August 01, 2003

Voting systems 'can't be trusted'

(7/30/03) This morning, the _resident held a "press conference."
I caught most of it at the airport waiting for a
place. Although it was on the TV, no one in the
airline lounge was watching it. It could not bear to
hear the big fat pitches the "press corp" was serving
up for him. But it was astounding to read the crawls
at the bottom of the screen. "Bush: Marriage is
between a man and a women." "Bush: It was a shallow
recession." Yes, the _resident change the subject from
the debacles of 9/11 and Iraq to the hot button issue
of "gay marriage. Yes, the _resident wants to speak
about the economic collapse in the past tense. Yes,
the "US mainstream news media" is going to help him
out as much as it can...It is not the Saudis or
"ongoing investigations" the White House is covering
up by preventing the release of 28 pages that even Sam
Brownback (R-Kansas) wants the public to read, no...It
is the small-minded, mean-spirited little man himself
and his cronies they are protecting...How many
Americans realize that a Bush stayed in a Bin Laden's
house? How many Americans realize that the Bushes and
the Bin Ladens were business partners (in Carlyle)
until after 9/11? No, these tidbits are probably not
in the 28 pages, but there is something very
embarrassing that the White House is determined to
keep from the public...Meanwhile, consider this story
from the front page of the Denver Post, and then turn
to for vital information...,1413,36%7E23827%7E1540873,00.html#

Denver Post

Voting systems 'can't be trusted'
Machines at risk for fraud, hacking
By Susan Greene
Denver Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - Dangling chads, nothing.

Florida's voting snafus during the 2000 presidential
election pale in comparison to the vulnerabilities of
high-tech voting machines counties throughout the
nation are scrambling to buy in compliance with a new
federal law, several top computer scientists are

"What we know is that the machines can't be trusted.
It's an unlocked bank vault ..., a disaster waiting to
happen," said David Dill, a Stanford University
computer science professor who has prompted more than
110 fellow scientists to sign a petition calling for
more accountability in voting technology.

The researchers fear that problems with software
systems will result in hacking and voter fraud,
allowing people to cast extra votes and poll workers
to alter ballots undetected.

Others dismiss such warnings as paranoid conspiracy

"It's fear-mongering by a few people who want to go
back to the 19th century-way of voting," Adams County
Clerk and Recorder Carol Snyder said.

Techies and election bureaucrats are facing off in
Denver this week at the annual meeting of the
International Association of Clerks, Recorders,
Election Officials and Treasurers, where voting
security is a popular topic of discussion.

The scientists have convened a separate, side
conference in hopes of convincing those who control
the purse strings in local governments to hold off
buying billions of dollars in computerized voting
equipment until the federal government sets clear and
tough standards to ensure their security.

In Colorado, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson's
office is heeding their advice by asking Washington
for a two-year extension to the 2004 deadline set out
in the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

"There's a sense of urgency about complying with the
federal mandate. But we're urging counties not to rush
into buying expensive equipment before it's proven in
the interest of voter integrity," said spokeswoman
Lisa Doran.

In response to Florida's 2000 voting debacle, Congress
in 2002 passed the voting act to replace archaic
punch-card election systems and generally improve
voter accessibility nationwide.

Five Colorado counties - Boulder, Jefferson, Mesa,
Montrose and Pitkin - are replacing punch-card systems
such as those in Florida that made hanging and
dangling chads (not fully punched holes in paper
ballots) the subject of national headlines.

Statewide, all 64 counties are required to install at
least one electronic voting machine in every precinct
by 2004. That's at least 3,000 machines that must be
purchased within the next several months, unless the
feds grant Davidson's request for an extension.

"There's such a rush ... to buy this stuff, but people
don't have their acts together," said Dill, who calls
HAVA a "collection of back-room deals" that doesn't
address real security issues. He derides the law for
not requiring paper receipts that ensure voters their
ballots are counted exactly as they're cast.

"Why are we putting our democracy on computers that
aren't ready to go?" added Rebecca Mercuri, a computer
science professor at Bryn Mawr College and an expert
on electronic voting.

Meantime, the federal money promised the Centennial
State for such expenses has dwindled from $52 million
to $35 million. Of that, Davidson's office has
received only $7.2 million. The feds also have taken
much longer than expected setting technical standards
to guide states and counties in purchasing machines
that cost thousands of dollars a pop.

"The funds aren't there. The standards aren't there,"
Doran said. "We've advised counties not to buy
machinery that there's no standards for."

Though controversy over those standards has been
brewing for years, it heated up last week with news
that the software that runs many computerized voting
machines has serious flaws that would allow voters to
cast extra votes and poll workers to tamper with
ballots undetected.

A team at Johns Hopkins University's Information
Security Institute examined software from the
Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which has about
33,000 voting machines in use throughout the nation.
The software could be manipulated and the outcome
changed by anyone with $100 worth of computer
equipment, researchers said.

According to Diebold executives, most Colorado
counties use that company's optical-scan units, which
help tally paper ballots. Those units are not the
subject of controversy. Instead, one of the company's
other machines, the AcuVoteTS touch-screen machine, is
at issue in the Hopkins study. Diebold executives say
there are about 120 AcuVoteTS units in Colorado -
including more than 100 in El Paso County, 10 in Weld
County and six in Broomfield.

Diebold Election Systems President Tom Swidarski
defended his technology Tuesday as the safest, "most
advanced out there." He dismissed the Hopkins study as
a "homework assignment" by a bunch of graduate
students aimed as a "misguided," personal attack" on
his company.

Swidarski called computer science election watchdogs
such as those gathered in Denver this week "fringe
organizations" "without much real practical knowledge
of the election process."

Others agree that scientists warnings are overblown.

"I have security in my office. It's not like I let any
Tom, Dick and Harry into my alarmed, camera-ed and
locked server room," said Snyder, who uses 220 Diebold
optical scanners for elections in Adams County.

Doran added that there have been no reports of
tampering or defrauding computerized election systems
in Colorado.

"Nobody has brought any evidence to us so we're not
considering it a problem," she said.

Executives with voting technology companies are
hawking their wares at this week's conference at
Denver's Adam's Mark Hotel, each plugging their
product as the safest from tampering and fraud and
booking as many private lunches and dinners with
election officials as they could.

"Now there's a big hubbub that the emperor has no
clothes," said Jim Adler, chief executive of VoteHere,
a voting software company. "The danger here is that
Americans don't need another excuse not to vote."

Watchdogs grumbled about the aggressive sales
techniques and close ties between voting machine
companies and the officials they're trying to woo. In
Colorado, for example, the executive director of the
Denver Election Commission resigned in 1998 to work
for Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment, Inc., a company
that received $6.6 million in contracts from his own

"There's quite a cozy relationship between election
officials and salesmen," Dill said.

Posted by richard at August 1, 2003 06:28 PM