Election Systems & Software
Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is the largest elections vendor in the US. They sell a variety of products, including voting machines, election management systems, voter registration software, and electronic poll books. ES&S is based in Omaha NE, owned by the Nebraska-based McCarthy Group.
- 1 History
- 2 Products
- 3 Employees
- 4 Controversies
- 5 Suspect elections
- 6 Political connections
- 7 Corporate connections
- 8 References
- 9 External links
American Information Systems
Bob Urosevich worked at the Klopp Printing Company, which printed the paper for Douglas County NE's ballots. At the time, Douglas County was one of the largest locales still hand-counting its ballots. In 1974, Urosevich, who remembered taking standardized tests that were graded by optical scanners, wondered if the same system could be used for counting votes. He approached Westinghouse Learning Corporation in Iowa City to test out his idea.
In 1975, Urosevich gave a demonstration to Mike Boyle, election commissioner for Douglas County. Boyle was impressed, and at Urosevich's behest, he convinced the county to use it in the 1976 primary. Following its success in the primary, Urosevich founded Data Mark Systems as a seller of Westinghouse ballot tabulators, which received the contract to count votes in the general election.
Data Mark Systems, based in Omaha, marketed its product to other Nebraska counties as well. In 1978, Bob Urosevich hired his brother Todd, a former IBM salesman. As Westinghouse lost interest in the elections industry, some of its employees also came over to Data Mark. In 1979, Data Mark Systems was renamed to American Information Systems (AIS).
William and Robert Ahmanson, savings-and-loan industry millionaires who were family friends of the Urosevich brothers, poured capital into AIS in 1979. These AIS financiers were older cousins of Howard Ahmanson Jr., a Christian Reconstructionist who used his fortune to fund extreme right-wing politics and would later sit on the Council for National Policy. In 1987, the Ahmansons sold their AIS shares to the Omaha World-Herald, the state's largest newspaper (which got a 45% stake), and the McCarthy Group, an Omaha investment bank (which got 35%).
Chuck Hagel, who became president of the McCarthy Group in 1992, also became chairman of AIS that same year. After Bob Urosevich left the company in late 1993 (he'd go on to found I-Mark Systems in 1995), Hagel replaced him as CEO. When Hagel decided to run for a Nebraska Senate seat in 1995, he resigned from both the McCarthy Group and AIS. However, he failed to disclose his positions at AIS, or his continued investment in AIS through the McCarthy Group. This ethical violation would come to light after the suspicious results of the 1996 election, in which Hagel won two shocking upsets in elections counted by AIS machines.
Business Records Corporation
Business Records Corporation (BRC) was a major provider of elections supplies (such as voting equipment and ballots) in the late-20th century. It was a subsidiary of Cronus Industries, a Texas company with ties to wealthy elites, including Caroline Hunt and a partner firm of Rothschild Inc.  From 1984 to 1986, BRC went on an acquisition spree, buying up other elections companies. In 1985, Cronus purchased Computer Election Systems Inc. (CESI), the largest voting technology company in the US, and integrated it with BRC. By 1986, Cronus had sold its other subsidiaries and opted just to focus on BRC.
Election Products Inc.
Election Products Inc. was a small elections company based in Virginia. In 1993, they developed a touchscreen-based DRE voting machine called the Votronic, resembling a Magna Doodle toy. Due to the limited resources of the company, the Votronic didn't take off very much. It was first used in a couple North and South Carolina localities for the 1996 primaries.
Mergers and acquisitions
Largely due to its flurry of acquisitions, BRC was the dominant player in the elections industry. That also made it a major competitor of AIS. In 1997, AIS and BRC merged, with AIS being renamed to Election Systems and Software (ES&S). The Justice Department halted the merger on antitrust grounds, leading to an arrangement where ES&S transferred the Optech line (originally made by BRC) to Sequoia. ES&S still retained its existing Optech contracts.
Attempted purchase of Premier
There is, however, some reason to doubt that ES&S's divestiture of Premier to Dominion was legitimate. Until at least 2017, seven years after Dominion purchased Premier, the ES&S website continued to market Premier's hardware and software. Making it even stranger is the fact that Dominion does not appear to have ever marketed any Premier products.
Even through the mergers that produced ES&S, AIS's main investors - the Omaha World-Herald and McCarthy Group - retained significant shares in the company. In 2011, the Omaha World-Herald sold its ES&S shares to the McCarthy Group, making the Group a majority stockholder in ES&S.
Punch card tabulators
Election management systems
Board of directors
- Chairman: ????, Chuck Hagel (1992-1995), ????, Aldo Tesi (????-????), ????
- John Gottschalk
- Michael McCarthy
- Joe McGinnis
- Sam Hogsett
Chuck Hagel ties
Chuck Hagel, after becoming president of the McCarthy Group in 1992, came to AIS as the chairman. He would later take Bob Urosevich's position of CEO following Urosevich's 1993 departure. Hagel decided to run in Nebraska's 1996 Senate election, stepping down from both companies in 1995. However, he remained closely tied through his AIS stock (which he transferred to the McCarthy Group) and good friendship with Michael McCarthy (the Group's founder). Hagel, a political newcomer, would go on to win two shocking upsets against popular candidates who were leading in the polls. AIS machines happened to count the vast majority of Nebraska votes, raising suspicion that the elections were rigged.
Making it worse was Hagel's unethical decision to obscure his ties to AIS. In mandatory Senate disclosure forms, he intentionally didn't mention his time at ES&S. Once he entered the Senate, he obscured the connection between his McCarthy Group investment and ES&S, using a loophole to avoid listing the Group's assets. The Senate ethics committee chair questioned Hagel's use of the loophole, and was strong-armed into resigning, replaced by another Republican who accepted Hagel's maneuver. His deceptive attempt to distance himself from AIS increased suspicion that something untoward happened in his elections.
Statistical analysis confirmed that Hagel's 1996 election results were irregular in his favor. The same irregularity also showed up in his 2002 reelection, which gave him the largest statewide election win in Nebraska's history.
ES&S has reprogrammed voting machines and central tabulators without supervision, a dubious practice raising the possibility that they tampered with election results. The most notable occurrences of this were in the 2004 Ohio and 2012 Ohio elections. In 2004, ES&S technicians visited multiple counties before election day and made unauthorized modifications to tabulators. In 2012, ES&S worked with the Ohio Secretary of State to install a last-minute uncertified patch onto central tabulators in 39 counties. Both times, Ohio's tabulators could have easily had malicious code installed by ES&S, and evidence hints at that being the case.
1996 Nebraska general
Main article: 1996 Nebraska general election
Chuck Hagel, a newcomer to politics and the state of Nebraska, won a Senate seat in a shocking upset. He defeated popular Democratic governor Ben Nelson despite consistently trailing in the polls. Hagel's votes happened to be counted on AIS machines, the company in which he had served executive-level positions (that he then neglected to disclose). The strange outcome and Hagel's conflicts of interest raised serious questions about the integrity of the results. Statistical analysis confirmed that the 1996 election was uniquely irregular, compared to several other Nebraska elections including noncompetitive Senate races.
2004 Ohio general
Main article: 2004 Ohio general election
Right before the election, ES&S technicians came to several counties and reprogrammed their tabulators. They arrived without authorization, even to counties that normally didn't have ES&S set up their machines. Following the election, one tampered county tabulator showed a deleted audit log, a telltale sign of vote rigging. And it would later be revealed that Ohio's election results were likely altered in real-time by a man-in-the-middle (MITM), a setup which would have required rigged tabulators to receive commands from the MITM.
2010 South Carolina Dem primary
Main article: 2010 South Carolina Democratic primary
2012 Ohio general
Main article: 2012 Ohio general election
Ohio in 2012 appears to have had an attempted repeat of the MITM setup from 2004, which once again required county tabulators to be rigged. Secretary of State Jon Husted worked with ES&S to get a last-minute patch onto 39 counties' central tabulators. Thanks to a legal loophole, the patch could forego certification, allowing ES&S to undetectably install vote rigging software if they so desired. The patch itself was wholly unjustified for its claimed purpose of converting county results for the state tabulator, further implying that its true purpose was malicious.
- Caroline Hunt (family linked to the CNP)
- Ahmanson family (son of the family patriarch was member of CNP)
Numerous links to the Omaha business community:
- Michael McCarthy (founder of McCarthy Group; serves on multiple other Omaha corporate boards)
- John Gottschalk (business partner of McCarthy; former publisher of Omaha World-Herald)
- P.E. Esping (did business in both Omaha and Dallas; sat on the board of FirsTier Financial when Lawrence E. King was laundering money through it)
- William F. Welsh II (president and CEO of Valmont Industries; sat on the board of FirsTier Bank when Lawrence E. King was laundering money through it)
- Wikipedia page for ES&S
- Omaha World-Herald retrospective on ES&S
- AIS early history
- Bev Harris investigation of ES&S
- Lynn Landes investigation of ES&S
- NYTimes 1986 report on Cronus Industries
- 1996 article on Election Products Inc.
- ES&S explains how iVotronic evolved from the Votronic
- Black Box Voting, "Letter of Complaint - Request for Investigation", 2009/09/25
- 2010 DOJ decision requiring ES&S to divest Premier
- Bev Harris on the antitrust decision
- Evidence that Premier products were still marketed by ES&S after the supposed divestiture:
* 2013/01/28 products page - sells AccuVote OS, AccuVote OSx, DIMS, VoteRemote, AccuVote TSx
* 2017/10/07 products page - sells GEMS, AccuVote OS, AccuVote OSx, AccuVote TSx, VoteRemote
* 2018/11/05 products page - all Premier products now gone
- Omaha-World Herald sells ES&S
- Info about predecessors
- "The Privatization of Our Democracy: Eva Waskell and the Election Integrity Movement"
- List of past election commissioners in Douglas County - includes Mike Boyle (1972-79) and Vickie Edwards (1988-91)
- New Yorker, "Counting Votes" by Ronnie Dugger, 1988/11/07
- Texas Observer, "Democracy in the Computer Age", 1988/11/11 (mentions P.E. Esping of FirsTier Financial)
- Optech might also be vulnerable to Hursti hack
- SEC litigation against Alex Sheshunoff, a BRC stockholder
- Asset purchase agreement between AIS and BRC (1997/12/03)
- 1997 DOJ agreement resulting in a divestiture by BRC to Sequoia
- Washington Post, "Getting Out the Vote, Electronically", 2001/06/13 (mentions William F. Welsh II as ES&S chairman)
- University of Tulsa Magazine, "Democracy, technology all in a day's work for Bill Welsh", fall 2001: "Last November, ES&S systems were in use in more than 1,800 U.S. counties as voters went to the polls for the general election. Given the fundamental importance and the logistical complexity of elections, Welsh and company leave nothing to chance: They had four business jets and two turboprops on standby, as well as more than 1,000 temporary employees, some drawn from Offut Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. ES&S staff were ready to be anywhere at a moment’s notice to help iron out unexpected kinks. Fortunately, it was a smooth year.
ES&S also has tapped the international elections market. In 1997-98, the company modernized voting on a national scale in Venezuela, moving that country to optical scanner-based voting. ES&S also has installations in Guam, the Republic of Palau, Canada, and the ARMM region of the Philippines.
As a young man beginning college during the initial explosion of transistor technology, Welsh had a keen interest in solid-state physics. He majored in engineering physics at TU, where he was a dedicated student, enrolling in 18 to 20 hours a semester and working as a research assistant for Jersey Production Research Company (Now Exxon). He also participated extensively in intramural sports and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. (Bill’s brother, Bob Welsh, also was a TU Sigma Chi brother.)
Welsh joined General Electric straight out of college and spent 10 years with the company, where he advanced quickly and wound up running GE’s advanced planning in GE lighting unit. It was during this time that he also completed a masters in business administration from Clemson and Furman Universities.
The challenge and opportunity of a technology-based startup led him from GE to Indiana-based Hi-Tek Lighting, where he served as Vice President of Marketing. From 1977 to 1993, he was President, CEO, and board member of Valmont Industries, Inc., a producer of support structures for the communications industry, street and highway lighting standards, and agricultural irrigation systems.
His successful track record allowed Welsh to mothball his suits in 1994, but after a leisurely year of golf and skiing, boredom drove him back to the corporate world. “I realized age 54 was not the time to retire,” he said.
In 1995, he returned to business as President and CEO of American Information Systems, which brought him into the election systems industry. In 1997, AIS acquired Business Records Corporation’s election division, a move that would produce Election Systems & Software, which he chairs today.
Welsh also serves as chair of Ballantyne of Omaha, Inc., a leading manufacturer of motion picture projection and specialty lighting equipment. He was named to this post in September, having served more than a year on the board. Welsh also was a board member for Guarantee Mutual Life Co. until its merger with Jefferson-Pilot and is currently a trustee for Creighton University, as well as past chairman and executive board member for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce."
- Older version of Ch.6 of Black Box Voting by Bev Harris shows many ES&S corporate officers
- Michigan Department of Management and Budget, "NOTICE OF CONTRACT NO. 071B4200234 between THE STATE OF MICHIGAN and Election Systems & Software, Inc.", 2004/05/24 - mentions technician Sam Hogsett
- List of documented ES&S failures
- Interview of CEO Aldo Tesi by the Business Ethics Alliance
- Gary Greenhalgh - vice president
- Daniel Hopsicker, "Voting Machine official in Sarasota Recount", 2006/11/15: "Thus it is not incidental to discussion of the fairness of that contest that the curriculum vitae of one of its key players, the man who brought touch screen voting to the hometown of Katherine Harris, has been filled with textbook examples of American elections being conducted by people whose sheer brazen corruption equals that of any pack of Washington lobbyists sharing Jack Abramoff's Skybox at a Redskin game with the San Diego "defense contractor" buddies of convicted grifter Randy "Duke" Cunningham."
- Daniel Hopsicker, "V.P. at Election Giant ES&S Threatens to Sue MadCowNews", 2007/01/09
- New Nebraska Network, "The Omaha World-Herald Should Divest from Election Systems and Software", 2006/11/17
- Public Accountability Initiative, "Partisanship and Conflicts of Interest in the Electronic Voting Industry"
- Ellen Theisen, "Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections", 2008/08/18 - gives examples of local election offices being dependent on the vendors to run their elections; explains that Oklahoma is one of the few states to kick out the vendors
- Venango County PA forensic audit
- Brad Friedman, "SPECIAL REPORT: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System 'Remotely Accessed' on 'Multiple Occasions' by Unknown Computer", 2011/12/12
- David A. Eckhardt Ph.D., "Audit Analysis of the Venango County 2011 Municipal Primary Initial Report", 2011/11/15
- "In a continuing attempt to put the kibosh on Venango's analysis, a threatening 11/18/11 letter [PDF] was sent directly to Eckhardt by Michael C. Cox of Koley Jessen, a law firm retained by ES&S."
- United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, Stephen C. LYNCH and Patricia R. Lynch v. OMAHA WORLD-HERALD COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation, and W. James Johnson, memorandum and order, 2004/01/27 - has the defendants (including the Omaha World-Herald) represented by "Elizabeth M. Callaghan, Michael C. Cox, Koley, Jessen Law Firm, Omaha, NE"
- Brad Friedman, "SPECIAL REPORT: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System 'Remotely Accessed' on 'Multiple Occasions' by Unknown Computer", 2011/12/12
- Continuing involvement with Premier Election Solutions (that they should have divested from)
- Jim March's visit to the ES&S Dallas office - proves that Bob and Todd Urosevich are back working together in Omaha
- ES&S proposal to Colorado in 2013 - cites the state of Georgia as "Implementation Reference #1", takes credit for the 2002 rollout of AccuVote products, and says "We have been a provider and partner with the State of Georgia since 2002."
- Michael Green connects ES&S to covert CIA operations in Venezuela and the Franklin scandal - see CIA#Venezuela subversion for more
- Bev Harris, ""SMELLS LIKE FISH" SAYS ES&S AUDIT LOG, IN CHINESE", 2012/02/28
- Patents for "Electron Systems & Software, LLC" (weird misspelling)
- Nevada campaign contributions by Election Systems & Software - shows a total of $32,500 donated to the Republican State Leadership Committee: one donation of $7,500 on 2013/11/26, two donations of $7,500 on 2014/10/14, one donation of $10,000 on 2016/08/29
- McClatchy DC, "Voting machine vendor treated election officials to trips to Vegas, elsewhere", 2018/06/21
- Vice, "Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States", 2018/07/17
- Kansas City Pitch, "‘We are being eaten alive’: Behind the scenes as Johnson County scrambles to avoid yet another election disaster", 2018/08/31: "The office’s emails, sprinkled with references to tiredness, turned positively giddy, though, when the news broke that Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded, eliminating the possibility of a recount. In an Aug. 15 note to ES&S vice president of governmental relations Kathy Rogers, Metsker comments on having “successfully survived the canvass” with workarounds the company suggested:
> And the GOP Governor’s race primary was conceded last night and we are no longer facing a recount. Yay.
> Our team is 100 percent committed to supporting Johnson County in all public relations efforts including taking full ownership of the issues and communicating corrective actions and plans.
The lack of a recount should be a relief, she wrote.
> We all did a happy dance for you guys when we heard the news!"
- Gothamist, "Man In Charge Of NYC Board Of Elections Took Trips Paid For By Electronic Ballot Scanner Company", 2018/12/04
- Chris Wlaschin role
- I. Charles McCullough III letter on 2018/03/12 to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on behalf of Leo Scanlon and Maggie Amato: "Mr. Scanlon and Ms. Amato were abruptly and without warning removed from their positions on September 6 by your Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Chris Wlaschin. By memorandum, he reassigned them to “unclassified temporary duties…in order to permit the agency time to review allegations raised against the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) Office of Information Security.” The day of the reassignments, literally minutes later, the CIO and the CISO informed HHS staff (including the CISO Council) that the reassignments were permanent. Mr. Wlaschin told staff that Mr. Scanlon and Ms. Amato were “gone for good.” Mr. Wlaschin and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Beth Killoran have both stated under oath that the allegations against Scanlon and Amato were being investigated by the HHS Office of Inspector General."
- Election Systems & Software, "Election Systems & Software Hires New Vice President Of Systems Security", 2018/04/10: "Prior to his role at the HHS, where he oversaw cybersecurity efforts for the Department, Wlaschin held senior cybersecurity leadership positions in the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Research Corporation, and the University of Nebraska.
"Chris is a great fit both culturally and with respect to his vast experience," Burt said. "As a retired Naval Officer and former member of the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service, who has served in leadership roles at leading cybersecurity organizations in both the public and private sector, Chris is a proven leader and real-world expert in security strategy and planning with a valuable perspective on preventing all types and levels of security threats.""
- Cyberscoop, "Former HHS CISO to join voting technology vendor as security lead", 2018/04/12: "The former chief information security officer of the Department of Health and Human Services is taking a role at one of the country’s largest voting machine manufacturers as its head of security.
ES&S announced on Wednesday that Christopher Wlaschin will be its new vice president of systems security responsible for the company’s security efforts, including that of its products as well as operational and infrastructure security. He will be involved in ensuring the security of ES&S’s products and engaging in the certification process they undergo in order to be used in elections, the company announced Wednesday."
- Election Systems & Software, "Sector Coordinating Council Changing of the Guard", 2019/02/11: "ES&S’ ongoing commitment to the security of our nation’s elections is demonstrated in a number of ways including our participation and support toward the formation and launch of the nation’s Election Infrastructure Subsectors Sector Coordinating Council – a key part of the critical infrastructure designed to protect the nations voting structure
At the recent Critical Infrastructure meeting of the Government and Private Sector Coordinating Councils in Washington D.C., Chris Krebs, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) presented our SVP of Government Relations, Kathy Rogers, with a certificate of appreciation for her leadership and commitment in serving as the inaugural vice chair of the Sector Coordinating Council.
As the inaugural year of the Sector Coordinating Council comes to a close we are also honored that ES&S’ Vice President of Systems Security, Chris Wlaschin, was selected to serve as chair of the Sector Coordinating Council for the upcoming year."
- New Yorker, "How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process", 2019/01/22: "In addition, since 2013, E.S. & S. has donated more than thirty thousand dollars to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a group that, in her book “Dark Money,” the New Yorker writer Jane Mayer calls “a catch-all bank account for corporations interested in influencing state laws.”"
- The Hill, "Voting machines pose a greater threat to our elections than foreign agents" by Lulu Friesdat, 2019/10/02: "How are vendors achieving these wins against such strong opposition? Jennifer Cohn, an election security advocate, has detailed many of the techniques being used. They include deep ties to powerful political players, targeted donations to political parties and their leaders, and cozy relationships with election officials that can include gifts, dining and travel. The newly released Philadelphia City Controller’s report details conflicts of interest that resulted in a $2.9 million fine for the vendor, but the $29 million voting machine contract remains intact."