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Netcraft Shows Smartech Running Ohio Election Servers 688

Posted by kdawson
from the something-rotten-in-the-state-of-Ohio dept.
goombah99 writes "Netcraft is showing that an event happened in the Ohio 2004 election that is difficult to explain. The Secretary of State's website, which handles election reporting, normally is directed to an Ohio-based IP address hosted by the Ohio Supercomputer Center. On Nov. 3 2004, Netcraft shows the website pointing out of state to a server owned by Smartech Corp. According to the American Registry on Internet Numbers, Smartech's block of IP addresses 64.203.96.0 – 64.203.111.255 encompasses the entire range of addresses owned by the Republican National Committee. Smartech hosted the recently notorious gbw43.com domain used from the White House in apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act, from which thousands of White House emails vanished." Update: 04/25 01:24 GMT by KD : ePluribus Media published a piece called Ken Blackwell Outsources Ohio Election Results to GOP Internet Operatives, Again on election eve 2006, when a similar DNS switch to Smartech occurred. They have been investigating the larger story of IT on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for two years.
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Netcraft Shows Smartech Running Ohio Election Servers

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:03PM (#18858445) Homepage Journal

    The President announced today that he as complete faith in the Ohio Supercomputer Center, Smartech Corp. and the RNC, which utterly destroys any remaining credibility they may have had left.

    The longer this fellow stays in office, the more he resembles Richard M. Nixon, IMHO.

    Nixon is not dead. How do I know? Always two there are, a Master and an Apprentice.

    • Re:Breaking News (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:15PM (#18858685)
      No, he easily surpasses Nixon by leaps and bounds. And what's more, Nixon knew when he was breaking laws and doing shady things. This president seems to believe he's doing exactly what he's "allowed" to do and is operating within his rights.

      It would be an interesting question to ask the president whether he thought Nixon was a shady character as president and whether Nixon's activities and actions were of a questionable if not illegal behavior. Could he agree with History's assessment of Nixon while at the same time continue to claim he is within his rights and is acting in the best interest of the nation?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CogDissident (951207)
        Well, untill someone actually says "no, you can't do that", then he really DOES have the ability to do whatever he wants.

        Example:
        Shooting someone is illegal, yet you go out into times square and shoot someone in the face. A cop comes out and looks at the dead guy, looks at you, and sort of shrugs and walks off. Do you feel like you broke the law? What if you do it every day before work, and eventually a cop says "Hey, maybe it'd be a good idea to stop shooting people". Did you break the law then?

        We re
    • Re:Breaking News (Score:5, Interesting)

      by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:36PM (#18859067)
      That's not fair -- Nixon was actually a pretty effective president. People only remember the resignation, but he was able to push through a large number of domestic policy changes and had a foreign policy that extended beyond Vietman. Whether or not you agree with his politics (and be sure you know what they are before you make that decision), and the crimes he helped cover up, you should at least respect his effectiveness in the office.
    • ...to include "Nixon".

      Now, move along. Has anyone ever thought it was to handle the extra traffic from people checking on election returns? Or did you actually believe that the web site was processing votes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Carmody (128723)
      "The longer this fellow stays in office, the more he resembles Richard M. Nixon, IMHO."

      I morphed them, and it was surprising how little work it was:
      http://www.dougshaw.com/experiments/presidents.htm l [dougshaw.com]
  • Misunderstanding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:04PM (#18858463)
    Your own submission answers your question.

    Nothing "changed" or was "transferred". http://election.sos.state.oh.us/ [state.oh.us] is a special web site in operation for elections. Otherwise, it points to http://www.sos.state.oh.us/ [state.oh.us] as it does now. It appears that the State of Ohio contracted with SmartTech for hosting, processing, and dissemination of the election results via the special elections web site, when it is in operation.

    That probably won't be a good enough answer for people, though. Regardless, it appears that SmartTech has obvious ties to the Republican Party, and hosts many sites for various Republican political interests. The Secretary of State of Ohio is a partisan political position. This doesn't mean there aren't questions that can be raised or points to be debated.

    The sad truth is that partisans are involved in just about every aspect of the voting and elections process, and that's not going to change, ever.

    Witness the decades-old joke from Democratic stronghold cities: "Why did the Democrat walk into the cemetery? To thank his voters."

    It's April 2007. Anyone who believes the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen (or not) isn't going to change what they think now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rlp (11898)
      Interesting. Perhaps the Secretary of State was merely contracting out to a site that could handle the unusual volume that an election site would experience during a highly contested election.

      Wait, what am I thinking? No, it's more evidence of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
    • by Jeian (409916) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:15PM (#18858683)
      Save your logical explanations... Slashdot wants a conspiracy, so they're going to see a conspiracy.
    • by tedshultz (596089) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:16PM (#18858719)

      It's April 2007. Anyone who believes the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen (or not) isn't going to change what they think now.
      Thats not true at all. In 2004 I thought all the people who were saying the election was stolen were crazy tin foil hat types. The more I learn, the more I realize that it is much more likely that I was the blind sheep type. No one is debating that lots of non standard and illegal activities took place during the 2004 election, the only question is how wide spread, and how well organized those activities were. The more stories that come out, the more people will start to change their minds.
      --crazy tin foil hat guy
      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:31PM (#18858965) Homepage Journal
        I've looked into a lot of these claims, and most of them are nonsense.

        I personally debunked the UC Berkeley study (cough) which "proved" the Flordia results were rigged. Though they hid it in a bunch of technical nonsense, essentially what they said was that they had a model to predict the outcome of results in Florida (based on past elections in 1996 and 2000) and since the 2004 numbers were different from what they expected, the results were rigged. QED.

        Needless to say, this is complete hokum, and they should have been laughed out of the room instead of published.

        Seems to me there's more evidence for a vast left wing conspiracy. :p
        • Maxwell's deamon (Score:5, Insightful)

          by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#18859549)
          I've done stat analysis too. I concur with you that accusations based on statistical about what happened in florida don't seem to be strongly supported. That is to say the statistics are not conclusive. But I've also follwed the ohio reports pretty closely too. Some of the reports are incorrect. But some can't be so easily debunked. The strongest cases indicate that shoddy voting equipment created long lines that detered voters in selected precincts. It's also now certain that the recounts were rigged (they precounted then selected the precincts without problems for the official counts. And there are precints where the votes and voters don't add up. You always expect some of that so one can never really put a finger on if there was too much or too little. All very statistically nebulous. and hence an opportunity to tilt things and hide in the noise.

          This is why getting the results early and having the ability to delay posting them enlarges the opportunity for dirty tricks. For example here's a sort of maxwell's deamon way to rig an eleciton completely legally. If you look at the early returns you will see lots of mistakes. Some will go in your favor some will go against you. If you selectively inquire with precinct judges only on the cases where the votes go against you, you can make gains. Indeed both parties routinely do this after the elections so that's not even science fiction. But now suppose your party, and only your party, is magically granted the power to do this on election night itself. Getting totals "fixed" is a lot easier when things are in flux. a simple phone call can say "Hey that can't be right, read those numbers again" will get you an updated total. After the election is done getting changes is much harder. Hence eraly knowledge helps. Running the reporting site would be a windfall.

        • Re:Misunderstanding (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonamused Cow-herd (614126) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:11PM (#18859709)

          I've looked into a lot of these claims, and most of them are nonsense.

          That may be true, but let me share a personal anecdote. Studying in Ohio during 2004, I was glad that my vote might "count" for something, and eagerly anticipated the elections. Being in a (rich and somewhat elitist) college town, you can imagine that liberal sentiment was widespread. Sure, there were a few Bush supporters, but almost everyone I knew of planned on voting Kerry. This is a sizable group of people, several thousand.

          The (Republican) voting officials assigned us just TWO voting machines, which coincidentally turned out to be the two oldest in the county. One broke after about an hour in use.

          Personally, I ended up standing in line almost 11 hours to vote. Some people stayed in excess of 13 hours (by far the highest in the nation). Needless to say, our votes didn't make it into the county tallies.

          Meanwhile, the "townies" (rural and overwhelmingly Bush supporters according to results) had surplus machines, and faced no wait.

          I'm not saying that Kerry would have won anyway, but just the brazenness of these people's anti-competitive activities astounded me. I can certainly believe that lesser forms of the same or similar methods were enforced in other areas of the state. IIRC, Ken Blackwell, then Secretary of State (no idea if he still is), said that he would do whatever it took to re-elect Bush. I think that's a quote, but I'm not certain. Certainly, this implies no illegal activity, but given the political climate, I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:41PM (#18859167)
      While it hardly is a smoking gun, it does create situation so ripe for exploitation that it's proper to second guess the logic of the SOS's decision. There are other checks on the vote totals, but there's still problems if someone can adjust the reporting. Perhaps this is obvious but if you are planning any monkey business running the reporting site gives you the opportunity to see the data before anyone else knows and to delay posting it. Buys time and tells you exactly the minimum number of votes that have to be intercepted up-stream. (It's kinda like the plot of the movie the Sting, where horse racing results were delayed). Even if one is not planning to try to manipulate the precinct totals there's other values. For example, Early and large misreports in the florida election had Gore planning a concession prematurely (he eventually did concede of course). And perceived swings in east coast voting may possibly affect west coast voting turn-out.

      Finally, there's other potential problems. As I said there are other checks on the votes, but it seems they really are not in use. Ohio was such a mess that it still is hard to match up precinct totals with final totals. Some of this is due to artifacts in the way they attribute absentee votes to precincts as virtual voters causing more apparent votes than voters signing in. In other cases the discrepancies in the poll books go the other way. And in some cases precincts post "corrected" total late. Now you might think a person could get all the data and sort it all out. But the fact is that in practice this is not really possible. There just never seems to be one set of books. If you go to many web sites to day, New Mexico, for example, you can do the addition yourself and find that the sum of the precinct totals on the SOS's website is not the sum of the election, and some counties had more votes than voters while others had undervotes in the tens of percent. In fact there are even errors that simply are accepted because the canvassing board accepted them.

      Ordinary citizens usually don't have standing to contest elections. And it can literally be expensive for candidates to do so. Generally they don't get back any bonds they put up unless the election actually changes outcome. And with electronic voting they become more reluctant to do so since theirs nothing to recount (and so the totals won't change).

      Thus in a close election changing the vote totals at the "top" is not even a completely crazy notion since it's in practice hard to verify.

      For these reasons it's imperative that the vote counting system not have egreious opportunities to inflame partisan suspicions. It does not matter so much what was done, if anything, but if it expanded the opportunity for this to be done. Perceptions matter a lot.

      In this case some reports say the crew that set up this site was the same one now being accused of the phone jamming dirty tricks against the DNC. So it's not really so far fetched to be suspicious.

    • by coyote-san (38515) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:50PM (#18859321)
      Damn it, this is why the republicans are driving this country into the ground!

      The Secretary of State's office is NOT a partisan position. The Secretary swears to protect and defend the constitution (or whatever the equivalent is for Ohio state positions), not to protect the elephant. There should be a clear and unambiguous wall between the office holder's official actions and individual partisan actions, and should never, under any circumstances, use official resources for partisan purposes. When it's inevitable (the classic example being the president flying to events during the election season), the office holder is required to provide appropriate compensation for this use. E.g., equivalent first-class airfare for everyone on AF1, IIRC.

      With most secretaries of state, I would agree with you that it's probably nothing more than temporary hosting during a period of high use.

      But the outgoing Secretary of State, Blackwell (iirc), was extraordinarily partisan in his official acts. He's the reason why Ohio is usually the center of stolen election allegations. Given his amply documented bad behavior in the past, e.g., attempting to have his gubernatoral opponent disqualified on bogus grounds shortly before the election, a rational person would have no choice but to assume the worst and require proof that it truly was an innocent and unbiased decision.
    • by telso (924323) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:00PM (#18859487)

      The sad truth is that partisans are involved in just about every aspect of the voting and elections process, and that's not going to change, ever.


      And there's your problem. Elections Canada [elections.ca] is an independent agency set up by the Canadian Parliament. Returning Officers [elections.ca] are hired for 10-year periods to run the election in every electoral district. All staff, from the Chief Electoral Officer at the top to the poll clerk at the bottom have to be non-partisan and the people at the top can't be members of political parties or have recently held office before their appointments.

      You often hear of political scandals in Canada, but not electoral ones. The best example of that is recounts: recounts happen automatically if there is a difference between the top two candidates of 0.1% of the total vote. However, a losing candidate can request one outside that range if they saw instances of electoral fraud. Do you know when the last time a recount (not even a new election, just a recount) was ordered due to electoral fraud? Because I don't. There you go.
  • by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:05PM (#18858477) Homepage Journal
    The Republican Party is dying.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All in favour of investigating this?

    *Half of democrats and no republicans raise their hands*

    All opposed?

    *No democrats and every republican raise their hands*

    No need to investigate then. Nothing to see here, move along!
  • by dougoxley (688508) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:08PM (#18858561) Homepage
    I have some questions...

    1. How reliable is the Netcraft data? What would it take to hack Netcraft and make it look like there was a hack of the Ohio SOS?

    2. What information do we have that the election.sos.state.oh.us domain was a part of the election procedures during the 2004 election?

    3. Was the April 2006 change during a primary election?

    Inquiring minds want to know...

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:10PM (#18858613)
      The "change" is because the elections web site is only in operation for elections. Its operation was contracted to SmartTech by the Ohio Secretary of State. There was no "hack". Partisans and partisan companies are involved in the elections and voting process. The key is having enough oversight to keep everyone honest.
    • by glassesmonkey (684291) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:30PM (#18858953) Homepage Journal
      What a horrible version of this story to pick. There are many submission with the whole story, but only this one is chosen.. How very /.


      This was submitted yesterday when this was still news:

      "The Free Press is reporting [freepress.org] how the IT company that provides Rove's emails and RNC websites, also hosted Ohio's 2004 election results. The country results were sent to Ohio's Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, and those results were hosted on a SMARTech webserver in TN. Blackwell had the IT guys switch the DNS [epluribusmedia.org] on election night in order to accomplish a man-in-the-middle [wikipedia.org] exploit on election results."
  • by Barkmullz (594479) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:08PM (#18858579)

    ...why this is revelant. This sounds like an association fallacy [wikipedia.org] to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bahwi (43111)
      Nope, while it is easy to jump to that conclusion, it's just not accurate. The problem here is Conflict of Interest [wikipedia.org] pure and simple. While there could be something more there probably isn't, but that doesn't mean the fox should guard the hen house even if he says he won't touch.
  • Obvious . . . (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dausha (546002) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:09PM (#18858587) Homepage
    "Can anyone suggest a good explanations (sic) for this seemingly dubious election-eve transfer?"

    Somebody obviously hacked the Netcraft server to make it look like the Republicans were so stupid as to try to steal an election by using their own block of IPs. It also seems amazing that the GOP would wait until the last minute to change the DNS, as it can sometimes take a bit longer than expected for such a transfer to properly propagate. Heck, if they were smart enough to steal an election by changing the DNS, why not spoof the entry to make it look like it pointed to the Democrat Party?
  • Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <slashdot@ p u dge.net> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:09PM (#18858593) Homepage Journal
    There is no evidence of any kind that any votes we changed through this server "switch" bullshit, or that even if it DID happen, that it possibly could have or would have gone undetected. The counties would surely have seen that their reported results were not what was being reported by the state. If there was going to be fraud, it would have had to happen at the county level, and if it happened there, then why bother to do it at the state level?

    This doesn't even pass the smell test.

    As the Democrats' own statistician, Jasjeet Sekhon, who coauthored their 2004 post-election report said:

    More voters supported Bush in Ohio in 2004 than Kerry. There is no scientific evidence that they did not. There were some irregularities (such as the allocation of voting machines), but they were not large enough to change the outcome. Bush won in 2004; Democrats have to admit that he really did if they are to fix their electoral problems much like how an alcoholic fist has to admit that s/he has a problem.

  • Which article? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frosty_tsm (933163) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:16PM (#18858713)
    Which link is responsible for this: "On Nov. 3 2004, Netcraft shows the website pointing out of state to a server owned by Smartech Corp."

    I'm not questioning this necessarily, but with all of the links to evidence I'm confused why there was no link for this one...
  • Wrong IPs (Score:5, Informative)

    by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <slashdot@ p u dge.net> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:17PM (#18858733) Homepage Journal
    Ohio: 64.203.98.137
    RNC: 64.203.98.0 - 64.203.98.127

    There is no evidence presented that the RNC controlled the Ohio server in question. It fell outside the range.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:18PM (#18858735)
    Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.

    Since the Internet is a series of tubes, either 1) anyone involved has no idea how it works, but got a free iPod for switching hosting facilities, or 2) its a plan by the geeks to throw the election, which, frankly, is better than the politicians throwing it.
  • by otacon (445694) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:18PM (#18858745)
    this data doesn't mean that the RNC fixed the election, but what it could mean is that by having control over the voting reports to the public, they could infact hold back information or skew results before the votes were finalized and this could prevent a late rush to the polls from democrats fearing defeat.
  • Fascism in the USA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OriginalArlen (726444) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:23PM (#18858815)

    Today's Guardian [guardian.co.uk] includes this interesting piece entitled "Fascist America, in 10 easy steps". Guess how many steps down the path we are?

    For the benefit of those who won't read it, here's the ten points.

    1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
    2. Create a gulag
    3. Develop a thug caste
    4. Set up an internal surveillance system
    5. Harass citizens' groups
    6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
    7. Target key individuals
    8. Control the press
    9. Dissent equals treason
    10. Suspend the rule of law

    And in other news: Jessica Lynch [guardian.co.uk] comes out and condemns the Hollywood show they made of the incident she was involved in.

  • by HighOrbit (631451) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:33PM (#18859003)
    I don't think there is anything especially nefarious about a state agency and the RNC contracting for hosting with the same company. Big deal. They probably both buy stuff from Wal-Mart too. I think somebody with an axe to grind is leaping to a conclusion that simply is not merited by the evidence given here.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:36PM (#18859057) Homepage Journal
    when they complain about voter fraud being rampant [columbiatribune.com]. I guess they didn't count on it being found out they were complicit in the fraud.


    Personally, anyone found to be a participant in voter fraud [washingtonpost.com] should be barred for life from voting.

  • I can (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:37PM (#18859095) Homepage Journal
    think of an explanation.

    On election day, the people who run the SOS's DNS point election.sos.state.oh.us to a contractor who has contracted to provide "real time" updates from election data, something the SOS's staff is not equipped to do.

    That vendor markets hosting services to political and government entities. It unwisely assigns a governmental web site from the very next block of addresses that are given to a political client, and unfortunately that block of addresses has become implicated in a serious scandal. Note the address is not in the RNC owned block (contrary to the article's title).

    Now there are a gazillion possible ethical temptations that marketing yourself to political and government entities entails. So contracts let to such companies should be looked at very closely. But this is no smoking gun; or if there is smoke, it is more likely to involve improper contract selection than anything else.

    So, it bears looking into, but is nothing to get excited about yet.
  • How stupid is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kenh (9056) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @04:37PM (#18861033) Homepage Journal
    If you poke around the records a bit, you'll see that we are talking about the Sec'ty of State's website - there was no internet voting, AFAIK. How absolutely unheard of for a web site to migrate to another provider during periods of increased activity! The SOS website was migrated for the Primary and for the Election, the two days of the year the traffic spikes, and she choose a friendly Web Hosting Company - would this be interesting if she choose 1&1 or another independent hosting service?

    And the IP addresses issue, puh-leeze, they have many clients that are not the RNC - simply providing a service to the RNC is not a crime - if it were, then caterers, limo drivers, temp agencies, coffee shops, etc. that serve the RNC throughout the year are RNC flunkies...

    Seriously, what is the problem - that the SOS website was on a machine physically near Newt Gingrich's website, the election was obviously stolen...
  • by SirBruce (679714) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:33PM (#18861973) Homepage
    Umm, even if this is true, so what? Let's say the Republican conspiracy controlled the Ohio Secretary of State website. How does this help them steal the Ohio electoral votes? It doesn't change thc actual vote counting. What, was the Secretary of State and his web staff desperately trying to get the "real" vote totals out, only to have the Republicans put fake numbers on the website? These people had no other media access other than their own website? Where are they now?

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