Diebold admits voting system flaws

E-voting manufacturer says votes could be changed undetected

Critics of electronic voting systems have had their warnings vindicated by two recent announcements. An official with Premier Election Systems, formerly known as Diebold, admitted that its audit log system was flawed enough that it would be possible to delete votes undetected, and several elections officials in Kentucky were arrested on charges related to election fraud, including changing electronically recorded votes.

Wired reported that officials from Premier admitted in a hearing held March 17 in California that their tabulation software could miss significant events, including the deletion of votes on Election Day. They said the flaw is present in every version of the software.

The California Secretary of State's office discovered that audit logs from Diebold machines in Humboldt County, Calif., did not record known ballot deletions, according to Wired. Justin Bales, general sales manager for Premier's western region, told a state investigator that the software does not record deletions and never has.

The office was originally investigating the deletion of 197 votes in Humboldt County when its investigators discovered that the audit logs provided no information on the event.

The software also does not record timestamps on the events it does document, and it includes a "clear" button that allows the easy deletion of the audit logs, according to Wired and GovTech.

Such audit logs have been at the heart of the electronic voting machine controversy. Critics of the machines have long charged that it would be possible to change the recorded votes undetected, and they have urged that, at a minimum, the machines should generate a paper receipt that the voter would confirm was an accurate record of the vote. Elections officials would keep the paper records and use them to verify the accuracy of the electronically tabulated results in the event of a challenge. Voting machine makers have generally responded to such criticisms by saying that the combination of audit logs and capable elections officials following protocols would prevent fraud.

In Clay County, Ky., the FBI arrested several county elections officials on a variety of election fraud charges, including changing votes already recorded on the electronic voting machines, according to a Lexington, Ky., NBC affiliate. They have pleaded not guilty, the Associated Press reported.

According to the indictment against the eight defendants, some of the fraud also included instructing others on how to change votes on the machines and identifying voters who had sold their votes.

 

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 25, 2009 Olde Sarge Virginia

This is what happens when private enterprise involves itself in purely governmental functions. Voting machines, of any kind, should never have been allowed to be manufactured and controlled by a for profit business exercising protection of its "intellectual property." They should have been developed under a government program with strict oversight. How else can one ensure that the 'honesty' requirements were properly implemented. "Trust, but verify," must be the watchword when it comes to election polling. Poll workers are as subject to pressures as anyone else. There must be iron clad audits to ensure that any changes in votes are registered, timestamped, and identified with the person making those changes as well as recording what was changed. That level of auditing would allow an election commission or court to determine what the real election results were, even if changes had been made. As far as the intellectual property rights are concerned, when the only customer of a product can reasonably be expected to be government, there should be no property rights. The government is the sole proprietor of all things governmental. Sorry, Mr. Businessman, you don't get to blackmail Uncle Sam.

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