2008

Episode 15
Drummond Electronics
 

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2008
EPISODE 15

DRUMMOND ELECTRONICS

The paper ballot system of voting was first adopted in Australia in 1856, in which voters marked off 
their choices on the printed form and dropped it in a sealed ballot box. Assuredly, the first ballot box 
fire occurred sometime not long after. Political bosses have always known that it’s not the votes that 
count, but who counts the votes. The chaos in the 2000 Florida presidential election was merely the 
tip of an iceberg, experts had been predicting would bob to the surface eventually.

The underlying problem, in addition to politicians’ inherent dishonesty, is that there are no federal 
standards for what constitutes a vote or the voting process. This is because the Constitution places 
elections in the hands of 50 separate state governments that in turn entrust the franchise to numerous 
local counties, parishes, cities, towns, villages and special districts. Until the 1970s, anyone could cobble 
a voting machine and sell it to the local town clerk, with results running from ludicrous to, in Florida’s 
case, disastrous.

In the mid 70s, the federal government realized the problem and within no time -- by 1994 -- the 
Federal Elections Commission issued a set of voluntary standards for various types of voting systems. 
Three and half years after the disputed presidential election in Florida, the newly created federal 
Election Assistance Commission provided $2.3 billion to state and local authorities to purchase new 
equipment. Only one problem: the new equipment available on the market was judged to be insecure 
and unreliable. Coincidently, 80% of it was developed and manufactured by Drummond Electronics, 
and projected for use in 43 states.

One of the largest privately held, family-owned companies in America, Drummond had been in the 
voting machine business since Sloan Drummond’s great grandfather founded the company in 
Lockport, New York in 1896. Drummond was a locksmith by trade but worked as a bookkeeper for 
the nearby Erie Canal. Calling on his mechanical dexterity, he applied the technology behind his office 
adding machine to jerrybuild a mechanical voting box for his hometown. It was so popular that four 
years later, officials in nearby Rochester asked him to supply them with 40 boxes, and the 
Drummond Lever Voting Machine Company was born.

Over the years, as the company was handed down from father to son, the name changed as the 
technology moved from mechanical systems to electronics. Mechanical machines lost favor due to 
their numerous breakdowns, and were no longer manufactured after the 1980s. In the 1930s, 
punch cards and automatic card reader tally systems took hold, especially in the South, primarily because 
their difficulty of use maintained the de facto disenfranchisement of the “Negroes.” The next breakthrough
came in the form of optical scanning in which voters marked a ballot that was fed into a computerized 
reader, similar to standardized testing or statewide lotteries, which then tabulated the results.

The most current technology advanced by election officials and the Drummond marketing department 
combines a touch screen with something called “direct recording electronics” (DRE). As with the old lever machines, there is no physical ballot. A voter enters a small booth and chooses among candidates and 
propositions displayed on the screen. A keyboard is provided to allow for write-in votes. The voters’ 
choices are immediately sent via an integral modem and the internet to a central server, normally 
located at the county elections board, to be tallied.

The problems with DRE are that there is no precinct level tabulation nor paper trail to verify ballots in 
case of a recount; not even a storage cartridge to crosscheck the number of voters using the devices with 
the number of votes cast. And no way for the individual voter to verify that his selections were accurately recorded after tapping “SEND.” Watchdog groups and state elections officials couldn’t understand what 
was so difficult about issuing a paper receipt of the transaction in the same way Drummond’s thousands
of ATM machines did. They held up nationwide rollout, and $1.5 billion in sales, for two years while the 
company scrambled to reengineer a million voting machines.

Adding a validation component was not all that difficult. Adding one that would lie took considerably 
more creativity. Sloan Drummond and a small cadre of his best and most loyal engineers devised a 
method by which a third party could direct each DRE device to count only a percentage of an individual’s 
vote as instructed and assign the remaining percentage to the candidate of its choice. In other words, 
if Sally votes for “A” for president, the device could be told to give half of her vote to “A” and the other 
half to “B,” while still issuing a receipt that she had voted for “A.”

Of course that also meant that the third party would need to be able to circumvent the election board’s 
electronic security and communicate directly with the devices. DREs were set up to accept input from 
local officials only, and only up to election day. This allowed voting officials to create the screens with 
the candidates names and parties and any applicable propositions, while preventing any monkey 
business during the election itself. Theoretically, there was no way the system could be hacked to 
disrupt or corrupt the election results. Unless a backdoor was built in at the factory.

Sloan Drummond understood the vagaries of voting fraud. The practice of registering entire cemeteries; numerous political toadies voting in multiple districts; even buying off whole elections’ boards in order 
to alter the count were ineffective and much too prone to exposure. Outcomes in precincts needed to
be in line with expectations. “B” couldn’t demolish “A” when exit polling showed a 50-50 split. 
By obtaining real time results online, Drummond could instruct a precinct’s DREs to subtly alter the 
percentage of individual votes to achieve only the minimum outcome necessary to accomplish the 
desired results. Just a few votes changed in selected precincts could swing the outcome in tightly 
fought battle ground states. And no one except the A-Team would be the wiser.

Their black box was perfect. It would be used in only the most critical of elections, and with the utmost
secrecy and delicacy. One of it’s first tests would come during the Florida referendum on Trinity.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The first mechanical voting machine was used in Lockport, New York in 1896, 
but Sloan Drummond’s great grandfather and the Drummond Lever Voting Machine Company are
fictional. However, concerns about Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems continue to 
remain under the radar of the mainstream media. In addition to the normal problems associated 
with ballot security, computer glitches, reliable modem access to servers, and the ability to verify 
votes in recounts without benefit of a paper trail, the use of DRE puts elections at the mercy of the 
few companies that make the machines. Essentially, private vendors are in the position to make 
elections turn out anyway they desire with virtually no means of detection.
 

Next in "Saecila:" The Holy Trinity Amendmennts


by  Martin Gresko

Interested in publishing this manuscript?
Or to make comments, CONTACT Martin Gresko at VGABONSUN@hotmail.com
See his biweekly political column http://www.StPetePost.com
 

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