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View Diary: YouTube Take Action: Diebold Hacked (+DIEBOLD REBUTS) (267 comments)

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  •  So you're saying (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    strengthANDwisdom, Timroff

    that voter stealing with the paper system is less of a risk.

    I don't believe that.

    The risk is not the technology.  The risk is placing the control of our voting system in the hands of one, private and interested party.  

    Sticks, paper, software--all will be equally at risk for corruption if the entity that ultimately controls them is private, beyond public control, and invested in one of two parties.

    •  There is no way (5+ / 0-)

      to put the counting of paper ballots in the hands of one person.

      Yet the video makes a persuasive case that one individual with sufficient programming skills could single-handedly change the outcome of an election.

      Show me how one person, acting alone and undetected, could do that with paper ballots.

      I'll come back, though, to my broader point.  The best security against voter fraud is an informed and engaged citizenry, one that takes elections seriously and takes the time to care about both the process and the outcome.

      There's no magic bullet fix.  There's just the hard work of people talking to each other, and watching what's going on.

      •  exactly (0+ / 0-)

        Whether or not a person could do widespread  damage would depend on the context.  

        Elections have been stolen many times by both parties.  By definition,  it goes undetected.

        Does this make it easier or harder?  I don't know...that's why I asked my original question.

        •  Yes, the election was still stolen, but (10+ / 0-)

          At least it was stolen messily. At least everyone knew it was stolen. At least both sides were doing some stealing, and both had an implicit agreement that the outcome would go to the one who could steal it the best. There were your machines, and there were my machines. There was no pretense.

          But not this time. This time, there will be no precinct captains busing people in. No five dollar bills slipped under the table in apartment backrooms. No men in smoke-filled rooms. No alphabetical lists of dead people. No riveting accounts, unopened boxes, and court orders. No book chapters written by guys with access to library files 40 years later.

          Instead it will be 20,000 votes flipped on magnetic charges in a memory disk, which are then erased as the space is overwritten a few weeks later. No Supreme Court challenges. No Robert Caro. No Means of Ascent.

          It will be neat. It will be clean.

          Like the difference between Attila the Hun and Hitler.

          •  exactly (0+ / 0-)

            Which is why I say the problem is not the technology, but the monopoly.

            You made my point better than I did.

            •  Read it again, Jeff (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mr X, means are the ends

              I think you're missing the distinction.

              •  I'm not missing any point (0+ / 0-)

                The problem with the Diebold machines is not the technology.  All technology is fraught with problems.  This technology has bad problems. Terrible problems that need to be fixed.   Nobody is questioning that. The old technology had bad problems, too.  

                The issue is the elimination of the system of accountability through corrupt privatization (e.g., awarding of the contract to a company with ties to one party).

                The monopoly on the voting technology needs to be avoided.

                My point is obvious and is true:    If we want to stop Diebold, we will need to do much, much better than videos that show that an electonic machine can be hacked; we will need to show that our Democratic voting system has been handed to one private company with vested interest in the current ruling party.  

                That's it.  All the other arguments are interesting, but they miss the point.

                •  Jeffrey, please give it up (6+ / 0-)

                  You have an idee fixee that you can't stop repeating. It's clear that you understand neither security nor software, but instead of learning you keep trying to cram the information you are given into your own wrong conclusion.

                  Electronic voting has inherent problems that are unique to software.

                  It offers no mode of verification by an independent method. An optical scanner can be fiddled with, for instance, but the paper ballots remain and can be recounted.

                  It offers no method of independent observation. If a county develops a history of election fraud, it can ramp up the number of bipartisan observers. They can watch the initial count, they can examine the ballot storage facilities, they can conduct the recount publicly, and much more.

                  It offers no method of voter verification. I can at least see that my ballot is marked correctly on paper, whatever happens later on. So I know that at least the original record of my vote is correct, if that record ever needs to be re-examined.

                  Its security rests in the hands of a tiny number of people. It has been demonstrated elsewhere how few people are required to hack a Diebold election. Corrupting a paper election requires a much broader conspiracy.

                  The fundamental thing you need to understand about security is that no one safeguard is ever enough. Multiple methods of authentication, etc., increase security. Electronic voting does not allow for these redundant failsafes. Paper voting does.

                  •  Even a knuckle dragging idiot like me (0+ / 0-)

                    can find his way over to wikipedia to look up all he needs to know to participate in this discussion.   The 'black box' problem is certainly not very difficult to understand.  The problem with failsafes even less so.

                    Eeek!  Disagreement on dKos.  I guess if I dissent, though...that must mean I am the stupid one in this discussion.

                    It ain't pretty, but I can handle that without being offended ; )

        •  Ballot stuffing (7+ / 0-)

          and other kinds of open fraud in paper ballot systems, is usually well-known at the time it occurs.  You need lots of people to make it happen, and not all of them will be 100% silent about what they have done.  At times, the openness itself of the fraud is a key element in its political effectiveness.

          Or are you suggesting that Mexicans believed they had an open and honest electoral system for 70 years of PRI government?  Did Chicagoans under Daley trust the election results to faithfully report voter sentiment?

          People acquiesce to that kind of fraud, just as they acquiesce to all kinds of oppressive political systems.  "You can't fight city hall."

          What I'm trying to say is that paper ballot fraud isn't exactly insidious; it's more bare-knuckle, in-your-face abuse of power.  Diebold, however, pretends to accurately record our wishes while secretly and silently making sure the "right" people exercise power.  It is the very essence of insidious -- and right in line with neo-con thinkings about how political power should be organized.

          •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

            But to make that case we need to do much more than just show how the software and the pandlocks can be hacked.

            We need to show the ties between Diebold and the Republican party.  That's the key.  

            To make this a debate about bad software will not get the job done.

            •  I guess where we differ (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              means are the ends

              is whether or not the technology itself is a key part of the problem.

              I would say it is.  Diebold has created a black box, within which the most important decisions of our society can take place -- completely hidden from our view, in a totally inaccessible way.

              Now you might be able to find a software engineer who would tell you that it's possible to develop unhackable hardware.  Personally I wouldn't believe them, but I don't have the technical knowledge to say whether or not that is true.

              And that is the essence of the problem with the Diebold technology.  You need a tremendous amount of technical knowledge to understand in depth the fundamental points of the debate.

              You don't need any technical knowledge with paper ballots -- except of course, how to count.  Most of us master that skill at age two...

            •  Your argument (3+ / 0-)

              will be singularly unappealing to Republican voters.

              The argument about the inherent unreliability of software is not.

              •  And you really believe that (0+ / 0-)

                software has 'inherent unrealiablity'?  Our entire economy is run on software, but you want to argue that in this case--it's 'inherently unrealiable.'

                You better be prepared to explain why we should keep ATM machines, grocery cash registers, email, cell phones, airplane guidance systems, GPS, heart monitors, etc., etc.  Because if you're putting all your chips in that software argument, you might want to have at the ready the general explaination why all these other systems seem just fine with you.

       could just accept that this is not fundamentally about software, but about monopoly and conflict of interest.  

                •  ATM etc. software has accountability to End Users (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jeffrey Feldman

                  evoting software does not.

                  that's the quick and easy general explanation.

                  a customer will notice a bad result from an ATM transaction right away or when he checks his balance -- and the bank will hear about it, and as Smallbottle said, any bad ATM software would be off the market, pronto. (and vendor maybe would be sued).

                  same thing with your other examples. But when the voter pushes that button on an evoting machine, he has no way to know that his vote will later be counted improperly by the central vote tabulation software, or that the election-specific coding was so badly written (and so inadequately tested) that although his vote looks OK on the screen, it is actually being awarded to the wrong candidate.

                  These are not hypothetical examples, they're real-world examples of problems found after the fact by local elections officials -- again, not by the voter, who has no way of knowing about them. And no guarantee that bad results will be noticed by local elections officials -- unless the bad results are so bad as to be impossible -- reporting twice as many votes as are voters in the district, or whatever -- there is no assurance they will be noticed.

                  When the problems get bad enough, local elections officials may get pissed off enough (despite their  counties' financial and time investments in these evoting systems, and their own "investments" in the systems that they themselves recommended their counties purchase) to cancel evoting vendor contracts -- but up until that point -- which has been reached in a number of instances -- do a google, you'll find them -- there is no accountability.

                  •  I googled, I wiki-ed, I get it (0+ / 0-)

                    I get it, I really do.  Please have a little faith in my ability to understand these issues. The point I am raising is about the efficacy of the argument as it is presented--which I believe is weak.

                    The voting machines in use in my district, for example, are mechanical direct recording machines from the 1960s. Supposedly they have an error rate that's as high as 25%.  They suck.  I don't know if they can be  manipulated easily, but I suspect it's not that hard.

                    The problem I have with these arguments about the 'black box' dynamic is that they all assume some kind of imaginary condition in which verification processes in a paper based system go off without a hitch. But we have seen in the past decade multiple paper verification processes get fouled up.  It seems to me that all verification systems ultimately come down to who controls election boards.  

                    I imagine in a case where someone questions the outcome of an EVM, the case would go forward if it had sympathetic backers at the level of the district, the city,the county, the courts, etc.  Remarkably similar to what happens with paper systems.  Courts deal with new issues all the time.  This would be a new issue.

                    This Diebold system is bad.  That does not mean that every other system is better, nor does it mean that software can never be used in a voting system--even in a fairly central function (e.g., not just as a system for saying "Thanks for voting!")

                    The Diebold system sucks!!!!  Everybody catch that?  I HATE THE DIEBOLD SYSTEM.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  Ptew!  Get 'em away from me.

                    But simply pointing out that software can be hacked in a video does not solve the problem--the multiple problems that we need to solve, most of which are the product of corruption and imbalance in government.

                    Obviously, time will tell if this software story gets picked up and becomes a factor in 2006.  There seems to be enough of an historical record from other countries that electronic voting causes concern, that some journalists might pick up on it and call Diebold into question using the argument of the video.  We'll see, I guess.

                    •  Jeffrey honey normally I love ya (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Jeffrey Feldman, geejay

                      But you're way off on this one.

                      But lets just look at your examples/arguments:

                      (1) The monopoly aspect is the bad part, has nothing to do with technology. Ok, lets test with a little analogy. If paper ballots were all printed at the same print shop, a total monopoly between the govt and one Republican print shop, would that be a problem? No. Clearly, software IS different from other voting technologies, inherently and in ways that cause big problems. More on that later.

                      I went to vote, yesterday.  The person behind the table could not find my name in the book.  Ink on paper.

                      Right, ok, think about it--the very fact that you can tell this story at all, proves the point that software is less safe!! Something strange happened, and you noticed it! Now, maybe nothing will ever come of it, so in that sense the "fraud" (assuming it is) will be successful. But at least it is in some way visible to some person. There is NO test, NO research, NO anything that can show an e-vote fraud.


                      I imagine in a case where someone questions the outcome of an EVM, the case would go forward if it had sympathetic backers at the level of the district, the city,the county, the courts, etc.  

                      (I assume EVM = E-Voting Machine?) You're wrong. How would that happen? In your personal example, you go to your registrar and say, hey, this weird thing happened. Maybe she shrugs and you're SOL. But if millions of people say, hey, I had to vote provisional for no reason, that is something that could be followed up by a sympathetic system. How would that happen in evoting? Everything checks out because the software deleted itself. Then what? How would a court POSSIBLLY deal with that? Even a court that was willnig to be the most sympathetic and activist court ever?

                      (4) But we trust computers for other important stuff like Banking, Medical, etc Your examples of the heart machine and ATM are not analogous. We don't rely on those things because we believe them to be bug-free or tamper-free. I write software, I can tell you WITH CERTAINTY they have bugs and are tamperable. We trust them NOT because they are trustworthy, but only because flaws will be detectable, thus hopefully quickly mitigated. That is all. If a heart machine has a bug and the patient dies, we will know that the heart machine had a bug. We trust heart machines because lots of people use them and are manifestly not dead. THAT is your paper trail. THAT is your trust. Empirical trust, not inherent trust. ATMs also connect to a physical reality outside of the software itself. If you don't get a physical $20 out of the machine, you know something is wrong. A detectable error. If the ATM machine hands you a $20, but doesn't deduct from your account, the bank will notice a whole bunch of missing money in its ledger at the end of the month. A detectable error. Because things outside of the machine itself are impacted by what the machine does.

                      Because voting is supposed to be anonymous, there is no evidence. There is no dead body, there is no missing $20. There is no connection to a physical reality outside of the little software counter for each candidate. There is no ledger that doesn't match at the end of the month, because the software is the only ledger. This is UNIQUE to voting, compared to anything else we use computers for, again, because of the anonymous aspect of voting. If voting machines kept track of your name and how you voted, if there was a question, they could put the results on the internet, you could look up your name on the list, and see if what they have matches what you did. THEN E-VOTING WOULD BE SAFE AND NOBODY WOULD BE COMPLAINING. Because there is a verifiable connection to the outside world. But we can't do it that way, because of the anonymous thing.

                      E-Voting IS different. Different from other voting technologies. And Different from other 'e'-applications. It just is. Apples and oranges.

                      One way that evoting could be made safe, and probably better than any other technology (paper punch, machine, etc), is if the machine generates a paper ballot. This exists and has been advocated by computer people from day 1, but is resisted by companies, maybe it is less profitable. After you vote on the machine, it prints out everything you did on paper. You view the paper through a glass window. If the paper matches what you wanted, it gets dropped into a ballot box attached to the machine. If not, it gets dropped down another chute to the trash (or overwritten or something). Now if you question the software's total, you open the box and count manually. Best of both worlds. Plus, since the machine can mark paper more precisely than people, you don't have as much problem with hanging chads, etc.

                      "Renaming French fries to Freedom fries was arguably this Republican congress' greatest accomplishment." -- Stephen Colbert

                      by reid fan on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 12:04:19 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  yeah, yeah, yeah (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        reid fan

                        If Diebold was a well-known Progressive corporation that supported Democrats and the argument was that we wanted to get as many of these machines out as possible by 2008 because their ease of use had been shown to increase voter participation--if that were the case, there would be no Diebold-must-die diaries.  Kossacks would be saying, "Put better locks on there!"  "Create a virus monitoring system!"  "Design multiple pirate software failsafe systems!"   Then, the diaries about stolen votes would all be over at RedState/  As things stand right now, I doubt there are very many Diebold diaries on the right-wing blogs.  And logically so, because this is really about imbalance of Republican power and lack of oversight in our election system.  

                        Sure, the software issue is bad for all the reasons listed.  No doubt.  I've had that explained to me know by about a dozen people and I agree with everything that's been written (almost everything).  But the debate is not about software.  It's about politics, corruption, imbalance.    Today, the software is the black box.  But last year the black box was Ken Blackwell, and before that the black box was Katherine Harris, and before that the black box was...etc., etc.   All of those had paper trails. None of them were ever resolved effectively.  Not even close.  

                        And yes, if one Republican company was suddenly in charge of making all paper ballots and those ballots were shown to cause confusion (e.g., what happened in Florida), and there were enough ballots in some districts, but not in others,  then we would be in this exact same debate--just swap out the word 'software' for the words 'printing' and 'distribution' and the outcry would be the of same order.  Only, instead of software experts telling me I was an idiot (which I probably am), it would be graphic designers and ink experts.

                        So machines that rely entirely on software have security problems.  So what?  Just design a machine that draws on as many advantages of the an electronic system as possible, blanced with as many advantages of a paper and human monitored system as possible--all of which have security shortcomings.    But I'm willing to give anything a try at this stage because the system as it stands is ridiculous.   We cannot have a 100% paper system without a drastic overhall of voting in our culture (e.g., an election day holiday with tens of thosands of paid workers), which is not going to happeh.  And we cannot simply convert over to an optical system because--from what I understand--that is prohibitively expensive.  So we come up with some kind of integrated solution.   Electronic with enough checks to give us more confidence in the system.  I mean...the real problem here isn't the machines, it's the fact that we've never had a national discussion about reform in our system of voting, a federal panel of experts, an R and D group convened, multiple test phases, slow roll out and implementation, tweaking, etc., etc., etc.

                        I'm all for it.

                        •  sigh (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Jeffrey Feldman

                          Electronic with enough checks to give us more confidence in the system.  I mean...the real problem here isn't the machines, it's the fact that we've never had a national discussion about reform in our system of voting

                          I think the real problem with this entire exchange and why you're driving everyone to distraction is that you have a false dichotomy. "isn't the machines, it's the fact that..." It's BOTH!!! Nobody is saying the other things aren't a problem.

                          But we actually believe that even if everything else were fixed, completely paperless voting would still be unacceptable. The only "enough checks" that would ever be acceptable is a paper trail. But then, it wouldn't be what most people mean by "e-voting." Anything that has no paper trail is unacceptable, no matter who the vendor, no matter if it were open source, written by Paul Wellstone, no matter nuthin'. Unacceptable. And, truly, trust me, it isn't a partisan issue in the computer science community.

                          It's all about Diebold=Satan on the liberal blogs, and I'll grant you that has to do with Diebold's politics more than a logical comparison of error rates. But don't let that fool you that there isn't more "there" there in the complaints from actual experts.

                          "Renaming French fries to Freedom fries was arguably this Republican congress' greatest accomplishment." -- Stephen Colbert

                          by reid fan on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 03:24:12 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  ah, here is our problem: (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Jeffrey Feldman

                          blanced with as many advantages of a paper and human monitored system as possible

                          Yes, this is EXACTLY what we want to happen. This is what computer people have been asking for from the beginning. That is the dream of the anti-Diebold folks.

                          But then we just have a terminology misunderstanding. This isn't "e-voting" in the sense that we use it as shorthand for "no paper trail." I and mamy other computer people fully endorse touch-screen voting that has a voter-verified paper, or as you say, "with as many advantages of a paper...system as possible."

                          "Renaming French fries to Freedom fries was arguably this Republican congress' greatest accomplishment." -- Stephen Colbert

                          by reid fan on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 03:31:46 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  LOL AHAH! (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            reid fan

                            So someone is actually reading my comments.  That can't be healthy.

                            I do not believe, by the way, that the paper trail is the solution.  I believe the software is the solution.  This of course, is why this reform needs to be a team effort.  We already have a paper trail--it's called our crappy voting system.  Paper out the wazzoo and it all sucks.  Corruptable to the core--easily so, no mass conspiracy required.  But I see the point being made here by the techxperts and agree.

                            It may seem mundane, but a touch screen system which eliminated all the nonsense of the overly complicated ballots, and somehow spit out a florida-senior-citizen-proof receipt (e.g. "Congratulations Mrs. Morgenstein, you did not accidentally vote for Hitler!") that would be a miracle on wheels.  And the electronics would deliver it.

                            But again, I see how the names are very specific, here.

                            In my voting reform fantasy, everyone who registers to vote would get a special voter ID card with a smart chip.  During voting "week" (e.g.), a registered voter could go to any ATM maching in the world and vote for candidates in his/her state. The dream system would also generate a paper trails, would be failsafe, monitored by an impartial third party, upgradeable, and 100% better than what we have now.  People who could not get to ATM machines could use dedicated machines that would be located in grocery stores, public transportation, post offices, etc..  The machines would be manufactured by public-private enterprise funded like a New Deal civil engineering project and monitored constantly by an impartial entity. That's the fantasy.  Now make it happen!

                            LOL!!  We are just on the opposite side of the raft, here, but floating down the same river.  

                          •  um, ok, we'll get on it :*) (0+ / 0-)

                            We computer people only THINK we're superhuman, don't let us fool you!

                            Seriously though, you have a good point about touch screen interface--you can change languages more easily, make the text huge for old people, etc. That is the baby in the paperless bathwater, and I hope it doesn't get thrown out.

                            "Renaming French fries to Freedom fries was arguably this Republican congress' greatest accomplishment." -- Stephen Colbert

                            by reid fan on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 03:50:56 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

          •  You Can Only (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            'Game' the system when you have a large majority, or control of a given area.  In a city like Chicago, the old machine controlled the entire election process so oversight was limited.  Plus, you can only do this in places where you have a majority of voters of the same party.

            This works well for cities and/or rural areas where you have large one party majorities.  For the GOP, this mostly plays out in rural area, such as small counties, etc.

            With electronic voting, its easier to control the process from a central source, meaning you don't need boots on the ground in the given area.  You can just make the adjustments to the vote totals from a central site.  Which is why places like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 made the charges carry weight since the GOP controlled the central process.  Again, its all access in this case.

            You can bet that if there is a way to fudge the numbers, Bush and his boys are on top of it.  My personal thinking is that they did that in Ohio last election.  Turnout numbers there were very strange, especially in the rural areas where Bush carried with large, sometimes over 80% turnout in them, majorities.  In Chicago, for example, Daley played the precincts where Dem registration was over 90%, and he could just add votes based on that alone, since you figure 9 out of ten voters there would vote for him.  The GOP probably did the same thing in those rural Ohio counties with large GOP numbers.  Add that in with a lot of slowdowns in heavy Dem areas and you got a win.

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