p.m.
Another blank page appears on Nov. 16 at 12:25 p.m. during the SOS supervised review of the Nov. 5 retabulation. Report activity starts up again on Nov. 17 at 8:04 a.m., with numerous listings of election summary results saved in the Unity system and printed from the machine. Activity ends at 9:41 a.m.
It resumes on Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. printing out the entire log and exiting at 2:11 p.m. On Dec. 3 Clerk Myers or one of her staff members reset the entire database, again wiping out the entire tabulation of votes.
Marks says she hopes to learn more from ES&S next month when attorney, Rob McGuire of Denver, takes the depositions of ES&S representatives for her Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) case against Myers. The CORA case will be heard by Judge Gonzales on June 15.
To view the voting systems report, go to www.GlassBallotBox.org .