- (When the polls closed in Chicago, American Free Press
was at the Cook County clerk's office to see how the secretive private
company that operates the voting machines in America's third largest city
actually controls the counting of the votes.)
- CHICAGO - The morning after
Election Day, the Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards
the nation that the Democrats would "make sure that every vote counts,
and that every vote is counted."
- Later in the day, as the Democratic presidential
Sen. John Kerry, conceded defeat to George W. Bush, his 9th cousin and
fellow "Bonesman from Yale's elite secret society, The Order of the
Skull & Bones, he said: "In America, it is vital that every vote
- Kerry and Edwards, however, conceded defeat before some
170,000 to 250,000 provisional ballots from the state of Ohio, which could
have changed the outcome of the election, had been counted.
- As the public has been led to believe, the final tally
came down to a near 50-50 split and it was the "swing state of Ohio
that made the difference.
- But how were the votes actually counted across the nation
on November 2?
- VOTING IN CHICAGO
- On Election Day, voters in Cook County (Ill.) were among
the 60 million Americans who voted with machines made by Election Systems
& Software, a secretive and private company based in Omaha.
- ES&S, as its known, calls itself "the world's
largest and most experienced provider of total election management
According to the company's own figures, 42 percent of all registered
in the United States voted on ES&S equipment on Election Day.
- ES&S sells its "end-to-end election management
suite of solutions to replace traditional voting methods -- and election
officials -- with what it calls "one-stop-shop full service election
coordination from start to finish.
- What this means on Election Day is that ES&S, a
company, manages everything about the voting, from voter registration,
the printing of ballots, the programming of the voting machines, the
and tabulation of the votes, and the final reporting of the results for
60 million Americans in 47 states.
- Four years after first revealing the flaws inherent in
the insecure ES&S electronic voting machines used in Cook County,
Free Press went to the county clerk's office to observe how ES&S
the counting of the votes for America's third largest city, Chicago, and
the suburban area around it.
- Scott Burnham, spokesman for the county clerk, had
me that the vote count is open to the public and that press credentials
would not be required. Shortly after arriving, I ran into Burnham and
David Orr, the county clerk, in the hallway.
- Although I had arrived just shortly before the polls
closed at 7 p.m., I was the only member of the public or the press around
except for a couple Associated Press (AP) reporters in the far corner of
the room. They were busy setting up their laptop to the ES&S computer
in the backroom, which provided them with "direct feed of the
- I was surprised to see so few people attending such an
important event. In France, scores of citizens watch the vote count in
each polling station.
- While the results were coming in, the AP "reporter
read a novel while her laptop did the communicating.
- When I went to talk to the AP reporter, Burnham quickly
appeared and told me to leave. "You should talk to AP, he
- "She is AP, I replied.
- "She just works for AP, he said.
- Clearly the subject of AP having direct data feed from
the mainframe computer was something Burnham did not want me to
- Dane Placko, a local reporter for the Fox News network,
told AFP that, "Fox gets direct feed.
- Any actual counting of the votes by citizens is very
rare in the United States except for a few counties in Montana and other
states where paper ballots are still hand-counted. In most counties the
ballots are treated as input data to be processed through computer systems
controlled by private companies like ES&S.
- In Cook County the ballot is inevitably a cluttered punch
card with nearly 100 votes. After voting for the president and
a senator, and a Congressman, the voter has to wade through pages of
to vote for some 80 local officials from the sanitation board to the
general assembly. Every voter had to vote on nearly 80 judges.
- As I voted, every ballot that was fed into the ES&S
machine registered as an "undervote, as did mine.
- Rather than holding separate elections for national and
local officials, as is done in most countries, the Cook County ballot is
extremely long and complicated. Officials who support electronic voting
systems give the complexity of the ballot as the main reason why voting
machines are necessary -- because it would take too much time to count
the votes manually.
- After calling and personally visiting ES&S
in Omaha and Chicago, I can say it is the most secretive company I have
ever come across. In August, I visited ES&S company headquarters on
John Galt Blvd. in Omaha.
- Although the company says it is the largest voting
company in the United States, they were unable to provide any information
about their company or their products. The ownership of the company is
a closely-guarded secret. I asked to meet with Todd Urosevich, one of
the two brothers that founded the company.
- Bob and Todd Urosevich started ES&S as a company
called Data Mark in the early 1980s. Today, Bob Urosevich heads Ohio-based
Diebold Election Systems, a competitor of ES&S and the second largest
U.S. manufacturer of electronic voting machines.
- Together, the computerized ballot scanners and
voting machines systems made by ES&S and Diebold recorded some 80
of all votes cast in the recent U.S. presidential election.
- As ES&S had no media relations person available and
Todd Urosevich was not willing to be interviewed, the company's chief
officer Tom O,Brien finally appeared. O,Brien, clearly displeased with
my visit and questions, refused to provide any information about the
- Although I was ill on Election Day, I knew I had to go
to the county clerk's office to observe "counting of the vote. It
is, after all, the only "counting open to the public. What I saw
in Chicago, however, only made me more nauseous.
- The only "vote count the press or public can observe
in Chicago is what is projected on screens. The opening screen read:
Automatic Election Returns, Release 35, Under License to the City of
Serial No. 0004, Copyright 1987.
- Carl Zimmerman, technical supervisor for the clerk's
office, said that the computer that ran the system was in the back,
the ES&S room, he said.
- At 7 p.m., Jonathan Lin, a worker on the county clerk's
computer staff, came out and turned on the monitors on the 6th floor, where
the City of Chicago votes were tallied and displayed. Behind him was Rick
Thurman, an ES&S technician, checking the first results.
- Thurman seemed surprised when I asked him if he worked
for ES&S. He said that the company had about 6 engineers running the
computer in the back room. He then checked himself, saying he had said
- Later I asked Lin who was actually operating the computer
that was generating the results being shown on the monitors. "ES&S
is running the mainframe for all of this, Lin said pointing to the
- In the press room in the back I noticed stacks of boxes
containing "Votamatic voting machines and "pre-punched ballots
printed by ES&S of Addison, Texas, for the different precincts in Cook
County. In the rear hallway behind the press room was the ES&S room.
Only ES&S personnel were allowed into the room.
- When I poked around in the hallway and peeked into the
ES&S room an armed marshal and ES&S employee quickly appeared.
In no condition for a confrontation, I made myself scarce.
- I met a couple reporters from CLTV, a local cable channel
of WGN. One of the reporters asked about my interest in the Chicago
I said I was interested to see how a private company runs the elections
- Seemingly unaware of how ES&S operates elections
in Cook County, I explained the basics. "I've observed elections
across Europe, I added, "from France and Germany to Serbia and
Everywhere in Europe voting is done on paper ballots that are counted
by the citizens -- except Holland.
- Obviously uncomfortable with this discussion the reporter
responded, "I'm glad I'm not in Serbia. I don't mind if a machine
counts the votes.