Re: Shame on Shamos, again (Re: ...Why We Fear the Digital Ballot)

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Thu Sep 30 2004 - 16:36:14 CDT

On Sep 30, 2004, at 4:10 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:

> One
> programmer could rig machines to tilt every election toward one
> party just slightly, with no special access required. And the
> idea that there is no collusion between the industry and
> election officials is laughable.

My standard answer has been as follows:

You don't need a corporate conspiricy. You need one programmer
in the right position. However, let's be generous to the supervisors
and the software testers. This leads me to the following conclusion.

You, the crook intent on changing the outcome of the election
in order to control a state that uses only one type of voting
machine need to control the following:

1) The programmer in a position to add the code that swings the
    result. Probably at a big vendor.

2) That programmer's immediate supervisor.

3) The in-house software tester who checks out the code.

4) The software source code examiner at the ITA that checks the code.

5) The review-team partner of the ITA examiner.

6) The person that does state level code inspection, if any.

7) The state-level code inspector's flunky who actually looks at the

Let's be generous and assume two or three more people need to be bought,
bringing the total up to ten people.

Now, how much money would it take to buy the average person? I'll guess
that most people would begin to abandon their scruples at around 10
their yearly salary. Assume all those people are paid a nice round
so the bribe I propose is $1M each. So, for 10 million dollars, you can
take over the elections in a state that has a single fully computerized
voting system.

How much could you earn from your investment? Use this money to elect
your crooked cohort, and you can get preferential treatment in the
full range of state government outsourcing contracts. You might end up
running the state prison system, providing the rent-a-cops for state
facilities, paving the state's highways (of course, at inflated prices
using cut-rate materials), leasing office space to the state, and much

How much can a crooked contractor make from just one highway paving job?
A Google search on "paving contract" and "million" found many examples
worth over one million and several worth tens of millions. A Miami
contract, subject of intensive fraud investigations, was worth $58
million. It doesn't take much work to figure out that, at the state
level, spending 10 million in order to get preferential treatment in
access to plums of that size would be a very reasonable investment.

Not only that, but we know that some people will accept far smaller
bribes. If someone is vulnerable to blackmail, they might even
work for free. All those supervisors I mentioned may never need to
be bought -- all they need is a little distraction during the time the
key bit of code is subject to discussion. Invite them to a professional
development seminar or something. So, that 10 million dollars may be
an overestimate.

                        Doug Jones
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain
Received on Thu Sep 30 23:17:10 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Sep 30 2004 - 23:17:11 CDT