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Diebold Threatens Wary Voting Clerk 632

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From the Salt Lake Tribune: a wary county clerk called in BlackBoxVoting.org to test the integrity of Diebold voting fraud machines, part of a recent $27 million statewide purchase (to make sure that only the "Right" candidates win). Diebold goon says machines are now jinxed and it may cost up to $40,000 to fly in a company witch-doctor to make sure there were no warranty violations. Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned? "
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Diebold Threatens Wary Voting Clerk

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:23PM (#15018291) Homepage
    Is it me - or did that post make no sense...
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:35PM (#15018410) Homepage
      I think need to editorialize in the form of a righteously indignant rant overtook the poster and short-circuited his brain.

      Next time, maybe he should try just pasting the first paragraph of the article like everyone else does.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by JordanL (886154) <jordan.ledouxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:42PM (#15018482) Homepage
      No, it isn't just you... the guy sounded like he was the Dukakis campaign manager.
    • by sgant (178166) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:56PM (#15018621) Homepage Journal
      Are you even suppose to be submitting stories? Where's Zonk? Is Zonk on the phone? Get him in here....

      I just picture Taco in a bathrobe and slippers shuffling into "Slashdot Central" when Zonk and the others are out of the room and sitting down and submitting articles until they come back in, slap his hand and lead him back to his room to up his medications.

      Put down the submit key! PUT IT DOWN!
      • I just picture Taco in a bathrobe and slippers shuffling into "Slashdot Central" when Zonk and the others are out of the room and sitting down and submitting articles until they come back in, slap his hand and lead him back to his room to up his medications.

        I think you misspelled world of warcraft.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by jdeluise (804732)
      The editors are just trying to get us to actually RTFA. Did it work for you?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EvilEddie (243404) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:17PM (#15018782) Homepage
      It made sense.....it was just incredibly biased.....even for slashdot.
    • by ishmalius (153450) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:42PM (#15019032)
      Just a short civics refresher: A voting clerk is usually a retired little old lady volunteering to watch a polling station. A county clerk is a prominent elected official. Depending on the laws of the state, the county clerk likely has more than sufficient legal powers to call the election procedures into question. The summary makes the person sound like a poor downtrodden powerless gnome being bullied by an evil corporation. Maybe the story should tilt just a little bit in the other direction. But, still, more power to anyone who fights this questionable product.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:07PM (#15019228) Journal
      No. It's written in a peculiar dialect. Let me translate.
      Diebold has sold voting machines to Utah. Diebold is evil. They want to bully a poor innocent election clerk. Anything they do is eeeevil and their only aim in life is to subjugate democracy so that the evil Republicans win. They want to take away our democracy!!!11!!! The CIA is SPYING on us. And the president is a LIZARD!! A LIZZZARD I tell YoU. HE's frOm anOTHeR diMesSsniOPn and Thjhey're TAking away My Brain.
      Hope that clears it up for you.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Who posts this drivel? I read it twice... and the only conclusion I see is "anonymous reader" who posted it will eventually end up going "postal" on the steps of Diebold's corporate headquarters. And CMDR Taco, for letting that stuff go through? Ridiculous. No wonder /. is dying.
  • by celardore (844933)
    With such an effective president-deciding method as the 'Good Old Boys' network, who needs Diebold anyway?
    • by VJ42 (860241) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:33PM (#15018386)
      Or perhaps you should go back to pecnil, paper and a sealed box, like we still use over here in the UK. I trust that system much more that I'd ever trust a voting machine.
      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:52PM (#15018579) Homepage Journal

        Or perhaps you should go back to pecnil, paper and a sealed box, like we still use over here in the UK. I trust that system much more that I'd ever trust a voting machine.

        The difference is that in the US we vote on many more offices. My ballot generally includes some forty or fifty choices. It's easy enough to mark such a ballot with a pencil, but it gets difficult to count them, so some automation is useful. Further, a well-designed touch screen user interface is accessible to people with vision and motor skill deficiencies that would exclude them from voting with a paper ballot. Finally, a well-designed touch screen UI is less error-prone.

        So, there are good reasons to use machines, but there aren even better reasons *not* to use purely electronic tallies as the final results.

        Voting machines should print human-readable paper ballots, verifiable by the voter, that can also be counted by machine, and those ballots should be put in a locked metal box and then counted under supervision of all the major political parties to produce the official tallies.

        • by doormat (63648)
          Voting machines should print human-readable paper ballots, verifiable by the voter, that can also be counted by machine, and those ballots should be put in a locked metal box and then counted under supervision of all the major political parties to produce the official tallies.

          Nevada is one of the few states that has a voter verified paper trail. While the voting machines aren't as secure as our slot machines [reviewjournal.com], it seems to be quite apt for Americans to care more about their money than democracy.
      • The US and UK are very different places.

        Just look at one of today's headlines on CNN [cnn.com]

        As I write this, there is a video item on the front page titled:

        "Electrified fanny packs shock unruly students"

        I'd be surprised to see that on the BBC. :-)
    • mods the parent as "Troll", consider this, both Bush and Gore were both members of the "Skulls" when they were at Yale. The point, both of the nominees for President where of the same socio-economic class. I don't want to delve into any class war crap, I'm just saying that I've never seen, let's say, a college professor or someone who's not a millionaire or from a family that devotes it's legacy to political life - like the Kennedys or the Bushes - getting nomiated by the major politcal parties. And even i
      • Class Act (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:56PM (#15018613) Homepage Journal
        Both Clinton (D) and Nixon (R) were born poor, and made their political careers on their wits. Neither made any significant money outside their political careers, except books published after they left office. Even though they became rich by politics, they came from a disadvantaged underclass, exploiting America's class mobility to get power.

        There's lots of class war in America, where capitalism is rigged to preserve its best opportunities for rich families. But the president themself is more of a pawn in that war than an emblem of it.
        • Re:Class Act (Score:3, Insightful)

          by demachina (71715)
          I think its possible that things have changed in recent years and it is more likely the establishment is now seeking to manipulate elections more heavily than they did in the 70's-90's. It should be noted the Kennedy-Nixon election was manipulated by a rich establishment player, Joe Kennedy, to keep the Nixon out of office.

          "But the president themself is more of a pawn in that war than an emblem of it."

          I would say they are both a pawn AND an emblem of it. There aren't many politicians in this country that
          • Re:Class Act (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bm17 (834529) *
            My theory is that information technology has advanced to a stage where polling can accurately predict election outcomes. As such, I think we are seeing narrower and narrower elections because any given partisan issue which gives one side an advantage will be coopted by the other side. We no longer have politician who stand for issues; they pick their issues to maximize their votes. Now that election science has progressed to such a state and we have closer and closer elections, there is that much more te
  • by John Harrison (223649) <johnharrison@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:25PM (#15018304) Homepage Journal
    If someone looking at the machines causes them to be compromised then how on earth can you put them in voting booths when hundreds of people will have physical access to them in a private setting? If you depend on completely restricting access to the machines then you've already lost, haven't you? I applaud the clerk for taking this stand. The very idea that the machines can't be inspected by a third party shows just how fragile such systems are. If they were truely secure it wouldn't matter who looked at them or how.
    • by djmurdoch (306849) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:30PM (#15018357)
      Presumably the worry is that the degree of access given to the Black Box Voting inspectors is greater than a voter would have. Did they spend several hours taking the machine apart? Did they put it back together properly? A clerk might have noticed this happening on voting day.

      Of course, this raises the question: if the machine could be compromised in a few hours of hacking, are all the other machines stored securely enough that this couldn't have happened to them, too?

      • by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:23PM (#15018834) Journal
        Presumably the worry is that the degree of access given to the Black Box Voting inspectors is greater than a voter would have. Did they spend several hours taking the machine apart? Did they put it back together properly? A clerk might have noticed this happening on voting day.

        But they should be given that much access. An attacker is unlikely to just be "A Voter". These sorts of things are often, if not usually, inside jobs. An attacker should be assumed to have volunteered to manage the vote (which I gather is easy to do since few people want to do it) and should be assumed to be able to spend hours with a machine, probably in the comfort of their own home, and with access to any number of helpful resources, including the full resources of the local political party apparatus or the mafia. That last one's no joke, either.

        I'm not very worried about "A Voter", I'm worried about the entire system.

        In Diebold's defense, any machine handed over to an investigator should not be trusted again, for the very same reasons. However, Diebold should allow any customer to randomly select a voting system to subject to any arbitrary analysis, and replace it at no (extra) charge.
        • by curunir (98273) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:48PM (#15019558) Homepage Journal
          To be honest, election officials are not the type of insider I'd be most worried about. How do we know that there isn't some uber-complicated escape key sequence which drops the voter into an interface which shows them all the votes that have already been cast and allows them to modify those results. Given that voting booths basically guarantee complete privacy, we'd have no way of knowing. If all we have to verify the results is that the total number recorded is equal to the total number of people who voted, it would be trivial to modify those results. The whole concept of a voting machine whose design and code is not open to the public makes it way too easy to compromise election results.

          In Diebold's defense, Black Box Voting should have videotaped their investigation of the machine including keeping logs of every keystroke the entered into any interface. At a minimum, it would have shown their belief that everything relating to voting should be handled with no possible deception, but it also would have allowed Diebold to verify the integrity of the machines remotely and would give them important information about how someone determined to compromise the security of a voting machine would go about doing so.
      • by fermion (181285)
        But not greater than the access of election officials. Election material should be clearly tamper resistant and evident, and if the machine is compromised, should fail to function.

        The problem is this. In paper voting I am given a ballot to mark, and then put it in a locked box. If all is set up correctly, the lock can only be opened with many people watching, and it will be evident if the lock has been opened or changed.

        What Diebold appears to be saying, and what makes the snide comments of the poste

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:57PM (#15019635)
        I went to a demo-day for voting machines. When I got to the voting booth no one could see what I was doing. So I flipped over the machine, and removed the back panel. I yanked out the voting flash cards. put them in my pocket. Then I took them back out of my pocket and put them back into the machine. This was all done while two vendors stood 3 feet away watching just me. their was no curtain either, just the carol enclosure was sufficient to obsure their view.
        Not making this up.

        I noticed that the next time they cam to town thie newer model which has a paper logger attached no longer fit in the voting carol, So it was mounted on a stand and this would have been slightly harder to flip upside down. On the otherhand if I were a poll worker this would not have been a problem. The places where the tags and seals attach is easily defeated since you can snap out the plastic hinges.

        The point here is not that you fould not make one with a better design but that they chose not to. Just as diebold chose to use interpreted code on the ballot configuration cards that has the authority to re-write the vote files.

        SO it's not that you cannot make a secure system--eventually--but that there isn't even the slightest effort to attend to some mac-truck size holes. they know they are their and they prefer to hide them in propriatary obfuscation not secure them. These are not people we can just trust because they seem nice. You have every right to be 100% skeptical because every time someone looks hard we find they are not fixed right.
    • by rossifer (581396) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:06PM (#15018691) Journal
      The very idea that the machines can't be inspected by a third party shows just how fragile such systems are.

      In my opinion, at least as important is the belief that the proper group to see if the machines are compromised is the manufacturer.

      "We've decided we are going have Diebold come and go through these machines and see if they are compromised," [Comissioner Ira Hatch] said

      If the machines can't be verified as uncompromised on voting day by an election staffer at a voting location multiple times throughout the day, that's a huge problem. For the voting commission to accept Diebold's line that "That's the way it is." is simply unconscionable.

      Slot machines in Nevada can be checked against any number of parameters to make sure that 1) hardware has not been added or replaced, 2) the software has not been altered (from the registered version on file with the NGC) and 3) the settings for the software match the casino's payout statements. The casino can do these checks, the NGC can do these checks, interested public parties can do these checks (with the cooperation of either the casino or the NGC).

      Shouldn't we expect at least as much from the recordkeepers of democracy as we expect from a gambling house?

      Regards,
      Ross
      • by moonsammy (65351)
        Does anyone know if Ira Hatch of Utah is related to Orrin Hatch of Utah? I tried finding out via google or wikipedia but came up blank. If so I can certainly understand why he would feel that Diebold is the best outfit for the job, given the company's notorious Republican-friendly past statements. [commondreams.org]
  • Answer (Score:3, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:26PM (#15018315)
    Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?

    Because EVERY SINGLE VOTER isn't allowed a level of access to the machines to presumably perform an audit or otherwise tamper with and/or view the inner workings of the machines.

    The solution is quite simple:

    - Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)

    - Have an open source system (which actually isn't at all required if the above condition is met)
    • Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)

      Does Diebold offer this as an option? IIRC, the last I heard about it was that Diebold was claiming that it would be such a huge task to add this feature that they wouldn't be able to roll it out for another 3 or 4 years.
  • by FatSean (18753) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:26PM (#15018317) Homepage Journal
    And I don't mean just gerrymandering.

    I feel kinda sick...is Diebold gonna get away with this?

    Is this a case for the ACLU?
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:26PM (#15018320)
    Witch doctors? Jinxes? I read the entire linked article and didn't see any of that. What I did see was that Diebold wants to make sure the machines still work after a 3rd party possibly tinkered with them. I'd certainly be concerned if I sent a machine out into the wild, a 3rd party took a look at it, and now it may not be functioning properly. Diebold may be a little over the top here, but their concern is certainly warranted.
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:31PM (#15018377)
      So you're basically saying that the machines should not be used in a private setting without someone from Diebold checking them after each use to make sure they're still okay? If the machines were truly secure, they should be able to leave them on a street corner for a week and know that they'd be fine when they came to pick them up.
      • by hal2814 (725639) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:39PM (#15018448)
        No, what I'm saying is that I left the machine with a voting official who has some sort of administrative access to the machine. That administrator gave a third party company with no official material on the inner workings of the machine that administrator access to run some unknown tests on the machine and now they're claiming the machine may be broken dur to a memory error. I'd certainly be suspicious of what that 3rd party did to the machine. However, unlike Diebold, I would probably approach that third party directly to ask them what tests they've run and even provide them with an environment where they could reproduce their testing procedure before I went crying to the press about it.
    • I'd certainly be concerned if I sent a machine out into the wild, a 3rd party took a look at it, and now it may not be functioning properly. Diebold may be a little over the top here, but their concern is certainly warranted.

      Now... This is $40,000 just to see if the machines are still under warranty. Think about that. Now, I don't deny that it doesn't make sense to have a doublecheck after an unsupervised audit. But, isn't that part of the point of the warranty?

      And, as for Witch Doctors and Jinxes... N

  • by parasonic (699907) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:27PM (#15018328)
    Why does Diebold design these machines in such a way that they *CAN* be hacked? I think that involving an Operating System and software in the design of such a machine is a critical error. As a computer engineer, I realize that overcomplicating things can lead to errors. DSP's can make hardware extremely cheap, but there are places where analog circuits are cheaper and more realiable! Why hasn't Diebold designed a hardwired electronic circuit or a mechanical system with failsafes such that the machine can't be hacked, and the wrong candidate will not be selected if the machine fails? There are so many places where their current design can and will go wrong. I believe that it's time for these loonies (or preferrably someone else who has more sense) to come up with a more rudimentary and failsafe design!
    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:57PM (#15018626) Homepage Journal

      Why hasn't Diebold designed a hardwired electronic circuit or a mechanical system with failsafes such that the machine can't be hacked, and the wrong candidate will not be selected if the machine fails?

      Even better, use whatever kind of unsecure computer platform you want for the voting system, but have it print out a piece of paper with the voter's choices.

      That way the voter can see how they voted, and it's not necessary for them even to trust a simple hardwired system which, obviously, is still beyond the understanding of most of the population. Most people aren't EEs.

    • by starm_ (573321) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:11PM (#15018738)
      The fact that using a printed balot as a paper trail is such an obvious solution and the fact that printed recieps are so easy to implement is what makes the chosen convoluted, hackable, no-recount alternative so suspicious. What honest and experienced company would chose anything but the easy and elegant solution of a printout considering that it is already implemented on every ATM and all cash registers if not because they want to open the possibility to election fraud?

      No amount of tweaking will make the system secure. There is always a weak link. Even if the company had the best intentions in the world, how can they be certain that a lone partisan coder wouldn't sneak a line of code within what I'm sure are millions of lines? This could be done at any point in the chain of programs that handle the votes; from the user interface, to the final tally, through the individual machine databases, the talying computer, the flash memory files etc. etc. etc. I have plenty programming experience and I can tell you that it would be very easy to implement this "bug" so that it happened ONLY on the day of the election so that previous and following tests would show no bias.

      Consider,

      If you were a company and you were designing a voting machine you would have two options:

      1)Hire an expensive team of developers responsible for surveying all the code components of your system to make sure each and everyone one of them are 100% secure and bug free. A feat that no leading software company (say MS) has succeeded in doing for their own software even after decades and millions of man-hours of debugging and re-engineering.

      Or, 2) add a small printer similar or identical to the ones used for printing lotto tickets or even those good old receipt printers that are part of *every* cash register. These receips would then be hand veryfied by each voter and then put in a ballot box for future verification and recounts.

      Which option do you think is less expensive? What rational is there for a company to chose option one?
    • by jd (1658)
      You'd just need a tamper-proof electronic design. EPROMs (not EEPROMs, or Flash RAM, just regular non-reprogrammable EPROMs) would be pretty good for this. You write the code onto the EPROM, burn it with a UV, and then it cannot be altered. You then solder the EPROM onto the board, so replacement by someone with access to the electronics is impossible.

      No sane designer would allow anything to be loaded onto such a machine after construction time. If you need to replace the code, you should replace the mother

  • Why indeed . . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by failure-man (870605) <failureman.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:28PM (#15018340)
    "Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?"

    Did you sleep through ALL of yor cynicism classes? Diebold is throwing a fit to discourage anyone from snooping around in the guts of their voting machines.
     
    Someone might, y'know, find something. . . . . . . .
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:29PM (#15018355)
    > Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?

    Because if every single voter gets to hack the election results, then it's be a fair election. Duh!

    January 20, 2009: President Stallman took the oath of office today, after the GNU/ESR ticket (GNU's Not United-states!) narrowly beat the Gates/Ballmer team campaign in an election that stunned the ruling Demopublican coalition...

  • Troubling, indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Sarcastic (109765) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:31PM (#15018368)
    According to Diebold, the polling machines are suspect, and it'll cost $40,000 to verify everything.

    On the one hand - what if Diebold is purely running a bluff? Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Diebold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere, run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether its in their interest to declare the polling machines as sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine.

    On the other hand - what if Diebold is honest? Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Deibold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether the machines are in fact sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine.

    Whether Diebold is bona fide or not, they are likely to claim trade secret privilege to hide the actual workings of their machine or their testing mechanisms... and again, if they're telling the truth, then they would claim that, and if they're not, then their claim would be hard to challenge.

    So the fundamental question is this: do you trust Diebold?
    • by ikejam (821818)
      Hmm. i always thouhgt the fundamental question was : Shoud you have to trust Diebold?
    • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:38PM (#15018434) Homepage
      "Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Deibold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether the machines are in fact sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine."

      Here's where this particular lie is exposed:

      1) How can a single voting machine even cost $40K? I want to see the parts breakdown on *that*.

      2) Wouldn't you want all the machines recertified before each election? I mean, if they're sitting in warehouse someplace between elections, who knows who poked at them? So each machine costs $40K to use every election?

      3) And if this is all T&M, lets assume a generous hourly rate of $250/hour and the guy is staying in a $500 a night hotel. That means this takes about 3 full weeks to certify a machine!

      Does anybody understand the implications of Diebold claiming $40K worth of damages here?
    • So the fundamental question is this: do you trust Diebold?

      I'm not normally a die-hard zealot (somewhat redundant, I know) of open source, but this case is where I think it'd be best to have an open source system in place. Not so much in the sense that people could change the Official Version, but in the sense that people could view the code. To make sure nothing wrong is going on.

      Trusting three companies with elections of the United States, especially trusting a company whose leader has publically

    • by NigelJohnstone (242811) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:41PM (#15018475)
      "On the other hand - what if Diebold is honest? "

      On the third hand, it is a clear confession from Diebold that third parties can't accurately verify their voting machines and that their voting machines can be rigged.

      So any county that thinks it is verifying that the machine isn't rigged by runnig pre-ballot checks is wrong.
      They can point to this statement and say "IT ISN'T ENOUGH THAT WE VERIFY IT, BECAUSE DIEBOLD ADMITS THEY CAN BE RIGGED IN WAYS ONLY IT CAN DETECT".

  • by loggia (309962) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:32PM (#15018384)
    I guess I forgot to run them through Babelfish a few times?
  • by amightywind (691887) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:33PM (#15018391) Journal

    I have worked in the regulated fields of avionics and medical devices. You would think that federal and state governments would have regulations governing exhaustive testing of electronic voting machines against requirements to avoid conflicts like this. What is a secretary of state's job but to prevent pissing matches like this? I don't blame Diebold for not wanting some 3rd party yahoo breaking seals on their machines. But they can't point to a documented, legitimate qualification process to allay their customer's valid concerns. This is lousy engineering of the kind that pervades traditional IT.

    • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:48PM (#15018539) Homepage
      "I don't blame Diebold for not wanting some 3rd party yahoo breaking seals on their machines."

      Well, I understand what you're saying. But they're not Diebold's machines any more than this PC is not Microsoft's PC. That's an important distinction.

      "But they can't point to a documented, legitimate qualification process to allay their customer's valid concerns."

      Exactly right. Moreover, they have no *re-certification* process. Think about what will happen to these machines. The election is over. They are taken to the county warehouse. You pull them out 1 year later. How do I certify they haven't been tampered with? Some seal on the door??????? Or do you have to pay a special technician to come out for 3-4 weeks per machine to cerify each machine?

      "This is lousy engineering of the kind that pervades traditional IT"

      Perhaps. But Diebold seems to figure out how to do it right when banks insist they do it right, but here they chose not to do it that way. Curious? Sure seems it.
      • But Diebold seems to figure out how to do it right when banks insist they do it right

        As time has gone on, and the more I get to know the industry, I'm not convinced that banks are all that sophisticated with IT security issues.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:34PM (#15018397)
    Man Diebold looks slimier and slimier every passing week, but I'm more disturbed by Joe Demma's, Salt Lake's chief elections officer, response to Bruce Funk's actions. Granted, Funk acted by going around Demma by calling in Black Box Voting to check the Diebold machines, when presumably Demma is supposed to be responsible for that (just my guess as he's the chief elections officer).

    However, Demma seems more incensed at Funk because he may cost the state $40,000 for Diebold's astronomical recertification fee. He doesn't seem to be worried that people might not trust these machines. He doesn't seem to care that a state officer was worried enough to call in a non-profit third party to verify the integrity of these machines. I mean, these things could possibly affect the outcome of a vote, the foundation for a democratic republic! But instead of worrying about these machines he's clearly more upset about the $40,000 and Funk not talking to him about his concerns regarding the voting machines.

    And of COURSE Diebold is going to tell you the machines are fine and fair. Sheesh, they want to make money don't they?

    Isn't it great that chief elections officers have their priorities straight?

    Give me a ballot sheet and a pencil any day over these closed, proprietary black box machines.
  • Slashdot bias (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:34PM (#15018399)
    I know Slashdot has leanings certain ways on certain issues, and I'm fine with that, but we've just officially completed the smooth transition into a 15-year-old's blog.

    Christ, this is sad to see.
  • I was appalled when I first heard that here in Utah we too were going to be subjected to overpriced election machines with the sole ability to malfunction.

    I heard it at a Republican caucus. What was amazing was that almost everyone there was equally appalled as me. Here I thought that only the super-left, like myself, would be interested in vote integrety, but here were 50+ middle aged men and women all just as angry that we were installing systems that other states are thinking of getting rid of.

    I'm pe

  • by danpsmith (922127) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:34PM (#15018407)
    First what they do is print confusing ballads in florida to turn people against paper ballets and create an outrage at typical means of voting, then offer a very simple touch screen way of voting without a paper trail. Congratulations, even the symbolic act of picking between the two puppets is on its way out.
  • by blcamp (211756) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:39PM (#15018449) Homepage

    The county clerk should just get out. He's already finished. The state has already gotten into bed with Diebold, and the clerk has already tainted himself in the eyes of the state by calling in the activists.

    Even if he right about the machines (and I believe he is)... the Powers That Be have already made their mind up about the issue.

    The only ones now that can change things are the voters themselves, and that's a very tall order. We can barely get a 50% turnout to vote for president... how the hell can we get enough people out to call for a change to voting devices? And then, overcome the government's (and Diebold's) spin?

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:43PM (#15018494) Homepage Journal
    Yes, a third party should examine the machines.

    However, it should be a disinterested third party, not an advocacy group. No matter how well meaning and ethical the people in the group are, they can nonetheless be painted as enemies of the vendor.

    What should be done is to have a professional firm that specializes in computer security audit the machines and provide a report on whether the machines are secure; if not whether and how they can be suecured. And provided the machines can be secured, what policies and procedures are needed to operate them so that fraud can be discouraged and detected.

    This is just like having an independent financial auditor come in and look at your books and your financial control procedures.
  • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ravenscall (12240) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#15018509)
    Joe Demma, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, the state's chief elections officer, was plainly incensed with Funk for allowing Black Box to probe the machines.
          "The problem is that instead of asking us or Diebold, Bruce Funk allowed a third party to put the warranty in jeopardy,"


    So let me get this straight.

    Election commissioner notices an irregularity in the memory of some voting machines, from whom the owner of the manufacturing company has very clear partisan leanings.

    Election commissioner calls in a third party to run testing on the machines.

    Now, I do not see a problem with third parties running audits on the machines used to count my votes. In fact, I want as MANY third parties running tests on thes to insure thier accuracy, as the fate of myself, my family, mmy state, and my country will be affected by what this machine spits out.

    However, here we have third party verification being spun by Diebold as being a VERY BAD THING.

    Whatever happened to transparency in government and in democratic processes? Is it not one of the core values of America?
  • by frankie (91710) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:47PM (#15018536) Journal
    The article blurb here is low on detail and high on gasoline, so here's some tidbits:
    1. Emery County is majority Republican in both population and voting.
    2. Bruce Funk was not skeptical of the machines until after inspecting them.
    3. He was, however, a bit worried that the state expected local officials to be responsible for all problems, but mandated the use of these machines.
    4. He then noticed that supposedly identical & pristine machines had widely differing amounts of free memory.
    5. Rather than go to the state or to Diebold, he called Black Box Voting [bbvforums.org].
    6. It's really doubtful that (as Diebold claims) font differences could eat up 20MB.
    • Font differences could eat up 20MB without a whole lot of problem, but the real question is why were there any differences at all?
      Once a given configuration is tested and certified, it should be frozen and cloned. The machines should run tripwire before every election to insure they are all at this frozen state.
  • Levers of Power (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:49PM (#15018555) Homepage Journal
    Clint Curtis, the Diebold programmer who says politicians paid him to rig voting machines in Florida, is running for Congress [clintcurtis.com]. If what he says he can do is true, who would have the guts to run against him? Alternately, since he was fired and the voting machine company has a grudge, how can he possibly win?
    • how can he possibly win?

      That just depends on how good of a coder he is and how well he hid his backdoors now doesn't it?

      Unless he spent all his time just rigging it once, not to be able to do it when he wanted. Maybe he put some cool eastereggs in and in 2008 Fidel Castro will win in Florida!
      • by stinerman (812158) <`nathan.stine' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#15020173) Homepage
        All jests aside, I think its going to take someone hacking the machine to display some incredible result for people to get excited about this issue. I'm thinking someone needs to hack machines in a small, safe D or R state -- perhaps Wyoming or DC. Just imagine if John McCain won DC or Hilary Clinton won Wyoming ... both with over 90% of the vote. That'd raise some eyebrows and, more importantly, not affect the end result of the election, assuming 3 EVs wouldn't change the balance.

        Any takers?
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:50PM (#15018557) Homepage Journal
    By the end of the Monday meeting, Diebold engineers convinced the county commissioners the discrepancies in the machines' memory are the result of testing and of additional printing fonts.

    "The problem is that instead of asking us or Diebold, Bruce Funk allowed a third party to put the warranty in jeopardy," Demma said in a telephone interview from Emery County. "If I sound frustrated, it's because I am frustrated. We don't know what they did to the machines. If Bruce would have just asked, we could have saved this forty grand."

    First the BS part. If every machine is identical and every machine went through the same testing procedure then there shouldn't be ANY discrepancies in the machines memory. This is presuming that before the elections only that data necessary to perform the tabulation are on the systems. This is total BS to say that the discrepancies are the results of fonts.

    As far as the $40,000 to 'fix' whatever is wrong with them, how does anyone know what needs to be fixed if Diebold doesn't allow anyone to test the machines? How does anyone know that Diebold won't surrepticiously make changes which could alter the outcome of an election by performing this fix?

    Now for the truth part. By allowing a third party to examine the machines without notifying anyone, Funk did go a bit overboard. This is not to say that he went beyond his mandate to protect the integrity of the voting process. He should be commended for making sure all the i's are dotted and t's crossed before allowing votes to be cast.

    However, by not informing the commissioners of his desire to have a third-party examine the machines for flaws or outright corruption, he has invalidated any findings by Black Box since it is true no one knows what they did or did not do.

    The correct process would have been to tell the commissioners of his desire for a third-party review and if they objected or if Diebold objected, he could have explained his reasonings why he wanted another set of eyes to check things out (which is pretty much what was said in the article). If they refused the request he would have a much more firm standing to say whether or not the machines will do what the manufacturer claims they will do since by not allowing the examination it would appear that they, either the commissioners or Dieblod (or both), have something to hide.

    As it stands now he's shot himself in the foot because he went behind everyones back and secretly had someone else examine the machines.

    What is truly interesting is that the commissioners don't appear to be interested in what Black Box found but are more concerned that they'll have to shell out $40,000. That doesn't sound like the people are too interested in ensuring that the machines will work correctly but are more concerned about bean counting.

    If Funk does resign I hope he vehemently and vociferously expresses his doubts as to the capabilities of these machines and insist that people use absentee ballots to vote. He should make the rounds on tv so he can clearly explain why he has his doubts so the people can understand what is going on.

  • by no haters (714135) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:57PM (#15018629)
    Over at blackboxvoting.org they have some more information about what tests were actually run on the machines, what they found, and what diebold's official response was. Apparently, BBV did not actually do the tests themselves, they arranged for 3rd party security experts to go in and do the analysis.

    Here's the link:

    http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth .cgi?file=/1954/19743.html [bbvforums.org]

    It's on black box voting's website, so obviously it will be biased, but at least it gives more detail than the gloss-over provided by the tribune.
  • Diebold vs Vegas? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xipho (193257) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:13PM (#15018754)
    So in vegas there are these things called "slot machines". You put quarters in and get big money back. They are regulated. Its very hard to tamper with them. You'd think that voting by machine, which some might say is slightly more important, might be at least as equally highly regulated. This of course doesn't mean that its a good idea or that there still wouldn't be problems, just to say there are systems where machines (mostly those that track money) do a pretty good job.
  • by FirstTimeCaller (521493) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:14PM (#15018758)

    $40K to re-image a drive and maybe poke around to make sure no key logging hardware is in place (although a lot of good that will do with a touch screen)? Sounds like easy money to me.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:14PM (#15018760) Homepage
    In the US the requirements for voting are insane.
    • Results 15 minutes (or less) after polls close.
    • Absolute minimum of paid workers - nobody wants to do it. No unpaid "volunteers". Staff mostly comes from civil service positions where they work for a week every two years but have to be on city/county payroll as full time civil service positions.
    • All voting is at least county level, sometimes finer. I voted last week and there were three different ballots for a single precinct. Magnify this by the number of precincts nationwide - over 50,000 maybe more.

    Comparing this to other countries is pointless - nobody has as fine-grained voting, absurd expectations from the news-watching population and "zero participation". No purely paper system can keep up any longer, not because of "hanging chads" but because the news media will release "results" (real or made up) as soon as they can. Any delay for counting - by non-existent "volunteers" - is reported as potential fraud by the news media.

    Sure, some kind of countable paper might be nice, but it leads to silly things. If you sit five people down to count marks on 100,000 pieces of paper you will not get one result. At best, you will get two or three. And, it is not repeatable. We have had close elections recently that have gone through several recounts only to still be decided by one party giving up. I believe it was most recently the Govenor of Washington that was decided this way because the results were less than 1,000 votes different and each count produced different results, with a different winner.

    I know paper isn't the answer.

    As to the reasonablness of the $40K fee, it is real simple. Diebold is being asked to recertify the machines and they can charge anything they want. Government contracts like this always result in signficant charges like this because there is no option. It is stupid and naive to assume the fee would be anything like time-and-materials for a couple of real workers. There is also virtually unlimited liability if it is done wrong or not done at all. Compare this to recertifying a heart-lung machine for a hospital and consider that it would only be one person dead if it was wrong.

  • by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:23PM (#15018836)
    In answer to the poster's question Diebold is behaving this way because the machines are not secure nor can they be. Anyone who gets a close look at them can see that. Diebold, like ES&S, and Sequoia is opting to muscle in and abuse people rather than admit that no machine is perfect and try to make them as good as possible.

    The companies have done similar things in other states. In Florida All 3 have refused to sell any systems to Volusia County. The county's Election Director Ion Sancho was the one who allowed his systems to be tested for security and discovered the "Hrusti Hack" namely whereby the machines will load arbitrary code stored on their memory cards and execute them. Such a hack makes it trivial to change ballots, erase totals, etc. It has since been shown that systems by Sequoia Inc. are vulnerable to the same hack.

    Volusia county is also the county that caused Al Gore to initially declare defeat in 2000. During election night Al Gore was leading Bush with a comfortable margin. At 10om someone uploaded a card that reported -16,022 votes for Al Gore and 10,000 for some socialist canidate all from a precinct with 600 voters.

    This card passed all of Diebold's stringent "safety checks" (whatever the hell they were) and changed the statewide totals putting Gore well behind Bush. Gore declared defeat. After that the county discovered the errors and reset the system claiming that the new totals were correct. Nevertheles the fact remains that the card got in, was loaded, and threw off a U.S. Presidential election.

    Now the companys won't sell to Volusia and are telling the state and the feds that it's Sancho's fault because he wants to test the systems for security. Florida's Governor Jeb Bush (brother of shrub) has also personally blamed Sancho for putting the state behind.

    Meanwhile the Department of Justice is threatening to sue the state or withold funds because the county has not bought new systems even though noone will sell said systems to them. The idea being, apparently, that he should just sell out the elections.

    At the end of the day the collusion and bullying going o by the companies, by the U.S. Government over HAVA (written by Bob Ney former congressmen for Diebold and now a leading figure in the Abramoff corruption investigation) and by frightened state governments is insane. At the end of the day the only losers will be the American People, of all stripes.
  • anymore info? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hurfy (735314) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:27PM (#15018871)
    Other than the slight bias in the posting.....at least one of the tagging keywords is biased ;)

    How many machines is this? They mention $40k, is that to check 4 machines or 40,000 machines. Makes a slight difference in whether the charge is reasonable. Can certainly see diebold point here, i wouldn't certify the machines when you let someone tinker with em.

    It said he was suspicious of the memory, so he can see if anything changes between the original, after blackbox, and after double checking by diebold i hope :) Nothing better change between ANY of those ;)

    Our $900 point of sale terminal prints a receipt, don't get why this is sooo hard to get voting terminals to do it when they cost $27,000,000 / x. Then a test run would be simple and not require any tinkering it seems.

    What do you do when you don't trust either side?

  • by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:23PM (#15019875) Homepage Journal
    Computers are over-used. Why the hell do we need computer-operated toasters (yes, the good ol' simple toaster is often microprocessor-assisted)? Computers are overkill for deciding how light or dark your toast should be.

    Likewise, computers are probably the wrong tool for voting. Accountability is removed, we've now put elections at risk of hardware crashes, software hacks, network mishaps, and so forth. Not only that, if the system IS hacked, how does one find that vote I cast against Hillary in the 2008 election? Are votes in hacked disgregarded in districts where the system has been tampered with (bad), or is the final result delayed until another election can be scheduled on a brand-new system (not quite as bad, but still bad?), or on paper (which takes us back to where we were in 2004)?

    Computers are great tools (I wouldn't be on /, if I didn't think so) but I think we over-use them. Modern society treats the computer as the one-size-fits-all BFH. Computers are possibly the worst solution for elections because:

      - If networked, can be tampered with remotely, so no amount of police officers guarding over the machines can prevent against crackers
      - If wireless, can be interfered with very easily
      - Unless hardened, a highly-directional antenna with a moderate-power transmitter can interfere with the box's operation
      - Where is the paper trail in the event of the above?
      - Paper ballots can be counted under the supervision of both major parties and independents. Not possible with electronically-cast votes.
      - If an exploit at the voting console is discovered, what can prevent ballot stuffing? With paper ballots, it's easy; if you drop more than one ballot in, at minimum you will be disallowed from dropping it in the box. Best scanario, you get arrested and charged with a federal crime for being such a dumbass.

    In a republic where the representatives are elected democratically, abandoning the paper ballot is folly. Even with the pain of Florida elections arising because a handful of idiots cannot follow very clear arrows and directions, the paper ballot is the very best tool for electing officials. The election is documented with physical evidence, very easily supervised, and tampering is very easily discovered immediately and the idiots responsible being held responsible with very little investigation required.

    Leave electronic voting technology up to surveys, unofficial NON-BINDING referenda (e.g., a referendum put forth for representatives to gather official majority public opinion), and the private sector.

    Heck, even in IT, computers are not always the best solution for tracking all data or accomplishing all tasks.

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