Re: How do you audit a GEMS machine?

From: Ed Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Sat Jun 18 2005 - 12:07:03 CDT

Hello Teresa and All:

So you believe there should be zero tolerance for errors? Would you
advocate that any election with errors be rerun? I can imagine how a
determined spoiler could deliberately introduce errors in every election and
call attention to them if results were not what they desired.

I'm a civil engineer and I've been taught that random error in inevitable.
Engineers are directed to look for systematic errors and compensate for
them. For example, there is only a finite precision in surveying equipment.
Yes, before anyone says it, the potential error is pretty small with the
newer equipment but it is still there. When you dump your total station's
data into a computer it always finds an error and redistributes it along the
results typically by a least squares method. I suspect this is old news to
you with your major statistics background but I'm mentioning it for the
benefit of everyone else. Also, before anyone mentions it, obviously, the
absolute theoretical limit of accuracy in voting is one vote while survey
equipment can continue going for finer and finer divisions of distance and
angle.

Do you or anyone else believe that any error beyond one vote is
unacceptable? I'm bringing this up (again) because I've never gotten a
satisfactory answer to what is the acceptable level of error (say as a
percentage of total votes cast) in the voting process. I know that there
are rules and laws specifying automatic recounts which could be used as a
legal basis for maximum error. I believe these vary substantially from
state to state. Does anyone have a summary of these?

Thanks, Ed Kennedy

-- 
Thanks, Edmund R. Kennedy
Always work for the common good.
10777 Bendigo Cove
San Diego, CA 92126-2510
USA
I blog now and then at: <http://ekennedyx.blogspot.com/>
Also, I've got a web site at <http://geocities.com/ekennedyx/>
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Teresa Hommel" <tahommel@earthlink.net>
To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list" <ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2005 4:56 AM
Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] How do you audit a GEMS machine?
>> Given the more or less inevitable level of errors in a process as 
>> complicated as an election,
>
> When I spoke with a Canadian pollworker, she couldn't even answer the 
> question "What do you do when the number of ballots doesn't match the 
> number of voters?" because she said, in her 30 years of working at the 
> polls, it had never happened.
>
> I believe that the constant repetition by elections personnel in the USA 
> that "elections are never perfect" is part of an effort to lower our 
> expectations and encourage us to accept election irregularities and fraud 
> as "inevitable" and "ordinary," and to make us feel stupid and naive if we 
> think elections are important and should be held to the same standards of 
> accuracy that we require of banks, cashiers in our local supermarket, 
> teachers who grade our kids' tests, etc.
>
> Many people would like to blame our pollworkers (poorly trained, too dumb. 
> too old, etc.) but we need to demand that there be enough funds and effort 
> allocated so that pollworkers be well-trained, and that procedures be 
> publicly posted so that voters and observers are not subject to arbitrary 
> on-the-fly rules made up in different polling places, etc, and that our 
> elections be well-run.
>
> I'm not saying that Edmund is wrong, I'm just saying that we have to 
> constantly remind ourselves that political decisions are made to allow or 
> cause (through inadequate numbers and training of pollworkers) the level 
> of errors that we are then told are inevitable.
>
> Teresa Hommel
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ed Kennedy <ekennedyx@yahoo.com>
> Sent: Jun 18, 2005 12:27 AM
> To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list <ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] How do you audit a GEMS machine?
>
> Hello Dick:
>
> I suspect it would be easier to rig the GEMS machine than you think. 
> We've discussed on the list how a typical DRE can be easily subverted by 
> having a time or event sequence dependent Trojan inserted into the 
> software code.  I don't see why a similar thing couldn't be done for a 
> machine running GEMS.  Based on Black Box Voting's description of the 
> Acuvote scanner having memory cards with programs resident in the card 
> memory, I think it would be even easier for some sort of vote shifting 
> routine or just a trigger for a Trojan, be resident on the memory cards 
> and picked up upon the necessary reading of the card by the GEMS machine. 
> Upon the 'close out' of the voting aggregation the Trojan would erase 
> itself leaving no trace.  A check sum or other program modification check 
> ran before and after the election process would not be likely to show up.
>
> In my limited poll working experience, it not unusual for a polling place 
> votes to not completely reconcile with ballot counts, scanner tapes and 
> signature book counts.  It is often only necessary for malware to just 
> shift a few votes at each polling place to change an election outcome. 
> Given the more or less inevitable level of errors in a process as 
> complicated as an election, this sort of vote shifting could easily be 
> nearly undetectable in the 'back ground noise' random errors of the 
> election process and be very difficult to catch.
>
> Call me discouraged.
> -- 
>
> Thanks, Edmund R. Kennedy
>
> Always work for the common good.
>
> 10777 Bendigo Cove
> San Diego, CA 92126-2510
> USA
>
> I blog now and then at: <http://ekennedyx.blogspot.com/>
> Also, I've got a web site at <http://geocities.com/ekennedyx/>
>  ----- Original Message ----- 
>  From: Richard C. Johnson
>  To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list
>  Sent: Friday, June 17, 2005 12:10 PM
>  Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] How do you audit a GEMS machine?
>
>
>  Ed,
>
>  This is a tough one, but if you can run sample memory cards with known 
> content through the GEMS machine to verify that the samples register 
> properly, well, that is better than nothing.  Anybody who seriously wants 
> to rig the election through the GEMS machine would have to alter it in a 
> way not detectable by processing sample memory cards.  Still, this setup 
> is an abomination--I thought California law prohibited such things.
>
>  Best wishes for a clean election,
>
>  -- Dick
>
>  Ed Kennedy <ekennedyx@yahoo.com> wrote:
>    Hello:
>
>    Here in San Diego County we use Diebold GEMS machines to read the 
> memory card from Diebold Acuvote scanners.  Generously assuming that the 
> scanner cards generally reflect what went under the scan heads ,how would 
> a Poll Watcher audit the aggregation of votes on a GEMS machine?  We've 
> got a mayoral election coming up here in the City pretty soon so I'd 
> appreciate some quick answers or at least pointers to where I might find 
> this information.
>    -- 
>
>    Thanks, Edmund R. Kennedy
>
>    Always work for the common good.
>
>    10777 Bendigo Cove
>    San Diego, CA 92126-2510
>    USA
>
>    I blog now and then at: <http://ekennedyx.blogspot.com/>
>    Also, I've got a web site at <http://geocities.com/ekennedyx/>
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>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Received on Thu Jun 30 23:17:09 2005

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