E-Voting: “Hacker Rampage in the American Alagoas!”


Vote Quimby early, vote Quimby often. Vote Quimby.

Ohio Elections Official Calls Machines Flawed : The Voto Seguro (Brazil) mailing list passes along this item from the New York Times.

Published: December 15, 2007

CINCINNATI — All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state’s top elections official has found.

On why Brazilian systems engineers might be extremely interested in this story, see, for starters,

Alagoas is a strange place.

So, apparently, is Ohio — home of the (AUC-arming) Chiquita Brands.

Voto Seguro advocates, led by the quietly determined Engineer Amilcar of Santos, scored a success earlier this year with the adoption of their recommendation to establish a House subcommittee on e-voting security.

Worse than expected:

“It was worse than I anticipated,” the official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said of the report. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

White-hat hackers, in a penetration test, throw the election to “Diamond Joe” Quimby, no sweat:

At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.

The future of beancounting is the abacus, and an audit trail preserved on the most stable storage medium yet devised — paper, that is; parchment is more durable, but just try to run sheepskin, scraped and pounded flat, through your color printer:

Ms. Brunner proposed replacing all of the state’s voting machines, including the touch-screen ones used in more than 50 of Ohio’s 88 counties. She wants all counties to use optical scan machines that read and electronically record paper ballots that are filled in manually by voters.

Two Hobbesian, banana-republican presidential elections are enough:

She called for legislation and financing to be in place by April so the new machines can be used in the presidential election next November. She said she could not estimate the cost of the changes.

Subtract a point from Florida’s score on the “primary indicators of banana-republicanism” index.

Florida, another swing state with a history of voting problems, is also scrapping touch-screen machines and switching to optical scan ones for the election. Such systems have gained favor because experts say they are more reliable than others and, unlike most touch screens, they provide a paper trail for recounts.

The ChoicePoint voter-disqualification scam — a list of convicted felons used to disqualify Joe Smith (black, Florida resident) for jail time served by Joe Smith (white, lives in Detroit), in which data quality-assurance procedures were deemed “unnecessary” — still needs clarifying, though, as far as I know.


Correct: People have actually been convicted in Mexico of handing over private data to ChoicePoint –65 million voter registration records, which is state property — in exchange for, ahem, valuable consideration. Mexican cops tried to arrest ChoicePoint employees for bribery over the incident.

Token convictions, but this is on the public record.

Not a conflict of interest, but an “innovation synergy”:

Ms. Brunner, a Democrat, succeeded J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who came under fire for simultaneously overseeing the 2004 election and serving as co-chairman of President Bush’s re-election campaign in Ohio.

Maracutaia in Cuyahoga:

She ordered the study as part of a pledge to overhaul voting after problems made headlines for hours-long lines in the 2000 and 2004 elections and a scandal in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, that led to the convictions of two elections workers on charges of rigging recounts. Ms. Brunner’s office temporarily seized control of that county’s board of elections.

I will have to look back at the results of that trial.

Easily corrupted:

The study released Friday found that voting machines and central servers made by Elections Systems and Software; Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold; and Hart InterCivic; were easily corrupted.

Please continue to reward our failure:

Chris Riggall, a Premier spokesman, said hardware and software problems had been corrected in his company’s new products, which will be available for installation in 2008.

“You got nothing on me, copper.”

“It is important to note,” he said, “that there has not been a single documented case of a successful attack against an electronic voting system, in Ohio or anywhere in the United States.”

And the rest of the world?

The Alagoas case here remains murky and inconclusive primarily, it seems to me, because election officials do not want you to peek inside their black box.

Arguing that this would be cruel to Schrodinger’s cat, and a violation of the secrecy of the ballot.

ES&S resorts to an argument from ethos:

Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems and Software, said his company strongly disagreed with some of the report’s findings. “We can also tell you that our 35 years in the field of elections has demonstrated that Election Systems and Software voting technology is accurate, reliable and secure,” he said.

Penetration tests conducted by Princeton say otherwise.

But Brutus is an honorable man. Ethos argument:

… following Aristotle, persuasion based upon an appeal that concentrates upon the source of the message rather than the message itself …

Tends to be weak when used as a standalone argument, absent other evidence.

The $1.9 million federally financed study assembled corporate and academic teams to conduct parallel assessments. A bipartisan group of 12 election board directors and deputy directors acted as advisers.

Critical system falures:

The academic team, made up of faculty members and students from Cleveland State University, Pennsylvania State, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pennsylvania, said systemic change was needed. “All of the studied systems possess critical security failures that render their technical controls insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election,” the team wrote.

I want to read that report.


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