cj#410> A *real* case of computerized vote fraud

1996-01-17

Richard Moore

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From: Aram Falsafi <•••@••.•••>
Subject: A *real* case of computerized vote fraud (and a real case of
something to do about it).
To: •••@••.••• (Richard K. Moore)
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 1996

Richard,

Here's the posting that I thing went "missing."  I'm sending it directly to
you, instead of to the list.

Thanks,
-Aram


The theory of NSA tampering with vote count software during Nicaragua's
last presidential elections is certainly an interesting one, if a little far-
fetched.  There are other cases, though, where the fraud during the vote
count process is much better documented -- it usually involves a corrupt
and/or unpopular incumbent government.

The documented example that I know of is the 1988 elections in Mexico.
I've seen this one listed in a number of places. The one I managed to dig
up right now is a Canadian book called "Crossing the Line" edited by Jim
Sinclair (New Star Books, Vancouver, 1992).  It's mostly about NAFTA, but
it has a very interesting graph on page 3.  It shows the official returns for
the 3 leading candidates (Salidas of the ruling PRI, Cardenas of the left
who later formed the PRD, and Cloutier of the far-right PAN).

Interesting thing is that Cardenas was leading in the early returns, before
the computers "broke down" and they had to count the rest of the vote by
hand (which the PRI could control more easily).  And sure enough, Salinas
won the hand-counted votes by a wide margin, giving him the presidency
(and giving us NAFTA).

Here are the numbers (read from a graph, so they're not accurate down to
the percentage point):

Early Returns (59% of votes):
                                Salinas: 35%
                                Cardenas: 40%
                                Cloutier: %20

Late Returns (remaining 41%):
                                Salinas: 65%
                                Cardenas: %15
                                Cloutier: %12

Final outcome:
                                Salinas: 51%
                                Cardenas: 30%
                                Cloutier: 18%

I also read somewhere on the net that during the last presidential elections
in the Dominican Republic (in 1994, I believe), the opposition claimed that
there was fraud during the computerized vote count.  I never saw
documentation or corraboration of this, though.

This is why, during the 1994 elections in El Salvador, the opposition
coalition led by the former guerillas of the FMLN decided to do their own
vote count, "ballot box by ballot box".  Here's one example where
grassroots presence can't be replaced.  According to El Salvador's
electoral law, parties could have observers at the vote sites, and they
would get copies of the official tally from each ballot box.  So, over the
course of a couple of days, they set up several of their own vote count
centers, each with a PC LAN and a special FOXPRO application written for
this purpose, modem connections to their own central election office in the
capital, and even a backup way of getting the info to the capital.

And they pulled it off.  They had more PC's set up for data entry (all
borrowed from NGO's around the country and returned a couple of days
later), more people trained to do the data entry (all volunteers who stayed
up through the night, entering the results of every ballot box), and they had
a good estimate of the results before the end of the weekend, many days
before the official Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

TecsChange, the organization that I volunteer with, helped them with
donated second-hand computers (mostly 286 machines, but also a few 386
systems).  We also sent down a couple of volunteers who helped set up
some of the PC LANs and write a little bit of the code.

Now here comes the plug:
We in TecsChange have a copy of this software, and we would like to start
a project to turn it into some kind of general-purpose package that can be
adapted to local conditions in any country.  We're looking for either:
        1. A FOXPRO expert who is interested in leading this project as a
volunteer.  We do have a number of people interested in working on it as
volunteers, but none have the time or expertise to take primary
responsability for it.
        2. Someone in academia who is interested in turning this into a student
project.
        3. Tips on foundations and/or organizations interested in funding this
project so that we can hire someone to coordinate the work.

If you are interested in this project (or have a hot tip for us) please
contact us at

TecsChange -- Technology for Social Change
c/o Central America Education Fund
1151 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02130
•••@••.•••
617-783-1668


PS As for the NSA messing with the software just before Nicaragua's
elections, I don't buy it.  For one, they did their electoral tampering much
earlier: As part of the deal brokered by President Arias of Costa Rica, the
Nicaraguan government was supposed to hold elections a year or so
ahead of schedule, and its neighbors were supposed to stop harboring the
contras.  But almost immediately, the Bush administration announced that
it will keep the contras together as a fighting force until after the
elections.
And I remember Bush himself saying that if Chamorro is elected, the US
will lift its economic embargo (implying that if she isn't elected, the
agression will continue).  So Chamorro could promise peace and
abolishing of the draft, but Ortega couldn't.  So the Nicaraguans went to the
polls with a terrorist's gun to their heads, and did what the terrorist told
them to do.  That's where the vote tampering happened.

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Dear Aram,

Thanks for your interesting posting.

        As for the Nicaragua thing, you may be entirely correct.  My point
continues to be that the vote count _could_ have been manipulated by covert
software (it's well within the capability of the NSA, for example), and
that the events you describe above would have served as a perfect "cover
explanation", so everyone would accept the results as credible.  I followed
events in Nicaragua, knew people who worked down there, and _still_ don't
believe they were _that_ cowed by the Contras.

        The NSA "audit" of the software company doesn't _prove_ anything
(in fact they wouldn't have sought publicity), but it _illustrates_ the
range of access-rights available to intelligence agencies (they have the
power to act covertly or overtly, depending on circumstances).  There's
really nothing they can't get at.

        The _really_ interesting aspect of this line of thinking is
stateside: How do we know the results of U.S. national elections are
accurate?  There are mechanisms for poll monitoring and election oversight,
but how sophisticated are they?  Elections tend to be so close that a few
shifts in the numbers, strategically placed by precinct, could change the
final results.  How do we know this couldn't be happening somewhere up the
chain of totalling-up?  I claim the motivation and ethics of the covert
community, together with their knowledge and access rights, makes this
question worthy of serious consideration.


-rkm

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 ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~--~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~
 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 •••@••.•••  | Cyberlib=http://www.internet-eireann.ie/cyberlib
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