This Week's Debate: Voting

It's primary day in Virginia.

Several years ago, as a Virginia-voting novice, I attempted to vote at the first polling place I happened across, assuming I would be assigned to the one closest to my home. They turned me away; as it happens, I actually have to walk past that polling place in order to get to my own.

This is minor annoyance. A major annoyance, however, is that my precinct uses touch screen voting machines with no paper trail. So every time I vote, I get an uneasy feeling that maybe -- just maybe -- my vote won't be counted properly.

The fact is, Direct Recording Electronic voting machines are by no means tamper-proof, and some of the horror stories make a voter wonder how it's possible that our legislators have not required a verifiable paper trail by now.

One explanation might be the campaign donations from the top e-voting companies. Go to the advanced search page on the FEC Web site and type in "Diebold" in the "Employer/Occupation" field. A few of the results don't appear to refer to Diebold the voting machine company, but most of that nearly $90,000 in contributions did come from the voting folks (and that doesn't count their associates), with the vast majority of that going to Republican candidates.

Frankly, I don't care which side the money was going to -- the fact that the management (and service technicians!) would be partisan enough to give thousands of dollars to either side is distressing enough.

Beyond the potential for fraud with these touch screen machines, breakdowns cause backups, resulting in long lines and frustrated voters leaving the polls before making it to the front of the line.

Provisional ballots may be handed out to those in the line, but according to the co-directors of VoterAction in a meeting at the Post last month, many of those provisional ballots end up being tossed out. With optical scanning ballots, even if the machine breaks, the paper can still be marked by the voter and collected to be scanned later.

Several lawsuits around the country aim to stop the adoption of DRE tedchnology. We'll get into all this and more -- including the legislative issues involved in accepting or rejecting DRE technology -- as the week goes on.

For now, Debaters, do you have confidence in DRE voting?

By Emily Messner |  June 13, 2006; 9:15 AM ET  | Category:  National Politics
Previous: Zarqawi Is Out, But Will It Make a Difference? | Next: Sleepover in San Diego?

Blogs That Reference This Entry

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/mt/mtb.cgi/7775

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Great points! How, after 2000, could the country not have fixed this? Will it take the Republicans stealing yet another election for the country to wake up?

Posted by: Steve Rabin | June 13, 2006 06:01 PM

NO

Posted by: | June 13, 2006 06:24 PM

The USA has a long rich history of fraud involving voting machines. Some will remember the cabinet-sized machines of the '60s and '70s, where the voter twisted a switch about a quarter-turn for each selection, and then pulled a big lever to register it all on a counter. The thing is, the machine was programmed using patch-panel wiring from the back (a flexible form of hardwiring), and corrupt officials, notably in Chicago, simply changed the wiring in precincts where they knew they were at a loss to reverse the results.

There is even less reason to trust touchscreen terminals today, IMO. The way to make the system trusted was spelled out in Wired magazine over fifteen years ago. The fact that the solution was ignored during the early years of development is an obvious sign that the opportunity for fraud was meant to be part of the design.

The solution long ago presented was simply this: A paper tape, akin to a purchase receipt, is printed for the voter. The tape does not explicitly show any information about the voter's selections. It has two pieces of data. One is a unique transaction number which may or may be be tired back to the sequential register of voters. The other piece of data is a uniquely generated encryption code for that transaction. Using these two pieces of data, the person in possession of the tape could go to any internet terminal and view an anonymous report of what was tabulated for that vote. If desired, a third level of security could be added by allowing the voter to include an additional private encryption key of their choice that would not be printed on the tape.

The knowledge to do it securely and with checks on fraud was always there. The will or desire on the part of public officials to buy a trusted system obviously was lacking.

Posted by: On the plantation | June 13, 2006 06:57 PM

I fear the end is nigh.

There should be at least one paper trail in the form of a receipt printed at the time the vote is cast. This is the case with every other form of transaction of value in our culture - monetary or not. Even on the internet, we get the options to print and save our receipts electronically.

Preferably, in addition to the receipt, there would also be a data back up of the vote and a print-out of that data (in a predetermined, debated and thoroughly litigated format).

The reasons such documentation is essential to the integrity of our system are numerous - even at the expense of giving up some of the secrecy involved in the voting process.

In our culture (as in every culture that has developed the means to record information - from cuneiform to digital electronic) lack of a physical (paper) trail of transactions of value frequently indicates criminal activity. Payments in cash with no receipt, for instance. Drug deals and the like. A system that cannot provide such a trail is an open invitation to corruption.

This administration's continued flouting of the laws of our nation (for the sake of argument, I'll concede that other admin's have also been as corrupt, but these guys are outrageous and egregious about it), as well as their blatant grab for a singularly powerful presidency, is plenty of reason to insist on thorough documentation.

if you don't think our system of government could be overthrown in an election fraud coup, you should take a look at some of the vote totals in countries where the people are weak and the government is strong (I'll bet those countries have REALLY secret ballots).

So, my candidate got 98 percent of the vote, yet you don't know a soul who voted for him. You sound like a freekin' terrorist, to me. Off to the camp for you. It's a matter of national security.

It would be easy. There are apparently quite a few folks willing to be deceived.

Rome also comes to mind. First, the Praetorian Guard and their installation of whomever they damned well pleased (or whomever could afford to pay the price) as emperor. Second is the Blues vs. the Greens - the most trivial rivalry (between fans of different gladiatorial teams) magnified into cultural hatred of one group for the other. This quickly became a political wedge issue, and the team whose fans were in power (usually the Blues) openly persecuted the fans (fellow citizens of Rome) of the rival teams (the Greens were the Blue's biggest rival and bore the brunt of the political revenge. There were also Red and White teams).

The Romans were very smart people, politically. They were also very advanced for their time. Still, theirs is a history of the corruption of a political ideal. Once it was gone, they never got it back.

We'd better be diligent, or the end is nigh.

Posted by: smafdy | June 13, 2006 06:58 PM

NO.

Posted by: Richard Katz | June 13, 2006 07:14 PM

Electronic voting is tailor-made for conspiracy theories unless we start doing quality control checks.

A paper receipt is meaningless as a stand alone "guard on fraud". How will you know if "your vote" was credited amonst 4,000 voters idf election results show some hits on people or issues you voted on?

In the sum of a large vote, the only way to check is to go in at a particular time in the voting and get a statistical sample. Which means you have to "violate" privacy - by receipt or direct questioning, far more preferably by paper documentation - and learn who the voters in a specific time block voted for, then compare that against the actual voting machine count tallied for that specific time block.

That if done correctly with random sampling, should confirm the honesty or dishonesty of the process.

In addition:

1. We need a biometric, tamper-resistant national ID that must be presented when voting. No exceptions.

2. Prisoners, ex-Felons and illegal aliens should not vote unless they are pardoned into legal status. Mentally handicapped people should not be allowed to vote if they are medically diagnosed as "100% disabled". Polling places should not permit people so out of it they cannot interact with poll workers, to be "guided in to vote by caregivers".

3. People caught voting under false ID in different precincts, or caught ballot tampering should face a felony charge that carries with it a lifetime ban on voting. By diluting or destroying other people's vote, they should lose theirs.

4. YOu can't legislate against stupidity. If people are too stupid to bring ID, too stupid to understand the ballot, to stupid to find the right polling place or know the date of the vote - that is their problem, not societies to "count every possible voter".

Posted by: Chris Ford | June 13, 2006 08:10 PM

The main reason electronic voting exists the convenience, not of the voter who has to do the voting anyway, but of the precinct judges and others who must count the vote and certify it. Its not simple when on paper. The vote must be counted, by two people, added up, certified, etc... Lots of work and time. So these machines are a good idea.

However, the validity of a vote is the most important commodity a democracy has. How difficult would it be for these machines to print out the results of each vote and the voter place their paper ballot, which they can see to verify it is correct, in a box, only to be counted if there is a legal challenge or if the vote is close. A paper trail would exist for challenges but we would have the speed of the machines for the majority of elections which are unchallenged. One has to wonder why there is such opposition to a paper trail. You'd think paper was a new idea. Next time you are at the store consider what you would say if the store stopped giving receipts. Democracy is too important to not have a verification method for a vote.

Posted by: Sully | June 13, 2006 09:47 PM

CF:

You wrote. "Electronic voting is tailor-made for conspiracy theories unless we start doing quality control checks."

Electronic voting is tailor-made for fraud. When that fraud was committed, it would probably involve conspiracy (ralyy difficult to pull off singlehandedly).

A paper receipt - the one On the plantation explained, above, or a variation thereon, sounds like just the ticket (pardon the pun). A receipt would be valuable in that it establishes a second chain of possession in the record - no one controls it but the voter. If the votes were retabulated, and two of them were attributed to the same voter, fraud would be exposed.

You wrote, "How will you know if "your vote" was credited amonst 4,000 voters idf election results show some hits on people or issues you voted on?"

Well, how would you know that under any system without proof of the vote in the first place?

The statistic idea is unworkable, in that it must be accompanied by a margin of error which would probably be larger than the split in a close race. Again, with a voter held receipt, there is a control against statistical error and/or fraud.

prisoners should not be allowed to vote for a number of reasons. ex-cons (other than those convicted of vote fraud), on the other hand, should be allowed the rights and privileges accorded to anyone else in our society. Illegal aleins have no right to participate in our government in any way, shape, or manner.

Posted by: smafdy | June 13, 2006 09:48 PM

CF wrote:
"YOu can't legislate against stupidity. If people are too stupid to bring ID, too stupid to understand the ballot, to stupid to find the right polling place or know the date of the vote - that is their problem, not societies to "count every possible voter"

There are many historical examples of voter manipulation where some of the above conditions were altered to favor one candidate over another. Here is a good website describing the many ways a vote can be manipulated:
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~hause011/article/Vote2.html

One paragraph on this website caught my eye:
"Vote scanners are far cheaper and can service huge amounts of people with one scanner in a short time interval, maybe more than 20 per minute vs. as few as a dozen per hour with a touch screen system. Also, scanner ballots can be held and counted later, when a touch screen system is out of commission the vote is very effectively suppressed. This is not to say that vote scanners cannot be manipulated or are a perfect system, but they can count a lot of votes in a short time."

Posted by: Sully | June 13, 2006 10:23 PM

Smarfdy - "The statistic idea is unworkable, in that it must be accompanied by a margin of error which would probably be larger than the split in a close race. Again, with a voter held receipt, there is a control against statistical error and/or fraud."

The idea in quality control is NOT to inspect every cereal cocao puff, gallon of gas refined, 4th Acura transmission gear, every 9/11 call, or validate Every Vote.

You are looking at process, and eliminating error and tamper with process. (folks with no ID, political "patronage apparachniks doing final tallies, etc.")

The margin of error is not relevant if you are looking for random segments of the vote and to have the votes cast correspond almost perfectly with their final tally - or a larger recount is triggered.

That voters have a paper receipt means nothing in itself. Suppose it is a day later and someone wants everyone to bring their receipts in because of "questions". A good number of people happy with certain candidates they care about being elected may not care about a contested election for some other office or a referandum and choose not to show up with their receipt. Others would say it's not worth the hassle to head to the polls and waste another half a day waiting in line so their "receipt" is examined.

So you would essentially have a brand new election done anytime you got into a "Count All the Paper Receipts Voters Care to Bring Back" situation.

An alternative to the futile "voter-held receipt" would be an electronic machine that disgorges a receipt into a locked boc held by independent election observors that could be opened by them for quality control inspectors to sample the process or audit the whole box against the count if certain objective criteria cast suspicion on the legality of the vote (outside rabid partisan accusations based solely on emotion, rancor, or shyster lawsuits).

The goal should be that every American finds out the next day who is elected. Not find things tied up with a legal team hired by fanatic party elements - doing lawsuits, or some pack of conspiracy activists showing up to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election -- mainly to utilize the new tactic of deligitimizing local or national American democracy by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the candidate or process by groundless "Stolen Election!!!" smears..

Even before this new era of rabid political activists trying to convince the American public that a great percentage of elections are fraudelent and their vote is frequently "stolen away" , it is important to know that the American elections are 99+% good to go by historical review and by independent domestic and foreign auditors that have examined American voting processes. In my state, there have been recounts, but no serious allegation of fraudelent elections outside the usual white and black conspiracy believers in the last 80 years.

Posted by: Chris Ford | June 14, 2006 01:34 AM

If voting data is considered as important as, let's say, data used to support the registration of drugs, pesticides or to validate other critically important and regulated items and services within the US, then chain of custody of that raw data is equally important. In the case of raw data used to support registration of pesticides, doing so much as scribbling out an entry and reintering the value because of a mistake can land a fine[indelible ink signed and dated]. Other seemingly minor infractions well defined in the CFR can put a person in jail. So, I guess voting data is not that important. If it was most of the bozos involved in the electoral process would be cuffed and hauled off to jail.

SMAFDY said, "Electronic voting is tailor-made for fraud. When that fraud was committed, it would probably involve conspiracy (ralyy difficult to pull off singlehandedly)."

Using what I mentioned above as current regulation in other arenas, voting data would AUTOMATICALLY be considered fraudulent and rendered invalid. By those standards, we can simply assume with 99% confidence that much of the voting results are fraudulent or seriously in error. Since there is no "paper trail" or other validation, there is no way of knowing if or when it occurs or really how accurate [lies, damn lies and then there are statistics and when that doesn't work there is the spin]. Just think about that medication you are taking or the pesticides on your food....maybe it really killed all the test animals or caused massive tumors and birth defects. hmmm, maybe you are the test animal.
With regards to elected officials, there certainly is no accountability compared to other important "data collection" systems that we rely on. But remember the Diebold ad: "It isn't who votes that counts, its who counts the votes."

Posted by: Mattman | June 14, 2006 01:43 AM

I spent a couple years working with EDS in the later stages of my engineering career. These guys know IT. What they do is install the best system the customer can stand, precisely engineered to their needs, whims, wishes, and then make their money maintaining it. What I'm saying is: WHEN YOU REPLACE SIMPLE MECHANICAL SYSTEMS WITH ELECTRONIC, SOFTWARE DRIVEN SYSTEMS, YOU WILL, BY DEFINITION, INTRODUCE HUGE POTENTIAL FOR PERFORMANCE GLITCHES AND HIGH MAINTENANCE COSTS. There is no magic in the use of technology - but it sure is a great money maker because, like religion and fairy tales, PEOPLE BELIEVE IT (Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up). Mainstreet (S. Lewis, 1920) lives!

Posted by: Mike Manner | June 14, 2006 09:12 AM

In Oregon we have mail in ballots. They arrive several weeks before they are due and we have time to research our preferences even while we are marking our ballots. No horror stories of being turned away from the polling place, waiting in line for hours, then discovering you are in the wrong place, being unsure if your touch screen vote was even counted.

I have a party for my kids and their friends, who have just voted for the first time in the last election (2004). We talk about the candidates and the issues and then vote.

I absolutely do not trust the current touch screen voting machines. The Republicans currently own the system and their lust for power is insatiable. Last night on the Daily Show the head of the Republican committee, Ken Mehlman said "Greed and Cynicism" was the reason why the Republican party can't tell the straight truth to the American people. That says it all.

Posted by: Annie Incognito | June 14, 2006 09:34 AM

1. Stop using the word receipt, a receipt is illegal as it means that voters take it home and that ends in vote buying, us activists who have been working on the issue use the word Record or Trail, they stay in the polling place. The only people who say receipt are the press, because they are too busy to check their facts.

2. Both parties are into Diebold, the Democrats in MD have been stopping us from getting a paper trail for the past 4 years.

3. This is all about Money, why would a company sell optical scanners? They last too long (between 15-30 years, I would be shocked to see any of the DRE's we got in 2000 make it through the end of the MD contract in 2014, find me any computer that lasts that long.) Scanners cost less for purchase (1 scanner for every 2000 voters vs. 1 DRE for every 2000). And its much harder to cheat a scanner then it is a DRE, (this assumes that you actually AUDIT the election).

If Diebold had sold MD on op-scan state wide it would have cost us about 30 million, and a yearly cost of 2 million. Currently we have spent 110 million for the DRE system, by the end of our contract I would ballpark it to cost between 150-200 million, annual operations costs are between 5-10 million a year, with it costing 5 m on off years.

Facts are from www.TrueVoteMD.org

Posted by: Alex | June 14, 2006 10:10 AM

I don't like voting without a receipt or any paper trail, it is dangerous.

Another thing that I think needs to be explored is the strengthening of the institutions that oversee the electoral process with an eye towards guaranteeing uniformity, transparency, and minimizing corruption of the process. Federal elections should at the very least be governed by a federal institution with uniform regulations issued that mandate a uniform process throughout the country.

That federal institution should be independent of the political branches of the government - think of the federal reserve bank as a model, and headed by a board selected to serve staggered terms. There should also be an election tribunal that would decide electoral disputes (like an ALJ) subject to judicial review by federal courts.

These types of reforms are needed to bring our electoral infrastructure out of the 19th century. I know some state's rights people might get mad, but some things undeniably deserve federal oversight.

Posted by: El Naco | June 14, 2006 10:35 AM

Voting fraud is a serious and imminent danger to our republic. Like the common saying that terrorists only need to get it "right" [sic] once; voting fraudsters only need to affect about 2% of the outcome to cause a complete swing in national elections. If a predictable widescale fraud occurs, then the makers of the machines and software ought to go the way of Arthur Andersen (a la Enron). The thing is, just as a fraud is very likely, the subsequent revelation of the fraud is virtually certain. Makers need to be put on warning now that their fates are tied to their technical performance stopping fraud.

Posted by: On the plantation | June 14, 2006 11:24 AM

El Naco wrote:
"These types of reforms are needed to bring our electoral infrastructure out of the 19th century. I know some state's rights people might get mad, but some things undeniably deserve federal oversight."

Check out http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/ for a history of federal laws and oversight. There has been a lot of it, especially in the last 50 years.

What is becoming clear to me is that it is not an issue of the voting machines themselves, but the whole process, from gerrymandered districts to placement of voting stations to suppression tactics including the removal of "questionable" voters from voting lists and distributing too few machines resultig in long lines and voter frustration. Lets face it, as long as people are handling any aspect of elections there is potential for fraud from very organized fraud and gerrymandering to the individual precinct judge that tries a slight of hand to help his party. The only method to prevent voting fraud is openness. The process must be completely open and in most cases it is. Much of what is considered fraud ends up in the courts. When you have people involved there is not much you can do to automate the system and keep it clean. People are much to clever.

Posted by: Sully | June 14, 2006 12:02 PM

I don't believe that any system of voting is foolproof or tamperproof, but these electronic touch screen machines are far too risky to be trusted with the future of our political system. Write it down, seal it and count them all the next day, each vote counted by two citizens, one from each party with an overseer to offer an opinion on any ambiguous vote. Leave Diebold or any obviously partisan company out of the process.

Posted by: Richard Wagner | June 14, 2006 12:27 PM

I voted last night in the Virginia Democratic primary, on a touchscreen terminal. Like Emily, I just am not confident that my vote will be correctly counted. Plus, my hands are twisted by rheumatoid arthritis. I ended up having to "knuckle" the screen in order to vote. Maybe it's the Luddite in me, but I don't see why we can't have a nationwide standardized ballot, somewhat like the SATs. That way a machine could count them, and there would be a physical ballot available for recounts.

Posted by: wiccan | June 14, 2006 12:48 PM

Please bookmark the following sites:

http://www.bradblog.com/?p=2926
www.wsws.org
www.takingaim.info

Breaking news about what we can spect in the November elections!!!!!!!

Results of Close Busby/Bilbray U.S. House Special Election in Doubt!

Race to Replace Randy 'Duke' Cunningham in San Diego Was Run on Hackable Diebold Voting Machines, Kept Unsecured at Poll Worker Houses Overnight Before the Election!

To be clear, at this hour, we have no evidence to show that Democrat Francine Busby -- running in yesterday's special run-off election in San Diego against Republican Brian Bilbray to replace the disgraced Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham for the U.S. House (CA-50) race -- actually won it.

Neither do we have evidence to believe that Bilbray actually won it.

We do, however, have copious and documented evidence to suggest there is no reason in the world to have any faith that Bilbray won the race.

The fact that the thin margin between the two at this hour (with "100% of the votes counted", according to the CA Sec. of State's website) is a mere 4,732 votes -- in a race where 125,882 votes were reportedly cast in a county with more than 355,000 voters registered -- is not even the largest question. Neither is the so-far unclear question of how the race will be affected by the 68,500 absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted in San Diego County according to the SD Registrar of Voters website at this hour.

The biggest concern about the race, by far, is that San Diego County uses two types of Diebold voting systems -- optical-scan and touch-screen -- both of which have not only proven to be disastrously unreliable in San Diego County and California in the past, but have also been demonstrated over the last six months to feature dozens of exceedingly well-documented and remarkable security vulnerabilities, making them extremely accessible to tampering. Especially if anyone has unsupervised physical access for more than a minute or two with them.

The voting machines used in Tuesday's election were sent home with volunteer poll workers the night before the election, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office today. As well, The BRAD BLOG has received reports that in some cases, poll workers may have had the machines alone at their houses, unsupervised, for a week or even two prior to Tuesday's election....

Last February, California Sec. of State Bruce McPherson, himself, commissioned and released an independent security analysis [PDF] regarding just one aspect of both types of Diebold voting machines used in yesterday's San Diego race, after the memory cards used in those machines were found to have been extremely vulnerable to tampering. A mock election in Leon County, Florida last December revealed that tampering with the memory cards enabled the results of a mock election, run by Election Supervisor Ion Sancho, to be completely reversed.

McPherson's own report, completed by computer scientists at the University of California, looked at just that one aspect of the Diebold system's vulnerability -- the memory cards used to store vote totals and give other instructions to the voting machines -- and determined that "there is a serious flaw in the key management of the crypto code that otherwise should protect the AV-TSx from memory card attacks."

The report described a "number of security vulnerabilities" and found that the flaws on these systems could be exploited easily without the use of any passwords or cryptographic keys.

According to McPherson's report, "Anyone who has access to a memory card...and can tamper with it (i.e. modify its contents), and can have the modified cards used in a voting machine during election, can indeed modify the election results from that machine in a number of ways."

The tampering would be invisible, according to the report. "The fact that the results are incorrect cannot be detected except by a recount of the original paper ballots."

Beyond tampering with both of the Diebold AccuVote systems used in yesterday's election, McPherson's report continues to detail another family of "more serious vulnerabilities" that "go well beyond" the type of attack described above:
[T]here is another category of more serious vulnerabilities we discovered that go well beyond...and yet require no more access to the voting system [used in the attack described previously]. These vulnerabilities are consequences of bugs -- 16 in all -- in the implementation of the AccuBasic interpreter for the AV-OS. These bugs...would not be discovered by any amount of functionality testing; but they could allow an attacker to completely control the behavior of the AV-OS. An attacker could change vote totals, modify reports, change the names of candidates, change the races being voted on, or insert his own code into the running firmware of the machine."

Mind you, the vulnerabilities described so far in this article all came prior to a new, even more disturbing series of vulnerabilities discovered in March of this year in the same models of Diebold voting machines. The BRAD BLOG broke the original details of this latest revelation just days before the same systems were to be used in Pennsylvania's primary election two weeks ago. This even more alarming series of vulnerabilities have been found to reveal systematic flaws that go far and above the previously mentioned problems.

Following our report, scores of mainstream media outlets finally began to understand, and finally began to report on this incredibly serious security breach in our nation's electoral systems.

The New York Times quoted three different computer scientists and security experts who reviewed the newly revealed flaws in San Diego's touch-screen voting systems as "astounding" and "the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system".

NEWSWEEK quoted Johns Hopkins computer sciences professor Avi Rubin a few days later as San Diego's machines thusly: "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it."

Washington Post quoted yet another computer scientist this way just last week:
In California, David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who consults with the state on its elections, said he was "stunned when he found out" about the vulnerability identified in the Utah test and agreed with the "frequently expressed opinion that this is the worst vulnerability that we have ever seen."

The inspector of the same Diebold AccuVote TSx machines for the state of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Dr. Michael Shamos -- previously an ardent supporter of electronic voting -- said this about the machines used in San Diego yesterday:
"It's the most serious security breach that's ever been discovered in a voting system. On this one, the probability of success is extremely high because there's no residue.... Any kind of cursory inspection of the machine would not reveal it."

Shamos went on to say that the systems could have their entire set of election software, system software and even computer firmware ("BIOS") completely overwritten to do anything the malicious user wanted, in less than two minutes time, with physical access to the machines.

In an NPR report, Rubin described the machines used in yesterday's election this way:
"I believe that this is not only the most serious security problem that I've seen in a voting machine, but I can't think of a security problem that I've seen in any kind of system that is severe as this."

He added that all one needs to exploit the security hole is "a few seconds of physical access to the machines."

Well, guess what? Poll workers in San Diego County had much more than just "a few seconds of physical access to the machines" when they stored the voting machines at their own homes on the night prior to yesterday's election!

You read that correctly. The most vulnerable voting machines ever created and used in an American election were given to random, volunteer poll workers in San Diego to keep in their houses overnight to do with as they please. The systems were "guarded" by little more than a thin strip of plastic "tamper tape" over some, but not all, of each machines' dozens of vulnerable physical access points.

A spokesperson this morning from the San Diego Registrar of Voters office confirmed to The BRAD BLOG that "Yes, the machines were sent home with poll workers the night before the election."

Given the severe security vulnerabilities described above, and given that the number of votes recorded for the two "third-party" candidates alone (6,367 out of more than 355,000 registered voters in San Diego) could have easily swung the announced "victory" from Bilbray to Busby in one of the most important, expensive and closely-watched elections in the country -- an election regarded by both major political parties as well as political analysts and observers as an important bell-weather for the upcoming '06 general elections -- The BRAD BLOG finds no reason to have confidence in the California Secretary of State's announced results in the race.

Who actually won it? Busby or Bilbray? We cannot tell you. Neither can the California state or San Diego County election officials. Even with a full, manual hand-count of all the paper ballots used with the optical-scan systems, and a full, manual hand-count of the so-called "paper trails" created by the touch-screen machines, there will still be questions about the accuracy of the results.

As we documented in an exclusive photo-essay of Diebold's AccuVote TSx machine after a security analysis by the non-partisan e-voting watchdog group BlackBoxVoting.org in March, the printer for the so-called "voter verified paper trail" on the TSx machines is installed behind a plastic door that may be closed by the voter -- or a poll worker -- thus obscuring the printed results and disallowing the voter from confirming that the printed "paper trail" accurately reflects their intended vote.

Therefore, depending on the number of votes cast on the Diebold touch-screen system's so-called "voter verified paper trail" printer there is no way to know if the results are valid.

If state, county or Diebold officials tell you otherwise, if they say that they can prove with certainty which of the two candidates actually won yesterday without a full, manual hand-recount of all paper ballots and paper "trails", they are lying. Plain and simple. They cannot do so.

A complete, manual hand-count of all such paper ballots and "paper trail" records is the only way to know for certain. And then, only if the number of votes cast on the touch-screen systems is smaller than the number of votes separating the two candidates after all of the optical-scan paper ballots have been counted manually. If the margin separating the two after the op-scan ballots are counted is smaller than the number of votes cast on the touch-screens, there is no way of knowing who the winner of the race truly is.

That is all thanks to Diebold's purposely horrendous design of both the hardware and software used in these machines, and Sec. of State Bruce McPherson's willingness to certify the machines for use anyway in this state even after the results of his own report confirmed the vulnerabilities described.

Ultimately, this is precisely what is wrong with using electronic voting machines of these types, tested in secret (barely), by testing labs which are selected and paid for by the voting machines vendors themselves, which employ secret software to both record and count the votes, as written and run by those same private companies for use in our public elections.

As long as our public officials continue to defy the will and best interests of the citizenry and our democracy by allowing private, partisan -- and even foreign-run -- companies who are accountable to no one, to hijack our electoral system, American democracy will be lost. Period.

The Busby campaign has already issued a concession, and we have so far been unable to reach anyone who can speak for the campaign to comment on this matter. A concession, however, is just a nicety with no official meaning. Busby should not concede anything until all of the ballots and "paper trails" in the race are counted by hand in the 50th district.

Yesterday, Lou Dobbs reported on CNN that, "The security of our elections and the integrity of our democracy is in jeopardy."

The day before he told CNN viewers that elections officials have "no concept" of "whether or not they can assure us that this election in mid-terms in nearly every state is accurate and verifiable."

The conservative Dobbs, certainly no "moonbat leftie" or "sour grapes conspiracy theorist", described the electoral crisis we are now facing in this country as an "outright threat to our democracy, to the integrity of our voting system, and to our elections process."

He's exactly right. And the integrity of that system has been violated nearly beyond repair as exemplified by last night's important election in San Diego.

Here we go again? You betcha. Is this what we want in our American elections? Questions about the validity of every single race from here on out? Because that is precisely where we are now at.

So now who is going to do anything about it?

UPDATE 6/8/06: Followup/update now here...

UPDATE: 6/8/06 PM: SD County Poll workers write in about voting machine sleepovers...

UPDATE: 6/9/06: New numbers reported from San Diego county...

Posted by: che | June 14, 2006 01:09 PM

Most of us in the West are techies and we know not to trust electronic voting, especially since probably 5 percent of our population could easily change the votes at our polling places within 15 seconds if we wanted to, with none the wiser.

That's why we're going to paper ballots, optically scanned, for our all-mail-in elections and are dropping the polling places except for the disabled and blind (they can go to city hall to vote).

Naturally, an all-mail ballot means probably +10 points for all Dems.

Enjoy the wave, beltway insiders, it will shock you.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | June 14, 2006 01:16 PM

Why did building 7 collapse at 9/11? It was not hit by a plane.

Who did send the antrax letters to Congress?

Where is Osama?

For uncensored news please bookmark the following sites:

www.wsws.org
www.takingaim.info
www.onlinejournal.com
otherside123.blogspot.com

Posted by: che | June 14, 2006 01:17 PM

Will in Seattle wrote:
"That's why we're going to paper ballots, optically scanned, for our all-mail-in elections and are dropping the polling places except for the disabled and blind (they can go to city hall to vote)."

I've been wondering, what procedures are in place to make sure:
-Copies of mail-in ballots are not duplicated.
-Anonimity is maintained (no return address?)
-They know you voted (or do they).

My concern is that in a regular vote, your ability to vote is determined before you vote. Where I vote, it is determined that I am on the voting list, I have not already voted, etc... and AFTER that validation process, I vote secretly. How can your vote be secret if its all mail-in and presumably the paper that contains your vote also contains information about you to verify your vote is valid. Basically I'm wondering if the process, which seems simple, is open to fraud of its own, or worse the loss of privacy in your vote.

Posted by: Dully | June 14, 2006 01:39 PM

www.onlinejournal.com

The money pit: Diebold vs. America

By Denis Wright

May 11, 2006, 00:50

Georgia was the first state in the nation to go 100 percent with electronic voting, thanks to Secretary of State Cathy Cox. This was a mantle she carried, and continues to carry, proudly. In fact, she's using it to bolster her run for governor in 2006, and indeed she is currently the Democratic front-runner.

But when you look at the facts Cathy Cox should be ashamed. She has failed the voters of Georgia. She has ensured that our elections are subject to fraud; she has knowingly allowed software that violates certification standards to be used in elections. She has wasted huge amounts of taxpayer funds on an election system that is proven to be ineffective at best, a downright scam at worst. And she has hidden or lied about these problems, not only to the voters of Georgia, but also to the state legislature.

A Trail of Amendments

In May of 2002 the state signed a contract with Diebold to provide DRE (Direct Record Electronic) voting machines for the entire state at a cost of $54 million. In July of the same year the first amendment to that contract was signed. It stated that:

* Diebold is to redesign the pre-election training for Georgia officials.

* Diebold is to create and prepare all election ballots for every county in Georgia.

* Diebold is to deliver and install the election database and memory card in every county on or before October 25, 2002.

Immediately, we can see that elections in Georgia have been entirely turned over to a private corporation, one with strong ties to the Republican Party. But it really gets interesting when we turn to later amendments. Contract amendments that were signed by Cathy Cox without any legislative oversight.

Despite this written contract, during the November elections there was massive failure of the voting machines which was later documented -- and admitted to, quietly -- by Cathy Cox herself. This information came to light in internal documents obtained through FOIA requests. To the press, Ms. Cox consistently praised Diebold and admitted nothing. She even appeared in a promotional video and sales brochures for Diebold.

The second amendment in December 2002 granted Diebold authority to test the GEMS software with Wyle Labs, certification due in January 2003. Wyle Labs is another privately owned enterprise. Diebold pays Wyle to conduct the tests and the results are made available only to their customer -- Diebold. The cost to Georgia voters: $10,029,167.

Third Amendment: Certification has still not been accomplished. Paragraph three states that Federal Certification has not been received but a $1 million dollar payment is demanded, and paid.

August 25, 2003, Amendment Four: The state of Georgia requests three more GEMS servers at a cost of $51,459, which have still not been certified and an additional $23,700 for Kennesaw State testing labs.

Amendment Five: is for a "Security Adjustment" for software glitches, to be obtained by April 29, 2005. Installation of the "security patch" is not to be completed until after the November 2004 election.

Amendment Six: The state bought an additional 955 AccuVote machines from Diebold costing $2.6 million dollars. They also extended their warranty with Diebold through December 2005 at a cost of $1.5 million.

No one in the Georgia legislature knew about any of these amendments. They were not "in the loop." There was no legislative oversight whatsoever.

A Trail of Money

Georgia has been told by Diebold that its three-year old machines cannot be upgraded to produce a voter verified paper ballot. They recommend that Georgia "toss and buy new" machines if paper ballots are required (Verbal testimony by Senator Stephens at SLOGO hearing). At a huge additional cost, of course. Additionally, the state's "pilot program" to have paper ballots in 2006 has dropped from three counties to merely three precincts, and even those will have only one machine with a printer. So this provides only three machines statewide that can produce a paper ballot in a state that had a 14 percent undervote in the 2004 Democratic Primary and Diebold is making the state rent these machines at astronomical costs.

Georgians have already spent over $100 million on a voting system that has been proven over and over to be faulty, yet they want taxpayers to spent more. The $54 million dollar figure cited by Cathy Cox's office is a lie. Given the costs of programming, ballot creation and new purchases, the cost to Georgia voters exceeds $116 million dollars. And there is NO legislative oversight. Any public forums are shut down as soon as the questions start.

Dr. Brit Williams is the chief consultant from Kennesaw State University who performed the certification test on the Diebold touchscreen machines used for the state of Georgia. At the March 9, 2005, meeting of The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Technical Guidelines Development Committee, Williams said, "Right now the primary use of wireless technology in a voting system is to program voting stations. Because if I have got 3,000 voting stations and I have to load those with pc cards, then I have got to sit down and manufacture 3,000 pc cards, and keep them separated by precinct. Whereas if I could sit in my warehouse and load those ballot images wirelessly, there is a tremendous advantage."

Our vote is sacred -- the centrality of honest, transparent vote tallying to the necessary level of trust that underlies the basic contract between the people and their government. Who does Cathy Cox work for? The citizens of Georgia or the shareholders of Diebold? I personally think the answer is quite obvious.
Note: Click here to read all the contract amendments.

Posted by: che | June 14, 2006 02:15 PM


www.onlinejournal.com

http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_666.shtml

Shocking Diebold conflict of interest revelations from secretary of state further taint Ohio's electoral credibility

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers

Ohio is reeling with a mixture of outrage and hilarity as Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has revealed that he has owned stock in the Diebold voting machine company, to which Blackwell tried to award no-bid contracts worth millions while allowing its operators to steal Ohio elections. A top Republican election official also says a Diebold operative told him he made a $50,000 donation to Blackwell's "political interests."

A veritable army of attorneys on all sides of Ohio's political spectrum will soon report whether Blackwell has violated the law. But in any event, the revelations could have a huge impact on the state whose dubiously counted electoral votes gave George W. Bush a second term. Diebold's GEMS election software was used in about half of Ohio counties in the 2004 election. Because of Blackwell's effort, 41 counties used Diebold machines in Ohio's highly dubious 2005 election, and now 47 counties will use Diebold touch screen voting machines in the May 2006 primary, and in the fall election that will decide who will be the state's new governor.

Blackwell is the frontrunner for Ohio's Republican nomination for governor. The first African-American to hold statewide office, the former mayor of Cincinnati made millions in deals involving extreme right-wing "religious" radio stations.

As part of his campaign filings he has been required to divulge the contents of his various stock portfolios. Blackwell says that in the process he was "surprised" to learn he owned Diebold shares. According to central Ohio's biggest daily, the conservative Republican "Columbus Dispatch," Blackwell claims his multi-million-dollar portfolio has been handled "by a financial manager without his advice or review."

Blackwell says he gave verbal instructions to a previous fund manager about which stocks not to buy, but failed to do so when he brought in a replacement. He claims the new manager bought 178 Diebold shares in January 2005 for $53.67/share. He says 95 shares were sold sometime last year, and that the remainder were sold this week after Blackwell conducted an annual review of his portfolio. He says both sales resulted in losses.

Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell tried to award a $100 million no-bid contract to Diebold for electronic voting machines. A storm of public outrage and a series of lawsuits forced him to cancel the deal. But a substantial percentage of Ohio's 2004 votes were counted by Diebold software and Diebold Opti-scan machines which frequently malfunctioned in the Democratic stronghold of Toledo. Many believe they played a key role in allowing Blackwell to steal Ohio's 20 electoral votes -- and thus the presidential election -- for Bush. Walden O'Dell, then the Diebold CEO, had pledged to "deliver" Ohio's electoral votes to Bush.

Blackwell has since continued to bring in Diebold machines under other multi-million dollar contracts. In 2005, while he owned Diebold stock, Blackwell converted nearly half Ohio's counties to Diebold equipment.

Those machines have been plagued by a wide range of problems, casting further doubt on the integrity of the Ohio vote count. A number of county boards of elections are trying to reject Diebold equipment. Two statewide referendum issues on electoral reform were defeated in 2005 in a vote tally that was a virtual statistical impossibility. The deciding votes were cast and counted on Diebold equipment.

In recent months, Blackwell has ordered all 88 county boards of elections to send into his office the memory cards that will be used in the primary election, in which Blackwell expects to win the gubernatorial race. There is no effective statewide monitoring system to protect those cards from being rigged.

Matt Damschroder, the Republican chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, has also reported that a key Diebold operative told Damschroder he made a $50,000 contribution to Blackwell's "political interests" while Blackwell was evaluating Diebold's bids for state purchasing contracts. Blackwell denies the contribution was made to him.

Damschroder is former chair of the Franklin County GOP. He says former Diebold contractor Pasquale "Patsy" Gallina boasted of making the contribution to Blackwell. Damschroder himself has publicly admitted to personally accepting a $10,000 check from Pasquale, made out to the Franklin County GOP. That contribution was made while Damschroder was involved in evaluating Diebold bids for county contracts.

Damschroder was censured but not removed from office. On Election Day 2004, Franklin County voting officials told the Free Press that Blackwell and Damschroder were meeting with George W. Bush in Columbus. AP accounts place both Bush and Karl Rove unexpectedly in Columbus on Election Day. Damschroder has denied that he met personally with Bush, but refuses to clarify whether or not he was at GOP meetings with Bush in attendance on Election Day.

An eyewitness ally of Blackwell told a small gathering of Bush supporters, with a Free Press reporter present, that Blackwell was in a frenzy on Election Day, writing percentages and vote totals on maps of rural Republican counties, attempting to figure out how many votes, real or manufactured, Bush would need to overcome the exit poll results in Cleveland and Columbus.

Meanwhile Blackwell has run one of the most vicious primary campaigns ever seen in Ohio politics. A series of expensive television ads have assaulted Blackwell's GOP opponent, Attorney General Jim Petro, vehemently charging him with extreme corruption and dishonesty. GOP operatives fear Blackwell's attacks could shatter the party.

Now Blackwell's Diebold revelations have both Petro and the state's extremely feeble Democrats jumping for joy. Petro, who has a large portfolio of his own, says he will pursue the question of whether Blackwell has broken the law. "Considering Ken Blackwell's history with Diebold, I think this warrants further investigation to remove any hint of impropriety," says Petro campaign manager Bob Paduchik.

Democratic candidate Ted Strickland has reported no stock portfolio at all. "If [Blackwell] doesn't know what's going on with his own checkbook, why in the world would voters want him to be in charge of the checkbook as governor?" asks Democratic spokesperson Brian Rothenberg.

The common statewide wisdom is that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election in which he is in charge of the vote count."

But Ohio Democrats never seriously questioned Blackwell's rigged 2004 vote count that put Bush back in the White House. They've mounted no serious campaign challenging Blackwell's handling of the tally in 2005. They've presented no plan for guaranteeing the integrity of the upcoming 2006 November election, which will again be run by Blackwell, even though he may be the GOP nominee.

Attorney-General Petro has become Blackwell's sworn enemy. A rugged campaigner with extensive statewide connections, it's not likely Petro would quietly accept an election being stolen from him. That might explain Blackwell's vehement attacks on his fellow Republican.

But having accused his cohort of widespread corruption, and with a long history of scornful contempt for all those who challenge him, Blackwell's own Diebold revelations have opened a Pandora's Box. What comes flying out could affect state and national politics for years to come.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008". They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of "What Happened in Ohio?" soon to be published by The New Press.

Posted by: che | June 14, 2006 02:16 PM


Why did building 7 collapse at 9/11? It was not hit by a plane.

Who did send the antrax letters to Congress?

Where is Osama?

For uncensored news please bookmark the following sites:

www.wsws.org
www.takingaim.info
www.onlinejournal.com
otherside123.blogspot.com

Posted by: che | June 14, 2006 02:21 PM

If you want to make Voting Machines secure and worthy of use, let the "Public Domain" develop the software and process. Yeah, it might take a while, but then the software could be audited by the PUBLIC and not some corporation looking to make a profit.

Seriously, public domain development may not be the best for some things, but it would be perfect here.

Posted by: AfghanVet | June 14, 2006 02:47 PM

"Activist Judge" goes against the will of the people....

Here's something sure to make a FReeper's head explode. An "activist" judge circumvented the will of the people by overturning a handgun ban that won a popular vote in San Francisco. Why? Because the judge said it was unconstitutional. Don't you hate it when judges legislate from the bench and refuse to give the voters what they demand, just because it conflicts with that "goddamn piece of paper" -- The Constitution?

Judge overturns San Francisco weapons ban
- By DAVID KRAVETS, AP Legal Affairs Writer
Monday, June 12, 2006

(06-12) 17:06 PDT San Francisco (AP) --

A state trial judge on Monday overturned a voter-approved city ordinance that banned handgun possession and firearm sales in San Francisco, siding with gun owners who said the city did not have the authority to prohibit the weapons.

Measure H was placed on the November ballot by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, who were frustrated by a rising number of gun-related homicides in the city of 750,000. San Francisco recorded at least 94 murders last year, a 10-year high.

The National Rifle Association sued a day after 58 percent of voters approved the law.

In siding with the gun owners, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge James Warren said a local government cannot ban weapons because the California Legislature allows their sale and possession.

"My clients are thrilled that the court recognized that law-abiding firearms owners who choose to own a gun to defend themselves or their families are part of the solution and not part of the problem," NRA attorney Chuck Michel said. "Hopefully, the city will recognize that gun owners can contribute to the effort to fight the criminal misuse of firearms, a goal that we all share."

The ordinance targeted only city residents, meaning nonresidents in the city or even tourists were not banned from possessing or selling guns here.

Warren's decision was not unexpected. In 1982, a California appeals court nullified an almost identical San Francisco gun ban largely on grounds that the city cannot enact an ordinance that conflicts with state law.

But years later, in 1998, a state appeals court upheld West Hollywood's ban on the sale of so-called Saturday night specials, small and cheap handguns that city leaders said contributed to violent crime. And three years ago, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Los Angeles and Alameda counties, saying local governments could ban the possession and sale of weapons on government property, such as fairgrounds.

That decision, however, did not address the issue of private property sales and possession, as outlined in the San Francisco law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also is considering a challenge to a similar handgun ban in the District of Columbia that alleges the law violates a Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms.

The NRA lawsuit here avoided those allegations.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office unsuccessfully defended the law before Warren, said the city was mulling whether it was going to appeal.

"We're disappointed that the court has denied the right of voters to enact a reasonable, narrowly tailored restriction on handgun possession," Dorsey said. "San Francisco voters spoke loud and clear on the issue of gun violence."

The case is Fiscal v. San Francisco 05-505960.

Posted by: ActivistJudge | June 14, 2006 03:01 PM

They remind me of the slot machines in LV.
I wonder what the odds are that the vote I cast will be credited to the candidate I selected?
I wonder if and how the Diebolt machines change those odds too.
Based on what I've read.
That's what they do for me.
I like paper.

Posted by: Richard Katz | June 14, 2006 03:08 PM

"Check out http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/ for a history of federal laws and oversight. There has been a lot of it, especially in the last 50 years."

The DOJ and FEC oversight is mainly of a substantive, not a procedural nature. The feds don't actually administer elections, even federal elections. Each state has its own election laws and each county administers their own elections.

If the issue here is the actual practice and process of voting, make it uniform. Don't leave it up to the states to screw it up as they see fit.

Posted by: El Naco | June 14, 2006 03:36 PM

Never mind the potential for fraud.* These things are computers. And what do computers like to do more than anything?

"Error: EOL1242 Your data has been minced up fine and is being beamed to Jupiter. Mwahaha!"

I like electronic gadgets and gizmos but I also don't trust electronic voting first and foremost because it is Electronic. I know electronics well enough to know they are quirky and I don't WANT quirky when I am voting.
What happens if a machine dies in the middle of an election? Are tech support people available at each polling place to revive the machines should they croak? Hackers? Will in Seattle already addressed that one.
Some one else pointed out that there seems to be no connection between making a faulty machine and INDIVIDUALS going to jail for a very long time (fines aren't sufficient unless they are high enough to lower the CEO's salary).
No thank you. Until someone creates a computers that don't crash, I'd prefer good old paper.

*This is meant humorously and should not be construed as a lack of concern with a buggered-up voting process.

Posted by: I'm Sorry Dave | June 14, 2006 03:56 PM

The Iraqis seem to be capable of conducting an honest election process with open oversight.

Learn from them. Eliminate all the technology that is any more sophisticated than ink stains on the finger and big broadside paper ballots sufficiently illuminated with symbols to be clear even to the illiterate. If it take two days to unfold and count, fine. If we need the national guard to sort out the piles of ballots and fend of the potential manipulators, fine. If we need to reinstate Jimmy Carter as special Pro Counsel, fine.

Americans are sufficiently tired of their legitimate rational expressions being ignored or overriden (e.g., illegal immigration); but it really adds injury to insult to design the sacred voting process to be available to manhandling.

Someplace next to empty gas stations, screwing with ballots is as inciting towards political revolution as anything a generally complacent American can stand.

Posted by: On the plantation | June 14, 2006 04:29 PM

che-

Three posts on topic! Not your own words, but still, on topic! I'm so proud. (wipes tear from eye)

Posted by: | June 14, 2006 05:16 PM

Without a paper ballot marked by the Voter, there is no way to catch vote counting fraud or verify the accuracy of the count!!!! No election using only electronic vote counting should ever be accepted as valid.
I have been through an election recount in a federal race in a CD using almost every variation of paper ballot system, I came to the conclusion that the most reliable and hardest to corrupt voting method was the precinct optical scaner using a paper ballot. This is where the voter marks their ballot and feeds it into an optical scanner themselves. If the ballot is spoiled it is rejected and the voter gets to try again. Before I was foolish enough to run for office I spent 20 years doing statistical process validation.
Ballots collected by mail or from multiple voting locations and counted in a central location are the easiest to tamper with except for electronic paperless systems. I even observed it happening to aid my opponent. The SOS and state supreme court acted quickly to cover it up and I now can't buy a job and have nasty things happen whenever I mention my observations.
Any polititcian trying to implement a paperless system should be the subject of a revival of the practice by the voters of tar and feathering corrupt politicians and running them out of town on a rail.

Posted by: W | June 14, 2006 06:15 PM

It would be interesting for the Post to go through the FOIL process to get procurement documents from state or local election offices related to the contracts with this company. There should be a statement of requirements and a statement of work associated with the contract(s).

If they exist, they ought to be very specific and tightly written to safeguard the public trust in the voting process. The proposal from the company should contain descriptions of how their product and services will meet the requirements set forth in the Request For Proposals or Invitation For Bid. I would think that in such a complex procurement, with so much on the line that the procurement went through a Request for Proposals process where total value of the proposal in terms of quality and functionality of product are balenced along with price considerations as opposed to an Invitation For Bid which is based solely on price.

It would be interesting to find out some of the details of these procurements.

By the way Emily, I voted in the same election, using the same machines - you would think if they can print out a little paper that gives you a code to punch in before voting, they could also print out a paper receipt showing that number and the way you voted for your own confirmation. Maybe 2 copies of the receipt could be printed with a computer generated optical scan mark which could then be checked by the voter and 1 placed in a locked box for QA/QC later.

Further, another sad aspect of that election - according to Washington Post radio - the turnout in the state of VA for the democratic primary to decide who will face George Allen was 3.41% - anemic to say the least.

Posted by: DK | June 15, 2006 12:40 PM

Posted by: Chris Ford

"Mentally handicapped people should not be allowed to vote"

Is there any group of people, other than yourself, that you can not keep from attacking? Considering how the neo-cons have fooled the non-mentally handicapped into allowing them to control all three branches of government, perhaps it would be more logical to allow only the mentally handicapped vote! Chris ford, you are a 100% idiot.

Posted by: Jamal | June 16, 2006 11:47 AM

"Mentally handicapped people should not be allowed to vote"

Wow. That's a lot farther than I would go. I mean, as much as I dislike Bush I would never deny him the right to vote.

Posted by: NII | June 16, 2006 10:14 PM

"Mentally handicapped" might be an advantage, allowing for the possibility of being less affected by diversions and evasions, and concentrating limited abilities to focus on the core. In any case, they are entitled to representation equivalent to any other person.

Posted by: On the plantation | June 17, 2006 12:29 PM

Voting, regardless of the technology, has always been and probably always will be amenable to manipulation and fraud. With ONE exception - a direct public show of hands. Get rid of the secret ballot, get rid of (most) suspicion of fraud. Likely? No way - not as long as so many Americans think their choice of public officials is as personal as their tax returns or religion or sexual fantasies. If you're that great a citizen, shouldn't you be willing to publicly proclaim your choices for elective office?
Second let's-pretend solution. Set up a separate arm of government to do nothing but supervise and decide elections - thoroughly non- (NOT bi- ) partisan and with its own Constitutional authority, not subject to Congress or the President. Only problems: 1) how to determine who's entrusted to be part of it, and 2) how to get Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House and the state legislatures to allow it to become part of the Constitution.
Maybe Jefferson was right about a little revolution now and then.

Posted by: JUDGITO | June 19, 2006 05:43 PM

AfghanVet wrote:
===========================================
"If you want to make Voting Machines secure and worthy of use, let the "Public Domain" develop the software and process. Yeah, it might take a while, but then the software could be audited by the PUBLIC and not some corporation looking to make a profit."
===========================================

Have you've been to SourceForge and tried the open source software, for example? If not, see why it's nice for some things but not something worth depending on.

Excellent example of a publically developed software is Blender3D. It has one of the most UGLY GUIs (*nix would look sweeter!); illogically laid out (the programmers must've been on weed!); and a memory killer (not all 3D programs gooble up 512MB of memory for a low poly model).

Because of trying out hundreds programs from SF and other sites over the years, I wouldn't trust public programming on something so mission critical. Besides the "free help" isn't always around (coders come and go leaving junk code in the process that takes other programmers to clean up delaying production, too. Why mission critical programs are designed and run like dictatorships -- look how FreeBSD is maintained [IMO, they have the best programming formula] -- with few coders to keep the code clean, tight and focused).

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | June 22, 2006 08:17 PM

Chris Ford wrote:
===========================================
"In the sum of a large vote, the only way to check is to go in at a particular time in the voting and get a statistical sample. Which means you have to "violate" privacy - by receipt or direct questioning, far more preferably by paper documentation - and learn who the voters in a specific time block voted for, then compare that against the actual voting machine count tallied for that specific time block."
===========================================

Actually another vote is possible (much like run off elections). This time with extra security -- like encrypting the data before uploading it @ 2056 or higher (so it can't be intercepted and sniffed); line monitoring (to find any physical tapping of the network); only one way in database (that's pre-checked by a white hat for exploits -- even better offer a reward to hackers if they can find any exploit [they LOVE money]). Datacenters already do such monitoring -- heck, folks can do it themselves with free tools if they're knowledgable.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | June 22, 2006 09:05 PM

Emily. I would just place a laptop computor next to voting machines and have the same canidates listed. You type in your name, voting number and when finished,you can print out ur own copy of how you voted and even mail a copy to the State Elections Office. Then See if all matches. Vrspy Buzz Baer Holualoa hi

Posted by: Buzz Baer | June 22, 2006 10:54 PM

lol...That's how to hack the voting machine. If data can be accessed *by any computer*......well......

;)

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | June 22, 2006 11:47 PM

I am so ashamed that I wasted my vote on a low life oligarch like george warmonger bush. It is clear that 21st century republicanism is all about making the rich richer by screwing over the middle class and poor to get there. Even human lives mean nothing to this current generation of republicans and their daddy bush. There is a very special dark place in hell for bush and his supporters and the religious right wing of this nation should be very ashamed by the fact that they let the republican party take advantage of their ignorance and one dimensional voting behavior in order to seize power. I will never make the mistake of voting republican ever again. Thanks for all the memories GOP.

Posted by: Eyes Wide Open | July 3, 2006 04:58 PM

I am so ashamed that I wasted my vote on a low life oligarch like george warmonger bush. It is clear that 21st century republicanism is all about making the rich richer by screwing over the middle class and poor to get there. Even human lives mean nothing to this current generation of republicans and their daddy bush. There is a very special dark place in hell for bush and his supporters and the religious right wing of this nation should be very ashamed by the fact that they let the republican party take advantage of their ignorance and one dimensional voting behavior in order to seize power. I will never make the mistake of voting republican ever again. Thanks for all the memories GOP.

Posted by: Eyes Wide Open | July 3, 2006 04:58 PM

If you were to look inside the Diebold voting machines, you would see a "register tape" type roll where the votes of each person are recorded. Why doesn't anybody mention this fact?

Posted by: Jennifer | July 17, 2006 10:03 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.