Who Really Won?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rolling Stone: The Sequel

RFK Jr is back in Rolling Stone with a new article on the hackable elections we have now:

Even worse, many electronic machines don't produce a paper record that can be recounted when equipment malfunctions - an omission that practically invites malicious tampering. "Every board of election has staff members with the technological ability to fix an election," Ion Sancho, an election supervisor in Leon County, Florida, told me. "Even one corrupt staffer can throw an election. Without paper records, it could happen under my nose and there is no way I'd ever find out about it. With a few key people in the right places, it would be possible to throw a presidential election."

Chris Hood remembers the day in August 2002 that he began to question what was really going on in Georgia....

Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a "patch," a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. "We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood says. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."

Georgia law mandates that any change made in voting machines be certified by the state. But thanks to Cox's agreement with Diebold, the company was essentially allowed to certify itself. "It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told me. "We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level."

Hood says it was "common knowledge" within the company that Diebold also illegally installed uncertified software in machines used in the 2004 presidential primaries - a charge the company denies. Disturbed to see the promise of electronic machines subverted by private companies, Hood left the election consulting business and became a whistle-blower. "What I saw," he says, "was basically a corporate takeover of our voting system."

Don't It Turn Your Blue State Red?

In his early 20’s, John R. Koza and fellow graduate students invented a brutally complicated board game based on the Electoral College that became a brief cult hit and recently fetched $100 for an antique version on eBay.

By his 30’s, Dr. Koza was a co-inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket and found it one of the few sure ways to find fortune with the lottery.

Now, a 63-year-old eminence among computer scientists who teaches genetic programming at Stanford, Dr. Koza has decided to top off things with an end run on the Constitution. He has concocted a plan for states to skirt the Electoral College system legally to insure the election of whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes nationwide.

“When people complain that it’s an end run,” Dr. Koza said, “I just tell them, ‘Hey, an end run is a legal play in football.’ ’’

The first fruit of his effort, a bill approved by the California legislature that would allocate the state’s 55 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, sits on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The governor has to decide by Sept. 30 whether to sign it, a decision that may well determine whether Dr. Koza’s scheme takes flight or becomes another relic in the history of efforts to kill the Electoral College.

“It would be a major development if California enacts this thing,” said Tim Storey, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It will definitely transform it from a smoldering thing into a fire.’’

Don't see why Republicans wouldn't support this in California. All those EC votes would have shifted from Kerry to Bush last time, giving him such a landslide in the EC that he wouldn't have needed to suppress votes in Ohio and elsewhere...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

No Right to Vote

They're still trying to figure out who really won in Maryland more than a week after the election.

Then, Salon comes out with this to make you shake your head again:

Last week, a Missouri judge reminded the state Legislature that citizens of the state have a right to vote. And because it is a right, not a privilege granted by the powerful, Missourians can cast their ballots this November without having to meet identification requirements that seemed designed to make it harder for certain people -- the poor, the elderly, minorities and women -- to exercise that right.

That's the good news. The bad news is that this right comes from the Missouri state Constitution. The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a right to vote, and our federal courts currently read the document not to include it.

The Missouri case should spark some national discussion about why it is that our country, almost alone among advanced democratic nations, does not find this right worth including in its Constitution. It should also inspire closer scrutiny of a kind of a electoral gamesmanship that is going on around the country, as Republicans seek to exploit this gap in our democratic guarantees.

The Republicans in the House took their 'Let's Stop So Many People from Voting' theme nationwide:

On Wednesday the House passed, on a partisan 228-196 vote, legislation that would eventually require voters to show proof of citizenship. Republican supporters said it would stop immigrants from voting illegally. Democrats said it would disenfranchise legal voters, particularly minorities, the poor and the elderly who would have difficulty coming up with documents to prove citizenship.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Get Yer Diebold Keys Here

The access panel door on a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine — the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus — can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet.

A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars. It’s a standard part, and like most standard parts it’s easily purchased on the Internet. We bought several keys from an office furniture key shop — they open the voting machine too. We ordered another key on eBay from a jukebox supply shop. The keys can be purchased from many online merchants.

Using such a standard key doesn’t provide much security, but it does allow Diebold to assert that their design uses a lock and key. Experts will recognize the same problem in Diebold’s use of encryption — they can say they use encryption, but they use it in a way that neutralizes its security benefits.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Guinea Pigs and Bugs

The corporate media doesn't have time to cover this one, besides election disasters are routine these days....

Maryland's new electronic voter check-in system, which poll workers across the region reported would abruptly shut down and reboot during Tuesday's primary, had never been used before during an election, the manufacturer acknowledged yesterday.

At one Baltimore precinct, poll worker Al Samples, a 38-year-old computer scientist, said he could not prevent the three small check-in stations made by Diebold Election Systems Inc. - called e-poll books - from suddenly turning off. The machines crashed about 40 times, he said.

The governor's office said yesterday that it might ask state election officials to abandon the new equipment during November's general election or at least have a backup paper list of registered voters on hand.

"It should have been disclosed that we were the guinea pigs," said Joseph M. Getty, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s policy director. "Even if we're assured that the bugs are taken care of, that might not be good enough."

Let's take a simple procedure and make it as complicated as possible...

The wires that link the books must be connected in a specific order. After that, one of the poll books is turned on. Then the rest of the chain is activated.

Workers in 30-year-old Sharonda Huffman's Baltimore County precinct did not follow these instructions. With the machines not talking to one another, a voter could potentially sign in on one poll book and vote, and then sign in again - on a different poll book in the precinct - and vote a second time.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Disaster On the Way

USA Today:

Eight weeks before elections that will decide control of Congress, a rush by state and local governments to prepare new voting machines and train poll workers is raising the possibility of trouble reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election standoff.

Problems range from delayed delivery of new equipment to an insufficient supply of trained technicians to fix anticipated problems, voting experts say.

Already this year, glitches have occurred in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Maryland became the latest on Tuesday, when technical problems, human errors and staff shortages led officials to keep some polls open an extra hour.

The fall elections shape up as the most technologically perilous since 2000, election officials say, because 30% of the nation's voting jurisdictions will be using new equipment. They include large parts of Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, scenes of key Senate races. "If you're ever going to have a problem, it's going to be that first election," says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services.

Since 2000, nearly half of U.S. counties have switched from punch cards, lever machines and paper ballots to electronic voting or optical-scan ballots read by a computer. They continue to rely on poll workers who are on average 72 years old and lack computer experience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Grim Findings At Princeton

Looks like the only defense for vote fraud by electonic voting machines is the trustworthiness of the people who have access to the machines.

Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.

Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses — computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.

While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.

Website here.

Another Election, Another Debacle

This time, it's Maryland that's caught off guard by having to run an election:

A Montgomery County judge ordered that primary polls in the county remain open until 9 p.m. Tuesday, after human errors with electronic voting machines caused widespread problems, forcing some people to leave the polls without voting.

Ruling on a request from the county's Board of Elections, Circuit Judge Eric Johnson said the polls should remain open for an extra hour because of "emergency circumstances." But the additional voting will be done only by paper balloting, not electronic voting machines, said board spokeswoman Margie Rohrer.

Polls in the rest of Maryland were expected to close at the normal time of 8 p.m.

Election officials in the state's largest and voter-rich jurisdiction failed to deliver computer cards to the county's precincts that would start the electronic voting machines. That meant voters had to use paper provisional ballots while the county scrambled to deliver the electronic cards after polls opened at 7 a.m.

But, don't fret. The MD pols promise to get to the bottom of it:

Maryland's first statewide run of an all-electronic voting system stumbled out of the gate yesterday, with major glitches in Baltimore City and Montgomery County that frustrated thousands of would-be voters and forced election officials in those two localities to hold polls open an extra hour.

The snafus, which also cropped up to lesser degrees in other counties, were so severe that they produced a flurry of finger-pointing between Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates and promised to become an issue in the final two months of the campaign.

Delays in counting votes also left the contests for U.S. Senate and state comptroller - the outcome of which would determine whether incumbent William Donald Schaefer's storied career would come to an end - unsettled early this morning even as supporters gathered at hotels and restaurants anticipating celebrations.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wasted no time after learning that voters in two of the state's largest jurisdictions were having trouble voting before setting up a toll-free hot line in his office so he could compile complaints.

"We're going to demand answers," he said.

The Maryland Democratic Party and its nominee for governor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, instead laid the blame at the feet of Ehrlich's nominees to boards of election around the state who manage elections county-by-county.

"We rely on our governor to make sure elections are administered in an orderly way," O'Malley said.