Must Read!!!

Please go read this short, powerful post by Max Cleland.
Max lost three limbs in VietNam. He was head of the Veterans Administration under Carter. Later he was elected to the Senate in Georgia. But in the post-9/11 fear-frenzy Saxby Chambliss, a Republican draft-dodger, ran Karl Rove ads saying Cleland was unpatriotic and a coward. Those ads, with a little help from voting machine problems, put Chambliss in the Senate.
Now Chambliss has a challenger, Democrat Jim Martin. And Max Cleland wants you to know his feelings about the race. So go read Max Cleland: Georgia On My Mind.
If you are in Georgia, or know anyone in Georgia, please ask them to read this, too.

Today’s Voting Machines Story – Time To Act!

Daily Kos: Black Box activsts — now’s your time to put up,

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.

Go help.

I Predict Trouble Next Week Because Of Paperles Machines

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.

Today’s Voting Machines Story

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…

Today’s Voting Machines Story

Ars Technica is an online magazine for techies. They’re covering the voting machines fiasco.
How to steal an election by hacking the vote,

What if I told you that it would take only one person—one highly motivated, but only moderately skilled bad apple, with either authorized or unauthorized access to the right company’s internal computer network—to steal a statewide election?
[. . .] Thanks the recent and rapid adoption of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in states and counties across America, the two scenarios that I just outlined have now become siblings (perhaps even fraternal twins) in the same large, unhappy family of information security (infosec) challenges. Our national election infrastructure is now largely an information technology infrastructure, so the problem of keeping our elections free of vote fraud is now an information security problem. If you’ve been keeping track of the news in the past few years, with its weekly litany of high-profile breeches in public- and private-sector networks, then you know how well we’re (not) doing on the infosec front.

The article goes into technical detail on how to accomplish the theft of an election. But then,

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Today’s Voting Machines Story

At Cracking a Diebold In 4 minutes and 12 Dollars. How easy is it to hardware hack a Voting Machine?
Go see the pictures. In four minutes they had complete access to the memory card without disturbing the official seals that are supposed to certify that the machine could not have been tampered with. And remember, because these seals supposedly guarantee that the machines have not been tampered with, these machines are often allowed to go to people’s homes the night before the election or are otherwise allowed to disappear from official supervision.
This is about proving that the vote counts reflect the will of the voters. We need to require paper ballots that the voter looks at and agrees represent the voter’s intentions.

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Today’s Voting Machines Story

Touch-Screen Machines Stir Election Anxiety in Md.,

Touch-screen polling machines, which will be used statewide in Maryland when voters go to the polls for the Sept. 12 primary, were intended to calm fears of election flimflam raised in the wake of the infamous 2000 presidential balloting in Florida.
But the new machines themselves have become a politically charged topic in Maryland. Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who agreed to purchase them three years ago, now questions whether they can provide fair and accurate elections, given their vulnerability to computer hackers and their lack of a paper trail to document votes.
[. . .] The Brennan report notes that systems without paper trails — a paper record or receipt that voters can use to confirm votes — lack an important countermeasure to software attacks: the ability to compare paper to electronic records.

They can talk all the want to about “securing” the machines, etc. But here is the problem. NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO, as long as there is no “paper trail” – a physical record of each vote that is CHECKED BY THE VOTER, then there is NO WAY TO KNOW if the machines were hacked or not. With no paper trail THERE IS NO REASON TO TRUST THE RESULTS of the election because no one can PROVE that the results are accurate.
Period, end of story.

Voting Machines – Missing the Point

The Washington Post writes a long article and misses the point. Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting,

The newer technology, such as touch-screen and optical scan systems, held the promise of making voting more secure, transparent and accessible. But as the new technology was implemented, voting rights activists raised questions about whether vendors had paid enough attention to security. Activists pushed for the use of technology that still provided a paper record.
Many of the criticisms of voting technology were originally dismissed as exaggerations promulgated by partisans displeased with election results. But the criticisms have been viewed with increasing gravity as prominent computer scientists have rallied behind them. Although it has not been shown that an election was compromised by a security flaw, several elections since 2000, including in this year’s primaries, have experienced problems with the technology that have delayed results.

The paper records are the point. Security of the machines does not matter, the code in the computers does not matter, nothing matters if the machines print a paper ballot that the voter looks at and puts into a ballot box for election officials to count. That is PROOF of how the voter voted. If you have the paper to count, there is no point in trying to rig the machines because you’ll get caught. You can still have instant election results that come from the machine. People will trust it if you can go to the paper and count it. If you can count it you can prove it. If you can’t count it, you can’t prove it.

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Today’s Voting Machines Story

Voting machine companies now refuse to sell to election officials who might TEST the machines to see if they are vulnerable to vote manipulation. These officials are required by federal law to to acquire new voting machines, so the refusal to sell can ruin careers.
Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors,

A spokesman said Diebold will not sell to Sancho without assurances that he will not permit more such tests, which the company considers a reckless use of the machines.

And surprise, it is Bush (lack of) federal oversight causing trouble again,

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Voting Machines

Missed this a few days ago: As Elections Near, Officials Challenge Balloting Security,

Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.
… Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:
“Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?”
Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.

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California Voting Machines Emergency?

Apparently the Republican Secretary of State in California may be stealthily REVERSING the previous Democratic Secretary of State’s decertification of Diebold paperless voting machines! Raw Story and Brad Blog have stories about this (links below). Here’s a summary: Democratic Secretary of State Shelley had decertified Diebold machines as dangerous to democracy. (He also sought to prosecute the company for lying to state officials.) Then, after the recall and Schwarzenegger’s election Shelley was forced out of office on contrived charges, with a Republican appointed in his place. Now there is funny business going on and it looks like Diebold may be coming back. I tracked down a new document [Note - PDF] outlining requirements for voting machines, and the previous requirement that they produce paper ballot backups is NOT on the list.

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