Are You Ready for the Recall Challenge, Part 1?

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This Wired story makes a pretty good case that some of the new-fangled voting machines in California will open today's election up to any number of legal challenges.

Alameda County uses 4,000 touch-screen voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. But last month, officials in Maryland released a report saying that the Diebold machines were "at high risk of compromise" due to security flaws in the software. Despite this, officials in Alameda County said their policies and procedures for using the machines will secure them against voting fraud.

However, information obtained by Wired News at a training session for Alameda County poll workers indicates that security lapses in the use of the equipment and poor worker training could expose the election to serious tampering.

[Link via Arizona radio host Ernie Hancock]

NEXT: Dean's List

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  1. Good training might be affective for stopping hacker fraud in theory, but I have doubts that the people running the polls will be up to snuff. In my experience, the vast majority of the people who work those polls are older retired people. Nothing wrong with that, they’re nice people and all, but older people aren’t the most computer savvy group out there.

  2. With the understanding that all complex software systems will contain errors of some sort or another, I think the best way to deal with this inevitability is to pursue the design and construction of the voting machines and their software as open-source projects, available for public inspection and critique at all levels, at any time. Not only will the voting system benefit from the intense examination, but our confidence in it and its results will increase with time, in a way that couldn’t happen with a closed, proprietary system. The people should literally own the process, beholden to no special interests and hamstrung by no proprietary restrictions.

    I think that we also have a great opportunity with electronic voting, to publish the entire vote online, so anyone who wants to can recount using their own software, as a verification of the official result. Also, anyone could look up and verify their own vote, but nobody else’s, giving us MILLIONS of citizen poll inspectors who would be all too happy to blow the whistle on any irregularity they found in the recording or tabulation of their own votes. Yet, strong cryptographic methods could be used to ensure that no particular vote could be traced back to any individuals without their participation and consent.

    Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, and THIS ordinary citizen strongly opposes the introduction of electronic voting in HIS county until we can use an open system that addresses the key issues of privacy and integrity.

    Incidentally, I have said it before and say it again: the most important jobs in California today (Oct 7) are those of pollworkers and elections inspectors. Even if they lose big, I don’t expect the Davis faction to give up without a big, nasty series of court challenges, so it is vitally important that this election be conducted with all the integrity of any previous California election and then some.

  3. That this concern was never voiced until after the Democrats lost their pre-election challenges to punch card ballots is interesting. Having argued in court that the election should be delayed because too many people weren’t going to be using the new voting technologies I can’t wait to hear them arguing in court that the election is not valid because too many people were.

  4. Actually, some left leaning sites have been harping on DieBold for a while. Check out blackboxvoting.com (blackboxvoting.org was shut down by DieBold). I don’t trust any electronic voting system without a printout that verifies who you voted for that provides a permanent record of your vote in case of a recount and also allows for manual counting as well.

  5. Lets just all hope that the margins of victory are large enough to squelch any challenges.

  6. I was a newspaper reporter back when the punch card ballots were introduced. They were hailed as the solution to voting woes because (A) they were cheaper, more portable and didn’t have the fallible parts of the older old mechanical tally machines, and (B) the ballots were to be counted by computers (folks used to think that computers were infallible…before they ever owned any computers).

    Same shit, different election.

  7. Mo,

    Concern over digital voting may have been voiced on the fringes, but didn’t seem to be noticed by the “mainstream” or even the 9th circus court when they were debating the legitimacy of the election because some voters would still be using old punch card technology.

  8. Paper ballots are necessary for recount purposes. Election fraud was made commonplace with motor-voter, I don’t know if the computers will make things worse or not. If we’re going to use computers, I’d like to see over-the-net voting. You could vote from work home, or any public library. You could even vote absentee from Taiwan, thus allowing absentee voters to vote on the same ballot and actually have their votes counted. You could vote early, say anytime during the week prior to the deadline. It would also do away with all the polling place nonsense (electioneering, exit polls etc.)

  9. Apparently, some Arnold voters are having voting troubles of their own.

  10. Personally, I don’t see how punch cards could get any easier or fool-proof, but no matter how you design it a bigger fool will always come around. With touchscreens, people sometimes have a tendency to hold their thumbs out and against the screen to steady their hand while trying to point on the right spot with their index fingers. Try playing a bar-top video game (poker/trivia) after a few drinks and it gets worse. I’m sure the same is true of voting machine touch screens, though I would ASSume there is a verification screen that pops up at some point, and less alcohol consumption than in a bar. I assume…

  11. Several aspects of this election bother me from a “fairness” or “voter rights” perspective. I’m not one to worry too much about either of those two things (life ain’t fair; voting is about selecting “good” government, it isn’t really an important right in and of itself), however, I am a little irked:

    1) Davis supporters (those who vote NO on the recall) basically get to vote twice. They vote for Davis, then whoever else they like (Cruz, I suspect in most cases). The rest of us get only one candidate.

    2) Some areas only get to vote via absentee ballot; and many individuals choose to vote via absentee ballot. Yet part of the 9Th Circuit Court attempted to postpone the election–which would possibly render many of the absentee votes null (for choice of replacement governor), due to changing situations (candidates dropping out).

  12. I have a question about how they decide whether the recall passes. A voter votes either “yes” or “no” or they don’t vote at all on the question. For Davis to be booted, there needs to be 50+% in favor of the recall… but do nonvotes count in this? If I refrained from voting on the recall question, but I voted for… say… Arnold, does my nonvote still count as +1 in the denominator of the recall question?, or does the recall need 50+% only of those answering the recall question?

    The latter makes sense, but who says these things need to make sense?

  13. The president of Diebold is a major Republican contributor, who recently sent a letter to the RNC promising his help in delivering the election.

    I wonder how many Bushies will post ringing endorsements of electronic voting by the time I check this tomorrow.

  14. Most people can’t get through a day without cursing the computer they’re using… and we have faith in touch-screen voting machings?

  15. Urg . . . is the recall going straight to the courts for the next 3 months, you think?

    Electronic voting machines are scary for two reasons:

    1) Fraud and hacking

    2) From now on every arguably close election will wind up in court if you can find a half-dozen geezers who were confused by the blinking lights

  16. So joe, are you saying that the Pres. of Diebold is going to program the machines in such a way that no matter what the real voter tallies are, the republicans will win?

  17. I’m concerned that it would be possible for him to do so. Caesar’s wife should be above reproach.

  18. Break out the tin foild hats Joe has uncovered another layer of the vast right witn conspiracy.

  19. bullshit. If the machines were manufactured by a major Democratic dononr, on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, this story would get a column in National Review every week.

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