or Maybe Not
Defeated candidates who think they were robbed are nothing new in American politics. But modern technology is creating a whole new generation of conspiracy theories — easy to imagine and, unless we're careful, impossible to disprove. The nation is rushing to adopt electronic voting, but there is a disturbing amount of evidence that, at least in its current form, it is overly vulnerable to electoral mischief.
Among the growing ranks of electronic-voting skeptics, Mr. Cleland's loss in 2002 and Mr. Hagel's wins in 1996 and 2002 have taken on mythic status. There is no evidence the wrong man is in the Senate today. The problem is, there is no way to prove the right man was elected, either.
Bill is an advocate for E-voting. He sees it as a step in the right direction. He tends toward the side of "show me an error" rather than Bev's position of "prove there wasn't one". He's open to accomodating improvements to E-voting, but doesn't see how they can happen in time for the 2004 election cycle. Fine so far.
A few selected comment from the debate. First, Bev Harris, referring to a certification test she "witnessed":
This was the most ridiculous bamboozling process I've ever seen. You go in there and you don't actually touch the machine. The machine basically runs a self-test. It has a videogame-looking thing, as it does this, which rolls votes by looking like the bars, bells, and cherries on a Las Vegas slot machine. It makes a Pac Man noise. Not only are you not allowed to videotape this ridiculous test, but you have to leave the room for an hour and then you come back and they hand you a piece of paper (no one knows where it came from). It has numbers on it, and they say, “See? The machine counted correctly.” We had computer programmers and observers and citizens there laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of this system. This doesn't prove anything.And perhaps the most disturbing comment from Bill Bozarth:
And I still maintain my position that while I'm skeptical of people trying to get overdue influence in the process, there's so many ways to do that through the influence of money and campaign contributions and lobbying that nobody really needs to steal an election in order to gain that -- this disproportionate power.This is where Bill falls down; the idea that someone intent on stealing an election would rely on only one method to do so. This is clearly a view of vote tampering that relegates it to the "amateur's only" catagory. Certainly, one can corrupt the political process in many ways, but that does not lessen the importance of any individual to do this, and the wise corrupter will not limit himself to a single one.
Few people realize that voting rights are left up to the states -- a legacy of the South's post-Civil War effort to prohibit newly freed slaves from voting.Felony disenfranchisement is an abomination. Racist in its roots, its supporters today, afraid to state that motivation, resort to agruments that border on ("It's part of the punishment.") and often cross the line of absurdity ("Well, murderers might vote to legalize murder!").
California's voting laws, however, are relatively liberal compared to the 14 states that permanently bar ex-felons from voting and the 29 states that prevent criminals from voting while on probation. Only two states -- Maine and Vermont -- follow the European pattern of allowing all inmates and ex-convicts to vote.
You're probably thinking this has nothing to do with you. But you would be wrong. It could affect your troubled teenager. As New York defense attorney Andrew Shapiro has noted, "An 18-year-old first-time offender who trades a guilty plea for a nonprison sentence may unwittingly sacrifice forever his right to vote."
- "It's part of the punishment." ~ But isn't the threat of punishment supposed to be the deterrent? Has anyone ever not committed a crime because they feared losing their right to vote?
- "Well, murderers might vote to legalize murder!" ~ So what? How can anyone entertain the sillyness that murders will ever have enough votes to elect a pro-murder candidate?
The bottom line on felony disenfranchisement is that it is a tool being used by the Republican Party to lower opposition voting. I try not to be partisan here, but sometimes, you just have to call a spade a spade.
the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
It's either the best thing ever to happen to elections, or the stupidest blunder our elected officials have ever made; the savior of our democracy, or a conspiracy to steal it; an idea whose time has come, or a hapless symbol of society's naive faith in technology.An interesting article focusing largely on the Travis County (TX) selection process and why they chose the Hart InterCivic eSlate voting system, but also reviewing concerns of E-vote activists. I was particularly impressed with their selection efforts. Well thought out, planned, and executed.
Electronic voting hasn't completely boiled over into the nation's greater consciousness ... yet. But it's on a high simmer. It has staunch defenders, passionate detractors, and one way or another, it will make a huge impact on the 2004 elections.
upgrades to e-vote machines
Two weeks before California's March 2 primary, a group alleging widespread potential security glitches in electronic voting machines is asking a judge to make counties install new safeguards before voting begins.Although the article does not say, this is the suit launched by our friends Bev Harris and Jim march (and others). A hearing on the suit was to be held today, but as yet, there is no news from that.
Citizens from Solano, Sacramento, San Diego and Stanislaus counties filed their request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court. It asks that up to 18 counties using machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems add more safeguards to protect them against hackers.
The "By the People: Election 2004" Web site is a gateway to all of PBS's election programming, on-air and online. Site features include:
- Election headlines from the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, updated throughout the day, every day.
- Weekly features from NOW With Bill Moyers, FRONTLINE and other PBS programs (updated every Friday).
- Detailed information about your local ballot, including candidates' voting records, campaign contributions, issue positions and more.
- Tips for dissecting a political ad, interpreting a poll, analyzing a campaign Web site, and more.
- Links to the best election Web sites from PBS and beyond. (Be sure to let us know about the best Web sites we don’t know about...yet! We’ll pick the most interesting submissions and post a new selection every Friday.)
- An election calendar and glossary.
- PBS Kids' election Web site (kids can be president for a day and more!)
- For educators: a library of K-12 election content, organized by grade level and subject.
A public relations blitz involving billboards, radio and television commercials, a Web site and more than 1.5 million pamphlets and brochures is under way to familiarize Maryland voters with the electronic voting machines many will use for the first time this year.A poll on this page asks "Do You Trust Touchscreen Voting Machines?" (3-to-1 against, but not many votes cast yet) and an on-line simulation of a sample ballot and a training video (~24 minutes, 27.2 MB, .wmv) can be found at Maryland Votes.
The five-year campaign costs $1 million and is part of the $55 million the state is paying Diebold Election Systems Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, manufacturer of 16,000 touch screen computer terminals.
The training video is reasonably interesting, but probably
not worth downloading if you do not have a high-speed connection.
out voter education campaign,
hoping to avoid 2000 repeat
Florida election officials kicked off a $150,000 voter education campaign Monday, expressing confidence that the state will avoid a repeat of the embarrassment of the 2000 election.[Links via Counterspin Central.]
The campaign includes public service announcements in English and Spanish that tell voters about election deadlines; a toll-free number for voters to call with questions; and a 30-minute television program on voting that will run before the November election.
A lot of all of this increase in visits has come from a few selected "big bear" bloggers who have featured some of my articles recently. A special thanks to them. It's hard to get noticed, and so they are my angels for this.
My crumbs? For those of you who visit regularly, take a few minutes to visit "my angels" if you don't do so already:
- David Neiwert at Orcinus ~ The "site of record" if the "violence against liberals" meme concerns you. Lots more also.
- Avedon Carol at The Sideshow ~ Good commentary and a great source of links to what is happening around blogdom.
- Bev Harris at Black Box Voting ~ The "mother site" for E-vote issues.
- South Knox Bubba ~ Linking today to my "What Our Supreme Hath Wrought" article and also commenting extensively on black box voting.
The problem is an electoral system which has allowed a president to take office with a minority of votes for the past three presidential elections in a row. The problem is an electoral system which forces voters to choose a candidate they really don't support because voting for the candidate of their choice would be a "wasted vote." The problem is an electoral system so unresponsive and irrelevant that it’s boycotted by half of its potential users. Fortunately, for the citizens of the "world's greatest democracy," there are solutions.
Votewatch is working with large membership organizations in order to build a coalition of election monitors in 2004 that will help oversee our election process. Volunteers in selected states will be stationed at precincts and inside county registrars in order to closely monitor our elections. We call these volunteers "Votewatchers". For those unable to join Votewatchers at the polls, an online election survey and Voter Satisfaction Log are available. These online tools assist in our effort to monitor elections.This is real stuff. Perhaps even more than your efforts at black box security issues, you can become a poll watcher on election day. This is a time-honored (and very legal) way of contributing to the security of the vote, though it has fallen out of favor in recent years as voter participation has waned. Can you stop E-vote fraud by doing this? Maybe a little, but certainly not the wholesale methods a lot of us fear. Maybe just because a "watcher" is present at a single poll, someone who was thinking of doing something won't. Not much, but a little.
But think if there are thousands of "watchers" in your state? What if they simple record what they see and feel? What if they all share their notes after the election? That is the theory behind VoteWatch.
Now I will tell you that there are quite specific laws regarding what poll watchers can do and cannot do. You cannot simply go and on election day and declare yourself as a watcher. But these rules entirely relate to not interfering (in any way) with voter access, hopefully not be your intention. And this leads to something else you can do as a "watcher". You can watch other watchers.
Sad but true, in some districts "watchers" are sent to polling places simply to interfere with access by minorities. As a second watcher, you can document this if you see it at your poll.
But I run on. There are a lot of things that watchers can watch for. If you want to take your concerns "live" on election day, this is one of the best ways you can do it.
Anyways, VoteWatch 2004 highlights recent articles, offers e-mail notification of important news, and provides several discussion forums in which you can participate. A quite interactive site.
Check it out.
[Link provided by Klintron 2.3 at American Samizdat.]
You've got to love the article just for its title!
The campaign is being run by TrueMajority, an online activist organization that Cohen launched in June 2002, to provide a political outlet for people who are concerned about justice issues and environmental sustainability. The nonprofit, non-partisan organization has 400,000 members, though Cohen believes the group's goals are shared by more than 50 million Americans. The group sends e-mail alerts to members when issues arise that concern them and organizes fax campaigns to congressional representatives.
Totalitarian nations hold elections, but what sets democracies apart is offering real choices in elections. In recent years, contests for the House of Representatives and state legislatures have looked more and more like the Iraqi election in 2002, when Saddam Hussein claimed 100 percent of the vote for his re-election. In that same year in the United States, 80 of the 435 House races did not even include candidates from both major parties. Congressional races whose outcomes were in real doubt were a rarity: nearly 90 percent had a margin of victory of 10 percentage points or more. It is much the same at the state level, only worse. In New York, more than 98 percent of the state legislators who run for re-election win, usually overwhelmingly.The reference to totalitarianism is telling (if understated) here, because this is exactly what today's gerrymandering efforts are attempting to do. Aided by newer and smarter computers, what was once a "best guess" human endeavor has evolved into the science of hyperpartisan line-drawing. While you might still get a vote, it simply doesn't count. This is merely another form of disenfranchisement; perhaps a different "flavor" than the E-vote issues, but still a denial of the vote to the electorate.
And this is important: It does not matter if the tampering is in your favor. Be it gerrymandering, E-vote tampering, targeted scubbing of voter roles, or any of the other forms of vote rigging, once you figure out that your vote does not matter, you'll stop voting.
The problem, however, is that most state election officials are not demanding this extra security. Instead, many of these officials believe that the machines are secure because they've been "certified" by a private independent testing authority (ITA) that keeps both the tests and the results of the tests secret from the public.Well, yes, but no. The problem is that we have literally thousands of people making these purchasing decisions, and few of them have any real experience in making them. They simply do not understand what a computer system should look like when it comes out of the box; namely, that they should be able to plug it in and it should work correctly as soon as they do. Even the manufacturers themselves know that they are not offering a product of this quality because if they really thought they were, they wouldn't be sending out so many on-site reps whenever the machines are being used.
Compounding this of course is the fact that most people selecting these systems operate in highly political environments; environments where it can be fatal to admit one's mistake. This results in a lot of the inertia we are seeing with these systems. Once the purchase is made, it must be defended regardless of any new evidence showing that the decision may have been less than perfect when made.
- I have mentioned that I try to cover on this blog not only issues regarding E-vote technology but also just about anything regard enfranchisement and disenfranchisement. To me, E-vote technology issues are merely a subset of this much larger topic. Allow me to just copy for you an answer I gave to this reader regarding my position on this larger topic:
I cover disenfranchisement issues on my blog for just this reason. We as a nation treat ballot tampering with kid gloves as if it were some sort of minor faux pas. Especially as we try to enter this electronic age, we must pull these kid gloves off. We must start offering and enforcing REAL penalties for those who so casually toss our most sacred right aside. These people who so advocate for mandatory minimums? Let's try a mandatory one year per tampered vote. And no early outs. Right after we sentence the first one, you'll see the biggest drop in history in efforts to do this. NO ONE will ever risk the chance for any money.
- My reader also offers this caution:
An individual in Florida named Bill Faulkner is harvesting addresses without permission from various online e-voting activist groups to promote his own e-voting activism. He claims to be a representative or official of the Democratic Party. He is NOT. He is an officer of the local DEC who is using the names and addresses of various people in an unauthorized manner to endorse his activities and draw attention to himself.Obviously, keep an eye out for this.
[The newspaper the White House reads.]
In this case, we have the Washington Times. (Notice my small text under that name above.) The Times has lost money every year since its inception, but it is owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the ever rich leader of the "moonies".) Here is his newspaper's editorial slant:
"The continued controversy over voter-verified ballots with electronic systems has led to a slowdown of changes throughout the United States."Well yes, perhaps that is true, but there is no mention of HAVA being defunded in Bush's latest budget, an action that will trump any concerns of black box activists. If there is no money for any of this, everything we do reverts to that tree in the woods: If it fell but no one hear it, did it ever make a sound.
"The system is in crisis. A quarter of the American public are voting on machines where there's very little protection of their votes. I don't think there's any reason to trust these machines," he said.Technically not difficult? That's an understatement. Ask Jim March.
Such a system is even vulnerable to fraud byemployees of the machine's manufacturers, who could rewrite the software to rig an election he said.
"It is technically not difficult to do if you bribe a programmer at a major manufacturer. If you ask how likely it is that it could be done, the answer is 100 per cent. If you ask how likely it is to be done, I can't answer that," he added.
And as for how likely? It is inevitable if it has not been done yet. A single rogue operator could swing a state, and a talented one could swing a country ... without being detected.
[Note: Dill was speaking before the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As of this writing, the text of his speech is not available there.]
US voters will go to the polls in November using electronic voting machines which cannot be verified, a computer scientist warned yesterday.The Guardian also maintains an extensive page of links of election coverage, US Election 2004, a US Vote 2004 weblog, and and interactive graphic, State by state guide to the elections, which covers the Democratic primariy.
David Dill, of Stanford University, told the American As sociation for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle, that 1,600 technologists and 53 elected officials had joined his crusade for a "paper trail" so that electronic voting machines could be checked. ...
"The system is in crisis," Professor Dill said. "A quarter of the American public are voting on machines where there's very little protection of their votes. I don't think there's any reason to trust these machines."
More than 61 percent of the nation's voters this fall will use electronically enhanced voting systems aimed at avoiding a repeat of the disputed 2000 election, but the changes won't be enough if the tally is close, according to a new study.Download the executive summary [107 KB PDF] or Voting Equipment Summary by Type [17 KB PDF]. A full breakdown of machines used by voting district is a vailable for a fee.
The study released Thursday by the political consulting company, Election Data Services, said 50 million voters, or 28.9 percent, will use touchscreen, ATM-style machines to cast their ballots — an increase from 12.5 percent in 2000.
The results have been overwhelming. Partnership for America's Families, a union-funded 527 that Rosenthal heads, first set up shop in Philadelphia last summer, and in short order registered 86,000 black and Hispanic Philadelphians. John Hickey, the executive director of Pro-Vote, says that after his project had submitted thousands of signatures, an official on the St. Louis election board called with a plaintive question. "Can't you just stop for a week?" he asked.And in a "dirty tricks" move using a fictiouos "527", Republicans have ensnared the Federal Election Commission in a fight to shut down the Democrat's voter registration drives.
There are, in fact, a lot of people who would like Rosenthal to stop. They are almost entirely Republicans. And they have launched a legal challenge to the 527s that, if successful, could give the Republicans a huge advantage in the 2004 elections -- and, almost as an afterthought, fairly devastate the First Amendment, too.
It's hard to judge where voting lists are being mishandled, since the procedures by which they are kept and corrected are shrouded in secrecy. That's the beginning of the problem. The public has a right to know that the rolls are being properly maintained — and to know it before the election. As became clear in 2000, after the fact is too late.
Federal law provides some general guidelines about keeping voting rolls, but the basic decisions about who is eligible to vote are largely left to local officials. City and county election offices are responsible for adding new registrants to the voting rolls, and purging voters who die, move away or are convicted of felonies. If election offices had adequate resources and precise rules, voting lists might accurately reflect who is entitled to vote. But the reality is far more chaotic, and errors abound.
State elections officials banned any attempt to recount votes cast on touch-screen voting machines Friday, reversing an earlier decision as counties prepare for the presidential primary less than a month away.This can only be called insane. Remember Bush v. Gore, the Election 2000 Supreme Court case that effectively handed that election to George Bush? The basis of their decision was essentially that if different standards for recounting ballots were used in different voting districts, irreperable harm would befall Bush. It was a quite tortured decision that even the Court itself said should not be used as precident for future decisions. But it wasn't only tortured, it was idiotic, as we will soon see.
Fast forward to 2004 and the advent of E-votng terminals in some Florida voting districts. State election officials initially decided that it would be left to the individual counties to decide if they wanted their terminals to produce paper ballots for use in audits and recounts. (Note that at the present, no E-vote terminals that produce paper ballots have been certified for use in Florida.)
These same officials however have recently reversed this decision, saying that no counties can produce paper ballots produced by E-vote terminals. Why? The Bush v. Gore decision. Here's the logic. If only some counties produce paper ballots, only those counties will be able to do recounts using those ballots. That creates "different standards" for recounting ballots, something that Bush v. Gore declares to be illegal.
Let's look at what they are saying here because it's important. What they are saying here effectively is that no Florida county can adopt a better voting system than any other Florida county. What they are saying here is that if all Florida counties cannot do a paper recount, then no Florida county is allowed to do a paper recount. What they are saying here is that all Florida counties must adopt the least secure voting system chosen by any Florida county. This is nonsense, and yet it is nonsense mandated by Bush v. Gore; that all recounting of votes must be as bad as the worst recounting of votes!
I would be remiss here is I did not point to my easlier post, Budgeting for Another Florida, which pointed out that the new White House budget only funds 5% of the $800 million legislated for the upgrade of voting systems around the country. The net result of this budget when combined with this recent Florida decicion is that counties in Florida will almost certainly not be seeking to use the now far more limited funds they will be receiving on paper e-ballot technology that they may not even be allowed to use. Local Florida voting supervisors will now not even have to take a position for or against paper e-ballots; they need only say that there is no money for them.
Is this some sort of conspiracy between the national Bush administration and the Florida Bush administration to sabotage the Florida 2004 election? One could hardly be faulted for noticng the "complimentary" nature of these decisions, but far more likely we are simply seeing a parallel lack of concern for the integrity of our voting systems that is all too common among members of today's Republican Party.
System: Something's Rotten in the State
and other states. But is it racially discriminatory?
For Derek Albert, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party's Black Caucus, the Internet was a convenient way for him to vote for his party's presidential nominee. But that doesn't convince him that Michigan's recent experiment with online voting was necessarily a good idea.Enter the debate: Is increasing voter turnout in and of itself a sufficient goal if the increase comes at the expense of a portion of the electorate that is already under-represented?
"Does it work for Derek Albert personally? Absolutely," he says. "But not all African Americans have the technology."
From the editor: This question brings together a number of issues upon which Black Box Notes has taken a prior editorial position:
These positions seeming conflict on this issue, so let me attempt to resolve these conflicts here.
- Party selection of candidates: Political parties, being essentially private organizations, should be free to select their candidates in any fashion that they deem appropriate. Further, public tax dollars should not be used in this process. To the end that a party chooses an inappropriate method, they do so to their own detriment.
- Internet voting: The Internet (by design) does not offer the security necessary for Internet voting. Claims that it can be made so are false.
- Voter enfranchisement/disenfranchisement: It must be the goal of any and all voting laws to extend the ballot box to all qualified voters, to encourage those voters to actually vote, to provide suitable and equal access to the polls, and to insure that voter qualification rules do not unfairly discriminate against any class or group of potential voters.
Black Box Notes remains firmly against the use of the Internet in any direct election of public officials. If political parties wish to use the Internet in their selection process, they should free to do so, but should be aware of its vulnerabilities.
Given this, there are numerous strategies that can be employed if parties using the Internet are concerned about unequal access based on social position. Perhaps the easiest of these would be to set up private voting hubs (laptops?) in areas where this might be a problem, but certainly there are many others. The primary motivating factor for this of course would be the desire of the individual party to provide for the enfranchisement of these groups. It would seem foolish for a party not to desire that, but that choice should be left to the individual parties.
Did New Hampshire voters select their favored Democratic presidential candidate based on how their votes were counted? While this might sound rediculous, the results clearly suggest this:
If you used: You favored Kerry over Dean by: Diebold 58.1% ES&S 35% Hand-counted ballots 4.7%
[Note: I just got this in and don't have any links for it yet. If anyone knows one, please send it along.]
- Jonathan Wand refutes Bento's analysis (first of two posts) directly using a geographical proximity analysis (different counting methods in adjoining voting districts), and concludes that his method shows Bento's analysis to be false. Wand clearly has a talent for statistics that exceeds mine (and probably yours), so I will not undertake a further analysis of them. Clearly Wand has taken a good bit of time and personal skill and applied them here.
But even Wand admits to elements of the vote counting process that his analysis cannot account for. Specifically, his results cannot account for bias in the selection process of voting count technology. This is a hated point for me, because it brings the possibility of partisanship back into this debate.
Look, vote fixing is not a non-partisan issue. No one who fixes votes does so in a non-partisan manor. And yet eventually, this element is indeed a factor. Claims that claims of vote fixing are partisan might well be true, but they are no more partisan than vote fixing itself.
I am far less impressed with the following detractor however.
- Mark Gubrud calls outright for a retraction: In addition to referencing Wand's analysis, Gubrud claims that the presentation of Bento's results is unscientific:
Also, you should realize that it is unscientific for you to magnify the anomaly you saw by taking the difference between the Dean and Kerry votes and dividing by the smaller of the two. Suppose an ad agency interviews 10 people, and finds that 6 like Coke while 4 prefer Pepsi. Not satisfied with a statistically insignificant 20% difference in popularity, an ad man following your procedure would come up with "Coke is 50% more popular than Pepsi!" That's more dramatic, but just as statistically invalid.Statistically invalid? Gubrud's politics may be showing here. Gubrud's claim is essentially that statistics should be presented in a fashion that minimizes differences rather than maximizes them. That might very well be Gubrud's preference for displaying statistics, but there is hardly anything scientific about that preference.
Gubrud then goes on to say:
By now, your findings are undoubtedly oozing through the internet as evidence that Kerry is the beneficiary of some Skull & Bony conspiracy to control the world. This sort of thing can be far more damaging, especially to voter turnout among the disaffected, than you might think. So frankly, you have done some (small) damage to our hopes of unseating Resident Shrub in the Fall. It doesn't seem as if that was your intention, but the damage is done, and I think it is your responsibility to try to repair it as well as you can.This is patently absurd. Gubrud is essentially arguing that it is better to keep the electorate unaware of potential problems in their voting systems than it is to educate them as to the possibility that their voting systems might have problems. This sort of Platonic/Straussian elitism would please even the staunchest of Neocons.
Gubrud later corrects another reader, pointing out that this is not a paper trail issue (New Hamshire is 100% paper balloting -- see below), but he ignores the fact that the e-voting security issue is not limited to the DRE voting terminals.
It seems to me that further professional analysis at this point offers nothing beyond additional opinions. But New Hampshire does have paper ballots that can be recounted, and they have not been. Were I a resident of New Hampshire, I would be asking for this. Not a full recount, but just a statistical sampling that might indicate whether there might indeed be a problem. This seems to me to be a small price to pay for voter confidence.
Even Gubrud suggests that voter confidence is critical to voter participation. I could not agree more. But the way to give voters confidence is not to dismiss claims that might reduce this confidence. The way to do this is to do the things necessary to increase that confidence.
Other items from this worth mentioning:
- Andy Stephenson points out that Diebold's New Hampshire optical scanners were using firmware version 1.92T, and that this version was never certified. Yes, Andy, if this is true, it is a violation of federal election laws. (Andy is a candidate for Secretary of State in Washington State. He is quite concerned with E-vote technology, and as Washington's Secretary of State, would no doubt have a significant impact on that state's E-vote implementation.)
- sCandidate nicely keeps track of the current delegate vote counts for the 2004 Democratic Primary Election, as well as listing caucuses and primary to come.
- bonovoxlvx offers the standard "Money = Power" DLC mantra:
Anyone following the campaign over the last year, will note that Governor Dean’s message ... has also now become the message of the establishment candidates. This is nowhere more obvious than in that of their anointed ‘front runner’ Senator Kerry. This shows our power. We can do more than just vote and influence voters. As a consolidated block, we can influence not only the nomination for our candidate but the party platform and in turn national dialogue and debate.He wants you to throw some money at his power politics.
- Wand offers a further analysis in the form of a preliminary paper on the New Hampshire 2004 Democratic primary. Bento responds:
The paper deems it unlikely that a single tamperer could access multiple machine types. According to Lynn Landes, who is a journalist researching this matter, and who cites Anthony Stevens and John Silvestro, CEO of LHS, as sources, a company called LHS Associates does all election-specific programming of vote-tabulation computers of whatever type in New Hampshire and in some other states as well. Silvestro himself appears to be someone who has held political office. I'd never heard of LHS and am seeking more information. If this is true, however, he assumption that the company that built the machine is the same as the one that progams it for a particular election does not appear to be sound.I have not heard of LHS before either.
Reader Jerry also calls into question my earlier post, N.H. Among Few Using Paper in Vote Records:
The technology troubles that could bedevil elections this year in California, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere were absent in New Hampshire this week. That's because it is among the few states that require a paper record for every ballot cast.I picked this up from a Yahoo News article, and must confess that I also was originally somewhat confused on this. Here's what I found.
New Hampshire does indeed use 100% paper ballots. Where the Diebold and ES&S voting machines come in is in the counting of those paper ballots via optical ballot scanners. (As of 2/4/2003, Diebold machines were used to count the votes for 9 cities and 41 towns in New Hampshire.)
This of course is quite significant. In the case of Diebold, this means that GEMS was used. GEMS in some form or other has been in use on optical vote scanners as far back as 1988, and as the research of Jim March (see "Will the Election Be Hacked?" below) has pointed out, the GEMS component of the Diebold voting system is by far the easiest to hack and provides the greatest "bang for the buck" to a hacker's efforts. Indeed, numerous studies by professional groups have confirmed this, especially the recent RABA study of the Maryland's Diebold hardware and software. One participant in this latest study even noted that it seemed that it wasn't that Diebold had done a bad job of implementing security, but rather that they had ignored the security issue entirely.
While I sat at his computer, March helped me open a file containing actual results from a March 2002 primary election held in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. -- a file that March says would be accessible to anyone who worked in the county elections office on Election Day. Following March's direction, I changed the vote count with a few clicks. Then, he explained how to alter the "audit log," erasing all evidence that we'd tampered with the results. I saved the file. If it had been a real election, I would have been carrying out an electronic coup. It was a chilling realization.If you want an article to get someone interested in the E-vote issue, this one should be high on your list. And if you weren't aware, Jim has instructions on his web site on how to do on your own computer exactly what he showed the Salon reporter.
[Original Salon link.]
Six electronic voting machines used in two North Carolina counties lost 436 absentee ballot votes in the 2002 general election because of a software problem, raising increasing doubts about the accuracy and integrity of voting equipment in a presidential election year.Now it was my understanding that absentee ballots were paper ballots, and therefore not entered via e-vote terminals and certainly not entered into the count by the absentee voter. Is there something wrong with this story, or is North Carolina doing something unique in their absentee voting process?
Election Systems & Software said problems with the firmware of its iVotronic touch-screen machines, used in a trial run, lost ballots in two North Carolina precincts during the state's early voting in 2002. ES&S, the largest U.S. maker of election equipment, is also the focus of attention into lost votes last month in Florida during a special election.
. . .
In the North Carolina case, a software glitch made the ES&S machines falsely sense that their memories were full and an error message displayed, said company spokeswoman Meghan McCormick in an e-mail to Wired News.
"Because the memory-full message appeared very quickly, some voters did not realize that their absentee vote had not been recorded," she added.
The Pentagon won't use an Internet voting system for overseas U.S. citizens this fall because of concerns about its security, an official said Thursday.All this is very nice, but the disclosure came just two days before Michigan used the Pentagon's system for their Democratic primary. (See below.)
The official, who requested anonymity, said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made the decision to scrap the system because Pentagon officials were not certain they could "assure the legitimacy of votes that would be cast."
Computer security experts who last month reviewed the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or SERVE, had urged the Pentagon to scrap the system, saying it was too vulnerable. The experts said the system could be penetrated by hackers who could change votes or gather information about users.
Thousands of Michigan Democrats have cast ballots for Saturday's caucuses using an Internet system that security experts say shares some of the risks found in a just-scrapped Pentagon effort.I guess they don't get it either. No matter how secure the voting system is made to be, it is the Internet itself that cannot be made secure.
Party officials insist they have safeguards and note that these particular ballots, unlike those in the $22 million Pentagon program, are not meant to be secret.
. . .
Voting in Michigan began in early January, long before the Pentagon decision, which reflects concerns that the legitimacy of Internet votes cannot be assured. Michigan party officials did not return calls seeking comment on the decision.
- PCWorld.com: Michigan Democrats Vote Online
- The president's new budget provides only $40 million of the $800 million promised for election improvements at the state level this year.
- The Election Assistance Commission was given only $2 million for its operating expenses this year, not the $10 million it was due.
- Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated for making improvements at the state level, but the commission is too short of cash to distribute it. By law, the money cannot be disbursed until the states' plans appear in The Federal Register, and the commission cannot afford the $800,000 publishing cost.
The technology troubles that could bedevil elections this year in California, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere were absent in New Hampshire this week. That's because it is among the few states that require a paper record for every ballot cast.
New Hampshire's relatively low-tech system — adopted after disasters with both antiquated punch cards and touch-screen computers — could become a nationwide model as scrutiny over electronic voting grows.
"Maybe people elsewhere trust machines more than they trust humans, but that would be totally out of the question here," said Secretary of State Bill Gardner, one of the longest-serving elections officials in the country. "I'm aghast that other places are considering touch-screen computers."
After the 2000 presidential election debacle, when hanging chads in Florida threw the results in doubt for five weeks, federal and state officials vowed never again. They quickly drafted plans to replace punch cards and other outdated voting systems, and pledged to spend the money needed to ensure every vote is counted properly.
Yet, as the 2004 presidential primary season spreads across the nation, voting systems remain unreliable throughout much of the USA. Many states still are using Florida-style ballots, including Missouri, the largest of seven states that held contests Tuesday. And states that switched to high-tech ballots are finding their computerized systems vulnerable to hackers.
The failure to follow through on election-reform pledges leaves millions of voters vulnerable to more ballot-counting fiascos. And each replay would feed public perceptions of a political system increasingly unresponsive to the needs of voters.
But a small number of vocal critics, conveniently forgetting the crisis instigated by the older voting technology, claim electronic voting is a curse, not a cure. They argue that software-dependent systems have gaping security holes and cannot verify results.This is a real head-in-the-sand assessment. Per the recent Maryland "experiment", DRE security can hardly be considered "strong". If fact, one of the participants in that effort said that it looked like Diebold hadn't even bothered to consider security in their design, and this was consistent with the results of that effort.
Such views, based on conjecture rather than fact, argue against fixing the problem altogether. DRE security is already strong. Measures to prevent tampering make the technology far superior to anything before, and improvements continue. Local election officials operating in the real, not academic, world know that the rewards of moving to DREs far outweigh the manageable risks.
But even more than that is the idea that local election officials will somehow simply fall into managing the risks in operating a computer system, many of whom have had little or even no prior experience in doing this. While e-voting systems are not the most complex of systems, any computer system is a mystery to one who has no experience with it, and it simply cannot be left to chance that every local election official will be up to the task.
Poll workers in Alameda County noticed something strange on election night in October. As a computer counted absentee ballots in the recall race, workers were stunned to see a big surge in support for a fringe candidate named John Burton.The Mercury News takes a look at California black box voting problems and problems elsewhere in this extensive article.
Concerned that their new $12.7 million Diebold electronic voting system had developed a glitch, election officials turned to a company representative who happened to be on hand.
Lucky he was there. For an unknown reason, the computerized tally program had begun to award votes for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Burton, a socialist from Southern California.
Similar mishaps have occurred across the country since election officials embraced electronic voting in the wake of the Florida vote-counting debacle of 2000.
Other articles from the Mercury News:
One of the biggest reasons politicians continue to trample on issues of crucial importance to low-income Americans — issues like jobs, education and access to health care — is the traditionally poor voting habits of that segment of the population. The percentage of people who vote (and the level of attention they get from politicians) rises steadily as you scale the income ladder.Bob Herbert takes a look at a voter registration drive in South Carolina, a region hard hit by factory closing.
When Maryland decided to buy 16,000 AccuVote-TS voting machines, there was considerable opposition. Critics charged that the new touch-screen machines, which do not create a paper record of votes cast, were vulnerable to vote theft. The state commissioned a staged attack on the machines, in which computer-security experts would try to foil the safeguards and interfere with an election.
They were disturbingly successful. It was an "easy matter," they reported, to reprogram the access cards used by voters and vote multiple times. They were able to attach a keyboard to a voting terminal and change its vote count. And by exploiting a software flaw and using a modem, they were able to change votes from a remote location.
Election boxes easy to mess with
For a week, the computer whizzes laid abuse - both high- and low-tech - on the six new briefcase-sized electronic voting machines sent over by the state.
One guy picked the locks protecting the internal printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once - and get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software. Once inside, he could easily change vote totals that come in on Election Day.
"My guess is we've only scratched the surface," said Michael A. Wertheimer, who spent 21 years as a cryptologic mathematician at the National Security Agency.
"We know this much: The system counts correctly. ... If you cast a vote, it's counted. That is really good news," Aro said.
Yet the review found that it is possible to vote multiple times, break into machines and disrupt results or get voters to select the wrong candidates. It's also possible to dial in to election headquarters and alter results or wipe out all of them.
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