Re: Activist: E-voting to be a 'train wreck'

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Mon Jul 05 2004 - 21:45:22 CDT

I forgot to give the url

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alan Dechert" <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, July 05, 2004 7:38 PM
Subject: Activist: E-voting to be a 'train wreck'

> I had some input on this although Rachel didn't quote me. She did quote
> Doug Jones, who seems to often come up with just the right words.
> Alan D.
> **************
> SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Ambushing registrars and tracking down executives at
> their homes and offices, a literary publicist has uncovered conflicts of
> interests and security flaws inside the companies that make electronic
> ballot machines.
> Searching the Web and poring over newspaper clippings, Bev Harris has
> unearthed obscure arrest records, ties to conservative political groups
> other embarrassing secrets of senior executives at voting companies.
> Her conclusion: there will be so many problems with the more than 100,000
> paperless voting terminals to be used in the November presidential
> that the fiasco will dwarf Florida's hanging chad debacle of 2000.
> "We have a train wreck that's definitely going to happen," Harris said.
> have conflict of interest, we've taken the checks and balances away, and
> know the votes are already being miscounted fairly frequently. This is
> to be huge."
> Harris, 52, didn't set out to become a muckraking voting technology
> Accustomed to working with manuscripts and authors in suburban Seattle,
> preferred doting on her new grandchild to debating politics. She still
> doesn't vote regularly.
> But when Harris was idly surfing the Web during a lunch break two years
> she became obsessed with an issue essential to democracy, quickly becoming
> the unlikely center of a movement to ensure integrity in the nation's
> systems.
> Critics say Harris, author of "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the
> 21st Century," is a fear-mongering grandstander and a presumptuous
> conspiracy theorist. The prime target of one investigation - voting
> equipment maker Diebold Inc. - says her antics undermine democracy.
> "We must not frighten voters or inadvertently provide any type of
> disincentive to voting," Diebold spokesman David Bear wrote in an e-mail
> when asked to respond to Harris' claims that the company's software is
> riggable and insecure. "While security is an important issue ...
> improvements can and will be made."
> Others question the motives behind her obsessive investigations of
> politicians and executives at big voting equipment companies such as
> Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. and Election Systems & Services Inc.
> "She bases her whole theory on a continuous string of untruths," said Lou
> Ann Linehan, chief of staff for Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. In the 1990s,
> Hagel headed voting equipment company American Information Systems Inc.,
> which later became ES&S. Hagel maintains investments between $1 million
> $6 million in McCarthy Group Inc., a private bank with a large stake in
> ES&S.
> Harris, who dubs Hagel "poster boy for conflict of interest," says the
> Republican did not disclose the extent of his American Information Systems
> involvement and questions whether a former executive of a company whose
> machines count votes in precincts nationwide should run for public office.
> Hagel's staff insist that his former career doesn't affect his political
> life.
> "I don't know if it's sloppy research or she doesn't care," Linehan said.
> don't spend a lot of time worrying about it because it's all so
> Criticism, as well as legal threats from ES&S, Diebold and other
> has enervated Harris, whose blond hair turned completely gray last year.
> legions of fans - from New Zealand bloggers to respected computer
> scientists - encourage her.
> Exploiting the power of the Internet, Harris has created a Web site that
> documents hundreds of local, county and state elections that have been
> botched or contested because of flaws with voting software.
> She details an incestuous web of voting company executives, politicians
> election officials - people who are often related or have worked for each
> other.
> Her style is brash. She drives her Toyota Corolla and rental cars
> of miles to ambush registrars in counties where election results didn't
> match exit polls.
> Frustrated that few mainstream journalists have publicized her exploits,
> Harris once left voice mail for Washington Post star Bob Woodward. When he
> didn't call back, she trashed him in a Web forum called "Media Whores
> Online."
> "It took me a while to recognize that despite her over-the-top personal
> style, she was doing valuable sleuthing," said Douglas Jones, associate
> professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and a member of
> Iowa's Board of Examiners for e-voting. "But her style, which tends to be
> bit alarmist and tends to appeal to conspiracy theorists, may be necessary
> to get the attention of the people who need to pay attention."
> Harris, who in the 1990s freelanced as an investigator for companies that
> suspected employees of embezzling, dismisses conspiracies. She blames a
> of federal oversight, and human nature for voting problems such as those
> the November 2002 election, when Bernalillo County, N.M.'s turnout was
> 48,000 - but only 36,000 votes were tallied on Sequoia touchscreens.
> "I never looked at this as a computer problem or even a conspiracy," said
> Harris. "I always looked at it as an auditing problem, the exact
> of taking away canceled checks, invoices and receipts. You take away
> oversight - someone will steal. I guarantee it."
> Harris' obsession with e-voting began during a lunch break in autumn 2002.
> On the Web, she stumbled upon an article called "Elections in America -
> Assume Crooks are in Control," by freelance journalist Lynn Landes.
> Harris began wondering how easy it would be to change electronic ballots
> rig an election without a trace.
> By trial and error, she tracked down people who work at voting companies
> trolling on online job boards, high school reunion sites and other
> haunts. She collected e-mail addresses and phone numbers for eight dozen
> programmers. Some boasted they could easily insert malicious code, alter
> delete ballots and "flip" an election.
> Harris wondered how easily these people could be bribed.
> "I figured that if a middle-aged woman like me who has never done a
> op' in her life, working on the Internet, could find the people who
> our voting machines, then certainly the bad guys must know who they are,"
> she wrote in her roughly edited book, which reads the way Harris talks -
> full of enthusiasm, gall and expressions such as "oookay" and "right,"
> dripping with sarcasm.
> She took a loan from her father to self-publish her book. When critics
> she was fear-mongering for money, she posted chapters free online. She
> the book has cost her and her second husband, who works at Boeing Co.,
> $50,000, and they've made almost nothing from it.
> In January 2003, Harris did a Google search for Vancouver, B.C.-based
> Election Systems Inc., the software company Diebold acquired in 2002. On
> search engine's 15th page of hits was a link to proprietary code, which
> Harris burned on seven CDs and stashed in a safe-deposit box. She didn't
> sleep for 44 hours while downloading 40,000 files.
> Blogs began buzzing about secret voting software without password
> protection. Eventually, computer scientists at Johns Hopkins and Rice
> universities analyzed the code.
> Avi Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at
> Hopkins, concluded that any clever 15-year-old could rig the system and
> multiple times. Alarmingly, "1111" was Diebold's default password
> identification number for microchip-embedded "smartcards" that voting
> administrators used.
> Diebold issued a 27-page rebuttal, insisting the code was out of date and
> not used in more than 30,000 machines nationwide. But the study hit a
> among computer scientists, who lended legitimacy to a ragtag movement.
> "I worry that sometimes her arguments sound farfetched, and I have been
> on more than one occasion that she is hurting the credibility of all of us
> with her wild theories," Rubin said. "On balance, though, I am grateful
> the work that she does. We each have our own style."
> Harris hopes more secretaries of state reach the conclusion of
> Kevin Shelley, who this year banned some Diebold machines and required
> counties to have a paper record of ballots.
> "I would consider this last year a year of crisis," said Harris, who last
> year struggled to meet mortgage and heat payments. "I didn't want to get
> involved in this. I just don't understand how anyone could discover this
> stuff and live with themselves if they didn't say anything about it."
> ---
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Received on Sat Jul 31 23:17:14 2004

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