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How To Spot E-Vote Tampering?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the with-a-fraudoscopy dept.

Security 507

Precinct Election Judge writes "I am one of the Republican Party Precinct Chairs in Harris County, Texas. Since in 2006 Republican Rick Perry won the Governor's race in my precinct I will be the head election judge at my polling station this November. (My Democratic counterpart will be assistant election judge.) I have read with interest the stories about voting machine hacking, and I want advice from those of you who are experts on what to watch for to make sure there is no fraudulent activity at my precinct during the election. What activities should I look for? Keep in mind my restrictions: I will be at a table in the front of the room with the voter rolls signing people in, I can only approach the voting machines if a voter asks a question or if I have strong reason to believe there is fraudulent activity, the last thing I need is for someone to say the Republicans are trying to keep people from voting! And finally, although each station and voter will be visible from my seat each machine has 'blinders' around it so I will most likely not be able to see the hands of each voter while they are at the station. Thank you in advance for all suggestions."

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How to spot a frosty (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673255)

step a: look at this post
step b: ?
step c: pound salt

Don't worry about it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673653)

Democrats are too stupid to figure out how to commit fraud.

Let me be sure I understand.... (5, Funny)

llamalad (12917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673257)

So what you're really asking is what sort of evidence of tampering you should be sure to avoid leaving behind?

Someone please... (-1, Flamebait)

msauve (701917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673363)

give him the -1 troll he deserves.

Re:Someone please... (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673433)

I'd have given him a +1 funny.

Modding myself offtopic with the NKB checkbox.

Re:Let me be sure I understand.... (-1, Troll)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673537)

So what you're really asking is what sort of evidence of tampering you should be sure to avoid leaving behind?

Right, he's not nearly as clever as his idealogical opponents, who prefer wholesale fraud through bogus enrollment and the use of dead people. That way the voting machines don't have to be tampered with at all... it's the identity of the person using it that has to be tampered with. And there are activist groups that get busted doing it every year, stuffing registration roles, trotting out thousands of dead voters, etc. Yes, just Google for groups like Acorn, and enjoy. High-tech tampering is WAY too much trouble. Just do what the activist callers says, sign the clipboard, get on the bus, and walk in and lie about who you are... that's why the people pitching the biggest fit about requiring simple forms of ID when casting votes aren't usually the Republicans.

Re:Let me be sure I understand.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673929)

10/10 on this troll. Brilliant troll writing, and it manages to push the envelope without going over the top. Applause, good sir.

Do you have a paper trail? (5, Insightful)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673287)

Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

If it doesn't have a paper trail, ask yourself why.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673535)

Yeah, without a paper trail, the question you should be asking is - how can you spot E-Vote integrity? The answer is: You can't.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673557)

Does your paper voting equipment produce a voter verifiable paper trail? Since it doesn't, we don't really have to ask ourselves why.

Your ballot gets sucked into a machine for "counting" with nothing left to you should that machine decide to fuck you whether it's paper or not.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (3, Insightful)

radarjd (931774) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673571)

Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

What does a paper trail do on its own? Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail? Who does the verifying and who verifies the verifyers? Let's say the software is open source and auditable (and competent, trustworthy people do the auditing), how do you ensure that untampered software is on the machine?

If it doesn't have a paper trail, ask yourself why.

I could come with several reasons, ranging from innocuous to stupid to malicious to criminal. It could be that a paper trail which simply prints out the votes in hard copy adds nothing to the security of the system. It could be that the company constructing the machine never thought of it. It could be that whatever people control the machines (naturally, the Illuminati) want to (and are able to) fix the election, but aren't competent enough to print the fixed results from the machine.

My guess is something along the lines that secure elections are really difficult to do. We're not there yet, but we never have been. Electronic machines bring in new difficulties than what we've dealt with in the past, but it's not like election fraud is a new thing, or any less despicable now.

In response to the original article, I would say the best that you can do is watch your assistant, make sure he or she watches you. Other than that, I'm not sure what you can do given the equipment that's prevalent.

I think there will always be some level of trust involved in voting. I think most advocates are presently arguing that the trust we currently place in the machines is too high, and that the machines should be put in place with the idea that they are untrustworthy.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (3, Insightful)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673727)

What does a paper trail do on its own? Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail?

The voter should have an opportunity to verify the paper trail. He is the only one who can confirm the paper trail recorded his vote correctly. A shutter system could easily reveal only the voters's record to him. A comparison of the sign in rolls reveals that no "extra" votes were added.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673749)

IMO the paper trail would only be worthwhile if the voter somehow got to verify it as it scrolled behind a clear window and then scrolled out of view or was hidden to prevent the next voter from seeing your vote.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673763)

Ideally the machine should spit out a paper confirming your choices, and you should drop that in a box on the way out the door, after you verify it. Generating a piece of paper that the voter never sees is pointless.

Now, you're probably thinking, "That sounds like a paper ballot system? Why would we pay all this money for these fancy machines when we have to basically fall back on a paper ballot system to make sure they're reliable?"

And that is the real question.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (3, Insightful)

Gyga (873992) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673991)

I like my backwards town for this reason. "Here's a magic marker, here's a piece of paper. Here's a sticker. There are the booths. Ask if you need help."

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673809)

What does a paper trail do on its own?

By itself, nothing, but it is part of a system for adding some level of checking.

Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail?

Yes, but it becomes easier to spot.

Who does the verifying and who verifies the verifyers?

Here's the crux of thew whole system I mentioned:
Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

A voter verifiable paper trail doesn't just spit a piece of paper into a locked box. It spits out a piece of paper which the voter can read over and then drop in a locked box. The system relies on each voter knowing how they voted, being able to recognize that the piece of paper is wrong, and reporting it.

The biggest hole in the system is that the locked box needs to be kept, and transported in such a way to ensure the integrity of its contents. The usual method for this is that no side in the election is ever give unsupervised access to the box. Same as we deal with paper ballots at the moment.

Also, this system assumes that the paper ballots are counted at some point, and that discrepancies with the computer count are reported.

Sure, there are holes and ways in which the system could be attacked. But it beats the hell out of the votes being counted by a black box, and no verification happening. As with any security, it's never going to be 100% perfect, the goal is to make breaking it so difficult that it becomes impractical with the resources at hand.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (1)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673853)

Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail?
Why? The paper trail is verified by the voter at the machine. If the electronic vote tally didn't match the paper trail tally, it would invalidate the result. A lot of invalidations would likely call into question the precinct or even election. It would be like a burglar intentionally setting off the alarm when he's already in the house.

Sure, you need to trust the voter to verify the paper trail at the machine, but you also need to trust the voter to take voting seriously anyway.

Re:Do you have a paper trail? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673855)

in all fairness, the OP wants to make the best of a bad system. help him rather than burning him down.

That's the hard part (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673289)

That's the hard part about e-voting. It's hard to tell when something fraudulent is happening. With pen and paper, human counted voting, it's easy to watch to ballot box to ensure it's empty when you start, that no extra votes are deposited, and that all votes are counted properly. With computers, it's hard for people to actually watch and see what's going on. You could probably swap out the entire insides of a voting machine, make it work completely differently, yet look exactly the same, without anybody noticing.

Re:That's the hard part (3, Insightful)

hoppo (254995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673597)

Actually, that's not true. It would have been pathetically easy to deposit extra votes in the ballot box without anyone noticing.

It is fallacious to think we can have a foolproof voting system. And those who complain the loudest will never be satisfied. Use paper voting, and there is outcry of fraud, ballot box stuffing, etc. Move to computer voting, and there is still outcry of fraud, ballot box stuffing, etc. If a paper trail is added, suddenly they're tracking who votes for whom. There's no winning. In fact, it doesn't even get any better -- make a Venn diagram of the complainants in each of those three scenarios, and I guarantee you it pretty much looks like one thick circle.

We just have to trust that most poll workers are civically responsible, and are doing their best to mitigate fraud. Anyone who doesn't think that is the case in his precinct is more than welcome to step away from his busy day of posting on Slashdot and volunteer to work the polls. That's a little more work than writing snarky message board comments, however.

Re:That's the hard part (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673707)

Here's my (serious) question: What's worse?

a) Having a paper trail and therefore eliminating the anonymity of voting

-or-

b) Having no idea whether your vote actually counted

?

Re:That's the hard part (1, Informative)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673817)

You can have a paper trail without losing anonymity

Re:That's the hard part (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673907)

How does a paper trail impact anonymity? Just have the machine spit out a piece of paper (call it a 'ballot'), have the voter inspect the paper to ensure that it matches their intent, and then have them place it in a box with the rest of the ballots. With a little attention to that last step, there aren't any anonymity problems (save that it is still possible to see how a precinct voted in aggregate).

Re:That's the hard part (3, Informative)

dascritch (808772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673799)

Here in France, the ballot box is transparent (plexiglas) and most of the time, vote are put in a envelope.

But it is also true that we are planning elections so that never more than two simultaneous consultations are done the same day (and never during Presidential Indecisions days).

I was assesseur (co-judge) in numerous elections, and we rarely have to count more than one hour for 2000 exprimed votes. I think symbolic transparency of the ballot box help to have more than 50% of participation for major elections (less are European votes, with 40%)

Re:That's the hard part (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673959)

If we can put so much money into preventing paper currency counterfeiting, we can utilize the same technology for ballot stuffing.

All the machine has to do is print out a paper ballot for the voter to cast into a box, after the voter has voted electronically. It doesn't matter if the printing in and of itself has anti-counterfeiting measures (though it should be trivial to do the yellow dots thing for those machines), as long as the paper printed upon does. The electronic tally and the paper box tally should match. If they don't, then it's obvious one of the two has been tampered with, and it's a lot easier to trace which machine recorded the bogus vote from there.

Re:That's the hard part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673723)

So, to answer the original question:
Keep your eyes open for people with all the insides of a voting machine stuffed down their pants.

I thought this was the problem with e-voting (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673291)

Is that tampering is difficult or impossible on a black box electronic voting machine. Does it spit out a paper trail?

Re:I thought this was the problem with e-voting (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673325)

whoops, I meant difficult or impossible to spot tampering. Not that tampering is difficult or impossible with an electronic voting machine.

Re:I thought this was the problem with e-voting (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673443)

But what good is a paper trail if you can't get a recount? It's very hard to get an actual recount. And even if you do, they don't recount everything. They recount a certain percentage, and then if there's a problem found with that "randomly selected" sample, you get to recount the whole batch. And what happens if the recount finds a discrepency. They correct it. But what about all the other voting districts. They haven't done a revote yet. So if there was something really wrong with the way the machines counted, the vote count would still be quite off.

Re:I thought this was the problem with e-voting (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673515)

I'm trying to understand what is so good about an electronic voting machine? Here in my state, we do use an "electronic" voting machine of sorts. It is an optical scan machine. The voter marks a paper ballot with supplied pen, and then the ballot is inserted into the machine for counting. One could verify the count by hand counting the original paper ballots. If the machine is purely electronic with no physical ballot, tampering could occur without detection.

Re:I thought this was the problem with e-voting (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673645)

I'm trying to understand what is so good about an electronic voting machine? ...
If the machine is purely electronic with no physical ballot, tampering could occur without detection.

I think you've answered your own question. That's a definite plus to the people who are forcing these things on us.

How To Spot E-Vote Tampering? (5, Insightful)

yo303 (558777) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673305)

If the machine says Diebold on it, there's a good chance it has been tampered with.

Re:How To Spot E-Vote Tampering? (4, Informative)

Dracos (107777) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673503)

Remember: Diebold changed their name to Premier Election Systems last year.

Not sure about Texas... (2, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673341)

But here in Illinois where we're so patriotic that even being dead won't keep you from voting, there is only one question that needs to be asked:

"Did anyone vote?"

If yes, there was fraud.

"Vote early, vote often". Note that our last Republican Governor is in Federal prison, and our last Democratic Governor spent time in prison after he lost to the Republicans.

Seriously though, the only way to keep an electronic voting machine honest is to use one that spits out a human-readable paper ballot that you, as an election judge, can make sure gets in the ballot box so if there's any doubt, humans can perform a recount.

Just like the movies! (5, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673345)

Look for the flashing lights and sudden appearances of 3d interfaces - because everyone knows that hacking is just like it appears in the movies [imdb.com]

Re:Just like the movies! (5, Funny)

QUILz (1043102) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673547)

And people bringing in 5 PDAs and some laptops with wires hanging out of them, shouting: "Just give me ONE more minute!"

First step is easy: (4, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673347)

1. What kind of equipment will you be using?
There are a number of models which have been shown to be tamperable with no evidence of tampering available at the time of voting. Step 1 is to make sure you aren't using any of these machines.

Can't be done sorry (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673371)

You can't really do anything about it at the level of the voting machine because they will most likely have exploits
and deliberate backdoors such as insertion of a master configuration card instead of the voting card or perhaps
gui/keypress combinations and they will be alone with the machine. And then there are also manipulations as the
scores are communicated to aggregation servers so you're stuck with so many holes it's like carrying water in a
handbasket.

The only thing you could do is watch each voter as they operate the machine which is not legal. What you might
try is not using wifi so to actually inconvenience them to have to come in and stand in line.

Malfunction bigger threat than Hacking. Seal it! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673373)

I think you should be more concerned with malfunctioning e-voting systems, in particular situations where the voter believes his/her vote has been recorded as intended, but the final tallies do not reflect the voter's intent.

A good way to achieve this is to have a verifiable record of the votes cast.

As far as hacking, you should probably seal the machines with strong tape, including any keyholes, ports, access panels. This would make it easier for you to detect someone tampering with a machine, due to the increased effort required to do so. It also would make it more difficult to tamper with the machine without leaving a trace.

Re:Malfunction bigger threat than Hacking. Seal it (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673729)

Even worse is having too many machines being broken, or not enough machines to begin with, so voters have to wait hours in line, and many just end up leaving after deciding it's not worth it.

Not you (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673383)

The system is set-up to PREVENT voters from fraud. Even on the electronics, it is set-up. Any issue will almost certainly be out of your control. The real problem with the electronics is that the COMPANY who built and service it can commit fraud. And it is next to impossible to detect. All a politician has to do is pay off somebody up high and then the company will do things like last minute software updates in warehouses, that were post inspection. Sadly, it is easy to do.

Easy (0)

powerlord (28156) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673389)

Your election might have been tampered with if ... ... 90% of the votes are cast for someone not supposed to be on the ballot. ... a voter walks into the voting booth carrying a whole bunch of tools and saying "this may a take a few minutes." ... a voter wheels one of your voting machines out claiming it needs to be "serviced" for a few minutes. ... at the end of the day you find the computed vote tallies don't match the number of voters you've recorded at your polling station ... or the machine's own total of cast votes. ... at the end of the day the "secure" lock for the voting machine is being held together with some duct-tape and a wad of chewing gum.

Come on everyone! He's asked for our help, chime in! :)

Re:Easy (2, Funny)

powerlord (28156) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673435)

Should have previewed ... Darn formatting (and the lack of an Edit feature!)

Your election might have been tampered with if ...
  • ... 90% of the votes are cast for someone not supposed to be on the ballot.
  • ... a voter walks into the voting booth carrying a whole bunch of tools and saying "this may a take a few minutes."
  • ... a voter wheels one of your voting machines out claiming it needs to be "serviced" for a few minutes.
  • ... at the end of the day you find the computed vote tallies don't match the number of voters you've recorded at your polling station ... or the machine's own total of cast votes.
  • ... at the end of the day the "secure" lock for the voting machine is being held together with some duct-tape and a wad of chewing gum.

First indicator (4, Funny)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673403)

Bush wins.

Re:First indicator (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673521)

Actually, since the question comes from the Republican chair, if Obama gets 60% in a county that voted 60% for Bush the last time, that HAS to be tampering.

Re:First indicator (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673639)

So you've found evidence of tampering from the last presidential election...

Re:First indicator (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673825)

It's a better indication of tampering if the election results differ wildly from the exit polls. Simply because a district doesn't go the same way from last time, doesn't mean anything, especially when the party in power has such low approval ratings.

Re:First indicator (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673935)

damn, I knew I should have put /sarcasm on into the post...

Re:First indicator (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673963)

It's a better indication of tampering if the election results differ wildly from the exit polls.

Exit polls don't mean a thing except to the people that gather the info in an attempt to be the first to project an election. They are often incorrect. Why? Because people like me don't appreciate the prediction's effects on elections that are still in progress in later time zones.

So, I lie to the exit poller. And while I have no evidence to quantify how many are like me, I know I'm not alone.

Have the machine in public view (1)

Taeolas (523275) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673421)

Just put blinders around the Screen/Interface, and have a single cable going from the blinders to the box that remains in plain sight to everyone. (And that cable should plug into the interface outside the blinders so you can't unplug it without being seen) That should help prevent messing with the machine physically, but there probably isn't anything/much you can do to thwart a software type attack. Thoguh really, I liked the system we had here in New Brunswick (Canada) for our Municipal elections. Scan-card readers, the actual readers out in the open where everyone could see them. The only thing out of sight was when you marked the ballot, and the ballots remained available for the recounts if needed. We had one council seat in Saint John that is going to a re-election because the results were initially 1 vote off one way, then 1 vote off the other way, and finally tied after a recount of the paper ballots that were scanned. (The descrepencies were due to partially spoiled ballots in other sections of the scan cards)

Re:Have the machine in public view (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673619)

What's wrong with our national elections? Pen and Paper with human counting. It's the most transparent and verifiable (by everyday citizens). And if you east coast guys wouldn't count so fast, we wouldn't have to create laws against releasing results until all the polls were closed.

Re:Have the machine in public view (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673743)

Same way we do it here in AL, USA. Scan card readers.

Looking in the wrong place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673431)

If there's e-voting, there's the potential to tamper. More likely than not, any tampering will not be the result of a voter messing with something or a hacker, but someone on the 'server side' of the transaction; the lack of accountability and accounting is the real issue with these systems.

Ultimate vote tampering detection howto: (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673437)

1. Verify that you're using electronic voting machines.
2. You cannot verify the voting machine itself.
3. Elections are fraudulent without transparency.

I maintain that the whole concept of electronic voting machines is so idiotic that anyone who doesn't realise what using one means, is in effect giving up his/her right to vote.

You won't see most of the fraud (5, Informative)

Dracos (107777) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673441)

The most egregious fraud on electronic voting machines is completely out of your control, and most likely happens out of sight of any precinct level election official: in the software that is installed on the machines. Unless you have the authority and knowledge to inspect many thousands of lines of code on each machine, you are powerless in this regard.

However, most machines have some type of USB, SD card, or other hardware interface that might be protected with some type of tamper proofing, like the foil seals on aspirin bottles. This is probably beyond your authority to put in place, though.

The only thing you can do is pay attention to the tabulations, if you get to see them.

I recommend you watch Hacking Democracy for insight on what to watch for.

I'm taking this as a legitimate question (3, Insightful)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673445)

(In other words, I'm a Democrat striving for civility.) I would suggest to you that most types of fraudulent activity will take place where you can't see them--that is, not in your presence. These machines have a lot of vulnerabilities, and it's not necessary to stand there and tamper with them while you are pretending to vote. My first thought on being confronted with one of Maryland's soon-to-be-vanished Diebold systems was that I could have brought in a pocket full of cards containing whatever I wanted them to contain. Assuming that your jurisdiction is still making gestures towards the secrecy of the ballot (via the privacy screens), you and your counterpart wouldn't even see that. I suppose that the poll watcher/election judge/whoever who is assigned to escort voters to the machines and get them started could watch for clumsy fraudsters dropping extra cards out of their pockets. Aside from that, if the fraud happens, you won't see it.

How to Ensure there Isn't any Tampering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673461)

Simple, take all electronic voting machines (especially ones that are made by Diebold) and throw them out with the trash.

Then have all voters use paper ballots and do it the "old-fashioned" way.

Also, my understanding is that the greatest tampering threat with EVMs (electronic voting machines) is tampering done AFTER the votes have been collected (say by "Republican Party Precinct Chairs" who may have came up through the ranks via the Tom DeLay School of Gerrymandering and Election Re-engineering). If there's no human-verifiable paper-trail, and the votes only exist as bits, it is essentially impossible to validate the results afterward.

-AC

Black Box Voting Org (5, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673465)

In all fairness to the /. crowd, I'd say that the best place to ask this question would be the forums of http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ [blackboxvoting.org] From what I have read of their analysis of previous elections I would guess that they have seen it all before.

Re:Black Box Voting Org (3, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673773)

replying to my own post. I found some analysis that I had seen before about Sequoia e-voting machines used in the 2004 presidential race in Palm Beach County (FL). When I first saw this data I was astounded at what their analysis showed. Assuming that BBV is a fair and honest non-profit (after all you should be suspicious of everyones motives when dealing with things like this) what they found is horrifying. http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/1954/19421.html?1141918235 [bbvforums.org]

Re:Black Box Voting Org (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673787)

Fuck fairness to the Slashdot crowd - all the answers so far have been along the lines of
- Diebold is evil
- Bush is evil
- You can't do anything, so don't try
- the election is already rigged

I'm waiting for "You are a republican, so I'm not telling you. Nyaahhh nyaahhhh"

Only one has had a real suggestion - seals on physical access - and even that was surrounded by "but your fucked no matter what you do."

Re:Black Box Voting Org (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673971)

I was going to make the same point you did, but would have added in some snark:

From the 'ask slashdot' question:

...and I want advice from those of you who are experts...
*crickets*

You must be new here.

If you want experts, go to a forum where fewer than 90% of the commenters are armchair experts or hobbyists (myself included for many topics on slashdot).

Watch the tubes (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673483)

Apparently there are these tubes that stuff moves through. Try to make sure no one is crawling through them with bombs like Al-Keida.

Just ask the votes (4, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673489)

There is a standard, well developed way to determine if a ballot has been rigged. Tampering with e-voting machines is just the most modern technique, in the past people have stuffed ballot boxes or simply lied about the results. Easy stuff.

So, standard solution: ask the people as they leave the polling station.

This is called an "exit poll" and it's remarkably accurate. Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed, especially in districts that had new shiny e-voting machines with no paper trail.

Re:Just ask the votes (2, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673933)

Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed, especially in districts that had new shiny e-voting machines with no paper trail.
Yeah, weird thing. Exit poll doesn't match election results in Ukraine: the verdict is election fraud.

Exit poll doesn't match election results in the USA: oh, the exit poll must be wrong!

Start with the obvious (1)

cjb658 (1235986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673491)

On election day (since the machine could have an internal clock and work just fine any other day), leave one voting machine alone, and at the end of the day, cast your ballot on it (this may be necessary to "activate" it).

Then check the machine and see if your vote was counted correctly.

Re:Start with the obvious (2, Informative)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673733)

On election day (since the machine could have an internal clock and work just fine any other day), leave one voting machine alone, and at the end of the day, cast your ballot on it (this may be necessary to "activate" it).

Then check the machine and see if your vote was counted correctly.
Expensive, but an extremely good idea; I'd add that you should have a number of people cast ballots who will cast known ballots.

If you make sure all administrative openings are taped over with tamper-resistant tape, keep one (random) stataion aside during the voting and then have a "control" group vote using it, that's about all you can do from your end, apart from preventing e-stations from being used in the first place.

Re:Start with the obvious (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673797)

And if the fraudsters were smart enough to make their code only corrupt the votes once more than a few dozen have been cast, that won't show anything. The fraudsters have complete free-reign over the counting, so it's impossible to tell. Even on an untouched box, you just can't tell. If you can't tell, it's not democracy.

Not much you can do (as others have mentioned) (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673523)

I'm not sure if there's much you can do unfortunately. I don't think you're allowed to do exit polling since you're a precinct judge. If somebody was able to do some exit polling at your precinct you'd at least be able to see if those numbers are similar to the final tally to see if any tampering happened.

New tag - didtheotherguywin (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673529)

It's the first answer I thought of.

chain of custody (3, Insightful)

garyrich (30652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673539)

If it is tampered with, it is probably going to before you ever see it. Your watch is not a good target. Too many people and a single hacked machine or two will stand out like a sore thumb to statistical analysis. Much better to get at a bunch of them while they are waiting to be distributed to the polling stations.

Are you even an interesting target? Would a 2% shading of your numbers change cascading electoral numbers? The perfect crime would be to hack hundreds of machines in a critical state's critical swing districts and then shade the numbers by the tiniest amount needed to do the job. See Ohio in 2004. That kind of electoral sharpshooting is beyond my expertise, but it's part of what makes Rove the power that he is.

Where did your machine come from? Who guarded it and how? Where did they get it from? Can it be opened with a hotel mini-bar key?

Pay Attention to Low Tech Fraud (4, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673541)

Your post's enumeration of duties seems the best place to focus your efforts. Checking IDs and sign in sheets, preventing voter intimidation, and generally keeping a lid on procedure seems more important than being distracted by the possibility of a subtle electronic scam. Electronic fraud would most likely have been done to the machines before you get to see them and would be undetectable if done right. If done wrong, it will probably just look like a broken machine.

You can't (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673545)

You're not going to spot it, that's the problem. For all you know the machines will have already been tampered with before you even open the polls.

Focus beyond "voting day" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673561)

As numerous others have noted, I don't think it's a high probability that anyone will try tampering with a machine while it's out there on the polling station floor with your (and presumably others') eyes on it.

You might want to find out what kind of process is in place to ensure the machines arrive at your facility in a "clean" state (i.e. they can be proved to accurately record and tabulate a series of test votes) ... though it may be there is no way for you to guarantee this.

Second precaution: nobody, absolutely *nobody* gets unsupervised access to the machines while they are in storage prior to voting day. Somebody with a pop machine key and a USB stick can do in five minutes what ten thousand voters wouldn't be able to do on election day.

honesty is tricky (2, Informative)

Jaazaniah (894694) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673573)

Unlike our first commentor, this is a more serious approach to the problem. Depending on the model of machine you're using, there's really no way to spot it as it's happening given your restriction set. Your problem is not with "box" stuffer vulnerability, but record vulnerability - Slashdot's collective outcry has been because there was no security or checks and balances put into Diebold's (and their later off-shoots) machines, causing potential for huge abuse at any point before voting, and any point after voting until announcements are made. We think contracts were pushed to facilitate this weakness in the system, but are powerless to change it individually. As a disclaimer, the following measures, even if followed to the letter, will not guarantee vote security if using machines with the above mentioned vulnerabilities, and will not permit any politician to pretend otherwise. That said, here are problems on the systems themselves that should not be allowed by default to address your time of interest (voting); open ports - of the system has a floppy drive, a cd rom drive, or any sort of pluggable port besides the power cord, that is accessable with moderate difficulty, that's a breach waiting to happen. Ask your technitions this specific question - "are there any IR or radio devices in these terminals?" A program built to listen for wireless devices is just as serious as a USB port being open. Ask them about the system inputs. If there are keyboards, "have you disabled all possible shortcut key combinations to prevent system access?" There is more that could possibly go wrong, but I'm sure Slashdot will have plenty to say. P.S. Hope you weren't expecting an overall warm welcome - your party's reputation here was shredded and torched over the past 8 years.

Block the Vote. (0, Flamebait)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673577)

I am one of the Republican Party Precinct Chairs in Harris County, Texas. ... I want advice ... on what to watch for to make sure there is no fraudulant activity at my precinct during the election.

Let me fix that: "I want advise on how to tamper with my machines and not get caught."

[Heh, trolling is fun.]

Quite simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673599)

... vote on paper. The only thing that works, really. There is no way to really be certain that no tampering happened. There are just too many ways. To check every machine would take experts weeks.
So: vote on paper. Like the Netherlands. The threw away all their Nedap machines. Wise thing to do indeed.

HBO Documentary "Hacking Democracy" (1)

Essron (231281) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673611)

After sorting thru blackboxvoting.org and .com and otherwise trying to stay abreast of this stuff for years, I have to admit that the HBO documentary I saw last year blew the doors off any other analysis I have ever seen. Also, it makes sense to people who don't understand hardware, network security, or statistics, only sparse attention span required.

Check it out: http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/hackingdemocracy/synopsis.html [hbo.com]

before, during, after (5, Informative)

beegle (9689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673635)

I think it's important to realize that voting machines are so insecure that preventing fraud entirely is impossible. That said,

1) Ensure that the machines are physically safe before the election. Don't leave them in an insecure area between the time that you check them to ensure that the counts are at zero (and DO check that) and the time that voting begins. Allow nobody near the machines without both ID and a witness at all times, including yourself (you don't want to be accused of anything), ESPECIALLY if they claim to work for the company that makes the machines. In fact, if anyone you don't know shows up to work on the machines, get approval from as far up the chain of command as can be managed and WRITE DOWN the name, time, etc. if it happens. Consider some sort of tamper-evident seal for the area where the machines are stored (your local trucking company can provide you with a handful of the ones that they use on freight trailers).

2) Watch for voters who are holding either memory cards or keys. The best-publicized ways of messing with a machine involve unlocking the machine and/or inserting a card with altered data. Keep in mind that the memory cards can be a lot smaller than those giant plastic cases around some of the official cards. Also keep in mind that if you see this, it might just be somebody with a spare memory card for their camera and a set of car keys.

3) After the polls close, physical access becomes a big deal again. Don't allow anyone near the machines or cards without ID and a witness, including yourself. Ensure that the machines are locked away, and find out who has a copy of the key to the room/closet/truck/whatever.

Bird's eye view? (2, Funny)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673637)

You said you had to be "behind" a table, but is there a restriction to how high you can sit?

A hoverchair would provide a great view of the room.

Do you have time to replace them all ? (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673641)

if you do, scrap whatever you have there and buy brasilian electronic ballots.

they're not tamper proof, but i bet they're a lot more resilient than anything from diebold.

other than that, what i can advise is to put as many sticker seals as you can. any place where two or more casing parts touch each other (covers, joints, seams, whatever) put a sticker there. if there's a key hole, cover with a sticker. this will help with detecting any physical tampering that could give an atacker access to the internals of the units, one of the ways an atacker could use to get access to and change the voting information.

this is one of the security measures used in our ballots here in brasil. we have been using stickers since as log as i remember, even on the old ballot canvas bags.

again, it's not perfect, but creates extra dificulty for the atacker, and make it easier for you to spot anything wrong, which might be just what you need.

Spot tampering? That's easy. (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673649)

When and if the candidate you like doesn't win, cry fraud at every opportunity, and don't stop insisting until you've proven it. When the candidate you like wins, insist that the vote is airtight and rock-solid.

That's pretty much all there is to it.

I'm glad that you care (3, Insightful)

jlazzaro74 (613844) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673665)

I'm a resident of Galveston right next door to you, and I'm really glad to hear that people in my area are thinking about this. Unfortunately, there probably aren't many things you can do during actual voting without appearing to be violating the voters privacy or interfering in the process, this is why the ability to conduct an audit in the event of fishy results is so critical.

The best I can suggest is to make your concerns heard among your peers and superiors, make sure that as many people as possible know that this is an issue we should *all* be concerned with. The more reasonable people who speak up the less we look like a fringe group of paranoid geeks. Other than that, find out as much as you can about the machines you are using. Do they have a paper audit trail? If not, who approved their purchase and why? Look them up by make and model, have they been broken before?

To slashdot users, enough with the trite smart-ass responses. Here is someone who is ostensibly trying to keep things fair, lets give him the benefit of the doubt (besides, our counties are so red he doesn't need to tamper to win) and try to come up with solutions. We have been complaining about voter machine vulnerabilities for years, now someone is finally listening. Do we jump down his throat, or do we welcome him to the table?

Spoken as a registered Democrat who desperately wants his vote to be counted.

You're kidding, right? (1, Flamebait)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673691)

A cynic might suggest that someone who wanted to ensure they didn't get caught manipulating the vote would surely seek input from a community uniquely suited to catching them out or, for that matter, hacking the system.

I can't imagine that the person honestly doesn't know any shenanigans would take place long before the machines were on public display.

Inconceivable, eh? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673943)

I can't imagine that the person honestly doesn't know any shenanigans would take place long before the machines were on public display.

Your imagination is a pretty poor thing. You can not conceive of someone having heard about a problem and immediately asking other people instead of doing their own research? You've never even see that happen on Slashdot? Damn.

You Can't. (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673693)

That's the whole problem with these voting machines. Because the entire process is shielded from view by the code being proprietary, it's impossible to guarantee no-one is fudging the numbers.

So, to sum up: You can't.

Houston - We have a problem (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673709)

Houston is located in Harris county, however we have a problem. Houston sucks. A humid, trafficy, polluted asshole of a city. Houston is corrupt just like the rest of Texas. Don't give me that "What about Austin, Keep Austin Weird" bullshit. The whole state is made up of mindless religious drones who are obese and small minded. Fuck Texas, Fuck Houston, and Fuck Governor Hairdo (aka Perry).

Vote Verification by Internet (3, Interesting)

srobert (4099) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673725)

This is admittedly a little off-topic as it doesn't answer the original poster's questions, but I'd like to see a national system where, when I vote I'm issued a random number. When I get home I can look up my number on the net and it will show how I voted. That way I at least know how my own vote was counted.

Re:Vote Verification by Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23674007)

we cant vote online until a defense contractor is brought in and spends millions delaying the project until laws are changed in 2020 allowing us to vote at the secretary of states office using our old biometric federal id cards we were issued in 2012

Backup mechanisms (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673747)

You need a way to verify that the electronic results have not been changed. The only solution I have been able to come up with is to generate a paper trail. When a citizen votes electronically, he should be shown a paper receipt that he verifies has his choices on it. That paper receipt is stored.

At the end, your number of paper receipts should be the same as the number of electronic voters. You can sample from the paper receipts to make sure the distribution of votes in the paper receipts is the same as the electronic receipts.

You still get the benefits of electronic voting but retain the ability to reduce the ability to tamper by making electronic tampering detectable.

This does nothing to prevent the receipts from being stolen/miscounted, but at least we are back to century-old techniques for voting fraud against which our century-old methods of security are reasonably valid.

I also don't know what happens if tampering is discovered after the fact.

Cross reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673753)

It is my understanding that you can get results in different formats from the machine and from the central repository (ie. the main computer at election HQ). This might be total number who voted, the totals cast for each item on the ballot, and the total for each candidate. I have heard that on some machines, it is blatantly obvious that these don't add up. Also, if you have time, calculate the results a second time and make sure they match exactly.

Finally, if you can get the results from the central computer at your election HQ, make sure they match what you sent in. I have heard that it could be possible to tamper with the results in transition or even the main system.

Not much (3, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673765)

As a precinct chair, there is very little you can do, besides asking folks to report any suspicious behavior on the machine's part (displaying a selection other than what they selected, for example).

The real fraud, if it happens at all, happens quietly behind the scenes. The machine behaves exactly as it is supposed to but adds a number to the wrong tally. You can't check it later because there is no permanent record of what the voter saw on the screen before pressing "vote." The sole record is of that machine's final tally at the end of the day.

As others have said, the solution is: paper. Whatever they select on the screen, you ask the voter to print it out and read the paper. Then you stuff the paper in a locked box. You count the machine's tally (it's more cost-effective) but you now have a permanent record verified by the individual voters which you can audit in order to verify that the machine did as it claimed. Someone hacks the machine? No problem: just count the papers.

Open a window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23673847)

Does your voting system use any type of wireless connection to receive data from the polling devices? If so, you're better off monitoring the parking lot than the voting booths.

A Self-Evident Truth (1)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673857)

The stated facts - a professional politician watching over the voting doesn't know how to tell if any fraud is happening - tell the whole tale.

The real issue is that the majority of electronic voting machines have been designed to be as unverifiable as possible. No paper trail, no way to verify the operating system or recorded vote counts. These machines have been cracked in the past and it's virtually certain to happen again - and the people operating the polls won't know what happened unless they're the ones perpetrating the fraud.

Something else that I find illuminating: the election judge asking this question is a Republican. Curious, don't you think?

Keep with your domain of inspection / control (1)

north.coaster (136450) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673877)

Focus on things that are within your domain of inspection / control. For example, something is wrong if the total number of votes is greater than the total number of people who voted.

The questions that voters ask you may also be a tip off that there is a problem. Has a machine done something unexpected? Are the machines behaving in a consistent way for all voters? Does one machine seem to be faster than another?

Advise everyone to use a provisional, paper ballot (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673899)


The machines can't be trusted. Period.

Advise everyone to vote on a paper ballot. If they can't, they should impeach their registrar of voters.

Given the mood of the country... (1)

avecfrites (605293) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673965)

Given the mood of the country, any race in which a Republican wins should be considered suspect.

Bubblewrap ... (2, Funny)

taniwha (70410) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673969)

carefully place bubblewrap under each machine - listen for the popping if anyone starts manhandling them

Use paper (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 6 years ago | (#23673979)

E-voting is a priori suspicious.

...laura

You're the weak link. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23674001)

As election judge, you're actually the most likely person to tamper with the machine. Tampering with a tamper resistant machine in front of an audience in pretty much impossible. As election judge you're the one bringing it to your home a couple days before and bringing it back to the counting center afterwards so you're the one on the hook.

If you see this guy: (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#23674011)

If you see any of these guys, you might want to be suspicious:

McCain (not a TX resident)
Obama (not a TX resident either)
Clinton (not a TX resident, pissed at both of above)
Ahmadinejad, Casto (either), Chavez, etc (not TX residents, but like to joke around with the US)
and of course anyone who looks like this:
http://www.april.org/association/documents/alan-cox-sticker-drm.jpg [april.org]
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