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Diebold Election Results Released By AZ Judge

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-a-little-more-oversight dept.

Security 134

Windrip writes "A judge in the case covering the nature of the database used in Diebold Gems software during Pima County, Arizona elections has ruled the DB is not a computer program (pdf). The result is that the Arizona Democratic party will have the chance to review previous elections for transparency and accuracy. ''The Pima County Democratic Party sued the county this year for the electronic databases from past elections. The party requested the databases and passwords be released according to Arizona public-records law. Pima County denied that part of the request, while turning over other records the party asked for. In closing arguments of the four-day trial that began Dec. 4, Pima County argued the databases meet the definition of a computer program, which is protected by state law, said Deputy County Attorney Thomas Denker."

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134 comments

DIebold Defeats Democracy (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778594)

Diebold is the dictator's choice for subverting democracy.

Imagine a world where people vote, but the votes don't go anywhere. They just sit in a machine controlled by puppets of the fascist wing of the Republican Party. We are living this dream.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (2, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778650)

Imagine the votes sitting in a beowulf-cluster of puppet-controlled machines!

Not really (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778788)

Diebold is just a tool. And while I suspect that the republican party controls these, I suspect that if dems offered up more to diebold that they would win. IOW, highest bidder wins.

Re:Not really (2, Informative)

AeternitasXIII (628171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780044)

Except that Diebold's CEO is a member of the Republican party, and one of George Bush's Rangers, a class of high donation supporters for his election campaigns. Money doesn't buy loyalty when your target is already paying off someone else he supports.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778840)

Yes, don't you love how those scheming, conniving Republicans, who had only to push around a few bits to tweak the results, manipulated the elections to throw both houses of Congress to the Democrats last year? What a brilliant way to throw people off the scent! Now if they can just get Hillary in the White House, their diabolical strangle hold on power will be all but unbreakable! MUHAHAHA

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (4, Insightful)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778884)

Just a hint, they both are the same thing. Don't trust either, fight both.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (2, Insightful)

nadaou (535365) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780998)

Yeah right both parties are the same thing.

Prime example: Imagine the world today with a President Bush vs. a President Gore or President Kerry.

Both parties may share some of the same social diseases, and the fringe reactionary kooks of both parties are still reactionary kooks, but A==B? No way.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (3, Insightful)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779058)

who had only to push around a few bits

Close races are close races.. can go either way.. that's when manipulation is useful... If there is no doubt that someone was going to win, and they didn't, manipulation would be kind of noticeable wouldn't it ?

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779176)

What makes you think most Democratic politicians aren't part of it, seen any real opposition lately? As for those few who are not, you do have to throw people a bone once and a while.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779364)

The 2006 election took place almost a year after the former CEO [wikipedia.org] of Diebold (a diehard Bush support and major Bush fundraiser) resigned.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21781718)

It is of course impossible for the overall loser in an election to have tainted the vote in any way. Just like it's obvious that man didn't evolve from apes because there are still apes around today. Also, global warming is a hoax because heat comes from the Sun, not the Earth. The war in Iraq is going perfectly because there hasn't been another 9/11 (in America). It's okay for the government to spy on us because we're around people all the time anyway. Etc.

Because Dems do vote fraud the old-fashioned way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779042)

Ever wonder which way precincts that have 100% turnout have 99.9% of their votes go? Just dig through Philadelphia's voting records over the years for examples.

There's a damn good reason why it's been said "When you're alive, you may as well vote Republican, because once you die you'll be voting Democrat!"

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (3, Informative)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779202)

Let me fix those typos for you:

Diebold is the corporation's choice for subverting democracy.

Imagine a world where people vote, but the votes don't matter because the corporations have bribed both wings of the single party in this plutocracy. They just sit in a machine controlled by puppets of the Corporation. We are living this dream.

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21781676)

Yeah, but some people who were two days ago aren't anymore. The Lakota have sen a message to the State Department yesterday, asserting their sovereignty, withdrawing from all treaties with the U.S., and inviting anyone in the five-state area that belongs to them to come along. It's going to be a long, hard struggle for them, but it's already been a long time coming.
  Link:
Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US [google.com]

  - mantar

  (Heh. My captcha was "impolite.")

Re:DIebold Defeats Democracy (1)

SuluSulu (1039126) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781746)

Diebold is the dictator's choice for subverting democracy.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." - Robert J. Hanlon

Diabolds problem is incompetent management that is more concerned with minimizing the bottom line by being cheap with their programmers and trying to make up for their crappy software with marketing, lobbyists, and lawyers instead of fixing the problems.

Good. (1)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778602)

It's nice to see some judges can realise that a data set is not a program, I wonder how the previous decision really came about.

Re:Good. (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778664)

Maybe someone asked the judge if a folder with paper in it is also a "wall cabinet", or if a book is also a "book case"?

Or maybe the judge is one of the rare of his/her breed which actually suffers from an ailment which seems to disqualify most from their profession -- common sense?

Re:Good. (1)

cecilgol (977329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781162)

This is a remarkably well put together decision. It takes into account the security concerns that could arise from allowing folks to study the db schema (including but not limited to the files being leaked to the public).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED denying Plaintiff's request for .... every file with the extension of gbf or mdb. Such denial is without prejudice to the Plaintiff to re-urge the record request after address[ing] .... the security concerns raised.
Judges w/ commonsense ftw!

Re:Good. (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778670)

The data set is not a program, but the program required to interpret the dataset is. If the data files are in some binary proprietary format, there may not be an easy way to interpret what's in the data files without also having access to the program.

Then it would be defective by design (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778720)

Databases need to be available to be output in a standard format, and describable by a data dictionary. Data stored in a binary proprietary format which cannot be interpreted without reading the code of a program is NOT a database.

Why do I in any case guess that this database is either MSDE or SQL Express?

Re:Then it would be defective by design (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779172)

Why do I in any case guess that this database is either MSDE or SQL Express?

I thought Diebold used Access.

Re:Then it would be defective by design (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779246)

I am pretty sure that I saw Access on Hacking Democracy. At least it looked a lot like Access. I don't remember seeing the Access Icon or splash screen though.

Re:Then it would be defective by design (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779472)

Why do I in any case guess that this database is either MSDE or SQL Express?

Why do I guess that it's Microsoft Access?

Re:Good. (3, Funny)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778820)

I'm sure that it has changed since then, but it was reported a few years ago that they were using MS Access MDBs. No, seriously.

Re:Good. (3, Informative)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778876)

A little old, but as I was saying: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0309/S00106.htm/ [scoop.co.nz]

Access confirmed in the court ruling (4, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779068)

The text of the PDF requires them to release "every file .. that ends with the extension 'gbf' or 'mdb', and the password for 'gbf' files." It also mentions that the data has been scrutineered with Access.

The arguments about an Access database being a "program" are probably related to the ability of MDB to contain queries (aka stored procedures).

GBF files are encrypted / compressed MDB files. The dockit claims that "a gbf file can only be created and opened by the GEMS program", but I suspect it unpacks them to a temporary file somewhere before it opens them up with the normal library.

Other little GEMS (sorry, couldn't resist the pun)...

  * "Microsoft has warned against using the mdb format for some critical applications, such as election management software."
  * Each expert witness endorsed a statement that the GEMS software has significant security flaws.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779216)

An .mdb can contain more than just queries. It can also contain forms, reports, and VBA code to tie it all together into an almost-self-contained database app. (Only "almost-self-contained" because it still depends on the presenece of MS Access at runtime.)

So, I'd say that an .mdb file could very well contain a computer program in addition to the dataset. In which case whoever is responsible for providing the data is also responsible for separating it from any protected program, such as by exporting the data or creating a new .mdb without the program elements.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779294)

Does Access let you compile an executable to send out to clients? It seems like it would be the final step to Access being a full application platform. Just make the entire application and self contained in the executable. That way, you could develop everything in access, and the users would just be presented with the interface you give them. Which would make it much easier to limit what they can do with the data, or order to have some level of data integrity. I wouldn't stop a determined hacker, but it would stop the casual user from going into a table and start changing tables and editing records by hand.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779500)

I don't think you can do this with Access; at least not as of the latest version I used.

By nature, Access is not secure and doesn't let you control how a 3rd party (to whom you give the mdb file) will use the data. For that you want a real multi-tier database app.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779900)

I was thinking more along the lines of having the data contained within the exectuable, or at least stored in a separate file that is obfuscated to the degree necessary such that you can't just open it up in access to edit it. I seem to remember FileMaker Pro having a similar feature in when I used it back in highschool. It would be a nice alternative to building a multi-tier database system, when you just want to send a database out to someone to fill in with some data. Usually what we do when we need somebody to send us data is ask for a CSV file, with certain columns. But some companies seem to be unable to follow specifications properly, so it would be nice if you could just give them a nice point and click interface to enter their data in, and then they could just send the file back to you.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (2, Informative)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781424)

From ancient times, I remember there was such a thing as an Access "developer edition". It included the ability to take an .mdb file and create a "compiled" executable that was essentially the original .mdb file bundled with a crippled version of Access -- just enough to distribute a database and embedded VBA application to a computer that had nothing beyond ordinary Windows installed. It was a fragile solution -- many ways to screw it up. Along the same lines, the dev kit also included a freely distributable program that could synchronize databases across the internet. It was even MORE error-prone. Typical Microslop.

The original concept of Access was very good -- a personal database with snazzy query, forms, VBA, etc. Problem is, whenever the data has more than one interested party, Access goes downhill pretty fast. Choosing Access for voting machines tells me a great deal about Diebold's IT capabilities. Based on nothing more than circumstantial evidence, I think they chose MS as a vendor, right off the bat. Then they considered MS products that would be useful. Then they tried to limit the cost while meeting someone's hyper-aggressive Gantt chart (prepared in MS Project, of course). Put them all together and you end up with Access. If you release any of those constraints (MS, cost, time) the solution can be made more reliable, more secure, and cheaper. It would be hard to choose ANY other alternative without picking up some kind of benefit.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779300)

Oh, acknowledged, I've seen some real monstrosities written that way too. In this particular case though, the arguments are limited to quibbles about queries (confirmed by reading further down). GEMS is a separate application ; it would be trivial to demonstrate that an election system based on VBA was insecure, because the macros are available as source in the database file.

Re:Access confirmed in the court ruling (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779804)

Actually, the court denied the plaintiffs' request for EVERY .mdb and .gbf file, but did not preclude their requesting additional files in future discovery. Just the 2006 election files were required to be disclosed by Pima County.

You really ought to read through the entire decision, not just to be accurate. It's very nearly both an indictment of the significant security problems with GEMS and Diebold stuff in general, but fairly well-written decision. Plenty of tidbits showing how clueless the election officials can be, how insecure this stuff really is, and how political parties can positively influence election practices.

Damn, and I live here too. Next county over. I'm gonna have to watch this stuff from now on.

Re:Good. (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779152)

OMFG. You are serious. The Jet database has long been considered deprecated by Microsoft [microsoft.com] .

Re:Good. (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779970)

Access/Jet is still quite a useful tool.... for throwing together a quick prototype/demo application.

Re:Good. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781636)

That's what Visual Basic + SQL Server Express is for.

Or, for a more open source approach, OpenOffice.org + MySQL.

Re:Good. (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21782080)

What I meant to do was marginalize Diebold's software, as a prototype/demo.

I'm actually a bit horrified if this shit is going to be used in a serious election processes.

Re:Good. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779292)

It's nice to see some judges can realise that a data set is not a program

Too bad Microsoft can't realise that! Of course, it's hard to impliment Dumb Restrictions on Music (DRM) without making your data file format (wma) also be a program. I can't understand why a plain word processing document should be a program though.

I'm surprised that they haven't come up with a photo file that your can write a virus in.

Data should be data and code should be code. The judge gets it, but unfortunately way too many computer programmers don't.

-mcgrew

(Today's journal is kinda sorta on-topic for this post)

Re:Good. (1)

xystren (522982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780972)

It's nice to see some judges can realise that a data set is not a program, I wonder how the previous decision really came about.

Perhaps, the way that you refer to "dataset" if it is just that.

One could easily argue, that any sort of logic that is used within a stored procedure within a database could be considered a "program." Where exactly does the line between database/stored procedure and program lie?

I would argue, any sort of data integrity checking done within a stored procedure in a database would constitute a "program" in the context they are arguing. That stored procedure gets changed, the entire integrity of the "dataset" then becomes suspect.

Granted, we are talking "Microsoft Access" here, and the complexity that one can create is somewhat limited when compared to MSSQL/MYSQL/Oracle/etc. but one could argue, that the first part, the "Microsoft" part could be reason enough to consider the entire process suspect, but given that aside does anyone else have a problem with this:

[FTFA] The GEMS-created mdb file can be opened using Microsoft Access. Data in the file can be manipulated. Password protection can be overwritten. The full functionally of the GEMS program of the GEMS program, however, cannot be utilized if the mdb file is opened in Microsoft Access. GEMS is necessary to utilize all of the election-related functions.

Ummm, so I can edit the data, overwrite passwords, but everything is ok, because GEMS is necessary to utilize all of the election-related functions. I'm glad they cleared that up. So I can edit the raw data, but not to worry, the GEMS software is required to utilized the election related functions. EXCUSE ME?!?!?!?!? GEMS makes use of that data to facilitate the election related functions [read: vote count with questionable data integrity]

I would not be comfortable with this. Thank god I'm Canadian, and I'm not eligible to vote in the US. I have my opinion(s), and in the US, my vote doesn't count, but it's not counted for a legal/proper reason; not due to some fail-able voting machine.

Cheers,
Xyst

Hey now! (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778660)

In closing arguments of the four-day trial that began Dec. 4, Pima County argued the databases meet the definition of a computer program
In that case, all the filing cabinets in my office meet the definition of filing clerks, and should all be drawing salaries. Just write those checks out in my name, boss, I'll take care of the details...

If voting made a difference, it would be illegal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779604)

"If voting made a difference, it would be illegal."

-- Emma Goldman

Not again! (2, Insightful)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778700)

Why do they keep demanding recounts! Seems like the better approach would be to set out a platform that solves the basic problems for the majority of people. Instead they (both parties) spend time tearing down each other as well as themselves then run crying to the courts when things don't happen to fall their way.

Concentrate on solving the problems not trying to figure out some loop hole or proving some conspiracy and blaming others for not doing well at the polls.

I really wish there was a third party candidate that had a shot at winning.

Re:Not again! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778872)

Because if there was this 3rd part candidate capable of winning, the election could potentially be altered such that they do not win. If the elections aren't fair or aren't accurate, the most voted for candidate won't win. These people are just making an effort to ensure that the votes are counted properly.

Why does the Elections Office want to protect the data so much? Either they are protecting their own negligence or wrong doing. Either way, neither of those have a place in elections.

Re:Not again! (2, Insightful)

TTURabble (1164837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779028)

Why do they keep demanding recounts!

Because of people like you, You can call everything a conspiracy theory and denounce it as crazy, but I'd rather have checks in place to make sure anyway.

There isn't any reason to go crying over spilled milk, but at the same time we should be working to make sure it won't spill again. This is one of the ways to make sure our next election is fair.

Take the 2004 election (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779278)

Does it make you a conspiracy theorist to be suspicious and cautious when an election comes down to a few hundred votes in a state whose election commissioner was appointed by the brother of the winning candidate?!?! If it is, then give me my tin-foil hat, brother!

Re:Not again! (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780602)

There isn't any reason to go crying over spilled milk,


Rigged elections are "spilled milk"?
Subverting the people's will is "spilled milk"?
The results of an election affect our nation's policies, as well as the lives of our civilians and military members for years.
If democracy has been subverted, it needs to be rectified immediately, and not delayed until the next election cycle.

Re:Not again! (4, Insightful)

Falstius (963333) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779130)

Yeah! And why bother investigating burglary, just buy better locks. No need to investigate embezzlement just have better accountants. Oh, and murder, pshaw. We should focus on inventing better medicine.

Accountability is important. There is not nearly enough of it in the American government, at any level.

Re:Not again! (2, Insightful)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780124)

When has a police department every really investigated a burglary? Maybe when it happens to some one in power or famous. In the real world police departments simply file some paper work and then go get some donuts. They don't investigate anything as lowly as a burglary.

Accountability is important. But after all these recounts and investigations there has not been anyone charged with voter fraud, just accusations and innuendo.

Politicians have been breed to win elections, not to solve the problems that this country has. Actually it is a fairly good example of evolution in action. Those that can get money from various lobbies and can talk to crowds and convince them that they have the same views as the crowd.

Politics has come down to simple sound bites, there is not substance. Regardless of which party is in office we get pretty much the same results.

Post all the results on usdoj.gov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779162)

To have a fair election, give voters a slip of paper with a number randomly selected from the range of numbers of registered voters in their district. Post all of the election results on the web as a web-page and link the number they received with the vote that was recorded. 1-you would not have double vote counting. 2-the votes would be verifiable Or we could just use Ohio's voting system nation wide- time stamp the voters signature compare that list with the list of votes in order and you just might be able to see who voted for Secret Voting is passe

Personal Safety, However, is NOT Passe (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780294)

The idea behind the secret ballot is to prevent things such as fraud, blackmail and coercion. I would much rather have to go through the rigmarole to make the voting process transparent and verifiable without having to resort to stripping away a basic protection that would leave me and everyone open to having real barbarian tactics used. Without a secret ballot you *have* to vote the way your social environment votes, or you're going to have some real difficulties. And that, in a democracy, is just not right.

Re:Not again! (2, Insightful)

MonsterMasher (518641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779174)

If the data shows when the vote was done - which I'm sure it does - then
the data can be evaluated and stats worked up.

If someone was fooling with the vote count they would have to be very careful
in how they entered the data. Stats can be run one the distribution pattern and
non-random sequence of entries can be looked at closely.

Hell - every election voting database should be accessable on the net for any
election, so that ANYONE can run the numbers and take a look. look what happened
2004 election - someone was able to show the the exit poles were SIGNIFICANTLY
different then the results. Showing it had been rigged.

The powerful conservative group that is trying to run this country and own the media
tried to debunk it but it holds true.

They silenced the discussion pretty well - don't you think?

**BANG** ("looks like another suicide guys - but it's okay the guy's
spelling was harrable!")

Re:Not again! (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779434)

I agree with a lot of what you say but I must warn you that I've lied in every exit poll I ever participated in for philosophical reasons.

It's tricky to make the data public. We are trying to balance between a secret ballot and voting fraud. Database analysis makes it increasingly easy to tell exactly how people voted (esp in smaller districts) which puts people under pressure.

I do not think it is a powerful conservative group. It is a powerful wealthy and corporate group. The conservative is just a sham used to rope in 10-15% of voters. Very little was actually done for conservatives during the last 7 years compared to the amount that was done for corporations and the wealthy. While the justices put on the court were anti-abortion, their pro-business/pro-corporate/pro-wealthy leanings were much more significant.

I feel the best thing that could happen for the left would be to lose on abortion. That would take the wind out of the conservative sails for a generation and likely massively activate the left's base.

Agreed... But... (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780368)

I agree with virtually everything you've said save for losing on abortion. I don't think that losing on that issue will motivate people as much as you think, and losing that will be a severe blow. Realize that the left's 'base' is very different than it used to be; they didn't grow up without abortion as a right, and don't necessarily understand what it means. Further, there are a lot of cultural issues pushing them away from activism.

The best for the left - and government in general - will be to have quick and transparent reporting of exactly what the government is doing.

Re:Not again! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779558)

I really wish there was a third party candidate that had a shot at winning.

So long as you folks keep thinking that way, the Republicrats will always be this country's only two-winged party. Stop worrying about whether or not your candidate is going to lose.

No vote is ever wasted just because the candidate it's cast for loses. But if you vote for a candidate that will pass laws against your interests, then you have indeed wasted your vote in the most foolish way possible.

I split my vote between the Greens and teh Libertariuans. If you people would stop thinking that I waste my vote, maybe one of these parties will actually win an election some day.

Re:Not again! (0)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780190)

The only confirmed vote stealing was done by the DEMOCRATS in Chicago! I guess they feel since they can't be trusted... no one can.

Why Trust? Audit! (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780424)

Look, all institutions with significant finances require rigorous auditing. We require it for business - why not for our government? They say that no one wants to see how sausage or laws are made: but it's exactly that opinion that keeps us out of the loop and powerless.

More controls. More transparency. Fewer single points of failure. It's the only solution.

Re:Not again! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781030)

The Democrats are one of the two wings of the Republicrat Party. Republicrats (Democrats and Republicans) want marijuana outlawed; I want it legalized. They want gambling outlawed; I think it's none of their damned business. They want prostitution outlawed, I'm a horney single man.

Both wings voted for the Bono Act, the DMCA, the PATRIOT act, Bankrupcy Reform, all which I was and am vehemently against.

From my perspective I don't see any damned difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Both are for the things I am against, and against the things I'm for. Both are for the corporations, and against the citizens of our once great nation.

We now have a Democrat Senate and Congress, so why are we still wasting soldiers' lives in Iraq?

Re:Not again! (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780476)

I don't do it because I hate the Republicans or any other political party. I push for it in order to establish that these electronic voting machines are easily susceptible to tampering and that they should be replaced with machines that are running open source software so that I can verify myself (if so inclined) that it wouldn't be possible for anyone to tamper with the machine in order to rig an election and leave no method of determining that any damage had been done. I'm not say that this has or hasn't happened in the past, I just want to ensure that it never happens again or a first time.

A lot of states have been waking up to just how insecure these electronic voting machines are and that without a paper trail there's no way of getting an accurate vote count if the results have been doctored. A person's vote really doesn't count if someone has gone into the machine and altered it or completely wiped it out.

/. exclusive - the DB schema (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778710)

CREATE TABLE total_votes (
democrat_vote_total TINYINT,
republican_vote_total BIGINT
);

filed under duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778718)

Well the database files which contain the data are not executable and can't be compiled by a compiler or executed by an interpreter so yea they are not a program.

-AC

Whoa! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778722)

*runs to window, checks sky... hmm... not falling? wtf?*

A judge who knows the difference between a database and a program. Now, if I can find a heterosexual masseur, I've seen anything I thought could not exist.

Re:Whoa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779016)

Now, if I can find a heterosexual masseur, I've seen anything I thought could not exist.

What do you care as long as you get your happy ending?

Re:Whoa! (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779136)

Now, if I can find a heterosexual masseur, I've seen anything I thought could not exist.

I have two of them in my immediate family, fwiw. Glad I could help.
Cheers,
Nathan

Re:Whoa! (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779792)

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart is through stress-relieving massage.

If guys figured this out, there would be many, many more heterosexual masseurs.

Re:Whoa! (1)

psychicninja (1150351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779946)

Now, if I can find a heterosexual masseur, I've seen anything I thought could not exist.
Don't you watch late-night Cinemax?

A simple remark (4, Insightful)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778780)

How is it possible in the 21st century in the USA that one uses electronic voting machines with one hand while publishing important documents as scanned images with the other one?

From The Article (not the PDF) (4, Insightful)

TTURabble (1164837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778790)

"There is a significant risk these systems could be hacked or discredited," Denker said.

I pretty much think that this is the point; and it is an important point, because without the ability to call "bullshit" then you lose the legitimacy of the votes. Any corporation wouldn't trust an accountant to maintain the books without auditing them periodically, this is basically the same thing.

also, the systems can already be hacked (quite easily I believe)

Re:From The Article (not the PDF) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21782066)

You forgot to emphasize:

"There is a significant risk these systems could be hacked or discredited," Denker said.

Which is an admission of why we should not be using them, and why they should be examined more carefully.

An upbelievable argument! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778818)

I could ask even the most unwashed user the different between a program and data and I'd guess they'd have some clue about the difference most of the time. These lawyers are supposed to be educated people. I cannot believe they could even consider such an argument with a straight face. Simply making such an argument should be cause for a bar hearing I think.

Re:An upbelievable argument! (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779206)

I could ask even the most unwashed user the different between a program and data and I'd guess they'd have some clue about the difference most of the time
RMS? Why yes, he'd have some clue, maybe even some expertise.

What? I keed, I keed...

I'm All For Transparency in E-Voting (1, Funny)

TrollMaster 9000 (957590) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778888)

Because the only way Dennis Kucinich or Cynthia McKinney will ever win an election is when some smelly fat slob in a penguin t-shirt games the machines.

Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (4, Interesting)

Theovon (109752) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779010)

A database file is just data, to be interpreted by a database program.
But the database program is just data to be interpreted by the CPU.

Data vs. document is a spectrum. There is no clear distinction. We tend to think of documents as just information, describing some structured knowledge, which is true. But by contrast, we tend to think of programs as containing primarily step-by-step instructions. But those instructions don't execute themselves. They're input to something. And moreover, not all programs are instructions. Consider Prolog, where the functions are described in terms of logical relationships, and the step-by-step instructions are inferred by the interpreter. Just because the Prolog program doesn't include instructions, per se, doesn't make us say it's not a program. At the same time, the distinction between a Prolog program and an expert system knowledge base (in term of form and function) is not clear.

Everything is just data. What makes it meaningful is the order and interpretation that we impose on it.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (2, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779412)

Yes and no. Most modern architectures blur the distinction by allowing data and code to reside in the same storage, and even allowing you to treat a section of memory as data at one moment and code at the next (which in theory allows for some neat self-modifying code (but that hasn't proven useful in the consumer market at least) but in practice is the root cause of every email virus ever).

The principle difference, though, is that code is functional while data is expressive. You can argue that this is a fuzzy distinction itself, and in a sense you'd be right -- but that doesn't stop it from carrying very tangible 1st ammendment implications when applied to human language (in the US). So it's as good a test as any, IMO, to decide if a collection of 1's and 0's can be considered protected as a program.

And yes, there are cases where we could argue about whether a structure is functional or whether it's expressive. HTML tags. Certain DVD content. But the subject at hand -- a voting machine database -- are highly unlikely to fall in those gray areas.

Let's not pretend this was an enlightened attempt to make sure the lines were drawn properly. It was a technicality-seeking attempt to avoid releasing the requested information in spite of the legal requirement to do so.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780332)

Most modern architectures blur the distinction by allowing data and code to reside in the same storage, and even allowing you to treat a section of memory as data at one moment and code at the next (which in theory allows for some neat self-modifying code (but that hasn't proven useful in the consumer market at least) but in practice is the root cause of every email virus ever).


Actually, you're referring to Von Neumann architecture. The other architecture is Harvard. Harvard has separate code and data memory (mostly - you still get the convenience of immediate mode addressing in Harvard). But code can only work on data memory - it cannot work on code memory. However, it's only really useful for speciailized computers running the same code on different data (e.g., signal processing - the data is transformed the same way all the time, so the code can reside in ROM, while the data comes in from whatever source is providing it).

The Von Neumann architecture (code and data are intermingled, and one and the same) is your standard computer architecture. However, the behavior is used very often. Think every time you call exec() or CreateProcess() - the OS has to allocate memory, copy the code to memory (i.e., to the OS, your executable program is data), then tell the processor to run the code (now the data is code). Or even consider the bootstrap program - it has to find the OS loader program, which it copies off some storage to memory (data), then runs it (code). It's this architecture that makes modern computing possible...

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781328)

So, you're saying that the only two possible architectures are (a) one in which code and data are treated identically, or (b) one in which you can't perform load operations on code?

What an amazingly narrow world view.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779764)

Data vs. document is a spectrum

Only if you live in the Microsoft world. A horse is a four legged animal, but having four legs does not make a cat the same as a horse.

A program is executable data. If you can execute it, it's a program. If you can't, it's data. A WMA file is a program, a n MP3 or OGG file is data.

If Microsoft would learn that data as data should NOT be executable they wouldn't have so much trouble making their stuff secure.

To crack a program with pure data (text file, MP3 file, etc) involves a bug or design defect in the program (stack overflow, etc). To crack a program whose data are really code (Word file, WMA file, etc) you don't need to find holes in the program; your dataset is a program.

-mcgrew

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780320)

The problem is that any data can become a program: Just write an interpreter that treats it as one.

It's not such a straightforward distinction.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781880)

You can't execute data that is being interpreted unless the interpreter is running. If the OS is the data's interpreter then your OS has a big gaping hole in it.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780564)

Except that LISP documentation explicitly states that that in a LISP program there is no distinction between code and data. This is the case for any dynamic language, and before anybody goes off about the LISP paradigm being an academic exercise, take a look at Ruby on Rails and tell me where code ends and data begins.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21782230)

Well yes, many BASIC interpreters execute plain text as data as well, but you have to have the interpreter running for the data to be dangerous. You can't rename VIRUS.BAT to VIRUS.TXT and have it execute, nor can you rename VIRUS.BAS to VIRUS.BAT and have it execute.

You can use WMA's DRM to write a trojan; execute the trojaned WMA file in Windows (won't work in Linux, haven't tried it with Mac) with any media player I've tried including Winamp and you're hosed. But you can't write a virus afaik with an OGG file unless you somehow munge the ID3 and your media player is poorly designed or buggy.

If you rename TROJAN.WMA to TROJAN.MP3 and play it with Winamp, Winamp will choke and it simply won't play. Play that same file in Windows Media Player and you're hosed.

Technically you're right, but it's semantic hair splitting. Yes, it's all zeros and ones until you get to actual applications. I can't say such a thing doesn't exist but I've never seen a good reason to have macros in a word processing document.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

jhines (82154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779852)

In this case, voting, the data is the item.

We (voters) have a need to collect said data, and used (paid for) your (vendor's) machine/program to do so. We still own the raw data, and the information contained in. Dump the table of votes, in comma delimited form, and burn it to a DVD, which is then MD5 (or something) as "official", and can be published.

No proprietary information needs to be revealed to anybody. Just a list, one line per vote, and answers voted on.

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21782252)

How useful is that going to be, really. The vote-table doesn't have any identifying marks, so how do you know that the sequence:

Candidate choice for office [4 choices]: 1,1,4,1,4,1,3,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,1,2,2,2,3,1...

is generated from real votes and not just from

...
fprintf('%d,',weight(.5,.3,.1,.1,rand())); /* in loop (make sure coefficients add to unity)*/
...

Just base metal or dried pigment until viewed (3, Insightful)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780324)

A database file is just data, to be interpreted by a database program.
But the database program is just data to be interpreted by the CPU.

Data vs. document is a spectrum. There is no clear distinction. ...

Everything is just data. What makes it meaningful is the order and interpretation that we impose on it.

How very Hinduistically existential of you, actually. Quoting from a recent Natl. Geo. article, Faces of the Divine in the January 2008 issue (which I received earlier this week, thanks apparently to time-traveling magazine editors):

... Beauty meant nothing in itself: A work of art, whether a bronze statue of Shiva engaged in his cosmic dance of creating and destroying the universe or a painting of the Buddha attaining enlightenment under the bodhi tree, amounted to no more than base metal or dried pigment until a viewer responded to it. Seeing a painting or sculpture in a temple opened the minds of receptive worshippers to intimate communion with the divine. Seeing was believing.

Hindus call this intense participatory relationship with art an act of darshan, or "seeing" the deity. "Such seeing does not literally mean merely using one's eyes," according to art historian Vidya Dehejia, "but is a dynamic act of awareness." For the Buddhist monks and their patrons at Ajanta monastery, paintings of the Buddha served the same potent function, providing a key to revelation.

So I suppose what you describe would be the CPU's darshan of the code. (Though one could probably make a reasonable argument about which is data and which the program on the basis of specifically how dynamic the darshan needs to be to make sense of it.)

I find it somehow reassuring, and deeply cool, that certain wisdoms of the ancients can be perfectly relevant in wildly different contexts. It's also humbling to find how much our supposedly "primitive" ancestors got right in areas that we have forgotten or set aside. :)

Cheers,

Re:Programs, Data, fuzzy distinctions (1)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781554)

"A database file is just data, to be interpreted by a database program.
But the database program is just data to be interpreted by the CPU."

You get points for clever-sounding obfuscation. Good job.

A set of data is a program if some automatic mechanism is capable of interpreting that data to provide:

1) Sequencing.
2) Decisions.
3) Iteration.

That is the minimal definition of a program. A collection of semi-random data that is not processable by such an automated mechanism automatically disqualifies that set of data as a program. Diebold's database provides none of the three, so claiming that it qualifies as a computer program is ridiculous on the face of it.

Security by obscurity? (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779074)

If the security of the system depends on keeping the implementation secret, then it's not secure. Huckelberry's assertions are themselves an indictment of Diebold's product.

A step in the right direction (1, Insightful)

harshmanrob (955287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779170)

Hopefully, this ruling will lead to the removal of all of these "electoral vote control and modification machines" and getting back to a system of legit elections. I still think we need UN election monitors at every polling station in the US.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

TrollMaster 9000 (957590) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780398)

I think you need to remove that stick from your ass and get a life.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

harshmanrob (955287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780600)

You know what? Fuck you. I am tired of the republicans and lying, cheating, and destroying people's lives all in the name of God. I have had it. They illegally invade Iraq, commit mass murder and genocide and claim the authority of god to justify their actions. Our soldiers rape and murder for jollies at the approval of this government. You neocon pieces of shit are going to reap what you sew one day.

The US and its people have a sick world view of "we run the place". That shit needs to stop. I do not support this dictatorship tyranny. They are rigging elections now to stay in power. I want Ron Paul to win but he will likely be dead sooner rather than later.

Soon, the world will have to impose regime change here in the US and unfortunately, a lot of good people who had nothing to do with this shit is going to die as a result.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

harshmanrob (955287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780650)

I screwed up. I meant to rip into your sorry ass, not myself. Just wanted to make sure you knew who I was talking to. You need to wake you neocon ass up and fight against this tyranny you blindly support. The AZ ruling is a move against rigged elections and dictatorship.

vote with (what's left in) yOUR wallet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779468)

one needs to to stop the bleeding before any healing can occur.

in the end, the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in.

for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it?

we're intending for the nazis to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather'.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

whilst (yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

still making his views known worldwide, whilst many of US keep yOUR heads firmly lodged in the silicon sand hoping (against overwhelming information to the contrary) that the party LIEn scriptdead pr ?firm? fairytail hypenosys scenario will never end.

for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

I thank you fVor your time (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21779628)

similarly 6ris7y

data vs. code can be point-of-view issue (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779822)

All programs are data.
All data can be stored in a database.
Some data are programs.

If I store my C code in a database that does not make it "not a program."

Election results are typically not a program.

However, I could design a machine that takes this data and interprets it as instructions. For example, I could design a plotter that took the candidate's name as a change-of-direction instruction and the number of votes as a draw-a-line-this-long instruction. If I do this then the election data becomes a program in much the same way that a Postscript file is a program.

I could also be silly to prove a point and take the raw database file and feed it directly into the CPU of your choice and see how soon the program crashed.

The craptaculous /. edit (3, Interesting)

Windrip (303053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779936)

Those of you truly interested in this story should read the firehose version [slashdot.org] .

I think the links in the firehose version of the story are more apropos to this post's tags.

Of particular concern to me is the replacement of one the original post's links with one that references a newspaper I consider to be a parody of press oversight. I would never source that bloated, piss-stained, corporate catamite in any post I write.

So, when /. writes "Windrip writes", they're lying. I didn't write what was posted on the front page of /. I didn't even provide one of the links in the story.

Nevertheless, of particular interest to /. readers might be the forensic study conducted on the DB. I found it here. [azag.gov]

MOD PARENT UP (1)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780408)

Or at the very least, read the post and have a look at the links. This is particularly damning of /. editors:

Of particular concern to me is the replacement of one the original post's links with one that references a newspaper I consider to be a parody of press oversight. I would never source that bloated, piss-stained, corporate catamite in any post I write.

So, when /. writes "Windrip writes", they're lying. I didn't write what was posted on the front page of /. I didn't even provide one of the links in the story.

Cheers,

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