Friday, March 05, 2004

Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio, USA) - Thu, Mar. 04, 2004
Issues delay E-vote rollout is a good overview of some of the security and certification issues. Via Google News Alerts.

There is a fundamental underlying problem.
The equipment vendors are all-American capitalists.
There is a false belief that somehow private enterprise will always provide the best solution thanks to the wonders of competition.
Ford used to say "At Ford, Quality is Job One".
Which of course is baloney. At Ford, as at any public company, shareholder return had better be job one.

Shareholder return is maximized by selling the cheapest product at the highest price.

So Diebold's self-interest as a company is to make the shoddiest machines possible that the market will accept.

Note how this does not align with the interests of the voters.
Now, after several generations of competition this might improve.
However, these devices have to work right the first time.

If these companies were really serious about making good elections, rather than making good money, they would have followed the well-established Threat Risk Assessment procedures and would be constantly striving to improve the security of their products.

However, they are instead doing what companies normally do, which is resist any changes to their product by fighting tooth and nail, accompanied by furious marketing spin.

The promoters of the "market is perfect" theories love voluntary guidelines.
If we still had voluntary guidelines in the automobile industry, there would be only a tiny number of cars with seatbelts.

Companies like revenue.
They don't like changes. Or costs.

If you listen to the tone from the election equipment vendors, instead of saying "isn't it great that computer security experts are guiding us to making our equipment even better" you can see it is more like "oh, what a bother and trouble all these geeky nit-pickers are causing for our important business, forcing us to spend money that should have been profits".
Black Box Notes collected together a bunch of reports from US "Super Tuesday".
For non-US readers, this is a day when many Presidential primaries are held in various states.
In the primary, party members vote for the candidate they would like to run for President in the November elections. This is why some of the reports refer to "smart cards coded with party affiliation".

Super Tuesday Watch
The Perfect World of Electronic Voting: A Deafening Silence as Democracy Expires.
Located via this posting to USENET.

Then the machine displayed this message:

"Recording Vote. Please Wait."

A couple of moments went by, then the machine displayed this final message:

"Vote Recorded, Thank You"

I waited for the output. Nothing happened. Ok, I guess I was done voting.

It would have been a wonderful experience except for one thing. There was something missing. Something very important.

There was no human-readable, physical evidence that my vote had been captured and stored the way that I had intended.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Slashdot linked up a story on

My experience as an Election Judge in Baltimore County by Avi Rubin

He talks about what he witnessed (the election used Diebold machines) and how it changed his evaluation of some of the threats and risks - some that he was worried about he became less concerned about, while he discovered new issues.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Wired News
E-Vote Glitches Found in Election

Scattered technical problems were reported in the early hours as voters in 10 states, including California, New York and Ohio, went to the Super Tuesday polls to choose a Democratic presidential nominee and decide primary contests for congressional and state races.

Advocates of electronic voting say paperless ballots save money and eliminate problems common to old systems. But the technology brings a new breed of security concerns, like software errors and hackers that could make the results unreliable.

Via Google News Alerts.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

More from the recent Slashdot thread

Campaign for Verifiable Voting in Maryland

(Link from previous Slashdot story.)
Electronic voting in the Netherlands
Slashdot just had a story Evoting in India [and in] Maryland [USA]

The BBC is reporting on the use of over a million Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in India for Parliamentary elections in April. With a billion people and an electorate of 668 million, it is by far the largest democratic election exercise in the world.

Various comments pointed out other links.

Wisconsin - March 26, 2003
Wisconsin Report on Voting Equipment (PDF)

The [Wisconsin] Elections Board staff recommends that the State Elections Board revoke the approval of any electronic voting systems, including the recently approved touch screen systems,

This appears to be the voting machine to be used.
Electronic Voting machine (EVM)
Considering that the first claim it makes is 100% tamper proof, I am not filled with confidence in the system.
Really. One Hundred Percent. Perfectly Tamperproof. That's quite the thing there.

The original BBC article cited by Slashdot has the delightful statement

When the EVMs had an experimental outing in five state elections in November, they drew a fascinated reaction from the electorate in rural areas.

"You won't believe the kind of response," said Mr Simha.

"Some of them were thrilled to punch the machines. I have seen so many happy villagers."

I posted in the slashthread myself, this link about the physical security of the machines from comp.risks
Physical security of electronic voting terminals

A cart of Diebold electronic voting machines was delivered today to the
common room of this Berkeley, CA boarding house, which will be a polling
place on Tuesday's primary election. The machines are on a cart which is
wrapped in plastic wrap (the same as the stuff we use in the kitchen). A few
cable locks (bicycle locks, it seems) provide the appearance of physical
security, but they aren't threaded through each machine.
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