Diebold Cracks Jokes About Hacked Voting Machines In Florida

from the ha-ha-very-funny dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about the latest hacking tests on Diebold voting machines in Florida, that apparently resulted in one county declaring it would not use Diebold machines any more. At the time, the only report was from the group that did the hacking -- so some of the details weren't entirely clear. The Associated Press now has the full story which includes some more, important, details and a response from Diebold. First of all, the important detail which wasn't made clear by the original story was that the test was not about Diebold's electronic touchscreen systems -- which have been the focus of most of the controversy over the past few years. Instead, the hack was of a Diebold scanner -- which is used on the more traditional paper ballots. A Diebold representative used this fact to joke about the hack: "Now we're not trusting paper. Somebody could also steal the pencil and then you couldn't mark the ballot."

Of course, if you have even the slightest respect for the integrity of our voting system, the results of the test and Diebold's response should scare you silly. It raises serious questions about why we would ever trust any Diebold machine without also hand counting a paper trail. The fact that their touchscreen machines don't include a secondary paper trail means those machines should never be used at all. In joking about it, Diebold is not only brushing aside the very valid questions about the integrity of their machines, but also distorting the argument in favor of paper ballots by suggesting that since this test showed that paper ballots weren't reliable, then the request for a paper trail in their other machines made no sense any more either. What he's being misleading about, of course, is that it wasn't the paper that failed. It's the paper that proves that his company's machines failed. Diebold also brushed aside the actual hack by saying that it would be impossible to do in a real election environment, because people would be around. That's again misleading. If you read the details of how the test was run, you could see that it's entirely possible that, with some planning, someone could have a preprogrammed memory card with plus or minus votes already on them, and then just figure out a way to make sure that card is used. Either way, the details of what happened as well as Diebold's response should make it clear to everyone why not only is a paper backup trail needed, but in many cases, it should be used to check on the validity of any electronic votes.

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  1. identicon
    Newob, 16 Dec 2005 @ 12:37pm

    Count people, not votes

    Ballot voting is an ancient system of counting people, with obvious shortcomings that we are well aware of. Instead of figuring out how to prevent people from faking ballots, we should design a better method of counting people. Over the internet, anonymously counting people is as easy as counting "users online." We could have a vote web site, which tallies voters logged in as answers to a vote. No need anymore to save up the votes and count them later; you can invent screen names and passwords on the fly and record the results of a vote as quickly as it is called. There must be some kind of authentication system can guarantee one vote per person, and then discard the passwords and userids, to be recreated for the next vote. Thoughts?

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