[E-voting] (USA) Electronic voting machines come under legal attack from activists

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Sun Jul 16 16:11:11 IST 2006

*There has been so much news coming out of the USA these last 6 months 
that I haven't even tried to keep posting things here. (And I don't want 
to clog up this list with posts about the USA.) Every day brings 20-50 
new articles. There are serious problems with electronic voting machines 
malfunctioning right across the country, with all companies. Most of the 
news coverage tends to focus on local problems, therefore relatively few 
people are aware of just how widespread the problems are.

BBV uncovered more huge security holes--serious hardware/firmware issues 
that cannot be remediated, can compromise a machine permanently, and for 
which there's no way to test to know whether or not a machine's been 
compromised. How to do it? You just need a phillips head screwdrivier to 
take out 8 screws on the back of the machine and voila you can plant 
code that affects not just that machine but the counting computer as 
well. When election officials were informed, did they take remedial 
action against at least some of the backdoors? Nope. In fact, in San 
Diego they sent home over 10,000 voting machines with poll workers a 
week ahead of the elections! (This is routinely done everywhere in the 
US, as a way of solving the logistics of getting voting machines to poll 
places in time.)

*For those who didn't hear, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a civil rights 
lawyer, published a major article in Rolling Stones magazine a couple of 
months ago. This got a lot of mainstream news attention. Kennedy has 
whistleblowers spilling the beans to him and he is planning to file 
lawsuits. There are many other lawsuits underway relating to specific 
elections, state/federal constitutional challenges, etc.*

*The following is a recent article that came out on a major news network 
just a couple of days ago.

*BTW voting machine manufacturers in the USA keep repeating that there's 
no evidence of anyone hacking a real election. That is untrue. BBV found 
evidence of tampering in both 2000 and 2004 and turned over the physical 
evidence to the law enforcement authorities. (Did they do anything to 
investigate? Nope. This is one of the major problems with e-voting--when 
something does go wrong, it gets covered up. Because there's less 
transparency--NO transparency, in fact--it is also much easier to cover 
up what you don't want people to know. Just like the Irish pilot tests 
in our 2002 elections.)





*Electronic voting machines come under legal attack from activists
*By Deborah Hastings | The Associated Press, Featured in USA Today

Computerized voting was supposed to be the cure for ballot fiascos such 
as the 2000 presidential election, but activist groups say it has only 
worsened the problem and they've gone to court across the country to ban 
the new machines.

Lawsuits have been filed in at least nine states, alleging that the 
machines are wide open to computer hackers and prone to temperamental 
fits of technology that have assigned votes to the wrong candidate.

Manufacturers say their machines are more reliable than punch cards and 
other traditional voting technologies.

But they face a determined opponent in Voter Action, which has filed 
lawsuits in Colorado, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Similar bans 
have been sought by voters in Texas, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. On 
Thursday, a coalition of groups filed a lawsuit in Georgia.

"The designers of video games have built far more sophisticated security 
into their systems than have the manufacturers of voting machines," said 
Lowell Finley, co-director of Voter Action, a non-profit and 
non-partisan group based in Berkeley, Calif. "The biggest problem is 
security against tampering."

About 80% of American voters will use some form of electronic voting in 
the November election, where every seat in the House of Representatives 
is up for re-election, as are 33 Senate offices and 36 governorships.

New York University's Brennan Center for Justice released a one-year 
study last month that determined that the three most popular types of 
U.S. voting machines "pose a real danger" to election integrity.

The survey examined optical scanners, which electronically read ballots, 
and touch-screen machines, which operate like ATMs. Some produced paper 
receipts, others didn't.

More than 120 security threats were identified, including wireless 
machines that could be hacked "by virtually any member of the public 
with some (computer) knowledge" and a PC card; the failure of most 
states to install software that could detect outside attacks; and the 
failure of many states to audit their electronic systems.

Voter Action's lawsuits target the most popular machine manufacturers: 
California-based Sequoia Voting Systems, Nebraska-based Electronic 
Systems & Software, and the biggest of them all, Diebold Election 
Systems of Ohio, a subsidiary of giant ATM maker Diebold Inc.

Diebold spokesman David Bear said his company's technology "has proven 
to be more accurate" than punch cards, and most Americans prefer to vote 
electronically. He also dismissed recent studies that showed 
computerized systems were vulnerable to hackers, saying "those are 
what-if scenarios."

The company's former CEO, Wally O'Dell, authored a 2003 Republican 
fundraising letter that promised, "I am committed to helping Ohio 
deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

As it turned out, Ohio did push George Bush over the top, but only after 
problems at voting precincts — including malfunctioning Diebold machines 
— prompted lines as long as 11 hours. Diebold denied any wrongdoing, as 
did the other machine makers, who say e-voting problems are 
coincidental, reflecting expected glitches in new technology.

The jump to electronic voting was spurred by the 2002 Help America Vote 
Act, which reworked election standards and encouraged states to get rid 
of punch-card systems by making $3.9 billion available to states for 
upgrading election equipment.

Manufacturers of touch-screen machines and optical scanners touted their 
young technology to election officials as the best way to get those 
funds, and to avoid the chaos caused by punch cards in the 2000 election.
But according to voters' rights groups, much the money was disbursed 
well before a mandated HAVA committee published its stringent new 
election standards.

Bear said there has been no evidence in any election of hackers 
breaching electronic security measures and manipulating votes. However, 
Finley said Voter Action has documented other problems with e-voting.

"We had dozens of affidavits from voters in New Mexico who said they 
touched one candidate's name, but the machine picked the opponent," he 
said. In the state's biggest county, home to Albuquerque, touch-screens 
machines purchased from Sequoia lost 13,000 votes, Finley said.

In the end, Voter Action agreed to drop its New Mexico lawsuit when the 
state stopped purchases of the machines and reverted to paper ballots 
that would be electronically scanned for results.

Other states had similar problems during the current primary season. In 
Arkansas, for example, one county's results were delayed for four days 
because of faulty software, machines that wouldn't boot up and a 
shortage of technicians to fix the $15.9 million system recently 
purchased from ES&S.

The company's machines also drew complaints from officials in Indiana, 
Oregon and West Virginia, where Secretary of State Betty Ireland blamed 
ES&S for "vast delays" and "broken promises" and reported the firm to 
the Federal Election Assistance Commission.

Finley says there is an easy solution to the problems.

"The best and simplest way is to have voters vote on paper," he said. 
"You can use modern technology — like scanners — to verify the vote," he 
said. "But you always have the assurance that you can go back and hand 
count those ballots."

Lowell Finley, Co-Director of Voter Action on CNN's Lou Dobbs, June 11, 
*Video*: Windows Media <http://www.votetrustusa.org/videos/CNN061106.wmv>
For more of CNN's Lou Dobb's coverage on electronic voting click here 

Lowell Finley, Co-Director of Voter Action on CNBC’s morning call, June 
6th, along
with EAC Commissioner Paul DeGregorio. *Video*: Real 256K 
<http://www.voteraction.org/video/cnbcmorning%20256K_Stream.rm> *| *512K 
<http://www.voteraction.org/video/cnbcmorning512K_Stream.rm>* |* Youtube 

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