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January 25, 2006

Voting Machines

-- by Dave Johnson

Missed this a few days ago: As Elections Near, Officials Challenge Balloting Security,

Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.

... Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:

"Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?"

Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.

There is a very simple solution to this problem: The voting machine prints out a paper ballot that the voter walks over to a ballot box. This gives the voter the opportunity to check whether the machine marked the choices that the voter asked it to. This maintains all of the ballot-security measures that are in place in precincts like the ones I work in, in San Mateo County. But it also gives the voter the help that voting machines can provide. No more punch-card errors, no more overcounts, no more mistakes like West Palm Beach Jewish people voting for Buchanan instead of Gore...

The machines can report election results electronically, but a number of random precincts are counted by hand and compared to what the machines reported. If there is so much as a one-vote discrepency the entire election is then counted by hand -- AND someone maybe goes to jail for a long time. There -can't- be a discrepency if the machines are operating corrently.

Posted by Dave Johnson at January 25, 2006 11:57 AM

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Posted by: Alice Marshall at January 25, 2006 12:36 PM

Except it wouldn't take much to change the vote AFTER the receipt is printed. DUH.

Nope, we MUST go back to the old fashioned way.

Posted by: marblex at January 26, 2006 9:00 AM

It's not a "receipt" it's a paper ballot that goes into an ballot box - which IS the old way.

The difference is that with the machine used as an input device there is much less chance of the voter making mistakes resulting in far fewer incorrect votes (always in Dem precincts) thrown out.

The "old way" is what led to hundreds of thousands of Gore votes not counting in Florida, for example.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 26, 2006 10:13 AM

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