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Diebold Admits ATMs Are More Robust Than Voting Machines

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the votes-on-the-cheap dept.

United States 230

An anonymous reader points out a story in the Huffington Post about the status of funding for election voting systems. It contains an interesting section in which Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier (formerly Diebold) acknowledged that less money is spent making an electronic voting machine than on a typical ATM. The ironically named Riggall also notes that security could indeed be improved, but at a higher price than most election administrators would care to pay. Also quoted in the article is Ed Felten, who has recently found some inconsistencies in New Jersey voting machines. From the Post: "'An ATM is significantly a more expensive device than a voting terminal...' said Riggall. 'Were you to develop something that was as robust as an ATM, both in terms of the physical engineering of it and all aspects, clearly that would be something that the average jurisdiction cannot afford.' Perhaps cost has something to do with the fact that a couple of years ago, every single Diebold AccuVote TS could be opened with a standard key also used for some cabinets and mini-bars and available for purchase over the Internet."

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Best Parallel Ever! (2, Funny)

4solarisinfo (941037) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196324)

Polotics and money, what a great parallel. We should just combine the two. "Would you like an extra $5 to vote for candidate X?"

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196458)

I wish to subscribe to your $5 newsletter.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (4, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196468)

Polotics and money, what a great parallel.

So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.

Tne bankers and stockbrokers know what's important in America, and it isn't your vote. What's important ios the campaign "contribution" bribery to both major party candidates.

Not the same people (3, Insightful)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196638)

So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.

I'm not sure this is a valid conclusion. The same people aren't making decisions in each case. And while we like to think we place a high value on the integrity of our voting system, it's hard to put a dollar figure on that, which is what the people running the budget need.

Banks, on the other hand, can easily place a dollar figure on the value of their ATMs' security, and show their decision-makers that X dollars spent on securing them will easily pay for itself.

I'm not happy with the situation, but I don't think you've got a single set of people saying "transactions are more important than votes."

Re:Not the same people (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196780)

Banks, on the other hand, can easily place a dollar figure on the value of their ATMs' security, and show their decision-makers that X dollars spent on securing them will easily pay for itself.
Then why don't they do this for credit card fraud ? Europe has had chips with private/public key exchange for a good 20 years while the US still relies on the megnetic strip + signature leading to widespread faud.

Right, one way or another the money comes out of somebody's pocket (yours or the store's) and the CC company benefits along the way. Crooks.

Re:Not the same people (3, Interesting)

tha_mink (518151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197172)

So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.
--And--

I'm not sure this is a valid conclusion. The same people aren't making decisions in each case. And while we like to think we place a high value on the integrity of our voting system, it's hard to put a dollar figure on that, which is what the people running the budget need.
Not only that, but I think it's important to point out that there are not a whole lot of people using pickup trucks to smash through the front doors of polling stations trying to steal voting machines. I know everybody thinks that Bush stole the election but it wasn't because the election machine didn't weigh 10,000 lbs. So yeah, I think that maybe you can't compare the cost of an ATM machine to a voting machine. After all, the cost of making paper ballots were never compared to to cost of making a dollar bill.

Re:Not the same people (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197388)

They make ATMs on wheels, too. Ever been to a convenience store?

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23197006)

The real issue is that when an ATM screws up, the customer has a receipt and it costs the bank money. When a voting machine screws up, it doesn't cost the jurisdiction any $$$.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (-1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196504)

"Would you like an extra $5 to vote for candidate X?"
On our taxes it asks "Would you like to donate an extra $3 to the candidates?"
I don't know a single person who said yes to that...

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (3, Informative)

Etrias (1121031) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196688)

The reason for that box was actually an attempt to lessen the influence of money in the political process. How it is supposed to work is the FEC determines who are "serious" candidates and then distribute the money evenly amongst them. It is fairly tipped and a damn shame though as it strongly favors Republicans and Democrats over third parties.

More info here at the FEC website [fec.gov] .

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (1)

Zippy_wonderslug (990892) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196696)

I do this every year. It is not an extra amount of money, it is the only amount of money that you can directly allocate from your taxes.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196860)

In Ontario, you get an option of giving your refund (assuming you have one) to the "Ontario Opportunities Fund" which is just a fancy term for paying off the provincial debt. I'm not sure how many people actually give any money to that. I would love to see statistics.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (4, Informative)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197212)

On our taxes it asks "Would you like to donate an extra $3 to the candidates?"
Please mod this down to get rid of the "Informative". You don't pay an extra amount of money, you allocate to the general campaign financing fund an amount of money from the taxes that you're paying anyway. It does not increase the amount you pay. It even says so right next to the check box.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23197474)

"Would you like an extra $5 to vote for candidate X?"

On our taxes it asks "Would you like to donate an extra $3 to the candidates?"
I don't know a single person who said yes to that...
Uh... I do. It doesn't cost you anything if you actually read what it says. But this is slashdot, where nobody RTFA, or apparently their own tax form as well.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196850)

It should be abundantly clear at this point to all concerned that unchecked capitalism (whether libertarian or conservative) is harmful to life on Earth. I mean, we've privatized prisons in this country, providing still more incentive to incarcerate people (as if we didn't already have various financial incentives along those lines.)

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (3, Insightful)

tha_mink (518151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197246)

It should be abundantly clear at this point to all concerned that unchecked capitalism (whether libertarian or conservative) is harmful to life on Earth. I mean, we've privatized prisons in this country, providing still more incentive to incarcerate people (as if we didn't already have various financial incentives along those lines.)
I'm not sure if you're kidding or not but I'll assume you're not. Are you trying to say that because there are privitized prisons, that a jury will be more likely to send a person to jail? Or that a prosecuter will think "Hrm...If I can get this guy to plead guilty, I'll be able to give "company X" another inmate and they might give me their Knicks tickets again."

Really? Or that lawmakers will say "If I make this law, more people will go to jail, which means more money for my buddy's company which means, he'll have another one of those bitchin parties again this year" ? Do you really think that?

Not trying to disagree with your unchecked captialism point but your proof stinks.

Re:Best Parallel Ever! (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197364)

Would you like an economic stimulus check to vote for party x?

ATM's are also more secure (1)

cryptodan (1098165) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196328)

ATM's are also inherently more secure then voting machines. In recent years some of the voting machines that have been used there have been noted various security issues.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (5, Insightful)

skeletor935 (790212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196380)

I don't think they need to be as physically secure, there's always a voting official in the room in plain sight and several other people working there. It doesn't need to be built like an ATM that will be randomly placed in dark alleys.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (4, Insightful)

cryptodan (1098165) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196420)

But the voting officials cannot enter the booth, so any attacker could do something to the machine without it being noticed until after the elections.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197110)

This is not an issue in Texas. There are no booths. Election officials can observe attempts at tampering, but can't see how the individual is voting.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

cain (14472) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197428)

Just put all access panels in the back and the curtain around the front.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (3, Insightful)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197496)

I've only used an e-voting system a couple of times, but in every instance I was always visible to the voting officials. They couldn't see who I was voting for but they would have certainly noticed if I did anything other than tap the touch screen.

Physical security isn't really the problem. There are always election workers and volunteers in the proximity of the voting machines. What is a problem is that smoke and mirrors are used instead of openness. I want to understand exactly how the votes will be tallied and what protections there are from tampering (and hiding the source code isn't a protection IMHO).

Re:ATM's are also more secure (5, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196604)

I don't think they need to be as physically secure, there's always a voting official in the room in plain sight and several other people working there. It doesn't need to be built like an ATM that will be randomly placed in dark alleys.
Not just that; they also do not have to be completely tamper-proof (though the more secure the better, obviously). The point is that we shouldn't labour under the illusion that these machines can be made completely tamper-proof, which is what the manufacturers and politicians are driving at. Rather, we need a reliably way to detect tampering and verify the voting results in case we suspect some tampering has occurred. More importantly, verification must be possible by non-experts, which means that voters can see for themselves that votes are tallied correctly rather than take some experts word for it.

A voting machine that prints off a paper ballot which the voter deposits in a lockbox still seems the best option to achieve this.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197070)

an ATM needs to protect the physical money inside. This is a mechanical problem.

A voting machine need only verify the integrity of the data contained therein. This is a software problem, and one which has been solved many times over the years.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197248)

A voting machine need only verify the integrity of the data contained therein. This is a software problem, and one which has been solved many times over the years.
The problem is still unsolved, as far as I know. There is no way to make sure, that all votes are counted free and equal, and that the individual voter can make sure that his individual vote is counted correctly, without making it obvious to someone else which single vote was his.

(The same is for instance unsolved for mechanical voting machines.)

The integrity that can be achieved by publicly sealing of the voting box, by publicly putting in the votes into the box and by publicly counting the ballots after the seal was broken in public is (for very fundamental theoretical reasons) non achieveable with automatized voting methods.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (2, Insightful)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197514)

Here in Alabama (yankees joke all you want) we use a paper ballot that you fill in with a black marker. They are tallied by machines but there is still that piece of paper to go back to. Hanging chads, that was stupid, using IBM punchcards for ballots. The last time I used one of those was in Chicago (where the dead could vote). Electronic 1's and 0's. Making it all virtual, making it all into a SQL database, eck... There is something fundamental about using a marker to fill in a inch square box next to a name. So much of this is driven by the media's desire to have an instant tally. Elections should take hours to count. Election judges should sit in the basement of the county courthouse and each look at a ballot to certify the election. We have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We willingly forfeit our right to a representative government when we make it so easy for any single person or group of people to pervert elections.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196658)

And if a voting official tampers with it?
When it's something as important as an election, which is supposed to be democratic and which affects everyone, it should be as physically secure.

Nothing can ever be completely tamper-proof, but certain devices need a high level of tamper resistance.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196918)

The comparison between security in voting machines and ATM's is a strawman designed to get government officials to throw more money at 'secure as an ATM' voting machines. ATM's are secure because a somebody owns them, runs them, and controls access to them, with voting machines the opposite is true. The slimebags at Diebold cannot be so stupid as to not understand this, they are simply hoping to milk 'upgrade' money out of the taxpayer.

BTW: By voting machine I mean one that counts your ballot, not one that prints your ballot.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197020)

You know what are cheaper that voting machines? Turnstyles. And boxes. And marbles. Counting votes is easy, as long as you Keep It Simple, Stupid. When you add electronics, butterfly ballots and hanging chads, then you're inviting disaster.

With three sets of turnstyles, some marbles and some boxes you could have a virtually bullet-proof vote. First turnstyle you go through you show/type/swipe your ID and SSN. This shows you voted, and prevents you from voting more than once. Then you pick one marble (or whatever) - preferably with an RFID or barcode on it - out of a box. Then choose a door for your candidate - nice big posters of candidates right on the doors (behind plexiglass, of course). Door on the left, Obama or whoever. Door on the right, McCain, etc. As you walk through the door, you go through another turnstyle which counts candidate votes. You then put your marble in the candidate box - if it has a RFID/barcode it gets scanned at this point as a bonus. Then you walk through an exit turnstyle. The candidate turnstyles won't work for the next person until you exit, preventing duplicate votes - because some moron is sure to try to just sit there spinning the turnstyle to add votes.

This way you have a super-low-tech solution. It counts the number of voters and prevents voters from doing dupes - if you try to vote more than once at the same or different precincts, that can be corrected for by checking the SSNs later. It counts the votes per candidate three times (turnstyle, marbles in the box, RFID/barcodes), for redundancy. And it is extremely difficult to accidentally vote for the wrong person, since you have to walk through a door.

The only thing that might get compromised is privacy. This can be solved by only letter one person at a time into the little room with all the candidates' doors. Slow, but secure.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197124)

You do realize we vote on more than 1 thing at a time right? It'd have to be more like a jar of marbles. And then you'd have to prevent people from putting all their marbles in the vote for president.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197284)

With this type of voting it's easy to sell your vote. If everyone can see how you have voted there is a way to check if you voted the way you sold your vote.

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

JonnyDomestik (1190331) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197458)

Don't use an ATM in a random dark alley!

Re:ATM's are also more secure (1)

akozakie (633875) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197290)

OK, but why would a spokesperson point that out? In my opinion the title is misleading. This is not an admission, this is rational damage control. Diebold is in the ATM market, sells the expensive machines to banks. The problems with voting security are having a bad effect on the company's image. The market for voting machines is still unsure, so staying in the ATM market is more important for the bottom line. So, what do you do? You say to your customers "hey, we can make our products very secure, but you get what you pay for! Disregard the e-voting controversy, dear customer, you pay us enough to get the best solutions!".

PR stuff, nothing to see here, move along.

In other words (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196334)

Politicians love to say one thing and then pay for another.

Voting is important, the security of the vote is important, unless that money can be used to buy votes elsewhere. It also becomes a great issue to underfund so when a politician loses they can blame voting machines for it because no one wants to admit they lost a popularity contest

Re:In other words (3, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196510)

...unless that money can be used to buy votes elsewhere

The candidate doesn't matter; HE'S the one for sale. The scandal isn't the buying of votes, it's the buying of legislators. When you've donated ten million to the Democrat and another ten million to the Republican, it doesn't matter who loses, you win.

Re:In other words (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196528)

Politicians love to say one thing and then pay for another.

And voters want more expensive services but refuse to pay higher taxes to pay for them. Bad combo.

Re:In other words (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196802)

It also becomes a great issue to underfund so when a politician loses they can blame voting machines for it because no one wants to admit they lost a popularity contest.

You've got it backwards. No one really cares what the loser says.

The point is, the winner won't have any incentive to fix the system that got them elected. Maybe it was an honest win, maybe it was rigged without their knowledge, or maybe they know damn well that they were elected because the machines are manipulable; in every case there's no incentive to try to fix the system and in some cases there is a strong disincentive to even admitting there might be a problem.

-- MarkusQ

Is this a surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196372)

A permanent installation which holds tens of thousands of dollars in a public place is well protected.

A voting device used only once or twice a year, under direct supervision, is less protected. And there has to be several of them per voting place, and they have to be cost effective.

Re:Is this a surprise? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196700)

...and they have to be cost effective

Uh, what? They spend a thousand dollars on a hammer, millions on a Bridge in Florida that can't be built, and you're talking about cost effectiveness of making voting machines secure?

You must be new here. To the US, I mean.

The physical security of the voting machines is the responsibility of the election judges. The electronic security is what is in question. If you had a human-readable paper ballot come out of the machine the electronic security wouldn't be such an issue, as you couold recount by hand.

So? (4, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196384)

I hate to play devil's advocate, but an ATM is an extremely complicated mechanical device. It doesn't shock me in the slightest that they're more expensive to produce than an electronic voting booth.

Of course, their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.

Re:So? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196516)

Not to mention Diebold's ATM business != Diebold's voting machine business (now called Premier Election Systems). The voting machine business is a small sideline business for Diebold. Diebold makes LOTS and LOTS of stuff. For one, they are a U.S. government contractor that makes physical access control systems and all sorts of things. The ATM business is an offshoot of that.

The voting booths have nothing to do their mainline business.

This a bit like AM General admitting that their LSSVs aren't as robust as their HMMWV's (:HumVee's") -- of course they aren't, their completely different business lines.

Re:So? (1)

junglee_iitk (651040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196608)

That is not even a question. Premier/Diebold is playing the most common trick there is: we can do better job but we need more money. Pony up some more so we can actually deliver what we promised to.

Once they have high-tech for ATM, all they need to do is downgrade it into a workable trustful voting machine - they don't have to do much R&D for that! The whole China is doing it... so can they.

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196856)

It's not that simple.

I can't "downgrade" a 747 into a vending machine, even though the 747 is the more complex bit of machinery and has proven to be extremely reliable.

They're two separate things entirely. Granted, yes, Diebold's experience with ATMs does make them appear more qualified to build voting machines, though there are still several important fundamental differences present.

Re:So? (1)

junglee_iitk (651040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196998)

747 and a vending machine don't share a common technology, if they do, and you know how to make a 747, I really don't see a R&D problem in creating a vending machine. Note: I am not talking about manufacturing/designing problems! Just technological.

In case of Diebold, they want money for making something "more secure" (which actually, is just "secure"), while they already have that technology. May be "downgrade" is not the right word, but still I don't see why they would need more money to do something relatively simpler than what they already know.

Re:So? (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196818)

Of course, their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.

I agree. It is bad design if the basic security measures taken for ATMs are not also implemented in voting machines.

Diebold's expertise in serving the banks with ATM machines should translate nicely into serving the gov't with voting machines (much of the security, hardware, and software is similar between the two devices).

Thus, the argument that it is a "cost issue" is bullcrap. The fact that the case in NJ proves that THE DAMNED THINGS DO NOT COUNT RELIABLY is further evidence that the issues with Diebold are deeper than costs.

Re:So? (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196890)

However, if Diebold did spend the extra money to make certain that they had a good secure and reliable design, would governments be willing to pay for it? Or would they instead go with the other manufactures who have less secure, but cheaper devices?

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196836)

their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.
Actually cost is a fair complaint by Diebold. Security is not cheap, but the direct customer (the government, not the citizens) demands a cheap product. And so it is only natural that they would select their voting machines with price being a primary concern equal to or greater than security. These electronic voting machines suck across the board and we can complain all we want about the manufacturers (certainly they have been shady with their tactics of preventing third party evaluation), but ultimately the blame rests on the government's shoulders for passing HAVA without realistic cost estimates and for not purchasing voting machines with quality and security the highest primary concern.

Re:So? (1)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197362)

Banks are just as, if not more so, demanding about cost. The difference is that they actually need to have them work and Diebold wouldn't make any money selling grossly defective ATMs.

For the money that Diebold were paid they didn't come close to implementing a secure system and it had very little to do with fundamental reasons that indicated that it couldn't be done for the specified cost. Good security is more expensive but bad design is most expensive.

Re:So? (1)

MrAtoz (58719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197302)

Yes, the ATM cost argument is totally bogus. As Ed Felten notes on his blog [freedom-to-tinker.com] :

ATMs are expensive because they have a safe full of cash inside. It's important that you can't steal the cash, even if you've got time and tools at your disposal. Voting systems (at least anywhere I'll ever be likely to vote) don't dispense money. Building a reliable printer doesn't need to be expensive.

What is Our Democracy Worth? (2)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196388)

This is just a travesty. That we put our democracy in the hands of for-profit, Republican-supporting companies like Diebold is beyond belief. The fact that they are required to make ATM machines better is a sign of how out of touch Americans are with our voting process. ATMs are more robust because people demand it. People DON'T (yet) demand the same amount of robustness in their voting machines because they are UNAWARE of how crappy the machines are. That really stems from our politicians who WANT to keep the sorry state of the voting machines secret.

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (3, Informative)

kenh (9056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196552)

Unfortunately, voting is a local exercise, despite the federal implications, and as such each jurisdiction has the freedom to implement voting in the manor they see fit. Of course, when we had that little mis-adventure in FL a few years ago, paper was deemed "unacceptable", so the federal government decided to throw lots of money around to help everyone buy *whatever* electronic voting machine they wanted, then when the local politicians made bad decisions (based on ignorance, greed, corrupt vendors or a combination of all three) the politicans are now stepping back in and saying that the electronic voting process is no good, and we need to go back to paper...

A fundamental change is needed, one that will either have the states ceding power tot he federal government to develop "the one true" voting machine used in all districts *or* we get off this technology merry-go-round and use paper ballots - as a bonus it will give the losing politicans more time to round-up lawyers to challenge their loss...

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196752)

Paper scan voting pretty much solves all of the problems, at reasonable cost. The interface is one that people are used to(paper that is), there is a paper trail, the machines are well understood.

Hopefully people manage to remember the ongoing debacle in New Jersey for at least an election cycle or two.

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197116)

If it's a federal election, voting for a federal office, then there should be federal rules as to how the voting is conducted. In Canada, for federal elections, voting is done exactly the same across the entire country. You don't get extra things put on the ballots, because they figured, since everybody is voting anyway, they might as well vote on 1000 different things. Since we have a parliamentary system, the names on the ballots for different ridings, but that's the only thing that is different. The ballots are all printed in the same way, and we all use the same style of voting booths. And everybody votes on exactly 1 thing.

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196570)

ATMs are more robust because bankers demand it.

There, fixed that for you.

India has affordable/ secure voting machines (5, Informative)

aqui (472334) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196640)

Security depends both on the voting / counting process and on the technology (this is true for paper ballots as well). The problem is when the technology can easily be changed in a hidden way that is unverifiable by elections officials.

A simple machine, that has been tested and verify can be sealed with stickers with signatures of election officials.

A machine (think diabold) with all kinds of inputs (think keyboard plugs) and complexity (think OS, DB etc...) cannot be easily sealed and verified by election officials.

I found two interesting articles about India's EVM

The two things I found interesting:
1) EVM cost = $230 (hard to tamper with, and relies on election officials to keep secure)

2) Diebold cost = $3300 (easier to tamper with, and relies on election officials to keep secure)

This points out two things: voting systems don't have to be complicated or expensive to work well, and that security depends both on the machine and the voting process.

Just like with paper ballots the election officials need to ensure security of the voting and counting process.

In Canada we have some electronic voting at the municipal level in some cities (mostly optical scan machines).

A comparison of EVM and Diebold
http://techaos.blogspot.com/2004/05/indian-evm-compared-with-diebold.html [blogspot.com]

Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Voting_Machines [wikipedia.org]

The issue is not about cost. The issue is crappy design, and politics in the selection of voting machine vendors.

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196902)

Simple: People care about not having the ATM (containing their money) robbed or compromised. People care about money.

People don't care about a voting machine, firstly because they know it's all a fraud anyway, and secondly because people don't care about voting.

Voting is not money. It ends up costing them tons of money and grief over four years, but since we can't compare candidates in purely objective points, there's no way to accurately present that cost to the mindless commoner. They whine about taxes, they whine about healthcare, they even whine about the candidate's ethnic background, but the one thing they don't do is act.

People don't whine when they get short-changed at the drive-thru, they YELL and complain and attack. People used to react just as violently to political issues, a long long time ago. If they still did today, we might have a little more fairness in this theatre they call Democracy.

Re:What is Our Democracy Worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23197032)

bitch bitch bitch about the republicans

in my day we complained about the commies and we liked it!

Ironically named? (4, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196392)

Riggall? That's rich. Yeah, mod me offtopic, I just Felten urge to post this.

This makes perfect sense (1)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196396)

Everyone wants bad ass, but no one wants to pay the cost of bad assery.

He's (somewhat) correct. (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196452)

ATMs are very secure because if just one breaks, it can mean the loss of thousands of dollars. If an exploit is made public, it can easily mean significantly more money lost prior to it being fixed (imagine a group of blackhats using an exploit to empty out a group of ATMs all at the same time one night).

That being said, there's no reason that over time a voting system cannot have a similar level of security and accuracy. Open code review and structure review of the devices will allow security experts to fix problems before production, if done right (with cooperation with independent security experts).

Re:He's (somewhat) correct. (1)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196648)

I don't know what industry standards are for ATM software, but I ran across one with a BSOD yesterday while buying tickets to a movie.

I don't really believe that they are all *that* secure.

That said, I'd be more worried about a group of blackhats who didn't make their exploit public.

Re:He's (somewhat) correct. (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196984)

You're seriously overestimating the skill, diligence and most importantly: availability of security consultants.

Code reviews ? Don't make me laugh. Security experts excel at policy writing. They are fear mongers. The people who can actually look at code with an emphasis on security, they are few and far-between. A few of them are plain old kernel hackers, the rest are black hats, because that's where the big bucks are.

Computer security isn't something that's easily done long-term, because it's an even faster moving target than the underlying hardware and software. New exploits spring up every few seconds, and old ones are slow to be patched. It's a business where you go all-out for a few years, then get out before you turn into a paranoid schizo.

Those who can, do; those who can't, contract.

Is this a joke? (1)

nephridium (928664) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196470)

The spokesperson of (ex-)Diebold is called Riggall! Maybe they just want to make it clear to their 'customers' that even though they changed their name their complex vote "counting" algorithm is as good as ever..

Cost isn't the issue (3, Interesting)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196478)

As usual, cost isn't the question.

It's science -- bad science -- of two types:

1. Bad application of technology, including massive security holes.
2. Bad management science, leading to sloppy security and confused product design.

An ATM should be more expensive than a voting machine; the ATM has to dispense cash and be used 24-7 to do so.

A voting machine however should be secure, have an audit trail, and a clear interface so the average person can understand what they're voting for.

Re:Cost isn't the issue (1)

archkittens (1272770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196530)

but if people know what they're doing at the machines, how will they Riggall the votes?

Re:Cost isn't the issue (4, Insightful)

Shambly (1075137) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196550)

The problem isn't that an average person can understand what they're voting for, it's that you have to be clear to a really dumb person, because they can vote too. If your machine is too complicated for half the people you don't have a fair election.

Re:Cost isn't the issue (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196598)

As usual, cost isn't the question.

It's science -- bad science -- of two types:

1. Bad application of technology, including massive security holes.
2. Bad management science, leading to sloppy security and confused product design.
I disagree.

Engineering is all about making compromises - the old adage "good, fast, cheap, pick two" holds true today just as much as it always did, even if the three options in the list change occasionally.

In this case, I'd argue that the three options are "Simple, reliable, cheap, pick two".

Simple - any fool can use it, it's really not complicated.
Reliable - Verifiably correct, very hard to mess around with without it being immediately obvious.
Cheap - Pretty self-explanatory.

Re:Cost isn't the issue (1)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197232)

I adhere by the standard that if you are too dumb to figure out how to vote then your vote shouldn't be counted in the first place. Give me reliable and cheap.

Re:Cost isn't the issue (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197424)

How does paper voting counted by humans with observers from multiple parties watching the election and the counting process not meet those criteria?

Re:Cost isn't the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23197062)

You are correct. Cost isn't the question.

Think about this.

You can walk into your local grocery store and use your ATM card at the register to pay for your purchase plus take a little extra spending money out of your bank account.

If the little card reader/keypad device and its associated firmware cost as much to make as an ATM, do you think every cash register would have one?

It is doing for the most part the same thing that the ATM is doing. It just doesn't have to secure and dispense the cash.

Somehow without the expense required for an ATM machine, the money manages to come out of the correct account. No-one cracks into it's network and causes financial mayhem. They seem to be pretty darn secure. You even get a paper trail (receipt from the register).

Secure, reliable, easy to use (and audit) voting machines surely can be produced. Someone just has to make it a priority.

Yeah, right. (4, Insightful)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196524)

'Cause election jurisdictions can afford to buy entire systems they have to throw away once they're discovered to be inadequate.

Priorities (2, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196534)

No institution other than one that can compel funding and compliance could ever operate with the sort of gross incompetence and lack of priorities that government frequently has. A few obvious examples:

1) The Bush Administration has $500B to spend on prescription pills for the elderly, but cannot find $100M to fund 10,000 new border patrol agents on the southern border.

2) New Orleans had plenty of money to waste on welfare programs and such, but didn't have any money to spend on getting its own fixes for the levies, even if they were only gradual repair contracts.

3) All of the pork barrel spending that goes on in Congress.

4) The congressional hearings over steroid use in professional sports. I don't agree that it is the state's business at all, but isn't this what we have the DEA for?

5) Doing things like setting up honeypots to catch people who might have a passing interest in child porn when there are still people getting away with the actual production of the same in U.S. territory, child molesters and Americans flying overseas to do the same.

6) Passing and enforcing drug laws when there isn't even enough room due to the War on Drugs to guarantee that someone who commits 1st degree murder will get life in prison. Same thing for how the WoD has made it much easier to argue that the system just cannot handle the burden of locking up dangerous criminals permanently.

Explain away engineering defects (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196562)

And shoddy/insecure design... As something they can't afford to do without?

I call BS. The customer has an expectation of the manufacturer doing a good job of designing their devices and not selling defective product lines: there would be no sale if the manufacturer were honest and told the product was not robust. There can be no excuse for letting a generic key open the device, when individualized locks are easily purchased.

The customer would keep going until they found a vendor that told them the product was robust and stable, and offered them the lowest price.

Cost of the result is something the manufacturers get to compete over. If you can't design a product well and robust enough at the price point the customer wants to get you the amount of profit you want, then you get two choices (1) don't make it, or (2) tell the customer about the weak design up front. Option (3) ignore defects and admit them later is highly dishonest.

Voting terminals may not be as proven as ATMs, since they are a newer technology, but there is no reason for the design to be weaker.

ATM makers already have robust ATM designs that can be used as a basis for the design of voting terminals and other products.

There is really no excuse for a new voting terminal design to not be as robust as a new ATM design.

The design will cost more, but that cost is supposed to be absorbed by the manufacturer. The high price that state governments pay for these terminals is plenty to justify proper design.

Due to the nature of software, it can be understood that there may be some aesthetic or annoying bugs early versions of terminal software that QA couldn't find.

But they should not be because of non-robust design, QA adn testing should verify the critical elements of the application are bug-free, and later versions should eliminate bugs without adding features that risks incorporating more bugs.

Campaign contributions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196566)

No need to spend millions in campaign contributions, you need only spend 19.95 plus 6.95 s&h for a mini bar key. Or put another way you can yell all you want about how security stinks, just get yourself a key and ensure that johnJacobojinglehimerschmit or mickey mouse wins every position in your next election, including yes or no propositions. Nothing gets changed until everyone can see just how broken something is ... sometimes not even then.

too expensive to be secure? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196590)

If it's too expensive to make a secure electronic voting machine, then maybe that's the wrong solution? Nah, let's just make an insecure one that's cheap enough... gotta love that logic!

Enough already (1)

cloudkiller (877302) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196602)

Can't we just modify slot machines to also record votes for the American people? That way everyone knows that the more money you put in, the better chance you have of actually accomplishing something. All the while knowing that everything is rigged regardless.

Re:Enough already (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197404)

Not to mention acknowledging that the outcome of your deliberate inputs will be essentially random chance. The odds that what you wanted done lines up with what a well funded lobbiest wants are about the same as hitting the jackpot.

Voting Machine Gnomes (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196612)

1. Take a standard PC, probably running Windows (to be as insecure as possible). 2. Enclose it in a crappy wooden box with a diebold logo on it, that can be opened with a minibar key. 3. ? 4. Profit

Re:Voting Machine Gnomes (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196646)

You know, even a 60 second "grace period" to edit your posts would be wonderful for those of us with lots to say but little time to wonder about the wierd "default" settings of Slashdot.

Come on guys, fine, it might be HTML formatted but when I type a CR+LF in the textarea, is is SO difficult to understand that I mean <br> to be put in the finished article ???

Curse that combo box, and curse that preview button.

1. Take a standard PC, probably running Windows (to be as insecure as possible).
2. Enclose it in a crappy wooden box with a diebold logo on it, that can be opened with a minibar key.
3. ?
4. Profit

Journalism 101 (1)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196632)

ATMs found to be more secure than electronic voting machines = not news
Electronic voting machines found to be more secure than ATMs = news
See?

ATMs as voting machines (5, Funny)

bromoseltzer (23292) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196690)

The obvious solution. Banks reload their ATM software for voting on election day. The candidates can buy your votes all the more easily -- cash comes out of the slot.

I have... (1)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196726)

...a watch that cost me £5 that's more robust the the Diebold Voting Machines.

ATMs Are More Robust Than Voting Machines (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196796)

Well, of course! Money always seems to be more important than democracy so it's not a big surprise where the companies like Diebold put their best engineering effort.

This is utter bullshit (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196812)

Although an ATM does indeed demand more hardware and more engineering due to the particular task that it intends to fulfill (dispense the exact amount of money, continually exchange information with a central server, work 24/7, exposed to the elements, resist vandalism, etc...) that is absolutely no excuse for it to be more robust than a simple, straight to the point vote counting machine. In fact, it proves the exact opposite. An ATM has multiple subsystems which must work perfectly 24/7 and must be flawlessly integrated and a voting machine includes only a very restricted subset of those very same systems. So how come a less complex system that needs to perform an incredibly simple task ends up being less engineered and more prone to failure? There is absolutely no excuse.

well of course they are most secure.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23196854)

unsecured ATM = loosing money

unsecured voting machine = gaining money.

What's wrong with paper ballots anyway? (1)

palpatine (94) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196892)

Yea I've noticed the Diebold logo on many an ATM and they do actually work very well, not to mention seem solid. After all these are boxes of cash we are talking about, they had better be secure and work correctly given how often they are used.

But as for voting machines -- why are people foaming at the mouth to use them anyway? What was so horrible about paper ballots? I can't figure out a good reason to be switching to voting machines at all... so what if it takes longer to count the votes? At least it's done properly! I'll never use a voting machine or any voting system that doesn't involve writing an X on a piece of paper. I wouldn't consider my vote to count otherwise.

paper trail (1)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196912)

there is a simple major reason why I trust them more. They have a paper trail.
I can check with the bank statement.

Completely reasonable! (1)

SeePage87 (923251) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196922)

ATMs Are More Robust Than Voting Machines
Well that makes sense. If you compromise an ATM you can steal thousands of dollars. If you compromise a voting machine, all you could steal is the country.

Rubbish excuse (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196926)

I don't know what it's like in the USA, but in Europe many shops have a small hand-held devices that connect to banks via phone to do card transactions. They are both very secure and relatively cheap. The excuse that a properly secure device would be too expensive is just rubbish.
 

Voting machine - ATM combo (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 6 years ago | (#23196950)

There's already a lot of ATMs. Why couldn't a voting machine function be added to existing ATMs? People could identify themselves by swiping a card (like you do for getting boarding passes on an airplane). You could vote anywhere, anytime, not just in your precinct on a specific day. Hell, they'd even have paper receipts!

Obviously, some people are not going to want to or be able to identify themselves with a swipe card. That doesn't exclude the election commission from operating centrally located polling places that run old skool. Not necessarily in every precinct, but near public transportation centers, and serving multiple precincts.

Re:Voting machine - ATM combo (1)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197292)

Without a monitored location it is impossible to tell if the person voting is who he claims to be making it easy to buy votes. Voter hands over the voting card, pockets a grand.

Re:Voting machine - ATM combo (3, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197334)

The ballot must be anonymous. "Show me your voting receipt or you're fired."

This just in: the sun rose again today (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197046)

Why is this news? ATMs don't have a reputation for being insecure devices, and considering the amount of money they handle on a regular basis there is a strong incentive to break into them. Further, any single ATM is in service every day out of the year, whereas voting machines are in service once or twice a year.

Diebold's voting machines have a deservedly bad reputation for bad security as well as major screwups (not necessarily security-related) but I don't recall anyone claiming they were built to be as secure as ATMs, or anyone expecting them to be so, for that matter.

Malda means nerd en espanol (1)

J4 (449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197048)

"Riggall" You can't make this shit up.

Proper choices.... (1)

Kaptain Kruton (854928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197286)

I was once told that, in the development of new software or devices, aspects of product development can be broken down into 3 categories: Cost, quality, speed of completion/delivery of the new product. Customers can usually only choose two items to be in their favor. It sounds as if one (or maybe two?) of two things happened. 1) The politicians and the voting committees chose low cost and quick speed of delivery, but (wrongly) still expect the highest quality. 2) Or the government chose a bad company for the project.

According to the article, the government did spend a lot of money on the overall project (4 billion on the voting act of 2002), but I can guarantee that the entire 4 billion did not go towards purchasing the voting machines. Considering how many voting machines are needed and how important they are, the government needs to rethink how much money is being spent on these machines and their choices in this project.

OS/2 is BACK BABY! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23197308)

Of course they're more robust--many ATMs run OS/2!!!!111

Crappy overly expensive underachieving design (3, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197358)

Voting machines most certainly do NOT have to cost as much as an ATM to be appropriatly secure!

An ATM must be tamper proof. That implies heavy steel construction all around. It has to be larger because it has to hold a store of cash. That sort of construction is where bug costs come in. They are generally unattended for most of the day and they contain cash!

A voting machine just has to be tamper evident. Heavy ABS plastic construction (for durability) with unique keys would be adequate there. They are generally either secured away or attended by election officials. They contain nothing all that valuable to someone who would break in. (the only value to be had requires breaking in without leaving visible evidence) Tamper evident design is quite sufficient.

The card readers on those things are just plain excessive. You'll note when you push the card in, there's a rather solid clunk as it locks in. That speaks of a heavy mechanism with an oversized solinoid and spring. That in turn implies heavy relays and a big power supply. A mechanism more like the floppy drives on an old Mac would have been more appropriate to the problem and considerably cheaper.

Those savings could have gone towards uniquely keyed locks, better software, and perhaps a POS style receipt printer.

Open Voting Consortium (1)

cparker15 (779546) | more than 6 years ago | (#23197524)

This is precisely why we need a citizen-backed voting platform. The Open Voting Consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] provides this. They're our votes. We should do everything in our power to protect them.
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