No Surprise Here: Lost Votes In Last Election Due To Faulty Diebold Equipment

from the anyone-surprised? dept

Back in December, we pointed to yet another (in a long line) of stories about lost votes on an e-voting machine in an election in California. The machines in question were from Premier Election Solutions, the shiny coat of paint put on the e-voting unit of Diebold, whose name had been tarnished for a long history of defective, highly vulnerable e-voting machines (along with a long history of denying any problems whatsoever with those machines). You would think after all these years of criticism, and a shiny new name, the company would be a bit more careful to make sure its machines weren't actually defective. No such luck.

As Slashdot points out, the Secretary of State's report on the matter clearly places the blame on Diebold's faulty equipment (warning: pdf file). Still, the scariest part is what we noted in the original story about the problems: despite all of the claims to the contrary, the 200 or so lost votes wouldn't have been noticed at all under Diebold/Premier's normal auditing process. It was only because of an experimental "transparency" project set up by local officials that the mistake was noted. Thus, Diebold machines in other regions may have lost votes, and no one will know about it. So can anyone explain why anyone still uses e-voting machines from this company? For years they've lied, stonewalled, denied problems, attacked critics... and produced faulty equipment over and over again. And it's still being used.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:17pm

    didn't they also sue ppl? who had proof that the machines were faulty?

     

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  2.  
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    Jesse, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:27pm

    Mike I've noticed that your writing has gradually become much more cynical over the last few years. I like it, keep it up:)

     

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  3.  
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    Roger, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 12:52am

    Why is it so hard, I don't get it...

    We do billions of financial transaction everyday via electronic means. That's money we are talking about, so it has to work pretty well. Why on earth can't we conduct our voting electronically in a efficient and secure matter? Can't we setup online voting, verify it via Pins, passwords, email, SMS, etc and even confirm it with physical letter if you want, there has to be a way that is easier and more secure that what we are doing.

     

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  4.  
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    Paul Berry, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 1:08am

    @Roger

    There is a system: putting a mark in a box on a printed paper. It is its own audit trail.

    Truly a non-problem that is not in need of a solution, technical or otherwise.

     

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  5.  
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    Steve, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 1:20am

    Seriously how hard is it to write an if statement.
    If A
    a+=1
    return A
    if B
    b+=1
    return B

    there a perfect way to tally votes.

     

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  6.  
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    Brad, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 2:01am

    Not "up for vote"

    The problem is that this sort of thing isn't really up for any kind of public review. What typically happens is a county voting supervisor gets a visit from a guy in a nice suit that says "You know how it's expensive to collect all those votes? Let me do that for ya. It'll cost you half."

    The guy listens carefully to the very polished presentation about security, auditability, hacker-proof, blah blah blah. He's way out of his league, technologically, but it sounds good.

    It goes to a committee. Typically a half-dozen old people who have been in local politics most of their autumn years, and prior to that ran local businesses and the PTA. They all listen to the exact same presentation, now backed by their colleague. They're all served a nice dinner, paid for by the guy in a nice suit.

    Then it gets dropped in as a footnote at some town hall meeting or other public forum. "Next year we'll be using BrandY machines instead of BrandX. This will cut costs in half and get results faster." The dozen or so citizens (mostly retirees and homemakers) that actually bothered to attend don't know anything about what's going on, and all nod in agreement. The plan moves forward.

    Once the news is finally made public (a few weeks before the election, when there's no time to change), the ACTUAL public hears about it. People talk about security concerns and are brushed off with excuses "Too late now" or dismissed as being crazy nuts.

    That's the problem with things like this - they're not subject to actual public scrutiny and input - not for lack of trying, but for lack of interest. If I got local political news delivered with the skill and cadence of a CNN reporter I might listen. But instead, it's relegated to the back page of the local free weekly, and has little to no thought or presentation.

    I don't have a solution here, but I do see how companies that are so bad continue to flourish with public money - they're not selling to the public, they're selling to a couple of people with a little more authority than they should have.

     

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  7.  
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    Shane, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:42am

    Re: Why is it so hard, I don't get it...

    we had a long discussion about this during the last Presidential election. I believe there is a very simple way to do this. A person goes to their local election supervisors office and registers for on-line voting using their voter registration number. At the time of registration they establish a password or pin. As the date of the election draws near you go to the online voting site and register at the site to place your vote online. On the day of the vote you log into the voting site, it asks you to confirm your voter information (previously setup at the supervisors office) once confirmed you are allowed to vote. At the end you received a tally of your votes which you electronically sign with your voter registration number and password. Your votes are then sent to 3 sites to be tallied (election office, online voting sites servers and independent auditing office) all of which verify receipt immediately. You also get a copy as proof you voted and what your votes were.

    There is obviously room to improve and streamline, but as a starting point I think this is adequate and it takes malicious intent to manipulate the results.

     

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  8.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Yes I can

    So can anyone explain why anyone still uses e-voting machines from this company?

    Yes I can, in two words:
    Campaign contributions.

     

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  9.  
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    Allison, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:14am

    From the That Many People Can't Be That Stupid dept

    Could it be that the Diebold machines aren't faulty, they were just programmed to report false results?

     

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  10.  
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    jonnyq, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    Re: Re: Why is it so hard, I don't get it...

    There's no way to do this and still have the ballot be truly secret.

    If you're willing remove the requirement of a secret ballot, then there are plenty of ways to verify votes, but that's a requirement anyone is willing to give up so easily.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Why is it so hard, I don't get it...

    *not* ... *not* a requirement... blah blah... oops.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Why as a offical would you do anything about it? After all, maybe that's the reason they are still in office.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    And the alternative is better?

    Has Al Franken been sworn in yet? The found ballots under a chair?

     

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  14.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Diebold machines

    Actually, I am an Election Officer, and in my precinct we used the machines only if someone requested them (and no one did).

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re:

    And the alternative is better?
    Has Al Franken been sworn in yet? The found ballots under a chair?


    With e-voting machines those ballots would have never been found.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 11:53am

    Re: Diebold machines

    Actually, I am an Election Officer, and in my precinct we used the machines only if someone requested them (and no one did).

    Why would you do that?

     

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  17.  
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    maximize the bottom line, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:56pm

    Money vs Votes

    Ok, so Diebolt also makes ATMs - why are they not also subject to gross errors?
    Could it be that the contract or purchase agreement has language which levies a fee for each and every error?
    Why is there such a difference between votes and money?

     

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  18.  
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    chris (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Money vs Votes

    the voting machine company was bought by diebold. they are not the same as the ATM machines.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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