Florida Election Results - Hidden Outsourcing Can Take Votes for a Trip
Originally posted 2008-11-05 17:44:18 -0500. -- GH
Repaired misplaced original Netcraft image from 11/04/08 on 2010-11-02 - luaptifer
2010 edition here
Should such a core function of state -- assuring the integrity of the process counting your vote -- be sold to the bidder with the most powerful lobbyists?
On the historic election night of 2008, the power of swing states was felt worldwide as their collective decision to tip the balance to red or blue filtered in from across the country.
Ohio, for example, is the swing state which, on going blue, virtually assured John McCain's operation that the time to pack up had arrived. No Republican candidate advances to the White House without winning the favor of Ohio's electorate. In 2004, 118 thousand votes set the margin of victory that tipped the state's 20 electoral votes and made President Bush's second term in a disputed election whose effects are felt to date.
Florida is a big prize with 27 electoral votes that have pretty consistently leaned towards Obama recently after early months favoring John McCain.
Florida and Ohio are similar in other ways, but on election night, two years ago, Ohio voters learned that their ballot choice detoured through Tennessee on the path between their home county Board of Elections and its display on the Secretary of State of Ohio's Election Night Results Reporting website, election.sos.state.oh.us, in Columbus (so they thought, at least). In fact, results of the elections of 2004 and 2006 were reported from systems hosted on an IP address controlled by a company based in Chattanooga.
Florida's enight.dos.state.fl.us is the hostname of the Internet server where millions check the results of their state's vote. Whether their votes are actually getting anywhere near Suwanee Georgia, location of the company to which the block of IP address is registered, is unclear.
What is clear is that Florida election results are served not only from computers at the Florida Department of State websites's usual IP address, 22.214.171.124, where enight.dos.state.fl.us is normally accessed on the Internet but, rather, and perhaps primarily from 126.96.36.199, the IP address which reported the primary election results for Florida on August 22 of this year.
Netcraft record of enight.dos.state.fl.us hosting history.
"Netcraft is an Internet services company based in Bath, England" which provides research and analysis and Internet security services, among many. The results above are reported from the company's "What's that site running?" query.
The ubiquitous trend of outsourcing IT services to private sector specialists makes sense sometimes, perhaps in many cases. Voting results on election night are of great interest to the public wanting to know which candidates won the right to govern them in coming terms and the demands made of state IT systems can multiply to many times the average traffic experienced by a state system. Private companies can step in with the extra capacity to handle the added traffic load.
And just this sort of contingency is probably why Florida's election resutls are hosted on computers of Prosys, (www.prosysis.com) a 350 employee company based in Atlanta Georgia that serves customized IT solutions to mid-market customers in public and private sectors throughout the southeastern US.
But elections are unique and unlike anything else government owes to its constituents, assurance that the process by which Americans establish how we govern ourselves through the vote is accurate and unbiased.
So, the precedent leading to considering the issue at all, much less causing concern, last night, is then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell having outsourced the provision of comparable IT services in Ohio from 2003 through 2006 to companies that simultaneously provided most of the web service needs of the Republican National Committee.
That is, Blackwell's conflicted interests as both the SOS of all Ohioans and co-chair of Ohio GOP's Bush-Cheney Reelection campaign, caused him to contract Ohio's election to a consortium of GOP-affiliated operatives and companies.
When John Kerry lost Ohio and President George W. Bush won reelection, Ohio's election results ran through networked computer systems designed by top GOP campaign and IT strategist Mike Connell, of New Media Communications, who was simultaneously managing GeorgeWBush.com and the President's online reelection strategy. Until recently, Mike Connell worked for the John McCain campaign but was in Federal Court this week giving sworn testimony to these events.
On Nov. 7, 2006, ePluribus Media researchers reported tracking the realtime rerun of the processes in play the night Kerry lost to Bush when Ohio's election.sos.state.oh.us was replicated to Smartechcorp servers in Chattanooga, TN. IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore has provided his expert testimony to the legal process still ongoing from the 2004 election, which asserts that the Smartech-based systems constituted a "man in the middle" strategy for commandeering and manipulating Ohio's election results.
Prosys is not believed to have a direct partisan affiliiation with either Presidential candidate in the 2008 election.
However, an unexpected note was that Prosys was represented by the high-powered GOP lobbyists of Tidewater Inc in 2004 and 2005, just preceding the first recorded shift of IP addresses by enight.dos.state.fl.us, Florida election night results server. It was our prior discovery of the analogous shift in Ohio's election.sos.state.oh.us which signalled to ePluribus researchers of possible clues into Ohio's 2004 election results irregularities.
Tidewater founders, Tom Slade and J. Allison DeFoor, both played roles in John McCain's Florida operations this year. And the firm's access to Republican government officials solidified under Slade when he managed the Florida GOP during the same campaign in which Mike Connell ran Jeb Bush's race on the web. Connell's New Media Communications was located at Tidewater's address when Connell worked inside IT networks of the state that elected George W. Bush's in 2000 whilie he managed Bush's Internet campaign. Tidewater principals had roles in the Florida recount.
To be clear, there is no apparent relationship between Connell and Prosys.
The Obama column was a big tent this election night which even Karl Rove signalled was Obama's the previous night. Had McCain's election day margins been nearer to Rove's 'doable' 3%, Florida easily might have gone red instead of blue November 4.
In a tight race where the winner has a close relationship with a company tasked with counting and reporting the vote, the loser may have more questions than answers about the results. The time is overdue for us to ensure the public will have confidence in the conduct of our elections. It is essential that they be entirely transparent and conducted by independent bodies having no possible conflict of interest to undermine citizens' ability to trust that their vote has not been manipulated.
Hidden in the source code of the page presenting the drilldown of Presidential results, the meta code displays the Division of Elections "Program Statement":
---To protect the integrity of elections and to promote public awareness and participation in the electoral process through open and accurate public access and in the development of governmental procedures through the dissemination of Florida's administrative records, laws, acts and rules.
It's 3 AM, do you know where your vote has been all night?