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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CALIFORNIA APPROVES DIEBOLD E-VOTING....I try not go overboard writing about California issues on the blog, but the decision this week by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to approve the use of obviously flawed Diebold voting machines deserves wider attention. Although a panel of experts concluded that the Diebold flaws were "manageable by a reasonably careful combination of short-and long-term approaches," the language they used to describe these flaws was pretty uncompromising:

Anyone who has access to a memory card...can indeed modify the election results from that machine....Mr. Hursti's attack on the AV-OS is definitely real....However, there is another category of more serious vulnerabilities....could change vote totals, modify reports, change the names of candidates....no way to know that any of these attacks occurred....classic security flaws....serious flaw in the key management of the crypto code.

And there's more, as Michael Hiltzik summarized in his Thursday column:

The bugs pale next to another discovery by the panel. This is the presence of a cryptographic key written into the source code, or basic software, of every Diebold touch-screen machine in the country. The researchers called this blunder tantamount to "a bank using the same PIN code for every ATM card they issued; if this PIN code ever became known, the exposure could be tremendous."

Here's the punch line: The Diebold key became known in 2003, when it was published by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities. It can be found today via a Google search.

Yep. Despite the fact that the panel of experts concluded that Diebold could fix all the bugs in their machines in "only a few hours," the problem with the hardcoded key has been known since 1997 and the key itself has been known since 2003 but Diebold has done nothing about it.

(Are you dying to know how to hack into a Diebold machine? Unless your local registrar has bothered to change it, here's the key: F2654hD4. And the 8-byte password used for Diebolds voter, administrator, and ender cards is ED 0A ED 0A ED 0A ED 0A. Aren't you glad this stuff is so easily found on the internet?)

There's simply no excuse for tolerating even the perception that the voting process is so easily open to abuse. I'm no conspiracy monger, but the fact that Diebold hasn't corrected these problems despite the fact that they're obvious, widely known, and easy to fix, does nothing except provoke suspicion well deserved or not that they're stonewalling deliberately. I mean, why act so damn guilty unless they really are guilty?

Kevin Drum 8:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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For those who were wondering (like me), McPherson is a Republican.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on February 26, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

In a country where I can transfer thousands of dollars from one bank to another, where I can order up virtually every service and item I could ever want to buy, where I can put the downpayment on a new house, where I could pay for and have delivered a new or used car, how in the hell can we not be able to vote on opur own friggin' PCs!!!!

Tell me, Mr. Diebold, oh please tell me. (An Ohio voter, BTW)

Posted by: Luigi on February 26, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

I say this without having in mind any sort of preferred system--if everyone were to use credible, old-fashion level machines, that would be fine by me--but in a country where we can do almost anything with technology, there's no reason why we can't have a secure voting system, whether it is by computer or something else. It would take time and it would take money, but it could be done.

Posted by: Brian on February 26, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Luigi:

More is at stake from fraud in a system of Internet voting. Identity theft is not a solved problem even for these other uses you mention.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey on February 26, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Can the Diebold train be derailed, in CA or elsewhere?

Electronic vote fraud could bring down our democracy, and their are (Repub) officeholders that are (and have) willing to use this tool.

BTW, doesn't the fact that Diebold is the largest supplier of bank ATMs make anyone nervous?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on February 26, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, why don't you guys try winning a few elections for once, rather than whine about some shadowy conspiracy theories.

Posted by: egbert on February 26, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Matt: Yeah, sorry about that. McPherson was appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger last year after Kevin Shelley resigned following allegations of abusive behavior toward his staff and campaign finance problems.

In general, the word is that McPherson is a really nice guy but not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 26, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

If it's as easy to do as everyone says, someone ought to break into their local election's Diebold system, and reset all the vote totals to zero. This would both demonstrate the systems' vulnerability, and prevent any (further) vote fraud from taking place. It would require that the local municipality do another election, but the upside is it would put Diebold out of the electioneering business forever.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 26, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, why don't you guys try winning a few elections for once, rather than whine about some shadowy conspiracy theories."

Gee, there's a thought. And maybe we could if not for, ya know, corruptable voting machines and bought-and-owned Supreme Court justices. But other than that, you are completely right.

Posted by: Kenji on February 26, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

I have never seen a cost comparison of voting by the Diebold machines compared to paper ballots that get counted by lots of nice little old ladies. Does anyone know of any?

I think that it is ridiculous to use computers for tasks that will only be done once, that cannot have a beta test or be delayed if problems are found.

Posted by: Andrea on February 26, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's almost impossible not to be a conspiracy nut when it comes to the Diebold issue. One can only conclude that the Republicans are conspiring to steal elections. Why else would they be so adamant about using an obviously flawed electronic voting system with no paper trail?

You don't think that's what's happening? So what's the other explanation? I, for one, can't think of any.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on February 26, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm confused; does the Diebold AV-TSx touchscreen (version 4.6.4) have a paper audit trail capability, or not? If it does, then a sampled limited recount should uncover gross fraud, and a full recount should uncover minute (e.g. in close races) fraud, right?

(I agree, Diebold's historically cavalier attitude towards voting machine security has disgraced them (if the cited VSTAAB report's description is accurate). A default shared key? Sheesh, there's no way it should be possible to use these machines without setting a non-default shared key. The rest of the report is just as mind-boggling to anyone with even a passing familiarity with computer security.)

Posted by: Bill Arnold on February 26, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

jimBOB, I would imagine most states call that a "felony." Not that it isn't a good idea and everything, but I'm not going to be Rosa Parks on this issue.

Posted by: Anderson on February 26, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

The truly sad bit is that the Australians, at least, have had for years legitimate open source electronic voting software that is secure and also prints out receipts. It's been thoroughly tested. It was built by a private company (who made a profit, one presumes) while the source code is open and easily reviewed for flaws.

Why we put up with this Diebold (and Sequoia, another others) crap when we could use the Australian code, or emulate their process, I don't know. I guess our politicians are stupid. They know only enough to get elected, not enough to do a competent job.

Posted by: Fred on February 26, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone suggesting legislation that modifies the "Help Diebold sell voting machines" act?

Posted by: ranaaurora on February 26, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

There has yet to be any explanation by anyone why the source code to these systems hasn't been opened up for public review. Like there's some hi-tech wizardry going on there that somehow, if Diebold's competitor would see, would make Diebold non-competitive. "Intellectual property" somehow has trumped national security.

Unless of course, in the interests of national security, the current administration must -- at any cost -- continue.

Posted by: Pyrrho on February 26, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

If it's as easy to do as everyone says, someone ought to break into their local election's Diebold system, and reset all the vote totals to zero.

Even better: Throw all the vote counts for someone like the Green Party or Libertarian Party candidate. That oughta raise a few eyebrows right there.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on February 26, 2006 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Why we put up with this Diebold (and Sequoia, another others) crap when we could use the Australian code, or emulate their process, I don't know.

But Fred... It's. Not. Invented. Here.

Posted by: ogmb on February 26, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Diebold came to Georgia and bada bing. We got our first Repub governor in 134 years and Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Georgians woke up on the morning after the election in shock. Incumbent Dem Governor Barnes had been ahead of Perdue by 11 points just two days before the election but Perdue won by 5 points -- a 16 point reversal. Incumbent Sen. Max Cleland had been ahead of Chambliss by 5 points but "Shitsby" won by 7 points -- a 12 point reversal, all in 48 hours. Interesting reading in Vanity Fair (April 2004) about hacking Georgia's vote via Diebold folder named, "rob.georgia", on program files.

If Diebold is in California, it's over.

I think I'll go open a vein.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 26, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

We could always bring camera crews with 2 or three reporters and a couple of party representatives into every precint room and let the little old ladies in every precint count the votes live. The Libertarian and Green Candidates could be there to to keep everyone honest. Sort of like American Idol for elections. Works for me. That would solve the problem.

Posted by: ALINE on February 26, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I could pay for and have delivered a new or used car, how in the hell can we not be able to vote on opur own friggin' PCs!!!!

Tell me, Mr. Diebold, oh please tell me. (An Ohio voter, BTW)

The Diebold machine was easily hacked (just as most windows OS systems are plagued with them. The Diebold OS is actually Windows CE. A POS.
A far better Alternative would be a Unix or Linux based, even the Macintosh OS X is a Free BSD unix type system
G(google counterpunch.org + diebold hack)
The machine was easily hacked, above.

Worse yet the machine has some untprotected IRda ports on the Back that may open even more access to the FILES (votes in binary form) on the Hardrive.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Susan Pynchon: Diebold in Florida
Diebold in Florida. By SUSAN PYNCHON. I was one of ten people present at the "hack" of the Leon County, Florida voting system, which took place on Tuesday, ...
www.counterpunch.org/pynchon01232006.html

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

OK, so let me get this straight.

Republicans are secretly working with Diebold to "steal" elections. Each election night, thousands of Republican operatives sign on to their computers, type in the magin code words and PRESTO! change all those Democratic votes into Republican votes. And all these thousands of Republicans can keep the secret, and there are never any leaks, and no one's ever the wiser.

I think someone's been watching too many Hollywood suspense flicks.

Posted by: egbert on February 26, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Fortunately, Oregon has mail-in voting only.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 26, 2006 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin you should give some exposure to the report on the 2004 Florida election by Bev Harris that she released after over a year of analysis. She has come to the conclusion that no one knows whether Bush won Florida or Kerry.

She advertises herself as non-partisan, though in these days anyone who comes to a conclusion unfavorable to the dear leader is ipso facto a traitor.

Posted by: lib on February 26, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

George is doing a heckuva job aint he
sheet fire who'd thunk
hahvard, Ale univershittys
Da MBA preznit
WoooOOoo!
dat boy is sharper than shinola
and slicker than a brillo pad



DrunKkk, WoooOoo!!! Go George!
Breakbank Mountain!
say george. yew lookin kinda gurd in them jeens Kowboy (wink wink)
KaaaBBBLLLAAAMM!!!

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Freom Bev Haris's site:

The internal logs of at least 40 Sequoia touch-screen voting machines reveal that votes were time and date-stamped as cast two weeks before the election, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Black Box Voting successfully sued former Palm Beach County (FL) Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore to get the audit records for the 2004 presidential election.

After investing over $7,000 and waiting nine months for the records, Black Box Voting discovered that the voting machine logs contained approximately 100,000 errors. According to voting machine assignment logs, Palm Beach County used 4,313 machines in the Nov. 2004 election. During election day, 1,475 voting system calibrations were performed while the polls were open, providing documentation to substantiate reports from citizens ind... More here.

Posted by: lib on February 26, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

And all these thousands of Republicans can keep the secret, and there are never any leaks, and no one's ever the wiser.

I think someone's been watching too many Hollywood suspense flicks.
Posted by: egbert on February 26, 2006 at 9:58 PM |

read that article.
Since the test took place at the elections warehouse, all the voting machines were already stored there and the one machine, whose serial number was selected, was located and brought into the warehouse office, where it was plugged into an electrical outlet (so it could operate!). It was not networked to any other machines. We checked the serial number of the machine against the serial number that Ion had randomly selected.

Earlier, Ion had given ONE Diebold memory card to Hursti. Bev Harris and Kathleen Wynne of Black Box Voting were also present at the test.

Harri had programmed the memory card that morning, in his hotel room, using an off-the-shelf crop scanner. I drove Harri in my car from the hotel to the warehouse. When we arrived, Harri was asked to stay outside the warehouse office where the central tabulator is located, so that there would be no question about whether he had had any access to the central tabulator. When the randomly-selected voting machine was brought into the warehouse office, all of us went into the warehouse office except Harri, whom we could see sitting in a chair on the other side of a plate glass window separating the office from the rest of the warehouse.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, what's the worst that could happen?

Posted by: Kenji on February 26, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Javascript Source Code
html Capacitor
circuite logic gate nor!
Bush new watergate!

if( then and else
big endian
binary hexidecimal
Hack the Card
Hack them All

bus frequency photons
conjugate mirrors
muons gluons
nuclear yeild

If man can make a puter he can hack it =)

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

I guess our politicians are stupid. They know only enough to get elected, not enough to do a competent job.

No, they're not stupid. Their jobs depend on campaign contributions from companies like Diebold. That's why we can't use any other country's cheap and proven technology, ever. If you want to change this kind of crap, make elections publicly financed and outlaw campaign contributions.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 26, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

WooOoOoO!!

]{LMMmm!!

guess it coont git much worsen Duh-B-Yahh.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on February 26, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe: If you want to change this kind of crap, make elections publicly financed and outlaw campaign contributions.

I like it. Also, borrowing from the Aussies, make voting compulsory. That will change the political landscape in a snap.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 26, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

All this outrage is really great but, where the hell are Democratic politicians on this? Dont get me wrong - I think Diebold is evil but, if it is a plot to tilt elections in favor of Republicans, why the hell aren't the Democrats doing anything in the interest of self-preservation on this?

Posted by: jman on February 26, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Scharwznegger's going to take over the country with the help of intelligent voting machines.
At least Diebold ain't naming the machines Skynet...

Posted by: McA on February 26, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

That will change the political landscape in a snap.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 26, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Would that dilute the minorities though?

Posted by: McA on February 26, 2006 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

egbert:"I think someone's been watching too many Hollywood suspense flicks."

That would be you. The rest of us know about America's real-world history of vote fraud.

Yes Democrats have done it too, but they were right-wing Democrats, like Daley.


Posted by: Joey Giraud on February 26, 2006 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

McA: Would that dilute the minorities though?

Dilute? Weird framing. If every adult must vote, every minority would be represented providing that the voting system, unlike Diebold, is legit and accurate.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 26, 2006 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

lib >"...the report on the 2004 Florida election by Bev Harris...no one knows whether Bush won Florida or Kerry..."

Maybe you should read this and look a little deeper into what the story is; it`s called Overvotes & social breakdown

"...those chads only distracted attention from much more grievous breakdowns during the 2000 election..."

jman >"...why the hell aren't the Democrats doing anything in the interest of self-preservation on this?"

Does the phrase "NSA intercepts" mean anything to you ?

How about "Chandra Levy" ?

What about the word "extortion" ?

Maybe putting all those words together might help you "Get It"

Joey Giraud >"...The rest of us know about America's real-world history of vote fraud..."

And a Grand History it is !

"Everyday reality now is a complete fiction, manufactured by the media landscape and we operate inside it." - JG Ballard

Posted by: daCascadian on February 26, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

I once wrote code for a voting machine system. It was intended to be unhackable short of a blowtorch, but apparently that's not what the market wants. And I once read the Diebold source code, and I would have fired whoever wrote it. It's just bad code, in most every way code can be bad.

If faced with an electronic voting machine, demand to see the source code. If denied the code, demand a paper ballot. Better yet, just demand paper ballots, period.

Posted by: Doctor G on February 26, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

daCasacadian: thanks.

The 2000 story is well known.

What's interesting about 2004 is that it happened AFTER steps had ostensibly been taken to avoid another 2000. Probably they did take the appropriate steps, though only to make sure that the margin of victory is large enough so that the media can drown out any challenges to the results in its collective derision as it did in the 2000 recount.

Posted by: lib on February 26, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

McA: Would that dilute the minorities though?

Dilute? Weird framing. If every adult must vote, every minority would be represented providing that the voting system, unlike Diebold, is legit and accurate.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 26, 2006 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

Just noting that certain minorities don't vote as often (like Asians) and some vote more often (like Blacks). Given the group most likely not to vote is White middle class, this might not have the effect you anticipate..........

One would point up that optional voting, captures (through turnout) intensity of opinion as well as direction.

Posted by: McA on February 27, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce McPherson is a Republican, and an appointee of Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The office he holds is supposed to be elective, and the last time we voted, we voted in a Democrat.

Funny how that worked out.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on February 27, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Y'all just shut up. You don't need to know how the voting machines work. You don't need to know why we went to war or how it's going, why we're listening to your phone calls and reading your e-mail, how our ports are being secured, how we plan to respond to natural disasters, what you're going to do about your shrinking healthcare, and countless other things you wouldn't understand anyway. You just don't need to know. Shut up, shut up, shut up.

Posted by: shortstop on February 27, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin
ELIMINATE THE KEY FROM YOUR POST NOW

Why did you post the key? I can't beleive you did that. Do you think only honest and honorable people read your blog?

What planet are you on? One in which teenage hackers don't do horrible things just for the challenge of doing them. Or that right wing nuts with no conscience and an agenda, only read Little Green Footballs and never stray your way.

ELIMINATE THE KEY FROM YOUR POST

Posted by: debra on February 27, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that Diebold does ATMs WHICH PRODUCE PAPER RECEIPTS makes me suspicious: I would never, never, never use an ATM that gives no receipt. Why should I use a paperless ballot box?

Posted by: Brian Boru on February 27, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Debra, he got the key by using frickin' Google. Are you suggesting teenage hackers read Political Animal yet are too stupid to use Google? What planet are YOU on?

Posted by: Calton Bolick on February 27, 2006 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I've always wondered about:

If it's so damn easy to hack the machines, and the codes are out there for everybody to find, why is it always assumed that only Republican hackers are going to be fixing elections?

It's not like Democrats haven't had a long and colorful history of putting their thumbs on the election scales, so it can't be some inherent nobility or honesty.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 27, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

If it's as easy to do as everyone says, someone ought to break into their local election's Diebold system, and reset all the vote totals to zero.

A demo similar to that was done for two Florida counties recently, and they got rid of Diebold.

Posted by: m on February 27, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

"The truly sad bit is that the Australians, at least, have had for years legitimate open source electronic voting software that is secure and also prints out receipts."

Actually, we use a pencil to mark our ballot paper, and it's counted by hand and sight. But for info on the trials run in the ACT (a minor jurisdiction; not a State) see here.

Posted by: Robert on February 27, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

It's clear why the democrats are not speaking out against this.

They are waiting for their turn to rig elections electronically. Or they are benefiting from a republican run government, and they can still win elections as a democrat.

Tell me again why some people still have faith in democracy mixed with capitalism?

Posted by: msbuch72 on February 27, 2006 at 5:42 AM | PERMALINK

"It's clear why the democrats are not speaking out against this.
They are waiting for their turn to rig elections electronically."

Um, the parties have elections at, you know, the same time.

Posted by: Kenji on February 27, 2006 at 6:32 AM | PERMALINK

it isn't just diebold, folks. all the major manufacturer's of touch-screen systems have built-in, serious, and unforgiveably stupid vulnerabilities. these vuls have been documented by various state officials (including blackwell's office in ohio), yet elections officials keep buying them with your/our tax dollars.

it's easy to scapegoat diebold, but sequoia, es&s, hart intercivic, unilect - the whole lot of them are swiss cheese and should be scrapped.

given how hard it is to build a secure system, this isn't necessarily proof of a conspiracy, but it is evidence that these people have no business building and providing the machinery of our democracy.

Posted by: freddy on February 27, 2006 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

Also, McPherson was not elected, unlike his predecessor, a Democrat. He was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Of course, McPherson is much farther to the right than Ah-nold.

Posted by: Jeff in CA on February 27, 2006 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I guess the exit polls were right after all and it was the "actual" vote tallies that were bogus.

Once again, more evidence that Bush and the GOP have stolen their position of power.

The "Tories" are back in power (and you thought the alliance with Blair was cosmetic!), overturning the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

What are you going to do about it?

The Founding Fathers knew what to do.

They kicked some Tory ass.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 27, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

tbras:>"It's not like Democrats haven't had a long and colorful history"

They certainly have! Even more colorful is the way the worst of them turned Republican.

Theives and thugs found a new home: the GOP.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on February 27, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

"so it can't be some inherent nobility or honesty."

It can, however, be less of something. Namely, a lack of certainty that you have a divine right to power, and less of a belief that the rules only apply to other people.

And are you really suggesting we would all be better off if both parties used any means available, legal or illegal, to win? That's taking your laughable "libertarianism" pose to a new low, isn't it?

Posted by: brewmn on February 27, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, it certainly sounds from your comment that you don't want to get rid of diebold machines because they're electing Republicans.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 27, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

And all these thousands of Republicans can keep the secret, and there are never any leaks, and no one's ever the wiser.


"Size of" arguments against conspiracies are deficient on their face. How many people were involved in the design of an automobile? Hundreds? Thousands? And yet we don't know the details. We don't know short cuts. We don't know the flaws that worried their engineers. We don't know what choices were discarded. We don't know motivation. And yet there are the cars, flooding our highways.

It needn't be thousands. Your scenario suggests a conspiracy 2 orders of magnitude larger than it needs to be.

Consider all the "legit" ways that the Ohio election was prejudiced that did require lots of bodies to implement. (see the Congressional report on the 2004 Ohio election.)You don't hear people owning up to the abuses there and yet they certainly happened. And they had to happen by design.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 27, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

All this outrage is really great but, where the hell are Democratic politicians on this? Dont get me wrong - I think Diebold is evil but, if it is a plot to tilt elections in favor of Republicans, why the hell aren't the Democrats doing anything in the interest of self-preservation on this?

I think Kevin Shelley decertified Diebold and was quite vocal about the security flaws and potential for fraud in Diebold voting systems. Even went so far as to require a paper trail on any future voting machines. So what ever happened to him, anyway? This stand against Diebold didn't hurt his political fortunes, did it?

Posted by: Thumb on February 27, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Paper ballots, baby. No long line-ups for scarce machines. Cheap. Fast (See Canada just to our north.) Built in paper trail. Every step in the process observable to all sides in the contest.

It's the only true democracy.

Posted by: ferd on February 27, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, why don't you guys try winning a few elections for once, rather than whine about some shadowy conspiracy theories."

Hey, we DID win, in 2000 and probably in 2004 (Ohio). Who was it who said, "It's not who votes that matters, it's who counts the votes."

With Diebold counting the votes, the "win" goes to Republicans.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 27, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff in CA - whats your evidence for the claim that McPherson is significantly more conservative than Schwarzenegger? McPherson was originally elected to the Assembly, and then to the Senate, by the voters of Santa Cruz, hardly a right-wing bastion. He worked closely both with Congressman Farr and Assemblyman Keeley - neither of them known for their conservatism - when it was necessary to do so, and he was generally well liked and respected in the district.

As a former constituent of his, my take on him is that he's always been a small-business economic conservative who is moderate on social issues. He generally supported gay rights, for example, until he began to cast his eye about for election to statewide office.

Posted by: aphrael on February 27, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Thumb - while it may gratifying to claim that Shelley's downfall was a result of his challenge to Diebold, that isn't the case. Shelley was brought down as a result of a complex campaign-finance-and-embezzlment scandal involving things he did while a member of the state Assembly. You could certainly argue that the scandal would never have come to light if he hadn't pissed of the San Francisco Chronicle, and it's possible that his treatment of Diebold had something to do with that; but the evidence is that he was engaged in activities that he shouldn't have been engaged in.

Like the removal of Chuck Quackenbush, Shelley's removal was basically a nonpartisan affair; the legislature was going to open up an investigation and in all likelihood he would have been impeached if he hadn't resigned.

Posted by: aphrael on February 27, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Paper ballots are the way to go. In San Mateo, CA we mark our choices with an indelible marker and feed the paper into a scanner. If there is a problem with the ballot it gets rejected and we have a chance to fix it. This works fine. I like it. I will fight any change to electronic voting here and if they do change to those machines I will vote only absentee ballot.

BTW, my degree is in physics, I've written software for years so I have some familiarity with this subject.

"Hey, why don't you guys try winning a few elections for once, rather than whine about some shadowy conspiracy theories."

In California nearly all state wide offices have been won by Democrats and Democrats are in the majority in the House and Senate and we have two Democratic senators and a majority of our representatives are Democrats.

Posted by: JohnK on February 27, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz writes: If it's so damn easy to hack the machines, and the codes are out there for everybody to find, why is it always assumed that only Republican hackers are going to be fixing elections?

Right. This should be a nonpartisan issue, since voting machine fraud is as likely to hurt one party as another. But in fact, Republicans don't share those concerns, and are completely unwilling to do anything to allay them. That makes me concerned.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on February 27, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Cal Gal writes: Hey, we DID win, in 2000 and probably in 2004 (Ohio).

I think what egbert meant was: Why don't you guys win by a landslide? If Gore or Kerry had been 10-20 percentage points ahead, then a few hundred thousand uncounted or mistakenly counted votes wouldn't have made any difference.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on February 27, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

JohnK - the San Mateo County elections department seems to be generally less pleasant to work with than the Santa Cruz County election department, but the use of paper ballots is definitely preferable to switching to electronic.

Sadly, it is not clear what systems will be in use in June. The existing ones were decertified as being in violation of HAVA (the Help America Vote Act, legislation passed after the 2000 election debacle). Registrar-Recorder Slocum has been pushing for authorization to hold an all-mail election. The Legislature has not taken up the call, and it's not clear yet what machinery San Mateo County will be using in the next election.

Posted by: aphrael on February 27, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

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