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Ohio Study Confirms Voting Systems Vulnerabilities

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the never-thought-i'd-be-longing-for-paper dept.

Security 91

bratgitarre writes "A comprehensive study of electronic voting systems (PDF) by vendors ES&S, Hart InterCivic and Premier (formerly Diebold) found that 'all of the studied systems possess critical security failures that render their technical controls insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election'. In particular, they note all systems provide insufficiently protection against threats from election insiders, do not follow well-known security practices, and have 'deeply flawed software maintenance' practices." Some of these machines are the ones California testers found fault with last week.

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Right... "election insiders"... (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707308)

The only people who are motivated to manage voting booths are the elderly who haven't got anything else to do and people who are totally wrapped up in their own candidate's campaign. The first doesn't care who wins the election, so long as their retirement benefits aren't touched. And the latter has so many ways to defraud the election, it's not even funny.

Whether you set up the process with electronic voting or you use old fashioned paper slips, someone somewhere can either cause votes to disappear or have extra votes sent to a certain candidate. It doesn't matter what system is in place.

Even with the most secure and trustworthy electronic voting booth, you're still going to lose all the data if, say, a giant meteor came crashing down on it, crushing it. Maybe something not quite as heavy is needed.. An "out of control" truck, perhaps?

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21707354)

If systems like PGP and Freenet are possible, why not a secure voting system?

Instead of contracting out to private businesses, whose best efforts are, apparently, pitifully inadequate, why don't they hold an open, international competition? (Wasn't the AES algorithm the result of an open request?)

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707636)

First of all, if you think the people managing the booth aren't trustworthy, offer to do it yourself. I honestly see no reason why you shouldn't be able to do it.

And second, yes, a meteor striking or a truck crashing the voting site would certainly crush a voting booth. But since it's as likely as me getting abducted by aliens, I'm actually willing to take that risk.

I'm honestly amazed how people keep using incredible horror scenarios as an excuse for something not working (or, in case of terrorism, being necessary), without even considering that it's so unlikely that it doesn't matter at all. There is a minuscle chance that you die in the shower from lightning or some other freak accident, does that mean you don't shower anymore now?

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707700)

So if there is a miniscule chance of these horror scenarios occuring, then what's to say that your (meaning "security experts") horror stories regarding voting booth irregularities aren't just another bunch of horror stories to be tossed aside as statistical anomolies? If we are going to say that deliberate tampering is a big problem with electronic voting booths, then how can we overlook the deliberate tampering with non-electronic systems?

We've been blessed with a populace who is generally honest enough that we aren't plagued by voter fraud that has any sort of significant influence on the outcome of elections. The reason for this is simple, anyone with enough ability to undertake a plan of that sort of enormity will eventually realize that the cheapest way to influence an election is physical removal of opponents.

(p.s. Hi, NSA Guys!)

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21712262)

then what's to say that your (meaning "security experts") horror stories regarding voting booth irregularities aren't just another bunch of horror stories to be tossed aside as statistical anomolies?
because it is already happening in other countries and chances are that it is and has been occuring here too.

If we are going to say that deliberate tampering is a big problem with electronic voting booths, then how can we overlook the deliberate tampering with non-electronic systems?
we didn't overlook the problems of non-electronic voting [florida 2000 results ring a bell?] we are concerned that the sheer number of relatively obvious security breaches in electronic voting machines are a tad suspect. I would even go as far to say that electronic voting won't be ready for a decade or more, especially with the stakes being so high in regard to who wins the most votes. The major problems with the system as it is are: 1) poor physical security 2) risk of sabotage of code and components [corruption] 3) no paper trail to verify votes 4) code must be/remain open source to make sure the voting machines are not doing something shady without anyone's knowledge etc...

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729758)

I've personally worked for the Alaska's Division of Election, so this might not hold true for the equipment used by other states but:

The major problems with the system as it is are: 1) poor physical security 2) risk of sabotage of code and components [corruption] 3) no paper trail to verify votes 4) code must be/remain open source to make sure the voting machines are not doing something shady without anyone's knowledge etc...

1) All TSX (touch-screen machines) are always under lock and key when not being fielded. When they're out in the wild they are under constant supervision of either staff or a group of volunteers (who as far as the staff knows don't know each other - integrity through numbers approach)
2) Only the staff has the a key to open the machine's controls. Said staff is so busy with the logistics of elections that they a) have no time to sabotage, b) don't know how to code, let alone for the proprietary system (which doesn't exactly have a keyboard to input arbitrary code, compile, and execute it)
3) Oh yes there's a paper trail. Every entered vote automagically results in a paper receipt, which are immediately locked into a security box, and hand-counted by a committee during and again after the election closes. This is one of the biggest concerns we hear, and we're only happy to show our voters how this is NOT the case.
4) This is the most valid (in my situation) point out of all of them. They are closed source, as far as I know. However, they aren't networked to computers (let alone the internet), and all ballots are composed ad hoc - meaning that the company couldn't have programmed in 'Give Candidate A 2 votes per every 1 vote for Candidate B' as they have no idea who's going to be in which slot.

So once again every electronic vote (for the foreseeable future) results in one paper receipt which the voter can see, which is counted multiple times. All in all, we're just making it easier for the voter to cast his or her ballot versus the clumsy machines of yore; that and they have built-in accessibility features for the blind.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21711448)

First of all, if you think the people managing the booth aren't trustworthy, offer to do it yourself. I honestly see no reason why you shouldn't be able to do it.
Last I checked, you have to be a registered Democrat or Republican in order to work the polls. At the very least, there have to be equal numbers of both parties working a precinct.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

blackdropbear (554444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21723290)

Interesting - In Australia it is the opposite - Party Members need not apply & those who are active in the community politically while not being a party member need not apply either. Strict impartiality is the expectation inside the polling booth and within the designated polling precinct.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729310)

Here in the USA it doesn't matter who you're affiliated with, as long as you're completely impartial when dealing with voters (et al). You can't campaign on the Division of Elections' property, and so on.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21746190)

Not in Ohio. In Ohio you must at the very least vote a partisan ballot in the next primary in order to be a poll worker. That registers you as a member of the party.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21746674)

That's rather messed up, IMHO. I had no idea that this changes from state to state.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (3, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707966)

Whether you set up the process with electronic voting or you use old fashioned paper slips, someone somewhere can either cause votes to disappear or have extra votes sent to a certain candidate. It doesn't matter what system is in place.
Yes, it does matter what system is in place. Namely, the system where elections are handled by volunteers, and you never leave any part of the process in the hand of a single person, nor do you let people pick their own tasks. You just make sure that chances are that there is always one honest person in place at each step.

And you have routines in place for dealing with what happens if votes are lost in an accident, such as re-doing the election.

This isn't difficult stuff, it's been worked out centuries ago.

Vote Boycotts (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708362)

The way these literally corrupt machines are going, I think citizens in states where they are the only option should call for a VERY public boycott. Get several hundred people picketing outside, signing petitions to vow not to vote unless they have PROVEN methods. Sure the county/state/whatever will come back saying they're "secure". In the scheme of things a few hundred voters not voting because of bad voting may give enough bad press that it would give the officials enough concern to maybe at least listen to the issue.

If elections continue, picket the polling stations. It may give enough bad press they will decide not to do it again. Or sadly, it may just get totally ignored. But at least it gives the people going in to vote some thought

Re:Vote Boycotts (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708374)

"In the scheme of things a few hundred voters not voting because of bad voting may give enough bad press that it would give the officials enough concern to maybe at least listen to the issue." -> In the scheme of things, a few hundred voters not voting from bad practices may give officials enough bad pres that they may listen.

Run sentence, run!

Re:Vote Boycotts (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729858)

Or instead of jumping the gun straight to picketing and boycotting, you could take a trip down to your local office of elections and raising your concerns in person. Perhaps, given the chance to elucidate you as to the invalidity of your concerns, you won't even need to picket.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709086)

And moreso: You open every step of the election to the public, so everyone can watch the distributing of the ballot sheets, the checking of the voter's paper at the election place, the sealing of the voting boxes, the putting of the ballots in the box after voting, the opening of the boxes, the counting of the votes, the transport of the resealed boxes with the votes and the results to the voting offices and the addition of the single results to the final sums.

The only step in the voting process that must not be public is the actual casting of the vote.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

FailedTheTuringTest (937776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708156)

I think you're correct in your descriptions of two groups of people who are motivated to manage voting stations (although I don't think they are the only two groups), but you seem to draw the wrong conclusions. The "elderly people" who don't care who wins are fine to have in the system -- if they don't care who wins, then they have no reason to cheat and will tend to keep the process honest. But the campaign workers are even more important to the process: they have an incentive to cheat, but as long as workers for all campaigns are allowed to participate, they will watch each other like hawks and the result will be to tend to keep the process honest.

Stalin said it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709166)

The vote is not important. It is who counts the vote that is important. The republicans, like O'Dell, GW Bush, karl rove, cheney, abrahamoff, tom delay, have known that for quite awhile.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709730)

About one year ago the voting booths where I vote were moved farther into the building and away from the windows. Much harder to crash a truck into them, or into the ballot box (though more likely this was done to make it easier to handle more voters). Then again, we're still using paper ballots and permanent markers.

Still, your scenario reminds me of a story my grandfather once told me. He was living in Florida at the time and registered as a Democrat. The person at the poles told him that his name wasn't on the list of registered voters, hoping that being elderly his eyes might not be so good. He looked at the list and pointed to his name. Then he noticed that the poll worker tried the same nonsense with the guy behind him, so he pointed to that guy's name too.

Re:Right... "election insiders"... (1)

mstahl (701501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715620)

[The elderly don't] care who wins the election, so long as their retirement benefits aren't touched.

The elderly are the only people who actually vote in this country! The AARP is a huuuuuuge lobby and anyone who wants to get elected to any position anywhere—particularly the presidency—has to cowtow to them quite a great deal. That group also includes a lot of veterans, which need constant placating as well. Never ever ever underestimate the elderly vote because those people have the highest turnout of any demographic.

With all due respect... this is news? (3, Insightful)

Slartibartfast (3395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707330)

I think we've seen sufficient evidence that Diebold has been inhaling deeply, if you will. And we, as a relatively technology-savvy audience, are acutely aware of the potential for disaster -- just imagine, if you will, a virus that infects just voting machines. Personally, while it pains me to say it, I think we should stick with the solution we use here in New Hampshire: good ol' SAT-like ballots. Darken the oval next to the candidate's name, and you're done. The Machine will either accept it, or reject it (in which case you do a new ballot, and the old one gets destroyed). Simple, easy, accountable. Yes, being able to use a computerized voting machine for tabulation is incredibly seductive, but voting is already something inherently prone to attempts at manipulation. Let's not introduce yet more potential, shall we?

Re:With all due respect... this is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21707642)

I think we should stick with the solution we use here in New Hampshire: good ol' SAT-like ballots. Darken the oval next to the candidate's name, and you're done. The Machine will either accept it, or reject it...Yes, being able to use a computerized voting machine for tabulation is incredibly seductive...

You do realize that you are advocating the use of a computerized vote tabulating machine instead of using a computerized vote tabulating machine, right? The difference is that yours takes paper input, which means that it can be recounted far more easily. However, the optical-scan tabulating machine is prone to many of the same vulnerabilities as the full-blown touchscreen voting machines. The hack shown in Hacking Democracy involved manipulating an opscan machine.

Re:With all due respect... this is news? (1)

Slartibartfast (3395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708968)

While I am unfamiliar with the hack you mention, I still stand by my guns: easy to do, easy to verify. ALL voting systems have some hole or flaw; a fully-computerized one is, almost by definition, Swiss cheese compared to the more rudimentary mechanisms. (At least, until such time as a 100% secure OS AND application software, are created. *dies of old age several times over*)

Re:With all due respect... this is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709108)

You can see the end of the documentary, which is where the hack takes place, here. [youtube.com] It's worth watching the entire thing to see just how bad ANY electronic voting/tabulation system is.

Re:With all due respect... this is news? (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708132)

The other thing you have in NH (where I used to live and my mother used to practice law) is a highly respected and quite non-partisan Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, who has kept his office throughout both Republican and Democratic state administrations. He's demonstrated time and again that his number 1 goal as far as his duties as an election official are concerned is to get the correct results (meaning the results accurately reflecting the will of the people). He's about as far from Ohio or Florida Secretaries of State when the electronic voting was put in place (Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell) as you can get.

In other words, there's a reason why NH's system is so good. Heck, I love a state government where a man I'd gotten to know as an elevator operator was elected to the state House.

I love me some paranoia in the morning (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730022)

Voting machines are never networked, so there's no way for such a virus to propagate.

The votes aren't tabulated on a computer until after the paper ballots (which the machines spit out after each individual vote) are counted against the electronic counter. In effect this electronic counter is more of a guide-point for the paper counters, so if your results deviate from it you probably need to recount the paper ballots.

One of the great features of the machines used in my office is that it allows even the blind to vote. How would you accommodate them via your SAT-like ballots? Would they have to trust someone to darken the correct circle for them? Wouldn't you rather trust an impartial machine to do this for you?

Aside from all that, you make excellent points. Let's keep going into the future kicking and screaming. ;-)

Re:I love me some paranoia in the morning (1)

Slartibartfast (3395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730380)

No, they aren't networked. But they *are* computers. For example, my office was recently struck by a virus which propagated by USB pen drives; stick the drive into a computer, it fired up the autorun file, installed itself, and infected any future keys -- a play on Ye Olde floppy drive propagation. Bottom line: run an OS, be potentially susceptible to an attack of some sort. For the record, I essentially agree with you -- I'm a pretty non-paranoid sysadmin. But when it comes to stuff like voting, I'm willing to be a bit more paranoid for the sake of prevention, especially when (gad-zooks) legacy systems are reasonably practical.

Re:I love me some paranoia in the morning (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730522)

The machines we have don't have USB ports, and don't run on any popular OS. They are never plugged into each other (directly or indirectly). There really is no way for such a virus to spread across these machines.

Wrong! (5, Interesting)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707338)

Whilst I have no faith in electronic systems, I do know about pencil-and-paper elections, having taken part in several in the UK and been on UN election monitoring missions in Kosovo and Ukraine.

It is perfectly possible to make pencil-and-paper elections secure against the malpractices you suggest, as well as many others that you haven't thought of but the election designers certainly have!

Even if the entire system were corrupt, in terms of every single person involved in running the election being involved in a conspiracy, there's no way they could hide what they're doing from observers.

Now, in civilised parts of the world people don't always make use of all their observation opportunities. For example, in the UK the candidate can watch the ballot box being sealed, make a note of the number on the seal, and check that the same seal is still on the box when it is opened later at the counting hall. But we don't bother - we trust the officials, and we've been working for something like 17 hours with another 4 or 5 to go so we take the opportunity to have something to eat whilst the ballot boxes are being shifted around. But, if there were any suspicion that the election officials tampered with the boxes in their cars, we could do this check.

Oh, and as we all said goodbye to each other when leaving Kosovo the first time we were all calling out "bye, see you in Florida!", including the Americans.

Re:Wrong! (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707384)

What would the impact be of a carbomb going off in one of the vehicles transporting the ballots? If a district were known to be heavily in favor of a certain candidate, wouldn't the destruction of those ballots negate their votes?

If we encourage black voters in the South to remember to vote on November 10 "Election Day", and they somehow end up missing the election on November 7, have we not corrupted the system?

Or if we have a company of 10,000 employees who were all pretty underpaid and "encourage" them to vote a certain way, with informants watching the polls, haven't we silenced their individual voices?

I get that there are necessary precautions that need to be taken to safeguard the election system and to make sure that each vote counts, but if we can't actually verify that each vote is registered, then perhaps we're looking at the wrong part of the problem.

Re:Wrong! (2, Insightful)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707466)

What would the impact be of a carbomb going off in one of the vehicles transporting the ballots? If a district were known to be heavily in favor of a certain candidate, wouldn't the destruction of those ballots negate their votes?
Let's say there is an accident, not a bomb. The car catches fire, the votes are destroyed. How many votes are in this car? 500? 5.000? I suppose there won't be 50.000 votes in it. Let's say 5.000 votes are destroyed. I think that's a high number (but I may be wrong). You could simply calculate if this would change any of the results. Probably it won't matter if all those votes of this one accident went to candidate A or B. And not all those votes will be for one candidate alone. So if those votes couldn't change the results, the accident is no problem. But what if they could make a difference? The boxes are probably tagged with an id, so they could check which boxes are missing. Then they could have another vote for this district/voting office alone. But maybe the candidates agree not to do this.

What you're suggesting is what happens if many cars had accidents or were bombed. Then it could seriously influence the elections. But one car won't make much of a difference.

You're exactly right. (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730138)

We keep track of voters by their polling place, so in the unlikely event that a box of votes from a certain polling place were to be blown up, abducted by aliens, or what have you, we would simply contact the voters of that polling place to recast their ballots. Yes, it really is that simple.

This... (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707478)

Or if we have a company of 10,000 employees who were all pretty underpaid and "encourage" them to vote a certain way, with informants watching the polls, haven't we silenced their individual voices?

This is the exact reason that a take-home election reciept is a bad idea. Which is why most voting systems don't have it... not just the tyranny of the employer, but also the undue influence from peers & family. (Can you imagine how long I'd be sleeping on the couch if the wife knew who I voted for last time?)

Various frauds ... (3, Interesting)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707946)

Loss of car

What would the impact be of a carbomb going off in one of the vehicles transporting the ballots? If a district were known to be heavily in favor of a certain candidate, wouldn't the destruction of those ballots negate their votes?

Depends.

Round here, in a local election there are three ballot boxes for my ward, and they are probably transported to the count in two cars. The loss of any one of those boxes would clearly invalidate the election. Whether the election would have be run again in the entire ward, or just in the area(s) for the lost box(es) I don't know, but I think "the entire ward" would be a good guess.

For a parliamentary election, there are around forty ballot boxes for this constituency. If one box were lost, and that box held, say, 1,500 ballots, and the count of the remaining boxes gave someone a majority of, say, 4,000, then the result would be clear without that box. Otherwise I expect that again the entire election would be re-run.

(A car transporting me to a polling station, of which I was in charge, in Kosovo broke down. I finished the journey sitting in the back of the van that our armed guard was driving. A novel experience for a Brit - most of us can go through life never seeing a real live gun, and having one a few way away from you is a bit weird.)

Publicity for false election day

Dunno about the American South, but round here that's something I'm pretty sure would go through the courts, with a re-run of the election a possible outcome.

Company pressure

There's no way you can have an "informant watching the polls" in a propery run election. Everybody in the polling station needs to have a good excuse ... and being the candidate's officially appointed observer is a good excuse, so each candidate can have someone watching inside each polling station for any bad goings-on. Your putative "informant" might be able to gain entry to the polling station but wouldn't be able to watch people marking their ballots, as there would be too many other people watching them in turn.

Now, this sort of buying / forcing votes is possible with postal votes - your crooked employer could lean on his employees to request postal votes and then hand over the ballot papers. There isn't an answer to this, which is why we (my party) really don't like postal votes very much, other than for the traditional good reasons (housebound etc).

(This sort of employer pressure was thought to be widespread in the Ukraine election that was re-run because of the various complaints. I went to the Boxing Day re-run (a novel way to spend Christmas away from my family) and we were told that the employers hadn't applied any pressure the second time round, basically everybody involved had decided to stop trying to cheat and to hold a clean election.)

if we can't actually verify that each vote is registered

Do you mean voters who don't make it onto the electoral register? Yes, that's part of the wider system rather than polling day security. There's two theories about natural safeguards here:

(a) candidates will make efforts to get everybody onto the register
(b) actually it probably doesn't matter that much, as someone who can't be bothered to get onto the register is quite likely also somebody who can't be bothered to vote, so who cares.

And there are plenty more ways of gaming elections you haven't thought up yet ... and the system has thought them up, and has safeguards in place ...

Re:Various frauds ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21711090)

if one box were lost, and that box held, say, 1,500 ballots, and the count of the remaining boxes gave someone a majority of, say, 4,000, then the result would be clear without that box. Otherwise I expect that again the entire election would be re-run.
Over here I think the result would be that the surviving votes would either not be counted or at least the result kept secret until the affected area had voted again.

Re:Wrong! (1)

FailedTheTuringTest (937776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708260)

Stealing/destroying ballot boxes and misdirecting voters are highly visible -- their effects cannot be hidden, so they can be noticed and remedied. All ballot boxes should be traceable, so if a box from a particular polling station goes missing, its absence will be noted and the vote for that district can be run again. Fooling people about the day or place of voting cannot be done in secret, so any effort to do this will be noticed (at worst, it will be noticed when they show up at the wrong time or place), and again a new vote could be held if many people were fooled.

Employer (family, mob, etc) influence, on the other hand, can be done in secret, but is unrelated to the method of voting and counting, except that any method of voting that leaves the voter with a receipt showing which way they voted is much more vulnerable to this. So a good method of voting should not provide the voter with a receipt.

Could learn from Venezuela (2, Interesting)

Homology (639438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707374)

From Venezuela is Not Florida [zmag.org]

But Venezuela is not Pakistan. In fact, it's not Florida or Ohio either. One reason that Chavez could be confident of the vote count is that Venezuela has a very secure voting system. This is very different from the United States, where millions of citizens cast electronic votes with no paper record. Venezuelan voters mark their choice on a touch-screen machine, which then records the vote and prints out a paper receipt for the voter. The voter then deposits the vote in a ballot box. An extremely large random sample - about 54 percent - of the paper ballots are counted and compared with the electronic tally.

Re:Could learn from Venezuela (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707774)

The important thing isn't whether Chavez could be confident of the vote count handed to him, but whether Venezuelans could be confident of the vote count handed to them by Chavez.

I've heard that Venezuela's military commanders promised a coup d'etat if Chavez tried to ramrod his wildly unpopular socialist reforms down the nation's throat, but you'll notice that the vote count released to the public indicated that the margin of defeat was under 1%. That's what's called in the political industry "saving face".

http://www.newsweek.com/id/74230 [newsweek.com]

Re:Could learn from Venezuela (2, Insightful)

Homology (639438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21710716)

I read the Newsweek article but is difficult to believe what "mainstream" media like Newsweek write. Too often they are very wrong and just spout out state propaganda justifying whatever upcoming war.

Re:Could learn from Venezuela (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21719176)

Hmmm... believe Newsweek or believe the state-run media of megalomaniacal dictator Hugo Chavez? Somehow this is a tough choice for you, isn't it?

Re:Could learn from Venezuela (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21712920)

And Venezuela also has the luxury of an honest president in Hugo Chavez (Viva Chavez!).

Here in America, after the coup of 2000 by the Bush Crime Family with the aid of those Opus Dei members of the Supreme Court, we can only fantasize about honest elections.....

Computers just aren't ready (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707400)

The only way someone could truly guarantee the validity of any results coming from a voting machine is if the machine used analogue electronics or was hard-wired to the voting program. As long as general-purpose computers are in use in this environment, no matter how difficult they are to open or how resilient the OS is, rigging an election by tampering with the voting machines will be possible. In my opinion, security should not be sacrificed for the convenience of being able to change the program.

Re:Computers just aren't ready (1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707404)

In a two-party system, what's the point of voting at all?

Re:Computers just aren't ready (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707594)

In a two-party system, what's the point of voting at all?


Wait,... you're saying that there are more than two types of people in America? The walls of this binary paradise are crumbling! And outside is a disturbing ternary landscape, where "dunno" is a valid opinion, and you always have exact change. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLACE!

Re:Computers just aren't ready (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707612)

Libtard or Repug. Otherwise, you're throwing your vote away.

Re:Computers just aren't ready (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21707912)

Hi point was that the vote is useless either way - in any case it's thrown away..

Re:Computers just aren't ready (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707690)

It's not "dunno". It's "I don't agree with either of the two positions offered".

Which isn't so far fetched. The two parties become more and more similar with every election, to the point that I slowly have difficulties noticing the difference. Which in turn makes sense, from their point of view.

Imagine you have a liberal and a conservative party (for the sake of an argument, since I don't want to start a discussion whether X is a Rep or Dem issue. As I stated above, I somehow don't really see a difference in them anymore). Now, someone who is conservative to the core will never ever vote for the liberals. And of course the other way 'round too.

So the conservatives can easily become a little more liberal to attract more voters who are in the middle of those two. They still consider the hardcore conservatives secure, since they have no alternative. The liberals in turn will become more conservative to secure voters, because their hardcore liberal voters won't turn to the conservatives, they're even further from their ideal.

So, in fact, the parties meet in the middle, becoming indistinguishable in their fight for the middle ground voter.

What happens, though, is that the more extremist voters will simply abstain from voting. And become unhappy with the system altogether.

What about us who aren't represented? (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707974)

Neither the deomcrats nor the republicans represnts my political views -- Libertarian. Besides, there are other political parites -- they simply don't get any coverage, because the Democrats and the Republicans conspire to keep all other parties shut out of the political process. Not to mention the media itself, which also is part of that conspiracy.

Re:Computers just aren't ready (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707722)

If it is actually a two party system, it makes sense. You can pick the party that supports your ideals better. What the US suffers from, though, is having two parties that are almost indistinguishable from each other. And there I have to agree, it doesn't matter which one you pick.

It reminds me of the old Hungarian joke from the times of Communism. Back then, Hungary brought up something stunningly progressive for elections: Two candidates. Sure, both from the communist party, but there were actually two candidates on the list. Yes, that was considered a huge leap forwards in terms of democracy.

The joke runs like this: A man comes into a shop selling vases. There has always been one rather shabby red vase on display, now there are two shabby red vases on display. He asks for a vase and instead of getting a shabby red vase handed the salesperson proudly gestures to the two vases. "But they're identical! And identically crappy!" the customer exclaims. "Yes", says the shop owner, "But you have the free choice!"

This is how I feel about US elections these days.

Re:Computers just aren't ready (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708166)

In a two-party system, what's the point of voting at all?
Well Voting for a third party is almost certainly not going to get the third party candidate elected. However the two main parties tend to be fairly evenly matched and the third party vote going to either of the other two parties could swing it either way. using some random numbers say 45,000 vote for party A and 40,000 vote for party B and 8,000 vote for party C. Party B could win this seat if the Voters for party C would vote for party B instead.

In other words both Party A and Party B have to take into account the views of people voting for party C.
The obvious case is green issues are now a part of most party policies.

unfortunately it is a very slow process, third party support needs to be built up over time to become significant to either of the main parties, but it can be an effective way of moderating party excesses - as good as we are going to get.

Obviously a PR system is better at producing a government representing the interests of the people but turkeys don't vote for christmas.

I wanna pony :(

Re:Computers just aren't ready (3, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708220)

Instant Runoff Elections solve this problem.

Vote for your third party candidate as #1 then you can avoid "wasting" your vote by ranking the others. If your #1 choice doesn't make it, then at least you still have a say in the remaining candidates.

Most importantly, everyone can see how many people voted for your third party, since nobody will vote for a more popular party as #1 thinking it would be wasted.
=Smidge=

Re:Computers just aren't relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21714152)

"The next best thing after a two-party system is a one-party system."

Voting is about POWER and taking that POWER away from the little group of multi-billionaires (who has no real need for "democracy", or whatever you want to call it), that control the planet.

Unless "voting" is done in such a way that it makes an indelible, permanent, and irrevocable record that everyone can see and confirm, and everyone is powerless to change, there is no democracy. It is just wishful thinking as much as religion accepts future realities based on hope.

The Billionaires control the media, censorship is rampant, soon the Internet will become just another marketing ploy.

We have the technology to do this right.... (1, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707528)

... or do you not trust ATM machines?

Trillions of dollars are transfered via electronic means, perhaps even more than that if you define a time line.

The only difference here is the anonymity of the voter, who they voted for. Where security dealing with verifying a qualified voter before they vote and that they only vote once, should be no more an issue as when it was when it was all paper.

The fact that this electronic voting problem exist at all, but also full scope across all machines tested really does identify just how manipulative corrupt the political system really is.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707664)

I don't have to trust ATM machines. I have a full paper trail from the moment I get my money to the moment I get my statement. I punch in my desired amount, I get money. I can count that money and verify that it is as much as I wanted. I get a recept, stating the same. And a day later I can see on my account info that the amount was deducted from my account. And I can verify every single step thereof, and should there be the slightest discrepancy, I can immediately notice that.

Now, how should I notice whether my vote has been counted correctly or whether it has been twisted around?

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708422)

Now, how should I notice whether my vote has been counted correctly or whether it has been twisted around?
I think this is equally applicable to paper voting...on an individual level at least. When I vote, I mark a piece of paper and put it in a box - once it's in the box, there is no link back to me (except maybe fingerprints). That's the last I ever see of of my ballot. I personally have no means to verify that the piece of paper I submitted has been counted correctly, or if my vote was altered in any way.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21710536)

I personally have no means to verify that the piece of paper I submitted has been counted correctly, or if my vote was altered in any way.

Not true.

If you really want to, you can stick around and watch the ballot box, see when it is sealed, watch when it is opened and observe the counting process. Note that you'll probably have to make arrangements in advance for the latter steps, but you can do it. In fact, it's normal procedure for representatives of parties and/or candidates to observe in this way.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21714682)

I imagine you are right about this. However, this is not well known (at least not among my peers in Canada - and you can bet that I don't really plan to verify so myself). However, the fact that there is an option to do this should be relatively common knowledge...if anything to provide a benchmark against which the trustworthiness of electronic systems should be measured.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716926)

In practice it's not so important that individual citizens observe the election process, because the political parties and the candidates do. They're mostly watching to see that nothing is done that damages their chances at winning, rather than being focused on the fairness of the election, but if all of them do it the effect is the same.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708488)

A voting paper trail doesn't provide you the voter with any evidence either. but leaves it up to the counters.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

Homology (639438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21711268)

A voting paper trail doesn't provide you the voter with any evidence either. but leaves it up to the counters.

Bingo! But a proper paper trail will make election fraud much more difficult.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709334)

Easy. Give out n length ( 5 < n < 10 ) alpha-num bit strings at election day. Then going to the web and typing the right name and alpha-num password you see your vote. Provide a way to produce a fake pass to show yourself as voting in any way you want.

Problem solved.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21712918)

You don't trust the system to count your vote correctly and want a way to check, but you trust it to tell you that it counted it correctly? Interesting.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708112)

The fact that this electronic voting problem exist at all, but also full scope across all machines tested really does identify just *how manipulative corrupt* the political system really is.

actually having worked for one of the electronic voiting system companies, I'd say, the political system is just *lax and careless*...

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (3, Insightful)

dupup (784652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708154)

...or do you not trust ATM machines?

When you undertake a transaction with an ATM machine, the machine is just the conduit to the bank. You're trusting in the bank's paranoia about money to keep everything square. And the bank provides sufficient paperwork and even a dispute resolution process in case of a discrepancy. The ATM does not balance your account nor even decide if you have enough money to withdraw, the bank does. Before Diebold set about fixing^H^H^H^Hmaking voting machines, they made ATMs.

With electronic voting machines, though, there isn't the equivalent of the backing bank in which you can trust. The intelligence, if you will, is in the ATM machine alone, something the bank would never allow. It's like assuming that the pen with which you sign a contract somehow guarantees your rights in the deal. It's not the pen, it's the court system behind the pen.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

glassesmonkey (684291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21743618)

"Before Diebold set about making voting machines, they made ATMs."
Or not. But hey why worry about pesky details. You think the ATM hardware vendor could come up with something as horrible and cheap as the voting machines? GES bought a few companies and eventually was bought by Diebold.

Bob and Todd Urosevich are the criminal brother who are behind ES&S and Diebold which are responsible for counting 80% of all the votes in this country. HAVA funneled $3.9 BILLION dollars into a handful of these voting machine companies which sold the states crappy, unreliable, cheap voting machines. Instead of asking for their money back, States are now going to spend even more money to these same vendors to replace all the touchscreens.

$3.9 Billion to crooks.
Jeff Dean the senior programmer for Diebold before they were bought by the ATM company was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft for planting back doors in software he created for ATMs using.

Think about that.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

Bjrn (4836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708756)

... or do you not trust ATM machines?

ATM machines are very reliable, but nevertheless they malfunction all the time. That is why they have electronic or sometimes even paper journals. If an ATM gives you to little money your bank can check your receipt, the journal and the amount of money still in the machine. In most cases you should get your missing money.

I don't think ATMs are a useful comparison for electronic voting machines, mostly due to the anonymity requirements.

Re:We have the technology to do this right.... (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709894)

I don't trust ATM machines.

I do trust the very sophisticated checks and cross-checks that are built into the banking industry that would prevent any systematic corruption of ATM machines. So I'm comfortable using them, and I do so a few times each month.

Voting machines are just a pretty face. There are none of the kinds of checks and cross-checks behind them that make the banking industry work. Companies like Premier (aka Diebold) have shown deliberate resistance to incorporating any of those kinds of mechanisms into their pretty face machines. You've even got a CEO of one of these companies promising in public that he would deliver a favorable vote to one candidate from one of the states using his machines.

Who cares? (2, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707548)

I don't see what all the fuss is about. When your only choice is between the Democrats and the Republicans, who gives a crap whether the machine you vote on is rigged? It's like being offered a choice of getting thrown in a shark tank or a piranha tank.

Re:Who cares? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708116)

Trust me ... take the shark tank. You might lose a leg or an arm (or maybe you'll get away scott free), but the piranha will just leave your bones.

I'll leave it up to the reader to decide which party is more aptly described by a tank of sharks or a tank of piranha.

Re:Who cares? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708274)

What if the sharks have friggen' laser beams attached to their heads?

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709700)

What if the sharks have friggen' laser beams attached to their heads?


Then you need a glossy tin foil dive suite as you've been thrown in with Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.

Re:Who cares? (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21711018)

We need a new moderation option. +1 "Sad but True"

Re:Who cares? (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21713094)

If you had a multi-party system, you could even have a candiru [wikipedia.org] tank. Perhaps you should look on the positive side.

Power Corrpution Apathy (3, Insightful)

djfake (977121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707572)

The fact that the US cannot come up with a definitive "voting tabulation method" tells you that the whole thing is crooked from the git-go. And even if we did, we'd still have (at least) fifty different electoral commissions for national elections. Why is it so difficult to comprehend a system that tabulates votes and leaves an audit trail? But what's even more reprehensible is that the majority of Americans don't even consider the integrity of our elections when voting - or do they? The US has one of the lowest turnouts in the Western world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout [wikipedia.org] ). Democracy at its best.

re:power corruption apathy (3, Insightful)

ed.han (444783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708210)

why is it so very gorrammed hard to follow the method used in india (http://techaos.blogspot.com/2004/05/indian-evm-compared-with-diebold.html [blogspot.com] )? is that so very difficult?

i think it's pretty clear that american manufacturers of e-voting devices are either unforgiveably incompetent or deliberately introducing devices with obvious non-security. i'm not sure which prospect i find more troubling, but to be honest, what i find even more troubling is the fact that the media largely appears to be ignoring the matter.

ed

Re:Power Corrpution Apathy (2, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708682)

Why is it so difficult to comprehend a system that tabulates votes and leaves an audit trail?

Actually, that's one of the major difficulties. With an election, an audit trail must have an important property that isn't required by a financial system's audit trail: The audit trail must not expose a voter's actual votes.

With financial systems, there's no serious problem if the auditing system allows the bank employees to see the numbers in a customer's records. There are even situations where it's considered reasonable for a government agency to access an individual's financial records.

But with voting, exposing an individual's vote to either election employees or government agencies immediately enables such things as vote buying and vote extortion, which would pretty much eliminate the very reason for having the election.

The basic principal of auditing financial systems is to have everything stored redundantly in several different forms, with different people in charge of the different kinds of data, and a lot of cross-checking to spot inconsistencies. This does entail a minor problem of exposure of the data to the outside world, but that's not considered fatal, and can be mostly controlled by fining the people responsible for the exposure. With voting systems, none of this is true. Exposing the votes is a fatal flaw, and the people responsible are very rarely punished. All too often, they're the ones who end up running the government.

It's sorta tricky to come up with an election auditing system that keeps votes secret, while verifying that those votes are accurately counted.

Re:Power Corrpution Apathy (1)

djfake (977121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716390)

Actually, that's one of the major difficulties. With an election, an audit trail must have an important property that isn't required by a financial system's audit trail: The audit trail must not expose a voter's actual votes.
Why - once the vote is cast - does it need to remain secret?

Re:Power Corrpution Apathy (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21720288)

Why - once the vote is cast - does it need to remain secret?

Several reasons:

1) Your boss learns that you didn't vote the way he told you, so you're out of a job.

2) The local gang of thugs learn that you didn't vote the way they told you, so they come around and break your childrens' kneecaps (or yours, if you don't have any children).

3) The local banker learns that you didn't vote the approved way, so the next time you apply for credit, you're turned down.

4) The politician you didn't vote for wins, and he arranges with your local police and firemen to not show up when the local gang of thugs drop by to rob or torch your house.

These are not hypothetical. Do a bit of reading on the political machines in places like Chicago and New York. Or any other major city, for that matter.

Re:Power Corrpution Apathy (1)

djfake (977121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21724048)

But those are reasons for it to remain private, but not necessarily secret. . .

Don't Worry Guys! (2, Funny)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707588)

Your vote counts! Just not necessarily who you wanted it to count for.

Voting is a joke on basic principles! (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707932)

Aside from the myriad problems with any electronic voting system, the real issue that everyone misses is that the entire voting practice is fundamentally flawed at the roots.

The concept of a "winner takes all" system is that the losers must suffer the tyrrany of the winners. How is that so much different from a dictatorship? You are still under tyrrany, and in some ways it's worse -- it's the tyrrany of the majority, which means of course it's much harder to effect changes since you'll have the majority against you.

So where is the freedom in all of this?

Having said that, a good friend of mine has fought mightly against the electronic voting system, and I would say her contributions have finally borne some fruit! But that really does not address the deeper issues in the flaws of how the entire political process works and how we might fix these fundamental flaws.

But not to worry, for I have found the solution...acckk!
(something just killed me)

Re:Voting is a joke on basic principles! (2, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709236)

Sorry, you obviously are a product of the modern educational system. The Founding Fathers actually thought this through, that is why the Constitution is written the way it is, with the various provisions and the Bill of Rights. Or as Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ways that have been tried."

Re:Voting is a joke on basic principles! (0, Offtopic)

Homology (639438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21711588)

Sorry, you obviously are a product of the modern educational system. The Founding Fathers actually thought this through, that is why the Constitution is written the way it is, with the various provisions and the Bill of Rights. Or as Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ways that have been tried."

Yeah, several your "founding fathers" where slave owners...

Re:Voting is a joke on basic principles! (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21712128)

Yeah, several your "founding fathers" where slave owners...

There is only one nation that has ANY basis for condemning the US over slavery and that is England. Even there, they don't have much room.

Re:Voting is a joke on basic principles! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21712852)

The founding fathers could generally speak face to face with their constituency, and argued face to face with their political opponents. The reason for the modern day disillusionment is that despite these safeguards, our politicians have found a way to circumvent protections and abuse the system for their own gain.

Oh, and the whole "you are obviously a product of the modern educational system" bit is so tired, and such a ridiculous turn of phrase. Try another form of attack that actually has any standing, like, I don't know...actually trying to refute what he was saying without making some pejorative claim.

Heh. (1)

Leetteri (1203066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707992)

What's the problem? Nobody votes anyway...

Buckeyes are so dumb anyway (2, Funny)

xjlm (1073928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708778)

I can't really see where this matters. Two groups of lying thieves, take your pick. It's kind of like George Carlin says, "It's their club, and you ain't in it. It's the same club they beat you over the head with."

I'm not suprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708854)

About a year ago I worked the election using these very machines in Ohio. The old people, who led the precinct, had absolutely no idea what they were doing; thank god, there were 4 other precincts voting in the same location that we were. They were trying to follow all the prompts and guidelines but they did half of them wrong. I'm pretty sure that one of the machines didn't get on to the final ballot, and we definitely screwed up a couple times on the machines that did. To be completely honest, it wouldn't have been hard to maliciously alter the machines, if you actually tried. We were screwing up right and left without any ill intent; imagine the results from someone that was trying too. It seemed like Diebold's philosophy on security was just to make things seem as complicated as possible to deter the oldies from trying anything rash. Any idiot should have seen that these machines were hardly secure or even user friendly.

Root cause of election system flaws (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709092)

As someone who has some insight into one of the named companies, I'm aware of several of the root-cause problems experienced:
  • Regulatory-driven reactive security model: The firm views security as something specified by their regulators and only seeks to meet that requirement. They do not perceive any value-added benefit from exceeding client specifications. This results in a product that matches specifications written by election commission consultants, who are hardly qualified to develop security standards.
  • Reliance on vendor security: One firm perceives their solution as the process of assembling their proprietary election software with other vendors products (hardware, operating systems, etc.). They do not recognize any responsibility for the security of components they sourced and did not create themselves. Operating system flaws are "Microsoft's fault," for instance, and they do not see the need to have internal competencies in identifying, hardening, etc. other than those specified by client specification/contract.
  • Ignorance of InfoSec best practices: Numerous standards and best practices are very much unknown. The ISO standards, for instance, were something completely new to one firm's head of information security, as were specific practices (e.g. system hardening, code reviews, link encryption practices, etc.). Information security is heavily siloed in the firm and does not seem to integrate with many of the aspects of election system administration.
  • Lack of a risk-management perspective: Two of the vendors I've evaluated are reactive in the identification and treatment of IT risks. They will respond to external party audit findings, but do not possess the capacity to practively seek them out internally.
  • Out-gunned internal security expertise: When a firm believes a manager with a Security+ certification is an "expert in security," you can expect a serious lack of depth. External experts are not sought out as they typically expose the lack of internal expertise and the company develops a false confidence in its security capability.
  • Security findings by outside parties are rejected as unrealistic: The recent California test was seen as unrealistic and not likely to be encountered in a real election environment.

In their defense, this condition is rather common for most small firms (as well as many larger ones). As one used to working in an aggressive private industry regulatory environment, I'd suggest that these election firms become aware that their current process is not capable of sufficiently handling its security requirements and establish an industry body, or expect significantly more aggressive Federal intervention.

Insecure voting machines? Forest for trees... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21713904)

What does the security of the machines matter?

Aren't the voting results returned by phone? And isn't the Administration even now working diligently to get the big Telcos immunity for doing anything they ask them to do - or anything they think of themselves that the Administration likes?

Fuck Ohio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21724996)

I fucking hate Ohio. Mainly because it has the the most and the worst asshole cops in the free world. But also because they defrauded the 04 election and handed the country to Bush for a second raping session. Thirdly because it is populated with idiotic hicks who pretend to be Southerners and think that's actually the cool thing. Lastly because of Columbus, where I stopped tired and hungry. I left tired, hungry, and enraged. What a stupid city, what a stupid state, get the fuck out OHIO. Nuke it.
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