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Diebold Election Audit Logs Defective 256

Posted by kdawson
from the worse-than-we-thought dept.
mtrachtenberg writes "Premier Election Solutions' (formerly Diebold) GEMS 1.18.19 election software audit logs don't record the deletion of ballots, don't always record correct dates, and can be deleted by the operator, either accidentally or intentionally. The California Secretary of State's office has just released a report about the situation (PDF) in the November 2008 election in Humboldt County, California (which we discussed at the time). Here's the California Secretary of State's links page on Diebold. The conclusion of the 13-page report reads: 'GEMS version 1.18.19 contains a serious software error that caused the omission of 197 ballots from the official results (which was subsequently corrected) in the November 4, 2008, General Election in Humboldt County. The potential for this error to corrupt election results is confined to jurisdictions that tally ballots using the GEMS Central Count Server. Key audit trail logs in GEMS version 1.18.19 do not record important operator interventions such as deletion of decks of ballots, assign inaccurate date and time stamps to events that are recorded, and can be deleted by the operator. The number of votes erroneously deleted from the election results reported by GEMS in this case greatly exceeds the maximum allowable error rate established by HAVA. In addition, each of the foregoing defects appears to violate the 1990 Voting System Standards to an extent that would have warranted failure of the GEMS version 1.18.19 system had they been detected and reported by the Independent Testing Authority that tested the system.'"
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Diebold Election Audit Logs Defective

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  • Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:31PM (#27054137) Journal

    Ok, so when do we get to throw Diebold exec in jail for election tampering already?

    • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:38PM (#27054235)

      Ok, so when do we get to throw Diebold exec in jail for election tampering already?

      When you can prove intent.

      Or, put another way, "Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence." --N. Bonaparte

      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:40PM (#27054255)

        for providing a defective product?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by davester666 (731373)

          The last sentence in the summary seems to blame the testing of the provided system for not detecting that the system is defective. So, it's the customer's fault that a defective system was used, not the vendor's.

          • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @06:06PM (#27057101)

            In most industrial settings, if something's built to a specification, and it's later discovered to have failed to meet the specification, the vendor's still at least partly liable, even if the customer failed to discover the defect in initial validation.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by flyingsquid (813711)
              I just want to say... I told you so. I said it on election night and I'll say it again here, loud and clear, for everyone to hear: Obama stole the election. That may not go over well in some parties. But there is simply no way he could have won the popular vote or the electoral college. My polling models and my simulations all point to one unavoidable conclusion: the winner of the 2008 presidential election, and the rightful president, is Ralph Nader.

              signed,

              Ralph Nader

          • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:00PM (#27058403) Journal

            So, it's the customer's fault that a defective system was used, not the vendor's.

            I guess that means people should keep that in mind when they see a Diebold ATM. Who knows how much it might debit your account when you withdraw funds.

      • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:56PM (#27054517) Homepage Journal
        We should change the laws to hold devices used in state and federal elections to similar or same standards as life-critical medical devices.

        In which case the engineers who signed off on the thing and any executives who knowingly pushed defective gear out the door would be punished and sanctioned.

        "Hold a voting machine to similar standards as critical care life-support? that's ludicrous!", some might say. But if a corrupt group of politicians could rig the machines to get into power and (hypothetically, of course) start a war and that would cause many more deaths than some spurious bug in some medical equipment.
        • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:18PM (#27054833)

          Gambling machine standards. ATM standards.

          Why couldn't they just copy/paste those? It's pretty much a guarentee those are as close to bulletproof as we can make hardware. (I'd personally lean towards the video poker standards, somehow I think those are more rigorously designed than ATMs)

          • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

            by eggnoglatte (1047660) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:58PM (#27055427)

            In both ATMs and gambling machines, the operator is a trusted entity. In voting he is not. Big difference.

          • by Dare nMc (468959)

            can't use ATM, just do a search for ATM fraud, billions of fraud so far this year alone with them. Gambling seams like a different criteria for software, but the hardware would likely be a good start. (since much of the ATM fraud starts with modification made to the ATM hardware)
            Personally I think there is just to much incentive to do E-Voting wrong (for those currently in power.) And little incentive to do it right. It does seam we need to appoint a EFF type oversight committee to have any chance.

        • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Funny)

          by geobeck (924637) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:18PM (#27054841) Homepage

          But if a corrupt group of politicians could rig the machines to get into power and (hypothetically, of course) start a war and that would cause many more deaths than some spurious bug in some medical equipment.

          Pfft, like that could ever happen. And if it did, they'd be unceremoniously thrown out after a single term.

          • Pfft, like anyone's going to miss that obvious sarcasm. And if someone did, there would only be one post, everyone else who missed it would realize that one is enough.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jurily (900488)

          We should change the laws to hold devices used in state and federal elections to similar or same standards as life-critical medical devices.

          They are life-critical. Just ask Saddam.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by heson (915298)

            We should change the laws to hold devices used in state and federal elections to similar or same standards as life-critical medical devices.

            They are life-critical. Just ask Saddam.

            I would rather ask these: http://icasualties.org/Iraq/index.aspx [icasualties.org]

      • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chelloveck (14643) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:35PM (#27055069) Homepage

        Or, put another way, "Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence." --N. Bonaparte

        I generally agree with that statement, but I'm really having a hard time figuring out how anyone could be that incompetent. What does a voting machine need to do? Count ballots, and keep a record of the count. That's about it. Oh, sure, you put a nice GUI and a touch screen on it, but at its core you're simply doing "candidate++; write_log(candidate);" over and over again. And the numbers you're counting aren't even that big, relatively speaking. They're certainly not going to overflow a 32-bit integer, so you don't have to worry about roll-over.

        How can anyone be incompetent enough to screw that up? That's truly creative incompetence.

        • by DrLang21 (900992)

          How can anyone be incompetent enough to screw that up? That's truly creative incompetence.

          Simple. Some big headed exec realized how much money and time they could save by making GEMS from an MS Access database using VB commands and an autorun script.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mister Whirly (964219)
            I have made applications myself using VB commands and an MS Access database that was far less bug prone than the GEMS software. Bad programming is bad programming no matter what the front or back ends are.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by HiThere (15173)

              It was the MSAccess2000 version, but I've personally caught MSAccess making a mistake when adding two numbers. It didn't happen often, but it did happen. And they weren't even large numbers.

              Now you might say "But you only caught one out of hundreds of thousands of calculations!". My response is "Do you know how difficult it is to track down that kind of error!" I expect that there are thousands that I didn't catch, or ascribed to rounding errors. The next day I stopped using (i.e., creating new program

    • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:43PM (#27054307)

      life sentence.

      seriously. one of the purposes of jail is to send a CLEAR MESSAGE that behavior such as this is not to be tolerated.

      and no hiding behind corp names - individuals at the top of the company should do jail time. no debate about that - they must directly feel the pain for the LOSS OF DEMOCRACY we suffered.

      200 yrs ago, give or take a few, people would be HANGED for this for treason. how is this not treason?

      I don't agree with hanging but I do agree with a 20+ year jail sentence. let the CEO's of the world know that there are some things that are so holy, you JUST DON'T MESS WITH THEM. democracy and fair voting is such a fundamental thing.

      a message should be sent. mandatory jail time with 20 years min. drug offenders who do FAR less damage to society are doing this today; why not punish REAL criminals for a change?

      • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrLang21 (900992) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:03PM (#27054623)
        The only problem with this is that our government solicited for this product. As far as anyone can tell, Diebold met the quality control and traceability standards that were put in place by the US government for this type of device, which is to say THERE WERE NONE. It was unethical for Diebold to put out the product that they did, but that's not to say that it was illegal or treasonous.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          you want treason?

          what about the statement on record from diebold saying they'll do "everything possible" to ensure the republicans get into office (years ago).

          this raises doubt.

          the trail of 'bad machines' raises the bar even more on doubt.

          now, this company makes cash machines and from what I understand, they are exact to the penny. and thousands more people use these (per day!) than the once-every-few-years cycle of voting.

          why can't they be held to their own data standards? a diff data standard for money

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by DrLang21 (900992)

            now, this company makes cash machines and from what I understand, they are exact to the penny. and thousands more people use these (per day!) than the once-every-few-years cycle of voting.

            Except that Diebold didn't make these machines. Premier Election Systems made them, and then was bought up by Diebold. It was certainly negligent and a very poor choice by Diebold who probably just saw the dollar signs with HAVA. If Diebold really conspired to get Republicans into office via election fraud, making GEMS nothing more than a glorified MS Access database was a really dumb way to do it, since Democrats could just as easily make use of the security holes. If you locked up every government off

          • Still not treason. Treason is not just "doing stuff that hurts the US."

      • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:07PM (#27054691)

        I vote we throw them all in jail!

        YOU HAVE SELECTED ICE CREAM PARTY.

        Wait. Now wait one minute, I *know* I voted jail...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        200 yrs ago, give or take a few, people would be HANGED for this for treason. how is this not treason?

        Simple. When those in power change the definition of "treason" to "supporting terrorism" where the definition of "terrorism" has been changed to "voicing disapproval with government policy" and so on and so forth.

      • as if any message that had been sent to any parties in the preceding 50 years accomplished anything ...

        you still have madoffs, cheneys, that rotten republican appointed DOJ woman that screened FIFTY applicants in regard to their views on abortion, bush, freedom of speech etc BY MISTAKE (she says so) by using special software specifically built for that task, nixon, well. you keep counting.

        'clear message' hahahaa. clear messages do not work. VIGILANCE does. you, as citizen, have to be always vigilant and in

      • by zappepcs (820751)

        Treason? I am kind of feeling let down. All those Hollywood movies about the Mob and this is definitely stepping on their territory, so why haven't the mob put a hit on the CxO's of Diebold?

        In Russia, they murder spammers... fuck knows what they do to people that rig elections without permission.

        Either the mob is a bunch of pansies or the mob is in on the fix!

        Forget treason, just work to get the Mob pissed off at Diebold...

      • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Informative)

        by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:58PM (#27055423)

        how is this not treason?

        Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

        Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

        That's how this is not treason.

      • but never treason. At what point do accidents like this trigger government concerns of possible treason? Clearly Diebold and businesses like them aren't going to be dissuaded by outrage alone, but maybe building the tools for democrasy shouldn't be a particularly lucrative endeavor and the cost of mistakes should probably be considerably higher then in many other fields. Elections aren't business. I'm not a consumer of democracy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by i.r.id10t (595143)

      One day the wrong group of folks will feel very disenfranchised, and will go all Athens, Tn [wikipedia.org] on 'em.

      • And that's what you don't want. You don't want people going vigilante, or even starting a civil war.

        That's why electronic voting machines are stupid, and why this should be considered an extremely serious matter.

        Elections don't have to just be fair, they have to be easily _seen_ as fair.

        Electronic voting machines are opaque to most members of the public. They do not satisfy the latter criteria and are hence unsuitable.

        In contrast it's easier satisfy the latter when you do hand counting and there are represe
    • Re:Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:49PM (#27054403)

      Ok, so when do we get to throw Diebold exec in jail for election tampering already?

      The better question might be when will Diebold ask for a stimulous bail-out?

    • I thought you were going to say "Ok, so when do we get to throw *out the results of the last election*?" Then we could have been friends...
      • Too bad, so sad (Score:2, Insightful)

        by spun (1352)

        I know it must be hard for you to bear, having a responsible centrist president. But fortunately THESE election results were valid, unlike your Mr. Chimp's first election by judge. It shows your real character, that winning is more important to you than democracy. So I don't feel too sorry for you. In fact, I'm glad the Republicans have become the marginalized party of the deep south, religious fanatics, and wingnuts everywhere. Please, please run Palin for president! That would guarantee another four years

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by m.ducharme (1082683)

          Well, actually, these results are no more valid than Bush's results, if they were conducted with the same machine. One of the strongest arguments for a transparent voting system is that both parties can point to the system and say, "see, I didn't cheat. There's your evidence." With systems like the Diebold machines still being used, any election run on those systems is suspect, whether one party actually took advantage of the flaws to cheat or not.

          The upshot is, that really, Obama's election isn't any more

        • by sleigher (961421)
          I agree on the point of the new party. I like Obama, voted for him, and so far he has only disappointed me a little bit. There are some issues that fall on the Republican side of the isle that I agree with, but there is not 1 person in that party that I can bring myself to support. I wish the real conservatives would break off and form a true conservative party, leaving the southern racist and religious white elite parties to its own.

          I guess the other side of this is that maybe I am naive. Maybe there
      • by Hatta (162192)

        I'd be happy to throw out the results of the last election, if we can throw out the results of the last two elections as well. But it's too late for that. Besides, I'd bet that even today Barack Obama would handily win a hand counted election.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      the same time you throw your politicians who sold you out to corporations to jail or shoot them and make them pay for the bullets.

  • allowed??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:34PM (#27054163) Journal

    The number of votes erroneously deleted from the election results reported by GEMS in this case greatly exceeds the maximum allowable error rate established by HAVA

    There is an *allowed* number??

    • by vux984 (928602)

      There is an *allowed* number??

      Look at previous systems:

      People counting manually will make mistakes.

      Mechanical systems will have flaws.

      So electronic systems inherit the rules that mechanical/manual systems ran under.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Spacepup (695354)

        The difference is that with a paper ballot system, there is an accurate paper trail. You can't just toss out an entire block of ballots without someone finding them in the trash with a paper ballot system. But, it appears that exactly that can happen with the diebold systems.

        Diebold may not be maliciously trying to tamper with elections. They have just made it exceptionally easy to tamper with elections. They should not be trusted.

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          You have to read the context around that "allowed" though. It was stated as allowed error rate. You have that accurate paper trail, so recount it. Do it again. And again. And again. Chances are, if you're doing by hand, machine, or really any method, with a total of over 100 million ballots for a recount, you're going to get some slightly different result every time. That needn't be malice - people, and machines, make mistakes. The thing is making sure that those mistakes are as rare as possible, an

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          The difference is that with a paper ballot system, there is an accurate paper trail.

          In Chicago, the Democrats would have a pre-printed set of ballots already filled out to go back in with the others. They'd make sure that dead people voted and such to get the numbers close enough that people wouldn't lose too much faith in the system. Or the Republicans in the south that would use poll taxes after they were illegal, block access, change polling places so that people couldn't vote. In both cases, no amo
        • The difference is that with a paper ballot system, there is an accurate paper trail. You can't just toss out an entire block of ballots without someone finding them in the trash with a paper ballot system.

          What if a flood or fire control system destroys a box containing, say, 10 ballots. Under what circumstances should the original electronic votes, who can no longer be aligned to a paper trail, be counted? What if it is unsure if they were electronically counted, or if perhaps some other random 10 ballots were the ones not counted the first time? Should the entire election be redone if the margin of victory was less than 10 votes?

      • So electronic systems inherit the rules that mechanical/manual systems ran under.

        Then why bother switching at all? If the best they can do is to match the defect rate of the previous process, then it seems silly to convert over to an entirely different way of doing things.

        Mind you, I have no idea if this is actually the case; just that the statement above struck me as a bit odd.

        • If you can only match the defect rate, but improve efficiency in terms of cost and/or time, then it doesn't seem quite so silly to convert.
          • Agreed, but everything I've read to date about electronic voting seems to indicate that it's more expensive to implement/maintain than traditional methods. I honestly don't know if it's any faster in recording votes, but counting them always seems to fall back to manual methods due to accuracy concerns anyway.
    • Re:allowed??? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:45PM (#27054337)
      This entire situation is insane. My company's software isn't perfect but we can handle hundreds of thousands of transactions without missing one. I don't understand how you can fail so miserably at something as simple as electronic voting. The post below about it being based on an Access database melts my brain.
    • Re:allowed??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:52PM (#27054437)

      There is an *allowed* number??

      In any organic process, there will be a systemic error rate. These are people we're dealing with, not machines. People get confused, they make mistakes, they get angry and other people allow those mistakes to stand, sometimes they do the right thing for the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for the right reasons. Voting is a right, but nobody ever said it's done right. That said, the goal is to make that error rate less over time, to make continuous improvements in voter education, in process control, and in effective auditing, all the while knowing that perfection is a direction not a goal.

      The problem as presented here is that the error rate grossly exceeds what previous methods had, and that this is attributable to systemic flaws, rather than the inherently higher initial error rate that would be present in the early use of any new system.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      There is an *allowed* number??

      Yes, and originally it was supposed to be a little worse than paper, but not much. I don't know what it now. There was an allowance for slightly increased errors to encourage entry and because the point of them was never to replace paper (at least initially) but to allow handicapped people to vote without assistance. And there is an "allowed" number with paper too. So it's not like electronic voting gets a free pass. The only way to eliminate errors is to allow vote veri
    • There is an *allowed* number??

      That number MIGHT be zero... And monkeys MIGHT fly out my butt right now. ...

      Probably just a coincidence that they actually did.

  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:35PM (#27054173)
    is old. Its been known for years now. Its an Access database. Pretty sure you could reboot it, then hold down shift while it was starting to prevent the "auto-run" loading of the forms. And all the audit logs are just Visual Basic "triggers" that insert into a "log" table. Changing votes is as easy as going to the vote table and changing them. The Visual Basic triggers will be fired off, and insert crap into the logs. Then you just go to the log table and delete the new entries. There aren't logs of log changes or there would be an infinite loop of log entries, so you've just erased all record of your tampering. BlackBoxVoting.org has had detailed instructions up for as long as I've been hearing the name "Diebold".
    • Re:Old news (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:47PM (#27054371)
      Only a VB programmer could make something as simple as:

      candidates[choice]++;

      as complicated as using Access on Windows.

    • You left out the part about being able to remotely log in to these machines, who in some cases had the user/pass of admin/pass.

      Every step along with way, it appears to have been the most script kiddie friendly series of voting machines ever made.

  • Sabotage! (Score:2, Funny)

    by jlmale0 (1087135)
    Actually, the logs were 100% accurate.

    What we have here is a case of corporate sabotage by their competitors wanting them to look bad. Call me a conspiracy nut, sure. You're going to say these things are impossible to break into or tamper with, but this is the truth!
  • Okay, seriously, did GEMS get thrown together in someone's basement, or was it built as an academic exercise, or what?

    Maybe they outsourced it to a country that doesn't hold elections.

    At any rate, the people in charge of selling this steaming pile of Access to various state and local governments should at least be charged with fraud. Ideally they would be charged with sedition, but that's probably harder to prove.

  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:51PM (#27054423) Journal
    Ou banking system makes heavy use of Diebold. One of two things is happening.
    1. Diebold is inept and we have mass issues in our banking systems.
    2. Diebold has PURPOSELY done this.

    I have not seen a single issue in my accounts due to ATMs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Vandilizer (201798)

      1. Diebold is inept and we have mass issues in our banking systems.

      Just a quick replay to your first point.

      WE DO HAVE A MASSIVE ISSUE WITH OUT BANKING SYSTEM.

      where have you been the past year? Canada :)

      • of that is caused by the ATM system? The only issue that we have with our banking system is corporate greed. That is a different issue, than failures in the computer systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lead Butthead (321013)

      OuR banking system makes heavy use of Diebold. One of two things is happening.

      1. Diebold is inept and we have mass issues in our banking systems.
      2. Diebold has PURPOSELY done this.

      I have not seen a single issue in my accounts due to ATMs.

      If memory serves, Diebold supposedly landed in the voting machine business by acquiring another company (name escapes me, but I imagine somebody knows what the name was.) As such it's possible that the group of people working on t

    • Re:The real problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by blueforce (192332) <`clannagael' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:05PM (#27054657) Homepage Journal

      OR.... Diebold didn't make them, rather Premier Election Solutions did. Diebold bought Premier back in the early oughties when Wally O'Dell was CEO and had deep interest with the Bush administration. Your banking "issues" are from a completely separate company in a completely separate state.

      http://www.rawstory.com/news/2005/Diebold_CEO_resigns_after_reports_of_1212.html [rawstory.com]

    • by Efreet (246368)

      And Diebold ATMs cost ten times as much as Diebold voting machines.

    • by belmolis (702863)

      The company that makes the error-free banking systems is the original Diebold company. The company that makes the awful voting machines was called Global Election Systems when Diebold bought it in 2002. So, although Diebold now owns both, the people who designed the banking machines and the people who designed the voting machines are entirely different. Diebold is still at fault for failing to fix or scrap the voting machines and for allowing its voting machine subsidiary to play fast and loose with electi

  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:53PM (#27054449)
    I was very surprised this past election when I attempted to show my State Issued Photo ID card (Driver's License) and Social Security Card to prove who I was in order to vote.
    The very polite woman looked away and told me that she CANNOT look at my ID Cards because of laws/rules.
    She simply verbally asked for my name from a list of registered voters in my district, I signed my name on the blank beside my computer printed name and was handed my ballot.
    Scratching my head, I went into the both and voted. Next I returned my paper ballot card to a large scanning device and inserted it and that was 'voting' for 2008.

    What troubles me is that there was almost ZERO authentication! All I needed, was a name and to show up where that name would be likely registered and I could vote fraudulently.
    I get more authentication getting gas with mt debit card at 7-11!
    I realized that this must be ON PURPOSE. But why? All I can conclude after much though is to allow fraud.
    ->We already have a perfected system that nearly everyone already knows how to use! They are called Credit Cards!

    Why can Mastercard/Visa reliably authenticate BILLIONS of unique transactions with very little error and an audit trail and Diebold cannot?
    I believe that when the US has another election, we should be issued Visa/Mastercard Debit cards with our pictures on them linking to a database of our eligibility to vote in US elections.
    We use the same credit card/ debit card devices that are used all over which are tied to a computer touch screen, and we "purchase" a list of candidates (just like building a PC at NewEgg..) and then "purchase".
    Now I have a printed receipt that instantly confirms my choices and selections after the transaction. If I made any mistake, I will need to immediately take that receipt to the person conducting the elections with my photo ID debit card for voting, and they will assist me in correcting the errors and I will need to electronically sign a form and will be issues a correction receipt with my previous incorrect choices credited to my "account" and the my new correct selections "purchases" on the new receipt.
    of course, I will be able to later look this up online to verify my paper receipt matches the online database of my "votes" (purchases).

    Why reinvent the wheel? Mastercard/Visa have over 30 year experience conducting authenticated transactions and their fee is typically less than 3%.
    The Sause is not in the touch screens or their audit logs, it is in AUTHENTICATION and being able to reliable VERIFY your selections got registered as your choices.
    (Of course I will later expect a statement via the US Mail (built in fraud protection laws) that will exactly match my printed receipt obtained at the time of my voting...)
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      1. If the same person votes twice they notice, sure it's after the fact. There are simpler ways of getting multiple votes counted than picking registered voters and hoping they don't vote.

      2. Secret ballots are secret for good reason, verifying your receipt against some online database destroys that.

      Just tick/write a number in a damn box with a pencil, how hard can it be...

      • Just tick/write a number in a damn box with a pencil, how hard can it be...

        I direct your attention to Minnesota...

      • by Zymergy (803632) *
        I understand the desire for secrecy in the voting, but how do I know my ELECTRONIC vote was not changed?
        I could verify that by looking it up online and getting a verification in the mail.
        Maybe my vote was bit-flipped for the other guy? How would I ever know that without being able to audit my own vote?

        I suppose my point is, that I do not trust the system and there is ZERO way to verify my choices.
        I would rather give up some secrecy in the vote to verify it made it to the correct place.
        There is j
        • by Nursie (632944)

          "I could verify that by looking it up online and getting a verification in the mail."

          No, you couldn't.

          ANY ability to check after the fact can be subverted so that your employer can check how you voted, so your abusive spouse can check how you voted, so the local mob-boss can check how you voted etc etc.

          There are a plethora of good reasons why this is a very bad idea

          "Maybe my vote was bit-flipped for the other guy? How would I ever know that without being able to audit my own vote?"

          Same way you can with pape

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        2. Secret ballots are secret for good reason, verifying your receipt against some online database destroys that.

        And what reason? We had open ballots for years in this country. The government still runs with open ballots. There was a period of civil unrest followed by racial troubles that resulted in voter tampering of all kinds, and secret ballots were implemented to help with some of the massive voter issues at that time. But those issues are gone now. And being able to verify a vote seems to elimin
    • You must remember that Visa and Mastercard understand and accept (as a cost of doing business) that there will be a certain percentage of fraud in any batch of transactions. To them, they feel that the cost of making the credit card system more secure (i.e., adding more security features) outweighs the desire to make it easy to use (e.g., upping the dollar amount under which you can make a credit card purchase without a signature).

      I, too, live in a state where voter authentication is based on the list of
    • by Ironica (124657) <pixel@boondo[ ]org ['ck.' in gap]> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:03PM (#27055471) Journal

      The very polite woman looked away and told me that she CANNOT look at my ID Cards because of laws/rules. ...
      What troubles me is that there was almost ZERO authentication! All I needed, was a name and to show up where that name would be likely registered and I could vote fraudulently. ...
      I realized that this must be ON PURPOSE. But why? All I can conclude after much though is to allow fraud.

      No... it's to allow everyone to vote, even if they don't have the money to get a state ID card.

      There's no FREE form of authenticated ID. A passport costs $100. A California State ID Card costs $7 if you qualify for a reduced fee.

      A state that provides authenticated ID at no charge might not have a state law requiring that people be allowed to vote without ID, but around here, requiring ID would be a financial barrier to voting.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        A state that provides authenticated ID at no charge might not have a state law requiring that people be allowed to vote without ID, but around here, requiring ID would be a financial barrier to voting.

        Everywhere I've voted had a free voter card. They would accept government ID in place of the voter card, but the voter card itself was sufficient. They require some ID from all, even if it is just the voter card that has no photo.
  • Minnesota Anyone? (Score:3, Informative)

    by craenor (623901) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:55PM (#27054503) Homepage
    Considering that still, several months later, the State of Minnesota is recounting paper Senate ballots over and over, is this REALLY that bad of an option?
    • If only people bothered to read instructions...

      Stray marks outside the bubble (or the line where you write "Lizard People")? Ballot gets destroyed. Period.

      Now, that might be a bit harsh, you may not know if your ballot will get destroyed, so there should be a scanner for every paper ballot station (or so...3:1, 4:1 seem good too). Scan it in and if it reports what you want, good, submit it. If it throws up ERROR or the wrong candidates, destroy it and get a new ballot.

      (There should also be a publically

    • by Ironica (124657) <pixel@boondo[ ]org ['ck.' in gap]> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:04PM (#27055487) Journal

      Considering that still, several months later, the State of Minnesota is recounting paper Senate ballots over and over, is this REALLY that bad of an option?

      You mean, it's better to have an electronic system arbitrarily choose a candidate quickly, than a paper system slowly choose a candidate based on actual votes?

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        You mean, it's better to have an electronic system illegally and nefariously choose a candidate quickly, than a paper system slowly choose a candidate based on actual votes?

        FTFY.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:56PM (#27054509) Homepage

    Most people will feel that the candidate they wanted won, so the machines must be okay. Most will never consider the possibility that their candidate wasn't supposed to win. Or won despite having the machines against him. And the losing side had already picked scapegoats before the election so the don't need to worry about the machines.

    • by Daimanta (1140543)

      "Most people will feel that the candidate they wanted won, so the machines must be okay. "

      Well, I think you defined democracy pretty clearly so I don't see the problem when looking at your statement.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      If "most people feel that the candidate they wanted won" then it wasn't rigged, since that candidate obviously got "most" of the votes.

      Of course that ignores people who don't vote, but they shouldn't be being counted in the first place since their feelings and views with respect to elections are irrelevant.

    • by Ironica (124657)

      Most people will feel that the candidate they wanted won, so the machines must be okay. Most will never consider the possibility that their candidate wasn't supposed to win.

      Of course, if "most" people wanted the winning candidate to win, they probably voted for him, and therefore... he's the winning candidate.

      (Not that this in any way excuses electronic voting fraud.)

  • Is Diebold completely incompetent when it comes to software QA, or does the voting machine work exactly as designed?
  • Old Version? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:13PM (#27054753)
    Not that its still not shoddy, but this report seems to imply that version 1.18.19 was still being used in the 2008 elections. The current version seems to be 1.18.24 and has been out since Oct 2007. Not realy easy to tell whats been addressed, but it at least seems to imply in a few of the release notes that it corrects previously recorded software defects.
  • by BountyX (1227176) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:21PM (#27054881)
    Open Source voiting (software and hardware), with code in public domain and some verification systems in place.
    • To get the best all round reliable system that is also affordable and accountable. Surely some company or organization out there can be encouraged to put up a prize as a reward for development.

      Getting commercial access to space is important for sure, glad that that is underway, but for any country calling itself a democracy, surely nothing is more important to its citizens than the assurance that all elections are being conducted fairly using a reliable system.

      Up here in Canada, we still use paper ballots a

  • when we told of such things and the shady connection in between diebold's parent corporations and cheney and his position as a CEO, we were dubbed 'conspiracy junkies'. guess it wasnt us, who was the junk.

  • How hard can it be? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by I'm not really here (1304615) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:36PM (#27055087)
    How hard can it be to build a foolproof system? I mean, come on! Why not do something like this:
    • computer voting system
    • Scantron copy is printed out for manual verification by the voter (with the selected candidate's name printed directly on the scantron sheet for easy verification, along with an "overlay" that shows the names above the scantron vote column for more certain verification), and dropped into a lockbox if confirmed to be accurate
    • voter selects button on screen stating that he/she has confirmed his/her vote. This prints a second, identical Scantron, which is dropped into a second locked box.
    • System has two CDR drives in it (not CD-RW)
    • As each vote is confirmed by the voter, the data for that vote is burned to each CDR (in triplicate or whatever for error correction), with no method for marking deletes - once the vote is cast, it is cast (that's what the "confirm or start over" mechanical button should be for)
    • Each CDR tray is set such that ejecting the CDRs drops one into the same lockbox as the scantrons, and the other into the same lockbox as the scantrons which were reviewed by the voters manually
    • Finally, when the voting is complete, each lockbox is sent to a different counting station, unlocked in front of many witnesses, run through the scantron, and verified against the CDR.
    • If the margin of error is greater than 99.95% or whatever their acceptable limit is, then the scantrons at that station are manually counted, using the printed names , not the scantron letter value, as the printed names are what the voter verified
    • Same thing happens at the other station

    Results are determined thus:

    There are 6 counting methods available in this scenario (2 CDRs, 2 scantron auto reads, and (if needed) two manual reads).

    All that needs happen is that 4 of the 6 counts match up. CDRs are almost guaranteed to match up, so that's two (and if they don't match up, there has been some type of tampering or system failure, and we move from the CDRs into the Scantrons). After that, if the two scantron autoreads match up to the CDRs within the margin of error, then we know that the votes were counted correctly (3 items were not reviewed by the voter, but those 3 items match up with the voter reviewed cards). If, after looking at these four counting options, we do not have four matches (One of the scantron autoreads doesn't match the other three, or one of the CDRs is corrupted or unreadable, etc.), we do the manual counts. If we do not have 4 matching counts at this point, the votes are not valid, and a revote is required.

    Yes, this is an "armchair" analysis, and I'm sure has some holes in it, but how in the heck is an Access Database with VB triggers any better than this armchair analysis?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gclef (96311)

      Too many moving parts. If any one part of the chain there fails during testing (which really only happens in the couple weeks before the election), then that box is unusable, which means there's going to be a *lot* of unusable machines in any given election. Also, any system has to be able to be verified that it's working properly by ANYONE...because that's who you're going to get as volunteers. IT-comfortable folks are thin on the ground as election volunteers.

      I volunteered as an election judge this pas

  • I understand there are complexities to any software project - I've been doing this stuff professionally for over 10 years now, and I still fail to see what's so hard about capturing votes. My only real guess is that Diebold and others are re-inventing the wheel - coding a complete system from the ground up and making a lot of mistakes along the way.

    But seriously, if your entire business model was based on a machine that exists to simply tabulate votes, don't you think you'd have the bandwidth to do it very

  • There are 2 reasons this happened:

    1. The product schedule and feature set was determined by a commission paid sales force of non-technical people that were selling this product to local governments. The sales people cared about their commission and nothing else. They certainly did not care about the pesky concerns of the nerdy engineers who were writing the code.

    2. This is not a sexy product for software engineers to work on so it was a huge challenge to recruit engineers to work on it. The result wa
  • ...it turns out that a voting machine bug produced incorrect results in November, 2008 and John McCain actually won by a landslide.

    When asked for comment, newly sworn-in Vice President Sarah Palin gave a hearty thumbs up and declared "You betcha! Yer darn tootin' we won!"

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