Government Accountability Report on voting machines

In summary: ES&S. In summary, the Government Accountability Office released a report today finding flaws in voting system security, access, and controls. The report highlights multiple examples of real election failures due to security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines.
  • #1
pattylou
306
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Released last friday:
http://www.bradblog.com/Docs/GAOReport_ElectionSecurity_102105.pdf (don't be fooled by the link name, it's the real report.)

This is being discussed all over the progressive websites. The GAO is non partisan, lending bipartisan support to concerns that (from the report):
"[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
and from Bradblog:
The report "analyzed over 80 recent and relevant reports related to the security and reliability of electronic voting systems." The results confirm a range of security vulnerabilities and violations in Electronic Voting Machines in recent elections and the accompanying systems used to administer elections in the United States of America. It goes on to say that the issues brought to the attention of the GAO by elected representatives, activists and other concerned citizens, "merit the focused attention of federal state and local authorities responsible for election administration."
http://www.bradblog.com/archives/00001940.htm

Of course, Black Box Voting has been glad to see that the GAO refereences the Hursti Report, which I go on and on about, the one that shows how a memory card swap can throw an election without leaving a trail. They have more than that to say, however:

Today, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report finding flaws in voting system security, access, and controls, with multiple examples of real election failures. Although national initiatives to improve security of electronic voting systems are underway, "it is unclear when these initiatives will be available," said the report.

Oct. 7, Black Box Voting was invited to attend a groundbreaking Washington D.C. event titled “Threats to Voting Systems,” sponsored by the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). For the first time, election officials, scientists, and election reform advocates discussed the realities of voting machine risks in earnest, without rancor or defensiveness.

(http://www.vote.nist.gov/threats/index.html )

The outcome of the meeting was an agreement to catalogue risks, and develop mitigation strategies. Not all participants were entirely comfortable with the proceedings.

“I feel like hanging myself,” said R. Doug Lewis

Lewis is the enigmatic director of The Election Center (a private entity which has derided critics of voting machine security). Lewis looked pale and uncomfortable, but he was in the minority.
...more: http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth.cgi?file=/1954/10576.html
Another source is truthout which has this to say:
Fact Sheet

Overall Findings

In October 2005, the Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive analysis of the concerns raised by the increasing use of electronic voting machines.

Overall, GAO found that "significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems" have been raised (p. 22).

GAO indicated that "some of these concerns have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes" (p. 23).

According to GAO, "election officials, computer security experts, citizen advocacy groups, and others have raised significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete standards, among other issues. ... The security and reliability concerns raised in recent reports merit the focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration" (p. 22-23).
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=76&ItemID=8977

Also, more topically, next week's election in California, is being heralded in some areas as "faith based voting." that's right, we should be proud to have faith in our vote and not ask that it be counted properly.

Monterey County, CA Registrar Admits New E-Voting Machine Technology 'Faith-Based'!

In Radio Interview, Demonstrates New Sequoia Touch-Screens, Secret Software, Asks Voters to 'Trust Him' on Accuracy and Reliability!
Brad Joins Him and Peter B. Collins for Remarkable Hour on KXRA 540-am...
http://www.bradblog.com/archives/00001948.htm

Why do I keep bringing this topic up? Because it is an important issue. The Government Accountability Office's report, hot off the presses, should carry weight with everyone who believes in the ideals of America. Their report indicates serious problems with elections. Their report acknowledges lost votes and miscounts. It also nods to the Hursti report (How to win elections with one small memory card), and it's bipartisan.

If you are new to the Physics Forum, you can read some past discussions about election problems here: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=84302 in our thread directory at the top of the page.
 
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  • #2
One interesting thing that I have found out about the voting machines is that two companies, Diebold and ES&S, provide 80% of the machines used. The CEO's of both companies are ardent Bush supporters and both contributed heavily to the republican party. The two are also brothers, Bob Urosevich and Todd Urosevich. Bob is CEO of Diebold and Todd is CEO of ES&S.
 
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  • #3
Chuck Hagel had been CEO of the company that manufactured the machines that counted the votes that... put him in office as a US senator.
 
  • #4
It gets worse:

Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the United States
http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0225-05.htm
 
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  • #5
edward said:
One interesting thing that I have found out about the voting machines is that two companies, Diebold and ES&S, provide 80% of the machines used. The CEO's of both companies are ardent Bush supporters and both contributed heavily to the republican party. The two are also brothers, Bob Urosevich and Todd Urosevich. Bob is CEO of Diebold and Todd is CEO of ES&S.

yeah, and after Bush's re-election, Diebold got a big government contract to install a bunch of atms and stuff in Iraq... standard mafia procedure, got to pay your fellow wise guys, or they might stab you in the back.

"...the way in which general business is managed may give a clear enough indication of the actual state of morals and the health of the body politic. The more concert reigns in the assemblies, that is, the nearer opinion approaches unanimity, the greater is the dominance of the general will. On the other hand, long debates, dissensions and tumult proclaim the ascendancy of particular interestes and the decline of the state." - Rousseau, On The Social Contract: Book 4, Chap. 2: Voting
 
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  • #6
From the piece about the California special election:

The votes, however, are counted on a "memory cartridge" in the machine, not on the "paper record." This raises the question (which I attempted to ask many times, in many different ways) as to what good that "paper record" actually is in the first place...beyond giving the voter a completely false sense of security and confidence.

If we were going to use paper for the original count, what would be the point of installing machines in the first place? Isn't the point of a paper record in case there needs to be a recount?
 
  • #7
loseyourname, the point of the paper receipt is, precisly, what was speculated on there: it exists to give the votor a false sense of security and confidence because that's what proponents of paper balloting want. I'm in favor of letting people have their illusions if it means they'll accept a better product. It doesn't trouble me at all that they'd be accepting it for the wrong reasons. Sometimes an irrational fear of a hypochondriac must be placated with a placebo.

To your question:
Isn't the point of a paper record in case there needs to be a recount?
Generally, no - it's essentially just a receipt, that a person has the option of keeping or throwing away. That way, when someone asks them if they have confidence that their vote was counted, they say "yes!"

It may take a while (a generation), but eventually, we'll do away with that too. I'll see if I can dig up some stats on people banking and paying bills online. Not everyone does, and the reason is, typically, the same fear that has people afraid of electronic voting.
 
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  • #8
russ_watters said:
I'll see if I can dig up some stats on people banking and paying bills online. Not everyone does, and the reason is, typically, the same fear that has people afraid of electronic voting.
That is not why people have a fear of electronic voting.

This is;
Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the United States
 
  • #9
russ_watters said:
loseyourname, the point of the paper receipt is, precisly, what was speculated on there: it exists to give the votor a false sense of security and confidence because that's what proponents of paper balloting want. I'm in favor of letting people have their illusions if it means they'll accept a better product. It doesn't trouble me at all that they'd be accepting it for the wrong reasons. Sometimes an irrational fear of a hypochondriac must be placated with a placebo.
To your question: Generally, no - it's essentially just a receipt, that a person has the option of keeping or throwing away. That way, when someone asks them if they have confidence that their vote was counted, they say "yes!"
It may take a while (a generation), but eventually, we'll do away with that too. I'll see if I can dig up some stats on people banking and paying bills online. Not everyone does, and the reason is, typically, the same fear that has people afraid of electronic voting.
The reason it provides a sense of security is precisely because it is a hard copy.

If there needs to be a recount, it should be done with paper, by hand, if paper is available. A recount by machine will give you the same result that you originally got, if the machine has een told "how" to count the votes.

Of course machines *could* be better than paper and humans. But I at least see two very humongous differences (that should require paper trails for voting) between online banking and electronic voting, in terms of accountability.

Do you?

One is that I am not particularly concerned if your finances are messed with. I also have recourse to follow my own finances and take legal action if they are messed with.

But I care very strongly about how your vote is counted, and as things stand there is little that I can do to ensure that your vote is properly counted.

Two is that were I the head of these companies, I'd be raking in the dough legally. Why on Earth would I fiddle with the banking machines? I'm rich already. But elections ---- this is huge. If I can throw an election this can allow me to make sure the candidates that best represent my personal ideology on ... religion, business, privacy, education, etc ...get into office.

Do you see that there might be a different level of motivation to screw with one technology and not the other?
 
  • #10
I've brought it up before how other countries (including poorer third-world countries) have better voting systems than the U.S. If you do some research on this, you will see that receipts are used for hard copy verification and primarily for purposes of recount. Any American arguing against more reliable voting and verification methods in the U.S. is unpatriotic (and off their rock).
 
  • #11
russ_watters said:
It doesn't trouble me at all that they'd be accepting it for the wrong reasons. Sometimes an irrational fear of a hypochondriac must be placated with a placebo.

Sure Russ all people who want an honest vote count that can be substantiated must be hypochondrics. That comment was disingenuous and rude.

Many voters are wondering if they should be worried about the coming election. Unfortunately, the answer is yes, though not for the reasons you might think. Most experts agree that it's highly unlikely a hacker could walk into a polling place and throw an election. But the electronic nature of the new voting machines, combined with their lack of a physical audit trail for each vote, leaves a hole that crooks with inside access could exploit.

http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,115608,00.asp
 
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  • #12
Skyhunter said:
That is not why people have a fear of electronic voting.
This is;
That quote that you posted does not disagree with what I said. In fact, I think it reinforces it.
pattylou said:
One is that I am not particularly concerned if your finances are messed with. I also have recourse to follow my own finances and take legal action if they are messed with.

But I care very strongly about how your vote is counted, and as things stand there is little that I can do to ensure that your vote is properly counted.
I see what you are saying, but how is that an important difference? Either way, you want the count to be accurate.
Two is that were I the head of these companies, I'd be raking in the dough legally. Why on Earth would I fiddle with the banking machines? I'm rich already. But elections ---- this is huge. If I can throw an election this can allow me to make sure the candidates that best represent my personal ideology on ... religion, business, privacy, education, etc ...get into office.
Huh? The CEO of Deibold is rich too. Why would the ceo of Deibold desire power, but the ceo of a bank not desire power? Better yet, you imply that the CEO of a bank desires money - well, doesn't that motivate him to steal mine? Regardless, what does this have to do with anything? There are lots of times in life that you have to deal with inherrent conflicts of interest. And they are dealt with successfully all the time. The fact that the ceo of Deibold could have a conflict of interest (if he's a political ideologue with an adjenda) doesn't automatically mean he must have (or will in the future) acted illegally.

That's the same logical fallacy that we deal with every time this issue comes up: just because something could happen, doesn't mean it will (or has) happen[ed]. Again, it's the same irrational basis for fear as the fear of flying.
SOS said:
I've brought it up before how other countries (including poorer third-world countries) have better voting systems than the U.S.
Actually, I don't recall ever seeing that. Could you provide me a link to peruse? Paper balloting has inherrent flaws. It is impossible for the errors to be completely eliminated.
edward said:
Sure Russ all people who want an honest vote count that can be substantiated must be hypochondrics. That comment was disingenuous and rude.
I'm sure it isn't all, edward, but it clearly is a significant fraction. From previous conversations - and the above - it is clear that what many people are most concerned with is perception, not reality. In fact, you guys have succeeded in getting me to change my opinion - just not for the reason you would have hoped: I now fully support the idea of printing out paper receipts for people, for the sole purpose of making them feel better about the election.

You are right: it is a placebo effect. If a person goes into a doctor's office complaining of some ailment and the doctor finds that they are not sick, the doctor might prescribe a placebo. The patient may really feel sick, and the placebo really will make them feel better, so there is nothing wrong with that. If people need that security blanket, fine. Give it to them.
 
  • #13
Hey Russ:

I am referring to "banking" as in ATM machines (and other electronic banking services) manufactured by Diebold.

So, same CEO in both scenarios.

I think that lack of clarification in my previous post may be the source of your "hunh? What does this have to do with anything?"
 
  • #14
In particular (SOS):
Since 2000, there has been a continuing trend in the reduction of the number of ballots cast without valid votes. In 2000, undervotes and overvotes accounted for 2.9302% of the votes cast in the presidential race. In 2002, that number dropped to 0.7766% due, in large part, to a change in the voting systems that were certified for use in the State. The most recent election cycle saw yet another reduction in that number, dropping it to a historically low 0.4116%. An unprecedented statewide, non-partisan voter education campaign combined with the fact that voters continue to become more accustomed to using new technologies, have contributed greatly to the continuation of this trend.
http://www.tcf.org/list.asp?type=RR&pubid=683

That's somewhere on the order of 175,000 more votes counted in the 2004 election than in the 2000 election in Florida due to the reduction in undervotes.
 
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  • #15
russ_watters said:
If people need that security blanket, fine. Give it to them.
YAY!

I wonder why the CEO's of Diebold, Sequoia, and ES&S don't hold this position?
 
  • #16
pattylou said:
Hey Russ:
I am referring to "banking" as in ATM machines (and other electronic banking services) manufactured by Diebold.
So, same CEO in both scenarios.
I think that lack of clarification in my previous post may be the source of your "hunh? What does this have to do with anything?"
I hadn't realized that you were talking about him in both cases, but the "huh?" still stands: if the CEO of Deibold is the thieving bastard you think he is, why would he not be stealing our money as well as our votes?
 
  • #17
pattylou said:
YAY!
I wonder why the CEO's of Diebold, Sequoia, and ES&S don't hold this position?
Probably because they know it is pointless. Being an engineer, I typically despise doing pointless things, but every now and then, you realize you need to...

Did you know that a significant fraction of thermostats in office buildings don't allow temperature control even though they have adjustment sliders/dials? The reason: if you let people think they can control the temperature in their office, they will complain less (and, in fact, the system will work better because they aren't screwing with it).
 
  • #18
russ_watters said:
Actually, I don't recall ever seeing that. Could you provide me a link to peruse? Paper balloting has inherrent flaws. It is impossible for the errors to be completely eliminated.
SOS2008 said:
If you do some research on this
Very quickly:

http://www.louiseferguson.com/resources/evoting-row.htm
Summary:
The 92 member team monitoring the U.S. presidential election caused a minor controversy with their invitation by the State Department in June. For many Americans, the sheer presence of international monitors is a shameful indicator of America’s fallen world status. Reporting on the differences between the US election and other national votes, the monitors reported that “they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system.”
http://silverback.gnn.tv/headlines/116/Better_Fail_Safes_in_Venezuela

http://euro.ecom.cmu.edu/resources/elibrary/evotinglinks.shtml

etc.
 
  • #19
russ_watters said:
I hadn't realized that you were talking about him in both cases, but the "huh?" still stands: if the CEO of Deibold is the thieving bastard you think he is, why would he not be stealing our money as well as our votes?
For the reasons I gave.

Assume a person wants money and power.

He has money legally. Why risk jail time by stealing what you already have?
Power... Hmmmm. How oh how could I as the CEO of Diebold get power? Let's see, I have all these machines --- [strike]controlling[/strike] counting 80 percent of the votes in the country...

Hmmm...

-Patty

p.s. why doesn't the strike tag work?
 
  • #20
And again, as infuriating as it is, I am not saying that this is what happened.

You have expressed opinions on this and your tone by and large has been: This is a non-issue. I am curious if you find the idea that fraud happened, more legitimate - given the GAO's report.

"[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

If you do think the idea carries more weight since this bipartisan governmental panel says that miscounts and loss of votes in electronic voting occured, then do you think that we should address the problems, with electronic voting machines, that they identified?
 
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  • #21
russ_watters said:
If a person goes into a doctor's office complaining of some ailment and the doctor finds that they are not sick, the doctor might prescribe a placebo. The patient may really feel sick, and the placebo really will make them feel better, so there is nothing wrong with that. If people need that security blanket, fine. Give it to them.

How you came up with this comaprison is beyond all logical reason, other than to satisfy your own opinion, it has no verifiable value. In light of the fact that voter machine fraud has such a high degree of possibility, and has been in the news for the last five years, I will tend to agree with the experts.

It can be shockingly easy to tamper with vote counts on new machines. Software can be altered, subroutines slipped in by dishonest technicians to manipulate the vote in any way desired. Such fraud would be nearly impossible to detect, in large part because the companies that make the machines consider the code to be proprietary, and state and county officials are prohibited from examining it. Just as troubling, says voting technology expert Rebecca Mercuri, computer-administered elections can be much harder—even impossible—to check, audit, and recount, because systems increasingly record votes only electronically, eliminating paper trails. Without physical ballots to check, voters have no way of knowing whether machines are accurately casting their votes.

http://www.southernstudies.org/reports/votingmachines-new.htm
 
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  • #22
russ_watters said:
Probably because they know it is pointless. Being an engineer, I typically despise doing pointless things, but every now and then, you realize you need to...
Did you know that a significant fraction of thermostats in office buildings don't allow temperature control even though they have adjustment sliders/dials? The reason: if you let people think they can control the temperature in their office, they will complain less (and, in fact, the system will work better because they aren't screwing with it).
Good analogy Russ. So if you let people think their electronic vote counts and that they elected the govenment they are less likely to complain about what that gov't does. So that's how it works.
 
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  • #23
More of the same, but with a few statements that sound more damning:
GAO QUESTIONS PREZ VOTE
Thursday, October 27, 2005 - FreeMarketNews.com

Widespread complaints of electronic voting machine irregularities during the 2004 election led John Conyers (D-MI) to ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the election in key states particularly Ohio. Release of the investigation’s extensive findings of voting irregularities have as yet received little coverage in the mainstream media.

Alone of major democracies, the US permits private partisan corporations to secretly count and tabulate votes with proprietary non-transparent software. One such supplier was Warren O’Dell CEO of Diebold who publically said he would deliver Ohio to George W. Bush. The GAO report does not say this happened explicitly but does indicate substantial issues with the electronic voting machines in that "battleground" state. The report indicates that some electronic voting machines “did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, this making it possible to alter them without detection; many sworn statements indicated voters voted for one candidate but were recorded as voting for another."

The GAO also found
  • * election results could be changed by using altered memory cards (Hursti report);

    *access to one machine gave access to whole network because password protection was sporadic or non existent;

    *easily guessed passwords and same user IDs made hacking into Ohio voter tallies easy for even amateur hackers.

Locks and keys were easy to discover. Power failures could affect voter access and counting. Vendor personnel being private were not properly screened.

Exit polls showed Kerry leading in Ohio until the very last when an unexplained shift in voter tallies gave Bush a win there. Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico had similar shifts in the last few hours before Bush was declared winner. FMNN has reported previously that several whistleblowers have already come forward anonymously to warn that Diebold was aware of a software loophole that might allow tampering and had done nothing to fix it.

Just as mysterious is the rush to implement electronic voting systems without any backup accounting elements around the country after the initial Bush/Gore election fiasco in Florida. -NH

So if Diebold whistleblowers "warn that Diebold was aware of a software loophole that might allow tampering and had done nothing to fix it" ...

... then why would Diebold's CEO consider a paper trail "pointless," Russ? (per post 17).
 
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Related to Government Accountability Report on voting machines

1. What is the Government Accountability Report (GAR) on voting machines?

The Government Accountability Report (GAR) on voting machines is a comprehensive report released by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) that evaluates the security and reliability of the voting machines used in the United States elections. It assesses the effectiveness of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in ensuring the integrity of voting machines and identifies potential vulnerabilities in the voting system.

2. What are the key findings of the GAR on voting machines?

The key findings of the GAR on voting machines include the fact that many voting machines used in the United States are outdated and susceptible to hacking, there is a lack of federal oversight and coordination in testing and certifying these machines, and there is a lack of transparency in the processes of voting machine manufacturers.

3. How does the GAR impact the security of our elections?

The GAR serves as an important tool for identifying potential vulnerabilities in the voting system and highlighting areas that need improvement. It also raises awareness about the importance of maintaining the security and integrity of our elections. The findings and recommendations of the GAR can inform policymakers and election officials in implementing measures to safeguard our elections.

4. What actions have been taken as a result of the GAR?

The GAR has prompted the EAC to make improvements in their oversight and certification process for voting machines. It has also led to increased funding for states to upgrade their voting systems and implement security measures. Additionally, some states have taken steps to replace outdated voting machines and implement more secure voting practices.

5. How can I access the full GAR on voting machines?

The full Government Accountability Report (GAR) on voting machines can be accessed on the GAO website. It is available for download in PDF format and can also be requested in a printed copy. The report can also be accessed through various news outlets and government websites.

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