November 5, 2012
This might just be a wild-ass rumor, or it might be something to look into. Apparently new software is being installed on Ohio's vote counting machines, just before the election and without the testing and approval that is required.
This is not about the voting machines, that is an entirely separate story. This is a new story about the vote counting machines. These machines have a different function, and this is a different company from the one that the Romney associates purchased.
... text said to be from a November 1 memo sent from the OH SoS Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske to a number of state election officials confirming the use of the new, uncertified software on Ohio's tabulator systems. The memo claims that "its function is to aid in the reporting of results" by converting them "into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State's election night reporting system."
"Said to be from" is a warning bell that this might just be a wild-ass rumor right before the election. On the other hand, if they are installing new software in the vote-tabulating machines this is a very big deal. IF they are changing the software in Ohio's vote-counting machines just before the election, the public needs to know what is going on.
But then it gets interesting:
According to Pam Smith, President of the non-partisan watchdog group VerifiedVoting.org, her organization also sought explanations for the last minute software changes from the Sec. of State's office.
She tells me that she was told that "the Secretary of State team installed the EXP tool" themselves in the counties that use the ES&S system. "It was not left to the counties to figure out the installation or the configuration."
So apparently the Ohio Sec State IS confirming that new software is being installed on the machines.
Before going on, this is not a "conspiracy theory" or a charge that vote-rigging is taking place. This is honest questions about some disturbing reports. I and others would like to know what is going on. That does not make us kooks.
Is voting machine company ES&S in Ohio suddenly installing new tabulator software to "improve" the counting that takes place tomorrow, and if so why now, and why without the proper approval process? This is supposed to require the approval of a state board, which has not been given.
Please read this at Huffington Post by Art Levine, >As Ohio Faces Vote-Rigging Lawsuit, Are Dems, Liberals, Election Officials Ready to Safeguard Votes?
Those worries about a rigged election were given new urgency today as The Ohio-based Free Press editor-in-chief Robert Fitrakis, also a Green Party candidate for Congress, announced plans to file a lawsuit later today seeking an immediate injunction against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the ES&S manufacturer to halt the use of secretly installed, unauthorized "experimental" software in 39 counties' tabulators in an alleged violation of state election law. His attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, has also referred the case to the Cincinnati FBI for a criminal investigation. Arnebeck says, "It's a flagrant violation of the law. Before you add new software, you need approval of a state board. They are installing an uncertified, suspect software patch that interfaces between the a county's vote tabulation equipment and state tabulators."
Art's post asked the key question,
As one progressive election protection leader told me privately, "Who is watching the election officials [on voting machines]? That's a good question. Where are the boots on the ground? We don't have watchdogs on election officials."
Here is what I want to pin down:
1) Did Ohio allow this company to install new software on the vote counting machines? It looks like this happened.
2) Will all the votes in Ohio be hand-checked against what the various machines report? And if so will this happen before the election is "official?"
If #2 happens, things are fine. If not we have a serious problem as far as being sure about the election results.
All I want to know is, are enough of the election results double-checked against the PAPER that shows how each voter voted? If they are, then it does not matter about the machines. If they are not -- or especially when there is no paper that the voter either marked or checked -- then there is obviously a problem and the "results" should not be trusted.
It is essential that every voter demand that their county double-checks the paper against the reported results. This is as simple and basic as checking to be sure the ballot box is empty before you open the polling places.
It is not a "conspiracy theory" to say all you have to do is check the results against the paper.
Finally, please visit No More Stolen Elections
October 21, 2012
I just have to say again that it just blows my mind learning that Romney associates bought the company that makes the voting machines that will be used to vote and count the votes in Ohio, Colorado and other states. This is very serious, and a lot of non-tech people just don't get it. (I had one person say to me that it doesn't matter because computers don't make mistakes.)
Take this seriously, people -- the timing and the people involved tell us this is fishy. This isn't radical conspiracy stuff, talk to computer professionals, many of them really worry about electronic voting machines and the reporting systems in use these days.
Here are some links to stories about this. And please, please click through for links, and expanded details:
Brad Friedman, who has been on the voting machines issue all along, posted About that Voting Machine Company Tied to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital...
Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a "strategic investment" to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic.
... Lee Fang at The Nation recently confirmed the FreePress reporting in a story of his own on the "crony capitalism" of Tagg Romney, whose father's money and high-profile connections present a number of troubling corporate conflicts of interest should Mitt Romney become President. The Daily Dolt also followed up with a very well-documented article on the H.I.G. group, their connections to Bain, and their takeover of Hart Intercivic.
... Also this week, in a video that has gone a bit viral, The David Pakman Show expressed understandable concerns about Romney's close business partners having this type of corporate control over a large e-voting company whose, extremely vulnerable and insecure [PDF] --- and often 100% unverifiable --- voting and tabulation systems are now used, according to VerifiedVoting.org's database, in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
And while I am not suggesting conspiracies or that anyone would get involved in any foul play here, most particularly the GOP candidate for President, how is it possible that so many people could exercise so much bad judgment?
The sanctity of voting in America is supposed to be one of our most important virtues. So concerned are we with a ‘clean’ process that James O’Keefe has made a career entrapping, video taping and destroying those sympathetic to Democratic Party candidates and causes who cross the line when it comes to the voting process. And that’s just fine. If Mr. O’Keefe can legitimately expose someone engaging in voter fraud, he most certainly should call them out.
So, why would these individuals who serve on the board of directors of Hart Intercivic go out of their way to make a contribution to any political candidate given the critical importance of their company remaining above reproach when it comes to the political process? And why would those who run the company that owns Hart Intercivic be giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political candidate? And why would a political candidate and his family have a financial relationship with a company that owns a chunk of the voting machine company that will be counting the actual votes given to that political candidate or his opponent?
This is one story that Friedman refers to traces Romney connections to the company buying the voting machines company, Romney, Bain Tied To Voting Machine Company To Be Used in Swing States,
Hart InterCivic is a national provider of election voting systems that are used in swing-states Ohio and Colorado, as well as in states we don’t really care about so much because we already know how they’ll turn out (e.g., Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii). Private equity firm H.I.G. Capital, LLC bought out a “significant” portion of Hart in July of 2011, and now the majority of Hart’s board directors are employees of H.I.G. (It’s not entirely clear how much of the voting machine company H.I.G. owns, but the financial advisors responsible for the transaction state that “Hart Intercivic was acquired by HIG Capital.”)
H.I.G., in turn, has ties to Bain & Co. and Mitt Romney directly:
H.I.G. was founded by Tony Tamer, a former Bain employee and bundler for Mitt Romney’s campaign. Of H.I.G.’s 22 American directors, 21 donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. ... Of these 22 American directors, seven of them (nearly one-third) are former Bain employees. ... Four of H.I.G.’s directors, Tony Tamer, John Bolduc, Douglas Berman, and Brian D. Schwartz, are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve. Two of H.I.G.’s managing directors, Douglas F. Berman and Brian D. Schwartz, were present at the $50,000 per plate fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his notorious ”47%” comments. H.I.G. employees currently make up the majority of the Hart InterCivic’s five-member board of directors. Two of these three directors of the voting machine company, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have donated directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. is the 11th largest donor to Mitt Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. employees have given $338,000 to the Romney campaign, outpacing even Bain Capital itself, which gave $268,000.
(Sidenote: Are we the only ones to notice that every single one of H.I.G.’s 22 American directors is white and male? Not related to the Mitt Romney issue, but sheesh.)
PLEASE click through. (Note there is a difference between Bain Capital and Bain&Co. The former is a spin-off from the latter. I also don't like the term "has ties to," that's very Glenn-Beckian, but these are strong and real ties. Also they give the appearance of a problem whether they are actually a problem or not -- major supporters of a candidate buying the voting and counting machines that will decide if that candidate wins... and this hurts the public's -- to use Romney's economy word -- confidence.)
Here is Lee Fang on The David Pakman Show:
We have to insist that there is sufficient random checking of the paper records in the machines against what the machines report, and of precinct results against what gets reported, esp in Ohio. (Of course it is better if every precinct is checked against reporting, but that is a big job that will be hard to get.) And seriously, if a single precinct result is different from what is reported, we have a potential tampering problem and should demand that all precincts are checked against what is reported.
Also, if more than a few voters in a precinct are reporting that they see something different on the paper from what they thought they voted, that also indicates a potential tampering problem.
Anyway it is possible to have secure systems. We certainly knew how to do that -- and knew the REASONS we had to do that -- back when we all used paper ballots and ballot boxes. "Ballot stuffing" happened all the time, so they came up with checks and balances.
Now there is much more at stake, but we no longer seem to worry about these things. But obviously if you think about it, there will be even more reason to "stuff ballots" because there is so much money involved!
History tells us election tampering WILL be a problem! So we should be demanding that the right checks and balances are in place to make it harder to tamper with elections, and I don't see it happening.
Once again, back when we had paper ballots and ballot boxes people came up with all kinds of schemes to tamper with elections, and we developed more and more checks and balances to make it hard to do that. It happened all the time. History says people will always be trying to tamper with our elections. Now that we use computers we seem to have less security, fewer checks and balances at the same time as the stakes are SO much higher!
And of course, there is also the cost in people's faith in our elections. Never mind if there actually is any tampering, etc, when people hear that Tag Romney and a bunch of Bain partners are involved in buying a voting machine company before an election in which Bain Capital's Mitt Romney is running for chief plutocrat -- and in which one strategy of his party is keeping people from voting ... well just for the reason of giving people faith in the choices the voters make, we should demand that every single precinct is carefully double-checked!
There are barriers to fixing this problem. One is that this privatization of elections is a corporate effort, and they have salespeople and lobbyists wining and dining local election officials around the country, offering to "solve" their resource problems through automation. They have put serious money into selling this. There's money in selling this hardware and maintenance contracts.
The technology is not complex, but securing the results and making them transparent is resource-intensive. Actually checking those paper rolls in those machines that at least have them means people sitting there and checking and comparing from each machine. And then checking the reported precinct results against the actual precinct counts is also a major effort. The whole idea of the machines was to save money. And double-checking to be sure thecomputers did it right and were not tampered with costs money.
But here is the biggest barrier: if you try to say anything about this, this is what happens -- typical elite hatred of the citizens and their concerns:
Update - and of course the great Brad Friedman is on this, too: NBC News Election Expert Chuck Todd: Voting Machine Concerns are 'Conspiracy Garbage'.
Update - I should have included this one: The Free Press, Will H.I.G.-owned e-voting machines give Romney the White House?
Ohio's very Republican Secretary of State is John Husted, currently suing in the US Supreme Court to prevent the public from voting on the weekend prior to election day. As did Blackwell and Governor Robert Taft in 2004, Husted and Kasich will control Ohio's electronic vote count on election night free of meaningful public checks or balances
Hart Intercivic, on whose machines the key votes will be cast in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, was taken over last year by H.I.G. Capital. Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney's campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.
October 18, 2012
OK I have to ask this. WHY would a bunch of Romney associates buy up a voting machine company?
The story has been circulating in the background for a couple of weeks.
Last year Hart Intercivic was bought by H.I.G. Capital. From The Free Press, Will H.I.G.-owned e-voting machines give Romney the White House? by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, (and please read the whole thing, about all the voter suppression going on, the importance of Ohio, and what happened in Ohio in 2008.)
Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney's campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.
Why could this matter?
US courts have consistently ruled that the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer, even though individual election boards may own the actual machines. Thus there will be no vote count transparency on election night in Ohio. The tally will be conducted by Hart Intercivic and controlled by Husted and Kasich, with no public recourse or accountability. As federal testimony from the deceased Michael Connell made clear in 2008, electronically flipping an election is relatively cheap and easy to do, especially if you or your compatriots programmed the machines.
Brad Friedman writes in, About That Voting Machine Company Tied To Mitt Romney And Bain Capital…, (this quote is full of links, so go to the original.)
Once again, we’re reminded of the dangers of the privatization of our once-public electoral system. The company’s ties to Romney aren’t the only disturbing ones we’ve seen with similar companies over the years. The fact is, that nobody other than the public should have any sort of control of our elections. The proprietary voting systems now in use in all 50 states, whether owned by Romney associates, a George W. Bush associate (as with Diebold in 2004) or even a company tied to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (as with Sequoia Voting Systems, which blatantly lied about that tie to public officials, and the Canadian firm Dominion which purchased Sequoia and also immediately lied about the fact that Intellectual Property of their voting systems used all across the U.S. is still owned by the Venezuelan firm), continue to be a grave threat to American democracy and confidence in U.S. elections.
This is likely to be a close election. We are going to see \states reporting for one or the other candidate after possibly hundreds of thousands of people being denied the right to vote. And some counties will pull machines out of key precincts, in an attempt to cause long line -- like Ohio did last time -- to keep people from voting.
That is a prescription of serious problems with people accepting the election results as legitimate.
So along with those problems now we have a bunch of Wall Street types -- people directly tied to Romney -- controlling the voting and counting in many areas!
January 4, 2012
Republicans demand hand-counting, onsite registration and no voter ID for their own internal elections. What do you think they know that so many of the rest of us don't?
Daniel Becker, at Angry Bear realizes this, in So much for GOP Siren of voter fraud,
Maybe the appropriate title for this is: Do as I say and not as I do....
Just listening to Thom Hartman and he noted something that struck a cord (chord?) with me: voter ID, electronic ballots. In the caucuses last night, the Republican party did not require and ID, they allowed onsite registration and hand counted the ballots. This is completely and totally counter to the Republican national position.
December 16, 2011
I haven't written about voting machines for some time. Here is an article about evidence of remote tampering: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System "Remotely Accessed" on "Multiple Occasions" by Unknown Computer | Truthout
...perhaps most troubling, evidence that the system was repeatedly accessed by an unidentified remote computer, for lengthy periods of time, on "multiple occasions."
Remember, if they do not have a "paper trail" that the voter looks at before finalizing the vote, there is NO WAY to know what the actual vote count was.
And if there is no procedure for checking those paper trails against the reported vote. that is just as bad.
There is just too much at stake to hand democracy over to machines and the companies that make them. PLEASE get involved in your own county and demand that they have paper backup and that they check the paper against the reported totals.
September 27, 2011
I haven't written about voting machines for a while. Now Salon has an important story. Go see Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control - 2012 Elections - Salon.com
October 28, 2008
Please go read this short, powerful post by Max Cleland.
Max lost three limbs in VietNam. He was head of the Veterans Administration under Carter. Later he was elected to the Senate in Georgia. But in the post-9/11 fear-frenzy Saxby Chambliss, a Republican draft-dodger, ran Karl Rove ads saying Cleland was unpatriotic and a coward. Those ads, with a little help from voting machine problems, put Chambliss in the Senate.
Now Chambliss has a challenger, Democrat Jim Martin. And Max Cleland wants you to know his feelings about the race. So go read Max Cleland: Georgia On My Mind.
If you are in Georgia, or know anyone in Georgia, please ask them to read this, too.
July 10, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
I have been looking at the issue of computerized voting machine security for several years, and want to write about it today.
Many people have pointed out that there are a number of problems with the new touch-screen voting machines. They fear that these machines can be used to rig an election. Others feel more confident about the machines because they are "hi-tech" and computerized and make voting easier.
Computer experts warn that the machines cannot be trusted. Meanwhile, I have a relative who believes that computers can't make mistakes, so these machines will guarantee accurate vote counting.
I can give you my position on these machines in just a few words: "Prove it." Here is what I mean: The standard for trusting the results of an election should be based on what an average citizen can believe about the election results. If the election system that you set up is able to prove to an average citizen that the election results are accurate, then you have the right system in place. Elections are about average citizens making decisions and trusting the results, not about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be. The whole "trust me" thing hasn't worked out so well in the past so people came up with "prove it" systems so everyone could see for themselves how the elections turned out.
Yes, I have an election system in mind that meets the "prove it" requirement. It's simple. I say that it simply doesn't matter what kind of machine (or no machine at all) is used in the voting booth or to count the votes later, as long as the voter can put a printed ballot in a ballot box. (The voter, of course, is expected to look over the printed ballot to be sure it has the right candidates and ballot measures marked. Just like with the old pen or punch card systems.)
Everyone understands printed ballots with marks on them, and putting the ballot into a ballot box. Time-honored methods for holding secure "prove it" elections with ballots have been worked out. At the start of the election day you check the ballot box to be sure it is empty. Each voter gets one ballot, marks it, and puts it in the box. At the end of the day the ballots are counted and the total is reported. Etc. I work in elections and I know the system well. It can be trusted.
If we use touch-screen computers as input devices to help the voter mark the ballot, all the better. This helps prevent mistakes like those in Florida in 2000. When the voter is ready the machine prints out a ballot with clear markings of the voter's choices. After the machine prints that ballot it doesn't matter if the machine has been hacked or is just making mistakes because you look at the ballot before putting it into the ballot box. And it doesn't matter how the count is reported because once you have a printed record of each voter's intentions, you can count them by hand if necessary. The voters or a trusted representative can watch the counting.
There is one safeguard that I think is very important. You must randomly test the reported vote counts against the paper ballots they are said to represent. And I am very strict about this part. If the count is off by even a single vote it means something is wrong with the counting system and the entire election needs to be counted by hand!
The controversy about touch-screen voting machines started because they do not use printed ballots that can prove the election's results to the average person! The machines come from private companies. Some of these prohibit anyone - even election officials - from knowing how they count the votes. There is no way at all to check whether the machines are reporting correct results. It is a matter of trusting these companies and not of proving to the average voter that the results can be trusted. We are just supposed to trust that the companies are telling us who won the elections! Remember what I said about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be?
If these machines make mistakes or just break down, there is no way to figure out who really won the election. And if someone is able to rig the machines to change the vote counts, there is no way to know that, either. History tells us that this is a concern. People have gone to great lengths to rig even local elections. So with the huge stakes in today's election -- trillions of dollars and wars -- we certainly should understand that highly-skilled and well-funded attempts to dictate election results are likely to occur.
There are a number of ideas for making voting machines more reliable and harder to hack into and change results. One idea is that the public should be able to examine -- and experts allowed to repair and improve -- the source code for the programs used in the machines. This is called "open source" and the Open Voting Consortium has done a lot of great work in this area. (Send them some a few $$ to help their effort.) Open-source systems will help make the machines more reliable and easier to use and will reduce the chances that someone can try to rig an election. This is a great approach, but in the end it fails the "prove it" test. The average person doesn't understand the complicated programming involved. And there is no way to prove that the open-source code is the code that is actually running in every single voting machine on election day.
Other ideas involve elaborate security to test and guard the machines. This again fails the "prove it" test. Unless average people can see for themselves that the results are accurate, no security is sufficient.
I say that the system I describe above -- involving a paper ballot that the voter can check and put in a ballot box -- makes the reliability and security of any voting machines themselves less important because you can "prove it" by counting those paper ballots. You can test a sample of ballots against the reported counts, making it useless to try to hack the voting or counting machines themselves.
California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen understands these issues and is working hard to make sure that our state's elections are safe, fair and provable. Let's hope that the rest of the states can catch up to California.
Click through to Speak Out California.
April 16, 2008
I don't want to get all conspiratorial, but why wiould the entire Republican Party be against a voting system that lets voters say, "Yes, that is how I voted," and otherwise making sure that votes are counted accurately?
The bill, dubbed the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, even after clearing a House committee unanimously. The vote was 239-178 in favor, with all but two Democrats supporting it and all but 16 Republicans opposed.
The bill would have allowed states and jurisdictions to be reimbursed by the federal government for converting to a paper ballot system, offering emergency paper ballots or conducting audits by hand counts.
The measure was designed to ensure that every vote is properly counted. Voters in all or parts of 20 states including New Jersey now cast ballots electronically without backup paper verification, according to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.
January 10, 2008
You can't open an e-mail list without reading that the New Hampshire primary vote was hacked.
Here's the story. New Hampshire used paper ballots that are scanned by Diebold scanners. The name Diebold serts off alarms. But the ballots are paper and can be counted to see what the voters intended. So it doesn't matter that they are scanned by Diebold machines.
Paper ballots. All anyone has to do is pick a few precincts and count the paper ballots. If they don't match what the scanners reported, then you count all the ballots. If they don't match the count, everyone knows what happened.
The point of having voter-verified paper ballots is that the record exists. So no one would bother to try to screw with the election because they would get caught as soon as anyone compares the paper ballots with the machine count.
The primary wasn't hacked. That's the point of having paper ballots. DEMAND paper ballots everywhere. If you want touch screens, that's fine. In fact, they help prevent errors -- just as long as they are used as input devices for printing paper ballots that YOU look at and put into a separate ballot box.
August 16, 2007
July 31, 2007
The other day I wrote that it doesn't matter how well we fix the voting machines because there is no reason for people to trust the results unless there is a paper ballot printed out and checked by the voter. These ballots can be checked against whatever the machine reports and can be used to PROVE that the results are accurate or not.
That is, of course, not the whole solution to our voting problems. Remember the long lines in Democratic-majority precincts in Ohio, etc... You can only count the ballots of those people fortunate enough to make it past the obstacles put in place to keep them from voting.
I received a letter about this:
The problem with the [voting machine hacking] reports and your reply is that they may be barking up the wrong tree.
As we have seen in OH, it the insiders, not the outside hackers, that are the biggest threat. These reports seem to be missing that. All the procedures and rules don't mean a thing if the folks that have implemented the rules, and know exactly how to circumvent them, are themselves untrustworthy.
The only solution I have come up with is to greatly increase election transparency. It takes the peoples' eyes to assure that elections are run fairly. But I'm sure you know that.
July 29, 2007
The California Secretary of State ordered tests on all the voting machines. They flunked. Most vote machines lose test to hackers,
State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.Suppose they fix these "vulnerabilities? But o matter how much testing you do and bugs or vulnerabilities you fix there are going to be more - the ones we don't know about. That is how it is with computers.
The researchers "were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,'' said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the "top to bottom review" of every voting system certified by the state.
Here's a simple test for election systems: "Prove it." What do I mean? Suppose you have a perfect voting machine and every possible security problem that anyone can think of is accounted for. The machine's code is carefully inspected. The hardware is working. So I go in and cast a vote, and they say, "Your vote was recorded accurately." I say, "Prove it."
They can't. So I'm not happy.
Or, imagine this test: You ask them to let you cast the only vote and then they count the votes. You cast a vote for 'A' but tell them that you cast a vote for 'B'. There is no way they can PROVE you did that. So no one has a reason to trust the "election" results.
Here is the answer - the only answer. After you cast your vote, a paper record of your vote is printed, you look at it, and you put it into a separate box. Now there is a way to PROVE how people voted. You open the box, you count the ballots. You prove it.
The only solution to the voting machines problem is to print a paper ballot that the voter examines. If you have that system in place then it doesn't matter if the machine was hacked, or broken, or you made a mistake. With that piece of paper you have a way to double-check what the machine did. Without that piece of paper it doesn't matter how secure the machine is - because you can't prove it.
June 17, 2007
The 800 pound gorilla of software development has moved forcefully into New York State, supported by voting machine vendors using Microsoft Windows in their touch screen voting machines and other systems. Over the last two months Microsoft and a cadre of high paid lobbyists have been working a full-court press in Albany in an attempt to bring about a serious weakening of New York State election law. This back door effort by private corporations to weaken public protections is about to bear fruit.)
On Thursday, June 14, I received a copy of proposed changes to New York State Election Law drafted by Microsoft attorneys that has been circulating among the Legislature. These changes would gut the source code escrow and review provisions provided in our current law, which were fought for and won by election integrity activists around the state and adopted by the Legislature in June 2005. In an earlier blog I wrote about Microsoft's unwillingness to comply with New York State's escrow and review requirements. Now the software giant has gone a step further, not just saying “we won't comply with your law” but actively trying to change state law to serve their corporate interests. Microsoft's attorneys drafted an amendment which would add a paragraph to Section 1-104 of NYS Election Law defining “election-dedicated voting system technology”. Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless - and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.
Adding insult to injury, these changes are being slipped into a bill that may be voted on Monday or Tuesday, June 18 or 19. That bill's stated purpose is to make “technical changes” to the recent law moving the date of New York's presidential primary to February. Because this bill involving the new primary date must be passed next week before the Legislative session ends (New York has jumped on the bandwagon to be part of the super presidential primary in February 2008) this grave weakening of the public’s right to review software would come along part and parcel with the primary date change. The players promoting this behind the scenes are relying on the fact that this reprehensible eradication of citizen protections won't be noticed until it's too late. If Microsoft and the vendor lobbyists had their way, the public would have known nothing about this until after the law passed. Well that much at least, didn't work. We’ve found out about this secretive move, albeit only four days before the bill containing this poisonous provision is to be voted on. The question now is will the Legislature approve this appalling weakening of our law?
Up to now, New York State has been rightfully proud to have adopted some of the strictest regulations regarding the new electronic voting systems in the entire nation. The Legislature has been patting themselves on the back for two years now for passing such an excellent set of laws. For the most part, they had a right to be proud. But now these powerful private companies are working the Legislature behind the scenes trying to quietly change New York Election Law to remove the public’s protections and to serve their private interests.
The big question is, will the New York State Legislature give in to these powerful corporate interests or will they stand up for transparency, security, and the public's right to know?
Take Action Now - It’s urgent that you call your State Senator and Assembly representatives on Monday, June 18, at their Albany offices, and tell them they must not weaken New York State’s escrow and review requirements. Remind them that the Legislature passed a strong law 2 years ago - they must not give in to pressure by voting machine vendors to undermine those protections.
[if you live in NY] Find your Assembly member’s contact information here:
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[if you live in NY] Find your State Senator’s contact information here:
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December 29, 2006
Usually at Seeing the Forest we ask, "Who is our economy FOR?" We do this to point out that in a democracy the people are supposed to be in control, make the decisions, and decide on rules that make things better for the public. Corporations are supposed to exist to serve US, not the other way around.
Today Seeing the Forest is asking a different question: Who are our ELECTIONS for? Here is why: Florida judge rules against Democrat in disputed election,
A judge ruled Friday the Democrat who narrowly lost the race to succeed U.S. Representative Katherine Harris in Congress cannot examine the programming code of the electronic voting machines used in the disputed election, saying Christine Jennings' arguments about the possibility of lost votes were "conjecture."Well one way to take it past "conjecture" is to look at the code running on the machines and SEE if it screwed up! Then we'll KNOW, instead of having to "conjecture" about it.
... State officials have declared Republican Vern Buchanan the winner by 369 votes. But 18,000 electronic ballots showed no votes cast in the House race, and Jennings contends the machines lost the votes.
So we are NOT ALLOWED TO KNOW how our voting machines even WORK? We are not allowed to ask if the code in these machines WORKS?
WHO ARE OUR ELECTIONS FOR if we're not even allowed to know how the votes are "counted?"
December 26, 2006
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Georgia state officials are claiming that Kathy Rogers, the recently resigned Director of outgoing Secretary of State Cathy Cox's State Elections Division, is going to work for Diebold.We need to demand information about her salary, stock and other payments received.
Remember, Georgia is the state where exit polls showed Senator Max Cleland winning, and then the paperless voting machines reported he lost.
December 1, 2006
Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.I don't agree. I think that we can use the machines as input devices to print paper ballots which the voter looks at and puts in a separate ballot box. This gets rid of all the problems associated with people mismarking the ballots, drawing circles instead of lines, etc.
... In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, the institute said voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts.
But to be clear - the machines should only be used as input devices leading to the printing of a ballot, and that ballot, placed by the voter in a separate ballot box, is the official count.
More from the story,
Computer scientists and others have said that the security of electronic voting systems cannot be guaranteed and that election officials should adopt systems that produce a paper record of each vote in case of a recount. The institute report embraces that critique, introducing the concept of "software independence" in voting systems.
November 15, 2006
Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.Go help.
Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.
These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.
But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.
To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.
If we win this battle, you'll be able to kiss Diebold goodby.
November 14, 2006
THIS is why we said that the way to combat the problem with voting machines is to not let it get close enough to matter. There were problems across the country, and there were voter suppression tactics, etc. But THIS election was NOT close enough for it to matter. And now that the Democrats are in control they can work to stop the tricks and purges and miscounts and suppression tactics in the future. Update: In FL-13, Court Battle Begins As Counting Continues,
The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) -- what's called an "undervote." That's compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.
A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials "had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record" on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.
November 2, 2006
There's trouble coming next week. Regardless of which candidates and parties are said to win next week, there is a problem coming. This is because there is no way to prove to people whether or not the electronic voting machines reported the votes correctly. And this raises the possibility that large numbers of people will not accept the reported election results.
In this highly partisan atmosphere with such high stakes this is a recipe for civil disorder.
If you vote absentee or use a paper ballot, or use a machine that prints your vote on paper and lets you see that it was correctly recorded, you can feel like your vote was correctly counted. But if you vote on a machine that just asks you to trust that it records your vote correctly, and YOUR candidate loses, you're going to feel like you MIGHT have been cheated. That is human nature.
And even if you know that YOUR vote was correctly recorded, if these machines are in use in your local election, then you are going to feel uneasy about the results.
AND even if your entire district uses safe methods, you are going to feel uneasy about the results from OTHER districts.
So no matter which party is in said to be in the majority after Tuesday, there is no reason for the losers to accept that. (Or the winners, for that matter.)
I don't see any way around trouble coming out of this.
There has been quite a bit of publicity now, exposing the new electronic voting machines as hackable. And it occurred to me that Tuesday's election could turn into a different kind of fiasco than the one that many people fear.
The fear is that there could be subtle, undetectable changes in voting totals designed to swing elections. (Such hacking is undetectable because there is no paper backup system that allows voters to verify that the machine is recording their vote accurately.)
I'm wondering if, rather than this scenario, if we might instead see every junior hacker in the country showing up with their own viruses and worms and other assorted hacks, and precincts electing everyone from Superman to Malcolm X, with more votes than voter in the precinct, etc.
It would be funny if that happened. But not surprising. It CAN happen.
Just a thought...
November 1, 2006
This is an ad for California Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen
October 29, 2006
October 26, 2006
Ars Technica is an online magazine for techies. They're covering the voting machines fiasco.
What if I told you that it would take only one person—one highly motivated, but only moderately skilled bad apple, with either authorized or unauthorized access to the right company's internal computer network—to steal a statewide election?The article goes into technical detail on how to accomplish the theft of an election. But then,
[. . .] Thanks the recent and rapid adoption of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in states and counties across America, the two scenarios that I just outlined have now become siblings (perhaps even fraternal twins) in the same large, unhappy family of information security (infosec) challenges. Our national election infrastructure is now largely an information technology infrastructure, so the problem of keeping our elections free of vote fraud is now an information security problem. If you've been keeping track of the news in the past few years, with its weekly litany of high-profile breeches in public- and private-sector networks, then you know how well we're (not) doing on the infosec front.
Finally, it's extremely important to note that, in the absence of a meaningful audit trail, like that provided by voter-verified paper receipts, it is virtually impossible to tell machine malfunction from deliberate vandalism. Pioneering election security researcher Rebecca Mercuri has told me that she's actually much more concerned about "disenfranchisement of voters due to the strategic denial-of-service that currently masquerades as malfunctions," than she is about "manipulation of election equipment and data files in order to alter election outcomes, although both remain problematic."And, toward the end,
When you have a rash of voting machines that have their memories wiped, their votes erased, or their number of votes mysteriously inflated; when you have reports of machines that crash or refuse to respond; when many machines record a vote for the wrong candidate—all of this could just as plausibly be construed as evidence of fraud as it could be of spontaneous malfunction, because there's simply no way to tell the difference in most cases.
In conclusion, let me summarize what I hope you'll take home with you after reading this article and thinking about its contents:
* Bits and bytes are made to be manipulated; by turning votes into bits and bytes, we've made them orders of magnitude easier to manipulate during and after an election.
* By rushing to merge our nation's election infrastructure with our computing infrastructure, we have prematurely brought the fairly old and well-understood field of election security under the rubric of the new, rapidly evolving field of information security.
* In order to have confidence in the results of a paperless DRE-based election, you must first have confidence in the personnel and security practices at these institutions: the board of elections, the DRE vendor, and third-party software vendor whose product is used on the DRE.
* In the absence of the ability to conduct a meaningful audit, there is no discernable difference between DRE malfunction and deliberate tampering (either for the purpose of disenfranchisement or altering the vote record).
October 18, 2006
A great new video over at The People Choose 2006 --
Can a Chimpanzee Hack A voting Machine? Baxter Did
October 16, 2006
Prediction: If Republicans lose the House, they are going to accuse Democrats of hacking the voting machines.
October 10, 2006
September 24, 2006
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."Impossible to know. THAT is the problem.
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.
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.
September 5, 2006
At Cracking a Diebold In 4 minutes and 12 Dollars. How easy is it to hardware hack a Voting Machine?
Go see the pictures. In four minutes they had complete access to the memory card without disturbing the official seals that are supposed to certify that the machine could not have been tampered with. And remember, because these seals supposedly guarantee that the machines have not been tampered with, these machines are often allowed to go to people's homes the night before the election or are otherwise allowed to disappear from official supervision.
This is about proving that the vote counts reflect the will of the voters. We need to require paper ballots that the voter looks at and agrees represent the voter's intentions.
These machines should be nothing more than input devices for paper-ballot printing, and the voter should be required to double-check that printed ballot. There is no other way to prove that the vote counts reflect the will of the voters. And with this system we don't need expensive - and ineffective - security measures for the machines.
August 19, 2006
Touch-screen polling machines, which will be used statewide in Maryland when voters go to the polls for the Sept. 12 primary, were intended to calm fears of election flimflam raised in the wake of the infamous 2000 presidential balloting in Florida.They can talk all the want to about "securing" the machines, etc. But here is the problem. NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO, as long as there is no "paper trail" - a physical record of each vote that is CHECKED BY THE VOTER, then there is NO WAY TO KNOW if the machines were hacked or not. With no paper trail THERE IS NO REASON TO TRUST THE RESULTS of the election because no one can PROVE that the results are accurate.
But the new machines themselves have become a politically charged topic in Maryland. Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who agreed to purchase them three years ago, now questions whether they can provide fair and accurate elections, given their vulnerability to computer hackers and their lack of a paper trail to document votes.
[. . .] The Brennan report notes that systems without paper trails -- a paper record or receipt that voters can use to confirm votes -- lack an important countermeasure to software attacks: the ability to compare paper to electronic records.
Period, end of story.
July 20, 2006
In recent months, however, grass-roots groups like MoveOn.org and Common Cause have made paper ballots a top-tier priority, raising the specter of hackers and corrupt officials stealing elections at will. Last week in a speech in California, Democratic Party leader Howard Dean joined the chorus by declaring, "I am tired of electronic voting machines we can't trust."
July 14, 2006
The article focuses on reliability, without mentioning paper trails at all. As if making the machines "reliable" reduces the need to be able to prove how people voted.
Voting machine must have a way to VERIFY that the machines are reporting what the voters wanted.
July 5, 2006
Another reason to fix the voting machine problems - it gives Republicans an excuse to claim election fraud if they DO lose.
Oh, you think Republicans wouldn't do that? Brad points out,
The GOP doesn't have the same fear gene that curses Dems when it comes to standing up and fighting when they feel they've been robbed (or, perhaps more appropriately with the GOP, opportunistically announcing they've been robbed even when they haven't been.)
July 2, 2006
Go read ab out it at MyDD: Verified Voting Needs Volunteers
June 20, 2006
MyDD :: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections, a response to something I hear a lot:
What good does it do to support candidates? With those Diebold machines, they can steal any election. It's pointless to compete in elections when the votes won't be counted.Myself, I say, go run for your local elections board.
June 7, 2006
In the election to replace corrupt Republican Congressman Duke Cuningham we're TOLD that Democrat Francine Busby received 55,587 votes, and Republican Brian Bilbray received 60,319 votes. The problem is, THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW FOR SURE because some of the machines are touch-screen voting machings WITH NO PAPER TRAIL!
The biggest concern about the race, by far, is that San Diego County uses two types of Diebold voting systems -- optical-scan and touch-screen -- both of which have not only proven to be disastrously unreliable in San Diego County and California in the past, but have also been demonstrated over the last six months to feature dozens of exceedingly well-documented and remarkable security vulnerabilities, making them extremely accessible to tampering.SOME of the voting was done on machines with no paper trail.
And then, only if the number of votes cast on the touch-screen systems is smaller than the number of votes separating the two candidates after all of the optical-scan paper ballots have been counted manually. If the margin separating the two after the op-scan ballots are counted is smaller than the number of votes cast on the touch-screens, there is no way of knowing who the winner of the race truly is.So here we have a vitally important race, AND NO WAY TO PROVE WHO WON?
The results of the election is left open to doubts based on the integrity of the Republicans -- in a special election made necessary by a corrupt Republican.
May 31, 2006
The Washington Post writes a long article and misses the point. Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting,
The newer technology, such as touch-screen and optical scan systems, held the promise of making voting more secure, transparent and accessible. But as the new technology was implemented, voting rights activists raised questions about whether vendors had paid enough attention to security. Activists pushed for the use of technology that still provided a paper record.The paper records are the point. Security of the machines does not matter, the code in the computers does not matter, nothing matters if the machines print a paper ballot that the voter looks at and puts into a ballot box for election officials to count. That is PROOF of how the voter voted. If you have the paper to count, there is no point in trying to rig the machines because you'll get caught. You can still have instant election results that come from the machine. People will trust it if you can go to the paper and count it. If you can count it you can prove it. If you can't count it, you can't prove it.
Many of the criticisms of voting technology were originally dismissed as exaggerations promulgated by partisans displeased with election results. But the criticisms have been viewed with increasing gravity as prominent computer scientists have rallied behind them. Although it has not been shown that an election was compromised by a security flaw, several elections since 2000, including in this year's primaries, have experienced problems with the technology that have delayed results.
Without a paper record that the voter has looked at and put in a ballot box the election is worthless. It is based on trust, not proof. Without a paper record you just have to trust what the operators of the voting machines tell you. You walk up to a computer, push a few buttons on a screen, and then later they tell you who won. Right.
Who do these voting machine companies refuse to provide printers, so the voter can look at a ballot and put it in a ballot box, so that later the ballots can be counted to verify - prove - the election results? This would increase their profits, but they won't do it! Why?
Without a paper ballot printed by these machines, there is no way to prove what the voters wanted. There is no way to prove that the machine actually recorded your vote the way you voted. Assurances do not matter to the voter, who can just say, "Prove it." If you can't prove it you can't prove it. And every single citizen has the right to demand proof, without being mocked and called names.
May 21, 2006
How bad are the problems? Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. Basically the trouble stems from the ease with which the machine's software can be altered. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems. "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it," says Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-science professor and elections-security expert.This is an issue everyone should be making noise about.
... The Diebold security gap is only the most vivid example of the reality that no electronic voting system can be 100 percent safe or reliable. That's the reason behind an initiative to augment these systems, adding a paper receipt that voters can check to make sure it conforms with their choices. The receipt is retained at the polling place so a physical count can be conducted. "When you're using a paperless voting system, there is no security," says David Dill, a Stanford professor who founded the election-reform organization Verified Voting.
... In other words, it's unlikely that every voter using an electronic voting device in 2006 will know for sure that his or her vote will be reflected in the actual totals. Six years after the 2000 electoral debacle, how can this be? [emphasis added]
May 12, 2006
Computer security experts say they have found the worst security flaw yet in the oft-criticized touch-screen machines that Maryland voters will use in this year's elections, leaving one computer scientist to warn that the state should have "stacks of paper ballots" on hand in case of a complete Election Day breakdown.Go read the rest, and DEMAND that your local election officials use machines that print paper ballots that can be counted by hand! There is just no other way to guarantee that the vote count matches the actual vote. There is no reason to trust any voting machine that doesn't do this.
The machines, made by Diebold Elections Systems, are "much, much easier to attack than anything we've previously said," said Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer science professor who first cast doubt on the reliability of the technology in a 2003 report.
"On a scale of one to 10, if the problems we found before were a six, this is a 10. It's a totally different ballgame," he said.
March 29, 2006
A few days ago I told you about voting machine companies refusing to sell to counties that threaten to test the machines. This would cause the counties to be in violation of federal requirements to get new voting equipment, lose federal funding, and ruin careers of county officials.
Now in Utah, Diebold is saying that local officials allowing independent testing of voting machines violates their warranty and "allowing unauthorized people access to the machines had violated their integrity." They are demanding $40,000 to fly people in to "fix" the machines.
Diebold's $40,000 estimate is exaggerated to frighten other clerks from questioning the machines' integrity, Funk said. "What they are really saying is, 'We don't want anyone else to think of doing this.' "The voting machine companies are now using threats and intiidation to keep people from testing whether these machines can be rigged.
The solution is to require that these machines print a paper ballot for the voter to check. Then the voter puts the ballot in a separate, guarded ballot box - just like now.
March 28, 2006
The chief officers of Sequoia-Smartmatic are two 32-year old Venezuelans from Caracas, Antonio Mugica and Alfredo Anzola. Anzola also works as a Venezuela-based lawyer brokering international oil deals with the Cleveland law firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.
... There is, however, nothing verifiable about the Sequoia voting system used in Cook County. The voter has no way of knowing if his vote has been counted or how it was counted.
The absolute lack of transparency in U.S. voting systems yields unverifiable election results, which can only be accepted on faith. In Chicago voters are asked to trust the results produced by malfunctioning machines operated by a privately owned foreign company.
... Dimas Ulacio, one of the Venezuelan technicians who worked in the tally area spoke with American Free Press. “Who really owns Sequoia?” Ulacio was asked. “Is Sequoia-Smartmatic truly a Venezuelan company or is it a British-owned company masquerading as a Venezuelan company?”
March 26, 2006
Voting machine companies now refuse to sell to election officials who might TEST the machines to see if they are vulnerable to vote manipulation. These officials are required by federal law to to acquire new voting machines, so the refusal to sell can ruin careers.
A spokesman said Diebold will not sell to Sancho without assurances that he will not permit more such tests, which the company considers a reckless use of the machines.And surprise, it is Bush (lack of) federal oversight causing trouble again,
The dispute highlights what many elections experts say is a failure in federal oversight. In Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere, elections officials have called into question the security and accuracy of new voting machines. The experts said that a more rigorous federal oversight process, in which machine testers have no financial connections to the voting machine companies, is needed to ensure election security in the United States.Is this the regular Bush incompetence, or are they TRYING to get flawed voting machines in place?
March 16, 2006
It's easier to rig an electronic voting machine than a Las Vegas slot machine, says University of Pennsylvania visiting professor Steve Freeman.If you have voting machines that don't offer any way to PROVE who people voted for, it is a recipe for civil chaos. FIX THIS!
That's because Vegas slots are better monitored and regulated than America's voting machines, Freeman writes in a book out in July that argues, among other things, that President Bush may owe his last win to an unfair vote count.
March 7, 2006
Theories of widespread election fraud are highly debatable, to say the least. Some people enjoy that debate. I do not. It encourages a sense of hopelessness and consumes energy that could instead be focused on long-term changes that could give us elections we can trust.I agree, word the problem in a way that we can win. Elections should be transparent. We should be able to prove who won.
The election fraud debate frames the problem incorrectly. The question should not be whether there is widespread election fraud. It should be: "Why should we trust the results of elections?" It's not good enough that election results be accurate. We have to know they are accurate—and we don't.
In a word, elections must be transparent. People must be able to assure themselves that the results are accurate through direct observation during the election and examination of evidence afterwards.
U.S. elections are far from transparent. Instead, winning candidates and election officials alike tend to put all their efforts into suppressing recounts. That attitude has led to increasing bitterness with each national election, at least since Florida 2000.
But we can conclusively win a debate about election transparency.
February 24, 2006
An examination of Palm Beach County's electronic voting machine records from the 2004 election found possible tampering and tens of thousands of malfunctions and errors, a watchdog group said Thursday.Through Brad Blog.
... "I actually think there's enough votes in play in Florida that it's anybody's guess who actually won the presidential race," Harris added. "But with that said, there's no way to tell who the votes should have gone to."
February 17, 2006
This just out - late on a Friday. They are hoping no one will notice. Calif. gives conditional OK to Diebold voting machines,
California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson gave conditional approval Friday for counties to use two voting machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems that he had previously questioned.This is about voting machines with NO WAY TO PROVE how the voters really voted!
The timing, late on a Friday, says it all. They are trying to sneak this past the public. This follows a series of machinations, including getting the previous Democratic Secretary of State out of office.
Update - More at Brad Blog.
February 10, 2006
A suit filed in 2004 on behalf of Assemblyman Reed Gusciora by the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers School of Law-Newark challenging the accuracy of New Jersey's electronic voting machines was initially dismissed by the trial court. Today, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs, and has reinstated the case.Go read.
... Nearly every voting machine in the state is electronic, but none of them provide a voter-verifiable paper trail. If the courts agree that rights are being violated and that the integrity of the election cannot be guaranteed by these machines, then by law, the machines must be scrapped.
January 25, 2006
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.
November 30, 2005
Suppose you could get every bug out of every program that runs every company's electronic voting machines. Suppose you can make sure that there is no way a technician has installed new chips the day before the election. Suppose you can absolutely guarantee that no hacker can get into the system. Suppose you can show me every line of the code from the machine AND prove to me that is the same code that is in every machine on election day. Suppose you find a way to assure me that every official, employee, etc. that comes into contact with any machine is not corrupt. Suppose that the disk drive and memory in the machine could be manufactured in a way that it never, ever dropped a bit. Suppose there were a way to safely transmit the results from every machine to the county's vote tabulator without possibility of error or compromise. And the suppose you can guarantee all of the SAME conditions for the country's vote tabulator machines.
When all of that is done there is still a problem. You still can not prove that the voting machine correctly recorded the way I voted. You can not prove this because there is no method for proving it -- no way to double check.
I'm supposed to touch a screen and then just trust that the machine correctly records my vote. Right.
Suppose that every computer expert in the world decided that the machines were beyond any possibility whatsoever of being tampered with. (Set aside for a minute that it is the computer experts - the people who understand computers - who are sounding the warnings about the possibility of fraud from these machines.) And suppose that every politician, every authority figure, every credible organization declared that these machines are beyond question. Suppose that even every "fringe conspiracy nut" in the world issued forth with assurances that the machines accurately recorded votes.
There is still a problem. You still can not prove that the voting machine correctly recorded the way I voted. You can not prove this because there is no method for proving it. There is no way to double-check.
There is no way to prove that the votes were accurately recorded. Even if you ask every single person how they voted and compare that to the results, there is no way to prove they told you the truth.
So if even one person accused that the election was fraudulent, there would be no way to prove that it was not. And that necessarily brings into question the legitimacy of the election - at least for that one person.
Now, suppose that after the voter touches the screen and finishes voting the voting machine prints a paper ballot. The voter takes that paper ballot out of the voting booth, inspects it, decides that the ballot shows the same votes as the voter intended it to show and drops it into a ballot box. This changes everything. It no longer matters if a technician changed the chips in the machine the day before the election, or a hacker altered the software, or the source code was compromised, or a politician or employee was corrupted. It no longer matters if the information from the machine is correctly transmitted or the county tabulator functions correctly. It no longer matters because there is a way to double-check the results and prove to everyone that the election returns are accurate.
It is so simple. Why is it so difficult make this the standard in a country that is supposed to be the beacon of democracy and legitimacy?
But it's more than just that. Why would anyone think to make a machine that didn't provide a way to prove that the results are accurate in the first place? Why would a voting machine company think that there would be an election official anywhere who would not laugh them out of their office if they tried to sell such a machine? And why would a voting machine company actively resist the additional revenue they would receive from selling the printers?
And, finally, why would one political party's leadership actively resist efforts to provide voting machines that can be trusted?
There are many politically contentious issues in election reform, but making sure votes are counted accurately is not one of them. Because of its narrow scope, its realistic goals, and its strong bi-partisan support, with 159 co-sponsors both Democrat and Republican, H.R. 550 is our best hope to restore integrity and voter confidence to our electoral process - the very foundation of a representative democracy.
We urge you to pass H.R. 550 as written immediately.
Big Brass Blog has ... well... the same thing because it's cross-posted.
Pandagon has Making sure your vote counts,
The reverberations from the 2000 and 2004 voting irregularities are still being felt around the country. When the integrity of voting becomes a mysterious black box of confusion controlled by corporate interests, our democracy is at risk.Brilliant at Breakfast says
I've taken a fair amount of crap from our wingnut trolls over the past year and a half, and even more before then from Republicans who seem to think that unverifiable voting is A-OK by them -- especially when the machines are built and programmed by companies that support Republicans.A Mockingbird's Medly has IT'S OBVIOUS ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES AREN'T CUTTING THE MUSTARD...
When you are done here, if you have a blog, go ahead and join the blogswarm.
Diebold would rather lose all of its voting machine business in North Carolina than open its source code to state election officials as required by law, the Associated Press reports.meanwhile California Republicans are fighting to get Diebold back into the state. Why?
November 20, 2005
Apparently the Republican Secretary of State in California may be stealthily REVERSING the previous Democratic Secretary of State's decertification of Diebold paperless voting machines! Raw Story and Brad Blog have stories about this (links below). Here's a summary: Democratic Secretary of State Shelley had decertified Diebold machines as dangerous to democracy. (He also sought to prosecute the company for lying to state officials.) Then, after the recall and Schwarzenegger's election Shelley was forced out of office on contrived charges, with a Republican appointed in his place. Now there is funny business going on and it looks like Diebold may be coming back. I tracked down a new document [Note - PDF] outlining requirements for voting machines, and the previous requirement that they produce paper ballot backups is NOT on the list.
Election reform advocates had hoped Diebold touch-screen voting machines would be permanently decertified in the country's largest "voting market" (as Diebold likes to refer to it) after a massive test of their AccuVote DRE machines earlier this year revealed a 20% failure rate. But a more recent test, secretly held at Diebold Election System's McKinney Texas headquarters, apparently in violation of California state law, has resulted in what appears to be a last minute about-face from California's Republican Sec. of State, Bruce McPhereson. The latest news has now thrown everything into doubt in the state concerning the future of electronic voting here.Raw Story has:
On Monday, November 21st, California’s Voting System Panel (VSP) was slated to hold public hearings on whether to recertify Diebold TSX touchscreen machines.The previous Secretary of State set up the Voting Systems Panel, and they recommended banning Diebold. The new Sec. of State disbanded the panel. Instead of a "hearing" before a panel who will decide the issue, the state will provide a room and a tape recorder. The people will speak into the tape recorder and that will be called a "public hearing." The location of the "hearing" was also kept secret.
“We had to be full time detectives to find out when this hearing would be held,” Healy stated, adding that CEPN discovered the hearing announcement posted on an obscure portion of the Secretary of State’s website, not the usual location for public meeting notices.Thru BadGimp there is also a web page from the "Election Justice Center".
Election reform experts who had filled out cards at prior meetings asking to be notified of future events received no notification, she added.
More from True Blue Liberal, EMERGENCY - CA’s Republican SOS Plans To Steal Your Vote. This Should PISS You OFF!, Scatablog, California Voting Machines
November 17, 2005
As if the indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby wasn’t enough to give the White House some heavy concerns, a report from the Government Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush clique’s pretense of legitimacy.
This powerful and probing report takes a hard look at the election of 2004 and supports the contention that the election was stolen. The report has received almost no coverage in the national media.
The GAO is the government’s lead investigative agency, and is known for rock-solid integrity and its penetrating and thorough analysis. The agency’s agreement with what have been brushed aside as “conspiracy theories” adds even more weight to the conclusion that the Bush regime has no business in the White House whatever.
[. . .] These findings are even more damning when we understand the election in Ohio was run by a secretary of state who also was co-chairman of Bush’s Ohio campaign. Far from the conclusion of anti-fraud skeptics, the GAO’s findings confirm that the network, which handled 800,000 Ohio votes, was vulnerable enough to permit a handful of purposeful operatives to turn the entire election by means of personal computers using comparatively simple software.
November 12, 2005
All of a sudden ... the county clerks have flat-out refused to permit the inspections by the plaintiff's experts. That, after some interesting evidence has already been found by the experts during discovery, like tests where they were able to see votes for one candidate being registered for their opponent (as has been so widely reported as happening in so many elections of late!) and ballots being confirmed with NO choice for President at all, which wasn't supposed to have been possible on at least one of the machine types being looked at.And, in my opinion, a related story: 'Has American Democracy died an electronic death in Ohio 2005's referenda defeats?',
Once again, the Buckeye state has hosted an astonishing display of electronic manipulation that calls into question the sanctity of America's right to vote, and to have those votes counted in this crucial swing state.The corrupt Republican government of Ohio wants Issue 1 to pass, and the results exactly match the pre-election polls. The Reform Ohio Now issues, however, showed dramatically different election returns than the pre-election polling, which was dead-on accurate for other issues.
[. . .] A poll run on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, November 6, showed Issue One passing with 53% of the vote. Official tallies showed Issue One passing with 54% of the vote. . . . But Issues 2-5 are another story.
. . . Issues Two-Five were meant to reform Ohio's electoral process, which has been under intense fire since 2004. The issues were very heavily contested. They were backed by Reform Ohio Now, a well-funded bi-partisan statewide effort meant to bring some semblance of reliability back to the state's vote count.
. . . The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.
But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor. To say the outcome is a virtual statistical impossibility is to understate the case. For the official vote count to square with the pre-vote Dispatch poll, support for the Issue had to drop more than 22 points, with virtually all the undecideds apparently going into the "no" column.
The numbers on Issue Three are even less likely.
. . . The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.
Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed. For this to have happened, Issue Three's polled support had to drop 28 points, again with an apparent 100% opposition from the previously undecideds.
The reversals on both Issues Two and Three were statistically staggering, to say the least.
[. . .] With the 2005 expansion of paperless touch-screen machines into 41 more Ohio counties, this year's election was more vulnerable than ever to centralized manipulation. The outcomes on Issues 2-5 would indicate just that.
November 11, 2005
Wisconsin Assembly OKs voting paper trail,
With only four dissenting votes, the state Assembly easily passed a bill that would require that electronic voting machines create a paper record.
The goal of the legislation is to make sure that Wisconsin's soon-to-be-purchased touch screen machines create a paper ballot that can be audited to verify election results.
"Wisconsin cannot go down the path of states like Florida and Ohio in having elections that the public simply doesn't trust," Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said in a news release. "By requiring a paper record on every electronic voting machine, we will ensure that not only does your vote matter in Wisconsin, but it also counts."
October 6, 2005
Even though they were used to tabulate a third of the votes in last year's presidential run, nearly all electronic voting machines in use today remain black boxes without external methods of verifying that the results have not been altered or sabotaged.Think about what is at stake in our elections. ALL THE POWER AND MONEY IN THE WORLD AND ALL OF OUR LIVES. So, are the stakes high enough to encourage people with sophisticated resources to try to cheat? Is there any question about it?
Possible threats to an accurate electronic vote tally are legion. They include everything from worms and viruses infecting Microsoft Windows-equipped systems to equipment tampering, code alteration and ballot box stuffing...
In principle, there should be an easy solution: Require that e-voting machines include what's known as a voter-verifiable paper trail. That would permit a voter to review a physical printout with his or her selections--perhaps under glass so the receipt can't be removed--which would also provide a way to perform a manual recount, if necessary.
But a complicated mix of partisan politics and the relative paucity of voter-verifiable products available today has delayed the switch to improved technology, according to election experts interviewed by CNET News.com.