BlueHummingbird News - Archive

Elections and Voting, 2003:

From Wired News: 02:00 AM Aug. 27, 2003 PT
No Consensus on Voting Machines
" ... "If we walk down the path of 100 percent computerized, paperless voting, we surrender the 'keys to the kingdom' to a handful of private companies who use proprietary software to run elections," wrote Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation and member of a task force appointed by Shelley to investigate election security issues. ... "

From The Plain Dealer at 08/28/03
Voting machine controversy
Julie Carr Smyth, Plain Dealer Bureau
Columbus - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election. O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington. The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election. ...

From the Palm Beach Post: Sunday, August 31, 2003
Paper or electrons?
By C.B. Hanif, Palm Beach Post Editorial Writer
" ... Meanwhile, worries about electronic-voting fraud are being expressed nationwide because credible computer science experts have said the Diebold touch-screen machines could be vulnerable to hackers. Those machines are not certified in Florida, and State Elections Director Edward Kast says voters here can be assured that their votes are being counted accurately "because of the standards and security systems that are in place." But Diebold's problems suggest that software designed by other companies could prove to be flawed unless there is sufficient state and federal oversight. Obviously, the recount issue is particularly sensitive for Florida, and Rep. Wexler contends that the state "is dangerously susceptible to another debacle." He supported the $3.9 billion Help America Vote Act that Congress passed in November. It requires all states to replace antiquated voting equipment by 2006.
After reviewing Florida's plan to comply with the law, Rep. Wexler noted last month in a letter to Secretary of State Glenda Hood that under the Florida Election Reform Act of 2001, a machine recount will be conducted automatically when the margin of victory in the first set of unofficial returns is one-half of 1 percent or less. In addition, a manual recount of the overvotes and undervotes will take place automatically when the margin of victory in the second set of unofficial returns is one-fourth of 1 percent or less. If the margin in the second set is between one-fourth and one-half of 1 percent, a manual recount may be requested.
"But if there is no paper ballot," Rep. Wexler says, "then there is no way of conducting a manual recount, and that is a violation of the new state election laws. In a recount without voter-verifiable paper ballots, the machines will only reprint the same results they recorded the first time. This simply means there is no way to confirm that the original results are correct, which is the essence of a recount." ... "

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Posted September 12 2003
Miami-Dade commissioners decide against refitting county's voting machines
By Jean-Paul Renaud, Miami Bureau
Miami-Dade County voters will have to trust the electronic voting machines county officials invested millions of dollars in, at least for the foreseeable future. County commissioners on Thursday decided against backing a resolution that would have required election officials to equip Miami-Dade's 7,200 iVotronic machines -- which cost taxpayers $24.5 million -- with equipment that would record a paper printout of all votes. ... Proponents of the resolution said the county's voting machines are not in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002. The act requires that all machines have the capability of producing a printout. ...
Voting machine vendors said that even if Miami-Dade decided to invest in the necessary equipment to produce paper backups, it would be difficult for them to supply their clients. "Miami has nothing they can buy from us," said John Groh, senior vice president of Election Systems & Software, the company that sold the machines to the county in 2001. Groh said any voting equipment available for purchase by the county would still need to be certified by both federal and state agencies. No such machine has yet been approved anywhere in the United States, he said.

From IEEE Spectrum:
A Better Ballot Box?
New electronic voting systems pose risks as well as solutions
By Rebecca Mercuri, Bryn Mawr College
" ... A method of voting described by this author over a decade ago, referred to as the Mercuri Method, requires that the voting system print a paper ballot containing the selections made on the computer [see illustration]. This ballot is then examined for correctness by the voter through a glass or screen, and deposited mechanically into a ballot box, eliminating the chance of accidental removal from the premises. If, for some reason, the paper does not match the intended choices on the computer, a poll worker can be shown the problem, the ballot can be voided, and another opportunity to vote provided. ...
The Mercuri Method recount concept has been incorporated into recent voting legislation reforms (including some in Florida, California, and Maryland) that require the voting systems to produce paper audit trails. ... Although some vendors, such as Avante Systems (Princeton, N.J.), have started to incorporate voter-verifiability into their products, the largest companies have oddly interpreted these laws to mean that audit trail printing can be done from the internally recorded ballots after the election. ...

At Scoop: Wednesday, 17 September 2003, 10:22 am
Bev Harris: Diebold End-Runs Around Certification

From The Moscow Times: Friday, Sep. 19, 2003. Page XII
Global Eye -- Vanishing Act By Chris Floyd
" ... It's a hacker's dream, with pork-funded, half-finished, secretly programmed computer systems installed without basic security standards by politically partisan private firms, and protected by law from public scrutiny. It's how the United States, the "world's greatest democracy," casts its votes. And it's why George W. Bush will almost certainly be the next president of the United States -- no matter what the people of the United States might want. ... The unelected Bush Regime now controls the government, the military, the judiciary -- and the machinery of democracy itself. Absent some unlikely great awakening by the co-opted dullards of the corporate media, next November the last shreds of a genuine American republic will disappear -- at the push of a button."

From Salon: Sept. 23, 2003
An open invitation to election fraud By Farhad Manjoo
Not only is the country's leading touch-screen voting system so badly designed that votes can be easily changed, but its manufacturer is run by a die-hard GOP donor who vowed to deliver his state for Bush next year.
" ... Salon: So what was the flaw?
Bev Harris: Specifically the flaw was that you can get at the central vote-counting database through Microsoft Access. They have the security disabled. And when you get in that way, you are able to overwrite the audit log, which is supposed to log the transactions, and this [audit log] is one of the key things they cite as a security measure when they sell the system.
Salon: So you can break in and then hide your tracks.
Bev Harris: You don't even need to break in. It will open right up and in you go. You can change the votes and you can overwrite the audit trail. It doesn't keep any record of anything in the audit trail when you're in this back door, but let's say you went in the front door and you didn't want to have anything you did there appear anywhere -- you can then go in the backdoor and erase what you did.
Salon: Who would have access to this? Are we talking about elections officials?
Bev Harris: A couple situations. Obviously anybody who has access to the computer, whether that's the election supervisor, their assistants, the IT people, the janitor -- anybody who has access to the computer can get into it.
Salon: Where is this computer -- is there one per county?
Bev Harris: Yes, there's one per county.
The other situation would be supposing someone gets in by either hacking the telephone system or by going backwards in through the Internet, because the Internet does connect to these GEMS computers, even though they deny it. A lot of the press watches election results come in on the Web and what they're watching is actually being uploaded directly off the GEMS computer.
Salon: These computers in the counties are connected to the Internet, and someone can go through the Internet --
Bev Harris: -- and just go into it, correct. It would be as the results are uploading. You see, they make a big point of the fact that there's no Internet connection to the voting machine, but that's sort of parsing the issue. That's true, in the polling places there's no Internet connection, but the voting machines connect into the GEMS machine through modem. And the GEMS machine then connects to the Internet, and that's what the press watches.
Salon: And somebody who knows about this can go to each one of those GEMS machines and have access to the vote and change the results?
Bev Harris: Yes, as they're coming in. ... And, by the way, this flaw that we're discussing right now affects optical-scan and touch-screen machines equally. They both come into the GEMS program. ...
Salon: OK, so we should talk about how Diebold responded to your posting these memos.
Bev Harris: As soon ... a few days after we posted them they sent us a cease-and-desist letter -- interestingly authenticating the memos and laying claim to them, telling us that they were copyrighted. So they claimed copyright and they told us to take them off the Web. ...
Salon: Are you going to respond to them?
Bev Harris: Well, these memos are on the Web in so many locations that we took them off and put a link to someone else who put them up. So that fulfills our requirement under the law. ... "

At Take Back The Media: Voterevolution

At 9-24-03 Shut Down 'Temporarily'
Due to a dispute with Diebold, Incorporated, and its wholly owned subsidiary Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (collectively "Diebold"), which is claiming links to certain materials that do not reside on the website constitute copyright infringement, has been temporarily disabled. ...

From The Inquirer: Wednesday 24 September 2003, 11:27
Diebold takes down
US election fraud? Perish the thought!
By Egan Orion
DIEBOLD ELECTION SYSTEMS has brandished lawyers' threats to take down that pesky citizens activist website It seems they charged copyright infringement regarding materials on other websites that merely linked to, despite such links having been ruled legal by appellate courts in other instances. ...

From The Baltimore Sun: Originally published September 25, 2003
Voting system found to have election risks
Independent study says Md.'s touch-screen device is vulnerable to tampering; State believes flaws can be fixed; Work to ensure security starts; plan proceeds to use machines in March
By David Nitkin, Sun Staff
An independent review of Maryland's proposed touch-screen voting system released yesterday found a "high risk of compromise" by malicious outsiders who might want to tamper with election results. But state officials believe the flaws can be fixed quickly, and are continuing with plans to distribute the machines statewide for the presidential primary election in March. ...
The outside evaluation was ordered by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., shortly after a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University concluded that the software behind Diebold Election Systems' AccuVote-TS voting machines was vulnerable to tampering that could skew election results. ...
"The system, as implemented in policy, procedure and technology, is at high risk of compromise," the report said. "Any computerized voting system implemented using the present set of policies and procedures would require these same mitigations." ... While the SAIC report was released yesterday, the study was completed about three weeks ago, and state officials have been meeting with Diebold representatives and others to discuss the results. About 60 pages of 200 were made public. ...

From BuzzFlash: September 29, 2003
A Special Message to BuzzFlash Readers from Bev Harris
BuzzFlash Interview With Bev Harris
Tempory Site for BlackBoxVoting

From Wired News: 08:39 AM Oct. 06, 2003 PT
Time to Recall E-Vote Machines? By Kim Zetter

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Posted October 9 2003
Oliphant says she's fighting so Florida won't be 'butt of jokes'
By Scott Wyman, Staff Writer
Continuing the purge of her office staff, Broward County Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant on Wednesday fired the clerk who tipped state prosecutors to the location of hundreds of absentee ballots that were never counted in the September 2002 primary. ...

From Wired News: 02:00 AM Oct. 13, 2003 PT
Did E-Vote Firm Patch Election? By Kim Zetter
" ... Now a former worker in Diebold's Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machines before the state's 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials. ..."

From The Independent: 14 October 2003
All the President's votes?
A quiet revolution is taking place in US politics. By the time it's over, the integrity of elections will be in the unchallenged, unscrutinised control of a few large - and pro-Republican - corporations. Andrew Gumbel wonders if democracy in America can survive

From The Independent: 14 October 2003
Fears of more US electoral chaos after flaws are discovered in ballot computers
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles (site now shut down) (page has now changed)

From Truthout: Saturday 25 October 2003
A Brief History of Computerized Election Fraud in America
By Victoria Collier, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

From The Phoenix (Swarthmore College): October 30, 2003
Election memos now hosted by 30 schools BY MATTHEW FITTING

From The Tri-Valley Herald:
Article Last Updated: Wednesday, November 05, 2003 - 3:02:37 AM PST
E-voting hits speed bump in Alameda County Computer software used
By Ian Hoffman
Thousands of Alameda County voters cast ballots Tuesday on computer software that state and county elections officials say was never certified for a California election. Same for last month's recall election. State and county officials were dismayed last week to learn that Diebold Elections Systems Inc. altered the software running in Alameda County's touchscreen voting machines yet neither submitted it for state testing nor even notified state authorities of the change. ... Publicly, Diebold officials denied having a software-certification problem in California generally, where the company awaits a flood of new machine orders, or in Alameda County, their largest customer in the West. ...

From AP at MSNBC:
GOP wins Ky., Miss. governor races
"Nov. 5 ó With a presidential campaign only months away, Republicans picked up two governorships in the South, ousting Mississippiís Democratic incumbent and seizing Kentuckyís top job for the first time in 32 years. ... Republicans went into the election holding seven of 11 governorships in the South, having turned out Democratic chief executives in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia last year. With Arnold Schwarzeneggerís victory in California last month and victories for Fletcher and Barbour, Republicans will hold 29 governorships nationwide.
One more governor will be elected this year, also in the South. The race to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Mike Foster goes before Louisiana voters Nov. 15. ... "

From IndyStar: November 9, 2003
Vote count marred by computer woes Star report
Lebanon -- Boone County officials are searching for an answer to the computer glitch that spewed out impossible numbers and interrupted an otherwise uneventful election process Tuesday. ...

From The NYT: Published: November 9, 2003
Machine Politics in the Digital Age By MELANIE WARNER
" ... Judging from Federal Election Commission data, at least eight million people will cast their ballots using Diebold machines next November. ... David L. Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford, said: "If I was a programmer at one of these companies and I wanted to steal an election, it would be very easy. I could put something in the software that would be impossible for people to detect, and it would change the votes from one party to another. And you could do it so it's not going to show up statistically as an anomaly.'' ... "These companies are basically saying 'trust us,' " Ms. Mercuri said. "Why should anybody trust them? That's not the way democracy is supposed to work." ... "Someone said to me the other day, 'We've had these electronic voting machines for several years now and we've never had a problem.' And I said, 'How do you know?' and he couldn't answer that," Representative Holt said. "The job of verification shouldn't belong to the company; it should belong to the voter." ... "

From The San Francisco Chronicle: Saturday, November 22, 2003
State changes rule on electronic voting machines
Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer
In an effort to prevent fraud, California's top election official Friday ordered all counties using electronic voting systems to provide voters with printed receipts by 2006. ...

From The Palm Beach Post: Saturday, December 6, 2003
Florida won't require printouts of touch-screen votes
By George Bennett, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
" ... As manufacturers develop ballot printers to accompany touch screens, Florida will be "very open-minded" in reviewing any printers submitted to the state for certification, Secretary of State Glenda Hood said this week. If printers are certified, Hood said, counties would have the option of using them. But Hood said making a paper trail a statewide requirement is not necessary because Florida has multiple safeguards to assure the accuracy and security of touch screens, which are used in Palm Beach County and 14 other counties. "Florida has led the nation in providing security and certification," Hood said. "At this point in time, with the satisfaction that the supervisors continue to show... and the fact that we haven't had complaints from voters, I have a high confidence level." ...
The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections issued a six-page statement last month defending touch screens and their reliability. The association says touch screens reduce voter errors and are more accessible for voters who are disabled or don't speak English. Also, the association says, paper receipts would add costs and create "a new set of issues and challenges such as paper jams, running out of ink and paper and the realization that they are a mechanical piece of equipment." The supervisors' report accuses touch-screen critics of "committing a huge disservice to the voting public. The continued unfounded attacks on these systems erode the public's confidence." ... "

From Wired News: 07:44 AM Dec. 17, 2003 PT
E-Voting Undermined by Sloppiness By Kim Zetter
SACRAMENTO, California -- An audit of Diebold Election Systems voting machines in California has revealed that the company installed uncertified software in all 17 counties that use its electronic voting equipment. ...

From The Mercury News: Posted on Wed, Dec. 17, 2003
Critics: Convicted felons worked for electronic voting companies
By RACHEL KONRAD, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO - A manufacturer of electronic voting machines has employed at least five convicted felons as managers, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software. Voter advocate Bev Harris alleged Tuesday that managers of a subsidiary of Diebold Inc., one of the country's largest voting equipment vendors, included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions, and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records. ...

From The Denver Post: Monday, December 29, 2003
Internet-voting firm gets hacked By Ted Bridis, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - A company developing security technology for electronic voting suffered an embarrassing hacker break-in that executives think was tied to the rancorous debate over the safety of casting ballots online. VoteHere Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., confirmed today that U.S. authorities are investigating a break-in of its computers months ago, when someone roamed its internal computer network. The intruder accessed internal documents and may have copied sensitive software blueprints that the company planned eventually to disclose publicly. ...

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"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. "
"It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it is impossible to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and when all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect."
- Thomas Paine, Dissertation on the First Principles of Government

"When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, 'just men who will rule in the fear of God.' The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If [our] government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws."
- Noah Webster (1758-1843)

"Itís not the voting thatís democracy, itís the counting."
- Tom Stoppard, British playwright

"Those who cast the vote decide nothing, those who count the vote decide everything."
- Joseph Stalin


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