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Diebold Threatens Wary Voting Clerk 632

An anonymous reader writes "From the Salt Lake Tribune: a wary county clerk called in 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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  • 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 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 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.
  • Now, before anyone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AnonymousPrick ( 956548 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:34PM (#15018403)
    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 if they did, they're treated as crackpots. Every election year, our new media profiles some guy who's running for president on some wacky platform or they're running to make a statement, like "Make pot legal!"
  • 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 forkazoo ( 138186 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {snarcesorw}> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#15018513) Homepage
    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... No, the article didn't use those terms. But, Diebold clearly takes the stance that only they are qualified to work with the voodoo in the machines. Anybody else would just break it. If unsupervised access to the voting machines is so bad, why should Diebold get it? IMHO, it should be illegal for the voting machine repair guys to work for the same company as the voting machine salesmen. The salesmen should have to open up the specs so that the government can have whoever they trust double check the machines, rather than relying on the fact that "Only Diebold Is Qualified To Make Unsupervised (Changes | Audits To The Voting Machines."
  • 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.
  • 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 []. 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?
  • by dkaimal ( 645075 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:15PM (#15018762)

    As has been discussed so many times on /. most of the problems with the Diebold stems from the unneccessary complexity of the system

    Other systems in use like the Indian Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs, offer all of the functional features with a much higher level of security and accessibility and for a price that is very easy on the taxpayers. For a very interesting comparison look at pared-with-diebold.html []

  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:27PM (#15018885)
    It's not just you. I had problems with the awkward sentence construction, the all-cap screaming, as well as the words "goon," "witch doctors." Once I put on my Cmdr Taco screening filter, however, it all made sense.
  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Conare ( 442798 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:59PM (#15019160) Journal
    Here is the link to the article mentioned in parent. .cgi?file=/1954/19743.html []

    Also, Blackbox did NOT conduct the audit. They recommended two security companies to the COUNTY clerk who hired them in line with his purview to conduct an independent audit. BTW, this is not some random clerk as one poster suggested. County Clerk is an elected office in my county.

    Also, there were apparently 3 versions of the voting machine delivered (So which one is the validated one?)

    Also, the delivered machines had been marked as having failed acceptance testing BY DIEBOLD.

    Also, the memory discrepancy cannot be accounted for by Diebold's font explanation.

    Also, apparently Diebold is running around replacing motherboards on other delivered systems.

    Question: Why aren't we throwing bricks yet? This is way worse then bad French labor laws.

    Note to the literal minded: I am not actually advocating that anyone engage in violent rioting, however a good loud peaceful protest is definitely in order. And I am not one to protest frivolously (see sig)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:59PM (#15019161) Homepage Journal
    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 motherboard entirely. That is the only guaranteed way of ensuring that the software and hardware fully match up.

    Ideally, such machines should have either no Operating System at all, or have a very minimal hardware abstraction layer. OSKit would almost be overkill. The reason being that you don't want to multitask, memory management can all be static (as all structures are of fixed size and number), drivers will be minimal and linear, the system will be fixed in design, and you don't need any kind of system library.

    None of this is rocket science. No, correction - a lot of rocket computers are built along similar sorts of ideas, as they need to be robust, fast, efficient and secure.

  • by alva_edison ( 630431 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:02PM (#15019187)
    Let's face it, most people couldn't figure out how to work a computerized automatic bowling score-keeping system, much less something that actually required thought.

    Have you ever used an automatic bowling score-keeping system? Most have a UIs that are among the worst designs I've ever seen. Much of this is to try and prevent people from changing scores. Standard Functions people might want to do (like add a person to the current game) become 15-minute sessions of button mashing trying to get the machine to let you do it. If voting machines are half as complicated as one of these scoring machines, I fear for those states/counties intending on using them.
  • by moonsammy ( 65351 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:21PM (#15019335)
    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. []
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:47PM (#15019553)
    For example, besides electing a new mayor, we voted on what is to be done with a vacant building on the waterfront, whether to keep floride in the city water system, etc.

    I suspect this is part of the problem.

    I've long held the view that the most effective way to get a reasonably democratic political system is to have the electorate vote on exactly two things: deciding the Big Issues (constitutional changes and the like) directly; and electing the representatives who will decide on the Little Issues for them.

    My own experience, from running a medium-sized, not-for-profit organisation, is that few people have the time to fully research every choice that the management must make, even if they have the inclination. If you rely too much on mass voting, you get well-intentioned people actually voting against their best interests through lack of understanding, failure to see the big picture and appreciate the wider or longer-term implications of their vote, etc. Thus you can't make all the detailed little decisions by consultation with the entire electorate, or even in a big committee; it ceases to represent the best interests of the electorate beyond a certain point.

    What does work, IME, is:

    1. creating a basic framework (in national politics, that's your constitution, basic legal processes, etc.) within which a given administration will work
    2. electing representatives who you think will act most in alignment with your personal preferences on lesser issues
    3. letting them get on with representing you.
    Naturally, such representatives may still consult their electorate on any given issue, and any given voter may contact their representative to express a view on any given subject. A representative who fails to consult adequately when it is appropriate risks not being re-elected, so as long as your terms of office are of reasonable duration, there is relatively low risk of abuse. You can also have a safeguard where if a sufficiently large number of voters want to vote on a particular subject, they can force a vote with or without the consent of their representatives.

    This removes entirely the need for routine voting on minor issues like how to use a building or what to put in water. I suspect that almost all such issues are best left to be decided by representatives with the time to investigate the implications properly anyway. Joe Public just won't know in a lot of cases, and the voting will essentially be a random number generator with a small bias due to people who actually do understand any given decision.

    The only remaining question then becomes how big is big enough to vote on separately, and what structure of representatives will you use: do you elect just the national legislature, or local officials too; do you elect major public offices like the heads of public services or just the political guys?

    Once you've sorted that out, hopefully you never have more than a handful of people to elect at once. Have your voting machine tally up the voter's choice for each decision/election electronically, but have it also print separate, human-readable slips, on different paper colours for different decisions, and have the voter put these slips in matching colour-coded boxes. Bingo, you get instant results from the machines when voting closes, but you have an easy manual verification of the count if it's close and/or challenged.

  • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:01PM (#15019667)
    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 Monoliath ( 738369 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:44PM (#15020056)
    "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."

    I think this is the perfect solution to all of this electronic black box voting nonsense. I can't believe Diebold wasn't forced to implement this feature into all of the electronic voting machines produced. How could such a simple paper trail / objective proof mechanism be overlooked?

    When I ask myself questions like that, and realize that there is no excuse for their not to be, I can't help but believe something is definitely going on behind the scenes with the software that tallies the votes.

    There is no reason for this not to be mandatory on all existing machines, no reason what so ever.
  • by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan.stine@gmail.cTEAom minus caffeine> 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:11PM (#15020781)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:17PM (#15020822)
    Do you ever wonder why, when there is some question of wrong-doing on the part of the president, he always tries to thwart any investigation into his actions? If he were innocent of anything untoward, wouldn't a transparent investigation serve to vindicate him and prove his detractors wrong?

    Do you ever wonder why it's the Republicans who insist on using Diebold machines, when they've been proven to be easily hackable and consistently show faulty results that favour the Republican candidates? Do you ever think that if your party was fair and honest, they would insist on using machines that ensured an accurate vote count?

    Cheney, who is still on the Halliburton payroll, keeps saying that he has 'earmarked' those earnings for charity in the future. Do you ever think about why he doesn't just donate the money now?

    Do you ever wonder where your tax dollars have gone, when you hear that the national debt is now at $9 Trillion dollars, and all you see is the cutting of funding to health needs, education, transportation systems, etc., instead of the expansion of any of those things?

    Do you ever wonder why Bill Frist is still being described as a 'GOP presidential hopeful', when he's under investigation for stock fraud and charitable donation fraud? Do you ever think that if your party had ANYONE to run who is NOT likely to be indicted on one charge or another, they'd be touting him as the likely candidate?

    Do you ever wonder why the Noble Cause we're fighting for in Iraq keeps changing from week to week? Do you ever think that if that cause was something clear-cut and truthful, Bush could have told Cindy Sheehan what it was, and saved himself a lot of bad publicity?

    Do you ever wonder why your president keeps telling you how engaged he is in the running of the country, while at the same time he keeps referring to things 'he didn't know anything about', like the Dubai ports deal?

    Do you ever wonder why your president has degrees from Harvard and Yale, but he can't speak for more than two minutes without annihilating the English language? Do you ever think about why, if he's so smart, he failed at every business venture he was ever involved in? Do you look at the national debt and wonder if there isn't some 'fuzzy math' at play here?

    Do you ever wonder why your president constantly talks about being pro-life, when he gleefully executed people as the Governor of Texas, and laughed about the fact on national television during the 2000 primaries?

    Do you ever wonder why your president and his administration hold themselves out to be 'good Christians', while they embrace torture, rendition, and secret prisons?

    Do you ever wonder why your self-proclaimed born-again Christian president took an oath, on the holy Bible, to uphold the Constitution, but then says he is not bound by the laws set out in that same document?

    Do you ever wonder why your elected officials do their utmost to protect the unborn, but do nothing to improve the lives of the already-born?

    Do you ever wonder why your elected officials say they are representing your best interests, when they support laws that put the interests of Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Business above your interests every time?

    Do you ever wonder why your elected officials are stuffing their own pockets with Abramoff money, while at the same time they're swearing they never even met the man?

    Do you ever wonder why your elected officials are always scolding you about living within your means, while they vote themselves raises every time the cost of living goes up? Do you ever think about all of the extended trips they take to exotic places on your dime, to discuss how bad things are back home?

    Do you ever wonder why your party members invariably respond to legitimate questions about their policies by attacking the person who had the temerity to pose the question? Do you ever think that maybe their policies are indefensible, and that's why they consistently resort to that tactic?

    Do you ever

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