Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some recent coverage of electronic voting:

Newsweek has a story here:

Will Your Vote Count in 2006?
'When you're using a paperless voting system, there is no security,' says Stanford's David Dill.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the voting booth, here comes more disturbing news about the trustworthiness of electronic touchscreen ballot machines. Earlier this month a report by Finnish security expert Harri Hursti analyzed Diebold voting machines for an organization called Black Box Voting. Hursti found unheralded vulnerabilities in the machines that are currently entrusted to faithfully record the votes of millions of Americans.

How bad are the problems? Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. Basically the trouble stems from the ease with which the machine's software can be altered. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems. "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it," says Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-science professor and elections-security expert.

It continues to point out that a paper-trail is needed. That is why Diebold added the recipt printer to the side of the machine. However, as seen in recent use in Pennsylvania, this printer becomes easily jammed, therefore removing the paper trail.

Appleton Post-Crescent has a story here:

New voting machines cast doubt
Systems' security worries counties, municipalities

When they go to the polls in September, disabled adults — no matter what their handicap — will be able to vote independently on new machines mandated by the Help America Vote Act.

But there is much disagreement among counties, municipalities and watchdog organizations about the security and reliability of the votes they will cast.

The state Elections Board has certified four voting systems for use in Wisconsin, starting with the September partisan primary. Using federal money, Calumet County towns and municipalities have opted for machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. Waupaca and Outagamie county communities, with the exception of Appleton, are buying Sequoia Voting Systems machines.

Controversy has dogged both the Diebold and Sequoia systems.

Purported security defects with the Diebold machines worried the Winnebago County Board so much it voted last week to reject a $294,000 grant for their purchase. With some additional precautions, however, the state Elections Board says Diebold is secure, and it is the only machine compatible with existing equipment in Calumet and Winnebago county communities.

The only options are to buy the Diebold machines or scrap the counties' existing equipment at a cost thought to be so high no one has dared calculate it.

I am going to interrupt the story here - this is simply not true - we do not have to scrap the entire system if we go with a different type of handicap-accessible machine. The worst case is that we would have 2 totals from each location rather than one. One from the regular machines and one from the accesible machine.

"We've spent a great deal of money and the equipment we have has been proved over and over in recounts," Winnebago County Deputy Clerk Pat Rabe said. "We just had a huge school board recount in the city of Oshkosh and the results are the same."

Likewise, Calumet County Clerk Beth Hauser says Diebold is the only choice that makes practical or financial sense, and she has faith the municipal clerks will follow the state's security recommendations.

Meanwhile, problems with new Sequoia equipment delayed the results of a spring election in Cook County, Ill., for about two weeks. Kristofer Frederick, elections director for the state, looked into Chicago's problems and concluded most involved
administration and coordination. The Elections Board is developing general recommendations for running elections with the new equipment.

Outagamie County Clerk Nancy Christensen says the Sequoia vendor told her many Cook County poll workers didn't have any training.

I am going to stop the article here as well. 2 points - first is that the reason that the school board recount went so well is that we had ballots to count. If there is a printer error, there will be no voter-verified trail to prove voter intent.

2nd - the story quotes "the Sequoia vendor" as providing the information that the machine did not fail, it was the training. This is hardly a reliable source. He (or she) is not an impartial paprty in this. We have seen time and time again in the research of this that the Diebold company reps will say yht sysyems are fixed, yet another problem pops up again and again.

And the most troubling part:

The Diebold machine will print a paper record in the event of a recount. The Sequoia system records voters' choices on the touch screen and a small printer simultaneously. The elector is asked to verify that the two match, then confirm that the choices are accurate. After each vote, the paper advances so that subsequent voters can't see their predecessor's picks. The printed record replaces the ballot in the event of a recount.

The record needs to be printed immediately when the voter casts the vote, and in a secure way that can be saved for recounts and the public record. Anything else is not proper.

Only the ESS machines, which Appleton has chosen, use a ballot, a difference clerk Appleton City Clerk Cindi Hesse says is subtle but important.

"(Without a ballot) there is no actual ability to go over to review what a voter actually did," Hesse said. "The Common Council has given me the directive that a paper ballot in the case of a recount is a very valuable tool."

Amen for common sense - in Appleton.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the ESS machine satisfy the new law for disabled voters?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have made it perfectly clear you do not want the machines in question. What machine do yuo suggest we purchase?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Paul Malischke said...

ESS has two machines. The Ivotronic is Direct Reading Equipment (DRE) and is probably just as bad as the Diebold equipment. The other ESS unit is the Automark and it is totally transparent. It's security risk is near zero, since it does not count the ballots, it only assists the disabled voter to make one. It is approved for use in Wisconsin and Dane County (Madison) and I think Milwaukee have ordered them.
Call the ESS regional account manager
Bryan Hoffman cell 320-267-4631

Fair Elections Wisconsin has endorsed the Automark

Paul Malischke

7:13 PM  

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