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New Voting Systems Assailed - Computer Experts Cite Fraud Potential
Washington Post ^ | 3/28/03 | Dan Keating

Posted on 03/28/2003 12:23:04 PM PST by Mark Felton

As election officials rush to spend billions to update the country's voting machines with electronic systems, computer scientists are mounting a challenge to the new devices, saying they are less reliable and less secure from fraud than the equipment they are replacing.

Prompted by the demands of state and federal election reforms, officials in Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Texas installed the high-tech voting systems last fall. Officials in those states, and other proponents of electronic voting, said the computer scientists' concerns are far-fetched.

"These systems, because of the level of testing they go through, are the most reliable systems available," said Michael Barnes, who oversaw Georgia's statewide upgrade. "People were happy with how they operated."

In Maryland, "the system performed flawlessly in the two statewide elections last year," said Joseph Torre, the official overseeing the purchase of the state's new systems. "The public has a lot of confidence in it, and they love it."

But the scientists' campaign, which began in California's Silicon Valley in January, has gathered signatures from more than 300 experts, and the pressure has induced the industry to begin changing course.

Electronic terminals eliminate hanging chads, pencil erasure marks and the chance that a voter might accidentally select too many candidates. Under the new systems, voters touch the screen or turn a dial to make their choices and see a confirmation of those choices before casting their votes, which are tallied right in the terminal. Recounts are just a matter of retrieving the data from the computer again. The only record of the vote is what is stored there.

Critics of such systems say that they are vulnerable to tampering, to human error and to computer malfunctions -- and that they lack the most obvious protection, a separate, paper receipt that a voter can confirm after voting and that can be recounted if problems are suspected.

Officials who have worked with touch-screen systems say these concerns are unfounded and, in certain cases, somewhat paranoid.

David Dill, the Stanford University professor of computer science who launched the petition drive, said, "What people have learned repeatedly, the hard way, is that the prudent practice -- if you want to escape with your data intact -- is what other people would perceive as paranoia."

Other computer scientists, including Rebecca Mercuri of Bryn Mawr College, say that problems are so likely that they are virtually guaranteed to occur -- and already have.

(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: votefraud

1 posted on 03/28/2003 12:23:04 PM PST by Mark Felton
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To: Mark Felton
he who writes the program, decides the winner. And becomes very rich indeed!
2 posted on 03/28/2003 12:28:31 PM PST by camle (no camle jokes, please...OK, maybe one little one)
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To: Mark Felton
saying they are less reliable and less secure from fraud than the equipment they are replacing.

I believe this is exactly what the Demoncrats had in mind when they were screaming for new stuff. Too many Republican poll watchers these days. They need new ways to cheat the system, some of the old ones are being challenged too often.

3 posted on 03/28/2003 12:34:00 PM PST by Mister Baredog ((They wanted to kill 50,000 of us on 9/11, we will never forget!))
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To: Mister Baredog
the proof is in the 1st sentence of the piece
4 posted on 03/28/2003 12:35:09 PM PST by cactusSharp (( if pc skills named us,I'd be backspace delete))
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To: *Vote Fraud
http://www.freerepublic.com/perl/bump-list
5 posted on 03/28/2003 12:35:21 PM PST by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: camle
That's right.

During my campaign experience I have learned of some sophisticated algorithms used by the automatic counting machines that count punch ballots.

That software is ALWAYS kept highly secret and "company proprietary".

All of the code must be publicly available and audited, with multi-party verification of the s/w versions loaded in each machine.

Without hard and fast, public, scrutiny these WILL be abused.

It is impossible to place the greatest power known to mankind in the hands of a few secretive s/w engineers, without it being corrupted by powerful folks.
6 posted on 03/28/2003 12:37:11 PM PST by Mark Felton
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To: Mark Felton
I am not a "computer scientist," but I have spend 25 years in the computer hardware/software industry. I can state without doubt that there's never been system yet that couldn't be hacked and further that any piece of software that does useful, sophisticated work contains at least one undiscovered programming error (bug).

Touch screens and dials are nice but are of little use in case of a catastrophic failure. This is why the paper receipts as backup are so necessary.

We've been trying to create the paperless office for 30 years and have yet to succeed. Not likely with electronic voting systems either.

I'm sure we're smart enough to create an electronic voting system that will be easy to use and relatively foolproof. But to totally depend on hardware and software created by humans is very foolish.

7 posted on 03/28/2003 12:46:49 PM PST by upchuck (Sadamn: You are on the way to destruction...you have no chance to survive, make your time..ha ha ha)
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To: Mark Felton
I absolutely agree. I have been a programmer for 25 years and I gurantee that any test they do are not sufficient. I can turn code on and off at will. Do a test and it works but on election day well that is a different thing. If the machine malfunctions all votes are lost. That could be 500 votes. If in key prestincts that could eaisly effect the election. No paper trail means no verification and is inexcuseable unless fraud is the agenda.

Papper is one of the cheepest things in America. Put a piece of plastic so a person can actually see their votes. Number them as necessary 50 of five lines collumns should cover it. However if not a second etc. set could be used. One would need help to verify other than party line votes but could still do so. Thus no chance of fraud as recountability is easy. This I would support. A poll watcher could ask a friend to confirm every so ofter that their votes were tallied correctly. This would gurantee no tricks. The paper could go from one roll to another or one box to another. OCR cound read the marks in case of a recount.

The counts should also be posted at each prestinct as well. That way people could add them all up and make sure the final tally agrees.
8 posted on 03/28/2003 12:51:54 PM PST by ImphClinton
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To: Mark Felton
Why does anyone think these things will work perfectly all the time? Without paper backup there is no assurance or way to recount. There is a reason these things are spreading like wildfire and it isn’t good. Why doesn’t anyone care about this issue? After 2000 it should be obvious what the Rats will do to claim an election.
9 posted on 03/28/2003 12:52:08 PM PST by Theyknow
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To: Mark Felton
so... how do you verify that the source code you so painstakingly examined and certified is the actual madhinc code that is executing? Hmm? are you gonna go through several hundred thousand lines of 1's and 0's and decipher each instruction?

if I can design and code the application, I can retire a very rich camle. And my guys will win each and every election and you won't ever find out how.
10 posted on 03/28/2003 12:55:04 PM PST by camle (no camle jokes, please...OK, maybe one little one)
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To: camle
uh make that "Machine code". is HAS been a long dae...
11 posted on 03/28/2003 12:56:09 PM PST by camle (no camle jokes, please...OK, maybe one little one)
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To: ImphClinton
You hit close to one of the algorithms.

The counting machines are tested before every election by a board of citizens. They run a fixed number of pre-punched ballots through the machine, usually between 1,000 and 5,000 or so. They compare the computer count with the known result. Never a problem.

The algorithms do not kick in until 10,000+ ballots are counted.

Then the count between D or R for the top spots are counted. If the Dems are in the lead then no changes are made. But if the Reps are in the lead, after a certain percentage of the total has been counted, then votes begin to be flipped.

It will never flip more than 2-4%, (unless externally directed) and it will spread the flip over many precincts.

This prevents red flags on the part of the public that have absolutely no clue anyway how many votes are cast for any person in any precinct.

2-4% swing is the difference between a 46% to 54% loss to a 54% to 46% loss.

How many elections have such close margins?

How many elections when you KNOW the Republican must have 60%+ support he only wins by 51% to 49%.

The counting machines in St. Louis (Gephardts district) were accessible by modem from the outside during the counting process. We complained but nothing was done. We also witnessed Gephardt campaign staff inside the counting room.

In one county, the computers "went down" and the votes were counted by hand. This was after preliminary counting had been performed by the machine. (We were warned this could happen, it had happened before in close elections). Gephardt won. The county officials were Democrat.

FWIW: IMHO: The best solution is that each precinct count their own votes immediately, and then send that result to the county. But each precinct certifies their own vote. It is not certified or corrected at a higher level.

Each precinct should print the actual vote summary on a large tally and each row of votes will be identified by a code that corresponds to the serial number of the ballot you are randomly issued when you enter (or it is assigned as you complete the vote ). You get a receipt with your personal votes, and then you are able to look at the final results posted in the newspaper and physically at the precinct, with the actual results.

Only a few percent of the voters need check to ensure an honest vote.


12 posted on 03/28/2003 1:10:11 PM PST by Mark Felton
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To: Mark Felton
Good - glad to see this coming to light. We voted touch screen for the first time in the last election, and I've been bitching since about the lack of an audit trail and the potential for fraud. The punch card "hanging chad" ballots we had before were just fine, thank you.
13 posted on 03/28/2003 1:13:48 PM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: camle
I agree with you. I do not trust computerized voting systems.

[However, source code can be managed by releasing it to another party who is responsible for securing it and "blowing the eproms" for each of the machines. Nonetheless, we cannot trust it.]
14 posted on 03/28/2003 1:15:32 PM PST by Mark Felton
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To: camle
time for the compost to lobby for the return to chads.

Sheesh does the c**p ever stop flowing from this organ.

snooker
15 posted on 03/28/2003 1:16:09 PM PST by snooker
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To: Mark Felton
I'm not sure if I follow every part of your statement, but paper is essential, and voters should have an anonomyous way of checking their ballot for tampering.
16 posted on 03/28/2003 1:16:32 PM PST by js1138
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To: js1138
That's right. My proposal issues anonymous receipts (paper) that can later be compared against a comprehensive printed list of the results for that precinct.

Furthermore, the total number of voters on the precinct list would be compared against the total number of signatures, so votes cannot be added.

The signature lists are already under the oversight of judges from both parties.
17 posted on 03/28/2003 1:21:20 PM PST by Mark Felton
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To: Mark Felton

So tell me again why everytime you charge something onto your credit card you get a paper receipt (either in real-time or at the end of the month)?

Of course, that's just money. It's not like we're talking about voting or anything important...

< /SARCASM >

18 posted on 03/28/2003 1:23:40 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: camle
he who writes the program, decides the winner. And becomes very rich indeed!

Bingo! And don't forget that whoever wrote the program can tell the system to glitch up on election night, requiring the "experts" (read: guys on the take) to come in and "fix" it (read: jack up their guy's ballots).

19 posted on 03/28/2003 1:38:28 PM PST by Lizavetta
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To: Lizavetta
nah! don't wanna glitch. want everything to go so smoothly that the election commission falls deeeply in love with them. You want everybody to rave about how accurate and fair the system is.

The NEXT election is when you start screwing with it.
20 posted on 03/28/2003 1:46:14 PM PST by camle (no camle jokes, please...OK, maybe one little one)
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Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: Mark Felton
Without a "hard copy" paper ballot with a record of the vote for the particular candidate such as in a magic marked ballot next to a name, then you will have fraud.

I 2000 there were electronic ballots cast in PA that were completely lost in "ee-ther space" poof! gone. No paper hard copy record.

I'm all for marking a ballot (not punching) with the name, party and perhaps even their picture on it. Then, and only then, they can be tabulated and registered through an optical scanner.

Ballotless electronic voting will be our downfall.

22 posted on 03/28/2003 1:56:39 PM PST by KriegerGeist ("In war there is no substitute for victory" General Douglas MacArthur)
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To: Mark Felton; sourcery
This has been warned about before.
Seen this, sourcery?
23 posted on 03/28/2003 6:05:59 PM PST by philman_36
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To: Lizavetta
This ENTIRE thread illustrates that NO system is foolproof just LIKE no human BEING is mistake free. Voting, while a RIGHT, as with ALL RIGHTS, has RESPONSIBILITIES. If the voter can't read, or hasn't the mental capacity to figure out who he/she wants to vote for then I say TOUGH! Spoon feeding someone with foolproof systems that supposedly removes the RESPONSIBILITY from the RIGHT is ridiculous.
24 posted on 03/28/2003 6:15:17 PM PST by PISANO
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To: Mark Felton
Good idea. It amazes me that many states are going with machines that produce no trail thus no recount possibility. These machines also offer no way for a person to know their vote really counted.

I liked the old Lever machines that tallied the votes when you opened the curtin. They had a lever for each candidate and proposal. They almost never broke down and kept a paper record just in case.

Computers are great for a lot of things but voting is not one of them.
25 posted on 03/28/2003 7:14:58 PM PST by ImphClinton
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To: Mark Felton
He who controls the count controls the vote.

He who controls the software controls the count.

QED.

--Boris

26 posted on 03/28/2003 10:09:38 PM PST by boris (Education is always painful; pain is always educational)
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