Re: Triad Systems and Ohio Recount

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Fri Dec 24 2004 - 09:43:36 CST

Hello Doug,
 
I just somehow knew paranoia would become socially useful. On the other hand, perhaps I'm not paranoid. Maybe they really are saying that about me.
 
Happy Holidays to all.
 
Thanks, Ed Kennedy

"Douglas W. Jones" <jones@cs.uiowa.edu> wrote:

On Dec 23, 2004, at 4:09 PM, Edmund R. Kennedy wrote:

> Doug, why did Triad say they needed to access the tabulating machine
> anyway?

In order to change the programming to conform to the
requirements imposed by the secretary of state for the
recount, that only presidential votes and no others be
recounted.

The extended access to the machine started when the
machines wouldn't boot because of dead batteries. The
batteries were ancient.

Of course, if I was a suspicious type, I could imagine
creating this scenario cleverly in order to gain access
to the machines and swap in bogus stuff, but I find that
far fetched. Nonetheless, the unmonitored access should
never have happened, so that this unlikely scenario
could never be imagined.

> Wouldn't a more appropriate response be to swap the machine out it
> there was something wrong?

Yes, of course, but the administration of voting systems
in Ohio is operating under the assumption that computers
are expensive, so they are still nursing ancient
machines. Also, the software in questions only works
under DOS, as I understand it, and cannot be run under
Windows. This may be a matter of competence, not fundamental
technological limitations, but in general, Windows compatable
software is expensive to develop, particularly if it uses
odd peripherals like punched card readers.

> Also, is there some sort of check sum or hash check like way that
> could be used to deal with this sort of problem in the future?

Not with the existing software, and as the Nevada gambling
system's "pyramid of trust" suggests, not without a custom
BIOS chip.

> I ask, in general, if a hash check of the software package(s) shows no
> change in the hash code developed before and after servicing the
> equipment than nothing would have been 'fixed' right? If this would
> work, then you would not necessarily need to have an highly informed
> guard monitoring a contractor working on election equipment.

I would argue for two guards, one Democrat and one Republican,
and then I'd argue that they don't need to be that highly
informed, what the need to do is demand that the tech
they're monitoring provide explanations of what he's doing,
in a running narrative. Let the tech teach the guards, and
in the process force, the tech, if he is dishonest, to lie,
and make sure that lie is breach of his contract and that it's
covered by election law. I'd be happy if the monitors were
80 year old grandmothers as long as they demanded explanations
and acted suspicious.

> This is something where it seems like various clear proceedures needs
> to be developed by the election officials and is something we might be
> able to work through.

Absolutely!

Doug Jones
jones@cs.uiowa.edu

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Received on Fri Dec 31 23:17:19 2004

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