Black Box Voting Director Arrested in San Diego


Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 08:25 pm:

Jim March, a member of the Black Box Voting board of directors, was arrested Tuesday evening for trying to observe the Diebold central tabulator vote tallying machine as the votes were being counted in San Diego's mayoral election.

According to Jim Hamilton, an elections integrity advocate from San Diego, he and March had visited the office of the registrar of elections earlier in the day. During this visit, March made two requests:

1) He asked that the central tabulator, the computer that tallies up the votes from all the precincts, be positioned so that citizens could observe it. According to Hamilton, this would have required simply moving a table a few feet.

2) March also asked for a copy of the ".gbf" files -- the Diebold vote tally files collected during the course of tabulation.

Mikel Haas, the San Diego Registrar of elections, declined the requests.

When March and Hamilton arrived to observe the tabulation of the votes, the computer was placed in a room, viewable through a window but positioned too far away for spectators to read the screen. It was therefore impossible for citizens to watch error messages, or even perceive significant anomalies or malfunctions.

March went into the office where the tabulator was housed. Two deputies followed him and escorted him out.

According to Hamilton: "He was not belligerent, not at all. After he went inside the tabulator room he came [was escorted] out and he said 'I'm not resisting.'

"They handcuffed him, took him out of the building. They put him in a squad car."

"He's still here in the parking lot, they're going to take him to the police station, book him and take him to jail," said Hamilton. "He's getting charged with a felony, 'interfering with an election official.'"

March's actions are the culmination of two years of increasing frustration with the refusal of election officials to respond to obvious security deficiencies, especially in the Diebold system, and to the secrecy that currently surrounds the counting of our votes.

The software that tabulates the votes in San Diego is made by Diebold Election Systems, a company that paid the state of California $2.8 in a settlement in a false claims case filed by March and Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris.

On July 4, a report was released by a European computer security expert, revealing that the Diebold optical scan system contains profound architectural flaws making the system "open for business. This consultant, Finland's Harri Hursti, demonstrated the flaws in Leon County, Florida with the permission of elections supervisor Ion Sancho. He penetrated the Diebold voting system in less than five minutes, manipulating vote reports without detection.

Despite the critical security alert issued by Hursti, San Diego County sent 713 voting machines home with poll workers, increasing the risk that the "memory cards" housed in the machines could be hacked.

The arrest of Jim March underlines a fundamental problem facing Americans today as, increasingly, they lose the ability to monitor, verify, or watch any part of the counting process.

The report by Hursti demonstrates that the Diebold system is flawed, and contains, as he puts it, "the mother of all security holes."

The San Diego registrar of elections knew of the security flaws in the voting system (Diebold has never denied the vulnerability identified in Hursti's report, found at


Despite knowledge of the increased risks, Haas made the decision to create more vulnerability by sending the machines home with hundreds of poll workers.

While San Diego officials will no doubt point to a small seal on the compartment housing the memory card, Black Box Voting interviewed a former San Diego poll worker, who reported that all that is necessary to dislodge and then reaffix the seal is a small pair of pliers.

In a nutshell

- The machines are not secure

- The registrar of voters has not taken appropriate precautions

- The main tally machine, although it could be placed so that citizens can watch the screen, was placed in a location that was impossible to observe

- Many voting integrity advocates have come to believe that election reform now rivals the urgency of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Jim March has acted on those beliefs, to demonstrate how hidden our vote counting process has become.

Informant: Geraldo Cienmarcos


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Juli 2005

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