Diebold Says So Long To North Carolina

from the turning-tail dept

Diebold has a long history of resisting sharing the source code for its much-derided electronic voting machines, even if it’s with election officials wanting to verify the machines actually work like they’re supposed to. North Carolina had passed a law requiring e-voting machine vendors to make their source code available for scrutiny by officials and experts, and Diebold managed to get itself exempted from the law, drawing a suit from the EFF. Last week, a judge ruled against Diebold, saying if they wanted to sell their machines in North Carolina, they’d have to follow the law. Diebold’s response is pretty predictable: they’d rather not do business in the state than expose their code. The company just doesn’t seem to get it: elections, and the equipment used in them, need to be transparent and open to public scrutiny. Running away rather than opening their code won’t engender much trust in their equipment, in North Carolina, or anywhere.

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Comments on “Diebold Says So Long To North Carolina”

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fuzzmanmatt says:

Re: Re: Old Skool

When I was in fourth grade, I was taken on a tour of the local city’s offices. They explained how the entire election system worked to us, demonstrated the equipment, and let us count the votes. They had special ballots for us to use and everything. It was the old skool punchcard style machines, but it worked, and we knew exactly how it worked. Later on, I moved to a different town, but the same thing happened. This time, instead of the punchcards, it was fill in the bubble machines. Those worked amazing, and nobody questioned them. Where I’m at now, the last time I went to vote, it was a paper where we completed a line next to our chosen candidates name, and nobody questioned it. As soon as you introduce a GUI on a computer, people begin to question it, because it’s hard to hide things on a piece of paper, it’s not hard to hide things in a piece of software.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

A public election should be public.

If it can’t be verified the results are not influenced by the source than it’s not public.

We all have a right to the knowledge that our elected officials were put into office honestly and with all the “bull crap” going on in our government right now I would think that you would too.

Wake up.

lisa says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

AC said “I wouldn’t open it up either…

If the officials want to determine if the machine is secure, they can try to hack it. Opening up the source code is total bull crap.”

The idea they might hire an incompetent hacker was just covered here a couple days ago so I’ll leave that one alone, but there are other things that can go wrong besides evil Republicans/Democrats attaching keyboards in the voting booth, typing secret for the password, and changing the votes.

There is more to vote counting than the machine licking its electronic finger and saying “One, two , three…”

For instance, what are the rules for when someone chooses 2 or 4 candidates in a “choose 3” race? Will the program do it right? Maybe it will not count the rest of the ballot or will carry the overvote over to the next race or ballot. It’s happened before.

freefood says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

HA! Just because a person or persons can’t hack into it doesn’t mean no one can.
Besides, security is not the only issue, as someone else already brought up. Is the system robust? Is there some malicious backdoor coded in there by a programmer with an agenda? Are there any obscure bugs in there? The only way to find these things out is by extensive beta testing and public code review.

boroshan says:

Re: Re: Hacking isn't good enough

If the officials want to determine if the machine is secure, they can try to hack it. Opening up the source code is total bull crap.

Yep, that might work for unintentional insecurities.

On the other hand, if diebold put in an intentional backdoor, they could code one that only respnded to a specific IP, or used port knocking, or a malformed ping packet, or probably a dozen other secure gateways that the hackers’d never even see.

So, given that political control of the most powerful nation on the planet is a valuable commodity in some circles, given that the history books are full of election fixing scams, and given that diebold have done such a laughable job of securing their software so far, how are we to trust that software?

In fact, how are we to trust any software that we cannot inspect?

This does mean that diebold should be forced to open their source. It does mean any machine used for electoral purposes should have its codebase publically audited, discussed and approved before use.

Bits says:

They must have something to hide

I don’t believe that revealing the source code in and of itself is a good or bad thing. The only down side to revealing code, is that it could be ?leaked? to the general public, so what? They probably have a patent on it anyway. However their unwillingness to do so indicates to me that they might have something to hide.

The Other Mike says:

No Subject Given

Trying to avoid the obvious invitation to argue about open source or not here, I tend to agree that if they aren’t going to play by the rules everyone else has to then they shouldn’t be allowed to at all.

Whether or not opening up your source code to politicians and professors is a good idea (and I have some serious doubts about it), the law said you have to if you want public money. That’s just the way it is. Diebold tried to play politics and got burned. They better get used to it if they plan to play like that.

Josh Tomaino (user link) says:

Lucky for some of us...

Lucky for some of us, there’s still the old paper puncher, so if we don’t want to use the communist, not sure how it works, probably isn’t voting for your candidate at all, computer voting machine, then you can still vote the old way. I think the source code should be made public as it is a free election. How in the world are we supposed to influence another country (Iraq) to have free elections when we can’t even do it ourselves?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: It's a matter of security

Opening the code of the voting machines to public scrutiny to determine the security and accuracy of these machine is like asking the guy in the cubicle next to you to verify that the new password you’re setting up on your bank account is secure enough.

Opening up the source code is nothing like revealing your password… The code *should be* secure even if the source code is opened up. If it’s not, then someone’s going to figure it out sooner or later (and so far, it seems like some people have figured it out sooner).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's a matter of security

Right, that’s a false idea, thats like saying Linux and FreeBSD and the likes are less secure because everybody sees the code.

No, its more secure, because everybody sees the code, and in doing so, there’s a thousand set of eyes that all agree: there’s no way to execute unwanted code or gain illegal access.

Thats a sign of a failing democracy anyway, or crony capitalism. It shouldn’t be but a flick of the wrist to spawn some company that does computerized voting on an open-source Linux-based computer, perhaps a distro created for the express purpose of voting. But, it doesn’t happen.

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