Friday, May 12, 2006

NYT & WSJ Editorials Take on E-Voting Machines

H/T BradBlog:

New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Systems
NYT: With primary election dates fast approaching in many states, officials in Pennsylvania and California issued urgent directives in recent days about a potential security risk in their Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines, while other states with similar equipment hurried to assess the seriousness of the problem.

"It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system," said Michael I. Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who is an examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania, where the primary is to take place on Tuesday. (...)

The wave of high-tech voting machines was prompted by the 2000 election in Florida, which spotlighted the problems of old-fashioned punch card ballots. But the machines that soon followed have spurred division. Here in Chicago, where voters used both touch-screen and optical-scan systems in a March primary, it took officials a week to tally all the votes because of technical problems and human errors, touching off a flurry of criticism over the Sequoia Voting Systems equipment.

In Maryland this spring, the State House of Delegates passed a bill that would have scrapped touch-screen machines, but the Senate last month took no action on the bill, effectively killing the idea. (...)

The new concerns about Diebold's equipment were discovered by Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer expert who was working at the request of Black Box Voting Inc., a nonprofit group that has been critical of electronic voting in the past. The group issued a report on the findings on Thursday.

Computer scientists who have studied the vulnerability say the flaw might allow someone with brief access to a voting machine and with knowledge of computer code to tamper with the machine's software, and even, potentially, to spread malicious code to other parts of the voting system.

As word of Mr. Hursti's findings spread, Diebold issued a warning to recipients of thousands of its machines, saying that it had found a "theoretical security vulnerability" that "could potentially allow unauthorized software to be loaded onto the system." ...(more)
Reversing Course on Electronic Voting
WSJ: Some advocates of a 2002 law mandating upgrades of the nation's voting machinery now worry the overhaul is making things worse.

With the 2006 midterm elections approaching, proponents of the Help America Vote Act are filing lawsuits to block some state and election officials' efforts to comply with the act.

The Help America Vote Act called for upgrading election equipment to guard against another contested outcome such as the 2000 presidential vote. Among the flaws in balloting almost six years ago were antiquated hand-operated voting machines and punch-card ballots that were difficult to read. To redress that, members of Congress pushed for modernization, which could include touch-screen voting machines, on which ballots are cast and recorded solely electronically. At the time, the electronic voting machines were seen as a reliable contrast to the older technology.

The lawsuits -- nine so far -- coincide with a stampede by state and county officials to spend $3 billion allocated by Congress to help pay for upgrades. To comply with the Help America Vote Act, a number of states and dozens of counties purchased touch-screen voting machines. The deadline for spending the money is tied to each state's 2006 primary dates.

Arizona was sued this week over such purchases and Colorado election officials are likely to be sued next week. ...(more)
An otherwise good article, I must take issue with the WSJ editorial where towards the end it says "Despite common charges that the machines lack adequate security, no cases have emerged proving that a hacker or an insider has or could electronically manipulate the vote." That's Bullshit! They have either done no investigating the issue at all before making such a claim, or they are being purposefully deceptive.

I guess I should just be grateful that the Wall Street Journal even mentioned the issue at all.

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