Wired News: Activists Find More E-Vote Flaws

From: Charlie Strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Wed Sep 22 2004 - 09:27:12 CDT


Below is an except quoting david jefferson regarding Bev Harris's
public demo showing that the deibold system that uses parallel tables
to maintain raw and processed data can be manipulated so the tables
dont match. In theory smart election officials could do hand checks of
the processed data (which is what goes to the canvassing board) and the
raw data to look for mismatches.

But would they actually do it? the answer is in fact no. This is
exactly what happened in New mexico (and also in nevada) where a bug
in the software meant the SQL tables used for legislative district
tabulation that went to the canvassing board were short 12,000 votes
(this is the famous bernalillio county incident). What makes this
remarkable is two things first NEw mexico is one of the FEW states that
perfrorms a triple audit that does check the paper totals from the
precints with the final totals, plus they use an additonal outside
auditor. yet it was not the tripple audit that caught the problem it
was a candidate, and it was caught the day the totals were about to be
made official. what happened was they compared the totals from the
machines with the raw data totals. but they did not hand check the SQL
output which had re-factored the totals into legislative districits
instead of precints (NM law requires this), thus making a widespread
hand total prohibitivley painful.

SO though you may be inclined to discount this error as one easily
caught by proper procedures it is empirically a real and severe risk,
not just for hacking but because errors have created exactly this
scenario not once but twice.

By the way how does OVC deal with this?

"Diebold spokesman Mark Radke said that after an election, counties are
supposed to go back to the memory cards taken from voting machines and
manually add vote totals stored on the cards as well as vote totals on
a paper printout that poll workers take from each machine at the close
of the polls. Officials compare these totals to the GEMS summary totals
and if there is a discrepancy, Radke said, the totals from the memory
cards take precedence over the GEMS totals.

  Jefferson, the Lawrence Livermore computer scientist, agreed that
election procedures usually indicate that there should not be one
person operating the counting software. He also agreed with Bear that
officials could catch discrepancies in vote totals if they went back
and manually added up the results from every individual polling place
and compared the totals with the tallies in the summary report. But
Jefferson said that election officials and poll workers don't always
follow procedures. In the California March primary, he pointed out,
several counties refused to follow procedures that were requested by
the secretary of state's office and others failed to follow procedures
that are mandated under California election law.

  Rather than creating a system that relies on the "perfect execution of
(poll worker) procedures," Jefferson said, Diebold should have designed
the system to better prevent fraud.

  "You don't want to make up for poor design by adding more burden to
beleaguered poll workers and election officials who don't understand
the reasons for all of the rules that they have to obey and (are
therefore) likely to cut corners," Jefferson said."

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Received on Thu Sep 30 23:17:08 2004

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