Saturday, October 30, 2004

the first test is the only test

The wonderful thing about voting machines is that they have to work perfectly in their first and only true test case: the entire election.

at stake: the reputation of Diebold, the largest maker of electronic voting machines. After the infamous punch-card-ballot problems of the 2000 election, the company dove into the voting-machine business, hoping to cash in on a nationwide push to adopt more reliable voting systems.

But Diebold, a leading maker of ATMs, has been plagued by a flurry of problems: claims of security flaws and technical glitches in its machines and an embarrassing political gaffe.


Diebold got into the voting business almost by accident. In 1999, it bought a Brazilian company for its ATM business; that company also made voting machines that were used in Brazilian elections. After hanging chads and recounts confounded the 2000 election, Diebold answered a nationwide call to replace punch-card and lever machines.

"We investigated the market and saw a number of smaller companies that would not be able to accommodate the large influx of orders," Radke says.

The company's hopes were buoyed when Congress set aside $3.8 billion for states to upgrade voting machines. In 2002, Diebold bought Canada-based Global Election Systems. Big orders from Maryland and Georgia followed.

But in 2003, computer experts were able to find the secret software for Diebold's voting systems on the Internet and started picking apart its potential weaknesses.

USA Today - October 29, 2004
Voting machine has trial by fire
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