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November 7, 2006 12:51 AM

Broken: Diebold electronic voting machines

FoxtrotvotingToday is Election Day in the US, and many Americans will cast votes on electronic voting machines.

Foxtrot, one of my all-time favorite comic strips, gets it exactly right in a recent strip. Electronic voting machines are scary... at best. At worst, their possible effects are unthinkably bad.

Read the Foxtrot strip. (Thanks, bb)

From last Sunday's New York Times, this op-ed about electronic voting machines says:

Vicki Lovegren, a mathematics lecturer at Case Western Reserve University who has become a local advocate for election integrity, said, “If you’re a computer scientist, you’re nervous,” adding: “When you have electronic voting machines, it doesn’t take a conspiracy of many people. One person can affect the outcome without anyone knowing.”

If you really want to be scared, watch this video showing how easy it is to hack a Diebold voting machine. Or read how Diebold may have knowingly supplied flawed machines for the '04 election.

Update: BoingBoing writes...

If you experience any irregularities in voting today, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, the hotline for the National Campaign for Fair Elections. EFF lawyers and many others are standing by across the country to take legal action to remove malfunctioning voting machines, keep polls open, etc.

Update: More to watch on the deeply flawed electronic voting system. YouTube - HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 1. And here's Part 2.



Posted by: vulcanlogic7 at November 7, 2006 06:55 AM

Electronic voting has to solve a lot of problems, but the companies that make these devices spend more time trying to cover up their problems rather than design and build a system that is secure, auditable, and works. A lot of this has been discussed at length at

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at November 7, 2006 08:30 AM

This election day, please keep in mind all the brave men and women that stood up and fought for the right to cast ballots on electronic machines. If it weren't for this huge grassroots movement of people coming together and demanding that their votes go to the highest bidder, America would probably still be suffering under the old democratic system.

Posted by: Lord Bush at November 7, 2006 09:41 AM

_@_v - at least we here in snaileyville will get one more year's use outa our old reliable 1960s manual voting machines because our politicians were sluggy slow at picking out new machines...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at November 7, 2006 12:04 PM

Robin Williams for Prez!!!! If you haven't seen the movie you have no idea what I'm talking about. Go see the movie.

Posted by: lefty-chef at November 7, 2006 12:04 PM

Why can't they make a RAID 5 connection (RAID 5 is a whole lot of hard drives) on a secure connection (meaning on private wires, not on the Internet) and have Apple design it. No external connections (meaning no USBs, the cord connecting to the central hard drive is directly connected from the wall to the inside of the machine)will prevent onsight hacking and there is no access to the OS.

Posted by: st33med at November 7, 2006 03:46 PM

Whatever Congress does, KEEP MICROSOFT OUT OF IT!!!

Posted by: st33med at November 7, 2006 03:50 PM

RAID 5 is a system for efficiently providing data redundancy. It provides no technical advantage regarding security. Microsoft isn't really the problem in a lot of the voting machines anyway, and the best and most likely fix is to add printers to provide vote receipts, which will allow for recounts and let voters be sure their vote went to the right people.

Posted by: Maurs at November 7, 2006 10:16 PM

Yeah, I'll take 'hanging chads' over this any day! It's no wonder so many in our country don't bother to vote...

Posted by: ambrocked at November 8, 2006 12:00 PM

I used the Diebold to vote and my complaint wasn't the interface, it was the angle and position of the screen in the polling place. I was seated, but the screen was raised and angled up, so voters waiting for ballots behind me could easily see my votes. Also, a judge 'supervised' the machine watching my every vote and asked to check the printout even after I reminded them of my right to privacy.

It's not just the voters who must make sure they can trust these machines.

Posted by: kiplog at November 9, 2006 10:48 PM

Perhaps you've heard about this, reported by the AP:

In short, a guy votes writing his own name in for the mayoral race and when the results come out the report says he got zero votes.

Posted by: earlax at November 14, 2006 12:01 AM

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