Monday, October 23, 2006

The Nightmare Before Election Day

It's a sequel to the holiday classic, currently playing in 3-D across America.

The plot: Karl Rovington, joining forces with the Ooga Busha man and the forces of Neo-Con Town, scurry down chimneys at polling places on Election Day, and perform unspeakable acts on vulnerable voting machines. Can they be stopped before Election Day is obliterated from the calendar forever?!

As scary as the plot sound, reality is even spookier.

Here are some election fraud updates to start the week. Click on the hyperlinks for the full story.

Maryland: Computer diskettes from '04 election get delivered anonymously to a former Democratic legislator with a warning to "save the state from itself."

From the Baltimore Sun:
As the FBI continued its review of the possible theft of the computer code used in Maryland's voting machines two years ago, Diebold and elections officials assured voters that the electronic voting system set to be used in next month's election is safe and tamperproof.

But critics of the state elections board and its touch-screen machines said the anonymous package left at a former legislator's office this week was another disturbing sign that Maryland's voting system could face a security threat.

From ABC News, which covered the Maryland story on Sunday, in a report they titled, "Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew Elections":
Diebold, the company that makes the voting machines, told ABC News, "These discs do not alter the security of the Diebold touch-screen system in any way," because election workers can set their own passwords.

But ABC News has obtained an independent report commissioned by the state of Maryland and conducted by Science Applications International Corporation revealing that the original Diebold factory passwords are still being used on many voting machines.

The SAIC study also shows myriad other security flaws, including administrative over-ride passwords that cannot be changed by local officials but can be used by hackers or those who have seen the discs.

California: From the land of 'we don't need no stinking tests'...

The Berkeley Daily Planet had an article, citing incomplete testing of the Sequoia voting machines, and quote a "voting rights activist," Phoebe Anne Thomas Sorgen,
“Last June, we succeeded in having them include security and hack-testing, and that’s not what was ultimately done” by the consultants. The problem, Sorgen said, remains with the electronic touchscreen voting machines which are part of the system, which are required by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) for the use of disabled persons, and which Sorgen calls “hackable.”

“There will only be one hackable machine per precinct,” she said, “but that could be enough to throw an election. We are all in favor of giving disabled persons private access to the vote, but that shouldn’t be on a machine that is hackable.”

Sorgen said that voting activists in the county will be urging citizens not to use the touchscreen machines “unless they have to for disability reasons.”

Op-Eds: A must-read is Dick Polman's column from Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Among his astute observations, this comment on 3-year old legislation from New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt, seeking to establish a paper-trail for touch-screen machines,
Republican leadership has shown no interest in pushing for a paper-trail law that, politically speaking, might appear to validate the concerns of their opponents. Even though Holt's paper-trail idea has 219 backers, only 22 of them are Republicans.

Equally valuable, Diane Carman, in the Denver Post. In a Sunday column, entitled "It's a Must: Hackerproof Democracy, Carman writes,
It's been four weeks since a judge said the secretary of state had done an "abysmal" job of certifying the security of the state's voting system and ordered emergency measures to try to ensure the integrity of the voting process.

That's 19 business days for clerks in all 64 Colorado counties to install video surveillance of voting machines, run background checks on anyone charged with transporting the equipment, put numbered security seals on all machines, provide climate-controlled storage and fulfill the rest of the judge's requirements before early voting begins.

Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle has called it "craziness."

He said the increased security measures could cost taxpayers $300,000 to $400,000, and "I felt very secure in what our processes were before."

Additionally, Carman refers to a stern courtroom ruling,
"The court concludes that the secretary has not established minimum security" as required by state statute "and did not adequately test" the electronic voting machines, Manzanares wrote. The secretary's office "did not carefully evaluate the county security plans and in some cases approved plans that do not substantially comply with the minimum requirements" of the law.

The judge's stinging criticism was particularly worrisome in light of the testimony that computer scientists from Prince ton University hacked into a voting machine made by Diebold Election Systems Inc. and reprogrammed it in one minute.

Diebold is one of four companies providing voting machines in Colorado.

Not just incidentally, it's also the company that was represented by lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff while the House Government Operations Committee was establishing rules for electronic voting systems. And that committee was chaired by Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, another convicted felon.

Finally, Carman blasts the GOP powers-that-be for dragging their feet and concludes,
If the U.S. is willing to sacrifice life and limb for the cause of democracy abroad, the least it can do is find the money to keep it from becoming a laughingstock at home.

I think we can all say "Amen" to that.

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