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Criticizing the criticisms in an ongoing e-voting saga

Representatives from three voting machine companies expressed their criticisms against a California state-sponsored “top-to-bottom review” that found “very real” vulnerabilities in their products.

The study was lead by UC Davis professor Matt Bishop, who discussed the study at a hearing held by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, whose office is currently deciding whether or not to allow the machines’ use during the Feb. 5 presidential primary.

Under a contract with UC Davis and Bowen’s office, Bishop’s study examined machines from Diebold Election Systems, Hart Intercivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems. The conclusions, partially released last week, included findings that the voting systems posed difficulties for voters with disabilities and were vulnerable to intrusion. "It may be that all of [the vulnerabilities] can be protected against. It may be that some cannot,” said Bishop.  According to Secretary Bowen, a fourth company, Election Systems & Software, was also to be included in the review but was omitted because it was late in providing needed information to her office.

According to state law, Bowen has until Friday to set the rules for the upcoming primary election.  "I intend to go through a methodical process to determine what to do next," she said.

Sequoia Systems, in a statement released Monday on their web site, called the study’s findings “implausible,” objecting to the fact that the study was conducted in a closed lab environment over a period of weeks as opposed to a true election environment or in accordance with ISO criteria. “None of the attacks described … are capable of success,” said Sequoia sales executive Steven Bennett to a panel of officials from the Secretary of State’s office.

Diebold and Sequoia further pointed out that the study evaluated outdated versions of the voting machines and their software. “While it cannot be guaranteed that all of the extremely improbable vulnerabilities identified are prevented by subsequent product development and updates, many are specifically addressed,” said Sequoia. However, Sequoia acknowledged that it is working to insure that the “few system vulnerabilities” found could not be used to tamper with election results.

“Voting system reliability is something we're always working at improving … security is never finished,” said Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Schafer.

Hart Intercivic also objected to the study’s laboratory environment, stressing it was not a considerable substitute for real-world “people, processes, procedures, policies, and technology” and, in the company’s official statement, suggested that a better study might “define a realistic threat that faces all layers of security in an election.”

Even members of the security community have questioned the study’s approach: “While the goals of this effort were laudable, our organization is concerned about its execution,” writes Jim March of watchdog group Black Box Voting, to Secretary Bowen. “Your agency's review only partially examines the risks of inside manipulation with these systems. Procedural remedies can be circumvented by those with some level of inside access. In fact, we would contend that the most high risk scenario of all is that of inside manipulation, and we would also contend that the systems used in California cannot be secured from inside tampering.”

Since their inception, voting machines in the US have received a bad rap amidst a storm of negative press, mishaps, and concern about their ability to be tampered with:

In September 2006, Princeton researchers were able to hack Diebold’s AccuVote-TS machine, going so far as to write a computer virus that spread between other Diebold machines. Later, voting machines from Sequoia were also found to have similar vulnerabilities. “You can’t detect it,” explained Princeton Professor Andrew Appel.

In the same month, a team of untrained 54-year-old women from Black Box Voting, using 4 minutes’ worth of time and $12 in tools, were able to circumvent tamper-proof seals on a Diebold vote scanner, and were able to replace the device’s memory card.

Also in September 2006, a consulting firm working for Ohio’s Cuyahoga County -- which includes Cleveland -- found huge discrepancies between the electronic and paper records kept by Diebold voting machines. Ohio was a key swing state for the tight 2004 presidential election, and its electoral votes help decide the result.

Earlier that year in August, Diebold voting machines botched the Alaska preliminaries in several precincts as they failed to connect to their dial-up servers to upload vote results, slowing the election considerably. Officials had to hand-count votes and manually upload the totals to the central server.

In December 2005, a Diebold whistleblower under the name of “Dieb-throat,” who was once a “staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential” gave a scathing interview to The Raw Story accusing Diebold of mismanagement and burying known backdoors in their own products, including one that made the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Alert System for the first week of September 2004.

In 2004, Black Box Voting released a video demonstrating that a chimp, given an hour of training, was able to hack a Diebold voting machine. “What you saw was a staged production ... analogous to a magic show,” said Diebold spokesman David Bear, in response.

These findings, as well as others both negative and positive, culminated in a March 2007 warning from the US Government Audit Office as it testified before the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government: “[E-voting] security and reliability concerns are legitimate and thus merit the combined and focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration.”

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I'm sorry
By FITCamaro on 8/1/2007 7:23:40 AM , Rating: 4
But how hard is it to make a voting machine? It requires no complex logic. You have a few gui screens where the person identifies themselves, picks their candidate, and then they hit submit.

At the end of the day it sends out a quick, encrypted, data burst to a central server with the results. Or hell, just a print out of the final tallies and then all the different people who voted for different candidates and that can be uploaded manually.

Put it inside a steel chassis thats attached from the bottom (its more of a shell) so a person would have to lift the casing off to get to anything important. Hardly unnoticeable.

RE: I'm sorry
By Rotkiv on 8/1/2007 7:48:43 AM , Rating: 2
I realize that this not really the same thing but if it did not work for Thomas Edison it probably wont work here.

RE: I'm sorry
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 7:48:48 AM , Rating: 5
That would make too much sense. We can't do that.

RE: I'm sorry
By jay401 on 8/2/2007 9:18:14 AM , Rating: 2
yup. For one, it would put them outta business. For another, it would be too hard to "influence" election results if/when the government decides to do so.

RE: I'm sorry
By Bluestealth on 8/1/2007 7:52:32 AM , Rating: 2
These voting machines are really quite comical, perhaps eventually we will get someone to come out with a voting machine that actually works and is secure and we can move on with life?

RE: I'm sorry
By Moishe on 8/1/2007 8:46:49 AM , Rating: 5
There is far too much FUD and politics mixed up in this.

We can make a solid trustworthy voting machine, but we don't... Not sure why, but it's rather upsetting and makes me really doubt that we'll ever have a completely trustworthy election.

Like another poster said, we can do it like with ATMs. ATMs just work and they leave a paper trail.

RE: I'm sorry
By Some1ne on 8/1/2007 4:02:40 PM , Rating: 1
So I can withdraw $20 the next time I have to vote on sometihng? Cool.

RE: I'm sorry
By clemedia on 8/2/2007 12:36:00 AM , Rating: 6
Not without a $1.50 surcharge. :)

RE: I'm sorry
By rtrski on 8/2/2007 2:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
I can see that leading to a class action civil suit about a Poll Tax. :)

RE: I'm sorry
By TwistyKat on 8/2/2007 2:12:43 PM , Rating: 3
Right. If I'm going to vote on computer I want a receipt with a transaction ID, a timestamp and who I voted for. I would be responsible for that receipt and if I lost it, my loss.

If the voting machine companies can't do that, I'd suspect they can't create a real voting machine in the first place.

RE: I'm sorry
By JeffDM on 8/4/2007 10:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
I think ATMs are occasionally compromised but I think there is a valid point in that they are still far better handled, better designed and offer you a paper trail, I think a second copy is kept inside the machine too. I've heard that slot machine systems are usually far better regulated as well.

But maybe that's not entirely fair. ATMs and slot machines have been around for a lot longer and are more mature products.

Personally, I am worried about lone hackers getting to the machines, but that's not the big threat, and I think the makers are trying to distract people in their arguments. I don't want machines that can be rigged to rig elections. Some people have direct access to them and there's a chance that it can be used to rig elections or completely miscount them. That's why the machine should keep its own paper trails.

RE: I'm sorry
By omnicronx on 8/1/2007 9:14:24 AM , Rating: 2
If its so easy, maybe you should be seeking the next contract ;) but something gives me a feeling its a little more complex than you think. Remember it is a lot more than just voting, i bet half the system is protection against cheating or the manipulation of votes.

RE: I'm sorry
By BMFPitt on 8/1/2007 11:49:31 AM , Rating: 2
It is incredibly easy to create a hack proof voting system (at least to the point where it is as secure as a paper ballot) if you assume minimally competent people running the polling places. It is incredibly hard to create a cheap hack proof voting system.

At a bare minimum, there should have to be a paper receipt that states in human-readable form who was voted for. The votes should only be tallied from the paper receipt. A random sample of at least 5-10% of them should have to be fully tested to assure that they are read correctly. There should be a screen that states what the tallies are at all times when feeding into the machine, so that any person doing the feeding can notice something hat doesn't match.

Under this system, it doesn't matter if you give everyone open access to the machine and the code. As long as people look at the receipt to see that it is correct, you can't fudge the results.

RE: I'm sorry
By Rovemelt on 8/1/2007 12:06:26 PM , Rating: 1
I agree, it doesn't need to be difficult if the voting machine is basically a kiosk that simply prints out a readable ballot on paper. The voter can visually confirm the vote and put the paper ballot in a box. Sounds pretty secure to me and relatively easy to achieve.

“Voting system reliability is something we're always working at improving … security is never finished,” said Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Schafer.

So I guess this means Sequoia is committed to a voting process that is forever in question. This is an example of why I can't trust our democracy to these companies.

RE: I'm sorry
By rcc on 8/1/2007 4:57:53 PM , Rating: 2

Oh, but wait. If we fought using WWI technology. Or did forenics the way they did it in the civil war......

Dude, security is always an on-going project.

And frankly, have you considered how secure a ballot box really is?

RE: I'm sorry
By Flunk on 8/1/2007 9:50:27 AM , Rating: 3
Maybe I should start my own voteing machine company. We'll do things that make sense like encrypted commication and verfying votes on the server side (But not linking who the person voted for to the person of course). Keeping the important logic off of the terminal should be the 1st priority.

How hard is it to properly implement this dataflow:

Voteing terminal -> Vote Server -> Database

RE: I'm sorry
By tdp2000 on 8/1/2007 12:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
What is the matter with pencil and paper and a human being to tally the votes? I don't understand this rush to "modernize" our voting system. It probably doesn't make any difference because money, not machines, elect the likes of GW Bush.

RE: I'm sorry
By BMFPitt on 8/1/2007 12:26:36 PM , Rating: 2
What is the matter with pencil and paper and a human being to tally the votes?
2000 election?

RE: I'm sorry
By The Sword 88 on 8/1/2007 1:43:03 PM , Rating: 2
Okay I lived in Jacksonville, Florida then. It was not hard to vote. People are just idiots. The butterfly ballot was not confusing. You just punched the hole next to your candidate. Sure there were names on both sides and the punch boxes were in the middle but it was not confusing. As for the hanging chad thing. If you accidently voted for 2 candidates for the same office your vote should have been thrown out.

RE: I'm sorry
By BMFPitt on 8/1/2007 1:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
As for the hanging chad thing. If you accidently voted for 2 candidates for the same office your vote should have been thrown out.
Yet this is still left up to interpretation, and every count yielded different results. This would not be possible with a printed receipt.

RE: I'm sorry
By Lightning III on 8/1/2007 12:40:10 PM , Rating: 3

thats not the problem they dont want to add a simple recpt printer to the devices that will print out your choices with a place for a thumb print

that way after the election they can randomly choose a machine and verify that one of the largest rebublican campaign contributor's (DIEBOLD)isn't electronicly trying sway the election

RE: I'm sorry
By davidsarmstrong on 8/3/2007 8:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
Excellent point!

RE: I'm sorry
By Oregonian2 on 8/1/2007 2:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the funny thing is that "testing" of such systems usually finds faults that depend upon physical access to the box for a significant period of time. Paper ballots are VERY easily modified when physical access is allowed. So usually my response is 'duh'.

As to design, I actually participated in the design of an electronic voting machine in the mid 1970's. Company I worked for (in North Carolina back then) designed and manufactured it for another company. It would have been essentially unbreakable due to the low-tech that was used (the screens were rear-projected filmstrip-projector based, with rows of switches on the front. No networking was involved (so it was break-in proof in that regard) and the totally unique custom data storage had to be physically transported. Had a tiny printer that printed what I recall to look like giberish generic markings which was used for an auditrail. In any case, preventing physical access is the key to security -- that makes everything else less important, especially if it's not networked at all (at least when being used).

RE: I'm sorry
By theConfusedOne on 8/2/2007 4:03:37 AM , Rating: 2
I'm seeing a lot of interesting and enlightening viewpoints here.

I think it is indeed more complicating than not. Making sure that the GUI works for those of us that are colorblind. Making sure that the usability is not complicated for those not used to a computer (but very knowledgeable in philosophy, politics, etc... or not knowledgeable but eager to participate and to vote). If the machine sends the results in bulk, how and where is it stored? Is it secure? How can we check that it's not tampered with? How can we check that the creator was not bribed by one party or another to make a "special" machine?

I think the issue is complex, the outcome unimaginably important. I think the only way to trust the outcome, is to know as much as we can about the process. Is anybody thinking open source? The more contributors, the more wisdom, the merrier. I think.

Do it the same way as banks.
By theapparition on 8/1/2007 7:57:02 AM , Rating: 2
There are millions of ATM machines. Billions of transactions happen per day without incident, and where there is money, it is not for lack of trying. I don't understand the problem.

Design a system that collects votes electronically, but also prints out a receipt for the voter (and keeps an internal printed receipt, think cash registers with the double paper rolls). Best of both worlds. It would be pretty hard to forge copy transfer paper.

Going back to the botched elections of the past, people have the right to vote, but they have the responsibility to know how to vote. That also include those who do not take the time to know the candidates platforms, and instead vote on party affilitation. Those who miss closing times, get turned away for improper ID, or are just too damn stupid to check next to their candiates name get no sympathy from me.

I also think that news agencies should refrain from posting results or "exit polls" until the entire country has voted, but that is another issue.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By Duraz0rz on 8/1/2007 8:49:59 AM , Rating: 2
IIRC this is how it was done with the voting machines I used in Ohio. I'm sure there's an electronic tally in there, as well as a paper sheet that prints your results behind a clear plastic cover.

What they seem to be worried about is security around the electronic storage device for the machines. I do agree that there should be a central server that receives voting information immediately after someone confirms their vote, but imagine the infrastructure involved with that. Each voting precinct would need a voting server. Those servers would need to hook up to one for each township, then city, then county, etc etc etc.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 9:14:12 AM , Rating: 2
Not really. We did something similiar to this with the Y2K project, we had one central server down in Washington DC (In the building that now headquarters the Homeland Security Agency) with a backup server in California. Everything was piped into the server immediately so we could see if anything went wrong. Having the voting machines maintain a constant encrypted VPN connection to the server cluster and then tallying them at the central location would be childs play. The server could track where it came in from and tally it accordingly. As a backup you could have them continue to print the paper hard copies into a sealed box.

Not difficult.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By omnicronx on 8/1/2007 9:18:37 AM , Rating: 2
Not difficult sure, but remember whatever can be made, can be hacked. Theres a lot of venerabilities in no matter what system is picked, especially with a big state like california, where it would be much harder to verify wrongdoings. And although VPN and many other system are secure for ATM etc etc.. none of these things can manipulate who becomes the next president. Just a weee bit more at stake here thats all im saying ;)

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By Flunk on 8/1/2007 9:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
But not doing it like that is completely stupid. If the votes are stored at each precinct you have thousands of possible hack points.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By rtrski on 8/1/2007 9:36:44 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe that's the key. You should be payed for your vote...not by a given candidate as in the alleged vote-purchasing that happens at homeless shelters at every election, but by the government, for doing your civic duty. Like jury pay, but enough to make it a real incentive not to avoid it.

One vote, you get $100 or something. It comes out of your tax return, so the net monetary equation is zero in terms of budgets (obviously neglecting costs of implementing the system, but can they really be different than the costs involved now?)

I bet more people would vote, AND more people would be incentivized to be prepared to vote correctly to get their $100. And if you don't get to get your $100 because someone else hacked 'your' vote, you'd raise a stink too.

Let the flames begin... ;)

By omnicronx on 8/1/2007 9:44:02 AM , Rating: 2
while i do not see how this would help protect anything, it is a damn good idea to get people to vote.
but then again, republicans bank on people not voting every election ;) Most gun-ho republicans are the first to the ballot boxes, at least here in a Canada.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By rcc on 8/1/2007 12:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
If they won't do it be cause they want to, need to, or consider it their duty to, I sure don't want them voting because they are getting paid to. By choosing to vote, or not, they are getting pretty much what they deserve.

Even if you get them to the polls, they aren't going to research the candidates or issues, at all.

By theapparition on 8/1/2007 12:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
Even if you get them to the polls, they aren't going to research the candidates or issues, at all.

Yep, I'd rather have 1,000 people who are knowledgeable about the candidates vote, than 1,000,000 people who don't have a clue.

In retrospect, sounds a lot like the electoral college!

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By Ringold on 8/3/2007 3:56:31 AM , Rating: 2
Let the flames begin... ;)

Let me take a step further! And before I do, allow me to credit Robert Heinlein for the following idea.

Lets throw out this universal suffrage crap. Even my 12 year old niece knows there's a lot of idiots out there that shouldn't be handed the right to vote on a silver platter.

Lets chop American's up in to two categories. Legal residents, and Citizens. Citizens can vote, and receive access to the full array of government services, while others do not. One becomes a citizen only be public service, be it volunteering for military duty, extensive community service or some other route where time and effort are sacrificed in the name of the country.

This right could be bestowed individually, so one isn't born a Citizen and one can't through marriage become a Citizen. Once citizenship is attained, it's for life.

Asides from a college degree, it would also be the new sole method of entry to the United States; volunteering for our military, learning English, and then being granted the title.

No more uncaring voters. And through virtue of having spent time either defending the community or serving it (auto-citizenship, perhaps, for firefighters, police, etc), voters would also have a more.. broad view of society from which to base their votes.

Oh, and if some guy in another country wants to volunteer to serve in our Army so that his family can have a better life and doesn't mind, say, a slightly longer than normal contract compared to residents, then that'd be okay by me too, just the kind of people we need.

I don't believe it'd necessarily be any sort of divergence from the intentions of the framers of the constitution, either. Suffrage was FAR from universal then.. I'd even say they might like the idea.

Somebody can flame me, don't really care. It'll never get implemented. :)

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By rtrski on 8/3/2007 1:15:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I've always liked that idea myself. Frankly I was throwing out the whole pay for votes incentivizing idea as a lark. I was expecting far more flames than I got.

I'm with you - I don't want unmotivated, unintelligent voters voting. They'll always vote for short-term comfort at best, or at the worst based solely on surface aesthetics.

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By iNGEN on 8/4/2007 12:51:51 PM , Rating: 2
Remember that line from Starship Troopers about the difference between a resident and a citizen? That was actually an adaptation from a 1801 comment made by then President Thomas Jefferson that the difference between a resident and a citizen is that a citizen makes the individual liberty of each and every one of his countrymen his personal responsibility.

If you are willing to modify your comment to say that citizenship is not granted, but instead that citizenship is intrinsic; displayed or recognized through some form of civil service your idea has my support!

RE: Do it the same way as banks.
By KristopherKubicki on 8/2/2007 3:06:47 AM , Rating: 2
There are millions of ATM machines. Billions of transactions happen per day without incident, and where there is money, it is not for lack of trying. I don't understand the problem.

I think the scary thing you'll find is that ATMs are made by the same companies. Maybe that says something for existing ATMs.

By TomCorelis on 8/2/2007 2:37:41 PM , Rating: 2
Voting machines are a whole new set of challenges compared to ATMs. Most of the polling places around where I live are run out of peoples' garage or the local elementary school. Quick to set up, quick to take down; there on voting day and gone the next. I bet if Diebold et al could design voting machins like they design ATMs we'd already have successful implementations, but they can't. Voting machines need to be extremely portable, almost disposable in their role. Short of making them a dumb terminal (which is its own can of worms) I think it's very hard to make a system that is both resistant to tampering but easily set up and configured by the polling volunteers.

What I'm trying to say is that I am not surprised that it's taking this long. Frankly, I don't know what's so hard on the data end, but locking down the machines is tricky.

By brshoemak on 8/1/2007 7:56:00 AM , Rating: 3
So let me get this straight. A non-independent study was done in association with a person (Bowen) who is vehemently against these voting machines, in a closed environment, where they had weeks to work on cracking them, were given the source code and ample knowledge of the inner-workings of the machines and they are surprised and shocked when they were cracked? Not to mention the possibility of an inside job?

She must be glad she has a political soapbox to stand on now. I'm not trying to attack anyone but c'mon.

Thief tries to break in to your house with a great electronic lock on it. They can't take it off, go home, look over it, get inside information on the software inside it from the vendor, spend two weeks on it, bring it back, crack it and call it successful. There is also not usually another thief inside waiting to unlock the doors of random houses(inside job). I'm not saying these voting machine are perfect, far from it; but the results of this ridiculous study were known before it started. Hacker + Resources + Time = Wide Open

RE: Wha..?
By akugami on 8/1/2007 10:30:44 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is how safe the information on these machines are. I understand the need for said info to be released to state agencies that deal with security but we've seen all too often where the information is kept behind flimsy security and easily accessed by those who have decent knowledge of computer security.

Given that the thieves have a chance at accessing the secured code, etc, etc, they can crack the voting machines. I would also like to see how easily compromised the machines are without anything but what is supposed to be publicly known about these machines. This will give you both perspectives and a truer view on how easy it would be to crack into these machines be it physical or digital.

RE: Wha..?
By Lightning III on 8/1/2007 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 1

Dooofus again

well since the diebold mobo for this system can be found on e-bay I guess he can take the lock home

RE: Wha..?
By brshoemak on 8/2/2007 8:01:01 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see where the source code is that actually runs the machine is on ebay. Let me know if you find it. Hardware is nothing. That's like saying all of one model of servers are the same in terms of security regardless of what software is running on it and how it's setup.

RE: Wha..?
By PandaBear on 8/1/2007 12:57:23 PM , Rating: 2
Matt Bishop is rigging the research in a close lab behind the door? He is one of the best if not the best security researcher in the US.

The only thing I can think of about him is that he is tough, and can find security holes every where you least expected it. But come on, every system on earth have security holes, it is a matter of how secure it is and is the security stronger than the thing it needs to be protected that matters. FYI paper voting is also not completely secure, but the question is whether it is more or less secure than the voting machines being tested.

I have taken his computer security course, and can tell you that the way he can think of how and where a system can be hacked is second to none. Heck, in our class we have to hack into a server secure by him as an assignment. He claims to have "completely" secured it by himself and within 24 hrs, one of the student broke in. That shows you how hard it is to make something completely secure.

Maybe Bowen picked Matt Bishop because she knew he is so tough, but that's what security analysis is all about, test it well. It is not Matt Bishop being biased, he is doing his job.

Even if you have paper trail, how can you be sure that the vote counting matches what people vote on? Even if you get a receipt and verify at home, how do you know that the verification at home shows the same thing as the vote counting result? Unless you keep a transaction record that can be traced back to the voter, but then everyone will know who you vote for even if you want to kept your privacy. Imagine if one day this country falls to a dictator and he will come get you if you don't vote for him, how do you protect yourself?

RE: Wha..?
By theapparition on 8/2/2007 10:02:55 AM , Rating: 2
Even if you have paper trail, how can you be sure that the vote counting matches what people vote on? Even if you get a receipt and verify at home, how do you know that the verification at home shows the same thing as the vote counting result?

In my mind, the receipt will be copy transfer paper, so the original (or copy) is still in the machine, on a roll. That way, if there is an issue, the electronic vote count could be compared to the paper. It would be very hard for a hacker to mess with transfer paper, where the original differs from the transfer, that would have to be done with signifigant modifications to the machine hardware. Cash registers have been doing this for ages. Nothing super complex there.

Now, if the roll goes missing, no way to check the electronic votes, but the same can be said if a box of paper ballots goes missing. History has shown us that going electonic has simplified operations, made them more secure (<-yes that true), and has signifigantly reduced error. No reason to fear change.

Leverage something that really works!
By leolamas on 8/1/2007 7:54:07 AM , Rating: 2
Here is my take on it: instead of reinventing the wheel, why not leverage a product that really works? Anyone in the voting machine field knows that Brazil has mastered this field. To validate what I'm saying here, just go to Google and do a quick search for "Brazil voting machines" and you'll understand what I'm saying.

By the way, it seems we're notorious for reinventing the wheel... Another great example has to do with ethanol. Brazil (again!) also has mastered the production of ethanol since the 1970s using sugar-cane. I understand that crops of sugar-cane are not very common in the USA but some parts in the south of USA could be great candidates for such crops, and ethanol from sugar-cane is much cheaper to be produced than from corn.

Anyways, it would be great if some of our decision makers could look a little beyond USA borders and leverage what is best in class for each field and make better use of our money.

RE: Leverage something that really works!
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 8:16:06 AM , Rating: 1
Got to step in here and put some things straight.

By the way, it seems we're notorious for reinventing the wheel... Another great example has to do with ethanol. Brazil (again!) also has mastered the production of ethanol since the 1970s using sugar-cane.

See, there is a few problems with this.

#1- Using sugarcane poses a problem. For starters it can only be harvested by hand, and the U.S. is not about to pay the 3-5 doller per day rates to a person to run around in a field and pickup the sugarcane.

#2- Also, the Brazilian method of harvesting sugar cane is to burn the fields just before hand to get rid of the leaves. Throughout the harvesting season the air quality is terrible and there are overwhelming respiratory problems in area of the field and surrounding areas. This isn't good.

Educate yourself about the problems before posting about golden solutions. You also need to figure that before the mid 1990's the Ethanol industry in Brazil was heavily subsidized, it doesn't need to be anymore as it's a mature industry, but there isnt any pure ethanol these days. It's mostly gasoline with ethanol mixed in.

RE: Leverage something that really works!
By OxBow on 8/1/2007 9:41:40 AM , Rating: 2
Who says it has to be harvested by hand. In Louisiana I've seen several mechanical harvesters. Sugar cane hasn't been harvested by hand for nearly 50 years.

Not saying that Cane>Ethanol makes sense here for a wide variety of other reasons; carbon footprint, climate margins, land values, etc.

As for the Brazilian voting system, their system has solved some of the problems we have, but introduces others. It's a trade off. Our voting system stinks, but it's no worse than other many other systems. We need to get the corruption out of the system, not change how we vote.

The president of Diebold promised to deliver the '04 Ohio vote to Bush back in '02. All of these voting machine companies have deliberately created machines that can skew an election one way or another.

There's more to the reform needs here than just insisting on a plain text paper trail, although that is a first step. As for the argument that you couldn't do this hack in a real election setup, that's a load of claptrap. Most of these machines are delivered from storage and set up by County work crews (usually a job delegated to trustees). Getting in and flashing the eproms on one of these units is the work of minutes, something anyone can do with a couple minutes training. Skewing an election would be very simple from logistical point of view. The manufacturers have just been very obliging in making it simple.

RE: Leverage something that really works!
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/07, Rating: 0
By leolamas on 8/1/2007 10:14:16 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's still harvested by hand in Brazil just because labor over there is way cheaper than buying machines to do it (not that I agree with such methods but this is how it's done over there). But just because this is how is done in Brazil it doens't mean it should be done the same way here. What I'm trying to say is that we could leverage the "good" parts of this process done in Brazil and improve the other ones needing improvements. Similar to what the Japeneses did when they started producing their cars (learned from Americans and made it much better later on). Same idea for the e-vote machines. It's all about leveraging things (when they can be leveraged) instead of reinventing the wheel. This is what I think.

By totallycool on 8/2/2007 2:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
India has been using electronic voting machines for sometime now. So i believe lots of places have already implemented the machines,successfully, then why not us.

By Ringold on 8/3/2007 3:26:06 AM , Rating: 2
Which is nice, except a couple things.

Brazil's elections may be straight, but it's politicians arent. Not generally a country America needs to be emulating.

Regarding Ethanol. Yep, ya'll got your ethanol. Wait a second -- where'd all that rainforest go...?

Does It even matter?
By Yossarian22 on 8/1/2007 2:59:32 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares if a different politician then you wanted goes to power. All that changes is the company the current admistration protects.

The old way is better
By PrinceGaz on 8/1/2007 7:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'm all for technology generally, but in this case, election voting, I believe the old tried and trusted placing your cross or numbers in the papaer-slip is preferable.

The old system has an automatic paper-trail which can be checked and re-checked if necessary and every vote is a visible individual mark. In the UK, when you vote in person at a polling station, you are as near as is possible guaranteed that your vote will be counted in the election (we have had a lot of postal vote fraud allegations however, which is why I would never choose that way of voting).

E-voting is reliant on a computer system collating the votes and sending the information to a central server, and as this study has shown, these machines can be modified such that the details they record and/or send are inaccurate. As much as I am a technophile, for something as important as voting in elections, I'd rather the technology were removed altogether and that you in the US do like most of us in the UK do, and vote in person at the polling station. After a trial with compulsary postal voting here in part of Britain (which resulted in various amounts of fraudulent votes- I could personally have voted three times in one election if I'd wanted to), it is now increasingly discredited.

Electronic voting machines would be the last straw, unless they also printed a receipt for every vote cast. Which would make them no better than a standard plastic ballot box, and arguably worse because a standard ballot box cannot be modified in a way which results in false votes being cast.

Does it matter?
By JonnyDough on 8/1/2007 10:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
Electoral vote. Trumped.

Why not ask the banks to do it
By akenaton on 8/2/2007 2:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
The bank machines are required to transfer billions of dollars a year, and they seem to be able to do it rather securely, without too many backdoors into the system.

Just a thought.

By Demon-Xanth on 8/2/2007 11:04:44 AM , Rating: 2
A person comes, identifies themselves, and is given a screen on what to vote on.
They touch thier votes in.
When they have voted on everything, they are given a listing to confirm it.
Once they hit "okay" a thermal printer with paper that is on a reel-to-reel arrangement prints what that person voted as well as a running total.

At the end of the day, the operator opens the machine, looks at the running tally, makes sure it jives with the number of people that came in that day. If so, call those numbers in and send the reels in to be archived.

You have a paper trail.
If there is a fault (ie: power goes down) you have a record of what happened in the past.
There is no network that could be comprimised.
If there is a review and the numbers DON'T jive, you'd be able to go back and see when and be able to investigate why (ie: if someone tampered with it, you could figure out who)

It's easier to add a window to a brick wall than it is to secure a greenhouse.

By roz on 8/2/2007 8:58:26 PM , Rating: 2
I'm all for tech and efficiency but I just dont trust a voting system that does not have a hardcopy paper trail for verification.

The best system seems to be the paper ballots that are scanned at the voting site. Even those are open to abuse down stream in the tallying, that aspect needs to be addressed too but at least in that case you have a paper record to go back to. I think we should have a federal mandate to have this type of technology and be done with this issue for the next 10 years.

We also need a few other electoral reforms that are just as important:

First, we need mandatory statewide standards for polling stations and election resources for a given population. There should not be an inconsistency of machines between districts.

Second, in presidential elections, no electoral college voters should be awarded unless the candidate achieves a simple majority. Today a candidate can win 100% of electoral votes for a state without receiving 50% or more of the statewide votes. I think this is patently anti-democratic. Majority rule is an essential principle of democratic government. Candidates who do not get a majority should be subject to a runoff between the top two vote getters till someone gets over 50%. States should be required to meet this standard.

Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Enigma777 on 8/1/07, Rating: -1
RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 8:29:18 AM , Rating: 2
Put down the crackpipe there boy. Your paranoia is in line with the people who think the moon landings were faked.

By Lightning III on 8/1/2007 1:10:40 PM , Rating: 2
just because your paranoid doesn't mean there not out to get you

If a letter sent to you by the GOP with explicite do not Forward request gets returned to them, your right to vote will automaticly be challenged.

although if you are white anglo saxon protestant you will never see this letter since it seems it was targeted to minorities and the poor it was sent to Black university's in august and to our soliders in IRAQ.

so if you can't win it suppress it

how rovian

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By TheGeezer on 8/1/2007 2:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
Crack pipe? C'mon. It's a tad reckless to predict the future that way, but if past is prologue he might be right. Certainly nothing has been too unethical so far for the current crop of corruptos in power to resort to.

Leaving aside the standard "sneer at the messenger to invalidate the message" right-wing debate avoidance technique, consider the obvious in Ohio. a) 2002 - Diebold promises Ohio to the Republicans in 2004. b) 2004 - Ohio election looks crooked as can be and c) Ohio Republicans stop barely short of using shotguns to prevent outside investigations.

Generally speaking, people who refuse to be open have something to hide. Just like Gonzales, our micromanaging AG who "can't remember" anything, or Cheney's fourth branch of government refusing to divulge what they plan to do in case of another attack. Or even divulge who was present in the smoke-filled roooms where energy policy was planned prior to California's fraudulent "energy crisis."

In security, adding an entrance to a building doesn't increase intrusion vulnerability linearly. It's a nonlinear process. Keeping votes locally instead of transmitting them, encrypted, to a well monitored location is like adding a LOT of doors to a building. But a centralized database is much more vulnerable to insider manipulation. We're talking about Diebold here, a Republican-a-la-neocon ideologue as committed to centralized right-wing rule as the Roberts court. A centralized database then, but with decentralized, well sampled precinct-level paper receipts to verify results and keep the data keepers honest - that would provide a level of security no politician really wants.

Stop attacking someone who is alarmed at what he sees from his vantage point of, what was it, 72 years or so. Take a look at the facts and start to wonder why those cockroaches go to such extreme lengths to scurry away from the light.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Ringold on 8/3/2007 3:37:45 AM , Rating: 2
In response I'd say to broaden our collective memories past the last few years and recall that the Democrat party has just as colorful a history of swinging elections as the Republican party could hope to aspire to. Even their legal methods of manipulating things, such as the many College Democrats I know who are registered Republican's for the express purpose of voting for the weakest candidate in the Primary, are just as dangerous to the ultimate outcome as a little actual vote tampering.

The safest assumption is that, unless foreign agents are intervening and committing fraud (and nearly every hostile foreign agent I can imagine, except for China, would prefer a dove rather than a hawk) then both sides are cheating in isolated local areas, and that the net effect is essentially zero because, praise be upon them for their wisdom, our founding fathers gave us the Electoral College which is essentially a safeguard against many such things.

I just hope that if Hillary pulls out a close win against who ever we run against her that my fellow Republican's shut the hell up about it instead of spamming the intertubes with their paranoia for going on SEVEN years now.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Moishe on 8/1/2007 8:43:58 AM , Rating: 2
LOL... you really sound like a nutbag (even *if* you aren't)

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Duraz0rz on 8/1/2007 8:50:48 AM , Rating: 1
Have fun counting 270+ million paper votes, then.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By rtrski on 8/1/2007 9:30:05 AM , Rating: 1
He doesn't know he was sending his absentee paper ballots to me. I (and the other black bag election thieving operatives in our mobile black helicopter postal intervention cell) was replacing them with my own, complete to matching the same crayon he used when he voted for Ralph Nader (but swapping his vote for a different candidate, of course), and the quiver in his handwriting from incipient Alzheimer's.

Now these electronic election dohickeys...they scare me. We can't just substitute our own ballots, poke out extra chads to invalidate votes we don't want, or substitute a fake lockbox prestuffed with tilted votes for the original one. <sigh> Looks like I need job retraining....

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By omnicronx on 8/1/2007 9:40:31 AM , Rating: 2
I am 72yoa,and a student of Poltical Studies--BELIEVE ME!!!!!!!!

hahahahahahahahah, i will be laughing for a week thanks!!
72yoa.. is that dog years in chinese?

On a side note, mr paranoia is only half crazy. With paper voting, at least recounts could be done to verify whether or not a wrongdoing had been committed. But with e-voting there is no such guarantee, and unfortunatly everyone in the world loves money, and it only takes one dirty person with the right resources too possibly change voting outcomes.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Rovemelt on 8/1/07, Rating: 0
RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 12:49:52 PM , Rating: 2
There is alot of theory that the 2004 election was rigged. I also see a lot of FUD in is article, lots of assumptions based on statistics. What have we learned about statistics? There are lies, dirty lies, and statistics.

I'm not saying the elections weren't rigged, I'm saying that there is conjecture, theory, and little hard evidence. I think some of the conspiracy theorists put in some overtime on this issue and made a mountain out of an ant hill.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By frobizzle on 8/1/2007 3:44:35 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying the elections weren't rigged, I'm saying that there is conjecture, theory, and little hard evidence. I think some of the conspiracy theorists put in some overtime on this issue and made a mountain out of an ant hill.

There is plenty of hard evidence. Just do a Google search for "voter caging" and you will find that Tim Griffin, one of Rove's flunkies, when trying to send one of caging lists to, he made a wee mistake. Instead of sending the emails — potential evidence of a crime — to email addresses ending with the domain name “” he sent them to “@GeorgeWBush.ORG.” A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns “”

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Nfarce on 8/1/2007 4:33:50 PM , Rating: 1
I don't waste time with the wingnut Daily Kos conspiracy theories. The Democrats (liberals) are in control of Congress and if there was any real shred of truth to a "stolen" election in Ohio, Nancy & Co. would be on it like wolves on a carcass. I find it amusing that every time a Republican wins an election, it must have been "stolen" yet when we hear about voter registration fraud with dog and dead people votes, illegal immigrant votes, and convicted felon votes, they say nothing. Is it any wonder Democrats are so vehemently against voter ID? Intimidation my ass. You think they complain about being "intimidated" when carded to cash a social security check? Please. Wisconsin's 2004 election that went to Kerry: 1,489,504 votes to Bush's 1,478,120 votes. Democrats would have screamed, claimed fraud, and demanded a recount had those numbers been reversed. I'm way over it.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By frobizzle on 8/1/2007 9:36:22 PM , Rating: 1
Typical see only what you want to see. The republicans couldn't win an election honestly, if they tried (which they don't.)

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Nfarce on 8/2/2007 10:11:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I know, Reagan didn't clean Carter's clock in 1980 by the biggest landslide in US history, and Gingrich Republicans didn't Roto Rooter Congress by a landslide in 1994. Yeah genius lib, we know they all cheated somehow. Idiot.

BTW, "neocon" is a term you liberals need to understand the definition of instead of spewing it out like so many other words mindlessly (like lie , etc.). A "neocon" is a former socialist liberal who found his way out of the fog. I am not now or ever was a pinko liberal. I have my head out of my ass.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Keine on 8/3/2007 3:56:33 PM , Rating: 2
The conservatives were handed an election in 2000 that they didn't earn, and people still aren't over it because it set the tone for the years leading up to now.
Its funny how the conservatives will be so quick to shrug off an archaic system of voting for a leader. A system where (using 04's numbers) a person could win the presidency with 33,357,643 and his/her opponent gets 88,864,990. Watch the conniption fits of mindless conservatives if that happened to them.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By RaisedinUS on 8/3/2007 6:00:21 PM , Rating: 2
OMG this has been beat to death. Get over it already. The New York Times (conservative paper?) went to Florida and recounted the votes themselves. Guess who won?
Let's count em until we have them all thrown out! Hangin, swingin, dimpled chad.....crosseyes counters....
Odd how this country managed to hold elections for over 200 years. It's almost like trying to watch a NASCAR race.
For those that want a paper receipt, how long do you think it'll take for the forgeries to start?
Doesn't matter who wins, the losing side will always say someone, somewhere, somehow cheated.
The conservatives were handed an election in 2000 Indeed

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By RaisedinUS on 8/3/2007 6:06:53 PM , Rating: 2
As for the 2004 election, we all know that one was "rigged" too. Just look at the vote margin. Clearly, the GOP cheated here as well.
/more sarcasm
Do a search in election history, fraud is always claimed by someone. Both parties have let us down, but no one seems to hold them accountable short of mouthing words and conspiracy theories. Where are the practical solutions?

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Ringold on 8/3/2007 8:08:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, a leader can be chosen with 33.3m votes versus an opponents 88.8, or I assume you're correct at least with your argument.

It also shows the failure of the public school system to insert critical thinking alongside all the liberal bias they instill. Good job. Of course, critical thinking is the mortal enemy of liberalism anyway.

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