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California Panel Recommends Dumping Diebold 526

Posted by michael
from the panel-which-cried-wolf dept.
sdw3u writes "Wired reports that a voting panel urged California officials to stop using a voting machine made by Diebold Election Systems, and recommends that the state consider filing civil and criminal charges against the company." There's also an AP story. We covered the hearing yesterday, with Diebold admitting that their machines had numerous problems.
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California Panel Recommends Dumping Diebold

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  • Online Banking Model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:50AM (#8950652) Journal
    This is the problem: you've got a system that is rotting away, where people have to drive/walk/take the bus to a designated voting station, register, and use a computer to vote. If you're going to have electronic voting, just throw a secure link online and let people vote through a web interface. Banks are pretty damn secure; why aren't these systems set up the same way as online banking? Sure you'll have criminals trying to break into systems to steal money, and you'll have the same criminals trying to break into voting systems to rig elections, but the bottom line is that if you are going to develop a system that's electronic, follow a system that is alread working: the online banking model.
    • by eyegor (148503) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8950707)
      One big stumbling block to wide-spread acceptance for online voting is the possiblity for disrupting an election by launching a DDOS attack against the voting servers.

      Want to skew the results? Attack the servers most likely to be used by a people of a particular political persuation.

      • by nhavar (115351) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:03PM (#8950817) Homepage
        How would you identify the servers used by people of a particular political persuasion. That doesn't make any sense. It's not like all Democrats are going to be routed to a particular box or everyone from St. Louis is going to hit a particular machine.
        • by Bun (34387) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#8950895)
          You don't have to be sure of individual cases. You just have to know in which direction citizens of the immediate areas surrounding the polling stations are most likely to vote. This is easily accomplished through polling. Then you just knock out the stations in areas where your opposition has a substantial majority of the popular vote.
          • And then... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by mfh (56) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:15PM (#8951746) Journal
            > Then you just knock out the stations in areas where your opposition has a substantial majority of the popular vote.

            And then you get arrested, because the NSA can track any DDOS attacks without much trouble. Oh, now if you could get your rivals to do it, they would hang themselves and you could point at them saying how evil they are (and mop up all the votes). That happened in Ontario recently when the Liberals used a Buffy quote against themselves, suggesting a Tory (PC) said it; somebody called Dalton McGuinty a kitten eater. Then, in a Wag the Dog scene from hell, Dalton posed with a cute little kitten, and won the election. But the Liberals planned the whole thing.
        • by eyegor (148503) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:08PM (#8950913)
          If you have a state or region that is more conservative than a neighboring state or region, you attack the servers that serves that voting district. You will cause the loss of votes in your favor, but you'll cause more votes to be lost that would have favored your opponent.

          Another method would be to attack the infrastructure that supports a particular voting district (Obviously, you'd want to attack those districts that lean more heavily toward your opponents).
        • by Azghoul (25786) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950982) Homepage
          We know that New York is going to go to Kerry, no matter what happens during the campaign. NY's liberal leaning is a foregone conclusion.

          You don't think the Stonecutters would pay a lot of money to DDOS all the servers in NY?
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:57AM (#8950744) Journal
      but the bottom line is that if you are going to develop a system that's electronic, follow a system that is alread working: the online banking model.

      That's not the bottom line. The bottom line is that we don't need electronic voting systems. At best they are a political ploy to score cheap points for looking like we are "doing something" about the mess in Florida. At worst (if you are a tinfoil hat wearer) it's a giant conspiracy to rig our electoral system.

      I (and others) have said it before and I'll say it again. What the heck is wrong with paper ballots that are actually auditable? Or mechanical voting systems that don't rely on software that we can't see or understand? Why the heck do we need touchscreen voting? Why are the companies so afraid of putting an auditable paper trail in it?

      • Why (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mfh (56) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:06PM (#8950878) Journal
        > What the heck is wrong with paper ballots that are actually auditable?

        Micro-auditing is possible if you check your account after voting to make sure the vote you placed was the vote you wanted. Each user can remember who they voted for, and they could easily call out if their account was violated in any way. Any database can tally up votes if they are micro-audited internally, and cross-referenced. Very standard secure database design will always be able to print a receipt. They could mail you a receipt too.

        >Or mechanical voting systems that don't rely on software that we can't see or understand?

        Mechanical voting systems are a thing of the past. I really believe that society is ready for online voting.

        > Why the heck do we need touchscreen voting?

        I'm with you on this one. To me, it's wasteful and really difficult for people to use. What if the person has Parkinson's and touches the wrong button? Better let people use their own systems, and provide systems for those who need them.

        > Why are the companies so afraid of putting an auditable paper trail in it?

        I agree. Paper is just as important as anything, and the Diebold systems should have printed receipts, and master files that could be audited. Any online system could be printed at a micro-level. Bottom line: you'll know if your vote was compromised. Plus, with online voting, you'll have more control over your vote after it's created, and that truly counts for something. Imagine a nice record of your voting history? That would seriously rock.

        The fear is that some people think that allowing users access to their vote history would compromise the secrecy involved in voting, and cause problems, but I truly think that with all the right people involved in such a project, one system could be created that was truly for the people and by the people.
        • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jim Starx (752545) <JStarx@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:19PM (#8951053)
          Yes, they could keep accounts of everyone who voted. But what's to stop people from crying foul after the results are in that they want to switch their vote. How many people do you think would have switched from a 3rd party to Gore after they learned Bush was gonna win by such a small margin? It's easyer for digital information to be faked and thats only one of the reasons why I think eVoting is a bad idea.

          As for a record of your voting history. I'm fairly sure it's illigal for anyone other then you to access that information (and if it isn't it should be), so if its important to you then just do it yourself.

          • Re:Why (Score:4, Informative)

            by Ichijo (607641) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:00PM (#8951547) Homepage Journal
            How many people do you think would have switched from a 3rd party to Gore after they learned Bush was gonna win by such a small margin?

            You've made an excellent case for switching from plurality elections (most votes to win) to majority elections (at least 50% of the votes to win). Two election styles that accomplish this include Instant Runoff Voting [wikipedia.org] and Condorcet [wikipedia.org].

            Note that neither of these require doing away with primary elections (although they both reduce the need for them) or the electoral college.

        • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:22PM (#8951091) Journal
          Micro-auditing is possible if you check your account after voting to make sure the vote you placed was the vote you wanted. Each user can remember who they voted for, and they could easily call out if their account was violated in any way. Any database can tally up votes if they are micro-audited internally, and cross-referenced. Very standard secure database design will always be able to print a receipt. They could mail you a receipt too.

          I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to give up my anonymous ballot just so I can vote online from home. The anonymous ballot is one of the most important features of our voting system. And if you are too lazy to go down to the polling place once a year (or request an absentee ballot) then you probably don't need to be voting anyway.

          Mechanical voting systems are a thing of the past. I really believe that society is ready for online voting.

          Why? They work just fine and any poll worker with an hour of training can understand how they work. They are virtually impossible to sabotage without being detected. And they leave a paper trail.

          Imagine a nice record of your voting history? That would seriously rock.

          Umm??? WTF??? No it would not rock. Do I want my voting record retained forever? That's a great idea. That way there's always the possibility of being harassed/jailed/murdered if my current political party ever goes out of style. Oh, and a nice way of my employer/union leader to blackmail me too.

        • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

          by symbolic (11752)
          Imagine a nice record of your voting history? That would seriously rock.

          No, it wouldn't. Large data warehouses (or other organizations) cannot abuse data they do not have. If I want a record of my voting history, I'll keep one, but the last thing I think anyone needs is to be a target of arbitrary discrimination based on the fact that someone got ahold of this information (legally or otherwise), and used it to formulate a response - whether it be a quality of service issue, or something that's more substa
      • by RetroGeek (206522) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:10PM (#8950934) Homepage
        What the heck is wrong with paper ballots that are actually auditable?

        Combine the two systems.

        Use a touchscreen to vote. A paper receipt is printed with a barcode. Take the paper to the counting machine. Insert. Put the paper into a ballot box for possible auditing.

        Add encryption to the process for the barcode, and that should be enough.
      • by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:11PM (#8950952) Homepage
        You're right, we need paper ballots. That's what everyone is saying who actually thinks about the issue. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't use touch screen voting machines. The benefits are that they create very clearly marked paper ballots, with no room for misinterpretation, unlike the current punch systems or color-in-the-circle-with-number-2-pencil ballots.

        The systems shouldn't be completely electronic, but should be a two-machine system, where the first machine is touch screen and easily used by the population that creates a paper ballot and a second machine that takes the generated paper ballot, reads it and tallies the totals. This is the type of system that the Open Voting Consortium (and probably others) are working on creating.

        So, basically, I'm saying that you should clarify your statement to say we don't need *entirely electronic* voting systems, but we should still look for systems, including electronic ones, that are easy to use and less prone to error, which includes touch screen voting booths.
      • by delphi125 (544730) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:20PM (#8951063)
        Of course you need electronic voting systems, but admittedly not for two horse elections every four or five years. No, you need them for regular referenda, and by regular I mean weekly. I don't have a problem with having elected representatives, but calling it democracy is not accurate. For sake of argument, if both major parties vote the same way on 70% of all issues, and I agree with the other decisions in a 16-14 ratio, that doesn't really give me much of a vote every four years now, does it? Never mind that what they will do in the future isn't really related to what they did in the past.

        Now of course government 'by the people' isn't trivial to set up. In modern countries with millions of inhabitants, automation will be necessary. That includes having 'voting' computers accessible to all, including those without computers, however remote, and a ton of other security measures. As another poster mentioned, online banks have such measures, so it should be doable with current technology. Of course, those in power don't have any reason to want to do this; they have a vested interest in the current system.

        The system I am suggesting would still rely strongly on representation: if you don't want to vote every week, you can give your proxy to someone else with similar views. This person will have made themselves available, will have had training, and be responsible to their 'constituency'.

        Such a system could be extended to allow people to vote for issues more important to them; for example people with children could have more say on education, or those living in a certain area have say on local issues.

        Not that it will happen in my lifetime, but I can imagine.
      • by tsg (262138)
        The bottom line is that we don't need electronic voting systems.

        This argument is getting old. Paper ballot systems are full of problems themselves. Any system that requires humans to read and count the ballots is error prone. Humans are error prone, and tend to be more error prone when performing boring tasks like counting votes. Anybody who's done an inventory in a warehouse can attest to this. Humans are also inconsistent. Paper ballot systems require humans to interpret the intent of the voter an
    • by strictnein (318940) * <strictfoo-slashd ... m ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:59AM (#8950770) Homepage Journal
      where people have to drive/walk/take the bus to a designated voting station, register, and use a computer to vote. If you're going to have electronic voting, just throw a secure link online and let people vote through a web interface

      It's official, we're lazy bastards. If people aren't voting because they have to "drive/walk/take the bus" then it's a good thing they aren't voting, because if they don't have enough conviction to overcome the miniscule amount of inconvenience involved it's really doubtful they have much of a clue about what is going on around the world.

      Voting shouldn't be tough, but it should at least require a small amount of effort.
      • Be Black (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mfh (56)
        > they don't have enough conviction to overcome the miniscule amount of inconvenience involved

        Okay, you be black for a second. Imagine you have to go to the police station to vote. The trouble involved in voting is actually quite a bit more than a miniscule amount of inconvenience, for some. For some people, the very aspect of voting for some white fool in a suit who will likely screw you anyway, makes the whole system bogus.

        With an online voting system, anyone could run for government, because they c
        • Re:Be Black (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cK-Gunslinger (443452)

          Wow. Apparenty this is *no* link between a user's slashdot ID and his or her ability to post a relevant or on-topic comment. =P

          Black people are afraid to vote because some polling booths are located in police stations? WTF?
          Letting anyone/everyone run for office via the internet will clean up politics? WTF?

          As far as I know, any candidate is already able to advertise and campaign via the internet for relatively little cost. I fail to see how "online voting" makes this any more accessible. Are you sugge
        • Okay....

          Imagine you have to go to the police station to vote.

          Because, of course, the folks that might hesitate to walk into the local police station are the most wired. America's ghettos are covered by DSL. Actually, the folks most abused by our justice system are least likely to have a home computer and access to the internet. Guess online voting doesn't solve that problem.

          With an online voting system, anyone could run for government, because they could freely advertise on the system without havin

    • by caffeineboy (44704) <skidmore,22&osu,edu> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:01PM (#8950789)
      Problems with this:
      • Coercion: if voting is not provably private, the local hood could have someone make sure that you vote the way that they like by looking over your shoulder
      • DDOS of the voting computers
      • Cracking of the encryption on the computers
      • Further influence of wealth on elections (you think that poor people can just fire up a browser to vote?)


      Perhaps you could have online voting as a supplement, like absentee ballots, but not a replacement.
    • by mhifoe (681645) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:01PM (#8950790)
      I actually voted online a few years ago in a UK trial. It wasn't very effective though, the software was so poor (IE only etc.) that it would have been quicker for me to to walk to the polling station.

      The problem I see with electronic voting is the lack of evidence. The good thing about online banking is the audit trail.

      For example, a while ago I was charged six times for the same item due to a webserver problem. Obviously I noticed the discrepancy on my credit card bill and it was quickly rectified.

      I'm not sure I would trust a company such as Diebold to correctly accumulate votes. How do I know whether my vote was counted?
    • by yishai (677504)
      Sure you'll have criminals trying to break into systems to steal money, and you'll have the same criminals trying to break into voting systems to rig elections, but the bottom line is that if you are going to develop a system that's electronic, follow a system that is alread working: the online banking model.

      Online banking is not anonymous. All of the activity is directly traceable to your account, and you review it all the time. The results from a vote are anonymous, and doing it online is easily subjec

    • by Tired_Blood (582679) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#8950898)
      because Diebold is a leading producer of banking ATMs.

      From here [fool.com]:
      Diebold controls roughly two-thirds of the North American ATM market, and trails only rival NCR (NYSE: NCR) in global sales.
    • by PMuse (320639)
      The online banking model depends on verifying the identity of the transactor. And then recording the identity with the transaction.

      Voting models separate the cast vote from the identity of the voter. Looking at a potentially fraudulent electronic vote cast over a network, how can its authenticity be verified?
    • Well, one thing about the bank model is that each transaction is linked to the account owner. This is what provides the audit trail - you checking over your monthly statement and reviewing your account. Since your votes (cf. transactions) are supposed to be secret, there is no way to verify (within the banking model) that your votes were recorded correctly.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by Luminari (689987) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#8950656)
    Only took numerous voting irregularities and complete admission of guilt. Glad to see our swift democracy in action.
  • Versions (Score:5, Informative)

    by thebra (707939) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:52AM (#8950678) Homepage Journal
    The latest version of Diebold's GEMS software that was certified in California is 117.17; the audit revealed that counties were using other versions, such as 117.20, 117.22, 117.23, 118.18, and 118.18.02. The audit also revealed that three counties -- Los Angeles, Trinity and Lassen -- were using software versions that had not been approved for use at the federal level.
  • Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedShoeRider (658314) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:53AM (#8950690)
    "But members of the panel appeared to disagree with the company's claims, saying repeatedly that Diebold had been less than forthcoming during the state's nearly five-month investigation into its practices, often producing "frivolous" documents or responding slowly to state queries."

    Perhaps I'm just a cynic of the first order, but why on earth would they be less-than-forthcoming if they didn't have some sort of adjenda of their own? You would think that, as a large business, they'd be as forthcoming as possible to put the voters (and the investigatigators) minds at ease with the new technology. Of course, if you were hiding something.....

    Fudging elections is not a new concept. This is just a new twist on it. /tinfoil hat on

    • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:08PM (#8950910)

      "Never ascribe to malice, what can adequately be explained by incompetence."

      • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:11PM (#8951701) Homepage
        Only the conspiracy folks are suggesting that Diebold is actively working to rig elections. The president of Diebold's fund raising efforts and promises of delivering electoral votes aren't helping to calm those fears.

        The problem is that Diebold's incompetence and inability to follow even the most basic commercial security practices leaves the door open for other people to rig elections. And since the systems are un-auditable, we would all just be stuck with the winners of a rigged election as our leaders.

        Federal HIPAA regulations use a 2" thick binder to describe in great detail what computer security procedures must be followed for handling private health information. Aren't elections slightly more important?

        -B
      • Re:Figures... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thatguywhoiam (524290)
        "Never ascribe to malice, what can adequately be explained by incompetence."

        I love that saying.

        In this case, we cannot adequately explain what has happened with incompetence. Every one of Diebold's machines made before the voting rigs had a paper receipt capability.

      • by mcmonkey (96054) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:52PM (#8952179) Homepage

        Google: diebold bush deliver votes [google.com]

        *** '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."'

        *** 'In mid-August, Walden W. O'Dell, the chief executive of Diebold Inc., sat down at his computer to compose a letter inviting 100 wealthy and politically inclined friends to a Republican Party fund-raiser, to be held at his home in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.'

        *** 'Diebold's CEO, Wally O'Dell, is a proud pioneer (read: he donated more than $100,000 to the GOP's reelection bid) who has publicly announced he "is committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."'

        *** 'I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb".'

        *** 'If Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt of the vote.
        Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine's calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.'

        How is that, "adequately be explained by incompetence"???

    • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zathrus (232140) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950985) Homepage
      why on earth would they be less-than-forthcoming if they didn't have some sort of adjenda of their own?

      Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

      I'm not really trying to defend Diebold here, but a lot of their statements really do seem to be incompetence rather than scheming. They may simply be out of their league here.

      Of course, some of the statements made by their CEO and other execs are so inane that we may be faced with a rare thing (at least in corporations) -- malice and incompetence.
    • Re:Figures... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by StormyMonday (163372) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:48PM (#8951416) Homepage
      Fudging elections is not a new concept. This is just a new twist on it. /tinfoil hat on

      This is a very important point. While election fraud of various types has been around sa long as there have been elections, the computerized voting machines automate it.

      You no longer have to steal votes one by one (or precinct by precinct), you just control the code in the voting machines and you can slant the election results however you want. And, unless you're really clumsy, there's no way the tampering can be detected.

      Remember, the voting process has to be able to convince the sorest loser that the tally is correct. There's no way to do this unless the whole process is out in the open.
  • by Tenebrious1 (530949) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:53AM (#8950694) Homepage
    Did the voting panel use paper ballots or Diebold machines in their decision to dump Diebold?

    • Chad (Score:3, Funny)

      Naw.

      They let Chad make the decision. He wasn't doing anything anyway, just hanging around, dangling his opinions. Some of the women on the panel thought his dimples were cute . . .

  • Apple (Score:4, Funny)

    by JHromadka (88188) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:54AM (#8950697) Homepage
    At Apple's shareholder's meeting [macworld.com], someone jokingly asked if Apple could help out with the voting booth problem.

    To more applause and laughter, one shareholder asked if Apple would put its innovation to work and make a voting machine for the state of California.

    "We have no plans to do that," said a laughing Jobs. "Hopefully they won't base it on Windows when they do make one."

  • by wayward_son (146338) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8950721)
    No voting is foolproof. Take your pick of problems.

    Would you rather have Computer errors, damaged punch card ballots, broken voting machines, bad optical scanners, or good old fashioned human error?

    • by killjoe (766577) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:12PM (#8950961)
      There is a difference.

      Failures in punch cards and broken voting machines etc are likely to occur randomly. They are equally likely to harm or help one of the political parties.

      In this case there is real and ligitemate fear that the voting machines may be rigged to help one party and hurt another one. Look at some of the statements and actions made by the CEO of Diebold and you'll understand why people object so vehemently.
    • by Daulnay (695892) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:31PM (#8951207)

      Human error we're going to get no matter what, so we want a system that will minimize it. Not one that makes it difficult to spot.

      Damaged punch cards are easy to see, bad optical scanners will get noticed. Problems with voting software in black-box voting systems are much harder to spot, if there's no paper trail to audit.

      But the problems with Diebold systems are much worse than this. The vote counts are stored in a MS Access database, which can easily be edited by anyone who knows how. They are not necessarily protected with a password. Even worse, the audit log is also editable, so that it's possible to go into the system, alter the votes, and then edit the log to hide all traces.

      Bev Harris' expose/Diebold memos [scoop.co.nz] And more of Harris' expose [scoop.co.nz]

      Perhaps Diebold was keeping this backdoor in so that they could edit vote counts when their systems malfunctioned. However, others can also use the backdoor, and perhaps they have. There were some very squirrely results out of Georgia last election, where the pre-election polls were at wide variance with the results.

    • Defy Mediocrety (Score:3, Informative)

      by pangian (703684)
      The thing is that electronic voting doesn't have to be done poorly. It can be done in a way that is open, transparent, verifiable and has some notable advatages over paper voting (such as granting the blind and minority language speakers a truly secret vote.) It just isn't being done that way... except perhaps for the OVC voting projest dicussed recently [slashdot.org].
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:57AM (#8950747) Journal
    The Halloween installment of This Modern World from 2003 mentions this frightening topic. In case anyone here didn't see it, here's the link [workingforchange.com].
  • About time... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bored Huge Krill (687363) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#8950757)
    It's just unfortunate that so much (of our) money had to be spent before it became obvious to the point that something had to be done about it. What I found truly shocking was the way that Diebold admitted yesterday that thousands of voters had been disenfranchised as a result of their practices, and didn't seem to treat it as a big deal. Now we have an employee complaining that the state is being "too confrontational" and they should be "working together to fix the problems" Fundamental disconnect here, methinks. If you pay a commercial organization good money to deliver a system, which they get to keep proprietary, it's up to them to fix it. If the system design and software is to be open to inspection, then we can talk about "working together"
  • by Kobold Curry Chef (692137) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#8950760) Homepage
    The Diebold disaster is typical of what happens when a massive IT project is rushed forward on hard deadlines under heavy customer pressure. Testing and planning get cut back to meet the "marketing" requirements, and funny, it just doesn't work right. In the end, the project gets scrapped, and a lot of money is flushed down the toilet.

  • by Downside (662268) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:59AM (#8950772)
    The five person voting panel voted 57 to 3.14 in favour of getting rid of the Diebold machines...
  • https (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dijjnn (227302) <bwthomas@cs.uchi ... edu minus distro> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:03PM (#8950816)
    Banks, ecommerce, website authentication... it's used every day; it's certainly secure enough for democracy.

    The only other arguments against voting over the net is that, (1) it's defacto gerrymandering because poor people don't have computers and tend to vote for democratic candidates over Republicans; and (2) There's no independently audit-able paper trail. I'm sure (2) could be solved with some thought.

    This is why you set up stations at public libraries and other government funded institutions open to the public. You can vote in public, or you can vote for home
  • by bigirondawg (259176) <j_hortman AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:06PM (#8950865) Homepage
    I think it's important to realize that the focus of this problem are personnel who installed uncertified software, and not the electronic voting machines themselves.

    As a pollworker in Georgia, which was the first state to use electronic voting equipment statewide, I can say unequivocally that electronic voting machines have made our precinct's elections run more smoothly. Many people who vote in my precinct comment about how much easier they think the new machines are to use than the old punch ballots.

    Not only that, but electronic voting is actually more tamper-proof then paper voting, since you can't stuff a wad of pre-punched paper cards into an electronic voting machine. In addition, the voting machines are tightly controlled on election day, and the only way to gain "supervisor," or root, access to these machines is to use a special access card that isn't even taken out of its container until after the polls have been closed, and even then it's used under the supervision of at least 3 people. And even if the ballots were somehow tampered with that that time, you can still see the total number of ballots counted in 3 different places on the voting machines, and those numbers all have to be the same as the paper record of the number of voters that have received ballots that day. Personally, I think it's a very secure system.

    Of course, in this scenario in California, if Diebold were using uncertified releases of its software on election machines, that is unforgivable. I don't disagree with the decision to kick Diebold out of these counties based on their irresponsible actions, but that doesn't degrade the validity of electronic voting as a whole.
    • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:19PM (#8951048) Homepage Journal
      As a pollworker in Georgia, which was the first state to use electronic voting equipment statewide, I can say unequivocally that electronic voting machines have made our precinct's elections run more smoothly.

      Smooth != accurate.

      Not only that, but electronic voting is actually more tamper-proof then paper voting, since you can't stuff a wad of pre-punched paper cards into an electronic voting machine.

      Which is easier and less detectable to insert: pre-punched paper cards or pre-punched database records?

      In addition, the voting machines are tightly controlled on election day, and the only way to gain "supervisor," or root, access to these machines is to use a special access card that isn't even taken out of its container until after the polls have been closed,

      Only one way to get root, eh? How do you know that? Have you seen the source? Has anyone who doesn't work for Diebold seen the source?
    • by demachina (71715) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:41PM (#8951339)
      "As a pollworker in Georgia, which was the first state to use electronic voting equipment statewide, I can say unequivocally that electronic voting machines have made our precinct's elections run more smoothly."

      Would this be the same Georgia where the two democratic candidates for Governor and the Senate were leading by 10% margin in the polls in 2002 and managed to lose the election. Unless there was some dramatic news from the time of those polls to the election its kind of hard to explain a swing that big unless the election was rigged.

      With a few seconds in Google I found this article that suggests Diebold did exactly the same thing in your 2002 Georgia election they just did in California and patched 22,000 machines at the last minute, and apparently got away with it:

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0302/S000 95 .htm

      Just because your elections seem to "run more smoothly" doesn't mean they weren't being stolen.

      The Diebold people in California appear to be very incompetent. They had every advantage in rigging the elections in California, first and fore most they had no paper trail and no way to do a recount and they still got caught.

      It appears their people in Georgia must be a much better team. They appear to have blatantly stolen an election in 2002 and people like you are singing praises of them for no obvious reason other than things "ran smoothly" and how easy it was to cast an apparently meaningless vote.

      Unless you have really high confidence all the source code in those machines was meticulously audited and that the binaries were built from that exact source under supervision of knowledgable independent parties, not Diebold, the binaries were signed and the signs were checked in every machine at the start of the election day (using signing software that is also rigorously verified) all those other security measures you are placing so much confidence in are meaningless. If Diebold slipped in code that checked for the date of the election, and on election day flipped some percentage of the votes(say 15%) from the party they wanted to lose to the party they wanted win they could steal the election from under your nose and you would still be singing praises of their equipment.
  • by LithiumX (717017) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#8950893)
    Every time the subject of electronic voting comes up, you hear people saying that polling stations themselves are part of the problem, or that we should be able to vote from the convenience of home or office.

    I disagree. Vehemently.

    Voting is somewhat of a ritual in many countries, especially the US. People will gladly talk about their politics, but ask them who they voted for and you usually get the cold shoulder. It's a private matter. You'd have better luck asking them how their bowels are doing. The polls themselves are nice and curtained or secluded, so no one can see. People bring their kids and let them watch, even let them do the final act of pressing the lever or button. There aren't many companies that aren't willing to let their people take a long lunch in order to go vote, and those that don't are not looked upon highly.

    When it is your civic duty to periodically go to your official polling station, when you have to go to a specific place that you probably never go for any other reason, where you're around a large spectrum of people of all types that you might not otherwise be exposed to, and go specifically to cast your vote... it means a little more than simply hitting a website and picking the guy who you'd like to have lead.

    The percentage of people who vote is truly sad, but it's not a good idea to fix it by making it TOO easy to vote. There must be at least a minimum of effort involved - a place to go, as long as it's reasonably easy to get to. The same place as all your neighbors. When you have to make an event of it, it tends to focus you more on what you're doing, and I've found that people become far less extreme in their politics when faced with this fact.

    If you could vote from home, you'd put less thought into it. It would be one step closer to a news site poll, except THIS poll would make our final official selections. People wouldn't take it seriously enough. More people would vote, but the quality of those votes would not carry the same weight.

    If the Primaries had been run over the web, I'm willing to bet Dean would have outdone his competition. But people were at an event, a political ritual, and that sobered them into making a more mature choice (though I think there were better people they could have chosen).

    Voting should be readily available to the masses. It should be quick, efficient, and as infallible as we can safely make it. But it should also be an official civic act not taken lightly, and deffinitely never done from home.

    All technical questions of security and validation aside, the concept of a quick and easy home solution for choosing our national leaders is not a good idea.
  • It is our fault. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#8950896) Homepage
    A local Los Angeles radio host [kfi640.com] was saying that part of the problem is that DieBold posted their code on the internet which allowed people to study the code to find the security holes. I suspect Diebold is saying the same thing.


    What they don't get is that, is that if the code was not posted publically, the public wouldn't know about the security holes, but it would have been known to the people at the Bush campaign who arranged for Bush to be elected this time.

  • by melonman (608440) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:12PM (#8950962) Journal
    Would it be useful to have UN observers to ensure free and fair elections?
  • Diebold in FL (Score:4, Informative)

    by G27 Radio (78394) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950980)
    Here in Florida we are getting Diebold voting machines. Right now the democrats in the state are fighting to have ticket printers installed on the machines so there will be a paper trail of votes. Governor Bush and the republicans are completely against this for some reason. I'm worried that the coming presidential election is going to make the last fiasco look like a minor glitch. I'm seriously concerned that my vote isn't going to be counted properly.
    • Re:Diebold in FL (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ian Bicking (980)
      The 2000 election was only a fiasco because they were able to do a recount. Electronic votes mean there will be no confusion, no recounts, no ambiguity. See this article [scoop.co.nz] about a claim that 2002 was already fixed, but this time with no checks.

      They messed up in 2000, they made the fraud too obvious. Of course, people still didn't pay attention to it -- they paid attention to hanging chads and that bullshit, but not to the disenfranchisement of black voters [gregpalast.com] which was far worse.

  • by KarmaOverDogma (681451) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950983) Homepage Journal
    /. has covered numerous examples of how Diebold has a less than stellar record when it comes to their honesty, impartiality, and a willingness to pursue auditability and quality control in their machines. Here in Ohio, a protsest march was held regarding Diebold's practices at a shareholder meeting.

    I heard an interview on NPR today where the chief of marketing participated in the on air talk-show (InfOhio after 9) review of this protest and Diebold's activities with regard to electronic voting. He basically said California's Voting Laws were so complex and constantly changing that they were not upset at having to leave the CA e-voting machine market.

    Sounds like the pot calling the Kettle Black to me.

    Diebold's CEO and President Walden O'Dell promised to deliver Ohio (which makes me angry to have them here in my state) to Bush in November, donated to the Bush campaign and worked to organize re-election effrts to do the same. Since this time he has publicy apoligized for his public support of the Bush campaign (one would guess because of the obvious suspicions of impartiality and conflict-of-interest, wether founded or not) and vowed to keep out in the future. IMO, the damadge of his public display of support has already been done. He hasn't asked for the money back. I don't think its unreasonable to hope that the CEO and President of a company hawking a product that manages/administers/records voting would treat voting what it is, THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FOUNDATION OF DEMOCRACY. He and his company are not trustworthy to me.

    .
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:16PM (#8951011)
    Clippy: I see you are trying to cast a vote, would you like help choosing your candidate?

    Individual clicks 'Yes'

    • Click here for Bill Gates
    • Click here for %HTTP 404 Error 'Candidate Not Found'
    • Click here for %HTTP 404 Error 'Candidate Not Found'
    • Click here for Bill, umm Senator Palpatine
  • Ohio (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KillerHamster (645942) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:17PM (#8951025) Homepage
    I hope the election people in Ohio take notice of this. One of yesterday's articles said Ohio was considering the same machine that was causing trouble in California. I sure don't want to see the same mess here, especially after that comment the Diebold CEO made a while back about delivering Ohio's votes to Bush.
  • by Esion Modnar (632431) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:25PM (#8951125)
    In many 3rd world countries, voting locations are a favorite target of militants, terrorists, etc. But with electronic voting, combined with wireless networks, the voting process could become decentralized, and therefore less vulnerable to a sneak bomb attack.

    Of course, the down sides are the expense of the technology, and the current issues with software security. But, just like with any new technology, it should eventually get better, and more secure, even if it is never 100% bullet-proof.

  • by calle42 (90619) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:29PM (#8951179)
    Serious question, I'd honestly like to know why everyone is so hell-bent on using voting machines, electronic or paper-punching or whatever. What for? Here in Germany you get a big piece of paper with a list of the candidates/parties and you just draw an "X" beside your choice, then fold the paper and drop it in a box. Yes, the results are most likely (I've never been there) entered into a computer when they are counted, but this way there's a really good paper trail for everything. And we need neither video-streaming voting XP media centers, nor funny mechanical card punch machines that confuse voters.

    Please note, this is not meant as a flame to you Americans - I would *really* like to know why you need these machines.
  • You know what, we made fun of California because we thought they didn't take their Democracy seriously by electing an action movie star, but apparently they take it a lot more seriously than we realize. I have to admit, Arnold is doing a lot better than I thought he would; hell, if I lived in California, I'd vote for him for re-election (even though I'm a Democrat). And the way they're treating this Diebold issue is very much to be applauded. I live in Maryland and we recently had big problems with electronic polling machines, but our politicians didn't really do anything about it. Bravo to California for standing up for its citizens rights to vote.
  • The real concern (Score:3, Informative)

    by colinduplantis (454258) <colin.whiskerfish@com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:36PM (#8951283) Homepage
    As the election approaches, there's been a lot of discussion about e-voting, here on /., on the radio, newspaper, etc. All this is good and proper; the more public gets involved, the better the system will be.

    Largely, the non-slashdot concerns about e-voting seem to center around unintentional inaccuracies, like those mentioned in the FA. In other words, the worst problem typically mentioned is about errors causing disenfrachisement or delays in voting. While I don't want to discount these problems, they are fixable, either by a paper backup system or timely software or hardware repairs, likely getting better and better as the machines become more widely used.

    Personally, my real concern is about intentional vote fixing by the makers of the machines. I know this has been talked about at great length on /. [slashdot.org] and elsewhere [blackboxvoting.org], but I think it needs more attention in the real world.

    I know I'm naive, but the thought that somebody would try to steal the election infuriates me. There is no pit deep and black enough for someone so unpatriotic and dishonest. We must fight to protect one of the greatest experiments in personal freedom in the history of humanity.

    Please, take the time to write your CongressCritters [congress.org] about e-voting in the House [theorator.com] and Senate [theorator.com].

  • Solving problems? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abb3w (696381) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:50PM (#8951434) Journal

    "This doesn't solve the problems," said Tab Iredale, a Diebold developer.

    No, but "If you will not set a good example, you will serve as a terrible warning."
  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:06PM (#8951627) Homepage
    Here in Oregon, we have vote by mail - all of the convenience of any internet system, but no DoS worries, etc. The voting is done on a Scantron sheet (think #2 pencil), the ballot is concealed in a secrecy envelope, the outer envelope is signed and sent to the elections office. At the elections office, the signature on the cover envelope is checked, and the secret vote is placed into a container. When the counting is to be done, the secrecy envelopes are opened and fed into a Scantron counting machhine. The process is auditable, as non-forgeable as any voting methodology, and secured (mainly) by the USPS. If it gets close to voting time or you don't have 43 cents for a stamp, you can drop your ballot into boxes that can be found at public libraries or the county election officials' offices. Plus, all of this is pretty inexpensive.

    Of course, none of this has the gee whiz, gosh golly technology crap that this crowd loves so much, but it works well, is inexpensive, and the process can be easily adapted for in situ voting as well. So why the hell do you need touch screens when Scantron works just as well AND you can get lazy voters to vote by mail, too?

    • Voting by mail is subject to coercion. Think about it; you get your ballot by mail how long before the election? Plenty of time for people to lean on you and sway your vote.

      Word goes around the factory: anyone who "knows what's good for him" needs to take their ballot to their union foreman, vote the union's slate, and seal and sign it right there. Oh, it's never that obvious, and nobody comes right out and says it, but the whispers go around, nudge nudge, wink wink, and a lot of people get the message.

  • by revscat (35618) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:10PM (#8951680) Journal

    If California, or whatever state you happen to live in, concludes that Diebold electionic voting systems are crap, and yet they are implemented anyway, what are you going to do about it?

    I'll venture a guess: absolutely nothing. Even if these systems are shown to be demonstrably anti-democratic, the American people will accept them. Supporters of whichever party these benefit -- apparently Republicans -- will embrace them and disregard objections as the ramblings of loony conspiracy theorists. But whatever the case, neither the media nor the American public will truly care, certainly not enough to do anything about it.

    This is sad, because I believe this is something that we should be literally up in arms about.

  • by expro (597113) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:23PM (#8951849)

    It is not a new idea, but it seems like the best-suited ones for the jobs are clearly not the corrupt, power hungry politicians able to run for the position.

    Any citizen, chosen at random, might well make a better candidate than those who can head up the political machines required to get elected.

    "Congratulations, you have been chosen to be the next President of the United States. The secret service will arive sometime today."

    Also give out random cash prizes to make sure that those who would not normally aspire to hold office will show up at the polls.

    Give "Government of the People" a new credibility.

    It would save us all a lot of grief, and I do not see how it could be fundamentally much worse, unless the beaurocracy had the ability to keep thus-selected leaders under their thumbs.

  • Press the Media (Score:5, Informative)

    by GaelenBurns (716462) <.gaelenb. .at. . ... echnologies.com.> on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:38PM (#8952010) Homepage Journal
    Putting pressure on the press is something that I feel is incredibly important on this and every issue (The $700 Million is my favorite). Without forcing our message out to the mainstream press, we're just preaching to the choir here. I mean, what are free long-distance cell phone minutes for?

    Here are the numbers, followed by the extensions required to reach the comment line. For extensions not listed, you have to ask the human to leave a comment.

    ABCNews - 818-460-7477 ... 4
    CBSNews - 212-975-4321
    CNN - 404-827-0234 ... #, 1
    FoxNews - 888-369-4762 ... 7, 1
    MSNBC - 201-583-5000
    NBCNews - 201-583-5222

    Unleash the slash-hordes.
    • I Agree. This is very important, because unless this makes national news, California will be the only state dumping Diebold.

      I would give you mod points if I had any.
  • by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:40PM (#8952041) Homepage Journal
    During the last election, the one after we elected the doing-better-than-anticipated Arnold Schwartzanegger (I can't spell) Governor, I voted in Rancho Santa Margarita and our polling location used electronic voting machines. Exiting the booth one of the 4 or 5 volunteers asked if I liked the new machines, clearly expecting a hearty "Hell yeah". Since no one else was in the polling area at the time I stopped and told them the truth: I did not and I was worried about my vote, other's votes and the potential for loss or after the vote manipulation, present company excepted. They were shocked and the leader asked me to please explain. I gladly told them that
    • the user interface was different than the punch cards we'd used for so long; that meant confusion, especially since there was no way to "train" on the new equipment before casting the actual vote(!),
    • there was no physical record of the vote
    • being that there was no physical record changing the vote count would be simple.
    • there was no "receipt" showing me my vote so I knew I voted correctly.
    I did not get into the hacking issues, since these were not the brightest people; which was another problem in itself. They responded that they did indeed have a record of each vote -- on a central machine controlled by a lady who had a running tally of votes and could print a vote audit trail for each machine. But each machine depended on that central one to hold its votes and there was no corroborrating (I can't spell) record from each machine. I asked what would happen if the central computer failed. I don't rememeber the precise details but it was clear that there was one backup and if it was also lost, all was lost. What is a recount? Re-print the vote total you just printed. There is no way to recount the counted votes. They thought this was a feature ("no need to recount") instead of a flaw ("no way to recount").

    Then I told them I was responsible for databases. At different times I have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of credit card settlements daily and explained how our failsafe measures failed to the extent a days worth of customers (say, half a million US dollars, without including AMEX) were doubled and, due to an API error, the fix resulted in a triple billing. Wheee. Our systems had much more checks and balances, backups and audit trails than there silly voting system and yet one days transactions went wildly wrong (we somehow avoided the news, though our problem involved the same processor as Walmart's in their recent fiasco). How would they retract double/triple counted votes? Replace lost votes?

    The good people at my polling place had received the warm fuzzies from the people promoting inaccountable electronic voting; they didn't like hearing my input. But why would we treat our money as more precious than the foundation of our republican democracy?

  • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@@@bcgreen...com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:00PM (#8952265) Homepage Journal
    What really galls me is the Diebole executive who apologized for getting caught.

    "We were caught. We apologize for that," Urosevich said of the mass failures of devices needed to call up digital ballots.
    Now, some people may think that he's apologizing for the mess that diebold created, but I honestly think that he was apologizing for getting caught..

    TIme to Sue the Bastards

    In any case, does anybody know what the chances of a class action suit are? I figure that $10K for each disenfranchised voter might give Diebold pause. Can you also get punitive damages in a class action lawsuit?

  • Hardware flaw. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmasel (129946) <bmasel@BOHRtds.net minus physicist> on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:12PM (#8952382) Journal
    Contact the election officials and ask about attending any public test. Whack the machine with a sledgehammer. As you are being fitted for handcuffs, explain that they have failed the test, as paper ballots can still be read after the "lockbox" has been whacked with a sledgehammer.
  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:05PM (#8952916) Journal
    This seems to happen time and time again:

    Idiot leaders: Lets do it like this
    Expert Geeks: NOOO ANYTHING BUT THAT
    Idiot leaders: Yes! do it like this!
    Expert Geeks: This is very very stupid and will go very wrong.

    BANG: the space shuttle blows up, the nuclear reactor goes critical, the virus gets released, the entire network goes down, the power dies, the system cant be updated without costing millions, the software crashes, false positives and negatives happen, the security is by-passed etc.

    Expert Geeks: See! we fucking told you idiots!

    Anyone care to add some examples here?

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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