Spot The Unattended, Unguarded E-Voting Machines

from the take-your-time dept

Whenever reports come out about e-voting machine vulnerabilities, a common response from the various e-voting companies is that to exploit any of those vulnerabilities, someone would have to spend a significant amount of time with the e-voting machine, undoubtedly raising suspicions. That might be true on election day, but what about before election day? Back in 2006, Ed Felten randomly noticed that in the days before election day, he came across a bunch of e-voting machines just stored in a hallway, waiting for election day. This should have made people concerned, and convinced them to better protect these machines. Yet, here we are on Super Tuesday, and Ed Felten has a post noting that, once again, it was easy to come across totally unattended e-voting machines. He notes that he stood next to one batch of machines for 15 minutes, plenty of time to have mucked with the machine (not that he did), and not a single person came by. Is it any wonder that these e-voting machines are undermining confidence in our elections?

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Comments on “Spot The Unattended, Unguarded E-Voting Machines”

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Duodave (user link) says:

Re: I challenge the premise

That’s not the issue. The real issue is that the e-voting machines are easily tampered with using the introduction of third-party software via any number of ways (USB ports, floppy drives, etc), and for many of these devices there’s no true paper trail for recounts.
In the county where I live, we use marking pens on paper ballots, then slip the paper into a counting box as we leave the polling place. It’s got an electronic element, the sealed box, but the votes can be easily recounted.

Bobbknight says:

Unattended Voting Machines

Here in New York we have unattended voting machines all the time, hell come down to our volunteer fire hall and you will see the voting machine just sitting in the hall overnight.

As to the computer voting machines, the PC Card is what makes it work. So it’s the program and the security of the pccard you have to worry about.

I think KY has the best type of machine when it comes to the computer type in that it prints to paper and to memory when you press the red button to register your selection.

The best type of voting machine would be an optical hard card where you darken your selection with a supplied pen and the computer tabulation code is audited.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Are you sure?

Er, so… do we know what type of voting machines these were? Were they the kind where each machine operates independently, or the kind where they’re basically terminals for a central unit which may or may not have been present at the time of the photos? Were they already programmed for the election or not? (Some kinds get programmed before being distributed, others are programmed via a cartridge distributed just before the polls open.)

Rob (user link) says:

Voting machine security

As an electronics engineer I have a much bigger problem with the mechanical lever voting machines than the computerized ones. Every time I use one of these mechanical dinosaurs this attendant has to “reset” the machine by fiddeling with something on the back of the machine! That … makes me nervous. Can he/she see totals, and thus know how I voted? Mechanical moving parts are much more prone to wear, failure and tampering than the electronic replacements. Anyone with a screwdriver can tamper with the old machines, it takes brains and a great deal of learning to mess with electronics and software. And why not just vote via the internet. If I can do banking and send in my tax return securely, surely I can securely mark a ballot and have a traceable electronic receipt for any recount.

JustMatt says:

Internet Voting

We won’t get Internet voting any time soon. C’mon, think at it man! How else is Hillary going to win? Everybody knows the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy controls the Internet! It is so much easier for the old Democratic establishment to stuff physical ballot boxes and register dead people to vote. She is gonna win this one old skool style, boyee!

{dripping with sarcasm}

Anonymous Coward says:

Ron Paul? I guess if you want abortion banned he would be a good choice. Sure, troops wouldn’t be dying in the streets of Iraq, but the poor would be bleeding in the streets in America.

That being said, here is a question that came to my mind after viewing those pictures. Sure, he was walking around the voting machines and could have done something with them because no one was around, but he was in a school.


He could have planted bombs in that school. He could have hidden guns in a school. He could have done anything he wanted in that school. Where was school security?

Anonymous Coward says:

“I always thought Bush should have had a nationwide TV broadcast right after taking office, and walked the viewers through the defaced White House showing all the damage the Clinton staffers did. The national outrage shown should have blown the Clintons out of politics for good.”

Lighten up, I think switching the keys on the computer keyboards was pretty funny. The pardons, not so funny.

Anonymous of Course says:

It all adds up to nothing

Voting in either the republican or democratic
primaries in this cycle is akin to voting on
which flavor of poop you want rammed down
your gullet.

When we get candidates that truely differ on
substansive issues voting might be worth the
effort once more. It’s not mush effort but
In my opinion it’s pointless.

The voting machines are the least important

Even so if we moved to range voting, where each
person votes for all the candidates in order of
preference and the candiate with the highest
score wins. And if non-party affiliated candidates
could be fielded, I would vote because it would
be truely equitable. Unlike the horribly broken
system in play now.

Baby Smurf says:

Who said this?

1) “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

A. Karl Marx
B. Adolph Hitler
C. Joseph Stalin
D. None of the above

2) “It’s time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few, and for the few…and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity.”

A. Lenin
B. Mussolini
C. Idi Amin
D. None of the Above

3) “(We)…can’t just let business as usual go on, and that means something has to be taken away from some people.”

A. Nikita Khrushev
B. Jose f Goebbels
C. Boris Yeltsin
D. None of the above

4) “We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give up a little bit of their own…in order to create this common ground.”

A. Mao Tse Dung
B. Hugo Chavez
C. Kim Jong Il
D. None of the above

5) “I certainly think the free-market has failed.”

A. Karl Marx
B. Lenin
C. Molotov
D. None of the above

6) “I think it’s time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector in (the) entire economy that they are being watched.”

A. Pinochet
B. Milosevic
C. Saddam Hussein
D. None of the above


(1) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 6/29/2004
(2) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 5/29/2007
(3) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 6/4/2007
(4) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 6/4/2007
(5) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 6/4/2007
(6) D. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton 9/2/2005

Roxie says:


I think most of the media exaggerates on problems with voting machines. One problem and all voting companies are condemned as some sort of plan to cheat or lie to the American public. I work for a company that makes software and hardware for voting machines and have worked there over 10 years. This is the most honest and forthright company around these days. We are put through constant scrutiny on/in everything we do and if you think that’s bad, that’s why our products are top quality. Our SQA HQA departments are not to be messed with, as I know these people and they are the most honest people you’d ever want to me. Not only that, they put our software/hardware through rigorous testing – then they test it again and again and again!

Personally, I have been taught many things here, and I will tell you that INTEGRITY and HONESTY is what this company strives for in everyone of its employees. I like that in a company so I am hoping to stay here for a long time. STOP harrassing and accusing these companies of something that is only hearsay OR WITHOUT MERIT, which is what anyone who yells, “foul” will do and you will immediately accept it as the truth. BLAH! Most of the time, its an outside poll-worker who is the problem and not the product itself! SHAME ON YOU!

Mike says:

Machine security?

Okay, so with access to a machine it is possible to mess with it, but that would never happen right?

My girlfriend, who volunteers at nearly every election, has to pick up a machine a few days before the election and has to keep it STORED IN OUR HOUSE until the election. This is actually very common for election volunteers (at least in the area I live in). Think about that for just a second, because there isn’t very much in terms of safeguards to keep election volunteers honest. They are usually struggling just to get enough volunteers for the election. So it really isn’t that much of a stretch of the imagination to think that someone could sign up as an election volunteer and have complete open private access to the machine for a few days before the election in order to tamper with it.

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