Maryland Suing Diebold/Premier For Money It Spent To Fix Its Voting Machines

from the pay-up dept

Things just keep getting worse for Diebold's e-voting subsidiary, that was laughably renamed Premier Election Solutions to avoid all of the baggage associated with the Diebold name. It seems that the state of Maryland is suing the company and demanding $8.5 million to cover the money the state had to pay to fix its faulty e-voting machines. You may recall that Maryland has been at the forefront in fighting Diebold/Premier over its machines. Back in 2006, following some rather damning info and significant problems, Maryland's governor wanted to get rid of all of Diebold's machines.

Diebold did its usual thing, responding to different problems, insisting there was no real problem and if there were, that it would all be fixed in time for the election in November of that year. Of course, Diebold didn't actually do much to help -- so the state of Maryland took matters into their own hands to try to fix the flaws in the machines, and now wants Diebold/Premier to pay for the costs of having done so. In rather typical fashion, Diebold/Premier has put out its usual response to pretty much any criticism: claiming it has no clue what anyone is talking about, saying that it is "puzzled by the timing and vagueness" of the lawsuit, while also saying it is: "inaccurate and unfounded." The company also says its about events that occurred "five or more years ago" (apparently, they weren't paying attention in 2006) and that "Maryland just completed one of the smoothest elections in the state's history," though the company fails to note that's more in spite of Diebold/Premier than because of it.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    David T, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    Digital =! Convoluted

    I don’t understand why people don’t just slap a digital interface over a paper ballot. You put your normal ballot paper in the slot, select your choices on the screen, the machine punches the holes automatically and the paper ballot goes back to the voter who checks it and puts it into the ballot box.

    You get the benefit of digital tallying along with a verifiable paper trail. Why is this so hard?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Digital =! Convoluted

    Agreed.


    You should patent the idea so that it's more credible to the government, then sell it to them.



    We should sell t-shirts to raise the money for the paper voting machines! That'll show 'em!


    Seriously, that idea is the only sane solution I've heard. Unfortunately this means it'll never fly with the government (any government...this isn't America bashing) since most are not known for their sanity.

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:26pm

    Easier Fix.

    Doesn't Brazil or Argentina of one of those ramera sudamericano countries have an electronic voting system that's been running like a Swiss clock for like 10 years?

    Maryland should just pay those guys for voting machines.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Easier Fix.

    Yea, because voting in the same dictators in disguise every election means the electronic voting machines are working flawlessly.

     

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  5.  
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    James M., Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Easy Fix

    There is a pretty simple fix to this whole "no paper trail" problem.

    First off, let me say, I'm from Maryland and I work as an ITS Engineer. I didn't really have any problem with the functionality of the system itself. I do know that there were a lot of systems that just completely broke down and were unusable, which is a whole other problem.

    Anyway, I think the easy way to fix this issue is to have a central server that each machine talks to. All it would have to be is a SAN - a collection of disk space - where logs and such can be contained. You are given a keycard that is coded with your personal information on it (like you do now). You insert that card into the machine (like you do now). You punch in who you want to vote for (like you do now). The only difference is that when you submit your vote, it doesn't save it on the local disk. The vote is submitted to a centralized system along with the code that is attached to your personal information.

    This way you have one centralized location that would house all that information. And if something goes wrong with that central server (and it will, cause it always does), then the terminals would revert to saving to a solid-state drive until a connection can be made to the central server, at which time an admin can go on and do a force dump from the terminal to the server. Logs would be kept of each transaction made from the terminal to the server, and all that kind of stuff.

    Best thing is it would all run on Linux :-D

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Easy Fix

    that still doesn't fix input tampering, or any of the other reasons why a machine would record a vote for candidate A as a vote for candidate B

     

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  7.  
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    jonnyq, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Digital =! Convoluted

    In my area, you could see the printed paper as you operated the machine. Problem is that sometimes the machines were miscalibrates so that you'd have to really be paying attention to the paper to know that something was wrong.

    And you know the general populace's propensity for attention.

     

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  8.  
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    bob, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    A good election

    I want paper, a mark and my thumb print on the paper in purple.

     

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  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 6:14pm

    Re: Easy Fix

    "The only difference is that when you submit your vote, it doesn't save it on the local disk. The vote is submitted to a centralized system along with the code that is attached to your personal information. "

    Whoa! Secret ballot, remember? Also, you're just reducing the number of machines that need to be hacked.

    Voter-verified paper is the only way to go.

     

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  10.  
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    NuclearNeil, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 7:49pm

    why digital?

    In Canada, we have a great solution to the 'no paper trail' problem. When I cast my vote, I mark my vote on a paper ballot, and then put the paper ballot in the ballot box myself. Instant paper trail. Just like most of the voting world. Why does there need to be a digital record? What the US needs is an impartial 3rd party overseeing the election. I hear the UN is actually good at this sort of thing.

     

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  11.  
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    Liz Miller, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:02pm

    Digital Paper Ballot System

    Keep the system as SIMPLE as possible.
    Going completely computerized in voting systems is way too vulnerable (as all of us should know by now)... but optical-scan has also been known for its many inaccuracies and paper-jams... as well as failure to capture the voter's true intent. Anytime you allow human markings on a ballot, you're taking a chance that they may be read as ambiguous.
    The voter should be able to insert a compact, inexpensive card-stock BLANK paper ballot into the machine (like inserting paper into an off-the-shelf printer); vote via touch-screen using a magnetic interactive stylus (the screen should be dead to "finger-touch"--- people read with their fingers, dragging them across the screen... making un-intentional choices... or their sleeve hits the screen and they accidentally "skip" a race altogether). They should not be able to "over-vote", be warned of "under-votes" in PRIVATE, and given a complete review and allowed to make changes, if necessary. They can then push "Print" and watch their ballot, marked with the choices they made, fall across the screen in front of them.
    They should be able to PICK UP this ballot,(tangibility goes a long way towards restoring "voter-while-voting" confidence... instead of squinting to see through a foggy, scratched-up Plexiglas mini window your choices on a SEQUENTIAL flimsy "ticker-tape" record) see a "human-readable" area with their selections AND an encrypted BAR CODE, (that will prevent duplication/"stuffing" the ballot box). They should be able to scan this bar code right in the same voting booth,(and see their choices on the screen in front of them) to again have a chance to verify their printed ballot--- this could also be done at a separate "verification-station"... with an "off-the-shelf" supermarket-style scanner in both locations.
    The main components (touch screen, printer, keypad, scanner, etc.) and supplies, (blank ballots, printer cartridges, etc.) should be "off-the-shelf" items... keeping the cost down and the election jurisdiction is not "tied" to their vendor for every-little-thing. If the printer cartridge is damaged--- send someone off to Wal-Mart!
    Most importantly... their ballot is not "cast" until it is tabulated on another (separate) machine, and then inserted into a locked ballot box. These are the actual ballots you go to if anything is contested and there needs to be a re-count... THE BALLOT IS THE VOTE.
    The machines that are voted upon do NOT "store" the votes... they are merely a tool used to mark the ballot, yet ensure that voter intent is what is recorded in the end. A blind voter would have the ballot/instructions read to them through headphones, and would be asked to tap the stylus anywhere on the screen when their selection/candidate is read. They, too, are able to then verify their ballot in private.
    Our system was created in the shadow of the 2000 Debacle in Florida, and in direct response to an outcry for an un-hack able voting system. When all you are storing in the actual voting machines are all of the jurisdictions' available ballot-styles... and you cannot access any USB ports... and no memory-cards are used to transfer data... and machines are never daisy-chained together... well, that leaves very little to make mischief with.
    Keeping it as simple as possible really is best.

     

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  12.  
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    Mark Regan, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 2:04am

    I Beg To Differ

    I opened up one of those machines once, and found a Pakastani midget inside (there was a hidden door where he could exit each night to use the bathroom and eat). He had an abacus and a notepad and pencil, and a little wheel he'd turn every now and then so some election official could write down a total.

    I set up surveillance on the machine to see what happened when it was time to count the totals, and the elections manager brought him a sandwich and a hundred dollar bill and thanked him and that was that.

    This is simply another example of what happens when you allow our elections process to be contracted out to large corporations. You are deceived into thinking some corporate bureaucrat is bringing a semblance of honesty to the system, but instead, they are conspiring with the same old crooked elections officials to keep things the exactly the same as they have always been.

     

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  13.  
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    anymouse, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    It's all Smoke and Mirrors

    The main issue isn't that companies "can't" build a simple, secure, electronic voting machine with voter verification, it's that there is no incentive to do so (ie. the 'market' wants to be able to manipulate the vote, and the machines that let them do that are the ones that are going to make it in the 'market').

    Almost any 1/2 competent programmer with some basic hardware could build a simple secure electronic voting machine, but nobody would buy it, so it doesn't get done.

    How much money does our country waste on political election propaganda in any given year? 10 billion? 20 billion? 50 billion? 100 billion? I'm not talking about just the presidential election, but every single city/county/state campaign. We are talking about a unbelievable amount of money that could be going to much better purposes, but instead it's flushed down the toilet every year with less and less 'return' on the investment, we don't even get left with a floater for target practice.

     

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  14.  
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    Overcast, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 11:45am

    Funny... same company that makes ATM's that 99.9999% or the time give out the right amount of money...

    Yet, they can't seem to make even one voting machine that tally's simple votes properly.

    Hmm, that makes sense.

    To a moron on crystal-meth.

     

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  15.  
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    gomes, Feb 4th, 2009 @ 3:05am

    I think it might be patent idea for voting and should accept it.May be new ideas will over come this. ------------------ gomes MLS

     

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