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Voting machine memory stick drama in Georgia sparks scandal, probe

Was this in Defiance?

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RE: Was this in Defiance?

As a Scandal junkie, I gave you an upvote for that.

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Transparency

It may well have been fair, but it is also important that it is seen to be fair and that allegations are properly investigated. A piece of paper with an X on it does have its attractions over all this electronic jiggery-pokery, especially as it's very hard to independently audit the machines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Transparency

it's very hard to independently audit the machines

The word you're looking for is "impossible". This is actually the main issue with Donald Trump at the moment: he is still ahead with too big a margin to "adjust" the results so he doesn't win, it would be too visible...

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Boffin

Re: Transparency

Stealthy Dopant-Level Hardware Trojans

http://sharps.org/wp-content/uploads/BECKER-CHES.pdf

that's all

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Re: Transparency

Tom Whatshisface from Computerphile discusses this very eloquently https://youtu.be/w3_0x6oaDmI (8 minutes, worth it).

People who like electronic voting aren't typically your high-tech crowd who know it's a bad idea, even instinctively!

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Re: Transparency

Stealthy Dopant-Level Hardware Trojans

That sure is some crazy Pham Nuwen stuff. But why not?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Transparency

You mean:

- they don't know the number of voting machines in the field?

- the memory sticks are not labelled?

- after an election, they don't count in the number of memory sticks returned and that it matches the number of machines which were in use?

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Re: Transparency

You mean actually do work? Isn't the idea of computers that it's all magical and makes it easy? That's what the supplier said!

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Re: Transparency

- after an election, they don't count in the number of memory sticks returned and that it matches the number of machines which were in use?

And what's on the sticks isn't cyptographically signed to verify it's not been tampered with?

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DeKalb County, GA

At least no one has died yet because of the results. A few years ago the DeKalb sheriff-elect was murdered by cronies of the defeated sheriff. The local Atlanta (DeKalb County is in the metro Atlanta area) news always know if it is a slow news day shake a couple trees in DeKalb County and see what juicy tidbits pop out. The stories are good for a few weeks at a minimum.

A pronunciation note: it is de' cab, accent on the first syllable with the L unvoiced.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: DeKalb County, GA

Resolving elections with murders...

In Melbourne that used to be the method favored by the Painters and Dockers (the union, not the band). Good to see the police types in US using the same methods. Its not just the Australian ballot we gave them?

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Anonymous Coward

Diebold...

In the news again, related to fraudulent voting machines.

Why am I not surprised it's a Diebold.

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Two points. First - Diebold doesn't make evoting systems anymore. They spun off that division into Premier Election System about five years go while looking for a buyer and when that fell through, shut down the division and sold down parts to several companies including ES&S about three years ago.

Second, did you read the actual article? There's literally zero evidence so far of any tampering. Someone found a memory stick and concluded it was one from a DESI system. He reported it to his superiors who dismissed the event (again - DESI doesn't exist anymore - so no one from that group could have been involved in it).

Pressing his case, they are now investigating the event (which is what they should have done in the first place). If it turns out to actually be a memory card from a voting machine, then they will have t find out how it was possible to swap it - contrary to what anti-evoting systems people believe - this is actually harder to do than you might think since there are scrutineers and observers at most poll stations *watching* for this kind of thing. As well, DESI machines have to reboot after changing the card which would leave a trace.

It's FAR more likely someone removed the card AFTER the election when the machines were back in the district office. Once they're back there - it's really hard to stop someone tampering with any machine since there's no oversight.

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The mere fact that someone found a memory stick and it wasn't possible to immediately account for which one it was, where it was used and that the results it contained had been positively logged into the system does suggest that they're a bit slack.

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Re: There's literally zero evidence so far of any tampering.

The ONLY reason to even have electronic voting instead of physical ballots is to make tampering with the numbers easy.

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Re: There's literally zero evidence so far of any tampering.

Two words

Hanging Chads

It is the south. Just accept that the 'good ole boys' will make any ballot go the way the money wants.

I seem to remember days not that long ago when black voters were not allowed to vote because their registrations had somehoe not been accepted.

You Democracy dollars at work.

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Big Brother

they're a bit slack

Like in "all the bits are hanging out and the tech ain't helping while suspiciously many people are observing street pigeons, whistling"?

With some luck this ain't gonna result in a Raymond Lemme surprise "suicide". To quote Chris Floyd "Local police ruled that Lemme, a happily married man eagerly planning his daughter's wedding, had suddenly decided to slash his wrists."

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FAIL

Re: There's literally zero evidence so far of any tampering.

"I seem to remember days not that long ago when black voters were not allowed to vote because their registrations had somehow not been accepted."

In northern Ireland the vote was restricted to those who owned property which heavily favoured the protestant community -

<Those who paid rates (homeowners) were entitled to vote in local council elections; individuals who owned several homes (landlords) could have up to six votes; those who occupied public or rented housing (tenants) were not permitted to vote at all.>

This continued until 1969, there are plenty of people in the rest of Britain still unaware of this.

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g e

Except "and placed him on administrative leave"

Cos you always suspend your employees when they voice a concern about something right?

DEV: "Oh this ecommerce checkout code might have a bit of a security hole in it"

BOSS: "Off you go Jenkins. Gardening leave for you, m'laddo"

Right.

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Happy

Please

Please Americans, don't go for a computer run voting system, it's just too perfect, I could rig it as a person and a programmer, just imagine how much more appealing it would be when good money was behind it. There is just one, more or less, secure system, the pen and paper system. Old fashion you say, but "bulk" fraud is possible only using computers. Just the mention of "sticks" should tell it all.

I have no problems in imagining walking into some hospital, in the near future, where some computer voice tells me to follow the red line as I have a problem with my liver or what ever, and please note our offer of Super D-vitamins when leaving.

But the combination of computers, voting, democracy and security is just an impossible combination to day. Just too perfect, just too appealing for fraud.

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Re: Please

Pencil and paper have it's advantages. As for "bulk" fraud.. err. no. Chicago proved that wrong over many years with the graveyard vote. And there were the (unproven) allegations made during LBJ's first election to office where as the state police were breaking down the door on the local election board, the workers were in the basement busily burning the ballots. Even with paper there is lots of room for fraud. One of the older tricks was to "pre-vote" a bunch of ballots and when the polls closed, ballots were exchanged. The pre-voted replacing the ones that "needed to be replaced".

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Re: Please (@Mark 85)

Yes, but:

In the Chicago case -as in most other 'pencil and paper' voting fraud cases- the miscreants needed a frecking big infrastructure. Buildings, staff, infiltrates in the voting stations, you name it. All that infrastructure creates lots opportunities for whistle blowers, blackmailers, ...

On the other hand, with e-voting fraud, a single guy with the right -or wrong, depending on how you look at it- security credentials and knowledge would be able to do everything by himself, probably in a few minutes at most, leaving zero crumb trails for journalists/law enforcement agencies/courts to identify/prosecute the crook.

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Re: Please (@Mark 85)

Chicago famously had the graveyard vote. Less famously, but more efficiently, there was the river vote. Basically, certain precincts which were known to vote the wrong way were on the wrong side of the Chicago River. Purely by accident some ballot boxes might just happen to fall off trucks carrying them to the counting centers as the trucks go over the bridges across the river. Hey, fish gotta vote, too. Even if the nature of the Chicago River (and nature has very little to do with the Chicago River) is such that there aren't that many fish in there. And you don't need much infrastructure, just one guy in the back of the truck and some weights in the ballot boxes to make sure they sink. And the Chicago River is a very strange river indeed, and was even before it got messed with. Fish in the Calumet River have also been known to have been granted voting rights. Without paper ballots, old, established, traditional voting patterns are being changed. Sniff. 'Tis unconscionable, I tell ye, that the persecuted minority of Piscine Americans are denied their right to vote. Something Must Be Done to right this wrong! Bring back the paper ballot!

But those boys in Chicago and even 'Landslide' Lyndon Johnson in Texas and 'Tricky' Dick Nixon in California are rank amateurs. (Tricky Dick was almost professional; it took the combination of Landslide Lyndon and Daley the Elder to get JFK over the top against him, and the margin of victory was rather tight. One of Landslide Lyndon's biographers once noted: "Johnson's ambition was uncommon—in the degree to which it was unencumbered by even the slightest excess weight of ideology, of philosophy, of principles, of beliefs." Yes, he was actually worse in many ways than Tricky Dick, difficult though that may be to believe...) The PRI in Mexico managed to win every single presidential election for over seven decades using multiple methods almost totally not connected with actually counting any votes. And, a personal fav, there's one politician in a certain Caribbean country (I won't mention her name, she's got a short temper and someone might read this to her) whose very first election to parliament was achieved when the guy running against her got only 15% of the vote while she managed 105%. Nope, not making those numbers up. Mere Yankees aren't up to doing _real_ vote theft. (And, yes, for this purpose, the good ol' boyz in DeKalb County count as Yankees, if only to make their little heads pop.)

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Re: Please

"One of the older tricks was to "pre-vote" a bunch of ballots and when the polls closed, ballots were exchanged. "

Which is one of the reasons why every paper ballot in most countries has a serial number and those serial numbers are recorded against the voting register.

if one shows up that isn't recorded against a voter, you know something is off. It's still gamable but a lot harder if there are the requisite number of observers onhand.

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To err is human...

To really foul things up requires a computer.

Of course, the memory stick (or whatever it was) might have been one bought at the local computer store. Unless they were sealed into the voting machine (a wire seal comes to mind) and removed by a multitude of inspectors, I don't see how it might be "secure". Perhaps an open source solution which could be peer reviewed would be in order. Given that there are vested interests in this, I highly doubt anything repeatable and secure will come of it.

Paper ballots seem to have a good feel about them. Sure a machine can count them, but a human can check without any added "hardware".

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Re: To err is human...

Loads of USB sticks come with security built in nowadays. Admittedly I just reformat them myself but I don't use mine for election counting.

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Pint

Re: To err is human...

The USB sticks with "built in security" obviously have an ARM processor (or similar) inside.

.: They can be hacked too.

Security is an illusion.

Ref conference videos on CCC.de. <- mandatory viewing.

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Aren't his accusations the same as stating he saw a pile of paper in a paper ballot office and thought they might be uncounted votes.

Unless checked no one knows.

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He claims to have found an actual ballot box.

It might be un-used, "empty", "filled" with fraudulent ballots or still "filled" with uncounted cast ballots.

There's no way to tell without a public investigation - and this would be necessary with a paper ballot box as well.

It's just that checking the state of a paper ballot box is much easier to do and to prove.

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Lost ballot box

I was standing for election to my Borough Council in England. The count began on the morning after polling day.

By about midday we had a result, although the number of votes did seem rather low. Then a very embarrassed official turned up. "Sorry, chaps, we've just found this extra ballot box."

All the officials were red-faced, that they had goofed. We candidates, however, were feeling, "Oh sh*t, we were just about to go home for lunch."

The count resumed after lunch. It did not change the result, but it did make the voting numbers look more respectable.

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Big Brother

Re: Lost ballot box

Actually a good argument for mandatory voting: You know when a fat percentage of votes has dropped off a lorry or a new box has been "discovered" on the way from the voting office in the trunk of the governor's BMW.

Of course, one could also track them easily with numbered (non-counterfeitable) seals. What's good for your water counter should be good for the ballot box.

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Re: Lost ballot box

You mean there was actually a box with countable physical paper ballots? How quaint!

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Re: Lost ballot box

> Then a very embarrassed official turned up. "Sorry, chaps, we've just found this extra ballot box."

One of my relatives is a district returning officer in a relatively small country.

There is a _very_ strict policy about counting boxes out and back in - along with ballots and registers.

Whilst there's a preliminary count done at polling stations in front of observers before the ballots are returned to the boxes and resealed, central counting doesn't _start_ until all boxes are in and their seals verified (each official observer has their own seal and it must be present on the returned box).

if the number of ballots + spoiled + unused that comes back doesn't exactly match the number sent out, then heads start rolling - and the ballot serial numbers are all recorded going out, etc to avoid ballot box stuffing.

There are a lot of checks and balances in a paper-based system which are highly visible and auditable. Making the voting electronic makes impersonation a slightly bigger risk, but the real risk is in the ability to commit fraud at the backend. Various despots are attributed as saying there's no need to manipulate the voters when you can far more easily manipulate the vote takers.

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Re: Lost ballot box

"Of course, one could also track them easily with numbered (non-counterfeitable) seals."

You mean you don't?

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Australia's open-source voting system

It's not at all hard to do it properly: http://www.wired.com/2003/11/aussies-do-it-right-e-voting/

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Re: Australia's open-source voting system

But look who got in.

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Re: Australia's open-source voting system

Wrong. In Australia we count votes on paper by hand. With scrutineers (I've been one.) No chance for any bullshit. And cheap and quick as well.

The system that you are talking about tallies up the counts from all the booths. But they are also manually tallied up by the scrutineers. So any flaw in the software would be quickly found.

The US system is the way it is because it suits some people for it to be that way. It is expensive to operate. But it often produces the "correct" result.

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Re: Australia's open-source voting system

There's an old saying: Anyone who believes what Wired says about security isn't worth listening to about security.

Open-source software is a necessary but very much not sufficient condition for an acceptable electronic voting system.

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Pint

Re: Australia's open-source voting system

Replace suspect computer with human, for purposes of illumination.

"Your name?"

Bob.

"Are you okay? Trustworthy? Not working for the enemy?"

Yes. Very trustworthy. Not working for the enemy.

"Well. Okay then...

...HE'S OKAY. HE TOLD ME..."

IT security is a bit like that.

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Diebold? Still?

How does Diebold manage to stay in this market given all the stories of insecurity?

Being a Brit I have only been confronted by their equipment once... A cash machine in a Slovakian Tescos.... I decided to not risk it, and used a different one down the road!

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It should not be possible to lose a ballot box. The system should know they've been sent out, and should count them all back in again, checking serial numbers and seals. If one is missing then it should be obvious. About the only hole in this process is if an outgoing box is successfully substituted on its way to the polling station and the serial number not checked. Then you can lose the fake and substitute the original one full of dodgy papers on the way back. Even that's not foolproof in the UK because ballots are identifiable at this stage and a spot check of serial numbers can be made, a few at random per box, as well as the number of ballots in the box. You'd need a fairly big operation to successfully subvert enough people to the cause to get a dodgy box into the system undetected.

Of course, having established that a problem exists, what to do about it? If the result is close enough that the contents of a missing or suspicious box could affect the outcome then the only proper thing to do is declare the election void and hold it again.

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> If the result is close enough that the contents of a missing or suspicious box could affect the outcome then the only proper thing to do is declare the election void and hold it again.

The problem with that is that for some poor workers, they may not have the ability to get to the voting booths again. Perhaps they had to drop a shift so they could vote and can't afford to do that again. A recount is preferable because a new vote could effectively disenfranchise particular segments of the population.

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You can't have a recount if a box is missing, or you believe that its contents have been tampered with.

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Pint

Missing ballot box should result in a call to the police.

Blues & Twos until they track it down.

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"Perhaps they had to drop a shift so they could vote and can't afford to do that again. "

If people need to do this, then the voting procedure is neither free nor fair.

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disgruntled employee?

Maxine Daniels says the whole thing is a case of a disgruntled employee making waves, and insists the vote was fair.

So because he was fired from a previous job through accusations of corruption we shouldn't believe his accusations this time either? Maybe he's just an honest guy and is right in both cases.

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Re: disgruntled employee?

Agreed. Daniels sounds like precisely the sort of person who should not be allowed anywhere near the voting process. Assuming you want a fair, transparent vote, that is.

On the other hand, I'm impressed with the Secretary of State's office, particularly for bringing in KSU CES to help with the investigation.

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I don't care for the Diebold vs not-Diebold or the fraud vs mistake argument.

They are valid, sure, but arguing about them risks diverting from the main point, which is that electronic voting machines have been proven worse than good old paper and pen.

Yes, a paper ballot requires plenty of staff to make it all work but it's no more expensive (actually cheaper, I believe) than an electronic system. And yes, there are opportunities for fraud but the nature of the process means that it is much more difficult to impact the outcome.

The question is: what is the benefit of electronic machines over paper?

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Well obviously the people who own the machines can help to ensure that the correct candidate is elected.

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