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Old 11-06-2006, 06:18 PM   #1
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HBO's "Hacking Democracy" available online

From Slashdot:
"HBO's controversial special 'Hacking Democracy' on issues with Diebold voting machines is now available in full on Google Video."
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Old 11-06-2006, 06:42 PM   #2
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...until the Diebold techies hack google's website, that is.
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Old 11-06-2006, 08:27 PM   #3
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I just finished watching it and WOW, very interesting. Towards the end of the film, they demonstrate that an election can be rigged just by inserting a hacked memory card into the voting machine.
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Old 11-06-2006, 08:49 PM   #4
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but electronic voting machines are the KEY to FAIR elections!!



(wasn't that what "they" said back in 2000?)
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Old 11-06-2006, 08:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsmeeker
but electronic voting machines are the KEY to FAIR elections!!



(wasn't that what "they" said back in 2000?)
Electronic voting machines WITH a paper audit trail ARE key to fair elections.
But Diebold has insisted on pushing machines that don't produce a paper audit trail.
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AJRitz
Electronic voting machines WITH a paper audit trail ARE key to fair elections.
But Diebold has insisted on pushing machines that don't produce a paper audit trail.

yes. The paper trail is the key. But back when all of it went down in 2000, many weren't making that distinction. They pointed to areas that had electronic machines (I used one in 2000, and it didn't have a paper trail) and seemed to lump them all into the same group. If it's a computer, then it's good, they said.

Still, I think having the paper trail defeats the whoel point of the computer if you are going to have to check the entire paper trail.
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AJRitz
Electronic voting machines WITH a paper audit trail ARE key to fair elections.
But Diebold has insisted on pushing machines that don't produce a paper audit trail.

These scares me is the flippant way the Volutia county people treated the original signed tallies from election day. Truly frightening! And they went out and threw more away, ones that were :lost", while they were filming!!!
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Old 11-07-2006, 12:53 AM   #8
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Still, I think having the paper trail defeats the whoel point of the computer if you are going to have to check the entire paper trail.
Not true! There are many indicators as to how an election will go: pre-election polling, exit polling, etc. These are independant checks and balances. If a result is wildly different than the anticipated outcome based on polling, then you want to be able to go back and have a physical paper trail to count. Similarly, if the election is extremely close you want to have the ability to double-check it by hand. And, you can do spot-checks if you want to. No one is suggesting that we would count every ballot again by hand; that would indeed defeat the purpose.

To me the scariest thing, even more than paper trails, is the closed, proprietary architecture of the system. It astounds me that state and local governments all over the country are simply agreeing to purchase voting machines with absolutely no control or oversight of them. They can't know anything about how the machines work, they are signing non-disclosure agreements so they can't disclose the results of testing or details of errors or problems with the systems, even to their own constituents! It's utterly outrageous.

If there's one thing we should have learned from debacles like the DVD (CSS) and wireless (WEP) encryption it's that closed, proprietary security schemes are inferior to public, vetted security schemes. It may seem counter intuitive, but it's very rare that you get the most secure system by keeping it secret.
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Old 11-07-2006, 07:47 AM   #9
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The electronic voting machine I used this morning in Ohio prints out a record of your vote.
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Old 11-07-2006, 07:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
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...until the Diebold techies hack google's website, that is.
You assume too much about their skill level.
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Old 11-07-2006, 07:56 AM   #11
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Personally, I think electronic voting machine are the future, and for them to be totally accepted by the public, they need to be open architecture, and there needs to be a way for voting staffers to easily check that the machine is working normally and hasn't been tampered with (i.e. a little memory stick that when plugged in checks the operating code against a checksum and lights a green light for good or a red light for bad, and also automatically disables the machine so that if the staffer is "in on it" he can't just perform the necessary checks and say that it passed when it indeed failed.) Even better would be an automatic checksum with big green and red lights right on top of the booth.

Also, I agree that there needs to be a paper trail. Since the voter can't have the piece of paper, have the machine print it out behind glass so that the voter has to check it for accuracy, and when approved, it goes into a secure bin.

After that comes internet voting.....
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:39 AM   #12
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An audit trail that keeps things in sequence is at odds with the concept of casting a hidden vote. You don't want to be able to trace back a valid ballot to a particular voter.
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:44 AM   #13
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Sarasota County had a ballot amendment today mandate paper verifiable ballots starting 1/1/2008.

I voted a big YES on that.

It seems simple to me. Plug a printer into the touch-screen machine. When the VOTE button is pressed, print a paper copy of the ballot. In the case of a dispute, the paper ballot is the official ballot. Everybody wins.
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AJRitz
Electronic voting machines WITH a paper audit trail ARE key to fair elections.
But Diebold has insisted on pushing machines that don't produce a paper audit trail.
I just don't buy this. If someone wants to cheat and they are willing and able to defraud the electronic vote, they can job the paper trail. Paper is millions of times MORE susceptible to fraud. There is virtually NO way to ensure there no cheating or error unless we forego the principle of the secret ballot. In the mean time, there are many improvements that could be made in terms of physically securing equipment and facilities. Even having said that though... I would guess there is little or no HACKING of the machines... most if not all of cheating is done the old fashioned way (i.e. deceased voters and illegal aliens etc.)

If people didn't mind a traceable (not secret voting system) which opens a whole other can of worms. There might be some opportunities to audit the process and match a paper vote with a computer vote... i.e. person votes prints verification and drops one half into backup voting box and keeps the other.

One other possibility is each machine records the screen and keystrokes, while another camera records each group of computers. If there is funny business experts could try to match returns with screen cap with activity log with video...etc
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:52 AM   #15
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What's wrong with the voter having the paper? At my polling place we have the "fill in the blank" ballots, where you fill in a circle with a black pen then take the ballot to a counting machine and feed it in. It's counted automatically, but the ballot is there for recounts if necessary.

Personally I think something like this is a good solution. If you separate the "casting the ballot" from the "counting the ballot" and have the person voting physically take the ballot to the counting area, you have less opportunity for trickery. Every person gets to hand in one and only one ballot, and the ballot they hand in is visible to them so they can tell if it's not correct. For example, you could have the computer print the ballot with both a bar code recording the ballot, and the actual names. Even if someone corrupted the computer so it printed the wrong bar code, a recount would use the names and get the correct result.
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:55 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsmeeker
Still, I think having the paper trail defeats the whoel point of the computer if you are going to have to check the entire paper trail.
Well, you don't have to check the trail, it is just available if you need it.


ARSTechnica did a pretty interesting analysis of the various ways that the electronic voting machines could be compromised, both one vote at a time and by thousands. http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/evoting.ars


Up until this election, we have used paper ballots that the voter puts into the machine. THey are similar to the Scan-Tron or bubble multiple choice tests from High School and College, only you use a black marker to complete an arrow beside the candidates name. As mentioned this seems to be an ideal solustion to me as the box is locked and sealed while the counting mechanism is removable and a non-traceable paper ballot is kept inside. If the ballots are tampered with, the seal will show that. This does assume that teh elections board is not conspiring to alter the seals, though with proper oversight, this would be nearly impossible.
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Old 11-07-2006, 09:00 AM   #17
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I just don't buy this. If someone wants to cheat and they are willing and able to defraud the electronic vote, they can job the paper trail. Paper is millions of times MORE susceptible to fraud. There is virtually NO way to ensure there no cheating or error unless we forego the principle of the secret ballot.
First, I completely disagree with your premise: electronic votes are FAR more easily corrupted. The count is just a few bits locked away inside a very complex system, that no one can see or verify. At the end of the day the machine spits out a number and how can ANYONE know whether that number is right or not? Further, lots of people have their hands inside that system and have an opportunity to manipulate it in ways that are virtually undetectable.

Second, you're correct that paper ballots cannot ensure there is no cheating or errors: no system can do that. However, it is virtually impossible to conduct any sort of wide-spread voting corruption with paper ballots, like you can potentially do with electronic ballots. You may be able to nudge the vote a bit in one precinct, or (if you're sufficiently high up the food chain) in a single race. But this is unlikely to matter in any but the closest races.
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Old 11-07-2006, 10:41 AM   #18
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I'm a computer geek and I don't understand why these municipalities just don't use optical scan ballots like we do in Maine. You get the option of speedy computerized tabulation with the ability to do a manual recount. Plus you can validate that optical scanners are honest through a few hand counts and the magic of statistics. "Complete the line" or "fill in the dot" ballots couldn't be easier. It doesn't require 71 year old poll workers to set up or use computers.

The Diebold system is a joke. When I heard a few years ago that they had tabulator software which used Microsoft Access, I just couldn't believe it. I don't trust that for any data that I care even just the slightest about. If Diebold made ATMs and security systems that are as bad as their voting machines, they would have been out of business long ago. Private business wouldn't put up with this crap, but it seems our local governments enjoy being taken for a ride. If these places feel they must absolutely have some sort of voting computers then they do need some sort of receipt printer that captures the voters intentions, such as in a 2D barcode. (They should have the actual name of the candidates encoded in there, not some candidate ID number that refers to tables which could get switched around later on.)
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Old 11-07-2006, 11:49 AM   #19
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As I mentioned above, we use optical scan machines as well. I'm very happy with them and I don't see why we need anything more complex. They are very inexpensive compared to something like Diebold, they are extremely reliable, they have a simple, obvious solution when they break down, etc.

There are purported advantages to fully computerized voting machines. The only one that I think is important is support for handicapped voters and voters who don't read English. The other advantages, such as sanity checking ballots (so you don't vote for two people in the same race, you don't get confused and choose the wrong person [machines show you very clearly who you voted for], etc.) don't seem to me to be important enough to warrant the expense, and risks.

I do think that some voting methods should be avoided: those punch-through cards may be cheap but they are just asking for trouble. And, it's important that someone with a modicum of sense examine the design of the ballots for fairness.

But touch-screen computerized voting machines seem like overkill to me: to complicated, too expensive, too fragile. If we have to go there, though, we absolutely should approve an open standard and require all voting machine vendors to publish all their code and machine specifications. They can make money on manufacturing and support: not as much as by creating a monopoly with proprietary hardware and software, but who says voting should be an opportunity for windfall profits for corporate America? They get enough from their lobbyists!
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Old 11-07-2006, 12:07 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by madscientist
To me the scariest thing, even more than paper trails, is the closed, proprietary architecture of the system. It astounds me that state and local governments all over the country are simply agreeing to purchase voting machines with absolutely no control or oversight of them.

That's what bothers me the most as well. For me, it stood out more than the lack of a paper trail. If a slot machine can be controlled/inspected/checked for to ensure fairness, why not a voting machine?

I'm still not convinced fully computerized systems gaurantee a totally fair election without the risk for any mistakes, foul play, etc.
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Old 11-07-2006, 02:08 PM   #21
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I say the answer is simple and just don't vote !
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Old 11-07-2006, 02:34 PM   #22
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One interesting commentary on this I saw over the weekend on one of those Sunday morning news shows took the opposite view. Make it ultra simple like you see in other countries. A paper ballot and purple dye on the finger.
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Old 11-07-2006, 03:08 PM   #23
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I say the answer is simple and just don't vote !
Like the old joke says:

"I don't like to vote. It just encourages them."
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Old 11-07-2006, 04:19 PM   #24
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Quote:
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If a slot machine can be controlled/inspected/checked for to ensure fairness, why not a voting machine?
But aren't slot machines always rigged to favor the house? I'd want more of a standard for voting machines than that.
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Old 11-07-2006, 04:43 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by madscientist
To me the scariest thing, even more than paper trails, is the closed, proprietary architecture of the system. It astounds me that state and local governments all over the country are simply agreeing to purchase voting machines with absolutely no control or oversight of them. They can't know anything about how the machines work, they are signing non-disclosure agreements so they can't disclose the results of testing or details of errors or problems with the systems, even to their own constituents! It's utterly outrageous.
This is the big issue as far as I'm concerned. Anybody can count a paper ballot. Using the electronic voting machines eliminates a vast segment of the population that have the capability of determining if fraud has occurred.
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Old 11-07-2006, 05:33 PM   #26
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But aren't slot machines always rigged to favor the house? I'd want more of a standard for voting machines than that.

they are. But they are rigged in a specific, stated way and they are inspected and checked to ensure that they really are that way and not something else.

It's really not about rigging one way or the other. It's about a very tightly controlled process for inspecting machines to ensure compliance with the rules. That exists for slots, but doesn't appear to exist for voting machines.
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Old 11-07-2006, 06:16 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by madscientist
First, I completely disagree with your premise: electronic votes are FAR more easily corrupted. The count is just a few bits locked away inside a very complex system, that no one can see or verify. At the end of the day the machine spits out a number and how can ANYONE know whether that number is right or not? Further, lots of people have their hands inside that system and have an opportunity to manipulate it in ways that are virtually undetectable.

Second, you're correct that paper ballots cannot ensure there is no cheating or errors: no system can do that. However, it is virtually impossible to conduct any sort of wide-spread voting corruption with paper ballots, like you can potentially do with electronic ballots. You may be able to nudge the vote a bit in one precinct, or (if you're sufficiently high up the food chain) in a single race. But this is unlikely to matter in any but the closest races.
I concede your second point it is harder to stuff ballot boxes in a nation wide election. But human error (refer to either the voter punching the ballot OR hand counting the ballot) ensures mistakes with paper.

Properly written software and good old fashioned security (limiting and auditing access to equipment) is far safer and more covenient for voters. I voted on a touch screen today and found the verification screen an immense help - it would be nice to have those printed to a secure place in each facility as backup.

Everytime I hear paper ballot mentioned - I can't help but envision those pics from Fla where one person said the voter intended to vote for Gore and another Bush... it was just silly. I am ok with the premise, if you do not punch a ballot correctly, you have nullified that vote.
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Old 11-07-2006, 09:10 PM   #28
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Watched the show this evening with my wife. It was quite damning.

I've been a programmer and software engineer for 20+ years but I am totally not qualified to be any sort of security expert or hacker (just not my speciality). That's why I found it even more alarming that the security flaws seemed so horrible, even to me.

No encryption, executables on the memory cards, no database journaling, MS Access data files?

Whoa.
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Old 11-08-2006, 09:38 PM   #29
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There's nothing wrong with voting machines per se, it's just that for some reason the people in charge don't like to see what's in front of their faces.

Keys that open your hotel minibar shouldn't be able to open a voting machine.

No matter what the circumstance, poll workers should not get to hold a machine in their garage for weeks before an election.

Machines shouldn't be attached to the internet, ever.

A candidates last name shouldn't be dropped off the summary page, and the makers of the machine shouldn't be able to say they don't have time to fix it.

And there are many other things that seem to not make sense.

The main one is, imho every precinct in the country should have the exact same method of voting, and I don't care how much it cost the government to make it that way.

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Old 11-09-2006, 05:22 AM   #30
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There's nothing wrong with voting machines per se, it's just that for some reason the people in charge don't like to see what's in front of their faces.
We have a House race with a difference of less than 400 votes and a mysterious 20,000 vote undercount in just one county. Because there is no paper, a manual recount is impossible. That is what's wrong with the machines. There will never be a way to explain this discrepancy. That's just wrong.

Quote:
The main one is, imho every precinct in the country should have the exact same method of voting, and I don't care how much it cost the government to make it that way.
What it will (or should) cost is a Constitutional amendment. The federal government doesn't have any Constitutional authority to make the states adopt a uniform system.

Of course that won't stop them forcing it on the states anyway if they decide to, but that's a different argument.
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