Diebold Trying To Stop Documentary On E-Voting Problems; Complains About Wrong Film

from the opening-the-dialog,-huh? dept

On Monday, we wrote about how it suddenly appeared that e-voting concerns were going mainstream, not even realizing that HBO was preparing to show a documentary called “Hacking Democracy.” In that post, I linked to a Fortune article that is actually somewhat more encouraging about e-voting’s number one target: Diebold. Beyond giving the history of the company, it suggested that the company more or less recognized that they had been both “stupid” and “naive” in getting into the e-voting business, without understanding anything about it. It also noted that almost all of the companies top execs have recently been replaced — and even said that the company is considering getting out of the e-voting business altogether. All of these suggest that the company actually recognizes that they’ve screwed up big time. That’s a big step forward, since every time a new problem comes up they react by brushing it off (often with outright lies), attacking their critics or simply cracking jokes about their security problems. And, by now, it should be clear that the security problems are very, very real.

So, with all of that, perhaps it was wishful thinking to hope that the new Diebold management would be a bit more willing to engage in discussion over issues, rather than just attack. Of course, given all of the recent problems the company has had, followed by the same old, same old response, it seems clear that the company hasn’t learned a thing. To make that clear, rather than dealing with the problems, they’re working hard behind the scenes (and failing) to convince HBO to cancel the documentary. They claim that the documentary is filled with false and inaccurate statements — which would be more believable if (a) the company ever owned up to any of its mistakes and (b) they had actually seen the movie (which they haven’t, apparently). In fact, the points that Diebold raised in their letter apparently refer to an entirely different film called Voter Gate, which has nothing to do with the documentary HBO will be showing. Diebold claims it’s by the same people, but it’s not. Now, isn’t that a surprise? Diebold can’t even accurately figure out who’s involved in a movie about them.

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Comments on “Diebold Trying To Stop Documentary On E-Voting Problems; Complains About Wrong Film”

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Chief Elf (profile) says:

Always verify

As you should always have at least two people when money is being counted as a matter of policy, regardless of how trustworthy the people are, the voting process should be treated just as carefully, and no person, and no company, should be trusted.

Voting software should be trusted by no one. Voting hardware should be trusted by no one. At least two fully qualified people, one from each political camp, should monitor all software and hardware from its creation until it is retired from service. Fully qualified means understanding every line of code in the software, and every circuit in the hardware.

What benefit is there to computerized voting machines? Speed? That’s no benefit except to satisfy a totally unimportant, impatient media. Reduced cost? Not if a verifiable paper trail has to exist in addition to it… its cost is imposed on top of a paper-based system. And if you add qualified supervision of the system, voting machines are far more expensive than a paper based system.

I see no worthwhile benefits, and an extreme danger to our most precious democratic republic.

Polling officials don’t understand the technology, and are buying “a pig in a poke,” so its no surprise that they don’t get what they were told they were getting. The rest of us have to make sure that the voting officials’ desire to trust the machine venders is overridden.

John Duncan Yoyo says:

What Diebold should be building.

What is needed is two separate systems that come from independent sources.

First a computerized Ballot marking machine which will mark a standard sized ballot form- something like an old fashioned Holarith-computer card. That ballot should be marked with the written candidates name and a punch pattern. The voters can confirm their choices as printed on the ballot. If there is a difference then a new ballot can be issued and the old ballot marked as spoiled and retained in a special sealed box. When an acceptable ballot is produced the voter presses the accept button. This first ballot marking machine will record the votes placed on it.

Second a Ballot reading machine that will accept the ballot, capture the ballot and record the vote on that machine as well. A slightly more complex machine should be provided to allow the handicapped to confirm their votes match what was placed on the first machine.

At the end of the day all the votes are tallied from both systems. The numbers for a precinct should be compared and if they fall into an accptable range of error- say less than 1% the numbers should be accepted. If not a mechanical recount should be started on the printed ballots. If these numbers compare favorably with the count on the second machine then that number should be accepted.

If the count fails then the cards may be sorted by an old fashioned computercard sorting machine and the votes can rapidly be visually inspected and verified. Any errors should be published and investigated linking the manufacturers to the errors.

A fixed largeish number say 5-10% of precincts should be randomly reccounted and audited after the election.

Lots of this is old technology that works well enough to prevent problems. Punch cards work fine if the punches are cleared from the machine and written names that can clearly indicate what was intended if the punch fails.

Brian says:

"2 camps?"

“At least two fully qualified people, one from each political camp, should monitor all software and hardware from its creation until it is retired from service.”

Actually, it should be made up several people, including a majority of people who are indepedants. Leaving it to each of the political camps will just re-enforce the belief that we can only have two parties. (not to mention the bias that comes with it)

Chief Elf (profile) says:

Re: 2 camps?

**Actually, it should be made up several people, including a majority of people who are indepedants.

Please note that I said at least two fully qualified people, which should be true even if there were no political parties. A larger number, and a larger representation of interests would indeed promote a more accurate accounting, and “independents” should be welcome in the process.

However, no voting system should depend on the independent-ness of any particular people, as independents tend to favor one side or another on specific issues, and favor one candidate in a choice between specific candidates.

The best system is the one that provides secret vote-casting and the highest degree of accuracy in recording voters’ intensions, regardless of time or expense: Paper ballots with candidates’ photos, names, and party affiliation, marked by each voter with ink and folded in a private voting booth, deposited in a collection box outside the booth, and numerous observers of everything outside the voting booth. The time is takes to manually count ballots is irrelevant: the winners don’t take office until months later. And the expense? Please… how expensive is voting machine equipment that is suspect or fails altogether?

zcat (user link) says:

Re: "2 camps?"

The software will always be a ‘black box’ even if it were open source. It’s completely impossible to have people monitor every line of code, every circuit in the hardware, every network connection, every memory card carried to and from the machines. Yo can’t do it. Fortunately you don’t have to.

Just add a paper trail. Every machine gets a voter-verified printout, visible but inaccessable to the voters. The paper-trail is considered the actual votes and the voting machine totals are merely a first estimate. At least 5% get audited and must be correct to the last vote.. Better still, have a completely different machine (built by a different company) that can OCR the paper trail and regenerate the count. Recount every single vote on this machine, make sure it matches the voting machine totals, then randomly audit 5% of the tapes by hand against the OCR total just to be sure.

This process would be at least as secure as traditional paper ballots, still 10 times easier than counting votes by hand (which many countries still manage BTW) and a thousand times easier than trying to audit and track the software installed on the voting machines.

ubertech says:

Diebolds ineptitude

How funny is it that the worlds largest ATM, vault and safe company can’t get a handle of producing a digital vote counter.
Maybe they should get off that faddish, highly overrated “digital bandwagon” and go low tech. Like a box with a lock on it and a slot in the top. Like they use in Botswana or Iraq.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

Re: Diebolds ineptitude

Don’t forget that Diebold bought the company with the e-voting technology right before they won the contracts with states to provide the machines. Many of the states had already decided to go with Diebold because they presumed that the voting machines would be as reliable as the ATMs.

Kind of like buying a fleet of cars you’ve never heard of because you like the major carmaker who bought the manufacturing plant.

What’s sad–no, pathetic–is that Diebold staunchly refuses to acknowledge any problems with their machines. They rarely send representatives to discuss the problems in public, and when they do, the mouthpieces recite talking points.

Where else have I seen this, lately? It’s almost as though corporate malfeasance and political corruption are merging–if they haven’t already.

Anonymous Coward says:

both sides will cheat to win elections. this is obvious. in one place, it’s one party, in another, it’s the othere party.

voter fraud is the #1 way to win elections, then comes the “scare tactics” global warming is going to kill you, terrorist are going to kill you, immigrants are stealing your jobs, whites are stealing your jobs, we’ll cut your taxes, we’ll give you more government money/programs….the list goes on.

but still, if you can get a vote for nothing, that’s the best vote!

Phlatus the Elder says:

Diebold's flakey ATMs

Every time I’ve had an ATM eat a perfectly good debit card, it’s been a Diebold machine. Time was the ATM host branch would assume the card was the problem, cut it up, and tell the issuing bank they needed to send their customer a new one.

I know of one instance where it got to be such a pain that at least one issuing bank would have the card sent back to them so they could make the call whether to destroy it or return it to their customer.

Ever since then I’ve avoided Diebold ATMs. Haven’t had a card eaten, either. I think you can guess my reaction when I heard that Diebold was going into the voting machine business.

I think John (“What Diebold should be building” above) has the right idea.

wolff000 says:

Both Parties Are Evil

Not really but one is no better than the other. Having a two party system is horrible especially when both parties are pretty much the same. Back to the topic at hand, voting machines need to be tested and heavily by independent parties and the government to assure they work correctly. When I say tested I mean mock elections that have to tally millions of votes to make sure they work. All hardware and software should be open source only to make sure there is nothing erroneous or obvious security holes. They also need a paper trail and a second machine or at least a second storage device to compare results. This has all been said and more eloquently by other people but apparently the powers that be don’t read techdirt or /.

Robert Thille (user link) says:

One single reason for voting machines...

Is to allow blind, non-brail-readers to vote.
This is the only reason I can see as a “need” for electronic voting machines. But I don’t believe the current crop of machines fulfill the need, certainly not with any security. The only other reason I can think of for voting machines would be to properly randomize the order of the candidates.
Regardless, without voting machines that simply create voter verifiable ballots I have little hope for democracy. There’s just too much potential for abuse.

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