Skip to comments.E-Vote Machine Certification Criticized
Posted on 08/22/2004 8:28:35 PM PDT by demlosers
NewsMax Wires Monday, Aug. 23, 2004
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies operate in secrecy, and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines to be used by nearly one in three voters in November.
Despite concerns over whether the so-called touchscreen machines can be trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly if they have encountered shoddy workmanship.
They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting machines' makers - even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the machines.
"I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing," Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
The system for "testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent," Shamos added.
Although up to 50 million Americans are expected to vote on touchscreen machines on Nov. 2, federal regulators have virtually no oversight over testing of the technology. The certification process, in part because the voting machine companies pay for it, is described as obsolete by those charged with overseeing it.
The testing firms - CIBER and Wyle Laboratories in Huntsville and SysTest Labs in Denver - are also inadequately equipped, some critics contend.
Federal regulations specify that every voting system used must be validated by a tester. Yet it has taken more than a year to gain approval for some election software and hardware, leading some states to either do their own testing or order uncertified equipment. That wouldn't be such an issue if not for troubles with touchscreens, which were introduced broadly in a bid to modernize voting technology after the 2000 presidential election ballot-counting fiasco in Florida.
Failures involving touchscreens during voting this year in Georgia, Maryland and California and other states have prompted questions about the machines' susceptibility to tampering and software bugs.
Also in question is their viability, given the lack of paper records, if recounts are needed in what's shaping up to be a tightly contested presidential race. Paper records of each vote were considered a vital component of the electronic machines used in last week's referendum in Venezuela on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez.
Critics of reliance on touchscreen machines want not just paper records - only Nevada among the states expects to have them installed in its touchscreens come November - but also public scrutiny of the software they use. The machine makers have resisted.
"Four years after the last presidential election, very little has been done to assure the public of the accuracy and integrity of our voting systems," Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told members of a House subcommittee in June at the same hearing at which Shamos testified.
"If there are any problems, we will spend years rebuilding the public's confidence in our voting systems," Udall said. "We need to squarely face the fact that there have been serious problems with voting equipment deployed across the country in the past two years."
In Huntsville, the window blinds were closed when a reporter visited the office suite where CIBER Inc. employees test voting machine software. A woman who unlocked the door said no one inside could answer questions about testing.
Shawn Southworth, a voting equipment tester at the laboratory, said in a telephone interview that he wouldn't publicly discuss the company's work. He referred questions to a spokeswoman at CIBER headquarters in Greenwood Village, Colo., who never returned telephone messages.
CIBER, founded in 1974, is a public company that promotes itself as an international systems integration consultant. Its government and private-sector clients include the Air Force, IBM and AT&T. In 2003, government work generated the largest percentage of the company's total revenue, 26 percent.
Also in a sprawl of high-tech businesses that feed off Redstone Arsenal and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is the division of Wyle Laboratories Inc. that tests U.S. elections hardware, including touchscreens made by market leaders Diebold Inc., Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. and Election Systems & Software Inc.
Wyle spokesman Dan Reeder refused to provide details on how the El Segundo, Calif.-based company, which has been vetting hardware for the space industry since 1949 in Huntsville, tests the voting equipment.
"Our work on election machines is off-limits," Reeder said. "We just don't discuss it." He did allow, though, that the testing includes "environmental simulation...shake, rattle and roll."
Carolyn Goggins, a spokeswoman for SysTest Labs, the only other federally approved election software and hardware tester, refused to discuss the company's work.
More than a decade ago, the Federal Election Commission authorized the National Association of State Election Directors to choose the independent testers.
On its Web site, the association says the three testing outfits "have neither the staff nor the time to explain the process to the public, the news media or jurisdictions." It directs inquiries a Houston-based nonprofit organization, the Election Center, that assists election officials. The center's executive director, Doug Lewis, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.
The election directors' voting systems board chairman, former New York State elections director Thomas Wilkey, said the testers' secrecy stems from the FEC's refusal to take the lead in choosing them and the government's unwillingness to pay for it.
He said that left election officials no choice but to find technology companies willing to pay.
"When we first started this program it took us over a year to find a company that was interested, then along came Wyle, then CIBER and then SysTest," Wilkey said of he standards developed over five years and adopted in 1990.
"Companies that do testing in this country have not flocked to the prospect of testing voting machines," said U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman DeForest Soaries Jr., now the top federal overseer of voting technology.
A 2002 law, the Help America Vote Act, created the four-member, bipartisan headed by Soaries to oversee a change to easier and more secure voting.
Soaries said there should be more testers but the three firms are "doing a fine job with what they have to work with."
Wilkey, meanwhile, predicted "big changes" in the testing process after the November election.
But critics led by Stanford University computer science professor David Dill say it's an outrage that the world's most powerful democracy doesn't already have an election system so transparent its citizens know it can be trusted.
"Suppose you had a situation where ballots were handed to a private company that counted them behind a closed door and burned the results," said Dill, founder of VerifiedVoting.org. "Nobody but an idiot would accept a system like that. We've got something that is almost as bad with electronic voting."
Several Orwellian thoughts come to mind. Not only can Hackers decide the vote, but a Global government could as well. It gives us the illusion that we still have the vote without the actual freedom still in place. Think about it.
I don't like the disturbing potential for this system. There's no paper trail even if we were suspicious. We have to do away with this or potentially our most cherished freedom could be taken from us.
The Maryland machines spat out a hard copy of my electronic ballot.
It was placed in a locked ballot box so there is the "paper trail".
Unless my tiny little district is the only one in the whole state that had this "feature", I'd suspect the author is protesting a little too much.
The 'Rats screamed for electronic voting machines just so they could have a new avenue for contesting the results.
There is a super simple solution to this. Whenever you cast your vote the computer prints out permanent copy that the voter verifies but cannot touch. If it is correct you go about your merry way. If it is incorrect, you call a volunteer and the both of you invalidate it with your signatures, record the fact of the spoiled ballot, and you get a do over.
The machines are in place here in Nevada. They'd better have a hardcopy printout or I'll be raising Cain.
To guarantee a legal Nov. election in California:
Park a green Border Patrol van near the entrance to every polling place and---- Eureka !!!!!!
Gotta get this out early for election in November. Should've just stayed with the former ballots. This comes under the I told you so heading.
Wouldn't it be a simple matter of a couple of extra computer chips to print out what you thought you voted yet would technically vote the controllers position?
I'm not much of a techie, so imput from them would be valuable.
Same here in Vegas. The Rats are hitting the barrio hangouts and getting them registered. I hear they're not fussy about ID either. It scares me silly to think of them voting in even more taxpayer handouts. There are alot of hispanics running for assorted positions in this state.
I've posted this link on a number of these electronic voting threads. It should be looked by everybody so you'll know what we're dealing with.
I'm poll manager here in South Carolina. And this fall, for the first time, we'll have these machines. We're supposed to have a training session sometime soon. I've emailed a link to this article to the county elections office.
Election day is not gonna be fun. Of course, we workers will be a little nervous since this will be the first time. But I really pity the poor voters. I'm not looking forward to explaining how to use the new machines a jillion times that day.
You'll have time to pitch a fit before you vote.
They handed me a card and then took me to the machine.
Then they took back the card, inserted it into a slot on the machine, turned their back as I voted and the card popped back out when I pressed "Finished".
They told *me* to remove the card and place it in the box.
[they refused to lay a paw on it once it had been "used", much like they did after I'd completed optical scan ballots, before]
If they don't give you a card, *then* scream.....:)
The machines in Bexar County Texas do not. I would feel alot safer with that sort of paper trail. 'Course when I used the punch card ballots, which I have in more than one state over the last 30 years, I found them fine...for anyone with an IQ over room temperature. But then I guess alot of the 'rat constituency doesn't meet that requirement.
I woundn't worry, the machines are easy to use, easier than a standard punch card system, much easier than the Florida Butterfly punch ballot. :)
It's the potential for fraud, not the ease of use, that worries me.
The one I used put me to mind of a terminal in a department store.
An "all in one" with a large touchscreen with the candidate choices and a slot on the side like registers have to "frank" personal checks.
It wouldn't take any extra hardware, just a small change to the software that runs the thing.
However if the paper ballot did not agree with the electronic record, that fact would come up in any challenged races, provided the paper "hard copy" is retained, which it would be because that is it's whole reason for existence.
Unfortunatly many electronic machines produce no "hard copy".
I preferred our old machines, really.
They were optical scan ballots and it's pretty hard to mark a whole stack of them at once, like punch ballots apparently commonly are....:))
You know the old saying;
"As soon as you make something fool-proof, along comes a better fool".
The 'rats will try to overthrow this one, too, no matter what is done.
You -know- they have no interest in a "fraud proof" voting system.
Electronic voting could be hacked in (literally) an infinite number of ways. Any of these could be changed to display or transmit or compute the wrong data:
the network card
the hard drive
the OS software
the CPU's microcode
the machinery used to test that the software or the CPU or whatver hadn't been modified
the machinery used to test that the testing equipment hadn't been modified
repeat until positive infinity
And, for the other poster, this isn't just a "'Rat" thing, voting is kinda multipartisan. Just because most of those who complain about this are way far out there lefties doesn't mean they're wrong about their main idea.
You are wrong. Vote fraud IS a 'Rat thing.
As said, it would be just a matter of a little bit of programming. However, that is why I suggest a hard printed copy to be verified against the electronically tabulated final tally.
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