Diebold Cracks Jokes About Hacked Voting Machines In Florida

from the ha-ha-very-funny dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about the latest hacking tests on Diebold voting machines in Florida, that apparently resulted in one county declaring it would not use Diebold machines any more. At the time, the only report was from the group that did the hacking -- so some of the details weren't entirely clear. The Associated Press now has the full story which includes some more, important, details and a response from Diebold. First of all, the important detail which wasn't made clear by the original story was that the test was not about Diebold's electronic touchscreen systems -- which have been the focus of most of the controversy over the past few years. Instead, the hack was of a Diebold scanner -- which is used on the more traditional paper ballots. A Diebold representative used this fact to joke about the hack: "Now we're not trusting paper. Somebody could also steal the pencil and then you couldn't mark the ballot."

Of course, if you have even the slightest respect for the integrity of our voting system, the results of the test and Diebold's response should scare you silly. It raises serious questions about why we would ever trust any Diebold machine without also hand counting a paper trail. The fact that their touchscreen machines don't include a secondary paper trail means those machines should never be used at all. In joking about it, Diebold is not only brushing aside the very valid questions about the integrity of their machines, but also distorting the argument in favor of paper ballots by suggesting that since this test showed that paper ballots weren't reliable, then the request for a paper trail in their other machines made no sense any more either. What he's being misleading about, of course, is that it wasn't the paper that failed. It's the paper that proves that his company's machines failed. Diebold also brushed aside the actual hack by saying that it would be impossible to do in a real election environment, because people would be around. That's again misleading. If you read the details of how the test was run, you could see that it's entirely possible that, with some planning, someone could have a preprogrammed memory card with plus or minus votes already on them, and then just figure out a way to make sure that card is used. Either way, the details of what happened as well as Diebold's response should make it clear to everyone why not only is a paper backup trail needed, but in many cases, it should be used to check on the validity of any electronic votes.



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  1.  
    identicon
    Howard Plumley, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 4:38am

    Voting

    The number one maker of ATM's doesn't want a paper trail on voting machines. How many banks would live with Diebold's "we don't need no stinkin' paper". And for how long?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    CloakedMirror, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 5:29am

    No Subject Given

    While I can understand the various worries about Diebold voting machines, the reality is that there is no perfect system for casting and tabulating votes. Are their machines any more, or any less, vulnerable to fraud? I personally don't know. I do know that accusations of ballot rigging/stuffing have been around for much longer than I have even been alive.
    So, the questions should be this...
  3. Do the Diebold systems create greater or lesser chances for voter fraud?
  4. How can we compute those chances?
  5. How much of the current "scandal" is actually media hype brought about by the fact that the former CEO is/was a Republican supporter?
    If anyone actually believes that there is some means by which voter fraud can be completely done away with then I would love to hear how you would accomplish it. Maybe we could do something like they did in Iraq, and make everyone dip their finger in ink. Oh, wait, I heard a report this morning that there was a group of militia that voted and then refused to dip their fingers! So much for that idea!

 

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  •  
    identicon
    Jeremiah, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 6:18am

    Diebold: All your vote are belong to us.

    Via MeFi comes another story from Florida:

    "Sancho began investigating the problem after watching the votes come in during the infamous 2000 presidential election. In Volusia County precinct 216, a memory card added more than 200 votes to George W. Bush's total and subtracted 16,000 votes from Al Gore. The mistake was later corrected during a hand count.

    After watching his computer expert change vote totals this week, Sancho said that he now believes someone on the inside did the same think in Volusia County in 2000.

    "Someone with access to the vote center in Volusia County put it on a memory card and uploaded it into the main system," Sancho said.

    Sancho has been raising red flags about the system for months after other hackers were able to change votes during earlier tests. But Sancho said he's gotten nowhere with the company or with the Florida secretary of state's office, which oversees elections."

    You'll recall another person testified (in Ohio) that he'd been asked by Diebold to create a program to change vote tallies in favor of certain candidates.

    Speaking personally, I'd really like to just drop the pretense of valid "elections" in this country. The illusion is simply too expensive to maintain. I fear it's simply beyond our cultural capability to actually reconcile what we've abandoned (as in, every dignified ideal of governance.)

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Mike S., Dec 16th, 2005 @ 7:26am

    Re: No Subject Given


    While I can understand the various worries about Diebold voting machines, the reality is that there is no perfect system for casting and tabulating votes. Are their machines any more, or any less, vulnerable to fraud? I personally don't know. I do know that accusations of ballot rigging/stuffing have been around for much longer than I have even been alive.
    So, the questions should be this...

    • Do the Diebold systems create greater or lesser chances for voter fraud?
    • How can we compute those chances?
    • How much of the current "scandal" is actually media hype brought about by the fact that the former CEO is/was a Republican supporter?

    If anyone actually believes that there is some means by which voter fraud can be completely done away with then I would love to hear how you would accomplish it. Maybe we could do something like they did in Iraq, and make everyone dip their finger in ink. Oh, wait, I heard a report this morning that there was a group of militia that voted and then refused to dip their fingers! So much for that idea!


    OMFG!! Where do we begin to flame you?


    The machines are more vulnerable because we have no way of knowing what they did!! No paper trail means no accountability.


    It's not even about the chances of voter fraud. It's about the fact that with closed-source voting the election process becomes secret. The voting process ABSOLUTELY MUST be transparent. Most states have explicit laws to this effect (despite their willingness to throw that law out -- I'm talking to you, North Carolina).


    Sure, people will always try to commit voter fraud. Transparent elections (think open source voting code) would make it alot easier to spot those places where fraud CAN occur, and give everyone the chance to fix it.
    -Mike S.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 8:09am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Do the Diebold systems create greater or lesser chances for voter fraud?

    I would be willing to wager that the fear of voter fraud would be significantly diminished by the release of the source code used by these machines.

    That is, it is possible for the current system to be MORE secure than it is right now. Would you rather we not do everything we can to ensure this just because we can't guarantee it?

     

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  •  
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    Thomas, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 10:02am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Do the Diebold systems create greater or lesser chances for voter fraud?
    Well with traditional ballot based voter fraud there had to be some way to actually get a large number of fradulent ballots into the system to be counted. With the diebold machines the act of "stuffing" the ballot box becomes as simple as one person using a card programmer available for a few hundred bucks to potentially add or subract hundreds or thousands of votes with one action. The person who does it needs physical access to the machine, but so does a traditional ballot stuffer. So these machines, specifically because they refuse to provide a paper trail and open source code, make elections exponentially less secure.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Newob, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 12:37pm

    Count people, not votes

    Ballot voting is an ancient system of counting people, with obvious shortcomings that we are well aware of. Instead of figuring out how to prevent people from faking ballots, we should design a better method of counting people. Over the internet, anonymously counting people is as easy as counting "users online." We could have a vote web site, which tallies voters logged in as answers to a vote. No need anymore to save up the votes and count them later; you can invent screen names and passwords on the fly and record the results of a vote as quickly as it is called. There must be some kind of authentication system can guarantee one vote per person, and then discard the passwords and userids, to be recreated for the next vote. Thoughts?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    CloakedMirror, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 1:20pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    OMFG!! Where do we begin to flame you?
    This is the attitude that I expect on /.
    The machines are more vulnerable because we have no way of knowing what they did!! No paper trail means no accountability.
    Are you really naive enough to believe that having a "paper trail" will somehow protect the system? My goodness, how did they ever commit vote fraud before computers were used in voting?!!
    It's not even about the chances of voter fraud.
    If it isn't about voter fraud, then there's no point in having the discussion. OK, call it election rigging, voter fraud, whatever you want, the point is that if you think having open source is going to make the elections somehow more pristine then you don't know squat about how dishonest politics works.
    Sure, people will always try to commit voter fraud. Transparent elections (think open source voting code) would make it alot easier to spot those places where fraud CAN occur, and give everyone the chance to fix it.
    What you seem to fail to understand is that it isn't the software or the hardware that you have to fight. It is about election officials that will turn a blind-eye, or worse, during election time. If I understood the story correctly, the person who "hacked" the system was given access to a point in the system that only election officials should be accessing. So, is it a problem that the election official is distracted or bought off? Why would a person have access to this point in the system? And exactly what does the paper trail do besides say, "Yes, xx number of votes were cast"?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 2:47pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    exactly what does the paper trail do besides say, "Yes, xx number of votes were cast"?
    Wouldn't it log the time of each vote? So when someone compared the logs to the total votes, they'd see if inside one second a massive number of votes happened on one booth, or the *running* total at that one point suddenly takes a huge leap either way.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Arlene Montemarano, Dec 16th, 2005 @ 6:55pm

    Diebold

    Dear Howard Dean: Why Bother?

    December 13, 2005
    By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers

    December 13, 2005
    Dr. Howard Dean, Chair
    Democratic National Committee

    Dear Dr. Dean,

    Every week I get dozens of solicitations from the Democratic National Committee, from the Democratic Senate and Congressional Campaign Committees, or from various Democratic candidates and office-holders, each of them asking for contributions. "You can help us achieve victory next November," I am told.

    If by "victory" is meant a majority vote cast at the polls, then the Democrats achieved "victory" in 2000, 2002 and 2004. And yet, the Republicans remain in control of the Congress and the White House.

    Small wonder! Republicans build the voting machines, Republicans write the secret software, Republicans count and compile the totals. The Republican machines allow no auditing of the vote totals they report. So Republicans have the ability to "win" elections, regardless of the will of the voters. There is compelling evidence that they have done just that.

    And so, if nothing is done to end the privatization of our elections and to introduce reliable verification, the Republicans will "win" again in November 2006 and then in 2008. Today, eleven months before the mid-term election, the outcome is fore-ordained as certain as Soviet elections under Stalin, and Iraqi elections under Saddam. For, as Stalin said, "Those who cast the votes decide nothing, those who count the votes decide everything."

    In the United States today, the GOP counts most of the votes, and there are no means to verify up to 80% of those votes.

    In view of this dreadful situation, when the Democrats ask me for a contribution I must reply: "What's the point? It's already been settled! What remains is an empty charade."

    The evidence of election fraud is overwhelming. You, Dr. Dean, are doubtless as aware of that evidence as I am. In fact, along with millions of fellow citizens, I watched the video clip of you sitting at a table with Bev Harris, as she simulated with a computer, in just a few seconds, a "fix" of an election. If I were to elaborate the evidence of fraud, space restraints would force me to halt after I had scarcely begun, and I would never get to other issues I wish to discuss in this letter.

    Suffice it to say that several independent statistical analyses have put the probability of an honest 2004 election as one in several million. The thirty-plus-point polling discrepancy in last month's Ohio election reform initiatives are off the probability scale in effect, impossible as random error. Attempts to explain away the 2004 exit poll errors are risibly lame. (For example, the theory that Republican voters were more reluctant to speak to exit pollsters is supported by no independent evidence, and fails to explain why this alleged phenomenon was confined to districts with paperless e-voting machines, and not found in paper-ballot districts).

    Reports of machine failure and error during the 2004 election were overwhelmingly to the advantage of Bush/Cheney. No one has come forth with a plausible explanation of how Bush gained an additional eleven million votes over his 2000 total. (For a "gateway" into the evidence of voting fraud, see The Crisis Papers pages on "Electoral Integrity" and "Election Fraud.")

    The evidence of voting fraud and election theft is no secret it is out in the open for all to see who are willing to see. In 2000, millions watched as Republican thugs, recruited by Tom DeLay from Washington congressional offices, stormed and shut down the voting recount in Miami. The published text of the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore that handed the 2000 election over to George Bush is a self-refuting travesty. Books, articles and reports by Steven Freeman, John Conyers' staff, Fitrakis and Wasserman, Mark Crispin Miller, and the Congressional Government Accountability Office, to name just a few, all testify convincingly to the vulnerability of the election process and the illegitimacy of the election results. Occasionally a virtual confession of guilt is blurted out by a careless GOP operative. For example, as the votes in the 2004 Presidential election were still being counted, Republican Congressman Peter King was caught on camera saying "It's all over but the counting. And we'll take care of the counting." (You can see it here).

    There is no cogent rebuttal to this evidence of voting fraud: there can't be, for the e-voting machines and compilers have been designed to forbid rebuttal. The software is secret and there is no independent record of the votes. Accordingly, so-called "verification" is nothing more than a re-run of the suspect tallies. Lacking substantive evidence of the reliability of the voting and compiling machines and software, all that remains for the defenders of e-voting is a pathetic plea, "just trust us!" That and ad hominem attacks on the skeptics: "get over it," "sore losers," "conspiracy theorists."

    The response of the mainstream media in the face of all this? Total silence.

    The response of the Democratic Party? Total silence.

    The response of the media and the Party to the GAO report report validating the concerns of the critics? More silence.

    Why?

    Admittedly, with total GOP control of the executive and congressional branches in Washington, federal investigation and legislation are, for the moment, out of the question. But elections are administered on the state and municipal levels where, in many cases, the Democrats are in control. So I ask again:

    Where are the criminal investigations?


    Where are the civil lawsuits, e.g., by Max Cleland in Georgia, Walter Mondale in Minnesota, Al Gore in Florida, John Kerry in Ohio?


    Why is appropriate state-level legislation not proposed and enacted by Democratic majorities?


    Why is the national Democratic Party not publicizing the GAO report?
    I am told that some Democratic politicians are concerned that if the Party raises a ruckus about voting fraud, the Democratic base will be discouraged and will stay at home on election day.

    Well, so what? If the fix is in on election day, what does it matter if the voters go to the polls? Why try to close the gate if the horse has been stolen?

    We also hear that the crime of stealing a national election is so enormous that the GOP wouldn't dare to attempt it.

    Why would they not? Computer experts have shown us that the theft of a national election can be carried out by very few individuals: the programmers who write the secret software and a few centralized hackers working in "real time" as the returns start to come in. We are also told that they can do this without leaving any trace of their crimes.

    Might the perpetrators be deterred by moral qualms or loyalty to our political institutions?

    Get real! We are speaking here of a pack of scoundrels who have lied to the public in order to launch an illegal war costing tens of thousands of innocent lives, who have openly violated treaties and condoned war crimes, who have suspended the civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, who have absconded with the national treasury and have put our children and their children in permanent hock, who have sullied the good name and reputation of the United States before the community of nations. In the face of such manifest evil, stolen elections are moral chump change.

    And consider in addition the stakes faced by these traitors: billions of dollars from the public treasury "appropriated" into private accounts and massive tax breaks for Bush's "haves and have-mores" while the rest of us face an increased tax burden and a slash in public services. And for many now in the Bush administration and in the Congress, defeat in the 2006 and 2008 elections would bring Congressional and Justice Department investigations and indictments followed by hard time in the federal slammer.

    In the face of all this, who can doubt that, if given the opportunity, they would fix elections in order to keep their ill-gotten booty and their immunity from prosecution? And it is abundantly clear that they have this opportunity.

    When the defenders of e-voting bother to respond to these concerns, they are heard to demand: "where's the evidence of this alleged fraud?" As noted above, we have the evidence, compelling at least, and many believe, conclusive. But such demands radically misconceive the correct burden of proof. Private citizens and organizations should not have to take upon themselves the obligation to prove their franchise either secure or fraudulent. The free citizens of an authentic democracy have the right to a secure and verifiable vote, and it is the proper task of the criminal justice system to secure that right.

    So there you have it, Dr. Dean. A massive and ongoing crime is being committed against our democracy a democracy which has now, in effect, been set aside and shut down. A democracy which can only be restored if we the people rise up and take it back.

    Where, in this coming struggle, is the Democratic Party? Is it an ally of the people and a defender of our Constitution? Or is it an accomplice to the crime?

    The American people are entitled to an answer.

    Continuing silence by the Democratic party is, in effect, an answer. But it is not the answer to which the free citizens of a democracy are entitled.

    Respectfully,

    Ernest Partridge, Ph.D,
    Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers.

    Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He publishes the website, The Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The Crisis Papers. He is at work on a book, Conscience of a Progressive, which can be seen in-progress here. Send comments to: crisispapers@hotmail.com.

    Crisis Papers Archive

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Mike, Dec 17th, 2005 @ 7:49am

    What is meant by paper trail

    "Paper trail" is shorthand for voter-verified paper ballots. With paperless voting technology, no one knows whether the machine has accurately and correctly recorded the voter's choices. With a voter-verified paper trail, the open-code ballot-printing machine produces a paper record of the voter's choices. Ideally, this ballot, after the voter approves it, is then taken to an open-code scanner where it is checked for under- and over-voting. It then is counted and stored.
    After the polls close, a random sample of precincts is selected, for hand-counting, as a check on the scanners. If a significant discrepancy is found in the sample precincts, then all ballots in the jurisdiction--typically a county--must be counted by hand. The results of the hand counts take precedence over the machine counts.
    The key elements are: The machine that prints the ballot does no counting or tallying. The results of tallying by scanners is checked--audited, if you will--by a random sample that is hand-counted. And hand counts take precedence over machine counts in the event that there are differences. All stages of the process except the actual marking of ballots are publicly observable. And no proprietary--i.e., secret--computer code is allowed at any stage of the process.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Bob, Dec 17th, 2005 @ 1:00pm

    Disgrace

    I find it abhorrent that the company is taking such a lackadaisical position on voting, an issue of national importance. The representative that cracked that joke should give you an indication as to how important the company considers the integrity of its products.

    Up to now i've not heard one positive thing about this company in the news, since its inception. All I ever seem to hear about are the scandals revolving around it. Is this the kind of company we want to entrust our most sacred right in this country.. the right to vote?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Allan, Dec 19th, 2005 @ 9:08am

    Re: Disgrace

    Surely the amount of effort spent debating this issue dwarfs the person-hours spent developing a system that allows anonymimity for the voters while providing accountability via a scanned ballot sheet or perhaps as a numbered ballot receipt.
    While it may be popular to deride rank and file civil servants as lazy and unmotivated, this is exacty where we must use them, as they are less prone to partisan polititical influence (Hatch Act) or contracts awarded on the basis of cronyism.
    Several agencies with requisite expertise should be consulted - possibly the NIST, GAO, and several non-partisan not for profit organizations such as Commom Cause, Fairvote, or the Project On Governmental Oversight (POGO) to develop performance criteria (sort of like Mil-Spects for the Military). Then these performance criteria could be used as part of an RFP (see below). It is dangerous (some would say foolish) to ask the the people who implememt a system to develop performance benchmarks as well.
    Allan
    References:
    Hatch Act
    http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itdhr/0800/ijde/ley.htm
    GAO
    http://www.gao.gov/about/what.html
    Gove rnment RFP Descriptions
    http://www.findrfp.com/service/howto.aspx
    NIST
    http://www.nist.gov/

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Nolan, Aug 16th, 2006 @ 4:01pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    f anyone actually believes that there is some means by which voter fraud can be completely done away with then I would love to hear how you would accomplish it.


    Public recording of WHO voted for WHAT. Tabulated individual as the individual casts the vote with everyone in the world watching.

    Get a group of ten or so people ask them to raise their hands if the agree with a certain position. There is no doubt for vote accurancy in this situation because a vote is associated with a unique person. For this to work on a larger scale there needs to be more people watching as each vote is cast.

    The system isn't perfect and there are privacy concerns. However, when a vote is secret, so is it's content. When something is secret, you can't prove it without exposing the secret.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    -, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 9:30pm

    -

    Shame your little rant will have no effect on anything. The machines are in line to be used again. Little to no action has been taken since these flaws were first published.

    Nothing.
    Will.
    Be.
    Done.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Dennis Yuzenas, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 5:06pm

    Diebold machines

    In our system it is imperative that even the faintest hint of dishonesty or vote theft be designed out of the process. Diebold, with proven security flaws in their hardware and software and questionalble corporate practices (didn't the head of Diebold guarantee a Bush victory in '04--weeks before the election?) is not to be trusted.

    Hey, didn't you see the movie Man of the Year? Is that art imitating life...

     

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