How Can You Test An E-Voting Machine For Malfunctions If You Don't Get To Test The Machine?

from the just-wondering dept

Now that Florida's governor has admitted that e-voting machines without a paper trail are not such a good idea (though, the optical scan machines he wants to replace them with have their own problems), you would think that Florida would be all for a thorough investigation into the problems of the old machines. Perhaps not. Remember Sarasota, where a bunch of votes appear to have gone missing? In the lawsuit over this, the judge denied the request to see the e-voting software source code, saying there needed to be more evidence that the machines malfunctioned first. At the same time, however, the Department of State in Florida has been trying to commission an "independent" study of the e-voting software, and even spoke to Ed Felten about joining the team. He's listed as one of the investigators, though he actually declined to take part. Why? Well, it turns out that they want the investigation to take place without actually letting the experts view the working software or the e-voting machines. Instead, it only wants to give them the source code and let them comb through the source code alone to try to figure out where the malfunction could have occurred. It's great that at least some experts are finally getting a chance to look at the source code, but it makes you wonder why all of these e-voting security tests always have strict limitations on them. If they really wanted to know what the security vulnerabilities are, shouldn't they make the test much more complete?
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 8 Feb 2007 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Jo,

    Would you like to state what e-voting company you work for? It might help clarify where you're coming from.

    Diebold didn't want the North Carolina business, so they were in no way obligated to provide anything to them.

    Ah, right. That would be revisionist history. You're the one going on about how these are businesses that want to grow -- and yet, suddenly, Diebold "didn't want" North Carolina's business? That's simply false. Why would they even protest the request for their source code if they didn't want it?

    You live in a fantasy world man, these are companies, and if they don't make money, the products never improve and we'll be stuck with old technology.

    Wait, wait, wait. You just said Diebold didn't want the business. You're confusing me.

    But the more important point is that it's you who seems to be in a fantasy world. No one is trying to stop these companies from making money. Nowhere do you explain how letting security experts test their machines would cost them any money.

    If anything, letting those security experts point out flaws is what will help improve the technology. Your statement doesn't add up. It doesn't make any sense.

    You are so scared that you won't have anything to write about, you can't just be thankful that someone who is actually involved in this has provided information.

    Huh?!? If there is one thing that is universally true around here is that we are NEVER at a loss for something to write about. I could never write about e-voting again and be perfectly happy. Honestly, we're swamped here and would love to have FEWER things to write about as it would make our lives easier.

    We aren't writing about this for sensationalism. We're writing about it because it's important.

    You have discouraged more people from providing the other side of this story.

    How? By asking you to support your statements rather than insulting us? If that's what it takes to "discourage" people like you, you're in the wrong business.

    So your comments will continue to be filled with one-sided views from misinformed people, and sadly, that is exactly what you want

    No. That's not what I want. If someone wanted to come here from the e-voting industry and back up their position, that would be great. That would be wonderful. That's what we've been ASKING for all along. The problem isn't that we're discouraging you. We're just asking you to back up your statements. Why is that so threatening to you?

    No one ever hears about the hundreds of elections conducted each month that are successfully audited.

    So tell us about them. But that's like saying no one ever writes about the millions of cars that get to work safely. It's only the accidents they write about.

    That's because it's the accidents that matter.

    But, again you're being misleading here. We're NOT TALKING about elections that have had problems. We're talking about the POSSIBILITY that an election CAN have problems because the company you work for (and its competitors) don't ever respond to our questions with real answers.

    Any cognition of anything other than what you already believe would somehow be a defeat to your livelihood and you would never allow that to happen

    Ha! Our livelihood?!? You are sounding paranoid. Seriously, we don't make money from writing about e-voting. As I said, i could honestly never write about this again and be perfectly happy -- but I do because it's important. We make our money doing analysis for companies. The ads we have on the blog barely pay for the hosting. I don't care about "making money" on the traffic here.

    And, to be honest, the e-voting stories don't get very much attention. If I was only focused on writing stories to get traffic, I'd stop writing about this topic, because it doesn't generate that much interest.

    Say, for example, they did let some profit hungry group outside of the law test these machines, and they found that they worked perfectly, it would end up a small footnote in some minor article that no one would read. The machines working correctly isn’t newsworthy to people like you. Sadly, you want the machines to fail, it provides content for your articles…

    Oh hell no. I would be THRILLED if such a report came out. I'd write it up in a SECOND. If there were such a report and it was done by serious researchers with no connection to the e-voting companies, like your employer, I'd love it. Honestly, that would be a story I'd write up in a second. The problem is I can't, because you won't let it happen.

    Having people profit from testing these machines outside of the law is contradictory to what you want, yet since it doesn't create hits on your articles, you will never admit it.

    I do not understand what you are saying here.

    The machines are certified, which means they were tested and approved by the government; call the EAC, go to your local election office and ask to witness the public tests, volunteer on election day, ask to watch the certification testing.

    Right. The public tests are limited. That's the whole damn point. The tests that are more thorough, that are done by security researchers have shown serious security holes.

    Why do you not respond to that issue?

    That's the whole point of this article. The tests that are being allowed are limited. That's a fact. I'm not sure why you think you can deny it.

    Sadly, you would never go out of your way to do these things because if you saw something that went against your belief that "no one tests the machines", you would have to admit being wrong and you would have less to write about.

    Have we ever said no one tests the machines? No. We know the machines are tested -- though there have been problems with the tests, and whenever a serious security researcher runs their own tests they find significant problems. It has nothing to do with what we want to write about. I would LOVE to write about these machines being safe, because that would be an AWESOME story. It would be fantastic. I'd write about it a second.

    Your whole fantasy world would come crashing down if you opened your eyes to the truth and actually made an effort to see how elections are conducted, but the truth isn't interesting,

    Huh? Are you claiming that Avi Rubin, Ed Felten and Bev Harris haven't made those efforts? Haven't taken part? Haven't gone to the testing centers? Haven't been election judges? Because they've done all of those things. You seem to be the one living in the fantasy world unable to admit that something you disagree with might be true -- but the problem is that all the other stuff can be backed up with evidence. On your side, you just say that we're conspiracy theorists.

    Let's try this again. I AM NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST. I WOULD BE THRILLED if your machines worked as advertised. I'd just like to have some independent proof of that. Once again: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?

    I don't think you're malicious. I don't think you're evil. I don't think you've done anything wrong on purpose. I just think that for a healthy democracy it's good to have some transparency.

    Where's the problem?

    So just keep throwing out your hearsay and twisted information

    Let's see. I'm the one who can point to evidence to support everything I've said. All of you pointed to is "trust me" and "you're too ignorant to understand." Which one is hearsay? Which one is twisted?

    The testing needs to be done by indepnedent reviewers that aren't biased by what their audience wants to hear.

    Here's the thing, Jo. If you can win over even the "biased" testers, then haven't you proven how incredibly safe your machines are? Wouldn't that be a HUGE PR coup? You'd make a killing in business if you could have the support of the critics who believe you have a safe machine.

    What could possibly be the harm?

    The companies follow the fair rules the government has set for them, and they oblige wherever they are required to do so.

    Heh. Nice sneaky trick in there. The whole point is that the government testing has not been thorough enough. That's not a debatable point. It's proven by the clear security flaws that have been discovered.

    I will discontinue providing the opposing view, it’s pointless because you will always believe what you want to believe and are too proud to do or even consider anything else.

    Jo, that's not even remotely true. I don't have a "belief" here. I just have pretty clear evidence from one group showing that these machines are not secure. And, from the other side, I have you the anonymous employee of one of these firms (yes, I've figured out which one) who doesn't offer any proof back.

    Offer me proof. I'll write about it in a second. I'll do my best to make it a huge story. I'll go on and on about how your company has proven to me that its machines are secure and safe and the votes can be verified and audited and that it's all been supported by even the harshest critics of e-voting. Because that would be a great story. It's one I'd be thrilled to write.

    So, come on, help me write that story...

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