ES&S Gave California E-Voting Machines That Weren't Certified

from the and-the-hits-keep-coming dept

Well, the hits keep for Election Systems & Software (ES&S). The company was already facing some controversy over the fact that its e-voting machines time stamped the ballots in a way that could reveal how voters voted, and now California's Secretary of State has discovered that the company gave the state e-voting machines for the last election that were not certified. California had certified one model of ES&S machines, but the company sold a different model to five counties. The state is now looking to fine ES&S. Of course, ES&S is also the company that originally refused to hand over its source code to the state, but eventually did so along with a threatening letter about how it would hold the Secretary of State personally responsible for any trade secrets that leaked. Trade secrets like how their machines accidentally were found to count votes in triplicate? ES&S, by the way, is also the company whose machines were used in the Florida election where many votes went missing, and it was later discovered that the company had passed around memos about their buggy software that could have caused the problem. It's also the company that had an employee come here to Techdirt and post a bunch of angry comments about how e-voting machines were perfectly safe and went through more than enough testing. Apparently not in California. Update: As pointed out in the comments, the company also was just caught failing to disclose foreign manufacturing partners to federal agencies, as it's required to do. ES&S's response on being caught? Shrugged it off as an oversight that they would fix. It appears that the company doesn't seem to worry about getting punished for all its mistakes.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rational Beaver, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:52am

    They're also the company that failed to disclose their foreign manufacturing facility (apparently a 'sweatshop' in Manila) to the Federal Election Assistance Commission: Wired story

    Sucks to be them right now.

     

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  2.  
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    Andrew, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:58am

    Not much of a suprise!

    We have the ex-Diebold employee who sold machines to our county as our Registrar of Voters in San Diego. Why not just sell us machines that do the voting for us!!

     

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  3.  
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    SPR, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:14am

    Electronic Voting Machines

    It is obvious that both Diebold and ES&S do not take our electoral process seriously. We need to ban their products from any and all governmental process and/or participation, present and future. This most definitely includes making campaign donations and participating in the lobbying process. Their interest is in undermining our elections and subverting for their own ends, or for the ends of their greatest funding source, our elections.

     

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  4.  
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    Smacky Mouse, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:31am

    Voting Machines

    I'm sorry, but I disagree that the companies are the problem. The problem lies with the government that accepts this kind of behaviour, time and time again. A government that ignores the negative reports that keep flowing in. Address that issue, and this problem goes away.

     

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  5.  
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    Overcast, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:31am

    Does it matter if they are 'certified' or not? In my experience, even with people, that rarely makes a difference. Only experience and time-tested mechanisms seem to really work. A 'certification' is only as good (or bad) as the one certifying.

    I certainly agree with SPR also:

    "t is obvious that both Diebold and ES&S do not take our electoral process seriously."

    I think that really sums it up. But I would also add, that our politicians don't take it seriously either.

     

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  6.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:32am

    How much is your vote worth?

    The fine could be up to $14.7M. The estimated (legal) population of California in 2006 was almost 36.5M according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With a generous 40% voter turnout we are looking at approximately 14.6M votes. So far your vote is worth $1. There were 14 counties that used the ES&S machines, I don't know which 5 were sold the uncertified machines but the 14 counties included San Francisco, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara. I would guess that approximately 4M people had their votes compromised, figuring there are probably about 4,000 votes per machine. So the price of your vote is $3.68. Remember, that is if they get the 'up to' fine. So a small portion of my campaign contributions ($15M) can pay ES&S to pepper some rigged machines throughout. I win the election and ES&S will get a profit depending on how well they can influence their former salesperson in the Secretary of State position to drop some of the fines. The system does work!

     

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  7.  
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    Overcast, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:36am

    I'm sorry, but I disagree that the companies are the problem.

    I would kinda disagree there - I mean the NTSB is the government agency for the auto safety, but if a car maker makes a dangerous piece of junk, it's not necessarily the government's fault, particularly when the company says it's "safe" or "secure".

    But personally, I don't think computers will ever really be "secure" any more than a car is ever really "safe" - in spite of airbags, seatbelts - moving 2000+ lbs of steel at 70 mph - well accidents are bound to happen. And... Computer code is bound to be bugged, hacked, or both.

    Although, yes - I do agree in principle, really. I'd put most of the blame on the Government and Media - for *telling* us they are secure and safe.

     

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  8.  
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    A Nonny Moose, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:36am

    Great googly mooglies! And I came >THIS
    I came even closer than that to working for Adelphia back before the Rigas boys got caught with their hands in the honeypot.

    Duckin' bullets left and right, folks.

     

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  9.  
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    A Nonny Moose, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:37am

    phew!

    (so much for preview...trying again)
    Great googly mooglies! And I came !THIS! close to working for these clowns a few years back. Well, more than a "few" by now, but you get the picture.

    I came even closer than that to working for Adelphia back before the Rigas boys got caught with their hands in the honeypot.

    Duckin' bullets left and right, folks.

     

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  10.  
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    The Man, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 9:25am

    Why computers

    Not everything needs to be computerized. We only vote every two years and only a small percentage actually votes. Lets just vote the old fasioned way and save a ton of tax payer money. Well I guess we wont actally save any tax payer money, but if they use the voter machine money on some other useless waste of time, maybe they won't try to raise taxes to do both waste of time and money projects.

     

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  11.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 10:13am

    Its government work, you expect quality? FBI database (its up to system 3 now, right?), the Big Dig (40% more to fix leaks), is it surprising that companies deliver faulty products?

     

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  12.  
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    Dan, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 10:15am

    confused

    i agree with the man on this one. electronics just open up the system to so many other problems. im surprised a congress that is so computer illiterate ever even allowed electronic voting machines. My big question is what makes it so hard to write the code for a voting machine? it seems like a really simple task. how can these big companies get it so wrong?

     

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  13.  
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    Casper, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 10:33am

    Electronics are fine..

    I have to disagree with comments 10 and 12. Electronic voting is not inherently a problem. We have million of electronic and computerized devices that function 100% of the time for decades at a time. The problem is complication. These companies are trying to do far more then in necessary for accepting a vote.

    If more people operated on the KISS idea (keep it simple stupid), this wouldn't really be a problem.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Dissident, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 11:03am

    About the triplicate votes...

    So... this is how Mr Chavez of Venezuela gets his landslides! Thanks guys you made my day. All hail low-tech paper votes!

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:22pm

    It appears that the company doesn't seem to worry about getting punished for all its mistakes.
    Especially since the rewards seem to be greater that the punishment.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2007 @ 4:31pm

    Re: Its government work, you expect quality?

    In fact, I do expect quality - and no, I'm not naive.

    I'm just tired of listeninng to that "government can't do anything right" myth.

    Sure they screw some things up; but our gov does an immense number of things wery well indeed. So well, in fact, that you're not even aware of them - until the occasional screwup happens.

    And I suppose business never screws anything up? PuhLeeze!

     

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  17.  
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    Fascinatin', Aug 29th, 2007 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Its government work, you expect quality?

    Actually the government does only one thing well: it is beyond compare in its ability to kill people. There is nothing else that it attempts to do that could conceivably be considered well done. From the 'war on poverty' to 'health and human services' to 'social security' to the 'war on drugs' and on and on ad infinitum the government's record of abysmal failure is unparalelled. Only in bombing people back to the stone age does it show any actual talent. If you can call it that.

     

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