I got slammed by the Wall Street Journal!


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Jim March
July 27, 2004, 03:57 AM
JOHN FUND ON THE TRAIL


No Doctored DRE
Democrats use computer hysteria to get out the vote.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

BOSTON--You don't have to go far here to find a Democrat who says the 2000 election was stolen. John Kerry is one of them. He claims a million African-Americans nationwide had their votes stolen and he won't let it happen again.

On Sunday, he followed that up by saying that his legal SWAT team is looking at "each and every district" with possible voting problems: "We may or may not be bringing challenges publicly in the course of the next few weeks," he said in Ohio. He mentioned that in Florida some voters are being removed from the rolls if they didn't respond to a letter from election officials. Since many states routinely send such mailings to those who haven't voted in years, we are in for an avalanche of litigation if that's the level of scrutiny Mr. Kerry is applying. He might even have to ask former trial lawyer John Edwards to lend a hand.

Many delegates here buy into a more bizarre conspiracy theory: that unscrupulous "Manchurian Programmers" could manipulate the new electronic voting machines that 35 million Americans will use in November. They note that Walden O'Dell, the CEO of Diebold Election Systems, sent a personal fund-raising letter last year to Republicans stating his goal was "helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." This month, Moveon.org held rallies in 19 states to demand that new electronic machines print paper receipts to ensure an accurate count, something only Nevada will be able to implement by November. Democratic State Rep. Chris Smith of Florida says he is using concerns that votes will be lost or manipulated as a get-out-the-vote tool for John Kerry: "I tell them to bring an extra person to the polls."

It's true some states have moved too quickly using new federal money to buy Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DREs), which work like an ATM. Several states have reported software failures, and California officials have accused Diebold of using uncertified software and misleading them. But exaggerating the problems with DREs will only fuel a litigation mindset that could make Florida 2000 look like a moot court.

Joe Andrew, chairman of the Democratic National Committee until 2001, is a senior adviser to a biotech firm that owned several Internet companies. He says the conspiracy theories aren't healthy and last month he told the Maryland Association of Election Officials that "When it comes to electronic voting, most liberals are just plain old-fashioned nuts." While conservatives were skilled at coordinating their messages, he added, "that does not mean there is a vast right-wing conspiracy trying to steal votes in America, as the loudest voices on the left are saying today."

Mr. Andrew said the people obsessed about DRE manipulation are either computer experts with impressive technical knowledge but little practical experience with elections or left-leaning computer users who are conspiratorial by nature. He noted with regret that they have been joined in their hysteria by prominent Democrats who "are rallying behind the anti-DRE bandwagon in a big election year because they think that this movement is good for Democrats."

They're wrong. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has generally supported electronic voting because the voters who are most likely to be helped by DREs are (a) the disabled (they can vote without assistance); (b) the less educated (they're comforted by the machines' similarity to the ATM); (c) the elderly (you can increase the type size) and (d) citizens with limited English skills (the machines are multilingual).

Indeed, whatever problems DREs have must be compared to other existing systems. In last year's California recall election, punch-card systems didn't register a valid vote on 6.3% of all ballots cast. For optical scan systems, the under-vote rate was 2.7% and for DREs it was only 1.5%. As for the theories that DREs could be programmed to change an election outcome, Mr. Andrew dismissed them by saying, "the liberal Internet activists are bonkers." John Lott, an American Enterprise Institute economist who has studied election systems, adds that some of the obsession about DREs, "sounds a lot like an effort to anger some people into voting while providing the basis for lots of election litigation if the results are close."

The leading crusader against DREs is Bev Harris, a journalist from Seattle, who has co-authored a book called "Black Box Voting." But she suffered a blow to her credibility this month when it was revealed that last year she had joined computer programmer Jim March in filing a "whistle-blower" lawsuit in California that seeks monetary damages from Diebold for machine failures there. The lawsuit, known as a qui tam because it rewards those who help the government identify fraud, would allow Ms. Harris and Mr. March to collect up to 30% of any award. "This is about money now--a case of the capitalist system at work," Mr. March told the AP.

Their lawsuit has touched off a firestorm of criticism from other anti-DRE activists. They note that last year Ms. Harris wrote on the Web site Democratic Underground that she and her colleagues "came to the conclusion that doing this for money was the wrong thing to do . . . we aren't soiling ourselves with Qui Tam money." David Allen, Ms. Harris' co-author and publisher, is deeply disappointed she has allowed critics to question her motives. A liberal Democrat, he thinks she and others exaggerate the danger of hackers stealing an election. "I think this whole debate has been cast too much in partisan terms," he says. "The incompetence of the voting machine companies is real enough. We would never guard our currency at the U.S. Mint the way we guard the currency of democracy--votes."

Ms. Harris responds that she has legal disputes with Mr. Allen and believes other Internet activists have filed qui tam lawsuits that are under seal. She says any money from a settlement with Diebold would go to a non-profit foundation investigating electronic voting. She is employed by that same foundation.

Michael Shamos, who was the official examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania and Texas for 20 years, says there has not been a single verified incident of tampering with an electronic machine. For six years, he's posted a challenge on the Internet offering $10,000 to anyone who can tamper undetectably with a DRE machine under real-world conditions. No one has claimed the money. "The worst thing we could do is listen to some of the activists, abandon the new technology and return to means of voting that are even less safe and accurate," he says.

Fixes for the real problems with DREs are in the works. Woefully inadequate federal standards for testing voting machines are being toughened. A system is being developed in which each voter would receive a record of his choices that would be put into a code only decipherable by election judges. After the polls closed, all receipts would be posted on the Internet. Voters could use their serial number to find the image of their receipt, and make sure it matched the one they got at the polls.

But some states aren't waiting. California is allowing some counties to use DREs only if they provide paper ballots for anyone who wants one, and letting others use optical-scan systems. The activists aren't giving up, though. In Snohomish County, Wash., 50 protested at a rally this month against electronic machines. County Auditor Bob Terwilliger accepted their petition of 20,000 names. But he said he couldn't help chuckling as he perused it. The "signatures" were electronic and on a computer printout he couldn't verify.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com. His book, "Stealing Elections," will be published in September by Encounter Books.

-----------------

My response:

First, Mr. Fund quoted me out of context. In the small snipped he used, he tried to make it look like I was saying that my first concern was for my own pocket. Here's the full AP quote:

"This is about money now - a case of the capitalist system at work," said March, a Sacramento computer enthusiast. "The laws on voting products and processes are unfortunately unclear. But the law on defrauding the government is really, really clear. Going after the money trail is cleaner than going after proper procedures."

Second: the California SecState threw the latest Diebold touchscreen system out despite it being in use in four large counties. Does Mr. Fund think this happened on a whim?

Third: anyone is welcome to download and install the actual Diebold vote-tally software along with verified genuine databases and "kick the tires" for yourself:

http://www.equalccw.com/dieboldtestnotes.html

The "security" (or lack thereof) is beyond "alarming".

Or you can see snippets of Diebold internal EMails that are as damning as any of the "Aunt Millie" stuff dragged out of Enron:

http://www.equalccw.com/sscomment.html

http://www.equalccw.com/sscomments2.html

Mr. Fund loves to paint all this concern about electronic voting as a "Democrat fear-monger campaign.

Mr. Fund, I've got Bush/Cheney '04 bumper stickers on my motorcycle helmet. I'm a professional activist in self-defense rights, one of the two people who caused the "Million Mom March" gun-grabbers to implode a few years back and a specialist in the problems of the California "discretionary" gun carry permit system exposing the corruption, racism, cronyism in that process.

I do NOT believe this is a problem going all the way up to the Bush white house. And while I can't speak for Bev Harris' beliefs, I've never heard her suggest that either.

Finally, the idea that the Wall Street Journal would spend this much time disparaging the profit motive borders on high comedy. The reality is this: it's not at all unusual for a private company to try and cheat the government on a contract. It's almost as common for the government officials who approved the contractor not to want to admit problems - somebody's liable to ask about the official's competency. Hence the existence of the Qui Tam system: when "we the people" suffer the loss of taxpayer dollars, we can do something about it. And if we can prove it in court then yes, we collect a bounty - for our WORK, for our investigative labor.

I would expect The Nation or Worker's World Daily to have issues with making a profit in exchange for labor. That the Wall Street Journal is doing the same is...well, depressing.

Jim March
Member, Board Of Directors, Black Box Voting

PS: Rachel Konrad's editors at AP keep changing my proper technical background (tech support/LAN administrator/tech writer) to "programmer", which I've tried to correct any number of times with little success.

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WonderNine
July 27, 2004, 04:08 AM
Electronic voting machines for the masses programmed by the same people and connected together on giant networks scares the hell out of me.

But they're gonna do it anyways. And a stink might be raised again and again, but eventually it'll be the norm. I'm pretty down in the dumps over how things have been going in this country lately.

And that's all I got to say about that....

Harry Tuttle
July 27, 2004, 04:14 AM
there was an interesting comentary on the electronic voting issue tonight on NPR

the premise was that electonic banking works at ATM machines, why should voting be any more difficult...

Jim March
July 27, 2004, 04:28 AM
Sure. But would you stick cash in an ATM if it didn't spit out a PAPER TRAIL!?

:rolleyes:

WonderNine: Bev and I are going to win this one. We'll get paper trails at a minimum and open source (access to the source code) is a distinct possibility.

Jim March
July 27, 2004, 04:55 AM
I forgot to put in the original link:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110005405

Leatherneck
July 27, 2004, 06:51 AM
Hmph. I'm surprised that the WSJ jumped on the linking of concern over the accuracy and tracability of e-voting systems to the wacko liberals. As an early supporter of Jim's efforts to expose Diebold's malfeasance/ineptitude, I reject the thesis that this is a liberal concern only. I'm about as conservative as they come, and I have a LOT of concern about the vulnerability of DREs to tampering. And guess which side of the political spectrum worries me the most? :scrutiny:

TC
TFL Survivor

In Virginia, we continue to use the old reliable mechanical tally machines: it's a lot of work for the poll workers to validate each and every vote via paper late into the night, but it's reliable and tracable.

GSB
July 27, 2004, 07:13 AM
the premise was that electonic banking works at ATM machines, why should voting be any more difficult...

I worked as a programmer at the bank-end of an ATM system (as opposed to the ATM or the switch). It'll shake your confidence to see the kind of stuff that goes on behind the scenes sometimes.

0luke1
July 27, 2004, 07:47 AM
When I first heard about this conspiracy, I thought it was bunk. Not anymore. Why?

The manipulation of information to incite this country to invade a country to settle an old score and the use of the FCC to extort private industry.

It's not like I trust the Democrats either. We MUST have a paper trail.



"Trust, but verify."

feedthehogs
July 27, 2004, 08:06 AM
Computers and software are not secure. If your high enough up on the programming chain encryption doesn't mean a thing. Software manipulation is easy.

The issue here is not if its possible, but will someone do it to influence or change an election?

Even if paper ballots were given out and were needed to verify a count , how many people would either take the time to turn them in or still have them the next day?

I have customers that are given reciepts for thousands of dollars and lose them on the way home.

If you look hard enough you can find a problem with everything.

We had been using punch cards down here for ever and never had a problem. It was a non issue made worse by stupid voters willing to go on camera and tell the world just how stupid they were.

The bigger problem with our voting system is just getting people out to vote.

Treylis
July 27, 2004, 10:53 AM
I just don't believe a single thing I read in the newspapers nowadays unless I actually know the person writing the article.

As a fellow computer programmer and open source guy who understands these issues, I'm with you on this one, Jim. Diebold needs to be slapped around really hard.

Fred Fuller
July 27, 2004, 10:55 AM
Jim,

My, you DO get around.

Congrats on the WSJ schmear, it proves you are doing something (more likely _several_ somethings) right. Keep it up!

lpl/nc

fix
July 27, 2004, 11:08 AM
Unfortunately, activists working to remedy this problem have been largely branded as left wing wackos who are bitter about the 2000 election. Jim, I recommend that you trot out your political leanings and put them on display clearly every time you speak or write about this issue. Otherwise, you'll be ignored by one side. Unfortunate, but true.

Waitone
July 27, 2004, 11:48 AM
Legitimacy of our form of government is at stake. Snooty dismissals do not erase the fact that we elect our representative. If the election process is stinky there will be no end to its ramifications.

Bad mojo out there.

Zundfolge
July 27, 2004, 11:55 AM
The only people I've ever met who believe e-voting is a good idea are in two groups:

1) they know squat about computers
2) they wish to implement a system they know they can tamper with.

Most people fall into that first category.


I remember a couple of years ago when some new Divx codec came out that where supposed to be "crack proof" .... within 72 hours there was a crack released ... 7 lines of pearl code.


Computer Security is an oxymoron.

Harry Tuttle
July 27, 2004, 12:23 PM
Voting technology on the rocks
Remember the hanging chad? Problems with punch-card ballots in Florida during the last Presidential election postponed the final count. Indeed, the legal challenges have been slow in coming, too. The first trial challenging the punch card voting system opened today in Ohio. Since that fateful November, there's been a good deal of talk about the inherent business opportunity here - particularly for companies that make electronic alternatives to the butterfly ballot. But security questions have been a drag on adoption of the new technology.
Commentator: Amelia Tyagi

http://www.marketplace.org/play/audio.php?media=/2004/07/26_mpp&start=00:00:09:21.0&end=00:00:12:19.0

Jim March
July 27, 2004, 01:01 PM
Just heard that audio track.

You know what? It's *exactly* the same stupidity Liberals do with CCW. It's been tried and proven non-problematic in 36 or so states, but propose it in California and "eeeek! blood in the streeeeets!" :rolleyes:.

She's theorizing that since ATMs work, voting machines will too. She's also theorizing that the threat comes from pollworkers.

Well no, the threat of a major hack on Diebold voting systems comes from within Diebold. As with this case:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/article/index.cfm/i/072604n_atmtheft


Police make deposit in jail
ATM employee accused of theft from machines.
By Josh Wein | Staff Writer
Published on Monday, July 26, 2004
URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/index.cfm/i/072604n_atmtheft
E-mail this story | This page is printer-friendly

REDWOOD CITY -- Local police have arrested Kenneth Reyes of South San Francisco on charges of stealing from the ATM machine he was hired to service.

The 28-year-old, until recently an employee for the automated teller machine company Diebold, regularly serviced a free-standing money machine at 600 Oracle Parkway. He has been charged with embezzlement, commercial robbery and grand theft.

According to police, Reyes stole a substantial amount of money from the machine, which was operated by Provident Credit Union. He is currently under further investigation by Diebold's loss-prevention department in connection with other robberies.

Police previously said the man was wanted in connection with thefts from Bay Area Bank, Bay View Bank and Province Bank. But on Friday, they said the case currently focuses only on the credit union machine.

Reyes turned himself in to police on Thursday, and by Friday he had already posted bail.

Diebold is an Ohio-based company that manufactures and services ATM and other electronic vending machines, such as those that sell movie tickets. The company also manufactures the touch-screen voting machines that will be used in some areas for the coming general election.

Diebold uncovered the alleged crime as company representatives pored through records in an internal investigation. That work resulted in a signed confession and Reyes' dismissal from his post as an ATM technician, according to Redwood City Det. Andrea Higgens.

Police allege that Reyes took the money during the course of his normal workday, accessing the machine with a coded key used for regular maintenance.

Reyes declined to make a statement with police last week.

The arrest came after a weeklong investigation by the Redwood City Police Department that included a July 21 search warrant served at Reyes' South San Francisco home. Police say that search yielded new documents and information.

Higgens said the Redwood City Police Department will continue to work with Diebold's loss prevention department as they investigate the suspicion of further crimes. However, he added, "If other incidents occurred in other jurisdictions, then we would not be involved."


:scrutiny:

In the case of Diebold Election Systems, the top management and programming staff was liberally spiced with convicted felons. Jeffrey Dean, one of the key authors of "GEMS" (Global Election Management Software - the central vote-tally application in all Diebold voting systems) was previously convicted of 23 counts of computer-aided embezzlement involving custom software and netted over $400,000. He's behind bars right this MOMENT after somebody noticed he didn't pay restitution.

He was one of five felons high up in the Global Election Systems food chain before they were bought by Diebold (and stayed involved even after the buy-out).

(Sidenote: this is why I don't think Diebold corporate in Ohio is really the key problem here. I don't think they knew what a pack of pirates Global (a *Canadian* company) was. Global made most (possibly all, but certainly Dean and at least one other) of the felons "contractors" right at the time of the merger...that way, Diebold corporate wouldn't run a background check on them.)

What the NPR "theorizer" chick also didn't do was actually download the GEMS code and "kick the tires". Bev Harris found that stuff on an open Diebold Election Systems FTP site in January of '03; I've got key samples archived at: http://www.equalccw.com/dieboldtestnotes.html

Check it out. You'll need MS-Access 2000 or above, because that's the "hack tool" that obliterates passwords, can edit the audit log, etc.

"Theory" be damned. Look at what they're really doing. It's beyond "scary".

Ewok
July 27, 2004, 03:08 PM
Even if paper ballots were given out and were needed to verify a count , how many people would either take the time to turn them in or still have them the next day?

I never had a problem with the punch cards. If people can't be bothered to check that the holes are clear they shouldn't bother to vote in the first place....

Anyway, what we need is for the electronic voting machine to make it easy to display and pick the choices. Then, it should produce a computer-readable card that's at least as human-readable as the punch cards. The voter can then verify that the card has the right votes before depositing it in the vote box. The voting machine wouldn't need to retain or transmit anything about the vote.

Jim March
July 27, 2004, 06:18 PM
And what do you do when somebody takes a straightened coathanger and rams it through a stack of cards in their own candidate's hole?

What happens is, votes for that candidate already don't get affected. Votes for the OTHER guy are now a double-vote...and are thrown out.

I'm convinced this happened in Florida in at least some cases.

So what about optical scan?

In this last California primary in Napa County, somebody running for a minor race was able to prove that on at least 38 occasions, somebody at county elections HQ looked for cards in which NO vote was cast for that race, and filled in his opponent. This was confirmed by forensic ink evaluation. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to find more such cases in the time he had available and as he'd lost by more than 38 votes, his challenge didn't work. But he DID prove there was at least one crook in the elections department.

So there IS a need for electronically-assisted voting: to produce paper ballots that are more difficult to tamper with!!!

Look, take a typical grocery store cash register reciept, and figure out how to alter it without the alterations being obvious. It ain't easy, and that's without security features of any sort.

There IS a problem here, folks. More than one :(.

Ewok
July 27, 2004, 06:28 PM
Having a "none of the above" default would be a low-tech way to prevent some of that. Bottom line is there needs to be a physical record that doesn't rely on a proprietary tally machine, for independent verification.

Desertdog
July 27, 2004, 07:06 PM
I have used the Electronic Voting Machines and don't like them, nor trust them.

IMHO the way to go is the cheap, tried and true, optical scanner.

You take your ballot and with a pen, or whatever, you put marks where you want them, hand the ballot in and they scan them.
In case of a recount you have a ballot to look at.

I know that to the untrustworthy of Diebold Election System machines, Kern County CA has outlawed all electronic machines except, maybe, optical scanners.

Desertdog
July 27, 2004, 07:15 PM
In this last California primary in Napa County, somebody running for a minor race was able to prove that on at least 38 occasions, somebody at county elections HQ looked for cards in which NO vote was cast for that race, and filled in his opponent. This was confirmed by forensic ink evaluation. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to find more such cases in the time he had available and as he'd lost by more than 38 votes, his challenge didn't work. But he DID prove there was at least one crook in the elections department.
When the optical scan machine was used in Kern County before, we marked our ballots and it was immediately run through what I took to be the optical scanner.
Presuming it was the scanner, there would have been no way for someone to change the vote.

Jim March
July 27, 2004, 07:35 PM
The rate of absentee voting is increasing. The "Napa style fraud" (which wasn't using Diebold optical scans) can be done with absentee votes on any system.

twoblink
July 27, 2004, 09:01 PM
As a cryptographer who programs your ATM machines as well as your credit card encodings, if there's any questions I may answer for you, please let me know...

Jim, anytime a newspaper slams you, you know you are doing something right.:evil:

cm
July 28, 2004, 02:01 AM
speaking of absentee ballets, look at what is happening in palm beach, fl --
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-pabsentee22jul22,0,3150641.story?coll=sfla-news-palm

sun sentinel, july 22, 2004

Palm Beach County runs out of absentee ballots

By Anthony Man
Staff writer
Posted July 22 2004

As candidates and political parties intensify their efforts to push early voting in advance of the Aug. 31 elections, the Palm Beach County Elections Office has run out of absentee ballot applications.

Representatives of some political and civic groups are upset.
~
~stuff about people being upset - see link for full article
~

In 2000, when there was intense interest in the presidential election, LePore said she had 50,000 printed and had more than enough. This year, she printed even more.

"We ran out because we went through 75,000, which is normally way more than we would ever need," LePore said.

Even though all but a few of this year's 75,000 forms have gone out the door, only 10,000 requests have come back -- and that includes people who have sought absentee ballots by phone, mail and Internet.

LePore said she has no way to know where the absentee ballot request forms ended up. Most have been snapped up by Democratic political clubs and, to a lesser extent, candidates and civic groups.

Some disappeared when people scooped up handfuls from voter registration tables at public events and a counter at the Elections Office. LePore said one man came in, cleaned out the display rack and rushed out of the building.

Because such a small percentage of forms were being returned, LePore said she long ago limited each group to 200.

When she realized the supply was nearly exhausted at the middle of last week, LePore said she ordered another 75,000. They cost 10 cents each.

The new order should be ready within a week, but LePore said late Wednesday she would have some copied at a quick-printing store, and hoped they would be ready today.

LePore and Indian River County elections chief Kay Clem said their offices aren't required to print the application forms in the first place.

"We're one of the few counties that even print up the absentee [application] forms," LePore said.

Clem, past president of the state association of elections officials, also said most counties don't print them.

Like LePore, Clem said she has been inundated with requests for absentee ballots -- at least 10 times as many as she had before the 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

"I don't think there's anybody in America that could have predicted how many absentee ballot requests we were going to get," Clem said.

Anderson said LePore should have anticipated the demand for applications. "She has ignored such suggestions [and] now she is caught without any absentee ballot [request forms]."

LePore said she did anticipate greater demand, "which is why we ordered more than we did two and four years ago."

Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sun-sentinel.com or 561-832-2905

agricola
July 28, 2004, 06:19 AM
I remember a couple of years ago when some new Divx codec came out that where supposed to be "crack proof" .... within 72 hours there was a crack released ... 7 lines of pearl code.

ditto - the Met have just started rolling out Mobile Data Terminals (basically what most of your cops have had for ages) and trumpeted that the system and units were unbreakable. last week everyone on my borough had an email telling us that we had broke all ours before the system had been switched on. :D :D :D

all forms of voting are open to tampering, but at least with paper you can establish whether or not it occured.

i also find Jim being placed with the left-wingers by the pro-Diebold camp amusing in a shameful way :D

Waitone
July 28, 2004, 08:12 AM
. . . . and this just in from our news bureau in Florida:

<Poster's Note--I haven't seen the story in a reputable news source so I'll use what is available.>

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/28/politics/campaign/28vote.final.html?ei=5006&en=b992e2c2cfb441c3&ex=1091592000&partner=ALTAVISTA1&pagewanted=print&position=



July 28, 2004
Lost Record of Vote in '02 Florida Race Raises '04 Concern
By ABBY GOODNOUGH

MIAMI, July 27 - Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

A county official said a new backup system would prevent electronic voting data from being lost in the future. But members of the citizens group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, said the malfunction underscored the vulnerability of electronic voting records and wiped out data that might have shed light on what problems, if any, still existed with touch-screen machines here. The group supplied the results of its request to The New York Times.

"This shows that unless we do something now - or it may very well be too late - Florida is headed toward being the next Florida," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the coalition.

After the disputed 2000 presidential election eroded confidence in voting machines nationwide, and in South Florida in particular, the state moved quickly to adopt new technology, and in many places touch-screen machines. Voters in 15 Florida counties - covering more than half the state's electorate - will use the machines in November, but reports of mishaps and lost votes in smaller elections over the last two years have cast doubt on their reliability.

Like "black boxes" on airplanes, the electronic voting records on touch-screen machines list everything that happens from boot-up to shutdown, documenting in an "event log" when every ballot was cast. The records also include "vote image reports" that show for whom each ballot was cast. Elections officials have said that using this data for recounts is unnecessary because touch-screen machines do not allow human error. But several studies have suggested the machines themselves might err - for instance, by failing to record some votes.

After the 2002 primary, between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida conducted a study that found that 8 percent of votes, or 1,544, were lost on touch-screen machines in 31 precincts in Miami-Dade County. The group considered that rate of what it called "lost votes" unusually high.

Voting problems plagued Miami-Dade and Broward Counties on that day, when touch-screen machines took much longer than expected to boot up, dozens of polling places opened late and poorly trained poll workers turned on and shut down the machines incorrectly. A final vote tally - which narrowed the margin first reported between the two candidates by more than 3,000 votes - was delayed for a week.

Ms. Reno, who ultimately lost to Mr. McBride by just 4,794 votes statewide, considered requesting a recount at the time but decided against it.

Seth Kaplan, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade elections division, said on Tuesday that the office had put in place a daily backup procedure so that computer crashes would not wipe out audit records in the future.

The news of the lost data comes two months after Miami-Dade elections officials acknowledged a malfunction in the audit logs of touch-screen machines. The elections office first noticed the problem in spring 2003, but did not publicly discuss it until this past May.

The company that makes Miami-Dade's machines, Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., has provided corrective software to all nine Florida counties that use its machines. One flaw occurred when the machines' batteries ran low and an error in the program that reported the problem caused corruption in the machine's event log, said Douglas W. Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa whom Miami-Dade County hired to help solve the problem.

In a second flaw, the county's election system software was misreading the serial numbers of the voting machines whose batteries had run low, he said.

The flaws would not have affected vote counts, he said - only the backup data used for audits after an election. And because a new state rule prohibits manual recounts in counties that use touch-screen voting machines except in the event of a natural disaster, there would likely be no use for the data anyway.

State officials have said that they created the rule because under state law, the only reason for a manual recount is to determine "voter intent" in close races when, for example, a voter appears to choose two presidential candidates or none.

Touch-screen machines, officials say, are programmed not to record two votes, and if no vote is recorded, they say, it means the voter did not cast one.

But The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, in a recent analysis of the March presidential primary, reported that voters in counties using touch-screen machines were six times as likely to record no vote as were voters in counties using optical-scan machines, which read markings on paper ballots.

The A.C.L.U. of Florida and several other voting rights groups have sued to overturn the recount rule, saying it creates unequal treatment of voters. Counties that use optical-scan machines can conduct recounts, though only in extremely close races.

Mr. Kaplan says that the system crashes had erased data from other elections besides Ms. Reno's, the most recent being municipal elections in November 2003. Under Florida law, ballot records from elections for state and local office need be kept for only a year. For federal races, the records must be kept for 22 months after an election is certified. It was not immediately clear what the consequences might be of breaching that law.

Mr. Kaplan said the backup system was added last December.

An August 2002 report from Miami-Dade County auditors to David Leahy, then the county elections supervisor, recommended that all data from touch-screen machines be backed up on CD's or elsewhere. Professor Jones said it was an obvious practice long considered essential in the corporate world.

"Any naïve observer who knows about computer system management and who knows there is a requirement that all the records be stored for a period of months," Professor Jones said, "would say you should obviously do that with computerized voting systems."

Buddy Johnson, the elections supervisor in Hillsborough County, which is one of the state's largest counties and which also uses touch-screen machines, said his office still had its data from the 2002 elections on separate hard drives.

Mr. Kaplan of the Miami-Dade elections office could not immediately explain on Tuesday afternoon the system crashes in 2003.

Martha Mahoney, a University of Miami law professor and member of the election reform group, said she requested the 2002 audit data because she had never heard an explanation of the supposedly lost votes that the A.C.L.U. documented after the Reno-McBride election.

"People can never be sure their vote was recorded the way it was cast, but these are the best records we've got," she said. "And now they're not there."

Jim March
July 28, 2004, 10:11 AM
Danged if I know what's going on in Palm Beach with those absentees (the "Palm Beach County runs out of absentee ballots" story). That's just weird. Unless people are hoarding them for use on election day instead of using touchscreens?

The story Waitone cites is much more important long-term. Without those records we can't sort out what happened, or do "bugtracking" over time.

:scrutiny:

DRZinn
July 28, 2004, 12:08 PM
-paper ballot
-marked with a pen
- (here's the key) ALL candidates must be marked. "yes" to one, and "no" to all others in the same category. unchangeable afterward. fraudproof.

Desertdog
July 28, 2004, 12:14 PM
Danged if I know what's going on in Palm Beach with those absentees
I have sinisters thought about those ballots.
When they start coming in they need to check for; the names against being the same as on Death Certificates, check them for signatures that have look alike handwriting, citizens of skid row being heavy voters, being turned in in bundles and all for Kerry, and I imagine there are numerous other illegal ways for them to be used.

jefnvk
July 28, 2004, 04:55 PM
I am not anti-open source by any means. But by saying you want to open-source the programs, I do hope that you mean to individuals hat present some sort qualifications, and not to anyone on the internet.

hvengel
July 28, 2004, 06:04 PM
Open source means open to everyone. The point is that if I (I just happen to have a BS Computer Science from CSU Chico but that is not the issue) or you can't look at the code to verify that it is correct then the system can not be trusted. Of course, 98% of the public would not know what to look for. But the 2% that do is about 1,000,000 times as many as are currently lookng at the code. And most of those curently looking at the code have a vested interest in not finding problems.

To put this into a context that can be understood by everyone. Windows is NOT open source Linux is. If your company has mission critical systems running on servers and you go out to get "crash" insurance if those systems are running on Windows servers the crash insurance will be several times more costly than if you are running on Linux servers. The reason is that because Linux is open source there are way more "eyes" on the code and as a result it is much more stable and secure than Windows. Fact 37% of all internet servers are running Linux, only 14% are running Windows. Why would this be any different for a voting systems which will have maybe 10% of the complexity of an operating system?

Jim March
July 28, 2004, 06:39 PM
Jefnvk: by "open source" I do NOT necessarily mean that companies can't profit off the creation and sale of the stuff - but I damned well DO mean "everybody on the Internet".

If there are security holes, they'll be found muy pronto.

What they're doing now is called "Security By Obscurity" - which doesn't work, as it only means there WILL be security holes known by a small number of (untrustworthy) people.

hvengel
July 29, 2004, 03:02 PM
Several other points about open source as it relates to security. The NSA uses Linux exclusively and current Linux kernel versions (2.6.x) have NSA security systems build right into the kernel. By default most Linux distributions do not turn on the full set of NSA security modules because at it's highest levels these are so secure that inexperienced users/administrators can find themselves locked out of the system. And I do mean locked out as there are no back doors in a Linux kernel with full NSA security turned on. This level of security is not possible on a Windows based system.

In addition, the NSA security modules are extensible which means that someone implementing a system that requires some specialized security can have a new NSA security extension module written to handle these new requirements. This is not possible on a system that is not open like Windows.

As an example of this extensibility, users that implement Digital Audio Workstations need to be able to run the DAW software in realtime mode. In a normal Linux installation only the root user (the system administrator) can run applications in realtime mode as this is considered a security risk. So DAW users have implemented a NSA security module that allows them to disable this security restriction so that non-root users can run realtime applications. In this case it is being used to reduce security but it is up to the administrator to run the module to do this. In Windows anyone can run realtime applications and there is no way to prevent this.

The problem I have with the current electronic voting systems is that the vendors have used the most unstable, least secure software available to build these systems. At one point MS was issuing Windows security patches daily and only stopped doing this when they realized that it was a PR disaster. Windows systems are under constant attack and systems that are not maintained with every last patch the day it is released will almost certainly be compromised and even well maintained systems are compromised at times. Properly administered Linux systems only require periodic updates (say every 1 to 3 months) and are virtually bullet proof.

In addition, Access is a database administrators nightmare. No one who knows anything about databases would consider using Access for anything that is mission critical or has ANY significant security requirements. (What does that say about the people that designed the current systems?) I consider these voting systems to be mission critical and to have very high security requirements. On the other hand there are several open source database engines (MySQL and PostSQL are examples and there are others) that are powerful, comply with industry standards, have very good security and are widely used in mission critical/high security systems.

My professional opinion is that the entire voting system should be built with open source software. That is the OS, both front end machines and on the backend, should be Linux (kernel 2.6.x with full NSA security) or BSD Unix, The database engine should be PostSQL, both front end and backend, since it has the ability to do secure data replication between distributed databases which is a key requirement for these systems. I would use Tripewire to audit all systems for changes and other activity and use all of the audit features available to log every event on every machine. The specialized voting software should be fully open source preferably written in Ada not C. I will not trust anything less than this. Therefore I can not trust the existing systems. I should add that I have yet to talk to anyone that is an IT professional that trusts the existing systems.

Justin Moore
July 30, 2004, 05:55 AM
Sure. But would you stick cash in an ATM if it didn't spit out a PAPER TRAIL!?

Hell no I wouldn't ;) So, what's the big deal about a company who MAKES ATM Machines providing a paper receipt of your vote.

Jim, I'm gonna download that software and have a go at it myself.

Justin Moore
July 30, 2004, 06:18 AM
....waiting for the software to download......allthou after reading your site, I'm conviced that I probably don't even NEED to do the tests myself.....

Appendix B: Physical Security And Access Issues

One of Diebold's best defenses so far has been to explain that physical security ("plant security") is a key part of the process, so that while GEMS may be open to tampering, nobody unauthorized can get into it to tamper.

This isn't a bad argument. Basically, without an "access method" to GEMS, the above steps to "hack the vote" are useless.

Problem: there IS an access method.

Sources: one major source of info, I'm pleased to report, has been SLO County's Registrar, Julie Rodewald.

Per my interviews with her, here's what we've got physically going on at the county central elections office:

The computer running GEMS is relatively high end. It's running Windows NT, and it contains a card called a "Digiboard", which is inside it and has sixteen modest-speed "serial ports". Four of the sixteen ports run across the same room to optical scan readers, to enter the absentee ballots with.

Most of the rest (ten or twelve) ports are connected to external modems. These modems are normally turned OFF.

At the time the polls close (normally 8:00pm), the modems are turned on. For the next 1.5 to 2 hours, optical scan computers at the polling places call into the central GEMS boxes through the modems and report their totals. Given the number of polling places (see also the SLO County instructions above, steps 29 through 31) each "conversation" is moderately short, although they'll perhaps vary a bit due to normal line quality differences and possibly the size of the data tranfer (popularity of a particular polling place).

The phone numbers involved are known to (or at least accessable by) everybody in the office, and the Diebold support staff (per Ms. Rodewald).

This is therefore the most likely avenue of attack.

In February, as part of the set of downloads hackers did on the Diebold websites, the following memo between a Diebold field tech agent and the central support crew was located. We didn't understand it's full significance until we gleaned basic information on the setup from Ms. Rodewald. In it's entirety:

----- Original Message ----- From: "Robert Chen" <robertc@dieboldes.com> To: <support@gesn.com> Sent: Monday, October 28, 2002 1:30 PM Subject: AVTS modem upload BS 4.3.11

Hi,

Found something interesting here in Alameda County, and want to see if anyone has found this in the field. Especially those of you who are doing AVTS (we don't do AVOS) modem upload from the precincts.

Running: BS 4.3.11 GEMS 1.18.14 NT 4.0 6a

I am dialing the central computer's bank of modems (connected via Digi PCI X/em) and connecting to NT's Remote Access Server. I have assigned a ip pool (166.107.248.210 to 220) and the AVTS with PCMCIA card modems dial in okay, and make a connection with the RAS server. I can see the assigned ip address to the incoming AVTS unit. However, when I try uploading, it gives and error: "no connection to host". Yes, I have confirmed the HOST name and tried the IP address.

I tried pinging the AVTS unit and only get timeouts. I then tried simulating the connection with my laptop and was able to successfully upload. I was also able to ping my laptop from the server and vice versa.

At this point, I do not think, despite the port information displayed by RAS Server, that the AVTS was taking the ip address.

I am sure I am probably doing something wrong and would appreciate some enlightenment.

rob chen

Jim again. Let me try translating:

"Digi PCI X/em" is the 16-port Digiboard - see also "products" at http://www.digi.com

"AVTS" means touchscreen terminals, while "AVOS" is optical scan. Other than the terminal type, the equipment is otherwise the same between a TS system such as Alameda and OS as bought by San Luis Obispo.

They're running GEMS 1.18.14, which is an uncertified version (ask Kevin Shelley's office if you don't believe me) on Windows NT 4.0 (bugpatch set 6A).

"RAS" is "Remote Access Server" - a set of communications software that gives external PCs VERY complete access to the central box running it. Files can be accessed and manipulated over it.

Mr. Chen was able to access the central box over one of these modems, or at least he expected to be able to do so, from an ordinary laptop.

Diebold tech staff know the RAS password to get in. They know the phone numbers.

Therefore, during that "window" of a couple hours after polls close, an ordinary PC in a Diebold basement somewhere could dial in, run a script, change votes specific to that county and get out again. In about 5 to 10 minutes tops, per county. And it would take only one conspirator among the "techies" to get the data necessary to do actual evil.

We're not done yet: Chen mentioned "I have assigned a ip pool 166.107.248.210 to 220". That means he assigned specific "internal access numbers" to the 10 modems Alameda County uses.

Problem: "IP addresses" are very specific - you can't have two on the same network. That includes the entire Internet - "IP" stands for "Internet Protocol". The numbers are somewhat similar to phone numbers - the first two sets of digits mark the system as being part of the Alameda County network system. (To test this on any Windows PC, open up a "command line" or "DOS prompt" and type "ping www.acgov.com" (their website) without quotes - you'll get 166.107.72.47 as their website host's IP addy. Those numbers can then be looked up to tell who owns them: "Alameda County Data Processing" at 1221 Oak Street, Oakland.)

So why did Diebold set up the Alameda County GEMS computer with numbers that would make it compatible to share the general Alameda County network system!? Which in turn is connected to the Internet?

Granted, hacking into GEMS this way from the Internet (outside of the Alameda County "firewall") would be difficult. Not so difficult from inside mind you, like at the County Supervisor's offices.

Still, if the danger is from Diebold itself, while this sort of security flaw is intolerable, it's not that useful. By entering in through the modem pool wired right to the GEMS box, Diebold could hack every single customer county, on an automated basis.

And you don't need a lot of "conspirators" to do this. Two or three programmers, one or two managers who are politically savvy and know which races to hack, one guy back in the "build room" setting GEMS boxes up, and one guy able to collect the data from the field regarding phone numbers, RAS passwords and the like. A crew of as little as five people could pull it off, seven or eight a bit more likely. They would also have a "dialer war-room" with between 40 and 100 PCs each with a modem and scripts, to call out to GEMS boxes and mess with them.

NOTE: they may have set up some or all GEMS boxes to dial OUT to the precincts versus take calls in. It doesn't matter...if anything, that would make life easier on our theoretical "black hat crew", as there'd be no need to record the local dial-in numbers. Just program an extra dial-OUT number into the GEMS box as it's being built at Diebold. Diebold supplies the entire finished computer, with Windows and all applications loaded - they could supply an altered Windows COMM driver, hacked-up Digi or modem drivers, you name it - a small "extra dialer" could be hidden almost anywhere.

Can I prove that Diebold has done this?

No.

But why else leave GEMS so "tamper friendly", including the duplicated vote tallies designed to defeat individual precinct checks, if you're not going to use it? Remember, California Elections Code 19205(c) bans even theoretical security holes; to create one as gigantic as GEMS was a risky undertaking.

Nobody sane takes risks without payout potential.

Jim, I believe your technical analysis to be 100 percent correct. I've been working on computers for well over 20 years now, and have known for a long
time that the words MS-Access and 'security' do not go hand in hand. Your hypothesis seems reasonable, given the network architecture they have chosen to use.

This is just insane. Forget right or left.....

Justin Moore
July 30, 2004, 06:39 AM
Got a sick feeling in the gut yet?

20) Quit completely out of MS-Access, and fire up GEMS again (at Start-Programs-Global Election Management-GEMS). Click on the Alameda database. Hit "open". This time, for the "Admin" password, use the password you created and entered twice for the "joke" file - in my case, that would be "jokepass" without quotes.

And bingo…you're in. That is GEMS with the full datafile spread'n'ready before you. You successfully bypassed the GEMS password control system like a hot knife through butter. Note: if you were doing real dirty deeds, you'd save the old Alameda admin password off in a Notepad window or similar, and then when you're done "hacking", splice it back into the file. You would never know what the password really is, but once you were done the system's legitimate administrators would be able to use that correct password normally, without being "alerted to trouble" from their proper password not working.

from Jim's Website obviously....

and guess what: it WORKS. I chose my own password, and was able to substitue MY password for the password on the actual election data, and log into it. I was also able to remove items from the audit trail as you described. Which is not surprising since I had hacked the password.

As we say in my neck of the woods, sonofabitch! ;)

John Fund is either a 1) retard 2) intellectually dishonest 3) a big Diebold stockholder or 4) 1,2, and 3.

Jim March
July 30, 2004, 12:25 PM
Now wait until you hear about the smartcards:

http://www.equalccw.com/sscomments6.pdf

Justin Moore
July 30, 2004, 01:03 PM
I'll scope that out tonight.

I honesty don't know how much more I can take thou :cuss:

I wonder if opinionjournal.com will post my response to Fund's article.
I thought it was reasoned and well measured. We shall see.

Thanks Jim :)

hvengel
July 30, 2004, 02:18 PM
I didn't know that they were using RAS. Well just one more item to add to my list of GEMS software that is know to have major security problems. The last company that I worked for that used RAS phased out using it 4 years ago because of security concerns and began planning the phase out at least 3 years earlier. So the GEMS system is at least 7 years behind the curve in terms of security.

Justin Moore
July 31, 2004, 12:14 AM
Okay Jim, I read the .pdf re: smartcards

:fire:

Further down the rabbit hole methinks. That's just
so pathetic I can't even begin to comment. Its
unbelievable that they have gotten away with this.

madurorr
February 16, 2007, 09:19 AM
It would seem that some semi-educated IT professionals weighed in here. That is good. Believe those that have indicated to you that DRE's are not tamper-proof. And for the gentleman/lady that referred to the language PERL as Pearl, I am embarrassed for you. Program Reporting and Extraction Language.

And for the record, I believe that what the WSJ prints is mostly gospel and that most Republicans are the ignorant disenfranchised and don't know it.

Republican = does not care about environment, does not care about corporate evil, does not care about social welfare of our society, etc.

Bring it.

Old Fuff
February 16, 2007, 10:05 AM
Gee... :scrutiny:

We have a new member, who makes his first post concerning a thread that goes back to 2004 and hasn't seen any activity since. He also seems to want to start a fight with other members who are Republicans.

Do I detect a Troll??? :uhoh:

Trip20
February 16, 2007, 10:21 AM
Do I detect a Troll??? :uhoh:

No... you do not detect a troll. I think there is an age requirement -- that is trolls must be 13 yrs of age or older. This fella is obviously a little younger as evident by the cute and childish taunts:

Bring it.

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