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back to article E-voting gets bitch-slapped in Calfornia

California's top election official has decertified electronic voting machines made by the industry's four biggest vendors, in response to a report that highlighted their potential for election tampering. The move by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen effectively bars the machines of three of the manufacturers - Diebold …

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RW

So Users Never Ignore Protocols?

>>>> "Secretary Bowen’s top-to-bottom review was designed to ignore security procedures and protocols that are used during every election," according to a statement from Diebold.

If Diebold seriously thinks that written procedures, protocols, and policies will always be followed in detail, and bases their systems' security on this belief, they are hallucinating and I'd like some of what they're smoking.

We've just read about a Verisign employee ignoring protocols and policies and losing a laptop full of goodness as a result. Not that the occurrence was anything special, just the latest example of human failing.

If you want security, do NOT depend on human beings carefully following that 1235 page policy & procedures manual you wrote. If you do, you, or your customers, will be in for a rude awakening.

Secretary Bowen's review was absolutely correct in disregarding "security prodecures & protocols." The issue isn't what can happen if everyone does what they are supposed to; it's what can happen when someone does something they aren't supposed to.

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Bronze badge

Hiding behind accessibility

Pretending that their primary concern is with helping the handicapped is the single aspect that I find most troubling. Or should I just say "disgusting"? It's a great thing to make it easier for everyone to vote--but not to do it in a way that makes it easier for *ALL* of the votes to be manipulated, casting doubts on the entire electoral system. It's another example of the neo-GOP strategies of playing flashy little games of distraction, while the vastly bigger problems are kept off stage in the shadows.

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Anonymous Coward

Good for everyone involved

It's rare to see someone, especially a politician stand up against big companies. Far too many politicians are overwhelmed with new shiny things (or green foldy things). The business culture in the US needed a good smack in the mouth.

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Does not go far enough

The burden of creating unbreakable machines should NOT be on the State of California. These vendors should be competing with each other by making sure each of their products is the most secure and actively encouraging hacking attacks and comparisons by the state's auditors. The fact that they are generously willing to do what the state demands of them to meet the minimum security requirements, instead of competing to meet the maximum security requirements, leaves me (a California voter) fearing the worst. Let's decertify them all, and not let them come back until they return with a machine that DOES NOT get hacked. They get to submit one machine every two years. If that machine is hacked, well, better luck next time.

While I'm here, who in the hell thought putting wifi on a voting machine was a good idea? These guys should be laughed out of competition. I think I'm going to start voting by mail.

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What is the point of voting machines?

Australia has a major election every two years. The votes are cast and counted by hand. Results are available by midnight.

If you think the process is being manipulated, you can go and watch. No decertified voting machines, no hanging chads.

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Silver badge

Helping Disabled People Vote

There's a really simple way to help disabled people with the old-fashioned paper voting process: If their disability prevents them from reading, writing the numbers from 1 to however many candidates there are or folding the ballot paper and inserting it into the box, then you allow them to be accompanied into the polling booth by a carer of their own choosing (and, therefore, whom they trust).

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Anonymous Coward

The point of voting machines is...

Glen - The point of voting machines is because your average Yank is now too stupid to write an "X" and so needs to mash the screen with his oversized pudgey fingers.

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@ Glen

Dunno how good the aussie protocols work mate... Howard got in after all.

Then again, I shouldn't call the kettle black, you'd just call me pot, Helen got the job here :(

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Silver badge

I have got to agree

I'm glad to see that other countries have sensible voting practices, Mr. Turner.

I live in France and manual ballot casting and counting are the norm. It works fine, and we have never had to recount seven times.

There are obviously some criticisms at every vote, and there is a tribunal to deal with any frauds that may come to pass (such as registering dead people to vote - yes, it's been done in France as well). All in all, it is a very reliable process, and does not cost an arm or a leg.

I wonder if there is some secret agenda in forcing these unsecure machines upon voters. It's almost as if some evil power wanted to undermine the results of an election in order to impose a candidate of its own choosing.

Pascal.

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Anonymous Coward

Good on California...

Diebold can go take their comments and shove them... well, you know where. Diebold has been at the forefront of bad e-voting design, as has been proven time and again.

I'm glad to see that the state of California finally has made steps in the right direction to make e-voring more secure (although I'm still doubtful about its suitability, period).

Like Glen Turner said, certain countries have major elections that do not make any use of e-voting at all, which means that all votes are counted by hand, and the results are more believable than some e-voting record.

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Nev

Instant News

Doesn't this drive for quick turn-around times in ballot counting stem for the perceived need for "instant" news stories?

So WHAT if an election takes a week to return all the results? Fully visible "physical" ballots are obviously less easy to manipulate than virtual electronic ones!

And as other have said, you have the right in most coutries to go and observe the counts. That's not possible if you're using these pesky machines!

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One word: Absentee

My family and friends always ask, if I'm the big techie, why don't I vote over computer? And I always respond, "Because i'm a techie, I know how unsecured the voting systems are and I want my vote to count."

I've voted by absentee ballot since 1988 and will always do so when any sort of electronic or mechanical voting machines are in use. (pull lever machines are just as vulnerable to mischief and error)

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Anonymous Coward

What have voting machines to do with "American Stupidity"?

Why is it that every time there is an opening to do so, some twit feels the need to lambaste Americans? I agree that our politicians deserve what ever you can dish out, but our general populace do not merit your wrath.

Therefore, in the spirit of Troll Flaming, I return the favor in defense of my fellow countrymen.

To the American Hater: Are you harboring some kind of deepseated resentment against the Yank who fathered you out of wedlock? I can only assume that he must have drop kicked your drunken, fat cow of a mother down 20 flights of stairs when she told him she was pregnant with you, since you exhibit the anti-social, brain damaged behaviour of an abused child. Maybe your resentment is due to the fact that she left you at the orphanage when she moved to the States with her OTHER boyfriend because he remarked that you were the "Ugliest dog he'd ever seen".Maybe, you just got up this morning, looked in the mirror and saw how pathetically fat you are and how that makes your unimpressive genitalia look even smaller (if that's even possible).

For the record, MY relatives "immigrated" here in indentured servitude from Scotland and Ireland close to 250 years ago. They did not read or write when they came here but their children learned to. Their grandchildren helped kick the British out of this country. My father helped prevent you Brit's from having to speak German as your first language and was a rocket scientist on the Lunar Lander, I'm an engineer and my two boys are a chemist and a mechanical engineer. Collectively, we are neither fat nor stupid and the only thing oversize are our height (6 ft 2 in plus) and feet (size 13 to 14) (And our genitalia are correspondingly very impressive, nyah, nyah).

For future reference Troll, "Don't tread on me!"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have voting machines to do with "American Stupidity"?

> Why is it that every time there is an opening to do so, some twit feels the need to lambaste Americans? I agree that our politicians deserve what ever you can dish out, but our general populace do not merit your wrath.

>...

>(And our genitalia are correspondingly very impressive, nyah, nyah).

Asked and answered. (And I live in the US!)

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The only thing this has to do with "American Stupidity" ...

... is that the technical solution to electronic voting systems shouldn't be in the hands of companies with a product to sell and profit to be made. Have some independent commission create one open design and contract out the manufacturing.

But isn't there a rather simple solution to this? Go ahead, have a touchscreen voting system BUT require that the machine print an optical scan ballot with the votes cast when the voter has finished making their selections. The ballot would then be read by an optical scanner that is unconnected to the voting machine. The electronic voting system would (hopefully) prevent confusing ballot layouts and there would be a paper ballot that could be counted quickly by machine yet be available for a hand count if necessary.

And yes, I know that one of Diebold's optical scanning machines was hacked with a buffer overflow attack, but c'mon, that's Diebold the neocon supporting company for you. They don't care if the vote's accurate or not.

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Australia have legalised and are trialing E-Voting

"Australia has a major election every two years. The votes are cast and counted by hand. Results are available by midnight."

Sorry Glen but e-voting has been legalised in Australia and is being piloted. The article I read a whle ago said that the source code would be open but there would be no paper receipts as outined in the law passed.

I don't think most Australians even know about it.

Just did a quick search and found a 2004 article at

http://www.ensl.cs.gwu.edu/voting/Australia

It seems Australia is having difficulties with evoting manufacturers who want source code to be proprietry.

I've heard Its creeping into the UK also.

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Silver badge

@David Morgan

"But isn't there a rather simple solution to this? Go ahead, have a touchscreen voting system BUT require that the machine print an optical scan ballot with the votes cast when the voter has finished making their selections. The ballot would then be read by an optical scanner that is unconnected to the voting machine. The electronic voting system would (hopefully) prevent confusing ballot layouts and there would be a paper ballot that could be counted quickly by machine yet be available for a hand count if necessary."

No. All you have done is create a brand new failure mode where the optical scan ballot printed by the machine does not match the selections made using the touchscreen. Now the voter has to check that the marks on the optical-scan ballot paper actually correspond with their original choices. (I'm guessing that these optical-scan machines use forms with a series of boxes adjacent to each name for "1", "2", "3" and so on, rather than attempting to recognise actual handwritten numerals. Admittedly, cheque-deposit machines attempt handwriting recognition and they make an excellent job of it; but they still expect you to verify the amount, which isn't possible in the case of an election count where the voter has already left the polling station.)

When this happens, the question is: do you trust the printed slip or the direct record? The printed slip *could* have been verified by the voter. It's also possible that the printed slip could be outrageously wrong; but when there's a queue of people behind you, you might be tempted not to say anything about it. A bent Presiding Officer could force the machine to print incorrect ballots based on a subjective determination of the probability of each voter complaining.

And the failure mode inherent with optical scanning still hasn't gone away: the optical scanner itself may miscount a vote. Since the only way to verify the accuracy of the machinery is by means of a manual recount, why not just blow off the machinery altogether and start off with the hand count in the first place?

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Anonymous Coward

E-Voting not worth the Risk

Paper ballots are easy. Much much harder to hack on a major scale. With electronic the big big hack is always possible. Especially as even when security procedures are in place they are not enforced and suspect election results are accepted on machines which don't meet the most basic requirements. Especially when the vendors and election officials tell outright lies about their safety and there are totally inadequet testing procedures. We can't afford to risk experimenting with these machines. Its just not worth loosing democracy while they attempt to sort out the supposedly innocent glitches. Funny thing in the US the glitches with these faulty machines uniformly favoured Bush and the republican party. Oh how convienient that Murphy loves Republicans.

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