Posts Tagged ‘Voting machines’

The real question about U.S. election hacking

June 16, 2017

The important question about computer hacking of the American voting system is not:

  • Is there evidence that Russian computer hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election?

The important question is:

  • Can the American voting system be hacked?

Because if the American voter registration rolls or vote counting systems are vulnerable to outside interference, sooner or later somebody is going to interfere.

It may be Russian agents.  It may be agents of some other foreign country.   It may be unscrupulous American political operatives or special interests.  But somebody will do it.

POLITICO magazine recently reported that last August, Logan Lamb, a 29-year-old cybersecurity specialist, accidentally gained access to the voting records and systems for the whole state of Georgia.   He reported the problem to the proper authorities, but was brushed off.

Bloomberg News reported that investigators said that, prior to the 2016 election, Russians gained access to voter databases and software systems in 39 states, including software designed to be used by poll watchers and, in one state, a campaign finance data base.

There is no evidence that 2016 election results were actually changed, according to Bloomberg.  Whatever happened may have been a training exercise for a future operation.

Vladimir Putin, in his interviews with Oliver Stone for a soon-to-be-released movie, accused the United States of interfering in Russian elections.  Putin denied allegations of Russian hacking, but, when asked whether there is a secret U.S.-Russian cyber war, he said that for every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction, which sounds like a semi-admission.

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No, I can’t prove voting machines were hacked

November 24, 2016

If you leave your car unlocked with the key in the ignition, sooner or later somebody will steal it.

If you entrust your nation’s elections to voting machines that can be tampered with, sooner or later somebody will tamper with them.

If your car is still on the parking lot when you come back, that is not a reason to leave your car unlocked and the keys in the ignition.

I think there’s enough circumstantial evidence to justify an audit of the 2016 Presidential election results in certain battleground states.

But if it turns out that there’s no proof that voting machines were tampered with in this election, that is not a reason to have voting machines that can be tampered with.

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Did Trump owe his win to vote machine hacking?

November 21, 2016

Hat tip for the video link to Joseph Cannon.

Donald Trump got more votes than predicted by exit polls.  Was the problem the exit polls?  Or was it hacked electronic voting machines?

We’ve known for a long time that electronic voting machines can be easily hacked.

We know that in 12 states, Trump’s excess votes exceeded the margin of error.  There were four states—North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida—in which the Clinton won the exit poll and Trump won the vote count.  If Trump had not carried those four states, he would have lost.

Is this proof that Trump supporters stole the election?  No, but it is circumstantial evidence that needs to be investigated and explained.  It should not be let drop.

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Your vote may not count in full

June 16, 2016

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An outfit called Black Box Voting, which has been monitoring U.S. election tampering since 2003, reports that a quarter of U.S. votes are counted by an electronic system that is designed to be tampered with.

The GEMS election management system … … counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States. … … A fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes.  This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer.  Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.

Source: Fraction Magic | BlackBoxVoting.org.

In other words, the vote counting system can be set so that every vote for candidate Jones counts as a full vote and every vote for candidate Smith counts as three-quarters of a vote or half a vote.

This is damn disturbing.   What legitimate purpose could there be for such a feature?

Global Election Management Systems are a product of the Diebold company, whose voting machines have previously been shown vulnerable to undetectable hacking.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast claims that results of all national elections starting in 2004 have been falsified.  I wish I could say I believe this is impossible.

LINK

Fraction Magic: Votes are being counted as fractions instead of as whole numbers by Bev Harris for Black Box Voting.

Machine politics: the real threat of voter fraud

August 27, 2012

While great effort is being put into meeting the supposed threat of voting by people without proper ID, a more serious threat of election fraud is virtually ignored.  About one in four American voters will vote on digital electronic voting machines without any paper record to verify the machine tallied the results correctly.  Furthermore these machines use secret proprietary software, so there is no way to check for possible flaws.

In the lead-up to the 2008 election, many people were concerned about the Diebold touch-screen voting machines.  Votes were miscounted or deleted in a number of elections, and computer experts showed that the machines could be hacked without detection.  Since then Diebold has been absorbed into Dominion Voting Systems which, along with Election Systems and Software, provides virtually all the digital electronic machines used in American elections.

These problems haven’t gone away.

Following a June 2009 election, officials in Pennington County, South Dakota, discovered a software malfunction that added thousands of non-existent votes to the county totals.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida, in March 2012, a problem with election management software allotted votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. The official results were only changed after a court-sanctioned public hand count of the votes.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary in Horry County, South Carolina, touch screen voting machines in 80 percent of the precincts temporarily failed, and when precincts ran out of paper ballots, voters could not cast ballots in their home precinct.

In a test-run for an online election in the September 2010 Washington, D.C., primary, a hacker team was able to change all of the votes to “elect” their own candidates. The online voting system was days away from being launched in a real election for use by overseas and military voters. After the incident, the Internet voting system was canceled.

via CountingVotes.org.

Here is a chart from an organization called the Verified Voting Foundation that shows the predominant types of voting systems in the various states.

Click to enlarge.

Here is a simplified version from Mother Jones.

Click to enlarge.

The Verified Voting Foundation in a joint report with Common Cause and the Rutgers School of Law made these recommendations to ensure an honest count:

  • Require paper ballots or records of every vote.
  • Have a contingency plan if the machines break down.
  • Protect military and overseas voters by counting their marked ballots, not by tallying them on-line.
  • Institute a post-election audit to ensure the electronic report is correct.
  • Use ballot reconciliation practices to flag votes being added or lost as they are tallied.

The original argument for touch screen machines was that some physically handicapped persons could not work the levers on mechanical voting machines.  Here in New York state, the old machines have been replaced by scan-able paper ballots, which anybody can use and which are available for recount if anybody thinks the scanning machines made an error.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: Verified Voting Foundation for more from the Verified Voting Foundation.

Click on Digital Voting Machines: Still FUBAR? for more from Mother Jones.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: CountingVotes.org for a joint report and recommendations by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and Rutgers School of Law.

Click on Touch screen voting is not as safe as an ATM for an explanation of the potential problems by Philip Michaels, a board member of Missourians for Honest Elections.

Click on Leftycartoons for more political cartoons by Barry Deutsch.

Improving the electoral process

November 2, 2010

This year New York state did away with its mechanical voting machines.  I will miss them.  Pulling down the levers was a quick and easy process, you couldn’t spoil your vote because the machine wouldn’t let you vote for more than the authorized number of candidates, and I enjoyed the satisfying “ka-ching!” sound when I pulled the lever.

The new system reminds me of the machine-graded multiple-choice examinations I took when I was in college.  You take a paper ballot, ink in circles next to the names of the candidates you favor, put the ballot in a paper sleeve (so nobody else can see it) and feed the ballot into a machine.

Ever since the Florida Presidential election in 2000, I’ve felt uneasy about electronic scanning of votes.  But I guess it is all right.  The original ballots remain to be recounted if there is any question about the result.  And someday, when I’m older and more feeble than I am now,  I may be glad I don’t have to push that heavy lever.

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