[E-voting] [US] Voting machine review ordered

adam beecher lists at spamfilter.cc
Thu Aug 7 16:39:33 IST 2003

Thick and fast for Diebold. If I wasn't such an advocate of confirmed
opt-in, I'd ask for minister at environ.irlgov.ie to be subscribed to the list.
'Course, it's probably just mapped to /dev/null anyway...


Voting machine review ordered
Hopkins study of flaws in security prods action; Purchase no longer 'a
certainty'; California firm to analyze touch-screen system
By David Nitkin
Sun Staff
Originally published August 7, 2003


In the wake of a study revealing security flaws in the costly touch-screen
voting machines Maryland has agreed to buy, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
ordered an outside review yesterday of the electronic system scheduled to be
in place for next spring's presidential primary election.
Science Application International Corp. of San Diego will complete the
evaluation in four weeks, delivering findings that will determine whether
Maryland moves forward with the $55.6 million purchase of new machines for
19 counties, asks for alterations to improve accuracy or scuttles the plan

"The governor's first and foremost concern is public confidence in the
system," said Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman. "If ensuring public
confidence means conducting an independent review, then he believes that is
the appropriate step to take."

With the analysis pending, the state's purchase of the new machines "is not
a certainty," Fawell said.

Ehrlich's order occurs less than two weeks after Johns Hopkins University
researchers concluded that the AccuVote-TS machines built by Diebold
Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, were vulnerable to hackers, multiple
votes and vote-switching.

Maryland recently agreed to buy more than 11,000 of the machines, placing
the state on the leading edge of a movement to upgrade voting technology
after the error-ridden 2000 presidential election in Florida.

The researchers based their results on a review of the computer code that
runs the system. Diebold has countered that the study used an outdated
version of the code and did not account for real-world safeguards that
protect against abuse.

Diebold officials said yesterday that the company will cooperate with the
evaluation, which they said was the first of its kind among the several
states using the touch-screen terminals and software.

In Maryland, four counties - Allegany, Dorchester, Montgomery and Prince
George's - used the machines for last year's election, largely without

"We are confident that no problems will arise from the review," said Diebold
spokesman Michael A. Jacobsen. "Should the third-party review require action
on our part, we are going to work closely with the customer, in this case
Maryland, to make sure their needs are met."

While praising the quality and reputation of the California company that
will perform the evaluation, Aviel Rubin, technical director of Hopkins'
Information Security Institute, said he was troubled that neither Diebold
nor Maryland officials have contacted him or his colleagues to talk about
their findings.

"I am really surprised that they are not having SAIC talk to us. I'm very
disappointed in that," Rubin said. "No one from the state of Maryland has
talked to us."

Fawell said the California company would review the Hopkins report, but said
the researchers would not be contacted directly to keep the evaluation as
independent as possible.

He also said that Diebold has agreed to allow SAIC to review the proprietary
code for the voting system, a condition that Rubin called important to a
thorough analysis.

The Hopkins study has stoked an intense national debate over whether
electronic voting machines are secure and accurate enough to justify
expensive federal and state efforts to replace older technology.

Some say Ehrlich should use the latest findings to pull the plug on the
state's impending investment.

"The state was a guinea pig in this whole process," said former Del. Cheryl
C. Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who has criticized the Glendening
administration's selection of Diebold to provide the machines.

"The [19 counties] should keep what they've got, rather than going headlong
into a new process that has yet to be successfully tested.

"Especially in bad fiscal times, $55 million in new technology that might be
flawed is irresponsible, if not obscene," Kagan said.

In Baltimore County, where chief technology officer Thomas G. Iler was part
of a state panel that raised questions about the new system, officials have
asked for the new system to be delayed. The state has denied the request.

"The [governor's] decision underscores our stated concerns about the newness
of the technology, and the caution that needs to be taken when applying a
new technology to a critical function of government," Iler said yesterday.

"The governor is making a good step."

Administration and state elections board officials have shown little
willingness to delay buying the machines, saying Maryland is required under
state and federal law to upgrade its voting technologies.

State board of elections administrator Linda Lamone has said the Diebold
machines performed well enough in the four counties last year to justify
their widespread introduction.

"We at the state board have confidence in the Diebold system," said board
chairman Gilles Burger in a statement yesterday.

"We hold the utmost value in voter integrity and security and take credible
claims of vulnerability seriously."

Maryland has an existing two-year $2.6 million contract with SAIC to analyze
software the state is buying and security associated with it.

The review ordered by Ehrlich will not cost the state additional money,
Fawell said.

Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun

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