[Politech] More on U.S. voting machine design flaws, from U.K. Independent

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Oct 14 2003 - 09:42:41 PDT

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    Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2003 12:41:48 -0400
    From: Michael Maynard <mikemaynard@private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    Subject: More on the voting machine design flaws.
    Fears of more US electoral chaos after flaws are discovered
    in ballot computers
    By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
    14 October 2003
    Next year's US presidential election may be compromised by
    newvoting machines that computer scientists believe are
    unreliable, poorly programmed and prone to tampering.
    An investigation published in today's Independent reveals
    tens of thousands of touch screen voting machinesmay be
    less reliable than the old punchcards, which famously
    stalled the presidential election in Florida in 2000,
    leaving the whole election open to international ridicule.
    The machines are said to offer no independent verification
    of individual voting choices, making recounts impossible,
    and the software is shielded from public scrutiny by trade
    secrecy agreements.
    The shortcomings have appeared in two academic studies and
    have prompted calls for urgent oversight legislation. They
    have also cast doubt on the accuracy of last November's
    mid-term election results, especially in Georgia, the first
    state to switch to touch screen voting.
    David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford
    University, said: "These machines do not allow the voters
    to check that their votes are accurately and permanently
    recorded. No one can prove that the machines are
    The three leading voting machine manufacturers are
    substantial Republican campaign donors, and one of their
    chief executives, Walden O'Dell of Diebold, in Ohio, wrote
    a letter to Republican supporters saying he was "committed
    to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the
    President next year". That raised serious concerns of bias.
    "The rush towards computerisation is very dubious," Rebecca
    Mercuri, a research fellow at Harvard University, said. "It
    takes away the checks and balances of a democratic
    In Georgia, citizens were alarmed at apparent anomalies in
    the election results forgovernor and one of the state's two
    Senate seats. Both offices were won by Republicans in
    last-minute voting swings away from Democrats.
    Causes for alarm included a serious malfunction in the
    voting software, discovered after the machines were
    packaged for shipment, which had to be repaired with a
    programming "patch", and the fact that the patch showed up
    on an open-access internet page. Hundreds of security flaws
    were identified in subsequent follow-up studies. There were
    also several election day glitches, including the loss of
    67 voting memory cards in the Democrat stronghold of
    central Atlanta.
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