Who Really Won?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Walking, With Some Chewing of Gum

The Washington Post has time to both try to pigeonhole Hillary Clinton and sum up the state of electronic voting today:

"There's a broader philosophical question that's been worrying me more and more lately," Shamos said. "What are these companies really doing? They don't seem to have embraced the seriousness with which people in this country take their elections. It's been kind of an adversarial thing where companies want to make profits, and they just haven't spent enough time and energy designing secure systems."

Bear says that is not true, and he repeats a frequent refrain about why the security concerns are overblown: "It's based on the premise that you have some nefarious or evil election official that's willing to commit a felony and break the law."

To which Shamos responds: "You don't want the success or failure of an election to be based on the individual."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Dog Bites Man: Barn Door Open Edition

With primary election dates fast approaching in many states, officials in Pennsylvania and California issued urgent directives in recent days about a potential security risk in their Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines, while other states with similar equipment hurried to assess the seriousness of the problem.

"It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system," said Michael I. Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who is an examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania, where the primary is to take place on Tuesday.

Officials from Diebold and from elections' offices in numerous states minimized the significance of the risk and emphasized that there were no signs that any touch-screen machines had been tampered with. But computer scientists said the problem might allow someone to tamper with a machine's software, some saying they preferred not to discuss the flaw at all for fear of offering a roadmap to a hacker.

"This is the barn door being wide open, while people were arguing over the lock on the front door," said Douglas W. Jones, a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, a state where the primary is June 6.

Computer scientists who have studied the vulnerability say the flaw might allow someone with brief access to a voting machine and with knowledge of computer code to tamper with the machine's software, and even, potentially, to spread malicious code to other parts of the voting system.

As word of Mr. Hursti's findings spread, Diebold issued a warning to recipients of thousands of its machines, saying that it had found a "theoretical security vulnerability" that "could potentially allow unauthorized software to be loaded onto the system."

Aviel Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, did the first in-depth analysis of the security flaws in the source code for Diebold touch-screen machines in 2003. After studying the latest problem, he said: "I almost had a heart attack. The implications of this are pretty astounding."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dog Bites Man In Ohio (Again)

Ohio still working on stealing Florida's reputation for election debacle supremacy:

Ohio's first election without punch card ballots was marred by a slew of problems with new voting machines, raising a crucial question: Can the state that decided the last presidential race get it together before November?

Election officials had trouble printing ballot receipts, finding lost votes and tabulating election results in Tuesday's primary. Some election workers were late or did not show up at all in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, the state's largest. Others could not figure out how to turn on the machines.

"Ohio's quickly getting this reputation as most corrupt and maybe most incompetent," said Chris Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which fielded dozens of complaints from voters.

Tuesday's primary was the first in which all 88 counties used either touch-screen machines or devices that scan ballots marked by voters.

Glitches were reported across the state, and a few local races remained undecided Wednesday while counting continued. The number of outstanding votes was too small to affect races for governor, Congress and statewide offices.

Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck, who handles voting-rights cases, said many of the problems were expected. "You could see in the absence of adequate training, people could just screw up," he said.

Cuyahoga County was searching for memory cards holding votes from 74 polling locations. Spokeswoman Jane Platten said the cards might have been left in machines, but she would not discuss details, citing security concerns. The county had reported results from about 98 percent of precincts by Wednesday night.
Link, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the problems went far beyond minor snags that could be expected, including complaints that voters were sent away by poll workers who were perplexed by the machines. In those cases, voters should have been offered paper ballots.

"We're not conspiracy theorists unless gross incompetence is a conspiracy, and that's what we saw," she said. "The elected officials charged with ensuring that citizens get to vote are not doing their job."

Workers failed to open one polling place until 1:30 p.m. Robert Bennett, the state GOP chairman and head of the Cuyahoga Elections Board, said they might have been criminally negligent and referred the case to prosecutors.

John Daley of Cuyahoga Falls near Akron said poll workers suggested he leave after some voting machines malfunctioned. He asked for a paper ballot, then the optical-scan system began working.

"I said, 'No, I'm not leaving,'" Daley said. "I kind of got frustrated."

And the punchline-Ohio Republicans voted for the man responsible for the running of elections as their nominee for Governor.