The other day I wrote that it doesn’t matter how well we fix the voting machines because there is no reason for people to trust the results unless there is a paper ballot printed out and checked by the voter. These ballots can be checked against whatever the machine reports and can be used to PROVE that the results are accurate or not.
That is, of course, not the whole solution to our voting problems. Remember the long lines in Democratic-majority precincts in Ohio, etc… You can only count the ballots of those people fortunate enough to make it past the obstacles put in place to keep them from voting.
I received a letter about this:
The problem with the [voting machine hacking] reports and your reply is that they may be barking up the wrong tree.
As we have seen in OH, it the insiders, not the outside hackers, that are the biggest threat. These reports seem to be missing that. All the procedures and rules don’t mean a thing if the folks that have implemented the rules, and know exactly how to circumvent them, are themselves untrustworthy.
The only solution I have come up with is to greatly increase election transparency. It takes the peoples’ eyes to assure that elections are run fairly. But I’m sure you know that.
The California Secretary of State ordered tests on all the voting machines. They flunked. Most vote machines lose test to hackers,
State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California’s voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems’ electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.
The researchers “were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the “top to bottom review” of every voting system certified by the state.
Suppose they fix these “vulnerabilities? But o matter how much testing you do and bugs or vulnerabilities you fix there are going to be more – the ones we don’t know about. That is how it is with computers.
Here’s a simple test for election systems: “Prove it.” What do I mean? Suppose you have a perfect voting machine and every possible security problem that anyone can think of is accounted for. The machine’s code is carefully inspected. The hardware is working. So I go in and cast a vote, and they say, “Your vote was recorded accurately.” I say, “Prove it.”
They can’t. So I’m not happy.
Or, imagine this test: You ask them to let you cast the only vote and then they count the votes. You cast a vote for ‘A’ but tell them that you cast a vote for ‘B’. There is no way they can PROVE you did that. So no one has a reason to trust the “election” results.
Here is the answer – the only answer. After you cast your vote, a paper record of your vote is printed, you look at it, and you put it into a separate box. Now there is a way to PROVE how people voted. You open the box, you count the ballots. You prove it.
The only solution to the voting machines problem is to print a paper ballot that the voter examines. If you have that system in place then it doesn’t matter if the machine was hacked, or broken, or you made a mistake. With that piece of paper you have a way to double-check what the machine did. Without that piece of paper it doesn’t matter how secure the machine is – because you can’t prove it.
The 800 pound gorilla of software development has moved forcefully into New York State, supported by voting machine vendors using Microsoft Windows in their touch screen voting machines and other systems. Over the last two months Microsoft and a cadre of high paid lobbyists have been working a full-court press in Albany in an attempt to bring about a serious weakening of New York State election law. This back door effort by private corporations to weaken public protections is about to bear fruit.)
Usually at Seeing the Forest we ask, “Who is our economy FOR?” We do this to point out that in a democracy the people are supposed to be in control, make the decisions, and decide on rules that make things better for the public. Corporations are supposed to exist to serve US, not the other way around.
Today Seeing the Forest is asking a different question: Who are our ELECTIONS for? Here is why: Florida judge rules against Democrat in disputed election,
A judge ruled Friday the Democrat who narrowly lost the race to succeed U.S. Representative Katherine Harris in Congress cannot examine the programming code of the electronic voting machines used in the disputed election, saying Christine Jennings’ arguments about the possibility of lost votes were “conjecture.”
… State officials have declared Republican Vern Buchanan the winner by 369 votes. But 18,000 electronic ballots showed no votes cast in the House race, and Jennings contends the machines lost the votes.
Well one way to take it past “conjecture” is to look at the code running on the machines and SEE if it screwed up! Then we’ll KNOW, instead of having to “conjecture” about it.
So we are NOT ALLOWED TO KNOW how our voting machines even WORK? We are not allowed to ask if the code in these machines WORKS?
WHO ARE OUR ELECTIONS FOR if we’re not even allowed to know how the votes are “counted?”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Georgia state officials are claiming that Kathy Rogers, the recently resigned Director of outgoing Secretary of State Cathy Cox’s State Elections Division, is going to work for Diebold.
We need to demand information about her salary, stock and other payments received.
Remember, Georgia is the state where exit polls showed Senator Max Cleland winning, and then the paperless voting machines reported he lost.
Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout much of the country “cannot be made secure,” according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
… In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, the institute said voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine’s software. The recommendations endorse “optical-scan” systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts.
I don’t agree. I think that we can use the machines as input devices to print paper ballots which the voter looks at and puts in a separate ballot box. This gets rid of all the problems associated with people mismarking the ballots, drawing circles instead of lines, etc.
But to be clear – the machines should only be used as input devices leading to the printing of a ballot, and that ballot, placed by the voter in a separate ballot box, is the official count.
More from the story,
Computer scientists and others have said that the security of electronic voting systems cannot be guaranteed and that election officials should adopt systems that produce a paper record of each vote in case of a recount. The institute report embraces that critique, introducing the concept of “software independence” in voting systems.
Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.
Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.
These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.
But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.
To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.
If we win this battle, you’ll be able to kiss Diebold goodby.
THIS is why we said that the way to combat the problem with voting machines is to not let it get close enough to matter. There were problems across the country, and there were voter suppression tactics, etc. But THIS election was NOT close enough for it to matter. And now that the Democrats are in control they can work to stop the tricks and purges and miscounts and suppression tactics in the future. Update: In FL-13, Court Battle Begins As Counting Continues,
The fight will center around the district’s Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) — what’s called an “undervote.” That’s compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.
A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials “had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record” on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.
There’s trouble coming next week. Regardless of which candidates and parties are said to win next week, there is a problem coming. This is because there is no way to prove to people whether or not the electronic voting machines reported the votes correctly. And this raises the possibility that large numbers of people will not accept the reported election results.
In this highly partisan atmosphere with such high stakes this is a recipe for civil disorder.
If you vote absentee or use a paper ballot, or use a machine that prints your vote on paper and lets you see that it was correctly recorded, you can feel like your vote was correctly counted. But if you vote on a machine that just asks you to trust that it records your vote correctly, and YOUR candidate loses, you’re going to feel like you MIGHT have been cheated. That is human nature.
And even if you know that YOUR vote was correctly recorded, if these machines are in use in your local election, then you are going to feel uneasy about the results.
AND even if your entire district uses safe methods, you are going to feel uneasy about the results from OTHER districts.
So no matter which party is in said to be in the majority after Tuesday, there is no reason for the losers to accept that. (Or the winners, for that matter.)
I don’t see any way around trouble coming out of this.
There has been quite a bit of publicity now, exposing the new electronic voting machines as hackable. And it occurred to me that Tuesday’s election could turn into a different kind of fiasco than the one that many people fear.
The fear is that there could be subtle, undetectable changes in voting totals designed to swing elections. (Such hacking is undetectable because there is no paper backup system that allows voters to verify that the machine is recording their vote accurately.)
I’m wondering if, rather than this scenario, if we might instead see every junior hacker in the country showing up with their own viruses and worms and other assorted hacks, and precincts electing everyone from Superman to Malcolm X, with more votes than voter in the precinct, etc.
It would be funny if that happened. But not surprising. It CAN happen.
Just a thought…