Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Voting machines "safe", sort of...

Yesterday, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz’s office (and yes, I still can't spell her name without looking it up) released the final report on the safety of the new Diebold Optical Scanning voting machines. To recap, Connecticut will use these machines in 25 towns, and next year throughout the entire state.

The OS machines are "tabulators" rather than touch-screen ATM-style electronic voting machines; the actual vote is cast by the voter manually filling in a circle on a paper ballot, which is then fed into the machine for counting and tabulating. The paper ballot is the actual vote and serves as the paper trail for the vote. To see the entire procedure, please view this video:

So the Sec. of State's office issued this press release yesterday:

UConn supports additional procedural safeguards issued by the Secretary of the State’s office

In a report released today by the University of Connecticut Voting Technology Research Center (VoTeR Center), UConn commends the Secretary of the State for her choice of optical scan voting technology to replace the state’s lever voting machines. According to the report, optical scan voting technology is safer and more secure than any other electronic voting technology available today.

UConn also emphasized the critical importance of tight physical custody procedures to ensure the reliability and accuracy of elections. The university has reviewed and approved the procedures put in place by the Office of the Secretary of the State to further safeguard the election process. Finally, UConn endorses Secretary Bysiewicz’s decision to conduct a random audit in the twenty-five (25) towns that will be using optical scan voting machines on November 7th to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the machines.
The cover sheet of the UConn report has more sobering observations:
We identify a number of new vulnerabilities of this system which, if exploited maliciously, can invalidate the results of an election process utilizing the terminal. Furthermore, based on our findings an AV-OS can be compromised with off-the-shelf equipment in a matter of minutes even if the machine has its removable memory card sealed in place.

The basic attack can be applied to effect a variety of results, including entirely neutralizing one candidate so that their votes are not counted, swapping the votes of two candidates, or biasing the results by shifting some votes from one candidate to another. Such vote tabulation corruptions can lay dormant until the election day, thus avoiding detection through pre-election tests.
Obviously there are important concerns that need to be addressed. Bysiewicz’s office will conduct a random manual audit of 20% of the voting machines to ensure they are properly tabulating the votes. But they still need to resolve the issues of machine security, "chain of custody", and the validity of the machine software.

The entire UConn study is available at this link.


Anonymous said...

"I still can't spell her name without looking it up."

And I can't read her name without pronouncing it "Busy-Witch." I know from watching the "Wizard of Oz" that it's possible to be either a "good witch" or a "bad witch." If she's going to be busy, I hope she's a "good witch" so that Connecticut doesn't become the Florida of 2006.

CT Bob said...

Great, now I'm seeing it as "busy-witch" too! LOL

Carter said...

*phew* I was worried one of these machines might actually hurt me while voting. Good thing they are the SAFEST! :P

imajoebob said...

Pure Crap
The only secure vote is a mechanical/analog system. Whether it's a printed ballot or a lever machine, nothing is more secure. Print is obviously the best for recording, but tabulating is problematic. Lever are better for secure tabulating, since it only relies on testable, verifiable, and repeatable results. Anything - ANYTHING that relies on software to tabulate votes is inherently flawed and unconstitutional (one man, one vote).

The very report that endorses these machines says there's no way to verify they'll operate correctly on election day. I guess I'm going to need to stop in the SOTS office and challenge the use of these machines, and if the votes cast on the machines total enough, any election these are used to report.

Anonymous said...

I will never trust a machine made by Diebold. How in the world did they ever get the contract? It can only mean that the State contracting procedures are (still) flawed. I called the SOS' office and asked if integrity was one of the criteria for selecting contractors. They said Yes! So, what gives?

CT Bob said...

carter, didn't you see the part of the report where they say if the voting machine falls on you, in CAN be dangerous?

Everyone, I'll be following up on this after the election with the SOTS office to see if there are any "irregularities" in the vote tabulating.

Again, it's the safest non-mechanical device out there, but the paper ballots are going to be the way to verify these things. What I forsee is an eventual state of 100% manual recounts, especially if Diebold stays in the business of stealing elections.

Anonymous said...

If there are irregularities, so what? We're SOL --what are they going to do, a do-over? What exactly is the law and the remedy for this?

It's like saying they'll prevent you from being raped while asleep -- you'll be awake and know exactl what just happened. What? So you can prevent it next time?

Why am I not amused.

CT Bob said...

I don't expect you to be amused. But if there ARE irregularities, we can always go back and count the paper ballots.

The SOTS is charged with certifying the results of the election, so unless she's convinced that a fair election was held, there will be recounts until she is satisfied.

That's why it's so important to elect a person of strong character to be your Secretary of State, rather than some Repuke bought-and-paid-for douchebag like Katherine Harris (FL-2000).

ratney said...

It should be obvious that a 100% hand-recount must be done for every election. And the cards that the new OS machines "read" make that easy to accomplish. Any "computerization" of the process of counting votes is susceptable to exploitation.

This is not an unreasonable thing to demand. And there would be plenty of volunteers, to count or monitor or whatever. Imagine all the reasons it ISN'T being done...

A good movie on Uncle's "electile dysfunction" problem:

And the guide to how it's done:

Diebold wigging-out on HBO over tonite's expose':