E-Voting Company Agrees To Let California See Its Source Code... But Includes Angry Threats

from the how-nice-of-them dept

In the ongoing effort to make sure that electronic voting machines used in public elections actually have some sort of real scrutiny, we've never had anyone convincingly explain why the source code for these voting machines shouldn't be made public. You may recall that a while back, in a post about some of the limitations being put on security experts trying to examine some of the machines, a representative from the firm Election Systems & Software Inc. (ES&S) showed up in our comments and responded to our questions not with any good reasons, but with insults to everyone here saying we couldn't possibly understand. When asked, point blank, about why he wouldn't let experts like Ed Felten and Avi Rubin test the machines, he responded by claiming that such experts are misleading in their reports and are publishing things solely for a profit motive (which is pretty laughable, if you've ever read either's writings and analysis -- which come across as exceptionally even-handed on these issues). The same guy also claimed that the e-voting companies have always willingly handed over source code to gov't agencies. Specifically he stated: "The companies have always complied with legitimate requests to test and inspect the software. They handed over their source code for review on multiple occasions and have never denied the request of any U.S. government authority to review the code or test the equipment." Of course, he didn't say they did so happily. When California came asking for the source code, ES&S certainly wasn't happy about it.

You may recall that back in March, California's Secretary of State decided that anyone providing e-voting machines in California had to withstand independent testing from a group of security experts. This seems perfectly reasonable, and it's hard to come up with any reason not to do this... unless you're a company like ES&S whose machines have been caught counting votes in triplicate, among other things. Despite the claim that they "never denied the request of any U.S. government authority," ES&S certainly resisted the requests and only handed in the code three months late, along with an angry, petulant, threatening letter to the Secretary of State warning her that the company will hold the Secretary of State personally responsible "for any prohibited disclosure or use of ES&S' trade secrets and related confidential and proprietary information." Frankly, this should be reason enough to ban the company from having its e-voting machines used in elections. If the company is so worried about having its machines tested by security experts, then it shouldn't be in the business. Furthermore, for a free and fair election, there's simply no reason that the company shouldn't be required to make the core of its system freely available so that the voters of this country can actually trust that their votes are being accurately counted. It's not a crazy request. It's about protecting our fundamental right to vote. Apparently, ES&S doesn't respect that enough to prove to anyone that it can actually build a safe and secure machine that counts votes accurately.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    nameWithheld, 29 Jun 2007 @ 7:48am

    ES&S

    I do not represent ES&S, but i have done election day machine support for them. (It's a three day gig around election day and some training before hand. It's kinda fun actually)

    My question about some of this is what machines? Some of their models are nothing more than a touch screen attached to an inkjet printer to fill in the circles on the paper ballot. Others do keep a running tally. Others are counters of the paper ballots. And still others count the votes of various forms of storage media. All of counters either physically or electronically (most places simply carry the media by hand) link to a central system in the jurisdiction where the vote is tallied.

    This is where human intervention comes in. It is at this point that a person can the wrong thing in the software and triplicate, quadruple, or even erase votes. My concern before you start blasting ES&S or anyone else for their machines, is to make sure that it is the machine, and not the human controlling it.

    None of your articles have ever mentioned the machines involved, never once have said where in the process the problem happened.

    What's the matter tech dirt, do you think that it's too complicated for us to understand.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.