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My experience as an Election Judge in Baltimore County
Avi Rubin website ^ | 3/3/2004 | Avi Rubin

Posted on 03/04/2004 3:58:48 PM PST by irv

It is now 10:30 pm, and I have been up since 5 a.m. this morning. Today, I served as an election judge in the primary election, and I am writing down my experience now, despite being extremely tired, as everything is fresh in my mind, and this was one of the most incredible days in my life.

I first became embroiled in the current national debate on evoting security when Dan Wallach of Rice University and I, along with Computer Scientist Yoshi Kohno and my Ph.D. student Adam Stubblefield released a report analyzing the software in Diebold's Accuvote voting machines.

Although there were four of us on the project, perhaps because I was the most senior of the group, the report became widely associate with me, and people began referring to it as the "Hopkins report" or even in some cases the "Rubin report". I became the target of much criticism from Maryland and Georgia election officials who were deeply committed to these machines, and of course, of the vendor. The biggest criticism that I received was that I am an academic scientist and that academics do not "know siccum" about elections, as Doug Lewis from the Election Center put very eloquently.

While I dispute many of the claims that computer scientists working on e-voting security analysis are deficient in their knowledge of elections, I realized that there was only one way to stifle this criticism, and at the same time to perform a civic duty. I volunteered to become an election judge in Baltimore County. The first step was to get signed up. I filled out a form at a local grocery store and waited for a call from the Baltimore County Board of Elections. The call never came. So, I called up the board and spoke with the head of elections and found out that there was a mandatory training session a couple of days later. I got on to the list for the training, and I attended. There, I learned that my entire county would be voting with Diebold Accuvote TS machines, the very one that we had analyzed in our report. It was an eery feeling as I trained for 2 hours on every aspect of using the machine and teaching others how to use them. Afterwards, I received a certificate signed by the board of elections and became a qualified judge. I was supposed to receive a phone call within a few days assigning me to a precinct, but I did not. So, I called up the board of elections and spoke with the same woman, who assigned me to a precinct at a church in Timonium, MD, about 15 minutes from my house.

I reported to my precinct at 5:45 a.m. this morning. Introductions began, and I immediately realized that it would not be a normal day. There are two head judges, one from each party. There were also seven other judges. The head judges were Marie (R) and Jim (D). Both of them mentioned that they read about me in the paper that morning, and were pretty cold towards me. It turns out that the Baltimore Sun ran a story today about my being an election judge. In there, I'm quoted as saying that the other judges in my training were in the "grandparent category" with respect to their age. My colleagues for the day, who were in that category as well, did not appreciate the barb and were ready to spar with me.

There are three types of judges besides the head judges. There are four book judges, one from each party with A-K and one from each party with L-Z. There is one judge assigned to provisional ballots, and a couple of unit judges charged with assigning voters to particular machines. I was the L-Z democrat book judge, along with Andy, a grandfather of many, a staunch Republican, and a fellow I grew very fond of as the day went on. To my left were Anne, the Republican judge married to Andy, and Sandy. Actually, there were two Sandys. One began as a unit judge, but early on switched with the other Sandy to be the democratic book judge on A-K. Bill was the provisional judge, and he is married to head judge Marie. And then there was Joy. One of the Sandys, Joy and I were the three younger judges who did not fit into the grandparent category.

Joy was by far the most knowledgeable about the election. She had trained dozens of groups on the Diebold machine, and she knew all of the procedures inside and out. The head judges deferred to Joy on just about every major issue that came up. She knew our manuals by heart, and we were very lucky to have her there. In reality, all of us helped with all of the jobs, but we had our default assignments.

The job of the book judge is to look up each voter in a card deck and find their registration card. If there wasn't one, then there were procedures for handling them. Once we found the card, we cross checked it with our roll booklet. For the most part this process went smoothly. I wore a string around my neck with a little electronic sleeve on the end. After a voter was verified as registered, I slid a smartcard into the sleave and pushed a few buttons to designate whether or not this voter should receive a Democrat or Republican ballot, based on their registration, and there was also an option for specifying magnification of the ballot on the screen, or even audio for blind people.

From 6-7 a.m., we set up the voting booths. We had to unplug all of them because they were facing the wrong way. We then rearranged them and plugged them back in. Each machine has a 5 hour battery, so this process went without a hitch. Pretty much all of the judges knew who I was and what my role has been as a very public critic of electronic voting and Diebold in particular. At around 6:30, representatives from Diebold arrived, and although my badge said "Avi" on it, I heard them refer to me as Professor Rubin, so I knew that they knew exactly who I was. In fact, some of the very senior Diebold executives who I recognized showed up, which makes me think that they knew I would be there, perhaps based on the Baltimore Sun article.

At 7 a.m., we opened the polls, and head judge Jim cast the first vote, to a round of applause from all of us. Voters trickled in, but at a slow pace. I felt some hostility from my fellow judges. This was not helped by what transpired next. A TV crew from Fox News showed up at the polls and asked the head judge if they could interview me. The head judge called a "super" judge at the county and came back and said no. The reporter asked to speak to the super judge, named Jackie, and was obviously not getting anywhere. She left rather angry, with a nasty exchange with head judge Jim and some unpleasant words with head judge Marie. I felt very uncomfortable. At that moment, there were no more voters in the room, and I offered to everyone in the room that I was not here to pull a publicity stunt, and that I would agree not to speak with any reporters throughout the day. This was a serious responsibility and duty that I took with the utmost respect for the system, and I would not let it turn into a mockery. A few minutes later, though, a photographer from the Baltimore Sun showed up with a reporter in tow. The same routine happened, only this time, they allowed the photographer to take pictures of me working and checking in voters and programming smartcards. However, they would not let the reporter talk to me. An angry exchange ensued, and when he left, I felt that tempers were pretty hot.

Once again, I reiterated my intensions of being nothing more than an objective judge today. The situation was worsened when one voter had a problem with his card which the voting machine spit out. He was given a new card, but I was concerned, and so I asked head judge Marie to count the ballots and check them against the count in the machine after he left. She did, and the count was fine. The smartcard really had failed and it was fixed. However, I overheard head judge Jim complain to Joy that I had made a big deal about that incident because the Baltimore Sun reporter was there. That was not true. It was a coincidence.

Over the next several hours, we all were busy checking in voters and dealing with running the election. Everybody calmed down, and we started joking around with each other and the mood became more positive. We only had one other minor press incident during the day. During breaks, I decided to educate Marie and Joy about the security problems of electronic voting machines. Amazingly, they really started to get it. They confessed that they had been ready to fight me, and that there was great animosity towards me, but that, in their words, I wasn't "such a bad guy after all". At the same time, I started realizing that some of the attacks described in our initial paper were actually quite unrealistic, at least in a precinct with judges who worked as hard as ours did and who were as vigilant. At the same time, I found that I had underestimated some of the threats before. I think that being an election judge was the best thing I could have possibly done to learn about the real security of elections.

In our paper, we described how the smartcards used by these machines had no cryptography on them, and we made the widely criticized claim that a teenager in a garage could manufacture smartcards and use them to vote 20 times. I now believe that this particular attack is not a real threat -- at least not in the primary I worked today. We had 9 judges and 5 machines. Whenever a voter took what seemed to be too long, we always had a judge ask them if they needed help, or if something was wrong. Also, the machines make a loud clicking sound when the smartcard is ejected, and we almost always had a judge standing there waiting to collect the card and give the voter a sticker, as they are ushered out.

In general, multiple voting attacks during the election are not likely to work in a precinct such as the one where I worked. Every hour or so, we counted all of the voter authorization cards (different from the smartcards), which were in an envelope taped to the machine, and compared them to the number of votes counted by the machine so far. I believe that if any voter somehow managed to vote multiple times, that it would be detected within an hour. I have no idea what we would do in that situation. In fact, I think we'd have a serious problem on our hands, but at least we would know it.

Every hour, we also counted the totals on the machines and compared them to the totals in the registration roster that we used to check people in. I was amazed at the number of countings and pieces of paper that we shuffled throughout the day in what was billed as a paperless electronic election.

There were also some security issues that I found to be much worse than I expected. All of the tallies are kept on PCMCIA cards. At the end of the election, each of those cards is loaded onto one machine, designated as the zero machine. (I found it interesting that Diebold numbered the machines 0 through n-1, disproving my notion that they don't have anyone on board who knows anything about Computer Science.) The zero machine is then connected to a modem, and the tallies are sent to a central place, where they are incorporated with the tallies of other precincts. In our case, the phone line was not working properly, so we went to the backup plan. The zero machine combined all the tallies from the PCMCIA cards that were loaded one at a time onto the machine. It then printed out the final tallies. One copy of that went onto the outside door of the building where there were talliers and poll watchers eagerly waiting. The other was put into a pouch with all of the PCMCIA cards, each wrapped in a printed tally of the machine to which it corresponds, and that pouch was driven by the two head judges to the board of elections office.

The security risk I saw was that Diebold had designated which machine would be the zero machine, and at one point, all of the vote tallies were loaded onto that one machine in memory. That would be the perfect point to completely change the tallies. There is no need to attack all of the machines at a precinct if someone could tamper with the zero machine. In fact, even when the modem is used, it is only the zero machine that makes the call. In the code we examined, that phone call is not protected correctly with cryptography. Perhaps that has been fixed. I was glad to see that the administrator PIN actually used in the election was not the 1111 that we used in our training, and that we had seen in the code.

One thing absolutely amazed me. With very few exceptions, the voters really LOVED the machines. They raved about them to us judges. The most common comment was "That was so easy." I can see why people take so much offense at the notion that the machines are completely insecure. Given my role today, I just smiled and nodded. I was not about to tell voters that the machines they had just voted on were so insecure. I was curious that voters did not seem to question how their votes were recorded. The voter verifiability that I find so precious did not seem to be on the minds of these voters. One woman did come up to Joy and complain that she wanted a paper ballot to verify. But, Joy managed to convince her that these machines were state of the art and that there was nothing to worry about, which was followed by a smile and a wink in my direction. I just kept quiet, given the circumstances. As an election judge, my job is to make the election work as well as possible, and creating doubts in the voters' minds at the polls does not figure into my idea of responsible behavior. Perhaps the lightest moment in the day came when one voter standing at his machine asked in the most deadpan voice, "What do I do if it says it is rebooting?" Head judge Marie turned white, and Joy's mouth dropped. My heart started to beat quickly, when he laughed and said "just kidding." There was about a two second pause of silence followed by roaring laughter from everyone.

I found the reaction to that joke interesting. Everybody was willing to believe that this had happened, and yet when it became clear that it didn't, we all felt relief. I'm sure that the other judges would have claimed that this was impossible, and yet, for a brief instant, they all thought it had happened.

There were a few unusual moments related to my previous work on e-voting. Several people recognized me from TV appearances and from the paper. Yesterday, I was on two CNN shows and the local ABC station criticising Diebold's voting machines, and last week, I was on the Today show and on TechTV. One voter who I was checking in, leaned over and said, "I know who you are." I just smiled. Then he asked me if he should even bother voting, and if I thought the machines would "hold out". I answered that my views were well known, but that today I was an election judge. Another voter asked me, "Aren't you that hacker guy?"

In the beginning of the election, we printed a "zero tape" of each machine. I found this to be the kind of charade that a confidence man would play when performing some sleight of hand. So, the machines printed each candidates name with a zero next to it. Somehow, that is supposed to mean that there are no votes counted on the machine? I don't know. I think I could write a five line computer program that would print the zero tally, and I don't see how that ties into the security of the election. In fact, that was not the only procedure that I thought served more as eye candy than real security. For example, the process for collecting the smartcards was for the unit judge to take the card from the voter and put it on a piano that was across the room. Every 15 minutes or so, the unit judge would take the cards and give them back to us book judges. When a Diebold rep showed up, I asked her about this, and she said that it was done to give the voters a sense that nothing was being kept on the smartcards about their voting session. After my experience today, I can say with total confidence that this would not have ocurred to any of the voters we had.

There was a very funny moment around 2:00 in the afternoon. A voter complained that she was a Democrat but had been given the Republican ballot. This required both head judges to void the ballot. It turned out that this had been my mistake when I coded the smartcard. In fact, I was the only one the entire day who made such a mistake. The less than young judges had a good time constantly reminding me of who the careless judge was at this election. One of them commented to me that there are many young people who are incompetent and many old people who can manage an election just fine, thank you.

I continue to believe that the Diebold voting machines represent a huge threat to our democracy. I fundamentally believe that we have thrown our trust in the outcome of our elections in the hands of a handful of companies (Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S) who are in a position to control the final outcomes of our elections. I also believe that the outcomes can be changed without any knowledge by election judges or anyone else. Furthermore, meaningful recounts are impossible with these machines.

I also believe that we have great people working in the trenches and on the front lines. These are ordinary people, mostly elderly, who believe in our country and our democracy, and who work their butts off for 16 hours, starting at 6 a.m. to try to keep the mechanics of our elections running smoothly. It is a shame that the e-voting tidal wave has a near hypnotic effect on these judges and almost all voters. I believe that after today's experience, I am much better equipped to make the arguments against e-voting machines with no voter verifiability, but I also have a great appreciation for how hard it is going to be to fight them, given how much voters and election officials love them.

We were not allowed to use cell phones or access email all day. On my way home from the polls, I called my voicemail at work. I had messages and requests for interviews from ABC News, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, Wired News, CNN, several radio stations and the New York Times. So, this issue is not going away. Over the next few days, I'll be discussing my experience and probably sparring with the usual suspects in the various media outlets. My biggest fear is that super Tuesday will be viewed as a big success. By all accounts, everyone at my precinct felt that way. The more e-voting is viewed as successful, the more it will be adopted, and the greater the risk when someone decides to actually exploit the weaknesses of these systems.

It's now almost midnight, and I've been up since 5:00 a.m. I'm falling asleep as I type this, so I will end here. Good night.


TOPICS: Front Page News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Maryland
KEYWORDS: electionfraud; evoting
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Avi Rubin is a respected security researcher who went the extra mile and found out he was right. I had not thought about the "sheeple" aspect of what he saw. Interesting and disturbing.
1 posted on 03/04/2004 3:58:49 PM PST by irv
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To: sauropod; irv
read later. Go Terps!
2 posted on 03/04/2004 4:00:59 PM PST by sauropod (I intend to have Red Kerry choke on his past.)
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To: irv; All
Cross-link:

-The Vote Fraud Archives--

3 posted on 03/04/2004 4:06:22 PM PST by backhoe
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To: irv
"I also believe that we have great people working in the trenches and on the front lines. These are ordinary people, mostly elderly, who believe in our country and our democracy, and who work their butts off for 16 hours, starting at 6 a.m."

AMEN!
4 posted on 03/04/2004 4:11:59 PM PST by SwinneySwitch (The Barbarians are Inside the Gates!)
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To: irv
It's not easier to cheat with electronic voting machines. But it's easier to cheat with huge numbers with electronic voting machines.

gitmo
5 posted on 03/04/2004 4:12:01 PM PST by gitmo (Thanks, Mel. I needed that.)
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To: gitmo
But it's easier to cheat with huge numbers with electronic voting machines.

Bingo! Computerize the things to make them more efficient, and they're more efficient for the bad guys, too.

Next up: spam voting!

6 posted on 03/04/2004 4:30:16 PM PST by irv
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To: gitmo
I think a paper trail has to be mandatory, so that any questions of corruption can be investigated. If Safeway can give you a paper print-out of your purchases as they go into their computers, it seems to me a simple task to do the same with the voting machines.
7 posted on 03/04/2004 4:37:39 PM PST by expatpat
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To: irv
It's perhaps worth pointing out that Baltimore County is very different from Baltimore City.
8 posted on 03/04/2004 4:47:53 PM PST by expatpat
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To: expatpat
how so?
9 posted on 03/04/2004 4:50:15 PM PST by irv
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To: irv
Here's my simple plan to streamline the voting technology:

Give everyone a piece of paper with a list of candidates' names on it. Person circles (or places 'X' next to, or something equally obvious) name of preferred candidate. Drops ballot in a box on the way out. Ballots in box are tabulated by people, using their eyes, at the end of the day, in some fair way (i.e. by more than one person, representing more than one party, etc).

From everything I have heard about all our other voting technologies, I don't believe there are any valid complaints about or improvements to be made upon such a system. Efficiency? Simplicity? This has it. Look at all the procedures that this guy describes, by contrast; cards and sleeves, papers and books, people putting cards on a piano... I mean WTF is the point. And if you look at 2000 when suddenly everyone decided that by default (unless the Supreme Court "steals the election") it's ultra important for all ballots to be hand counted ANYWAY, *in addition to* the machine tallies, and you start to realize, what the hell is the point of the initial machine tallies? And what about cost, you're telling me Diebold isn't thrilled to have this contract? How on earth could it be a cost savings over papers n pencils?

The only real advantage seems to be a savings in time, since all other things being equal computers can count faster than humans. But 1. that time savings is partially eaten away by all the extra procedures and 2. so what? we can't wait a day or two to learn the outcome?

10 posted on 03/04/2004 4:50:16 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Dr. Frank fan
Give everyone a piece of paper with a list of candidates' names on it. Person circles (or places 'X' next to, or something equally obvious) name of preferred candidate. Drops ballot in a box on the way out.

This method has worked before, but it really is prone to fraud. Example: forge some ballots (or steal them before the election). Someone distracts the judges for about half a second, and whlie they're looking the other way, you slip an extra hundred votes for your guy in the box.

We really can do better. It's just that the current method isn't enough better.

11 posted on 03/04/2004 4:59:06 PM PST by irv
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To: Dr. Frank fan
Computers can be a useful aid in voting. Open source coding, subject to suprise review by either party. Primary purpose being tabulation, not voting technique (though I would have no problems with a user friendly, touch screen, front end, I definately can understand how it could create doubt and suspicion)

Simplicity is the key. ....and absolutely NO modems.
12 posted on 03/04/2004 5:06:02 PM PST by NeonKnight
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To: expatpat
I agree. I would also encorporate a CRC number, based on TOD and voting choices. That would be a more secure check, and people tampering on opposite political sides wouldn't be lost in a washout.
13 posted on 03/04/2004 5:12:47 PM PST by gitmo (Thanks, Mel. I needed that.)
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To: irv
This method has worked before, but it really is prone to fraud.

Not really. If this guy is to be believed, the Diebold system is far more prone to fraud (and *uncatchable* fraud, and fraud on a *mass* scale). Of course, any voting system which could be designed by humans can be defrauded, but perfection is an unrealistic standard.

Example: forge some ballots (or steal them before the election).

Oh, it's as easy as that? "just" forge (or steal) ballots?

Someone distracts the judges for about half a second, and whlie they're looking the other way, you slip an extra hundred votes for your guy in the box.

Heh. Sounds like a good I Love Lucy episode. And again, I marvel at how easy you seem to think that would be. "just" have "someone" distract "the judges" (all of them, apparently).

Of course,

-stuffing "an extra hundred" ballots into the voting slot is not so easy if you make the slot small enough. how long is this "distraction" anyway?

-creating "hundreds" of fraudulent ballots is hard, painstaking work, or the fraud is too obvious (like if they're all done with the same handwriting, pen, etc)

-once those judges are through being "distracted", don'cha think they'll figure out that none of them were watching the box, and wonder what shenanigans may have taken place? Won't they be suspicious of the "distraction"? And heck, if fraud is as easy as "distract the judges" then the truth is that you can do that with *any* system.

I'm sorry, but you seem to have conjured up a worst-case, preposterous scenario. For some reason paper ballots aren't good enough because they wouldn't survive all sorts of wacky hi-jinx (what if there's an asteroid strike??), but meanwhile, elaborate systems involving "cards" and "sleeves" and double- and triple-checks of books are deemed superior (presumably because they involve "technology").

We really can do better. It's just that the current method isn't enough better.

The current method is WORSE than paper ballots in almost every respect other than time-of-counting. And when it comes to paper ballots, "we really can do better" is an unsupportable statement unless you actually specify a system which really is better. You have not.

There really is no good reason to be dissatisfied with a paper ballot system. "They COULD BE defrauded due to [wacky scenario]" is not a good reason (wacky scenarios can be invented for any voting system). "They are imperfect" is not a good reason (nothing humans can come up with is perfect). The only reason we seem to be left with is that they're not "technological" enough, and that we won't know election outcomes in prime time on election night.

Boo hoo.

14 posted on 03/04/2004 5:16:58 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: irv
Was it the CEO of Diebold that sent a letter to President Bush promising to deliver Ohio to the GOP?
15 posted on 03/04/2004 5:18:00 PM PST by pete anderson
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To: NeonKnight
Computers can be a useful aid in voting. Open source coding, subject to suprise review by either party. Primary purpose being tabulation, not voting technique

Ok, but then what is the purpose here? "Tabulation" is well within the capability of unaided humans. In fact for basically any voting technique you can name, humans will be *better* than machines at tabulation. ("better" meaning: more accurate). Machines don't have brains. Brains can sometimes be necessary to tabulate someone's vote correctly. (Voters (because they're humans) sometimes do odd, unpredictable things with their ballots-or-whatever-is-being-used, which can confuse machines, yet can be easily understood by other humans.)

I see only two benefits then:

1. We know the outcome slightly faster (whee!)

2. We get to say that we use computers & technology.

Oh, another one, I guess:

3. Government contracts for one or a few tech firms.

Call me less than convinced.

16 posted on 03/04/2004 5:24:23 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Dr. Frank fan
Wacky scenario, huh? In 2000 - I think it was in Cinncinati (sp?) but I may have that wrong - thousands of people voted at the last minute - in alphabetical order! And you think the time-honored tradition of ballot-box stuffing is a wacky scenario?

I pray you're not an election judge.

17 posted on 03/04/2004 5:39:58 PM PST by irv
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To: irv
bump
18 posted on 03/04/2004 5:41:29 PM PST by Salman (Mickey Akbar)
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To: irv; Alamo-Girl; Ragtime Cowgirl
Haven't heard that story!

More details?
19 posted on 03/04/2004 5:48:20 PM PST by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only support FR by donating monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: irv
In 2000 - I think it was in Cinncinati (sp?) but I may have that wrong - thousands of people voted at the last minute - in alphabetical order!

I'm pretty sure Cincinnati uses (or used, anyway, in 2000) punch-cards.

I was arguing for paper ballots.

I agree that punch-card voting systems are easy to defraud. For example, I'd bet that virtually all of the "dimpled chads" we heard so much about in 2000, were actually the result of partisan poll-workers grabbing stacks of punch-cards and trying to punch them for their man all at once. (Because "dimpled chads" are just too difficult to create one at a time; the machines almost make it physically impossible - you either break the perforation or you don't, without reinforcement it doesn't hold for "dimpling".)

This is exactly the kind of thing which led me to believe that paper ballots would be superior. Which is why I'm arguing for paper ballots, contrary to what you seem to think given that you've mentioned Cincinnati (which doesn't use paper ballots at all) as a "counterexample".

And you think the time-honored tradition of ballot-box stuffing is a wacky scenario?

Ballot-box stuffing is not a wacky scenario and I never said it was. (I'm afraid your reading comprehension is lacking.) Yes, ballot-box stuffing is a time-honored tradition. Attempts at ballot-box stuffing have been made and will continue to be made no matter what we do.

But successful ballot-box stuffing is simply not as easy to pull off as you had implied, if paper ballots are used. You had suggested that paper ballots are "prone to fraud" but your only reason for believing this was to spin a vague hypothetical tale of a "distraction" and "hundreds" of ballots stuffed into a millimeters-thin slot, with nobody involved getting caught. I am saying that they would be caught and that this fraud would be unsuccessful. You have no good reason for believing otherwise, do you?

You can't just say a system is prone to fraud because some people "could" pull off a desperate plan and everything could go right and maybe they won't get caught. Because (unless you give me some reason to believe otherwise), from the story you've given, seems to me that chances are it would be unsuccessful and they would be caught and the fraud would be prevented. Which would make the system not "prone" to fraud, but rather, resistant to it.

(I would not claim that it is immune to fraud, but of course, nothing which could be created by humans is. Again, the standard here is that you need to actually suggest a system which is better than paper ballots. It's not enough to say "paper ballots aren't perfect". Nothing is.)

I pray you're not an election judge.

Why? What have I said to indicate I would not make a good election judge? (Are you even reading my posts?) You're the one who implied that judges can be so easily "distracted" by some "distraction" that they will look away from the ballot box for an extended period of time. Speak for yourself!

20 posted on 03/04/2004 6:07:28 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: irv
Baltimore City is what it says, and has a Mayor. Baltimore County is the suburb to the north of the city with a separate County Executive. It is largely white, suburban, and horse country.
21 posted on 03/04/2004 6:10:06 PM PST by expatpat
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To: gitmo
CRC? TOD?
22 posted on 03/04/2004 6:10:43 PM PST by expatpat
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To: Dr. Frank fan
I have a better way since that is also very open to fraud, by miscounting ballots, adding phony ballots, etc. Use a piece of paper, with an ID number on it, then run it through an optical reader for the tabulation. This is what we had here until they went to the touch screens this year.
23 posted on 03/04/2004 6:14:37 PM PST by expatpat
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To: Dr. Frank fan
The two biggest potential avenues for fraud are either overlooked, or willfully ignored.

They are 1) "motor voter", and 2) the laws that allow the mentally deficient, "disabled" (insert whatever term you like, I'll describe what I'm talking about in a moment) to "vote" via "assistants" who "help them vote."

Now, before anyone gets all snippy, here's what I'm talking about. A few years ago, I lived in a town that had a large state facility. The facility changed names every few years, becoming increasingly Orwellian with each succeeding wave (and man, they sure are succeeding!) of Political Correctness. It started out as "The State Home" (itself a euphemism). Later, it was "The Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities". Last I heard, it was "The Center for Human Development".

Nice lofty terms, eh? Sounds almost like a think-tank. In reality, it was quite the opposite. It was the place that the state housed those who were born with the most tragic "disabilities" imaginable. The sort of almost frightening birth defects that society chooses to hide from itself, to pretend do not exist. I'm talking about people who are in a very real sense not "people". People who were born essentially without a brain. Just enough of a brainstem to allow them to breath and maintain basic life support. No cognition, no "speech" -- unless you consider loud, random, gutteral grunts and screeches to be "speech".

Now, here's the kicker.

These people vote!

How on Earth, you might ask, can people without any cerebral tissue manage to vote/i>?

That's a good question. And, as fate would have it, it's a question that's been addressed by the law.

They "vote" by having an "assistant" drive a shortbuss load of them to the polling place, wheel them inside, and then proceed to "assist" them to "vote".

Get the picture yet?

These tragic cases are used as tokens, for unionized state-employed socialworker types to cast votes en masse.

It made it into the local paper -- once -- when someone who saw it happening was outraged, and contacted the rag. As far as I know, that was the end of it. I presume the practice continues, and, I presume it is not restricted to that one community.

In fact I'd be surprised if it's not happening all over the country.

And, I'd be surprised if it's not limited to people afflicted with such dramatically obvious "issues."

I'd be surprised if it's not happening anywhere you've got large numbers of people who are sufficiently "disabled" to be unaware that someone is voting "on their behalf." The profoundly retarded, institutionalized mentally ill, etc.

I don't expect to be surprised.

As to the topic of vote-counting software, anyone who even suggests it's complex code is IMO immediately suspect. Tallying up lists of numbers via simple addition is not even "CS101" level "programming". It's more like, "Introduction to Computers" type stuff.

Now, adding the crypto protection is a bit harder, but it doesn't make the actual tallying any harder.

In short, if Rubin (the "R" in "RSA") is concerned with the black magic going on inside those boxes, then everyone should be concerned.

But, as I said above, there's plenty to be concerned with apart from electronic tallying -- and no one seems very concerned about it. Working up a sweat over potential for fraud over e-voting while disregarding the fraud potential with motor-voter and "assisted voting" is like leaving your lifeboat and climbing back onto the Titanic because you forgot to shut off the faucet in your stateroom.

24 posted on 03/04/2004 6:23:05 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: Dr. Frank fan; All
"If this guy is to be believed..."

Well, considering the fact that "this guy" is one of the three fathers of modern crypto, I'd think it might be worth listening to what he has to say on the matter.

25 posted on 03/04/2004 6:27:51 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: irv
Oops, mea culpa -- Ruben is not Rivest.

Coffee deficiency, operator halted.
26 posted on 03/04/2004 6:29:07 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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Argh! Rubin is not Ruben either!

Coffee... need coffee...

(Just for the record, my brainfarts notwithstanding, Avi Rubin is a heavy-hitter in the field.)

27 posted on 03/04/2004 6:32:02 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: expatpat
CRC? TOD?

Cyclic Redundancy Check, Time of Day.

The first is a method of detecting if the contents of a piece of data have been tampered with, sort of like a checksum, but more robust. The second is self-explanatory.

28 posted on 03/04/2004 6:36:06 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: irv
An interesting article.
29 posted on 03/04/2004 6:42:12 PM PST by Cultural Jihad
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To: Don Joe
Thanks. CRC seemed familiar, but I couldn't place it. I hadn't run across the TOD acronym, but you're right: that would be very useful check.
30 posted on 03/04/2004 6:48:24 PM PST by expatpat
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To: irv
In the code we examined, that phone call is not protected correctly with cryptography. Perhaps that has been fixed.

No, really? You mean you really wouldn't think they would try to fix any bugs??? Noooooo...

I was glad to see that the administrator PIN actually used in the election was not the 1111 that we used in our training, and that we had seen in the code.

No sh$% sherlock. When in training, the PIN can be anything you want. Geez, when we are developing we give everyone full access, but does everyone have full access in production???

And this guy is a computer science pro!!! The guys a lacky who knows nothing about the real world and only lives in his philosophical utopia.

31 posted on 03/04/2004 6:55:52 PM PST by RedWing9 (No tag here... Just want to stay vague...)
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To: Don Joe
But, as I said above, there's plenty to be concerned with apart from electronic tallying -- and no one seems very concerned about it.

Exactly right. The idea of an 'almost-unforgeable' ID card, with some biometric verification, offends the Civil-Liberties purists, but I can't get too excited about it, and it would solve a lot of problems with voter-fraud, terrorists, illegal aliens, identity theft, etc.

I expect to get flamed by the purists, so have my asbestos suit on.

32 posted on 03/04/2004 6:56:52 PM PST by expatpat
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To: Don Joe
Nice post. But you should remember that no one here on FR thinks Motor Voter is a good idea. It's nice to be reminded, however, that it should never have been passed.
33 posted on 03/04/2004 7:18:36 PM PST by GulliverSwift (Keep the <a href="http://www.johnkerry.com/">gigolo</a> out of the White House!)
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To: Dr. Frank fan; irv
There seems to be a myth that election fraud is done by voters. No, for the most part the fraud is done by those RUNNING THE ELECTION.

It is wonderful and marvelous that Prof Rubin participated in a great bipartisan election run by dedicated and honest Americans.

Now he should go to one of those rotten Philly precincts and see if it the same game.

The holes in security that he identified are real. The problem is NOT with the companies per se, but with any system that has any element that lacks cross-checking.

It seems in the case of electronic voting, the old trick of simply having the election judge sign in dead voters and add the tally himself could happen. All you need is for nobody to notice. Old fashioned and the new system doesnt defeat it.


34 posted on 03/04/2004 8:28:53 PM PST by WOSG (If we call Republicans the "Grand Old Party" lets call Democrats the Corrupt Radical Activist Party.)
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To: WOSG
All you need is for nobody to notice.

The wrong person alone with the machines for just a few minutes and another precinct is cooked. Yup.

35 posted on 03/04/2004 9:02:12 PM PST by irv
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To: Don Joe
2) the laws that allow the mentally deficient, "disabled" (insert whatever term you like, I'll describe what I'm talking about in a moment)

I happen to know that you are 100% correct here due to the fact that my aunt works in just such a facility. She told me how she "helps" them vote. (But hey, don't worry, because the people there decide, the social workers "explain" to them what each candidate is about.... ;-)

36 posted on 03/05/2004 8:15:45 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: WOSG; irv
The holes in security that he identified are real.

Look, given untrustworthy poll workers? Of course.

Untrustworthy poll workers can do a whole lot more damage if the ballots are punch-cards than if they are paper ballots which voters mark with a pen. (See 2000, "dimpled chads".) Untrustworthy poll wokers can do a whole lot more damage if ballots are electronic, than if they are punch-cards. Essentially, the potential for poll worker fraud is magnified exponentially, the more sophisticated and "mass" technology that is used.

That is why I advocate paper ballots.

Nowhere did I say I wouldn't keep a better eye on poll workers if necessary. Of course I would. But "there could be dishonest poll workers!!" is not an argument against paper ballots per se. It is an argument against, first of all, trusting poll workers too much. It is also an argument against voting systems which leave no paper trail, and/or whcih render ballots too identical/interchangeable/computer-friendly, and/or on which all tallies are kept on computer and can be spoofed by the push of a button. In other words it is an argument against systems other than paper ballots.

37 posted on 03/05/2004 8:29:49 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Dr. Frank fan
Interesting point. Efficiency begets efficiecy for the hoenst and the dishonest alike.

still, I think a basic point in security should be made systematic: Cross-checking and backup. This is more fundamental than any technology, it's about making a verifiable record of what happened.

A paper ballot that is a separate stream from the electronic vote tally after it is created by the voter would be such a cross-check. And if it was generated with a cryptographic stamp that uniquely paired the paper ballot to the electronic vote *with a time stamp* (I mean, encode the voter, the selections and the time stamp all together to generate the crypo code and print it on the ballot when it is cast - creating a phony one would be impossible unless you actually went through the process of voting yourself, thus it would take serious serious hacking to even get close to tampering with it) - you would find it highly difficult to generate phony ballots on any large scale without it being detected. ie it would be tamperproof.

The only thing missing from the system is that independent verification mechanism.

In the end, I too think we need paper ballots - but paper ballots that are generated by these electronic voting machines when real voters vote and stored as a backup for independent verification and for fraud reduction purposes.
38 posted on 03/05/2004 9:06:59 AM PST by WOSG (If we call Republicans the "Grand Old Party" lets call Democrats the Corrupt Radical Activist Party.)
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To: WOSG
The guys on the usnet "comp.risks" have been complaining about these machines for years. They think the Republicans are pushing electronic machines in order to steal votes.
39 posted on 03/05/2004 9:14:52 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Doctor Stochastic
"The guys on the usnet "comp.risks" have been complaining about these machines for years. They think the Republicans are pushing electronic machines in order to steal votes."

As a PhD in Comp Sci, and one who has looked at election fraud, I see the risks. They existed in older technology, and they exist here (in different forms in different technologies).

But only leftwing anti-GOP hate-mongers think there is some kind of conspiracy about these machines tied to fraud. As usual, the lefties make an allegation without checking the record. If you recall, it was the *Democrats* demanding we replace all the voting machines because they couldnt operate butterfly ballots. The Democrats demanded we spend millions to update voting machines. They supported and voted for it. The Republicans went along with it but only because if they opposed it, the democrat would have a hue and cry about Florida 2000 all over again.

Now these new machines that the Democrats demanded are a Republican conspiracy? Feh!
40 posted on 03/05/2004 9:57:23 AM PST by WOSG (If we call Republicans the "Grand Old Party" lets call Democrats the Corrupt Radical Activist Party.)
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To: irv
I have written 'None of the Above' in the write-in section of my ballot since I realized, about a decade ago, that voting is both irrational and immoral (flame suit on). I am worried about not being able to write in candidates, or no candidate at all, if The Old Dominion moves toward electronic ballots.
41 posted on 03/05/2004 10:11:14 AM PST by society-by-contract
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To: irv
I have written 'None of the Above' in the write-in section of my ballot since I realized, about a decade ago, that voting is both irrational and immoral (flame suit on). I am worried about not being able to write in candidates, or no candidate at all, if The Old Dominion moves toward electronic ballots.
42 posted on 03/05/2004 10:11:40 AM PST by society-by-contract
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To: irv
"It's not who votes, but who counts the votes" Lenin (and Daley)
43 posted on 03/05/2004 10:29:53 AM PST by Dead Dog
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To: WOSG
There are lots of problems with the new machines. California did badly. One problem has been that simple things like paper records (even paper tape) would be helpful. Problems with backup and not having the source code available for analysis is troublesome.

Just for fun. You might check with some Texas oldtimers about the "voting string" method of cheating.
44 posted on 03/05/2004 10:29:54 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: WOSG
still, I think a basic point in security should be made systematic: Cross-checking and backup. This is more fundamental than any technology, it's about making a verifiable record of what happened.

Exactly. All present when paper ballots are used.

In the end, I too think we need paper ballots - but paper ballots that are generated by these electronic voting machines

But here's the thing. Now that we both agree that we need paper ballots, why the additional complication of the machines? What's the point? Most people assume that the reason for using machines is time savings, cost reduction, efficiency, or some combination of the above. But here you are agreeing that some paper ballots (and checking of them, etc) are necessary anyway. So what is being saved? I don't get it.

This all became painfully clear to me in 2000. Here we had a system that (I thought) we had all tacitly agreed upon: punch-cards. The implicit social contract we made with each other (I thought) was this:

-we would use punch cards to save time in counting

-we would accept the intrinsic error associated with punch cards (including: hanging chads, etc) as part of the cost we pay for the speedup in counting

And yet, when push came to shove, and a state election was close, what happened? People started crying and screaming that we needed to HAND-COUNT all the punch cards!! Talk about ridiculous. In essence, when it counted, suddenly everyone decided that punch-cards had to be treated as if they were paper ballots, and counted by people, using their eyes, to determine "voter intent", anyway.

And I thought to myself "well hell, if we were gonna do that, why didn't we just use paper ballots in the first place??"

I have yet to hear a good reason.

45 posted on 03/05/2004 10:50:46 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: WOSG
Now these new machines that the Democrats demanded are a Republican conspiracy? Feh!

Yeah. It's an idiotic charge, but it's based on the usual genius left-wing analysis: the head or CEO or whatever of Diebold is a (R) (or so I hear? i really have no idea..), and so, therefore, Diebold is going to cheat in favor of the (R)s.

It's the same argument, essentially, that they use to "prove" that there's no left-wing bias in the media ("Peter Jennings works for a corporation, and corporations are inherently conservative, thus there can't be left-wing bias..."). Pure genius.

46 posted on 03/05/2004 10:54:08 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Explorer89
I continue to believe that the Diebold voting machines represent a huge threat to our democracy. I fundamentally believe that we have thrown our trust in the outcome of our elections in the hands of a handful of companies (Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S) who are in a position to control the final outcomes of our elections. I also believe that the outcomes can be changed without any knowledge by election judges or anyone else. Furthermore, meaningful recounts are impossible with these machines.

Bump.

47 posted on 03/05/2004 11:14:55 AM PST by MrConfettiMan (Worry is only anxiety over something that may never happen. So why bother?)
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To: irv
The bottom line: In a paper system, adding a thousand bogus ballots is ten times as much work, with ten times as much risk of being caught, as adding a hundred phony ballots. In an electronic system with no paper backup, adding a million bogus ballots is no more work or risk than adding one.
48 posted on 03/05/2004 1:13:06 PM PST by steve-b
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To: expatpat
CRC = Cyclic Redundancy Check
TOD = Time Of Day

sorry.
49 posted on 03/05/2004 3:04:20 PM PST by gitmo (Thanks, Mel. I needed that.)
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To: RedWing9
"In the code we examined, that phone call is not protected correctly with cryptography. Perhaps that has been fixed."

It hasn't been fixed. I have seen the code and the release notes.
50 posted on 03/13/2004 11:36:36 AM PST by Andy_Stephenson
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