Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Opening Salvo

I, and a lot of other people, have been yelling for a while about our shiny new computerized, touchscreen voting machines, and how they're totally unauditable and un-recountable. The vote is what the machine says it is. Period.

No problem, say the people pushing the machines. They've all been tested and certified. Uhh, by who? To what standards? What's really in there? Sorry, proprietary information.

Well, Diebold, for one, is getting their feet held to the fire. Their little security breach doesn't give anybody a warm fuzzy feeling; the Powers that Be in places like Maryland look to me like they're frantically covering their tails, after giving Diebold a boatload of tax money. I can't believe that the code that escaped was production code. Nobody uses Microsoft Access for anything more important than a Christmas card list

Well, anyway, this brings us to last Tuesday. Election Day in a number of places, including Fairfax County, Virginia. As well as having the slowest vote count on record, there were a number of severe irregularities. It seems that a bunch of machines malfunctioned, were taken offsite, repaired, and returned, in a gross violation of procedure. The woman who lost has gotten an injunction sealing the machines until they can be checked over Fat lot of good it'll do her.

Even more ominous, some voters noted that the machines seemed to reject votes for one particular candidate.

... it seemed to subtract a vote for Thompson in about "one out of a hundred tries"
... and she lost by less than 1% of the vote.


Big oops. This time, something may actually get done. Both of the defeated candidates are Republicans ....

Now, I work professionally with systems like this. It would be perfectly straightforward to design a system where the hardware and software were available for inspection, with random audits to make sure that the checked software is actually in the machines and the hardware corresponds to the prints. Add in any amount of NSA-grade crypto. You can have any amount of testing before election day. And I could still make the results come out any way I want to.

The WaPo reference is from They are the group that seems to be doing a lot of the nitty-gritty organizing in fighting these monsters.

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