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I got slammed by the Wall Street Journal!

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Jim March, Jul 27, 2004.

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  1. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    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:

    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.
     
  2. WonderNine

    WonderNine member

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    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....
     
  3. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Member

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    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...
     
  4. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    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.
     
  5. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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  6. Leatherneck

    Leatherneck Member

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    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.
     
  7. GSB

    GSB Member

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    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.
     
  8. 0luke1

    0luke1 Member

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    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."
     
  9. feedthehogs

    feedthehogs Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2004
  10. Treylis

    Treylis Member

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    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.
     
  11. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    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
     
  12. fix

    fix Member

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    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.
     
  13. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    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.
     
  14. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    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.
     
  15. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Member

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    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/aud.../26_mpp&start=00:00:09:21.0&end=00:00:12:19.0
     
  16. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    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

    :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".
     
  17. Ewok

    Ewok Member

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    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.
     
  18. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    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 :(.
     
  19. Ewok

    Ewok Member

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    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.
     
  20. Desertdog

    Desertdog Member

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    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.
     
  21. Desertdog

    Desertdog Member

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    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.
     
  22. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    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.
     
  23. twoblink

    twoblink Member

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    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:
     
  24. cm

    cm Member

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    speaking of absentee ballets, look at what is happening in palm beach, fl --
    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/lo...ee22jul22,0,3150641.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
     
  25. agricola

    agricola Member

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    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
     
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