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April 10, 2005

E-voting system decertified in P.A., determined unreliable and insecure.

-- by Thomas Leavitt

[The decertification report, by MIT's Michael Shamos, gives much more information about the failings of this particular system (Unilect's Patriot voting system).

None of the failures cited in the full article would surprise any experienced IT professional - they are symptomatic of a system that was inadequately Q/A tested, whose UI was designed by engineers without input from usability experts, and which was never given a thorough security evaluation by a specialist. All of which is entirely normal in a typical commercial development environment constrained by budget pressure, all of which is entirely unacceptable when the context is public confidence in the voting system. -Thomas]

04/08/2005
County voting system invalid
By: J.D. Prose - Times Staff

BEAVER - The Pennsylvania Department of State said
Thursday that Beaver County's $1.2 million electronic
touch-screen voting system is unreliable and can no
longer be used, even in the primary election that is
only five weeks away.

"Needless to say, we're all shocked by this finding,
and we need to work our way through," Commissioners
Chairman Dan Donatella said. County elections chief
Dorene Mandity declined to comment, saying she had not
yet read the state's report.

In decertifying the UniLect Patriot system, Secretary
of State Pedro Cortes cited concerns he had after a
re-examination of it on Feb. 15 by Carnegie Mellon
University computer professor Michael Shamos that was
prompted in part by a petition filed by Beaver County
residents.

Cortes said in a five-page report that the Patriot
system does not meet the state's criteria of being
"safely and efficiently useable" in elections, or
"capable of absolute accuracy." Cortes said the system
is also confusing and difficult to learn, "displaying
messages whose import is misleading or unclear."

[... continued at the link above ...]

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at April 10, 2005 9:59 AM

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Comments

Thomas, do you know a anything about the process by which electronic voting was promoted? I presume that there was a big PR campaign, a certain number of campaign donations, etc. What were the supposed advantages over paper ballots or old-style voting machines? I can't think of any except a little quicker results, I suppose, which should hardly be a major concern.

Old-style voting machines -- a Chicago friend told me that oldtime Chicago voting machines were set to allow one-pull party-line voting, and that poll watcher could usually tell by the sound and elapsed time whether you had voted party-line or not. This was a dissident Democrat around 1966-1969.

Posted by: John Emerson at April 10, 2005 1:20 PM

Thomas,
and this piece also deals with the vote-rigging and its consequences: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/04/08/120.html

Posted by: Helga Fremlin at April 10, 2005 3:41 PM

Is it time to consider a Constitutional amendment to standardize elections and their financing?

I sure don't have the details but it occurs to me that a great deal of the strife and whining that has been going on in this country involves the shabby state our democratic process in administered.

Here in WA, they've found more uncounted ballots in an already screwed up election, giving the Repugs more ammo to mount a fraud case against the Governor's election. The last thing I want to see is this garbage toss us back to square one with Rossi at an advantage. Heaven help this state if that happens.

An amendment could state in plain verbage what the ballots look like, how they are counted, what time limit there is to certify the election, appeal processes, penalties for fraud and the big one: Election Financing.

Nothing will happen in this GOP Universe, to be sure but I can dream.

Posted by: David Aquarius at April 10, 2005 4:51 PM

Once again we are told that corporations can do something better than government only to discover after billions have been wasted that corporations rarely get things right. Corporations out of the voting booth! Now!

Posted by: richard at April 11, 2005 12:43 AM

I don't suppose there is any retroactive way to fix the problem regarding the 2004 election. Where were these findings then?

Posted by: Calif4nian at April 11, 2005 12:44 PM

Increasingly people are realizing that the touch screen DRE systems have been rushed to market and do not offer adequate operational robustness.


NIST as part of its draft submission to the EAC has identified as whole set of criteria (pages 96 thru 98) where such DRE devices can be found wanting.


And yet the means to correct all this is available as a set of internationally agreed specifications that naturally vendors of these DRE systems are steadfastly refusing to adopt.


To find out more visit - http://trustedelections.org


and see how a secure trusted voting system can be created.

Posted by: David Webber at June 19, 2005 12:50 PM

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