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Computer Voting Is Open to Easy Fraud, Experts Say
New York Times ^ | 7/24/03 | John Schwartz

Posted on 07/24/2003 12:15:16 PM PDT by csprof

Computer Voting Is Open to Easy Fraud, Experts Say

By JOHN SCHWARTZ

The software that runs many high-tech voting machines contains serious flaws that would allow voters to cast extra votes and permit poll workers to alter ballots without being detected, computer security researchers said yesterday.

"We found some stunning, stunning flaws," said Aviel D. Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, who led a team that examined the software from Diebold Election Systems, which has about 33,000 voting machines operating in the United States.

The systems, in which voters are given computer-chip-bearing smart cards to operate the machines, could be tricked by anyone with $100 worth of computer equipment, said Adam Stubblefield, a co-author of the paper.

"With what we found, practically anyone in the country ? from a teenager on up ? could produce these smart cards that could allow someone to vote as many times as they like," Mr. Stubblefield said.

The software was initially obtained by critics of electronic voting, who discovered it on a Diebold Internet site in January. This is the first review of the software by recognized computer security experts.

A spokesman for Diebold, Joe Richardson, said the company could not comment in detail until it had seen the full report. He said that the software on the site was "about a year old" and that "if there were problems with it, the code could have been rectified or changed" since then. The company, he said, puts its software through rigorous testing.

"We're constantly improving it so the technology we have 10 years from now will be better than what we have today," Mr. Richardson said. "We're always open to anything that can improve our systems."

Another co-author of the paper, Tadayoshi Kohno, said it was unlikely that the company had plugged all of the holes they discovered.

"There is no easy fix," Mr. Kohno said.

The move to electronic voting, which intensified after the troubled Florida presidential balloting in 2000, has been a source of controversy among security researchers. They argue that the companies should open their software to public review to be sure it operates properly.

Mr. Richardson of Diebold said the company's voting-machine source code, the basis of its computer program, had been certified by an independent testing group. Outsiders might want more access, he said, but "we don't feel it's necessary to turn it over to everyone who asks to see it, because it is proprietary."

Diebold is one of the most successful companies in this field. Georgia and Maryland are among its clients, as are many counties around the country. The Maryland contract, announced this month, is worth $56 million.

Diebold, based in North Canton, Ohio, is best known as a maker of automated teller machines. The company acquired Global Election Systems last year and renamed it Diebold Election Systems. Last year the election unit contributed more than $110 million in sales to the company's $2 billion in revenue.

As an industry leader, Diebold has been the focus of much of the controversy over high-tech voting. Some people, in comments widely circulated on the Internet, contend that the company's software has been designed to allow voter fraud. Mr. Rubin called such assertions "ludicrous" and said the software's flaws showed the hallmarks of poor design, not subterfuge.

The list of flaws in the Diebold software is long, according to the paper, which is online at avirubin.com/vote.pdf. Among other things, the researchers said, ballots could be altered by anyone with access to a machine, so that a voter might think he is casting a ballot for one candidate while the vote is recorded for an opponent.

The kind of scrutiny that the researchers applied to the Diebold software would turn up flaws in all but the most rigorously produced software, Mr. Stubblefield said. But the standards must be as high as the stakes, he said.

"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

Still, things that seem troubling in coding may not be as big a problem in the real world, Mr. Richardson said. For example, counties restrict access to the voting machines before and after elections, he said. While the researchers "are all experts at writing code, they may not have a full understanding of how elections are run," he said.

But Douglas W. Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said he was shocked to discover flaws cited in Mr. Rubin's paper that he had mentioned to the system's developers about five years ago as a state elections official.

"To find that such flaws have not been corrected in half a decade is awful," Professor Jones said.

Peter G. Neumann, an expert in computer security at SRI International, said the Diebold code was "just the tip of the iceberg" of problems with electronic voting systems.

"This is an iceberg that needs to be hacked at a good bit," Mr. Neumann said, "so this is a step forward."


TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: computersecurity; elections; votefraud; votingmachines

1 posted on 07/24/2003 12:15:16 PM PDT by csprof
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To: csprof
What a surprise?
2 posted on 07/24/2003 12:15:35 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: csprof
Well, if we ran it on Linux instead....

HEHE
3 posted on 07/24/2003 12:17:10 PM PDT by smith288 (Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.)
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To: csprof
"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

BINGO this can not be said enough times!
4 posted on 07/24/2003 12:21:46 PM PDT by adam_az (This space for rent.)
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To: csprof
The flaws are architectural, not just programming errors.

There is simply no way to do this with sufficient audit trail, given the stakes!

The risk far outweighs the benefit.
5 posted on 07/24/2003 12:24:13 PM PDT by adam_az (This space for rent.)
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To: adam_az
"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy." >/i>

I would rather say "This is the code that protects our republic."

6 posted on 07/24/2003 12:24:49 PM PDT by w1andsodidwe (recycling is a waste of time for hardworking taxpayers, hire the homeless to sort garbage)
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To: csprof
Gee, ya think? At first I was happy to see that the liberals were finally getting the message, but I believe this is more likely setting up a foundatin to say that Bush really DIDN'T WIN (again) in 04. They won't be happy until they achieve civil war. IMHO
7 posted on 07/24/2003 12:26:59 PM PDT by Libertina
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To: csprof
Of course, this is why the left proposes internet voting. Look how well motor voter registration and mail in voting worked.
8 posted on 07/24/2003 12:27:12 PM PDT by OldFriend ((Dems inhabit a parallel universe))
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To: csprof
And GA. went statewide with electronic voting last year
9 posted on 07/24/2003 12:28:09 PM PDT by y2k_free_radical (i)
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To: csprof
Riight.

And we can get several THOUSAND PROGRAMMERS TO GO ALONG WITH THIS.

I am so over conspiracies. I really am.

10 posted on 07/24/2003 12:28:20 PM PDT by mabelkitty
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To: y2k_free_radical
So? West Virginia didn't, and boy-howdy what an upset that was!
11 posted on 07/24/2003 12:29:16 PM PDT by mabelkitty
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To: csprof
What is the difference between voting on line and voting over the phone?
12 posted on 07/24/2003 12:29:31 PM PDT by steve in DC
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To: mabelkitty
And we can get several THOUSAND PROGRAMMERS TO GO ALONG WITH THIS.

Huh?

13 posted on 07/24/2003 12:31:54 PM PDT by TheOtherOne
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To: csprof
Here's a pertinent piece I wrote in December 2002.

Ballot Transparency to Eliminate Fraudulent Counts

Voters have read and seen all sorts of assurances that the new touch-screen balloting systems are fool proof, tamper proof, and nothing to worry about. Many, including those who are familiar with the technology, are not at all reassured.

The concerns are on two levels. First, from the perspective of those not familiar with the technology, it is a device whose inner workings and inherent security they cannot possibly understand. If they can't understand it, how can they be assured that it is honest? Second, those who DO understand signal processing, software, and communications technology know that is far too easy to defraud the system in a way that would be irreversible and undetected. Either way, touch-screens are a loser.

Now, as users of ATMs, cell phones, the Internet, and other electronic media, it might at first seem a little strange that so many people have such concerns. Upon further consideration however, the key distinctions between voting and a service handling mere money become obvious:

  • Customers have a choice of banking vendors. Citizens don’t have a choice of governments.
  • There is a major difference between mere financial assets at risk, and a risk to individual liberty.

Governments are monopolies. One can go down the street to another bank and take the offending bank to court. An evil government can land you in prison (or worse) because they ARE the court. The stakes associated with voter fraud are far higher than with an ATM and so is the temptation to defraud the system.

Necessary and Sufficient

So, given that we are still smarting over hanging chads, what are the alternatives? Let’s begin to answer that question by looking at the requirements.

  1. The system has to be simple and familiar to the voter.
  2. There must be NO SOFTWARE involved, because it is too easy to change.
  3. The system must be capable of completely manual operation.
  4. The count must be capable of being validated by all parties involved and each count must be separate and distinct.
  5. There must be no possibility to count a ballot twice or "lose" counts along the way.

Electronic sensors and interlocks are permissible as long as they can be duplicated manually.

Here is my proposal for a system that meets these requirements:

At the Polling Place

  1. Ballot boxes are preprinted, serialized and tracked by a physical chain-of-custody document.
  2. The box must be destroyed to be opened.
  3. The box is locked under a ballot receiving machine.
  4. The ballot receiving machine at the polling place reads the box number and records it on the ballot in Scantron form on the back side (fill in the dots). Note that one could do the same manually under observation.
  5. The voter completes the standard optical ballot and delivers it to the receiving machine.
  6. The machine prints the box number on the back of every ballot it accepts with a Scantron dot pattern. This too can be both read and performed manually. Then a dry film coating (basically an adhesive or heat activated tape) is applied to the ballot on the way into the sealed ballot box.
  7. The coating is transparent but reveals a "watermark" when exposed to UV light. The ballot is now tamperproof.
  8. The receiving machine totals the number of ballots in every box. The total is read manually and a receipt is delivered to each political party and candidate detailing the box numbers, precincts, and tally of ballots in every uniquely identified box.
  9. Representatives of all Parties check the box tallies before the boxes leave the polling place.
  10. If they agree on its accuracy, they record the ballot tally on the box using Scantron dots, initial it, and put a similar dry film over the number.

Note that the Scantron pattern is the perfect bridge between human and machine. It is readable by people for manual counting but does not require an optical character reading machine that needs cameras or software.

Both parties thus know the EXACT number of ballots cast in every precinct and in every box. Every box is signed. All parties can thus run check sums at the processing centers and verify the chain-of-custody.

At the Ballot Counting Center

  1. The total of the ballots on the box is read by the counting machine. It would be very similar to the existing optical reader and might only require very minor modifications.
  2. The counting machine reads the box code for precinct and ballot count or accepts that data input from a keypad read off the box by at least two witnesses with keys. The machine will not count the ballots without the UV visible watermark on the ballot over the votes AND matching precinct codes on the box and the ballot.
  3. The machine halts and will not display the vote totals if the number of ballots recorded on the box and the number it counts do not match.
  4. The ballots leave the counting machine get a NEW ballot box. Counted ballots are stamped again with output box number, recoated, and then deposited into the new sealed ballot box.
  5. The new coating was applied in case of a recount, thus each ballot thus maintains a recount history.

14 posted on 07/24/2003 12:36:13 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (A faith in Justice, none in "fairness")
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To: TheOtherOne
These machines are tested before they are sold to a municipality. They are then tested again. They are tested each and every year. Specs are test run even before the code is written.

Tell me again how the Holocaust never happened, because the amount of subterfuge required to pull it off is about the same.
15 posted on 07/24/2003 12:36:28 PM PDT by mabelkitty
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To: mabelkitty
I'm not a computer geek, but I do know hackers can gather up several hundred computers tie them all together and crash web sites, and you dont even know they used your computer. Do you really think they couldnt hack a voting site?
16 posted on 07/24/2003 12:40:36 PM PDT by sgtbono2002
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To: csprof
D'OH!
17 posted on 07/24/2003 12:45:29 PM PDT by Publius6961 (Californians are as dumm as a sack of rocks)
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To: sgtbono2002
It's isn't that I don't believe the act is possible - I don't believe for one minute that anybody, especially hackers!, could keep their mouths shut regarding any such conspiracy.

Human nature. No way.
18 posted on 07/24/2003 12:49:43 PM PDT by mabelkitty
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To: conspiratoristo; Las Vegas Dave; boxerblues; dr.j'sfirst; dedavies; estrogen; His_law_is_liberty; ..
Nice to know we have these in Lake County.
19 posted on 07/24/2003 12:50:14 PM PDT by Pontiac
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To: mabelkitty
Small time hackers aren't a worry however someone well funded like the Chinese government could spend $300 million to come up with a clever hack. The Chinese will be voting for Democrats. Hmmm, I wonder why.
20 posted on 07/24/2003 12:58:19 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: sgtbono2002
This story is getting alot of play overseas. The guys who "found" the code have written some reports on what they've been able to do with it. Pretty damning, these computer voting/counting programs need done away with. I'll gladly wait a few more hours for results to insure they reflect the views of the voters.
21 posted on 07/24/2003 1:00:21 PM PDT by steve50 (I don't know about being with "us", but I'm with the Constitution)
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To: Carry_Okie
There must be NO SOFTWARE involved, because it is too easy to change.

I disagree with this. It is entirely possible for a secure system to use software, as long as proper auditing is incorporated into the system. (I.e., physical [paper] backup of everything and the ability for the voter to verify his own ballot.)

22 posted on 07/24/2003 1:06:12 PM PDT by kevkrom (If you can't say something nice, well, then you're probably talking about a Clinton)
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To: csprof
No wonder Democrats are pushing this type of balloting.
23 posted on 07/24/2003 1:06:57 PM PDT by Recovering_Democrat (I'm so glad to no longer be associated with the Party of Dependence on Government!)
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To: csprof; mabelkitty
Well the media does like its boogy men, and technology is one of its favorites.

I've worked in the Data Processing field, as it was once called, for 25 years; all of my adult life. And I can tell you from experience, that no one can FU a computer project like the government.

If we assigned the goal of creating a nationwide technology-based voting system to the private sector, we'd have one built for you in less than a year. Not only would it meet or exceed requirements, but would be a fraction of the cost.
24 posted on 07/24/2003 1:07:18 PM PDT by Search4Truth (When a man lies he murders some part of the world.)
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To: nickcarraway
If the NYT is against it, computer voting is a good thing.
Funny, no one is against computer investing.
25 posted on 07/24/2003 1:08:25 PM PDT by Zathras
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To: Search4Truth
I agree.

However, in addition to that information, you have to look at only one thing - the demographics for those who use computers.

No way, no how, can any illegal, uneducated felon, etc., (Democratic voter) go in and repeatedly vote for the same candidate in different counties. Most of them can't use one.

That's the bigger issue. Can't cheat if they can't read or operate a computer.
26 posted on 07/24/2003 1:10:14 PM PDT by mabelkitty
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To: csprof
Not a surprise. The primary purpose of the Chad War was to change the election results and install Gore. But the secondary purpose was to change voting machines in ways to make it easier for the Dems to cheat.

Computer voting is a very, very poor idea, as I said at the time. Instead of poking out a few chads or resurrecting a few dead people, you can switch 10 million votes at the touch of a mouse button. And there will be no ballots to recount.
27 posted on 07/24/2003 1:14:41 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: mabelkitty
If the DNC has a hundred million in its slush fund, it's perfectly capable of hiring professional hackers to do the job for them.
28 posted on 07/24/2003 1:15:55 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: csprof
A necessary part of the world we live in is the public's trust in the "honesty" of the voting process. Another necessary part of the world we live in is that this process elects only the "right", or "correct", people. Merchandising technologies are no longer adequate to reconcile these two requirements since lies are more often detected by the voters than in decades past. (Although the Democratic Party merchandising is filled with lies, and is expected to be successful. At least the Republican Party lies more by omission than commission!) Perhaps being exposed to the never ending deluge of commercial merchandising is making even the "voter" class aware that they are being "merchandized", to coin a neologism.

So what to do? The best approach at the moment is computerized voting, the only problem is getting the "voters" to believe it is "honest".

29 posted on 07/24/2003 1:18:39 PM PDT by Iris7
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To: csprof
But Douglas W. Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said he was shocked to discover flaws cited in Mr. Rubin's paper that he had mentioned to the system's developers about five years ago as a state elections official.

"To find that such flaws have not been corrected in half a decade is awful," Professor Jones said.



THIS IS NOT A MISTAKE -- IT IS DELIBERATE, THESE AUTHORS NEED TO DIG DEEPER TO EXPLAIN WHY...
30 posted on 07/24/2003 1:18:50 PM PDT by CaptIsaacDavis
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To: mabelkitty
Explain what happened in Florida during the last presidential election, then. There was obvious fraud, with "someone" poking multiple voting cards for Gore. Noone to my knowledge was ever caught. If voter fraud can happen with punch cards, it can happen easier with computers.

BTW, I'm a software developer.

31 posted on 07/24/2003 1:37:13 PM PDT by Theo
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To: Cicero
I think your response to the idea of technology-based voting is indicative of the real problem people will have with it; they will not trust that which they do not understand.

From a technological standpoint, a system could be built to perform the voting process accurately and securely. As a career computer professional, I know that; having led or participated in more formidable projects than a voting system. The question is then, will people trust it?

Given that Americans are increasingly relying on technology on daily basis, I think that such trust could be established.

Although, I don't know that have seen any good arguments for making this change. Is the old system really broke? What would be the advantages of a newer more technology-based system?

As in any successful computer project, one starts first with the goals of the project.
32 posted on 07/24/2003 1:41:11 PM PDT by Search4Truth (When a man lies he murders some part of the world.)
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To: csprof
People think I'm crazy when I tell them that I think voting should be as LOW tech as possible.
33 posted on 07/24/2003 2:31:00 PM PDT by jmc813 (Check out the FR Big Brother 4 thread! http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/943368/posts)
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To: csprof
I just heard some guy call in to Sean Hannity and tell Sean to get a tape of Hillary on KHOW today…wherein she practically admitted she would run if needed. Don’t tell me we don’t need to be worried about computer voting!
34 posted on 07/24/2003 3:02:20 PM PDT by Maria S
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To: csprof
A Follow-Up on Several Back Columns and Can Diebold Voting Machines Really Be Hacked?

I, Cringely

A little bit of info in this Cringely column.

35 posted on 07/24/2003 3:16:06 PM PDT by zoyd (My nameplate medallion says "Never Trust A HAL 9000")
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To: zoyd
And another link to the basic story (from New Zealand):

New Zealand Scoop

36 posted on 07/24/2003 3:19:39 PM PDT by zoyd (My nameplate medallion says "Never Trust A HAL 9000")
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To: csprof
Guess who tallies the votes? Weren't these machines the properties of the major networks?
37 posted on 07/24/2003 4:30:52 PM PDT by doc
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To: Theo
" If voter fraud can happen with punch cards, it can happen easier with computers."

Ah yes...Those who know any thing about how computer and software actually work are quite aware of how easily this electronic voting can be manipulated without a trace. So many people have some kind of magical view of computers. If it were so easy to make it fraud proof then why can't we make an internet that is fraud proof? People had better wake up fast. We must have a paper trail. And it should be used to verify any vote count weather fraud is alleged or not.

38 posted on 07/24/2003 7:17:17 PM PDT by Revel
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To: Search4Truth
"From a technological standpoint, a system could be built to perform the voting process accurately and securely."

No such thing really. There is always someone who knows how to cheat. From a top level executive with the voting machine company or security company...on down to the hacker who has managed to hock a voting machine to play with. Or maybe someone on the inside passed him documentation on the machine/ code. You can argue about how many safe gaurds could be put into effect, The simple fact is that nothing is as secure as a paper trail...Even that not being perfect.

39 posted on 07/24/2003 7:22:49 PM PDT by Revel
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To: Search4Truth
I used the word "hackers" loosely. What I intended to say is that it's a lot easier to change the figures in a computer than it is with a box of paper ballots. When you consider that billions of dollars are at stake in a national election, the stakes are just too high to trust anyone with that power.
40 posted on 07/24/2003 8:14:05 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: AnAmericanMother; viligantcitizen; eddie willers; eyespysomething; backhoe; LTCJ; najida; mhking; ..
Our new voting system....

I was kind of partial to the old voting machines with the levers and the curtain myself...
41 posted on 07/24/2003 8:31:40 PM PDT by Amelia (It's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness)
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To: Amelia
I'm more modern.....
I liked the punch cards. :o)
42 posted on 07/24/2003 8:32:57 PM PDT by eddie willers (Freeping since before the turn of the century!)
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To: Revel
"You can argue about how many safe gaurds could be put into effect, The simple fact is that nothing is as secure as a paper trail...Even that not being perfect."

And you say that as you dialogue on a worldwide network of millions of connected computers, transacting billions of dollars in business a year. They should have used paper - its faster, more reliable and secure, don't you know.

America has the technology to send robotic probes about the Solar System, but cannot develop a reliable and secure voting system - got it!

We have ATM machines virtually everywhere in the world, dispensing billions of dollars a year, but can not develop a reliable and secure voting system - got it!

The problem with updating the voting system technology is not technological, it is political; neither side understands fully how to exploit the new system. So they error on the side of caution and oppose it.

I’m not saying that a change to a newer system should be made. The benefits of doing so are undefined. But the technologies for doing so are well established.
43 posted on 07/24/2003 8:49:34 PM PDT by Search4Truth (When a man lies he murders some part of the world.)
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To: Cicero
"I used the word "hackers" loosely. What I intended to say is that it's a lot easier to change the figures in a computer than it is with a box of paper ballots. When you consider that billions of dollars are at stake in a national election, the stakes are just too high to trust anyone with that power."

Well, if we run the whole system from your PC, that could be the case. LOL :)
44 posted on 07/24/2003 9:07:45 PM PDT by Search4Truth (When a man lies he murders some part of the world.)
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To: zoyd
Note my post #29, with this from Cringely:

Another interesting story appeared this week in my inbox from New Zealand claiming that Diebold voting machines in the U.S. (Diebold apparently makes most of the voting machines used in the U.S.) have major security flaws that allow manipulation of elections. These flaws are not so much hackable as they are designed into the system for deliberate manipulation of election results, claim the authors. I have no idea whether this claim is true or not, though the authors provided vast amounts of supporting evidence including source code. What is interesting to me is not so much that this could happen, but that we haven't read about it in the mainstream press. I didn't even bother investigating the story because it was sent to every reporter the authors could find. I figured that before I could verify anything the story would be in the Washington Post, yet it isn't. It isn't anywhere other than on a few obscure web pages and right here. It seemed to me to be newsworthy even if all the Post and the New York Times and the other big boys simply chose to debunk the story, yet they haven't done that

45 posted on 07/25/2003 1:39:22 AM PDT by Iris7
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To: Pontiac; Las Vegas Dave; dubyaismypresident; boxerblues; ResistorSister; dr.j'sfirst; estrogen; ...
Mark, et al,
I am not trying to be contentious, but I believe this is a different machine. Lake County Board of Elections has not issued smartcards to the registered voter base, we still go through the routine: Are you in the book? Do you still reside at this address? Etc, Etc

I'm not saying that the possibility of fraud does not exist in our county, or with the voting machines we have. But I do not think that the concerns outlined here pertain to our county's machines.

In God We Trust.....Semper Fi

46 posted on 07/25/2003 9:14:42 AM PDT by North Coast Conservative (just a patriot, seeking to keep America free)
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To: conspiratoristo
But I do not think that the concerns outlined here pertain to our county's machines.

While we do use the electronic machines, they have been known to give erroneous results (or so we've been told) until they have been given the once over. I dont know if Lake County uses some sort of paper or other backup system
47 posted on 07/25/2003 9:26:18 AM PDT by boxerblues (God Bless the 101st, stay safe, stay alert and watch your backs)
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To: conspiratoristo
This is true. But other forms of computer vote fraud are availabble.
48 posted on 07/25/2003 10:57:28 AM PDT by Pontiac
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To: Search4Truth
This is the result of electronic voting. Even if you believe it could be secure. It is not. We should not have gone there. Very detailed article:


http://www.americanfreepress.net/08_25_03/Concerns_Over/concerns_over.html
49 posted on 08/29/2003 8:18:20 PM PDT by Revel
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