Scytl’s role in Russian attacks and its ‘impact’ on millions of U.S. votes
By 2004, Gennady Petrov had settled into a $10 million villa in Calvià, an exclusive village on the Island of Mallorca.
He was among dozens of Russian mobsters — Alexander Torshin, Alexander Malyshev, Vladislav Reznik — who began using Spain’s Mediterranean coast in the mid 1990s to launder their blood money through the local banks, ports, real estate, businesses and politicians.
From Spain, they ran a global network of legal and illegal businesses. Cobalt and cigarette smuggling through Finland. Money laundering in Germany, Belgium, Cyprus and the Czech Republic. An embezzlement scheme in Germany that stole more than $100 million.
“They first arrive cloaked with a certain degree of legitimacy for the purpose of infiltrating a society. They corrupt politicians, judges, cops, banks, industries, in different cities. By the time you figure it out, it is too late.”
Petrov was head of Russia’s Tambov criminal gang, a group based in St. Petersburg that gained power through smuggling heroin while Vladimir Putin was deputy mayor. Now in Spain, Petrov worked with Reznik, a member of Putin’s United Russia party, to get his associates appointed to key posts in Russia. In return, he provided Spanish real estate and business deals to Russian officials.
As the Russians became more entrenched in the region, they slowly developed an aura of legitimacy which enabled them to gain access to Spain’s political campaigns and government legislation.
That was proven by the 2017 referendum vote for Catalonia’s independence from Spain. To exacerbate the confusion and chaos in the run-up to the vote, Russia pushed various disinformation campaigns through RT, Sputnik, El Mundo, local broadcasters, Twitter and Facebook.
Julian Assange berated the international community for not respecting Catalonia’s independence. Russian money allegedly went to the Catalan nationalist Convergence & Union party (CiU), a member of the nationalist coalition that backed the referendum.
Carles Puigdemont was President of the Government of Catalonia at the time (Jan. 2016-Oct. 2017). He’s also the chair of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), the nationalist party that supports Catalan independence from Spain. He joined PDeCAT as a teenager.
Prior to the vote, government officials contacted Scytl and had multiple meetings regarding “the possible development of a counting software for votes to use in elections to the Parliament of Catalonia and public consultations.” Scytl originally estimated $1–2 million to complete the project but later refused the work after meeting with attorneys.
Investigators later revealed that government officials had all along tried to obtain a “software platform that would allow them to manage (elections) without the need of intermediaries or suppliers.” The officials eventually determined the system couldn’t be ready in time, so it instead used the Scytl voting system it had previously purchased for the 2012 elections.
Amazon and Google were both subpoenaed for providing infrastructure and security technology and allegedly accepting Bitcoin for services provided. Investigations were also opened regarding the use of voter’s personal data.
The referendum passed but was rescinded by Spain’s High Court days later. Puigdemont was removed from office and fled to Belgium. He was arrested last year but has not been returned to Spain.
He’d used Scytl before. From 2011–2016, he was the mayor of Girona, a city in Catalonia. In 2015, Girona switched from paper ballots to online voting. It selected the Scytl platform for its 80,000 voters.
The company has a history with Catalonia. It was founded in June 2001 by Andreu Riera and Carles Rovira, who had worked with other cryptography experts for years at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) to develop cryptographic security protocols for the electronic voting processes. Riera has said he was inspired to start the company after the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision.
In 2003, Scytl presented its Pnyx Poll-Site, cryptographic voter-verifiable software created to make Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines more secure. It tested its Pnyx security software with the region’s police force union; overseas voters in Belgium, Chile, USA, Argentina and Mexico; and Catalunya Banc S.A., a Spanish bank with headquarters in Barcelona.
“Shortly after I started, Switzerland ran the first elections where online voting was allowed and they chose us as their provider. And once you have a reference in the public sector, other governments find it easier to buy your solution because they are not the first ones to try,” explained Pere Valles, former Scytl CEO and now Chairman of the Board.
Bob and his brother Todd, have a long history of corruption in the election industry. They started in the 1970s when they founded Data Mark Systems to sell and service Westinghouse vote tabulation equipment. In 1979, Bob founded the American Information Systems (AIS), which developed and marketed election counting systems. In 1995, he left AIS and launched I-Mark Systems, which sold a touch screen voting system that uses a smart card to store votes. I-Mark was bought by Global Election Systems (GES) in 1997. Todd stayed at AIS.
AIS bought the Election Services Division of Business Records Corporation and reincorporated it as Election Systems & Software (ES&S) in 1997. Bob was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer of GES in 2000. In 2002, it was acquired by Diebold and he remained president. Diebold was later named Premier Election Systems and sold to ES&S in 2009.
When asked how many elections they’d rigged, Todd said: “If you believe what you read on the Internet, practically all of them. But the answer is none.”
“I told many of my friends, and most importantly my clients, that if any of that was true, I’d be retired. But I’m still working Monday through Friday,” Todd said.
Bob is now retired and living in Omaha, NE.
A year after Bob was hired at Scytl, it partnered with ES&S to provide an online voting system for two UK council elections. A decade later, 11,000 Scytl poll workers used its online training for the 2016 Brexit vote and the Parliamentary Election in 2017.
Scytl partnered with Idox Elections, the UK election data company whose voter registry software was found to be leaking voter information to 2,700 individuals and companies over the past five years. Former Tory Cabinet minister Peter Lilley, who is in favor of Brexit, is a senior non-executive director at Idox. The company has provided voter count software for UK elections since at least 2012.
Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica were involved early on with Arron Banks and the nationalist organization Leave.Eu. They worked with Nigel Farage’s far right UK Independence Party (UKIP), to push various Russian disinformation campaigns.
There are numerous ongoing UK and US investigations into Russia’s involvement with Brexit.
In 2012, Scytl Canada and ES&S Canada started providing online voting, election management and ballot scanning machines to Canadian municipalities. Eighteen different Canadian entities now work with Scytl.
Its online and phone voting technology enabled more than 1 million eligible voters in 103 municipalities to vote in the 2018 Ontario Municipal Elections. Results of the election were delayed for two Windsor precincts because, according to Scytl, “…a worker handling the computer files gave some the wrong names…Rather than rename the files and send them out to the proper municipalities, the company decided to retabulate all the elections to make sure the results were accurate.”
“What was frustrating for us was we were not getting results and we weren’t getting any information or time estimates either,” said a local official.
The election for Ontario’s Premier was won by Doug Ford, the brother of Rob Ford, the now deceased former Toronto mayor with a crack cocaine habit. Doug ran a socially conservative campaign similar to Trump’s and was heavily supported by the far right.
Canada has previously admitted to Russian interference in its 2015 elections. Last March, it expelled four Russian diplomats for using their “diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy.”
Last January, the Committee on Foreign Relations in the U.S. Senate released a report on Russia’s influence on democracies and elections around the world.
It reported that since 2004, Russia has “meddled” in the politics of at least 27 countries, which include: Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States.
Of the those countries, 11 currently work with Scytl: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, UK, Ukraine and the United States. Every one had issues with election results in their most recent elections.
Scytl supplies these countries with a wide range of election products including: voter education, election training, legislation session management, eBallot Delivery, online voter registration and an ePollbook.
It also offers consolidation services, which collects and aggregates election results on its servers from all polling places and then provides the results to election officials.
Its Election Night Reporting software streamlines that data and delivers it to the public. News media use this data to report the election results to the public.
Scytl also worked with the European Parliament to provide election night results to 28 EU member states for the 2019 European Parliament election. The actual collection of the votes from each country was done by Kantar, a data company that Bain Capital now owns 60% of. It sent the data to Scytl’s data center in Barcelona where it was “processed” and then made available to public officials for review.
Scytl has followed these same practices in U.S. elections for more than a decade.
In 2009, it registered with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as the first Internet voting manufacturer in the U.S. under the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program. That same year, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment (MOVE) act.
It instructed the Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to “test new or emerging voting technology to better serve overseas citizens and the military.”
Despite years of proof about the lack of security for online elections, In 2010 FVAP awarded Scytl nine of the 20 states slated to use private vendor systems to deliver blank ballots online to military and overseas voters. It was the largest number of states assigned to any of the six contractors involved.
Also that year, Scytl announced it had carried out electoral modernization projects in 14 States for the U.S. General Election. Those sates included New York, Texas, Washington, California, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia and Washington D.C.
A year later, it formed a strategic alliance with ES&S to provide BALLOTsafe, a fully integrated online ballot delivery and marking system, to U.S. military, overseas, absentee and disabled voters.
The U.S. Department of Defense tested its own online voting system with 84 overseas voters in the November 2000 presidential election. It partnered with defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to concept, design and implement the system.
Booz Allen has a long history with military spyware, federal surveillance programs and clandestine activities. Last August, it won a five-year, $885 million AI contract with the Pentagon. A few months later, it signed an agreement with Saudi officials to help train its cyberfighters.
Dominic Endicott was a VP at Booz Allen from 2002–2005. He led its North American wireless practice. He’s now a venture partner at Nauta Capital, which has invested at least $20 million in Scytl. He was also a board member at Carrier IQ from 2006–2015.
Carles Ferrer Roqueta is the General Partner at Nauta Capital and is on Scytl’s board of directors. Nauta has offices in Barcelona.
Telefónica is a minority owner of Scytl. It’s a multinational telecom headquartered in Madrid that’s one of the largest telephone operators and mobile network providers in the world.
Since at least 2005, it’s worked with MegaFon, a leading Russian mobile operator. That year, Scytl and Telefónica Móviles, the largest mobile phone operator in Latin America, agreed to jointly develop e-voting applications for mobile phones. Scytl’s voting app is offered on most Android and iOS mobile devices.
A year later, Telefónica and MegaFon officially committed to a global strategic partnership to “save on costs in equipment purchases, exchange technological knowledge and may team up to develop new businesses.”
Last September, MegaFon, the sovereign wealth fund of Russia, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Mail.ru signed a deal with Alibaba to create a one-stop e-commerce destination for consumers to communicate, socialize, shop and play games.
Telefónica also acts as an auditor of Scytl’s software. As it did before the 2012 Mexico elections when overseas Mexican citizens voted online for the Governor of Mexico City. It was the first ever official online voting done in Latin America.
In 2012, Scytl bought SOE Software and added another 900 jurisdictions in 26 states, 14 of which used its products statewide. Its technology has now been used for public elections in 42 countries and at least 1,400 U.S. counties. That’s almost half of the counties in the U.S. It currently manages 80% of all public online voting elections worldwide.
It also paid the Barbour, Griffith & Rogers Group (BGR) $100,000 that year to provide “strategic advice and counsel on legislative or regulatory actions that could impact the election technology industry.” BGR is the lobbying firm of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Scytl and ES&S signed a contract in 2012 with the state of Mississippi to implement its online election training platform in all municipalities. ES&S has statewide voting systems in Mississippi.
Barbour has a history of foreign investments in elections. In 1994, he was named RNC chairman. Within a few months, he opened the National Policy Forum (NPF), a fake think tank that served as the fundraising arm of the RNC. He and John Bolton, NPF’s president, used it to solicit millions from foreign investors to fund congressional races in multiple states.
BGR represented Russia’s Alfa Bank from 2004–2015.
Barbour registered in 2017 to lobby Washington officials for the Ukrainian Government. BGR agreed to a $50,000 a month retainer to “design and implement a comprehensive government affairs and business development strategy” for the Ukraine government — including “arranging meetings” with U.S. officials.
Scytl currently works with the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Ukraine to provide its online education and training platform to election commissioners and polling station workers.
In 2014, Dan Sullivan (R) defeated Mark Begich (D) by 6,014 votes. That year, of the nearly 100,000 Alaskans that voted with a ballot, 3,467 voted online. Interestingly, 16,401 ballots were questioned and never counted. Mitch McConnell, W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld all donated to Sullivan’s campaign. Former NRA President David Keene and the NRA donated $5,500 to his campaign this year.
Alaska was one of the 21 states that was informed by DHS that Russians had gained access to its state websites and voter registration databases.
Scytl provides Georgia Election Night Reporting to publish statewide election results data including race details, precinct reporting, voter turnout for the state’s 159 counties. Georgie doesn’t use voting machines that provide a paper record.
According to Mueller’s Special Council indictment of the IRA, “Another co-conspirator who worked for the organization traveled to Atlanta, Georgia from approximately November 26, 2014 through November 30, 2014.” They acted as “U.S. persons and contacted U.S. political and social activists” to gain insight into voting groups.
The Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems was under contract with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to “program and test all the state voting machines, train election workers and distribute the electronic voter-registration database to each county.” Passwords for election workers to sign into the election servers to prepare ballots and tabulate votes, were found unsecured on the center’s servers for months.
The NRA endorsed Kemp for governor of Georgia in 2018. ES&S has statewide voting systems in Georgia. Georgia paid ES&S $300,000 to tabulate the state’s 2018 election results. Charles Harper, a former ES&S lobbyist, is now Kemp’s deputy chief of staff. Kathy Rogers is Georgia’s former State Director of Elections and was responsible for a statewide implementation of a new voting system in 2002. She’s now Senior Vice President of Government Relations for ES&S.
Kentucky’s 120 counties use Scytl’s Election Night Reporting and eBallot Delivery platforms.
In June, Kentucky election officials delayed certifying primary election results after uncovering transcription and math errors with the vote tabulations. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is currently suing the state claiming the “elections board was unlawfully reconstituted into an independent state agency.”
Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul have taken obvious actions in support of Russia for years. McConnell recently told colleagues that he has “no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on (election security) the this term.” He’s accepted more than $1.25 million from the NRA.
Last August, Paul went to Moscow “to renew diplomacy, engagement and communications with Russia.” Sergey Kislyak and others pushed him for intervention in the Maria Butina case.
Joni Ernst (R-IA) has taken more than $3.1 million from the NRA.
Iowa uses Scytl’s Election Night Reporting to provide the public with access to contest details, status of counties/precincts reporting, voter turnout and vote type summaries.
According to Mueller’s indictment of Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, “In or around October 2016, (Anatoly Sergeyevich) Kovalev and his co-conspirators further targeted state and county offices responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. elections. For example, on or about October 28, 2016, Kovalev and his co-conspirators visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa, and Florida to identify vulnerabilities.”
Iowa was informed by the DHS in 2017 that its elections system was targeted—but not breached—by Russians. In January 2018, Iowa’s Wapello County purchased 22 new voting machines with wireless modems included. ES&S has statewide voting systems in Iowa.
Other states, that Scytl lists as current customers include: South Carolina, New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado and Arkansas. All have had some aspect of their election system targeted by Russia. All use ES&S voting equipment. All have have dealt with voter suppression laws or voter disinformation campaigns.
More than 70 million voters from at least 900 U.S. counties “leveraged” by Scytl’s technology for the 2018 Midterm Elections. For the November 2017 elections, its software was used in 16 states, which involved 39 million registered voters. For the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Scytl’s technology was “impacted” by 53 million votes.