Why Is The Government Afraid To Let Election Officials Test Voting Machines?

from the seems-like-a-simple-request dept

The situation with voting machines just keeps getting more ridiculous. Back in December, when a Florida county election official found serious vulnerabilities with Diebold vote scanners, the company simply laughed it off. Apparently they did so with good reason. Since the election official was still required by federal voting laws to buy such machines, and other voting machine vendors refused to bid on the contract, Diebold was able to set onerous terms, including banning certain tests on the machine. It seems like they’re getting government help as well. Interesting People points us to a story about how that same elections official is now fighting against the state government that is trying to set new rules that would require local election officials to first seek state approval before running any tests on voting machines. As the official says, he has no problem notifying the state to any tests, but can’t see why they need to approve the tests first. On top of that, given the way other states, such as Colorado, have reacted when local officials want to test their voting machines, it seems like this ruling would likely put a stop to many tests — such as the one in Colorado that not only upset state officials so badly, but also turned up a huge security hole in those machines. No matter what your political leanings may be, it’s a travesty that so few people seem that concerned about making sure election results are accurate — and that so many politicians seem to be going out of their way to make it even harder to make sure those votes are accurately counted.

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Comments on “Why Is The Government Afraid To Let Election Officials Test Voting Machines?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It's definitely terrible

… that Diebold is complaining about *testing* their voting machines. The current situation helps foster dishonest voting and inaccurate voting machines which leads to inaccurate election *results*. I agree that it’s a travesty that in my opinion, threatens our *democracy*.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a McDonald’s cash register is more secure than a voting machine. Since when is a $1 burger more valuable than a vote?

randomGuy says:

you call that fixing?

“Since when is a $1 burger more valuable than a vote?”

Unfortunately that might be true >.>

(If no one buy the 1$ burger or any burger because of say…Iraq war, won’t the administration listen if Mc Donald seek the end of the war?

that was a purely stupid analogy brought to you by randomGuy,

now change burger with oil and McDonald with Haliburton….

What? >.>)

`Zidane Tribal says:

Old ways can be the best.

As a brit, I’m constantly suprised by the fact that not only do you have machines, you are forced to use them. In the UK, we still vote in ‘the old fashioned way’, with a peice of paper and a pencil. all counts are still done by hand too. It doesnt come as much of a suprise to know that this way works quite well and is not vulnerable to these same problems.

sometimes, the old ways can be the best ways.

(and before anyone comments that someone could steal and replace the ballots, the same can happen with the automated system, this is not a comment on the whole process, simply on the process of voters voting.)

Voter Registrar says:

Bring back the optical scanning systems

Our IL county pitched a perfectly good optical scanning system for a Diebold electronic system. I was able to find out some interesting info from the election judges during early voting. Yup, you no longer have to lie to get an absentee ballot any more; you can vote early legally now…

Chicago purchased the bulk of their machines from Sequoia Election Systems, a company purportedly owned in part by the Venezuelan government. They are dickering about the multitudinous problems they had with this year’s primary and still have not paid the $9 million plus owed on the system. If I am not mistaken, there are still some results that are still in question.

As Mayor Daley the First said, “Vote early and often!”

Real Choices? says:

There should be another selection added to each group being voted on… just like in middle school scantron tests there should be a “None of the above” & in the case that the majority votes this way we wait a few weeks & vote on new political leaders. This should be a requirement for any new voting system!!! … BTW first post!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There should be another selection added to each group being voted on… just like in middle school scantron tests there should be a “None of the above”

In the US a lot of people actually do vote for “None of the above” by refusing to go to the polls. Low voter turnout isn’t “apathy”, it is a refusal to legitimize a broken system.

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except that if you stay home, “None of the above” does not get any votes. I think the guy you were replying to meant that “None of the above” should be able to accumulate votes, and thereby possibly win an election. (Meaning, yes, none of the candidates gets the job and the office is VACANT.)

How would that work, anyway? I guess the vacancy would be filled by appointment from some other politico? *puking sound*

Daniel says:

Okay, I work for an elections office...

Most “testing” is done by giving unrestricted access to the ballot computers/machines and often the passwords as well. In the real world, you would have to pay off (in our case) the Assistant Supervisor of Elections, the Warehouse Manager, myself (the IT guy), the Clerk of the precinct you are gaining access to the Ballot machine, and potentially a few other people if you’re unlucky. Why? All of these people are involved in the checks and balances of any one ballot machine.

Of course the machines aren’t secure if no one checks them and outsiders have unrestricted access. Big surprise.

I’m not raising a flag for Diebold, every company has it’s issues and I’m not a fan of any company. I am, however, a fan of the electoral process — and this kind of press that looks at half-truths and then generates wild assumptions from there — needs a broader education.

Jim G. says:

Re: Okay, I work for an elections office...

Responding to Daniel’s assertion. The original flaw detection may have taken place with more time then an average voter would have. However, no passwords were given. At all, ever. There is a flaw that someone with the appropriate knowledge could exploit to modify, without exposure, the voting machine software, firmware, OS, and application. Once the flaw is known, the attack can take less than 2 mintues. All of the prep work for the attack can be done months before the election. This is the issue. In addition, because this avenue of attack is available, anyone with the knowledge (say a former Diebold employee) would be able to modify these machines. Do you remember the news a few weeks ago about people with keys and administrative codes to gas pumps were putting the pumps into administrative mode and pumping free gas? This is the same problem. A truely secure voting machine would not have the ability to field update the software. Casino slot machines don’t have a PC-card slot for update. In fact the software for slot machines is heavily scrutinized and audited for problems. The only known flaw in the casino system is an auditor that sees a flaw and does not report it, which has happened in the past.

If casino machine code is of far greater importance than our elections, which by virtue of the problems we see it is, then we have a serious problem. Force of law requires slot machine manufacturers to comply with code auditing. The same can be done for election machines, we just don’t seem to care. Remember, no government has lasted forever, we can’t expect America’s to either. And I don’t mean Bush, I mean American Government as a whole.

Dan says:

Re: Re: Okay, I work for an elections office...

Ok, I don’t think going to automated voting machines would cause the fall of the American government, as you seem to imply.

However, with that being said, I’d love to get my hands on one of these things, I bet I’d be able to screw it up somehow, if not break into the thing. Breaking into stuff if the funnest part of my job (QA dude).

The best voting machine I’ve seen is one where the user of the machine chooses their candidates, a printout is created, the voter (presumably) reviews the choices on the printout, and puts it into a machine which reads the vote.

That way, idiots who don’t know how to figure out how to fill forms in can still vote (shutter) and there is little opportunity for malicious hackers to break stuff.

Voter says:

use them!

Since there are so many problems/vulnerabilities in the voting machines, why not just use them to your own advantage. The more info on exploits available – the better. Next time you go vote, why not vote for a few more people.

Come, with good use of technology we can get perfect 100% voter turnout!!!! No more news stories about voter apathy

Matt Stockton says:

Democracy-Have the people lost the power to rule?

I lived in Belarus for 2 months under the rule of Lukashenka, who has continually won elections through, what many have said to be, fraudulent means. Our current President also, suspiciously, received a second term thanks to a controversial voting count in the State I grew up in and whose brother is the Governor. Having read the article about the legislature surrounding the new voting systems, I am concerned about our progression toward a system that will not take away from the human error factor in the voting process. No longer, does someone need to steel the ballot boxes or stuff more than one into the box, they simply need to break into an electronic system and manipulate the votes to possibly win an election. It does not seem fair or reasonable to me and I think that any test that shows weakness in their system should be welcomed by the company. These tests would lead to stronger more secure systems that would give the public, as a whole, a sense of security that we are getting the elected official that the majority wants. Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

Anonymous Coward says:

What a bunch of dicks. First it was hanging chads, then all the technology people say lets do it over the internet, lets use computers. Now you are bitching about how the computers are fucked. Get a fucking clue, or do you just like to bitch?

Voting numbers have always been fucked up, it just gained attention in Forida. Guess what, the exact same issues happened in 4 other states that year, yet the numbers were not close enough to hold the election results in the balance.

vote counting has always been fucked, use computers, and they will just be fucked faster.

Pete says:


I saw a video before the 2004 elections of the president of Diebolt, Jeb Bush and George Bush in a limo and the president of diebold was guaranteeing that George W. would win the election. I guess he was able to back up his promise.

A suggestion- I am going to email this story to my senators (state and federal) so they are aware of this issue.

SPR (profile) says:

Diebold and Election Fraud

Since the feds are acting like the KGB when it comes to states testing the Diebold voting machines, there is nothing preventing the states from implementing a separate voting method for state and local elections and accompany that action with the statement that federal elections, when conducted under the guidelines established by Congress are not guaranteed accurate or reliable.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

too little, too late

This issue is the flip side of file sharing. It’s too late: the fox is *living* in the henhouse.

In the same way that the RIAA is using the legal system to put off dealing with the holes in their plan, activists are trying to use the legal system (and other means) to stop a process which has already completed.

I’m not saying that we have given up something in exchange for file sharing. I’m saying that the world has already changed, and that we haven’t caught up with it.

So emailing it to your senators, your representative, your mother… each would be equally effective. Even if your mom is Grace Murray Hopper, even if you’ve managed to resurrect her from the dead, even if you took her on a Zombie Hackers tour to every Diebold machine in the world and fixed them, or killed them, or both…

This is just a symptom. The problem of suspicious vote counting is not at all discrete. It’s part of an avalanche of transformation.

Let us assume that there is, indeed, a plot to steal the election, and that we have foiled it. The perpetrators are in prison, awaiting trial, and the election proceeds with the blessed assurance of fairness in the voter interface.

The corporations still own the government. Legal bribes are available, i.e., campaign contributions. Corporations claim the same rights as individuals (the lobbying industry), but assume few of the responsibilities. Then they employ lawyers to protect them from this reduced list of responsibliities–and they deduct the cost of these lawyers from their tax obligations.

It would appear that a revolution is in order. The current system of government in these United States has far too much corruption, too extensive and entrenched for reform. My greatest concern is that the people will remain voluntarily blind, such that they know what there is to do and yet do not do it out of fear.

My opinion is that it will take a large and absolute exposure of some corrupt aspect to galvanize US citizens. The current administration has proven its manipulative abilities, though. We will require a major mistake, an attendant cover-up attempt, and at least one journalist willing to risk it all.

Of course it’s possible. It just doesn’t seem likely.

friend of democracy says:

old fashioned way

Exit polls – known to be so accurate they are a measure of voter fraud activity whenever elections are supervised internationally – called Ohio for Kerry. Yet at the end Bush won the state. Comments after the fact by the pollsters? Errors in the exit polls. Go back and re-read the first sentence.

Given a choice between election night results/high chance of fraud and election results a month after/little to no chance of fraud – I say, hand me the pencil, I mastered filling in circles a long time ago! It seems to be the media, not the electorate, demanding instant results. I would rather wait a month – as we had to in 2000, although I would prefer it not be the same reasons – and feel confident the vote is the result of the will of the people.

DemocracyIsAFacade says:

Re: Votes?

Actually the Electoral College does. If you want to be concerned about the state of our democracy focus on the lack of education of the American people. Most 18 – 24 year olds can’t tell you who the Vice President is. Democracy means nothing if the people voting are to ignorant to make good choices.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “terror” as “a state of intense fear”, “one that inspires fear”, “a cause of anxiety”. A synonym for “terror” is “fear”.

So if our government and the media are doing everything they can to control our actions by making us fearful, wouldn’t they be the only true “terrorists”?


Anonymous Coward says:

My only qualm about Kerry was that he conceded the election so weakly. All that crap about the American people deserve a unified government, not a legal battle… All this against the urging of John Edwards and the rest of the party leadership.

So my big question to you, Mr. Kerry is this: “WHY? WHY? WHY?? Did you give up the election so easily. If 04 truly was the most important election of our lifetime, then why did you not fight for it? Please be specific.”

I fear it was because he was shown the evidence that he could not win the election because it was rigged.

Bryan says:

Bought and paid for

Diebold’s owner guaranteed Bush would win the Ohio vote, and the election in ’04 came down to Ohio, just as the ’00 vote came down to Florida (and we all know how the Repubs intimidated Dem voters to not show up, had others black listed, etc.).

Bought and paid for, so why should politicians give up such a valuable resource that can ensure they are re-elected.

Also, remember, the Ohio machines had NO WAY of confirming that your vote was actually counted for the candidate you chose.

J.R. says:

Dateline: November 2008

Well, the world was completely and utterly unsurprised today when the United States of America, probably due to voter fraud, gave a sweeping electoral victory in the Presidential race to Fred Flintstone and running mate Barney Rubble. While hackers are suspected, many Americans feel that the choice is good and should remain. We look forward to four years of the Modern Stone-Age First Family.

SPR (profile) says:

Re: Dateline: November 2008

Dateline: April 2009

President Fred Flintstone further stunned Congress and the world when in response to allegations from the opposition he replied “I did not have improper relations with Dino, we only smoked a cigar together”. He again shocked the members when in response to the question “Where is your moral fiber?” he replied “That depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”.

Mr. Patriotic says:

Re: Interesting

Sometimes the indoctrination system just fails on some people through no fault of anyone in the system. At that point these unpatriotic individuals need to be identified so that they may be dealt with appropriately. Rest assured however, national agencies are using modern methods to build databases to identify such people as quickly as possible.

i4c says:

crooked republican nutjobs

if these machines were actually tested how could the republicans guarantee victory (a la 04).

Crooked is as crooked does.

Check out Cayahuga County voting in 04 election. Someone explain to me how one of the most minority filled cities in the country went only 67%-33% in Kerry’s favor when every other major city was 80-20 (outside texas of course).

Coup d’etat in 2000, voter fraud in 2004. A recipe for an 8 year presidential term

Florida Blue (user link) says:

Florida's Legislative Fix

Our Repugnican controlled Legislature has made it a crime to hand count ballots. Discrepancies in ballot counts must be recounted on the machine on which the vote was cast. In 2000 republican political operatives from around the nation swarmed the State Capitol to ensure our “butterfly ballots” would not be recounted. The Governor, Jeb Bush ordered state employees out of their offices and into the streets to counter the Democrats from around the state who had gathered to protest a very confusing punch card ballot which has since been replaced by the numerous E voting systems…depending on what the local county decides to utilize. Rather than trying to ensure voters of the state that system is not corrupt the state has thwarted all attemps to validate the accuracy of E voting system going as far as imprisoning and removing elected county suprervisor of elections from office who attempt testing. “its not who gets the most votes its who gets so count the votes”-Boss Tweed

Jerry says:

Voting machines

We don’t vote to determine the next president. Corporations make that decision. Voting is only an exercise that keeps society under a controlled expenditure of energy. Voting provides a release where it will do no harm. This voting problem is really only a guise for the fact the only two viable candidates come from the same mold. That mold is owned by the people who own the government.

...what does america stand for ? says:

I heard on npr that these machines can be hacked in 1 minute flat and that recounts even with a paper trail (required now by a 2004 law although not apparently folowed by all states (possibly)) were flawed and some even printed blank tickets and went unckecked by trusting voters. I also read in testing these machines were printing tickets with the opposite candidate voted for as was acctually selected. Ohio found in testing 10% invalidation of record slips, and that would’t even include percentages for accidently voting for the opposite candidate. Why do we let such obvious corruption and psycopathic greed run our gov?? why do we still have an electoral college? why do not the few who are aware of the relevance of this not do more to petion and protest? Does anyone have some ideas here ??????????????????????? America used to be a nation of invention…what does america stand for now?????????? Can anyone help me to answer that question?? (ps. this is not to sound pessimistic…)

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