December 07, 2003

Electronic Votes Touch Off Doubts

Atlanta Journal-Consitution: Election officials and computer
scientists are increasingly concerned that
touch-screen electronic voting machines like the ones
used in Georgia may be inaccurate and even susceptible
to sabotage...Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, chairman of the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said,
"Republicans have sunk to a stunning new low."

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1206-01.htm

Published on Saturday, December 6, 2003 by the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution

Electronic Votes Touch Off Doubts
by Scott Shepard

WASHINGTON -- Election officials and computer
scientists are increasingly concerned that
touch-screen electronic voting machines like the ones
used in Georgia may be inaccurate and even susceptible
to sabotage.

Among some Democrats, there is deep distrust
developing about the devices, particularly since a top
executive in the voting machine industry is a major
fund-raiser for President Bush.

Industry officials insist that electronic balloting is
reliable, accurate and secure and will help avert a
repeat of the ballot-counting fiasco that held up
results in Florida and sent the 2000 presidential
election to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Electronic voting is a good thing," said David Bear,
spokesman for Ohio-based Diebold Inc., one of four
companies that dominate the voting machine industry.

Diebold boasts a significant testimonial from
Georgia's top election official, Secretary of State
Cathy Cox, who declared the state's conversion to the
system "a tremendous success."

Georgia was the first state to adopt electronic voting
in every precinct, rolling out its system in the
November 2002 election.

Cox championed the $54 million touch-screen system
after learning the state had had even more uncounted
votes during the 2000 election than Florida.

Electronic plot?

The Diebold system, whose customers include Maryland,
California and Kansas, is at the heart of concerns
that for months have fueled dire conspiracy theories
of a possible electronic coup d'etat.

This fall the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper
disclosed that Diebold's chief executive, Walden
O'Dell, is one of Bush's top fund-raisers and, in a
letter to potential Bush donors, he had underscored
his commitment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral
votes" to the Republicans.

O'Dell has since expressed regrets for the remarks,
saying that while experienced in business, he is "a
real novice" in politics. Even so, he has no intention
of stopping his fund-raising efforts as a "Pioneer"
and "Ranger," designations used by the Bush campaign
for elite fund-raisers who collect a minimum of
$200,000 and $100,000, respectively. "I am one, and
proud of it," O'Dell said in a statement issued by
Diebold's corporate headquarters.

Democrats cry foul

O'Dell easily qualifies as a Bush "Pioneer." In July,
for example, he had a fund-raiser at his home with
Vice President Dick Cheney that netted $500,000.

Democrats cry foul. Presidential candidate Sen. John
Edwards of North Carolina today plans to call on Bush
to return the money O'Dell has raised for his
campaign.

"We now have touch-screen voting machines that some
people think are just as bad as a butterfly ballot,"
Edwards says in a speech prepared for delivery to
Florida Democrats. "What makes this worse is that one
of George W. Bush's fund-raising Pioneers said he
wanted to help Ohio deliver its electoral votes to
George Bush."

Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, chairman of the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said,
"Republicans have sunk to a stunning new low."

Traveling the 'Net

The emerging theories of a conspiracy to rig the
voting tabulations in 2004 extend well beyond O'Dell's
relationship with Bush and other Republicans. The
Internet is awash with Web sites devoted to the
notion, the most prominent being
www.blackboxvoting.com, with accounts about:

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's upset victory
in 1996. He ran without disclosing that he had been
CEO and chairman of Election Systems & Software, which
installed, programmed and operated the state's voting
machines. Hagel has denied any wrongdoing.

The unexpectedly easy Republican victories in
Georgia's 2002 election for governor and U.S. Senate,
where Diebold had installed its system. Previously
favored Democratic incumbents failed to win
re-election.

Yet Bobby Kahn, who was chief of staff to ousted
Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, said in a recent e-mail to
the Journal-Constitution that he would "love to
believe" in a "computer meltdown or a grand
conspiracy" causing Barnes' defeat, but rejects both
notions. "The count was accurate," Kahn said of the
vote.

Computer scientists and voting machine experts are
less concerned about O'Dell's political affiliations
than about the integrity of the technology being
marketed by Diebold and its competitors.

Tests reveal risks

Tests of computerized systems in Ohio this week did
little to reassure skeptics. Detroit-based Compuware
Corp., in a technical analysis of the four major
voting machine manufacturers, identified 57 potential
security risks in the software and hardware tested.

The findings prompted Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth
Blackwell to delay plans for having a computerized
system in place for the 2004 presidential election. "I
will not place these voting devices before Ohio's
voters until identified risks are corrected and system
security is bolstered," Blackwell said.

For months, computer experts have been warning that
the new voting machines are susceptible to the kinds
of foul-ups -- undervotes and misvotes, for example --
that led to the 2000 Florida election debacle.

Computerized voting systems also may be vulnerable to
hackers or scheming programmers bent on stealing an
election, some experts warned.

A hacker could add votes to an individual voting
terminal and a programmer could insert a "Trojan
horse" program with a hidden code that could change
vote totals, then cover its tracks, it has been
suggested.

A group of experts recently formed the National
Committee for Voting Integrity to draw public
attention to their concerns. Some of the voting
tabulation technologies being considered by various
states "pose a significant risk to the integrity of
the democratic process in the United States," the
committee warned.

Staff writer Duane Stanford contributed to this
article.

2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Posted by richard at December 7, 2003 08:57 AM