Bev Harris has been referred to as ‘the godmother’ of the election reform movement (Boston Globe). Vanity Fair magazine credits her with founding the movement to reform electronic voting. Time Magazine calls her book, Black Box Votin, ‘the bible’ of electronic voting… And Salon has hailed her as the ‘Erin Brockovich of elections.’ Now she has uncovered a shocking finding about a vote-counting system called GEMS.
“Our review of the GEMS election management system, which counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States – demonstrates that a fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes,” says Harris.
“This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer. Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.testing [of GEMS] shows that one vote can be counted 25 times, another only one one-thousandth of a time, effectively converting some votes to zero.”
“GEMS vote-counting systems are and have been operated under five trade names: Global Election Systems, Diebold Election Systems, Premier Election Systems, Dominion Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software, in addition to a number of private regional subcontractors.
At the time of this writing, this system is used statewide in Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont, and for counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. It is also used in Canada.
Fractionalised votes allow “weighting” of races. Weighting a race removes the principle of “one person-one vote” to allow some votes to be counted as less than one or more than one. Regardless of what the real votes are, candidates can receive a set percentage of votes. Results can be controlled. For example, Candidate A can be assigned 44% of the votes, Candidate B 51%, and Candidate C the rest.
All evidence that fractional values ever existed can be removed instantly even from the underlying database using a setting in the GEMS data tables, in which case even instructing GEMS to show the decimals will fail to reveal they were used.
Instructions to treat votes as decimal values instead of whole numbers are inserted multiple times in the GEMS source code itself; thus, this feature cannot have been created by accident.
Fractionalizing the votes which create the Summary Results allows alteration of Election Night Web results and results sent to the Secretary of State, as well as results available at and local election officials.
Fractionalizing the “Statement of Votes Cast” allows an extraordinary amount of precision, enabling alteration of results by specific voting machine, absentee batch, or precinct. Vote results can be altered for polling places in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and can parse out precincts within a mixed batch of early or absentee votes.
Harris study was prompted by two issues: (1) Anomalies in elections in Shelby County, Tennessee, which uses the GEMS election management system, in which inconsistencies were observed in reporting of results by GEMS; and (2) Concerns raised regarding the presence of middlemen during the election process, such that a single individual gains remote access to the election management program, in some cases in multiple jurisdictions.
In August 2014 Bennie Smith was approached by a number of candidates who insisted that their elections had been stolen. He disagreed with the group and offered to look into how the system works.
In October 2015, Smith received a report from a candidate named Wanda Halbert. On Election Night, she had noticed that as votes accumulated, the number of votes in her race were somehow getting subtracted as new votes were added.
Smith began to research how votes that originate from the same source can change once they get into the GEMS program, beginning with the premise that sophisticated election theft would be near impossible, difficult at best; perhaps achievable in a crude or one-shot or localized way, but certainly not on a national scale, or as part of a plan to capture repeat elections. For that, one would need a system that is configurable, quick, precise, and usable by persons who are not master programmers.
His approach was to consider design requirements for what a person with inside access would need to alter election outcomes in a marketable way. The absolutely essential design feature needed is: Fractions. So Smith began his research by looking for just one thing: Floating point capability (decimals).
After performing a series of testing iterations on the voting system used in Shelby County, Smith’s opinions as to whether a robust, configurable election tampering mechanism exists evolved from “doubtful” to “maybe” to “yes.”
He began collaborating with Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org. Together they studied a conceptual model and checked voting databases from dozens of locations.They discovered that votes are being tied to voter names. The weighting of the voter is contained in “encoded information” stored outside of GEMS. This leaves no doubt that the intent is to allow votes for some voters to be counted less than votes for other voters.