Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More on Electronic Voting

I believe that the use of electronic voting machines that do not leave a paper trail is wrong.  I am not really an expert on electronics, although I was building my own radios at age 11, repairing televisions at age 15, learned programming at age 17, and have built several computers.  That makes me an informed amateur, not an expert.  So don't take my word for it.  Instead, read Avi Rubin's site.  He is a professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins; he has three degrees in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.  Avi is an expert.

He posted an article here; excerpts follow:
My experience as an Election Judge in Baltimore County on November 2, 2004
by Avi Rubin

On March 2, I served as an election judge in the Super Tuesday primary. When I got home that night, I wrote up my thoughts and published them on my web site. Yesterday, I worked as an election judge again for the general election, and I wanted to write down my thoughts the same way, but when I got home, I was too tired. My precinct had a 91% turnout, not counting absentee ballots, and I was quite busy most of the day. I woke up this morning at around 5:00 a.m. and tuned in to see if we had a President yet. The news said that it was still hanging on four states that were too close to call. I couldn't fall back asleep, so I'm up now at 5:30 a.m., writing about my experience yesterday. [...]

The big difference with DREs is that tampering that is undetectable can change the vote count. Again, let me stress that I do not have any reason whatsoever to believe that my fellow judges did anything untoward. In fact, I believe strongly that they did not. My only point here is to observe that there are vulnerabilities in the system, vulnerabilities that someone could exploit someday and that ought to be eliminated. [...]

The Diebold Accuvote TS machines were shown to be highly vulnerable to tampering. With physical access to the machines, for example, one could change a few bytes in the ballot definition file and votes for the two major Presidential candidates would be swapped. In that case, none of the procedures we had in place could detect that votes were tallied for the wrong candidates. At the end of the election, we packed up the machines and left them in the same room with the door locked. Any malicious changes that had been made the night before could have been undone then. Each machine had a plastic seal on it, but the seal did not look like something that would be impossible to find. In fact, our supply packet contained a number of extras. This is just an example; there are many other ways someone with unfettered access to the machines could tamper with the election.  [...]

We had several minor glitches. Some of the smartcards did not work very well, and voters got unusual error messages on the screen. I did not see them, but one of the other judges told me they looked like "strange computer messages." [...]

Inside them were the little memory cards, not unlike the one in my digital camera at home, with 725 votes stored on them. One by one, we removed the memory cards from the machines. I held them in my hand as chief judge Marie was ready to load them into one of the machines that we designated as the accumulator. How fragile. All of the votes from the entire precinct in my hand. Substituting those cards with five identical looking cards, one could replace all of the ballots that were cast with bogus ones.  [...]
I know I am cluttering up my main page with these long posts on electronic voting, but it is one of the most pressing issues we face today.  You should must click on the graphic in the upper (left) sidebar to sign the petition supporting HR 550.