Is this all there is, Bowen?

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Aug 04 2007 - 04:38:16 CDT

Today was one long frustrating day. I guess we are better off with Bowen as
Secretary of State, but I think she has missed an opportunity to do
something historic -- so far. Maybe I was hoping for too much from her.
Maybe this was historic and I'm just not seeing it. Maybe she's just

After trying to find out her decision all day -- press conference delayed
time and time again -- I went down to the Secretary of State's office after
a reliable source said 9:00 pm was the time for sure. We waited around
until just before midnight to find out that she will require no changes at
all to the hardware or software sold by members of the voting system cartel.

She decertified, but then immediately re-certified all the systems subject
to her top-to-bottom review contingent upon the implementation of various
mitigating procedures. Counties have 45 days to submit a security plan to
her office.

Toward the end of the press conference, she said she hopes vendors will look
at using open source software. She "hopes"? Excuse me, but many hope that
will happen. She is in a position of authority to make it happen. She
doesn't have to hope it will.

I do believe that her measures will make our votes more secure and the
voting system more trustworthy overall. But I think she misses the big
picture. She has not delivered on the transparency imperative. And she
will have to sell the public on how her improvements mean their votes are
secure. She went to great lengths to show the machines are hackable. The
Chronicle cartoon from Wednesday demonstrates the problem she faces now.

Here's an article about it. Note the time it was filed -- before the press


RePrintPrint Email
California orders voting machines to have tighter security
By STEVE LAWRENCE Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 08/03/2007 11:18:24 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO-California's secretary of state on Friday placed rigorous
security conditions on voting equipment used in dozens of counties and
limited the use of two of the most widely used machines.
The most affected counties will have to scramble to find alternate equipment
just six months before California holds its presidential primary.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen had set Friday as the deadline to tell
counties whether their voting equipment would be decertified because of
California's accelerated election schedule next year. She had to alert them
six months before the Feb. 5 presidential primary and made her announcement
just minutes before midnight.

Her decision followed the results of an eight-week security review of the
voting systems used in all but a handful of California's 58 counties.

University of California computer experts found that voting machines sold by
three companies-Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia Voting
Systems-were vulnerable to hackers and that voting results could be altered.

Bowen said it revealed some vulnerabilities that would allow hackers to
manipulate the systems "with little chance of detection and with dire

Her review also found that the machines posed problems for disabled voters.

Specifically, Bowen said she had decertified the machines for use and then
recertified them on the condition they meet her new security standards. When
asked what would happen if the companies failed to do so, Bowen responded,
"I think they will."

In a move with potentially wide-ranging consequences, Bowen also limited the
Diebold and Sequoia machines to one per polling place. That will force some
counties to find replacement equipment on a tight schedule.

Bowen ordered the review, which was released last week, to ensure that
California would not face the same doubts about the accuracy of its voting
systems that hit Florida after the 2000 election and Ohio in 2004. She held
a public hearing on the reports Monday.

The secretary of state's office took on an eerie feel Friday night, with
Bowen huddling with her aides behind closed doors in the hours before her
cusp-of-midnight news conference.

An announcement coming so late on the day Bowen had set as the deadline
concerned local elections officials.

Steve Weir, president of the state association of registrars, said the
actual deadline to notify counties under state election law is Sunday.

That means Bowen could have scheduled her announcement for Monday and still
met the six-month timeframe, giving her more time to review the reports and
decide on a course of action, he said.

"This thing has been rushed at every stage, and the amount of time the
public has had to review and comment is unconscionable," Weir said before
Bowen made her announcement. "This is way too important to be doing that."

The full scope of Bowen's decision was not immediately clear late Friday.
Weir said 42 counties use electronic voting machines for disabled voters,
while 22 use them as their primary method at polling places.

He expressed concern about Bowen's order limiting the use of some Diebold
and Sequoia voting systems, the most widely used in California.

Bowen suggested that counties could replace the Diebold and Sequoia
equipment with electronic scanners that use paper ballots-the kind used to
read absentee ballots.

Weir, however, was concerned that there may be too few vendors to produce
the scanning machines or paper ballots needed to fill the gaps left by
Bowen's order.

"We're talking about tens of millions of additional ballots for three
elections next year. You do not just go to Kinkos," he said.

He also warned that the companies would have to get federal approval if
Bowen's conditions for recertification require any more than minimal changes
to a machine's software and hardware. That process could take up to eight
months-well past California's presidential primary.

Bowen was undeterred by the challenges and the criticism she has faced from
local election officials. She compared her mission to ensure the integrity
of voting machines to the federal government issuing a recall when it
determines a consumer product is unsafe.

The same standards should be applied to voting systems, she said, to "make
sure they are secure, accurate and reliable."

Company officials have downplayed the results of Bowen's review, saying they
reflected unrealistic, worst-case scenarios that would be counteracted by
security measures taken by the companies and local election officials.

The companies also complained that the examiners had access to computer
coding, manuals and other information that is not available to the public.

Even so, officials with some companies said they are taking actions to
reassure the public that their machines are secure. Sequoia officials said
they were ensuring that any vulnerabilities found by the study could not be
used to alter vote results provided by its machines.

Machines made by a fourth company, Election Systems & Software, were not
included in the review because it was late providing information the
secretary of state's office needed, said Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for

The secretary of state launched a separate review of that company's Inkavote
Plus system, which is used only in Los Angeles County. On Friday, Bowen said
she had decertified that equipment but would review and reconsider it.

Bowen's office also is reviewing an application by Election Systems &
Software for certification of a new version of its Automark voting system,
which is used in 10 counties.

A third aspect of the secretary of state's study examined the complicated
computer codes that control how electronic voting systems operate. Besides
Los Angeles County, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties were not
included in the review.

Last November's general election ran relatively smoothly in most counties,
except for the occasional technical glitch. The three companies whose
machines were reviewed by the secretary of state each experienced minor
problems, ranging from machines that would not accept voters' ballot cards
to printers that did not turn out paper records of ballots.

Since 2004, California has required that all voting machines produce a paper
trail that allows elections officials to see ballot results.

OVC-discuss mailing list
By sending email to the OVC-discuss list, you thereby agree to release the content of your posts to the Public Domain--with the exception of copyrighted material quoted according to fair use, including publicly archiving at
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain

Received on Fri Aug 31 23:17:03 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Aug 31 2007 - 23:17:07 CDT