Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stealing Elections 101

Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Ballot Box with Ballot

With a tip of the hat to cometman, an update on the horror show that is Premier Election Systems, or Diebold. Cometman's other excellent diary, introducing cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore, can no longer be found on Pff, because Pff is no more. Fortunately Arthur Gilroy reprinted it in full and it can be found here. Both of the Spoonamore interviews to follow. But first, this bit of joy from the Washington Post.

A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges.

The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold.

. . .

Officials in Butler County, Ohio -- north of Cincinnati -- were the first to raise the issue when 150 votes from a card dropped in March. Brunner's office originally said that 11 counties had the same problem but has since revised that to nine. Her office was not able to say how many dropped votes were discovered in those jurisdictions.

"I can't provide odds on whether dropped votes were not recognized" during the decade GEMS has been used, Rigall said, "but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified."

So, in 34 states, over 10 years this flaw that causes tabulation problems has only occurred 9 times. We know this because it's only been caught by election officials 9 times. Well, I know I feel better.

But now, the bad news. Diebold's voting machines may be riddled with problems such as these and we would have no way of knowing because Diebold won't allow any audit of their programming.

Stephen Spoonamore, a cyber security expert, who has made a career of auditing similar systems, is baffled as to why to Diebold allows its banking systems to be audited, but not its voting machines. Well, not really. This life-long Republican is pretty sure he knows why. Because they're designed to steal elections.

Among the revelations in these two interviews: 1) There is no such thing as unhackable computer security. The only defense is a transparent process that can be audited and Diebold won't allow it. 2) Spoonamore is certain that Max Cleland actually won the election he lost to the odious Saxby Chamblis. 3) A voting tabulator should have no reason to subtract votes, only add them. Yet, the Diebold machines have a subtraction function.

And much, much more.