Friday, July 30, 2004

Hack the Vote 

Today's question: electronic vote fraud, or the accidental failure of a computerized e-voting system, could theoretically disenfranchise voters of either party, no? So why aren't the Republicans worried? You will probably stumble across President Bush's Alabama pay stubs before you meet a prominent Republican who's opposed to paperless voting.

We cannot imagine why the GOP is so uniformly allergic to recounts and paper trails (We can't. We really can't. Okay, we're lying), but as we've been saying for some time now, there is one surefire way to put the fear of God in them: by demonstrating just how easy it would be for our side to hack the vote. (And naturally, because we're champions of democracy, we'd hope to arrange that demonstration before an actual election took place, when there was still time to fix the problem.) Now it turns out that e-voting activists Rebecca Mercuri and Bev Harris have had the same idea:
Electronic voting systems have major security problems and hackers should make it their mission to find the flaws, an e-voting critic told security researchers on Thursday.

Speaking at the Black Hat Security Briefings here, Rebecca Mercuri, a fellow at a Harvard-affiliated research center and a noted e-voting critic, called the current voting process a statistical game of shells, one that e-voting machine makers are playing for profits.

To hold voting machine makers to their promises of security, hackers should try to circumvent the systems and reveal their problems, she said. She pointed to a $10,000 reward promised by e-voting proponent Michael Shamos, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, as additional incentive.

Mercuri wants voting machine makers to stop being secretive about their security, or lack thereof, and stop legal pursuits of students and researchers that attempt to analyze their source code. She has formally called for two voting-system technology makers--machine maker Advanced Voting Solutions and verification system make VoteHere--to open up their systems as part of a contest . . . .

"We had a computer scientist talk about why there is a good reason to have three sets of books in a voting machine," [Bev Harris of Black Box Voting] said. "But an accountant would know that there is only one reason for a double or triple set of books, and that is fraud."

Mercuri also showed data that indicated that the latest touch-screen voting machines don't perform significantly better in elections. While a Diebold touch-screen DRE machine had the lowest error rate in the California election over the issue of whether there should be a recall, it had the third-highest error rate for candidate votes, she said.
UPDATE (courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.): Paul Krugman's Friday column contained this charming item:
Jeb Bush insists that electronic voting machines are perfectly reliable, but The St. Petersburg Times says the Republican Party of Florida has sent out a flier urging supporters to use absentee ballots because the machines lack a paper trail and cannot "verify your vote."
And a reader at BuzzFlash has just posted the flyer online:

 Posted by Hello

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