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 Diebold2003-11-22 16:19
picture by Flemming Funch

Diebold is a U.S. company that makes electronic voting systems. It has been having a few problems recently hiding what it really is doing.

First it should raise a few red flags that the company is owned and run by Republicans who are ardent and active supporters of the Republican party and George Bush. The head of the company said recently a fund-raiser in Ohio that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year". Well, he really is, and the best way he has of doing that is that they use his voting machines.

A key point in the plan is the concept of black box voting. Essentially it means that there's a computer that spits out the results of the vote and it keeps no record of how the result was added up and who voted what. Everything is nice and anonymous, and the process is supposedly inaccessible from the outside world.

Then somebody incidentally found Diebold's source code on one of their ftp servers. And John Hopkins university went and did a thorough security analysis of it. Read more here. In brief, it is alarmingly full of security holes and very badly written in the first place. And, worse, it seems like it deliberately has many possible security features turned off.

There's a lot more. See a timeline here. According to the blackbox voting concept, the tabulating computers should add up voting results on their own, without contact to the outside world. But then good stuff like this is noticed:
September 3, 2003. A file from Diebold software examined by activist J. March seems to be from a real election, and it contains real votes. This file is from the 2002 primary election in San Luis Obispo, California - SLOanalyze. This file was saved as a “backup file” at exactly 3:31 p.m. on election day (March 5, 2002), about five hours before the polls closed. This file contains a tabulation taken from 57 precincts. The votes in the file correspond with the final vote tally, which can be found on the San Luis Obispo County web site for that election (but only about 40 percent of the votes had come in by 3:31 in the afternoon). This file appears to be problematic for Diebold, because it is illegal to count the votes before the polls close. Furthermore, it raises the question of how the votes went from 57 polling places into a central tally in the middle of the afternoon.
Yeah, that's a little problematic, that they have a modem link in to the voting machines, and that they're adding up the results prematurely. Eh, maybe to be able to make a few adjustments if things aren't going in the right direction?

Then somebody managed to get hold of a lot of internal memos from Diebold. A mixture of great stuff like:
"I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb".”
Mostly the memos just show that the company is a big mess and routinely will fake demos and make things look right even though they aren't.

When all these juicy details came to light, Diebold moved legally to block anybody from posting anything about it. With some success initially. But they're now being met with general civil dis-obedience as it gets posted anyway.

Most recently, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has had the guts to post the very same memos on his website.

Anyway, just keep this in mind the next time you vote and the results look a bit funny.

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23 Nov 2003 @ 03:23 by jstarrs : Great post...
...frightening, full of facts. Thanks to the activists who're committed to rooting out the truth.  

1 Dec 2003 @ 15:20 by dwig : Effective protest
I recently read what seems like a great suggestion for those faced with the prospect of using Diebold machines: take the absentee ballot route. If enough people did this in an election, and made no secret as to why, it might change things.

Meanwhile, I've heard about a requirement, to take effect in 2006, to have printers installed to leave an audit trail. I haven't heard how this would work, and whether the audit trail itself would be vulnerable to jiggering.  

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