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Diebold Threatens Wary Voting Clerk

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the stuff-to-read dept.

632

An anonymous reader writes "From the Salt Lake Tribune: a wary county clerk called in BlackBoxVoting.org to test the integrity of Diebold voting fraud machines, part of a recent $27 million statewide purchase (to make sure that only the "Right" candidates win). Diebold goon says machines are now jinxed and it may cost up to $40,000 to fly in a company witch-doctor to make sure there were no warranty violations. Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned? "

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Huh? (5, Insightful)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018291)

Is it me - or did that post make no sense...

Re:Huh? (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018410)

I think need to editorialize in the form of a righteously indignant rant overtook the poster and short-circuited his brain.

Next time, maybe he should try just pasting the first paragraph of the article like everyone else does.

Re:Huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018417)

Seriously, that story was incomprehensible.

Re:Huh? (3, Funny)

JordanL (886154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018482)

No, it isn't just you... the guy sounded like he was the Dukakis campaign manager.

Re:Huh? (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018506)

Yeah people aren't even trying anymore.

Re:Huh? (2, Insightful)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018552)

Thank God. It isnt just me.
I reread the thing 4 times assuming that I was missing something.

What the hell Taco?!?! (3, Funny)

sgant (178166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018621)

Are you even suppose to be submitting stories? Where's Zonk? Is Zonk on the phone? Get him in here....

I just picture Taco in a bathrobe and slippers shuffling into "Slashdot Central" when Zonk and the others are out of the room and sitting down and submitting articles until they come back in, slap his hand and lead him back to his room to up his medications.

Put down the submit key! PUT IT DOWN!

jynx (0, Offtopic)

sixteeninchdrilldo (935435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018298)

the dollars are indeed jynxed with the post fo po fa fa fa pah yes in the anus sir the past fist, or pist fast, what????

what does it matter? (2, Insightful)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018303)

With such an effective president-deciding method as the 'Good Old Boys' network, who needs Diebold anyway?

Re:what does it matter? (4, Insightful)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018386)

Or perhaps you should go back to pecnil, paper and a sealed box, like we still use over here in the UK. I trust that system much more that I'd ever trust a voting machine.

Re:what does it matter? (5, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018579)

Or perhaps you should go back to pecnil, paper and a sealed box, like we still use over here in the UK. I trust that system much more that I'd ever trust a voting machine.

The difference is that in the US we vote on many more offices. My ballot generally includes some forty or fifty choices. It's easy enough to mark such a ballot with a pencil, but it gets difficult to count them, so some automation is useful. Further, a well-designed touch screen user interface is accessible to people with vision and motor skill deficiencies that would exclude them from voting with a paper ballot. Finally, a well-designed touch screen UI is less error-prone.

So, there are good reasons to use machines, but there aren even better reasons *not* to use purely electronic tallies as the final results.

Voting machines should print human-readable paper ballots, verifiable by the voter, that can also be counted by machine, and those ballots should be put in a locked metal box and then counted under supervision of all the major political parties to produce the official tallies.

Now, before anyone (2, Interesting)

AnonymousPrick (956548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018403)

mods the parent as "Troll", consider this, both Bush and Gore were both members of the "Skulls" when they were at Yale. The point, both of the nominees for President where of the same socio-economic class. I don't want to delve into any class war crap, I'm just saying that I've never seen, let's say, a college professor or someone who's not a millionaire or from a family that devotes it's legacy to political life - like the Kennedys or the Bushes - getting nomiated by the major politcal parties. And even if they did, they're treated as crackpots. Every election year, our new media profiles some guy who's running for president on some wacky platform or they're running to make a statement, like "Make pot legal!"

Re:Now, before anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018516)

Reagan wasn't rich, or Ivy League.

Class Act (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018613)

Both Clinton (D) and Nixon (R) were born poor, and made their political careers on their wits. Neither made any significant money outside their political careers, except books published after they left office. Even though they became rich by politics, they came from a disadvantaged underclass, exploiting America's class mobility to get power.

There's lots of class war in America, where capitalism is rigged to preserve its best opportunities for rich families. But the president themself is more of a pawn in that war than an emblem of it.

Re:Now, before anyone (1)

grimwell (141031) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018673)

Al Gore isn't a member of "Skull & Bones" but John Kerry(presidental candidate in the 2004 election) is.

obvious problem here (4, Insightful)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018304)

If someone looking at the machines causes them to be compromised then how on earth can you put them in voting booths when hundreds of people will have physical access to them in a private setting? If you depend on completely restricting access to the machines then you've already lost, haven't you? I applaud the clerk for taking this stand. The very idea that the machines can't be inspected by a third party shows just how fragile such systems are. If they were truely secure it wouldn't matter who looked at them or how.

Re:obvious problem here (4, Interesting)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018357)

Presumably the worry is that the degree of access given to the Black Box Voting inspectors is greater than a voter would have. Did they spend several hours taking the machine apart? Did they put it back together properly? A clerk might have noticed this happening on voting day.

Of course, this raises the question: if the machine could be compromised in a few hours of hacking, are all the other machines stored securely enough that this couldn't have happened to them, too?

Re:obvious problem here (1)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018544)

Actually, all the data I have seen on the Diebold machines is that they can be compromised in a matter of minutes.

Re:obvious problem here (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018372)

The very idea that the machines can't be inspected by a third party shows just how fragile such systems are.

You're missing the point, it's not that the systems "can't" be inspected by a third party, it's the level of access they were given and what supervision/oversight was present when it was given. Would you trust a box given to you by someone who said they gave the root password to someone to "inspect" it? Of course not, the first thing you'd do, after changing the root password, would be to inspect the box yourself to make sure nothing was compromised.

While I think that Diebold makes crap, their assertation here is quite valid. The article doesn't mention what level of access the clerk gave to the inspectors and what amount of supervision existed while they were inspecting. It WAS a stupid move on his part. The intention was good, the execution BAD.

Re:obvious problem here (5, Insightful)

rossifer (581396) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018691)

The very idea that the machines can't be inspected by a third party shows just how fragile such systems are.

In my opinion, at least as important is the belief that the proper group to see if the machines are compromised is the manufacturer.

"We've decided we are going have Diebold come and go through these machines and see if they are compromised," [Comissioner Ira Hatch] said

If the machines can't be verified as uncompromised on voting day by an election staffer at a voting location multiple times throughout the day, that's a huge problem. For the voting commission to accept Diebold's line that "That's the way it is." is simply unconscionable.

Slot machines in Nevada can be checked against any number of parameters to make sure that 1) hardware has not been added or replaced, 2) the software has not been altered (from the registered version on file with the NGC) and 3) the settings for the software match the casino's payout statements. The casino can do these checks, the NGC can do these checks, interested public parties can do these checks (with the cooperation of either the casino or the NGC).

Shouldn't we expect at least as much from the recordkeepers of democracy as we expect from a gambling house?

Regards,
Ross

Slant much? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018309)

Did perhaps the submitter want to slant the blurb just a little bit more?

biggest bunch of sore losers ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018361)

nope. it can't possibly be that a right-leaning candidate could evar get more votes than a left-leaning candidate. therefore, it must be faulty voting machines!!!2!!

Yeah, just mention 'queers' and 'terrorists'... (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018414)

...and all the mouth-breathing joe-jobbers will jump on board. Scared that someone might bomb their dirt farm.

See? I can do that too. Ass.

Re:Slant much? (0)

op12 (830015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018460)

I'm tagging it "biased"...hopefully others will do the same.

O/T how does one tag articles? (1)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018687)

I keep hearing about tagging articles, but I've never actually seen how to do it. It seems like a useful feature, so... anyone know how?

Re:Slant much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018603)

Having open elections is not something that should have political bias. Why do you hate democracy?

Answer (3, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018315)

Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?

Because EVERY SINGLE VOTER isn't allowed a level of access to the machines to presumably perform an audit or otherwise tamper with and/or view the inner workings of the machines.

The solution is quite simple:

- Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)

- Have an open source system (which actually isn't at all required if the above condition is met)

Re:Answer (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018422)

Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)

Does Diebold offer this as an option? IIRC, the last I heard about it was that Diebold was claiming that it would be such a huge task to add this feature that they wouldn't be able to roll it out for another 3 or 4 years.

Re:Answer (2, Informative)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018561)

- Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)

Sorry, but according to Diebolds web site...

All ballots cast using the AccuVote-TSX are immediately encrypted and stored in multiple locations within the voting station to provide secure system redundancy. Non-volatile memory is used to ensure election results are securely protected. At the end of the voting period, the integral thermal printer within each AccuVote-TSX can print election totals for the specific voting station.

Notice the At the end of the voting period? They do not offer individual paper audits/confirmations of the votes cast.

Re:Answer (1)

skinfaxi (212627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018639)

"Have a permanent, voter verifiable, auditable, and recountable paper trail (a feature Diebold and ES&S both offer)"

A good idea, but apparently the paper trail doesn't always work, as they found out in Tarrant County, TX earlier this month:

A recount of ballots cast during the March 7 primary election ground to a halt Tuesday -- midway through its second day -- after workers could not resolve discrepancies that affected more than 1,400 ballots.

The problem in the recount appears to be with new, federally mandated electronic voting machines, provided by vendor Hart InterCivic. During a hand recount, the machines are designed to print out paper ballots for each voter's choices, but McKerley said the machines that were used to register early votes printed out only 75 percent to 80 percent of the votes believed to have been cast.


(http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/state/14158481.ht m [dfw.com] )

Re:Answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018674)

modded "Informative"?

"Dis-informative" maybe.

Our election process is broken. (2, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018317)

And I don't mean just gerrymandering.

I feel kinda sick...is Diebold gonna get away with this?

Is this a case for the ACLU?

Re:Our election process is broken. (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018562)

I feel kinda sick...is Diebold gonna get away with this?
Get away with what? Inspecting their machine after it was taken apart by a 3rd party?
Is this a case for the ACLU?
No, although some of the other complaints on blackboxvoting.org might be.

At least you're not showing an bias. (4, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018320)

Witch doctors? Jinxes? I read the entire linked article and didn't see any of that. What I did see was that Diebold wants to make sure the machines still work after a 3rd party possibly tinkered with them. I'd certainly be concerned if I sent a machine out into the wild, a 3rd party took a look at it, and now it may not be functioning properly. Diebold may be a little over the top here, but their concern is certainly warranted.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018339)

Welcome to slantdot! Where we put out own spin on things for shits and giggles!

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (3, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018377)

So you're basically saying that the machines should not be used in a private setting without someone from Diebold checking them after each use to make sure they're still okay? If the machines were truly secure, they should be able to leave them on a street corner for a week and know that they'd be fine when they came to pick them up.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (5, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018448)

No, what I'm saying is that I left the machine with a voting official who has some sort of administrative access to the machine. That administrator gave a third party company with no official material on the inner workings of the machine that administrator access to run some unknown tests on the machine and now they're claiming the machine may be broken dur to a memory error. I'd certainly be suspicious of what that 3rd party did to the machine. However, unlike Diebold, I would probably approach that third party directly to ask them what tests they've run and even provide them with an environment where they could reproduce their testing procedure before I went crying to the press about it.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (2, Insightful)

bfizzle (836992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018538)

I hope that even the election offical access isn't enough to skew the results from any voting machine. If a political offical is able to just log in a make whatever changes they damn well please... I rather just keep my hanging chads thank you.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018645)

I don't think it's just a matter of "logging in." The third party could have opened up the machine, allowing for other kinds of tampering, both hardware and software. A lot of products void the warranty if you open them up because at that point you can't guarantee the quality of the product since it could be tampered with.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018474)

Don't be dense. Diebold can't be sure that these machines were not opened and altered in some way. Having them checked after these tests only makes sense when their integrity (whats left) and election results could be at stake. $40k for the effort does seem punitive though.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (2, Insightful)

blofeld42 (854237) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018454)

Indeed--the article says
By the end of the Monday meeting, Diebold engineers convinced the county commissioners the discrepancies in the machines' memory are the result of testing and of additional printing fonts.

A third party modifies the software configuration of the machines? I'd certainly hope that Diebold would audit the machines after that.

Diebold earned bias, but it's partly ATM protocol? (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018504)

Diebold was an ATM manufacturer before they went into this voting machine business, so their model here feels like some sort of standard practice for the banking world to me.

But at this point, does anyone trust Diebold to conduct the people's business unilaterally? It's pretty obvious that we need some way to involve third parties in verifying voting systems and results -- without Diebold standing on the throats of the voting clerks involved, without extreme expense, and in general without this sort of "keep the door closed, the experts are making sure it's okay" tone.

Another example of Diebold not being well-suited for this business. They really, really, really don't understand the nature of the market they're in, as the leaked e-mails way back started to show us. Talk about your PR problems. They earned this bias and suspicion, from the moment those "Win Ohio for Bush" quotes came around.

Re:At least you're not showing an bias. (2, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018513)

I'd certainly be concerned if I sent a machine out into the wild, a 3rd party took a look at it, and now it may not be functioning properly. Diebold may be a little over the top here, but their concern is certainly warranted.


Now... This is $40,000 just to see if the machines are still under warranty. Think about that. Now, I don't deny that it doesn't make sense to have a doublecheck after an unsupervised audit. But, isn't that part of the point of the warranty?

And, as for Witch Doctors and Jinxes... No, the article didn't use those terms. But, Diebold clearly takes the stance that only they are qualified to work with the voodoo in the machines. Anybody else would just break it. If unsupervised access to the voting machines is so bad, why should Diebold get it? IMHO, it should be illegal for the voting machine repair guys to work for the same company as the voting machine salesmen. The salesmen should have to open up the specs so that the government can have whoever they trust double check the machines, rather than relying on the fact that "Only Diebold Is Qualified To Make Unsupervised (Changes | Audits To The Voting Machines."

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018578)

Why don't you start calling people loons while you're at it?

I can't link the initial article, but the filter you've put on it doesn't change anything -- Diebold has flooded the voting machine marketplace with cheap, crappy technology that is demonstrably insecure, and they've done it on the taxpayer's dime. There isn't any good reason why a representative of the taxpayers should not be able to poke and prod at these machines, and claims that they cannot be verified as secure anymore are codswallop. If they can't stand being handled by unauthorized personnel, then what are we to expect after leaving them standing in a public place all day while hundreds of grubby plebes put their filthy hands all over them?

My tone is hostile because this conversation gets hostile pretty quickly -- in a democracy, there is only one thing that should absolutely be the property and purview of all the people all the time, and that's the integrity of our vote. Without it, we don't have jack shit.

Stupid (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018326)

There were a couple layers of stupidity here. First, testing provisions should have been written into the contract. Second, the clerk should not have just gone off and done their own thing without investigating the ramifications. Diebod ols correct - they don't know what was done to the systems by this random clerk who decided to test. They could have added hardware, modified software... Who knows? Of course Diebold won't guarantee a machine after someone has messed with it. Having said that, test plans and methodoligies should have been agreed upon prior to the purchase. Maybe they were and the clerk didn't know about it, maybe they weren't... In either case, the state and/or clerk screwed up. Diebold's response is exactly as it should be. They aren't threatening anyone, they are stating that they can no longer certify the mchine because physical access (essential to security) has been potentialy compromised and it will require an audit to make sure everything is as it should be.

Re:Stupid (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018643)

Diebod ols correct - they don't know what was done to the systems by this random clerk who decided to test. They could have added hardware, modified software... Who knows?
If the machines don't have a certain amount of tamper-resistance in them, then how can we allow thousands of people (votere) to go into a booth alone with the device (unmonitored physical access)?

Diebold suspicious (0, Redundant)

liliafan (454080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018327)

I keep seeing articles about Diebold and suspicious activities, and local goverments are still buying their equipment, it will be really interesting to see the results of the black box tests.

What I would like to know... (5, Interesting)

parasonic (699907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018328)

Why does Diebold design these machines in such a way that they *CAN* be hacked? I think that involving an Operating System and software in the design of such a machine is a critical error. As a computer engineer, I realize that overcomplicating things can lead to errors. DSP's can make hardware extremely cheap, but there are places where analog circuits are cheaper and more realiable! Why hasn't Diebold designed a hardwired electronic circuit or a mechanical system with failsafes such that the machine can't be hacked, and the wrong candidate will not be selected if the machine fails? There are so many places where their current design can and will go wrong. I believe that it's time for these loonies (or preferrably someone else who has more sense) to come up with a more rudimentary and failsafe design!

Re:What I would like to know... (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018508)

In this particular case, it wouldn't matter. For all Diebold knows, even if they had the hardwired circuit you recommend, the third party could have completely removed it and put in one of their own. Basically there was no supervision/documentation of the testing and anything could have been changed. Diebold should not be held responsible for that, and are right to no longer guarantee accuracy.

Re:What I would like to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018595)

When did Diebold ever claim anything about accuracy. I'd put the odds at 50/50 that nowhere in any Diebold contract is an accuracy spec ever listed.

Re:What I would like to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018510)

Diebold has to avoid using simple robust technologies because it's not a modern approach. We don't want paper ballots because a) they are old fashioned, b) you don't get up to the nanosecond returns to be used as fodder for the talking head on election night, and c) auditing takes too long. We don't care if the vote reflects the will of the people as long as we know who'll be president before we go to bed on Tuesday night.

Re:What I would like to know... (3, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018626)

Why hasn't Diebold designed a hardwired electronic circuit or a mechanical system with failsafes such that the machine can't be hacked, and the wrong candidate will not be selected if the machine fails?

Even better, use whatever kind of unsecure computer platform you want for the voting system, but have it print out a piece of paper with the voter's choices.

That way the voter can see how they voted, and it's not necessary for them even to trust a simple hardwired system which, obviously, is still beyond the understanding of most of the population. Most people aren't EEs.

Why indeed . . . . (2, Insightful)

failure-man (870605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018340)

"Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?"

Did you sleep through ALL of yor cynicism classes? Diebold is throwing a fit to discourage anyone from snooping around in the guts of their voting machines.
 
Someone might, y'know, find something. . . . . . . .

Why are they concerned? (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018355)

> Since EVERY SINGLE VOTER who uses these machines is a potential hacker looking to alter election results, why is Diebold so concerned?

Because if every single voter gets to hack the election results, then it's be a fair election. Duh!

January 20, 2009: President Stallman took the oath of office today, after the GNU/ESR ticket (GNU's Not United-states!) narrowly beat the Gates/Ballmer team campaign in an election that stunned the ruling Demopublican coalition...

And why was this post allowed. (1)

Gordigor (789419) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018365)

Diebold voting fraud machines... Diebold goon says machines are now jinxed... a company witch-doctor... Thank god for reasonably unbiased news postings.

highway robbery? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018367)

40 grand for flying in techs sounds like a load of BS to scare potential whistle blowers and doubters. It is interesting to see how big corps get away with such blatant strong-arming even after all the controversy over voting accuracy.

Troubling, indeed (4, Insightful)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018368)

According to Diebold, the polling machines are suspect, and it'll cost $40,000 to verify everything.

On the one hand - what if Diebold is purely running a bluff? Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Diebold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere, run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether its in their interest to declare the polling machines as sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine.

On the other hand - what if Diebold is honest? Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Deibold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether the machines are in fact sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine.

Whether Diebold is bona fide or not, they are likely to claim trade secret privilege to hide the actual workings of their machine or their testing mechanisms... and again, if they're telling the truth, then they would claim that, and if they're not, then their claim would be hard to challenge.

So the fundamental question is this: do you trust Diebold?

Re:Troubling, indeed (2, Insightful)

ikejam (821818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018431)

Hmm. i always thouhgt the fundamental question was : Shoud you have to trust Diebold?

Here's the right answer (4, Insightful)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018434)

"Then the election board is going to have to pay $40,000 for Deibold to send in someone who will attach some alligator clips somewhere run something that flashes lights, and generally run some dog and pony show before deciding whether the machines are in fact sabotaged, just damaged, or just fine."

Here's where this particular lie is exposed:

1) How can a single voting machine even cost $40K? I want to see the parts breakdown on *that*.

2) Wouldn't you want all the machines recertified before each election? I mean, if they're sitting in warehouse someplace between elections, who knows who poked at them? So each machine costs $40K to use every election?

3) And if this is all T&M, lets assume a generous hourly rate of $250/hour and the guy is staying in a $500 a night hotel. That means this takes about 3 full weeks to certify a machine!

Does anybody understand the implications of Diebold claiming $40K worth of damages here?

Re:Troubling, indeed (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018442)

So the fundamental question is this: do you trust Diebold?


I'm not normally a die-hard zealot (somewhat redundant, I know) of open source, but this case is where I think it'd be best to have an open source system in place. Not so much in the sense that people could change the Official Version, but in the sense that people could view the code. To make sure nothing wrong is going on.

Trusting three companies with elections of the United States, especially trusting a company whose leader has publically contributed to one of the main political parties, to have a fair election is just crazy.

It's also a CONFESSION (5, Insightful)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018475)

"On the other hand - what if Diebold is honest? "

On the third hand, it is a clear confession from Diebold that third parties can't accurately verify their voting machines and that their voting machines can be rigged.

So any county that thinks it is verifying that the machine isn't rigged by runnig pre-ballot checks is wrong.
They can point to this statement and say "IT ISN'T ENOUGH THAT WE VERIFY IT, BECAUSE DIEBOLD ADMITS THEY CAN BE RIGGED IN WAYS ONLY IT CAN DETECT".

Re:Troubling, indeed (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018541)

Whether Diebold is bona fide or not, they are likely to claim trade secret privilege to hide the actual workings of their machine or their testing mechanisms... and again, if they're telling the truth, then they would claim that, and if they're not, then their claim would be hard to challenge.

So the solution is obvious: every Diebold electronic voting machine is to be guarded by a member of that state's National Guard, with orders to kill anyone who attempts to touch the machine. That should take care of Diebold repair people, poll workers, and voters, leaving the country free to be be taken over by our future squirrel overlords.

Re:Troubling, indeed (1)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018593)

they are likely to claim trade secret privilege to hide the actual workings of their machine

And therein lies the problem.

Such practices have no place in the election process of a free society. If the government truly valued our electoral system, these boxes would be totally transparent with documentation freely available, and any third party would be able to run verification tests on them.

Suddenly I don't feel bad my stories are rejected (5, Funny)

loggia (309962) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018384)

I guess I forgot to run them through Babelfish a few times?

AFDB alert (-1, Flamebait)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018385)

(to make sure that only the "Right" candidates win).

I thought this was "news for nerds", not "Coast to Coast AM with Rob Malda". Leave the conspiracy theories in the comments, where they belong.

Shouldn't voting machines be regulated? (2, Informative)

amightywind (691887) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018391)

I have worked in the regulated fields of avionics and medical devices. You would think that federal and state governments would have regulations governing exhaustive testing of electronic voting machines against requirements to avoid conflicts like this. What is a secretary of state's job but to prevent pissing matches like this? I don't blame Diebold for not wanting some 3rd party yahoo breaking seals on their machines. But they can't point to a documented, legitimate qualification process to allay their customer's valid concerns. This is lousy engineering of the kind that pervades traditional IT.

Re:Shouldn't voting machines be regulated? (4, Interesting)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018539)

"I don't blame Diebold for not wanting some 3rd party yahoo breaking seals on their machines."

Well, I understand what you're saying. But they're not Diebold's machines any more than this PC is not Microsoft's PC. That's an important distinction.

"But they can't point to a documented, legitimate qualification process to allay their customer's valid concerns."

Exactly right. Moreover, they have no *re-certification* process. Think about what will happen to these machines. The election is over. They are taken to the county warehouse. You pull them out 1 year later. How do I certify they haven't been tampered with? Some seal on the door??????? Or do you have to pay a special technician to come out for 3-4 weeks per machine to cerify each machine?

"This is lousy engineering of the kind that pervades traditional IT"

Perhaps. But Diebold seems to figure out how to do it right when banks insist they do it right, but here they chose not to do it that way. Curious? Sure seems it.

Money more important than a fair vote? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018397)

Man Diebold looks slimier and slimier every passing week, but I'm more disturbed by Joe Demma's, Salt Lake's chief elections officer, response to Bruce Funk's actions. Granted, Funk acted by going around Demma by calling in Black Box Voting to check the Diebold machines, when presumably Demma is supposed to be responsible for that (just my guess as he's the chief elections officer).

However, Demma seems more incensed at Funk because he may cost the state $40,000 for Diebold's astronomical recertification fee. He doesn't seem to be worried that people might not trust these machines. He doesn't seem to care that a state officer was worried enough to call in a non-profit third party to verify the integrity of these machines. I mean, these things could possibly affect the outcome of a vote, the foundation for a democratic republic! But instead of worrying about these machines he's clearly more upset about the $40,000 and Funk not talking to him about his concerns regarding the voting machines.

And of COURSE Diebold is going to tell you the machines are fine and fair. Sheesh, they want to make money don't they?

Isn't it great that chief elections officers have their priorities straight?

Give me a ballot sheet and a pencil any day over these closed, proprietary black box machines.

Slashdot bias (3, Insightful)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018399)

I know Slashdot has leanings certain ways on certain issues, and I'm fine with that, but we've just officially completed the smooth transition into a 15-year-old's blog.

Christ, this is sad to see.

Left dot, right dot. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018605)

All on slashdot.

Diebold in Utah (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018400)

I was appalled when I first heard that here in Utah we too were going to be subjected to overpriced election machines with the sole ability to malfunction.

I heard it at a Republican caucus. What was amazing was that almost everyone there was equally appalled as me. Here I thought that only the super-left, like myself, would be interested in vote integrety, but here were 50+ middle aged men and women all just as angry that we were installing systems that other states are thinking of getting rid of.

I'm personally looking forward to election day where all the machines at my district mysteriously malfunction when I try to "vote" (wink wink, nudge nudge). I'm also thinking of getting stickers made to place on the machines. Something on the order of "WARNING! Election may be rigged by computer. Ask for a paper receipt to verify your vote."

Re:Diebold in Utah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018543)

Despite your gleeful prediction of gloom and doom, electronice voting is here to stay.

I've seen so much abuse of the paper system, it's not even funny (and even when you report it, it is often brushed off). I welcome the cold, methodical procedures of the machine.

Moreover, with all the special elections thast keep comign up, electronics system are a lot cheaper in the long run. Sure, you run one election a year, it may be cheaper to do paper; if you have to run 4 or 5, it makes a lot of sense.

Electronic voting is very do-able; you just need to system processes and systems that work in your environment. Perception is the issue, not the technology.

Re:Diebold in Utah (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018612)

I've seen so much abuse of the paper system, it's not even funny

Have you considered that if seeing abuse of the paper system is such a problem, it'd be cheaper to, you know, to just stop watching? That's how the electronic machines "deal" with this issue.

Sounds Reasonable (1)

nincehelser (935936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018401)

Based on the article, it sounds like the third party was poking around under the hood. If so, Diebold has a point in saying the machines may have been compromised. They have no idea what this third party may have done (intentionally or unintentionally). The machines should have been inspected by a *mutually* trusted third party. Anyone else "breaking the seal" is a compromise to the system.

Re:Sounds Reasonable (1)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018533)

Anyone else "breaking the seal" is a compromise to the system.

Sure, I'll give ya that, but $40k to send a guy out to look for new solder joints and essentially ghost the machine?

The system is ingenious (3, Insightful)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018407)

First what they do is print confusing ballads in florida to turn people against paper ballets and create an outrage at typical means of voting, then offer a very simple touch screen way of voting without a paper trail. Congratulations, even the symbolic act of picking between the two puppets is on its way out.

Re:The system is ingenious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018528)

First what they do is print confusing ballads in florida to turn people against paper ballets

The paper ballots were created by Democrats.

Editorial Bias at its best (0, Offtopic)

laing (303349) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018421)

Congratulations are in order Taco. I don't think I've ever read a more inflammatory summary here. It's so over the top that it's almost unintelligible.

Quit worrying about the stupid voting machines (-1, Troll)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018436)

Sheesh. You guys make such a big deal out of crooked voting machines because you mistakenly think your vote means anything in the first place. The Supreme Kangaroo Court decides who's president, not you whiney sods. The Republican party has God on their side and God decides who rulz.

Now take your government approved pharma and get back in line.

What you're missing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018440)

What everyone is missing is that this clerk allowed unauthorized access to the machine, regardless of the intent. He went beyond the scope of his responsibility and did not follow the chain of command.

As they say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

Flame away or mod down, but the fact remains that he compromised the back-end system (something Joe Voter would not have access to). Now Diebold needs to validate that it's still okay (something that they or the county are probably contractually obligated to do when an incident like this occurs.)

If I were him, I would bail. (2, Interesting)

blcamp (211756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018449)


The county clerk should just get out. He's already finished. The state has already gotten into bed with Diebold, and the clerk has already tainted himself in the eyes of the state by calling in the activists.

Even if he right about the machines (and I believe he is)... the Powers That Be have already made their mind up about the issue.

The only ones now that can change things are the voters themselves, and that's a very tall order. We can barely get a 50% turnout to vote for president... how the hell can we get enough people out to call for a change to voting devices? And then, overcome the government's (and Diebold's) spin?

I'm glad (-1, Redundant)

BillFarber (641417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018452)

I'm glad I don't pay to read these ridiculous story summaries. That summary is actually worse than what is typically on Fox News.

Well, I think he got it almost right (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018494)

Yes, a third party should examine the machines.

However, it should be a disinterested third party, not an advocacy group. No matter how well meaning and ethical the people in the group are, they can nonetheless be painted as enemies of the vendor.

What should be done is to have a professional firm that specializes in computer security audit the machines and provide a report on whether the machines are secure; if not whether and how they can be suecured. And provided the machines can be secured, what policies and procedures are needed to operate them so that fraud can be discouraged and detected.

This is just like having an independent financial auditor come in and look at your books and your financial control procedures.

Forget the Diebold bashing... (2, Informative)

the_real_bto (908101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018502)

Why is everyone so hung up on: "Why aren't these machines inpenetrable to all sorts of physical attacks?"

Who cares how physically secure the machines are or aren't? Even if the machines were tamper proof (which they should be), who cares? The real problem here is that we have a closed vote counting and verification process. That is unacceptable.

Elections and the vote counting process should be completely and utterly transparent. I trust no machine to count votes. If we use any kind of machine, it should be verified by random human recounts.

This is not the kind of problem for a clever or slick solution. The only sane solution, IMHO, is to apply the KISS principle. Keep it Simple Stupid.

One-sided article (2, Insightful)

SamShazaam (713403) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018503)

This would appear to be a very one-sided article. There is no detail or statement from blackboxvoting about what was actually done. Only a statement from Diebold about what they think was done. It does seem that the Diebold machine is weak if there is no way to restore to default level without a specialist flying in for $40K. Diebold should learn a few things about customer relations. It is really bad PR if a county official quits rather than certify an election using your machine.

Re:One-sided article (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018683)

"It does seem that the Diebold machine is weak if there is no way to restore to default level without a specialist flying in for $40K."

Hey, from the contractor's point of view that's not a weakness at all!

From TFA (4, Insightful)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018509)

Joe Demma, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, the state's chief elections officer, was plainly incensed with Funk for allowing Black Box to probe the machines.
      "The problem is that instead of asking us or Diebold, Bruce Funk allowed a third party to put the warranty in jeopardy,"


So let me get this straight.

Election commissioner notices an irregularity in the memory of some voting machines, from whom the owner of the manufacturing company has very clear partisan leanings.

Election commissioner calls in a third party to run testing on the machines.

Now, I do not see a problem with third parties running audits on the machines used to count my votes. In fact, I want as MANY third parties running tests on thes to insure thier accuracy, as the fate of myself, my family, mmy state, and my country will be affected by what this machine spits out.

However, here we have third party verification being spun by Diebold as being a VERY BAD THING.

Whatever happened to transparency in government and in democratic processes? Is it not one of the core values of America?

Not quite... (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018609)

The picture you paint would not be the same if: 3rd party gets called in to inspect machines. 3rd party opens machines. 3rd party modifies machines to skew votes. Diebold gets blamed for inaccuracy or votes are skewed. Who verified what the 3rd party was doing? Did anyone document the tests? Did anyone supervise the tests? A 3rd party can have a hidden agenda and use such a situation to their advantage. Diebold is correct here. They cannot guarantee their machine after someone has opened it up and could have modified things.

In other news (1, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018511)

In other news, Diebold President Dewey Cheatum stated that $40,000 to "reload the voting pattern" was perfectly reasonable. "It's why it's called 'buying elections'," he said to a group of startled reporters, "if it was free, anybody could do it." When asked whether Diebold would consider printing receipts for each vote so that there would be some sort of paper trail Mr. Cheatum replied, "Heck, why we don't just go one step further: skip the whole going out to the polls, and we'll just mail people a notice telling them who they voted for." At this point in the interview, Mr Cheatum began responding to all questions with vigorous wedgies and obscene gestures.

couple points of info (4, Informative)

frankie (91710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018536)

The article blurb here is low on detail and high on gasoline, so here's some tidbits:
  1. Emery County is majority Republican in both population and voting.
  2. Bruce Funk was not skeptical of the machines until after inspecting them.
  3. He was, however, a bit worried that the state expected local officials to be responsible for all problems, but mandated the use of these machines.
  4. He then noticed that supposedly identical & pristine machines had widely differing amounts of free memory.
  5. Rather than go to the state or to Diebold, he called Black Box Voting [bbvforums.org] .
  6. It's really doubtful that (as Diebold claims) font differences could eat up 20MB.

Levers of Power (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018555)

Clint Curtis, the Diebold programmer who says politicians paid him to rig voting machines in Florida, is running for Congress [clintcurtis.com] . If what he says he can do is true, who would have the guts to run against him? Alternately, since he was fired and the voting machine company has a grudge, how can he possibly win?

Bs with a bit of truth (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018557)

By the end of the Monday meeting, Diebold engineers convinced the county commissioners the discrepancies in the machines' memory are the result of testing and of additional printing fonts.

"The problem is that instead of asking us or Diebold, Bruce Funk allowed a third party to put the warranty in jeopardy," Demma said in a telephone interview from Emery County. "If I sound frustrated, it's because I am frustrated. We don't know what they did to the machines. If Bruce would have just asked, we could have saved this forty grand."

First the BS part. If every machine is identical and every machine went through the same testing procedure then there shouldn't be ANY discrepancies in the machines memory. This is presuming that before the elections only that data necessary to perform the tabulation are on the systems. This is total BS to say that the discrepancies are the results of fonts.

As far as the $40,000 to 'fix' whatever is wrong with them, how does anyone know what needs to be fixed if Diebold doesn't allow anyone to test the machines? How does anyone know that Diebold won't surrepticiously make changes which could alter the outcome of an election by performing this fix?

Now for the truth part. By allowing a third party to examine the machines without notifying anyone, Funk did go a bit overboard. This is not to say that he went beyond his mandate to protect the integrity of the voting process. He should be commended for making sure all the i's are dotted and t's crossed before allowing votes to be cast.

However, by not informing the commissioners of his desire to have a third-party examine the machines for flaws or outright corruption, he has invalidated any findings by Black Box since it is true no one knows what they did or did not do.

The correct process would have been to tell the commissioners of his desire for a third-party review and if they objected or if Diebold objected, he could have explained his reasonings why he wanted another set of eyes to check things out (which is pretty much what was said in the article). If they refused the request he would have a much more firm standing to say whether or not the machines will do what the manufacturer claims they will do since by not allowing the examination it would appear that they, either the commissioners or Dieblod (or both), have something to hide.

As it stands now he's shot himself in the foot because he went behind everyones back and secretly had someone else examine the machines.

What is truly interesting is that the commissioners don't appear to be interested in what Black Box found but are more concerned that they'll have to shell out $40,000. That doesn't sound like the people are too interested in ensuring that the machines will work correctly but are more concerned about bean counting.

If Funk does resign I hope he vehemently and vociferously expresses his doubts as to the capabilities of these machines and insist that people use absentee ballots to vote. He should make the rounds on tv so he can clearly explain why he has his doubts so the people can understand what is going on.

The Machine shouln't matter.... (2, Informative)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018580)

There was a very popular book (I believe now out of print - published in 1994 - "Applied Cryptography".) In it - it had a very good example of "secure voting". (I believe this concept has been published/discussed outside of this text - sorry to those who might have came up with it.) To try to summarize (removing cryptographic references where possible) - everyone gets a "ticket" saying they voted - and everyone gets a (separate, non-trackable) "ticket" saying *what* they voted for. Lists of both "tickets" are made public. Anyone and everyone can verify that their vote was cast and recorded properly. The point here - is that the the security in the system isn't in the machine, but rather in the system. Wouldn't that make more sense??

Re:The Machine shouln't matter.... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018670)

>I believe now out of print - published in 1994 - "Applied Cryptography".

Schneier out of print? No way. It's not only a "best seller", it's also used as a textbook in many university programs.

Someone PLEASE tell me.... (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018591)

why we can't just put an "X" on a piece of paper, fold it, put it in a box, get our finger stained with purple ink, open the box at the end of the night in the presence of multiple witnesses, and count the "X"s for each candidate/question?

there are many things computers are good for, but voting doesn't seem to really demand computational power, internet access, etc.

justin timberlake would say (-1, Troll)

publicmine (958014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018600)

Cry me a fucking river. Man, you guys and girl complain so much about /. this, ./ that, go fuck yourself and read another blog you ./00=====Riders===D ./ is a fucking WEBSITE. WTF?!LOLOZ!

Diebold corrupt? Misguided? Troubled? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018616)

Makes you wonder who is running the show over there and what the agenda is.
This is about the 10th story I have heard about Diebold doing something shady if not corrupt.

BBV Isn't a Reputable Organization (0)

jeramybsmith (608791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018624)

Bev Harris the founder of BBV was an Art Bell guest type kook who rode dissatisfaction with 2000 into a money making scheme. DemocratUnderground are some pretty fringe guys but even they won't take BS from BBV after seeing the scams they run.

So now because slashdot has let so many BBV stories and astroturfing go on here, these guys look more and more legitmate. They even won some EFF award.

If you criticize some of the nefarious things they have done or even point out which voting activist friendly sources have disowned BBV, the BBV astroturfers accuse you of shooting the messenger.

BBV encourages its member to astroturf like this, bomb news media fax machines, call into shows, etc. You are witnessing how they net new members and funds.

Some more information about the testing... (4, Informative)

no haters (714135) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018629)

Over at blackboxvoting.org they have some more information about what tests were actually run on the machines, what they found, and what diebold's official response was. Apparently, BBV did not actually do the tests themselves, they arranged for 3rd party security experts to go in and do the analysis.

Here's the link:

http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth .cgi?file=/1954/19743.html [bbvforums.org]

It's on black box voting's website, so obviously it will be biased, but at least it gives more detail than the gloss-over provided by the tribune.

Lets see... (0)

SisyphusShrugged (728028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018630)

Lets see if I can create a post similar to the OPs in terms of grammatic logic and eloquence.... "OMG, DIEBOLD IS TEH HAXORZ, DIEBOLD NO MAKE GOOD ELECTION MACHINE! WITCH-DOCTOR? I HAVE TO TEH TELL MY l33t SPEAK HOMIEZ ON SLASHDOT...." Ok, maybe mine was more coherent, but I came close!
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