LA Times: State decides to secure electronic voting machines

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Aug 04 2007 - 14:42:52 CDT

I'm quoted in this one ... you never know just what they will take. I did
say that, and I said some other things they didn't print, too.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-voting4aug04a,0,894515.story?coll=la-home-center

*******
State decides to secure electronic voting machines
Secretary of State orders more precautions be taken against tampering, and
withdraws support of the InkaVote Plus machines used in Southern California.
By Jordan Rau and Hector Becerra, Times Staff Writers
August 4, 2007

SACRAMENTO -- Expressing concern that several brands of electronic voting
machines used in California were vulnerable to tampering, Secretary of State
Debra Bowen late Friday ordered new security protections be added and
limited the use of two types of machines that were to be used in next year's
elections in several Southern California counties.

Bowen also withdrew state approval of the InkaVote Plus machines used in Los
Angeles County, saying that the machines' maker, Election Systems and
Software, had failed to submit its equipment to her office in time to
analyze its vulnerability to hacking.

She said her office would examine the InkaVote machines and expressed
optimism that they would win approval in time to be used in next year's
elections, but did not say what would happen if the machines failed her
tests.

"When NASA discovers a flow or a potential safety concern in the space
shuttle, it doesn't continue launching the missions...," Bowen said. "It
scrubs the missions until the problem is fixed."

Her announcement, made just nine minutes before a midnight deadline, was
condemned by the head of the state's county registrar's association, Contra
Costa Registrar Stephen Weir.

Weir said Bowen's actions -- along with an unusual audit in which she
dispatched several computer experts to try to hack into the machines, which
they did -- had undermined public confidence in the security of the new
electronic machines. But her solutions, he said, would not do anything to
restore the public peace of mind, especially for elections that will occur
this year, such as a special Congressional election in Los Angeles in two
weeks.

"I think the secretary has redefined the definition of midnight madness,"
Weir said. He said that while he was not sure what the impact of the new
rules would be, they had enough potential for causing chaos and delays at
the polls that he encouraged people to vote by mail. Her restrictions on the
use of two types of machines to one per polling place would require the
printing of far more paper ballots that planned, and that could prove
difficult to achieve.

"Tens of millions of additional ballots, you don't just go to Kinkos," Weir
said. "The timing is way too tight."

He also predicted that the changes could delay the counting of votes. "If
people don't see results, they start going 'something's wrong,' " he said.

Bowen ordered that some machines made by Diebold Election Systems and
Sequoia Voting Systems be limited to one per polling place to limit the
chances that they could be tampered with. The Sequoia machines are used in
Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties.

Bowen said the presence of the machines, though limited, would be helpful
for disabled voters, though any voter could use the machines. Weir, however,
said she was creating a "separate but unequal" voting system.

The security requirements Bowen imposed include: reinstalling the software
before the Feb. 5. election to ensure it has not already been tampered with;
placing special seals at vulnerable parts of the machines to reveal
tampering; securing each machines at the close of each day of early voting;
assigning a specific election monitor to safeguard each machine; and
conducting a complete manual count of all votes cast.

Sequoia issued a statement early Saturday morning expressing
"disappointment" at Bowen's actions. "Electronic voting systems have never
been successfully tampered with in an actual election," Sequoia spokeswoman
Michelle M. Shafer said. "That same statement cannot be made about lever
machines and paper-based voting systems throughout our nation's history."

Only some of the security requirements -- involving heightened security and
auditing of results -- were placed on machines made by Hart InterCivic.
Those are used in Orange Counties.

Alan Dechert, president of Open Voting Consortium, and group that is
critical of the electronic voting machines, said many activists would be
critical that Bowen did not completely decertify those machines. "She's not
asking for changes to hardware or software," he said. "This is not really
doing much for transparency."

Bowen's actions came on the heels of an audit she released last week. It
found that machines manufactured by Diebold Hart and Sequoia-which are used
by more than twenty Californian counties--could be compromised either
through manipulating the software or physically breaking into the computer
hardware.

Bowen's announcement was made under odd circumstances. A press conference
originally planned to be held Friday afternoon was delayed hour after hour
as Bowen and her aides worked feverishly in her Sacramento office to issue
her orders at least six months before the Feb. 5 presidential primaries. The
requirements do not apply to any elections that occur before then.

Bowen emerged at 11:51 a.m. to issue her opinions to a small group of print
and television reporters who had been camped downstairs for the evening.

"This is the most frustrating thing. Why would she do something like this,
make people wait this long for something that should have been taken care of
ages ago?" said Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) in a telephone
interview from San Bernardino County.

Bowen's actions are sure to add to the debate around the country about the
potential for electronic voting machines to be infiltrated by hackers trying
to changes the results of races.

Increasingly, states are moving toward electronic voting machines, prompting
lawmakers and other to argue over what can be done to prevent hacking. The
U.S. Congress has been debating whether to require all electronic voting
machines to produce paper records.

Bowen has long been outspoken in her concerns about electronic voting. Last
year, she defeated incumbent Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a
Republican who was appointed to the job by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in
2005.

The campaign hinged largely on the candidates' differences over the
trustworthiness of the voting machines.

During the March 2004 primary in California, touch-screen voting terminals
by Diebold malfunctioned, and state election officials discovered that the
machines contained uncertified software.

The state barred four counties from using Diebold but later approved their
use in 11 counties after those jurisdictions agreed to new security
requirements, including making paper ballots available as an alternative.

Bowen's audit has been harshly criticized by election officials across the
state who said the testing was done in a manner inconsistent with real-life
situations.

The University of California tried to infiltrate the three companies'
machines physically and electronically without facing the safeguards that
voting machine vendors or counties use. The testers were provided with
encrypted source codes by the companies that government employees would not
have.

"It was akin to testing the security of your money in a bank with unlocked
doors, with no security guards or even bank tellers in sight and the bank's
vault wide open," said Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Conny
McCormack.

Other election officials said decertifying machines now would cause major
problems. "Six months is not a lot of time to make any wholesale changes,"
San Diego County Registrar Deborah Seiler said before Bowen's announcement.

jordan.rau@latimes.com

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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Received on Fri Aug 31 23:17:04 2007

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