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September 24, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story

-- by Dave Johnson

The new Rolling Stone article, Will The Next Election Be Hacked? by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in cludes an on the record claim by a former Diebold employee that they changed the software in the machines the night before Georgia's 2002 primary election. This, or other altered software could still be there for the November election. Of course, the point is, with these machines there is no way to prove that the reported vote counts reflect how the voters voted.

From the article,

Then, one muggy day in mid-August, Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a "patch," a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. "We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood says. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."

Georgia law mandates that any change made in voting machines be certified by the state. But thanks to Cox's agreement with Diebold, the company was essentially allowed to certify itself. "It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told me. "We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level."

According to Hood, Diebold employees altered software in some 5,000 machines in DeKalb and Fulton counties - the state's largest Democratic strongholds. To avoid detection, Hood and others on his team entered warehouses early in the morning. "We went in at 7:30 a.m. and were out by 11," Hood says. "There was a universal key to unlock the machines, and it's easy to get access. The machines in the warehouses were unlocked. We had control of everything. The state gave us the keys to the castle, so to speak, and they stayed out of our way." Hood personally patched fifty-six machines and witnessed the patch being applied to more than 1,200 others.

The patch comes on a memory card that is inserted into a machine. Eventually, all the memory cards end up on a server that tabulates the votes - where the patch can be programmed to alter the outcome of an election. "There could be a hidden program on a memory card that adjusts everything to the preferred election results," Hood says. "Your program says, 'I want my candidate to stay ahead by three or four percent or whatever.' Those programs can include a built-in delete that erases itself after it's done."

It is impossible to know whether the machines were rigged to alter the election in Georgia: Diebold's machines provided no paper trail, making a recount impossible.

Impossible to know. THAT is the problem.

Here is the solution: The machine is used as a data-input device ONLY. This solves all the problems from earlier ways of voting, including "hanging chads" etc. It then prints out a paper ballot, filling in the voter's choices from the touch-screen. The voter looks over the ballot and, if it has the right information, puts it into a separate ballot box. Then there is a way to PROVE how the voters voted. AND it doesn't MATTER what software is on the machines.

Posted by Dave Johnson at September 24, 2006 1:13 PM

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A while ago, I posted a video by Princeton researchers that showed how electronic voting machines could be hacked. Dave Johnson has a [Read More]

Tracked on October 2, 2006 9:15 AM


Comments

"The machine is used as a data-input device ONLY."

I think you mean more of a data-preparation device. I think any ballots created by a machine that has machine scannable data on it, should also have a clear human readable representation on it that allows the voter to double check the intended vote.

And such ballots should be kept and just like a modern day widget factory, a random number of ballots should be picked and tested to ensure the ballots accurately represent the human votes in their machine readable data.

If there are any discrepancies (or more than some statistically interesting number) the entire election gets tossed.

Posted by: jerry [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 24, 2006 2:06 PM

Better yet, open source software is developed so that you can print out your own ballot and bring it to the polling station.

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 24, 2006 7:37 PM

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