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Democracy Expires



 
 
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  #1  
Old March 6th 04, 03:57 PM
Grantland
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Democracy Expires

From: DaarkSyde

A Deafening Silence As
Democracy Expires
The Perfect World Of Electronic Voting
By Brian Barry
CounterPunch.org
3-5-4


"This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections
are now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or
prove fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are
free of fraud."

I've always wondered what sound Democracy would make if it died.

On Tuesday night, I found out in Santa Clara, California. The sound it
makes is a deafening silence, and it sent chills up and down my spine.
This sound scared me more than anything I've ever heard in my life.

That night I experienced the illusion of casting my vote on a state of
the art touch screen "DRE" (direct recording electronic) computer
voting system. The poll workers were helpful and showed me how to
vote. However, when I asked them a detailed question such as, who is
the vendor that makes these voting machines, all I got was a blank
stare. Do you have any information on these machines? No answer. I had
to examine the machines myself to find out who made them. I didn't
know that my most basic question was going to be a rhetorical one.

The particular model I went through the motions of voting on was an
"AVC Edge" with a software (firmware) version of 4.2.4 (according to
the label on the back), manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems of
Oakland, California. However, the software version number displayed on
the touch screen was 4.2, not 4.2.4. (Should I be concerned that the
software running didn't match the label on the back?) You can even
view a demonstration of how the AVC Edge works on their company web
site.

The poll worker politely programmed a smart card for me with my
political party affiliation. I inserted the card into the voting
machine which started the voting process. The voting machine displayed
my choices to me based on my political party and I made all my choices
very easily by touching the screen.

I didn't make a single mistake.

After I completed making all my selections, the screen displayed this
message: "Touch Here To Cast Your Ballot". So I did.

Then the machine displayed this message:

"Recording Vote. Please Wait."

A couple of moments went by, then the machine displayed this final
message:

"Vote Recorded, Thank You"

I waited for the output. Nothing happened. Ok, I guess I was done
voting.

It would have been a wonderful experience except for one thing. There
was something missing. Something very important.

There was no human-readable, physical evidence that my vote had been
captured and stored the way that I had intended. Sequoia claims that
my vote was stored inside that machine, but there was no way to verify
this. Since there was no physical voting document produced, there was
also no way to recount my vote if the election was ever disputed.

Why wasn't the machine creating a punched card showing my vote
selections? Why wasn't the machine printing a sheet of paper that
could be optically scanned showing how I voted that I could read
myself to verify that it recorded my choices correctly? Where was that
physical output that would be used to actually count my vote and that
would also be used during a recount if one was necessary. Without the
physical output, how could anyone ever do an audit?

Human monitoring of the step between capturing of the votes and
counting of the votes has been eliminated and instead has been placed
under corporate control.

This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections
are now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or
prove fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are
free of fraud. Sequoia says on their web site that "No other company
can match Sequoia's pedigree and reputation for accurate, trouble free
elections." How could anyone ever prove them wrong?

Fraud-free elections. That's one less thing to worry about.

The last step in my voting exercise came after the polls closed. The
poll worker opened up the voting machine from the back and removed
what looked like a flash card (like what you put into your digital
camera). The flash card said "128 MB" on it, which is a large storage
capacity. This is like an electronic floppy disk and anyone in
possession of it can modify its contents. Why did they choose a medium
for storing the votes that can be modified?

When I was done voting, nothing came out of this "Direct Recording
Electronic (DRE)" voting machine. But I had completely misunderstood
the purpose of this exercise.

The purpose of this voting exercise wasn't to capture my vote.

The purpose of this voting exercise was to demonstrate to me the power
that corporations now have to control the entire voting process from
the capture of my vote, to recording it, all the way through the
counting process. If the voting machine modified or deleted my vote,
would anyone notice?

One company now can do it all. They have the Holy Grail. I was
impressed but also horrified by this display of power, because
unfortunately, that also means we no longer live in a democracy.

If the voting machine had generated a human-readable physical document
showing my vote selections that I could visually verify, then hand
carry over to the poll worker and hand to them and say, "here is my
vote", I could then watch them place this vote document into a sealed
and locked box, just like they did last fall when they were still
using punched cards.

I'm not interested in a printed receipt to take home with me showing
how I voted. This isn't a grocery store. I don't need to be convinced
that the voting machine has captured my vote. I already saw my vote
selections on screen. What I want to know is that my vote gets counted
unmodified.

If the voting machine had captured my voting selections into a
physical form that I could then verify and that I also knew, and this
is the important part, that I also knew would be used to count my vote
and would also be used in a recount if that were required. It's
important that the physical output be used in the normal process of
counting all the votes, not just used only if there's an audit. If the
voting machine had been designed to do that, well then I would say,
what a great improvement on voting this was. How much easier it is now
to vote.

But that's not what happened. Nothing came out of the machine.

The voting machine sat there silently, without even the soft hum of a
fan to remind me that it was a computer.

I was supposed to trust that this voting machine, which is a physical
expression of the intent of the Sequoia Voting Systems Corporation to
make a profit, was going to take good care of my vote.

Democracy isn't about trust. Democracy is about distrust.

It's ironic that Sequoia's web site quotes Winston Churchill's remark
he made in 1947 that "democracy is the worst form of government except
all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Democracy didn't just die last night in Santa Clara, California. It
was silently strangled. The noise was deafening. Was I the only one
that heard it?

- Brian D. Barry is an activist and computer scientist interested in
democracy living in Silicon Valley, California. He can be reached at:


http://www.counterpunch.org/barry03042004.html

Ads
  #2  
Old March 6th 04, 04:08 PM
Thomas J. Paladino Jr.
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I have to pretty much agree with this article. Fully electronic voting
machines are a horrible, horrible idea. Everyone needs to do whatever they
can to stop them from gaining ground because there are just too many ways to
hack them and bury the evidence.

Mind you, I am all for making voting easier and more accurate, but some kind
of printed record needs to be produced for each vote that these machines
record. Period. There is no other way around this.


"Grantland" wrote in message
...
From: DaarkSyde

A Deafening Silence As
Democracy Expires
The Perfect World Of Electronic Voting
By Brian Barry
CounterPunch.org
3-5-4


"This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections
are now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or
prove fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are
free of fraud."

I've always wondered what sound Democracy would make if it died.

On Tuesday night, I found out in Santa Clara, California. The sound it
makes is a deafening silence, and it sent chills up and down my spine.
This sound scared me more than anything I've ever heard in my life.

That night I experienced the illusion of casting my vote on a state of
the art touch screen "DRE" (direct recording electronic) computer
voting system. The poll workers were helpful and showed me how to
vote. However, when I asked them a detailed question such as, who is
the vendor that makes these voting machines, all I got was a blank
stare. Do you have any information on these machines? No answer. I had
to examine the machines myself to find out who made them. I didn't
know that my most basic question was going to be a rhetorical one.

The particular model I went through the motions of voting on was an
"AVC Edge" with a software (firmware) version of 4.2.4 (according to
the label on the back), manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems of
Oakland, California. However, the software version number displayed on
the touch screen was 4.2, not 4.2.4. (Should I be concerned that the
software running didn't match the label on the back?) You can even
view a demonstration of how the AVC Edge works on their company web
site.

The poll worker politely programmed a smart card for me with my
political party affiliation. I inserted the card into the voting
machine which started the voting process. The voting machine displayed
my choices to me based on my political party and I made all my choices
very easily by touching the screen.

I didn't make a single mistake.

After I completed making all my selections, the screen displayed this
message: "Touch Here To Cast Your Ballot". So I did.

Then the machine displayed this message:

"Recording Vote. Please Wait."

A couple of moments went by, then the machine displayed this final
message:

"Vote Recorded, Thank You"

I waited for the output. Nothing happened. Ok, I guess I was done
voting.

It would have been a wonderful experience except for one thing. There
was something missing. Something very important.

There was no human-readable, physical evidence that my vote had been
captured and stored the way that I had intended. Sequoia claims that
my vote was stored inside that machine, but there was no way to verify
this. Since there was no physical voting document produced, there was
also no way to recount my vote if the election was ever disputed.

Why wasn't the machine creating a punched card showing my vote
selections? Why wasn't the machine printing a sheet of paper that
could be optically scanned showing how I voted that I could read
myself to verify that it recorded my choices correctly? Where was that
physical output that would be used to actually count my vote and that
would also be used during a recount if one was necessary. Without the
physical output, how could anyone ever do an audit?

Human monitoring of the step between capturing of the votes and
counting of the votes has been eliminated and instead has been placed
under corporate control.

This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections
are now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or
prove fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are
free of fraud. Sequoia says on their web site that "No other company
can match Sequoia's pedigree and reputation for accurate, trouble free
elections." How could anyone ever prove them wrong?

Fraud-free elections. That's one less thing to worry about.

The last step in my voting exercise came after the polls closed. The
poll worker opened up the voting machine from the back and removed
what looked like a flash card (like what you put into your digital
camera). The flash card said "128 MB" on it, which is a large storage
capacity. This is like an electronic floppy disk and anyone in
possession of it can modify its contents. Why did they choose a medium
for storing the votes that can be modified?

When I was done voting, nothing came out of this "Direct Recording
Electronic (DRE)" voting machine. But I had completely misunderstood
the purpose of this exercise.

The purpose of this voting exercise wasn't to capture my vote.

The purpose of this voting exercise was to demonstrate to me the power
that corporations now have to control the entire voting process from
the capture of my vote, to recording it, all the way through the
counting process. If the voting machine modified or deleted my vote,
would anyone notice?

One company now can do it all. They have the Holy Grail. I was
impressed but also horrified by this display of power, because
unfortunately, that also means we no longer live in a democracy.

If the voting machine had generated a human-readable physical document
showing my vote selections that I could visually verify, then hand
carry over to the poll worker and hand to them and say, "here is my
vote", I could then watch them place this vote document into a sealed
and locked box, just like they did last fall when they were still
using punched cards.

I'm not interested in a printed receipt to take home with me showing
how I voted. This isn't a grocery store. I don't need to be convinced
that the voting machine has captured my vote. I already saw my vote
selections on screen. What I want to know is that my vote gets counted
unmodified.

If the voting machine had captured my voting selections into a
physical form that I could then verify and that I also knew, and this
is the important part, that I also knew would be used to count my vote
and would also be used in a recount if that were required. It's
important that the physical output be used in the normal process of
counting all the votes, not just used only if there's an audit. If the
voting machine had been designed to do that, well then I would say,
what a great improvement on voting this was. How much easier it is now
to vote.

But that's not what happened. Nothing came out of the machine.

The voting machine sat there silently, without even the soft hum of a
fan to remind me that it was a computer.

I was supposed to trust that this voting machine, which is a physical
expression of the intent of the Sequoia Voting Systems Corporation to
make a profit, was going to take good care of my vote.

Democracy isn't about trust. Democracy is about distrust.

It's ironic that Sequoia's web site quotes Winston Churchill's remark
he made in 1947 that "democracy is the worst form of government except
all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Democracy didn't just die last night in Santa Clara, California. It
was silently strangled. The noise was deafening. Was I the only one
that heard it?

- Brian D. Barry is an activist and computer scientist interested in
democracy living in Silicon Valley, California. He can be reached at:


http://www.counterpunch.org/barry03042004.html



  #4  
Old March 6th 04, 05:32 PM
Ed Rasimus
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On 06 Mar 2004 17:03:57 GMT, (Dav1936531) wrote:

From: "Thomas J. Paladino Jr."



I have to pretty much agree with this article. Fully electronic voting
machines are a horrible, horrible idea.


Absolutely. The lack of a paper receipt of how a vote was cast is the first
step towards creating a "banana republic" wherein elections are stolen and
fraud rules. Trustworthy recounts will be impossible.

If Bush wants to make Constitutional amendments, amend the Constitution so that
a paper receipt is required in all votes at Federal, State, and possibly even
the local level.

And I am truly concerned that the electorate of the US doesn't seem to be too
concerned about the potential for abuse these voting computers represent.
Dave


You guys have to be kidding. Or, you've never paid attention during
the years of voting before an electronic terminal. Where have you been
keeping all of your previous paper voting receipts? Oh, you forgot
that you've never before gotten such a document?

When I grew up in Chicago (that citadel of Democratic democracy and
vast Republican wasteland), we voted with large mechanical machines.
You entered a big telephone booth sort of kiosk and clicked little
levers down to select your candidate, then moved a huge railroad
switch sort of master lever to "cast" your ballot. No receipt, no
returns. All done and all the records are in the big metal box.

Now, after the brouhaha about hanging chads, you want technology to
fix the problem, but not really?

So, you mark with a pencil (a #2 pencil) and scribble a spot in an
oval. You put the paper through a slot into a box to be read by a
Scantron. Are you sure that happens today? Are you sure that box makes
it down from the polling place to the County courthouse? It always
has.

Paranoia serves no useful purpose. With both sides observing elections
and all players buying into the system, the reliability of high tech
voting shouldn't be dangerously compromised.

And, regarding the original author's piece--does it make a difference
where the machine was made? Is there a lot of significance if the
software is noted as version 4.2.4 on the back and only 4.2 on the
screen? Gimme a break.


Ed Rasimus
Fighter Pilot (USAF-Ret)
"When Thunder Rolled"
Smithsonian Institution Press
ISBN #1-58834-103-8
  #5  
Old March 6th 04, 06:40 PM
[email protected]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

"Thomas J. Paladino Jr." wrote:

I have to pretty much agree with this article. Fully electronic voting
machines are a horrible, horrible idea. Everyone needs to do whatever they
can to stop them from gaining ground because there are just too many ways to
hack them and bury the evidence.

Mind you, I am all for making voting easier and more accurate, but some kind
of printed record needs to be produced for each vote that these machines
record. Period. There is no other way around this.


I agree...there's no accountability with this system and human
nature, being what it is, cannot be trusted without it.
--

-Gord.
  #6  
Old March 6th 04, 08:12 PM
BUFDRVR
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

When I grew up in Chicago (that citadel of Democratic democracy and
vast Republican wasteland), we voted with large mechanical machines.


Which, according to some, were rigged in the 1960 election in favor of JFK. So
much for the infalability of "recorded paper votes".


BUFDRVR

"Stay on the bomb run boys, I'm gonna get those bomb doors open if it harelips
everyone on Bear Creek"
  #7  
Old March 6th 04, 09:38 PM
Thomas J. Paladino Jr.
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


"Ed Rasimus" wrote in message
...
On 06 Mar 2004 17:03:57 GMT, (Dav1936531) wrote:

From: "Thomas J. Paladino Jr."



I have to pretty much agree with this article. Fully electronic voting
machines are a horrible, horrible idea.


Absolutely. The lack of a paper receipt of how a vote was cast is the

first
step towards creating a "banana republic" wherein elections are stolen

and
fraud rules. Trustworthy recounts will be impossible.

If Bush wants to make Constitutional amendments, amend the Constitution

so that
a paper receipt is required in all votes at Federal, State, and possibly

even
the local level.

And I am truly concerned that the electorate of the US doesn't seem to be

too
concerned about the potential for abuse these voting computers represent.
Dave


You guys have to be kidding. Or, you've never paid attention during
the years of voting before an electronic terminal. Where have you been
keeping all of your previous paper voting receipts? Oh, you forgot
that you've never before gotten such a document?

When I grew up in Chicago (that citadel of Democratic democracy and
vast Republican wasteland), we voted with large mechanical machines.
You entered a big telephone booth sort of kiosk and clicked little
levers down to select your candidate, then moved a huge railroad
switch sort of master lever to "cast" your ballot. No receipt, no
returns. All done and all the records are in the big metal box.

Now, after the brouhaha about hanging chads, you want technology to
fix the problem, but not really?

So, you mark with a pencil (a #2 pencil) and scribble a spot in an
oval. You put the paper through a slot into a box to be read by a
Scantron. Are you sure that happens today? Are you sure that box makes
it down from the polling place to the County courthouse? It always
has.

Paranoia serves no useful purpose. With both sides observing elections
and all players buying into the system, the reliability of high tech
voting shouldn't be dangerously compromised.

And, regarding the original author's piece--does it make a difference
where the machine was made? Is there a lot of significance if the
software is noted as version 4.2.4 on the back and only 4.2 on the
screen? Gimme a break.


No, you're absolutely right, and I don't think that paranoia is helpful
either. But this technology has too many ways to screw up (and here in NYC
we still use those big telephone booth lever/crank things). At least
somewhere there needs to be a paper trail for all involved parties to audit.

There was a large conference of IT professionals and software industry
bigwigs who came out strongly against these all-electronic systems,
basically saying that there would be no possible way to go through all the
code on these machines and detect any tampering or design flaw with enough
accuracy to base elections on. And even so, it would be too complex for
laymen (the people) to actually go through and check themselves. We would
always be relying on some kind of professional (who may or may not have an
agenda) to examine these records for us and give them a thumbs up or down.
Regardless of the result, there will always be far too many questions left
unanswerable.

Will a paper record, regardless of what the software people say, ordinary
people can subpoena the records and count the votes by hand. Since they are
machine printed, there are no doubts about hanging chads and such. And
people should get a copy of the paper record as well, so that they can
verify their vote. A simple printer with carbon paper connected to these
machines would solve all the problems. One copy goes to the voter, the other
straight into a box in the machine.







  #8  
Old March 7th 04, 02:47 AM
Pete
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


"Ed Rasimus" wrote

You guys have to be kidding. Or, you've never paid attention during
the years of voting before an electronic terminal. Where have you been
keeping all of your previous paper voting receipts? Oh, you forgot
that you've never before gotten such a document?

When I grew up in Chicago (that citadel of Democratic democracy and
vast Republican wasteland), we voted with large mechanical machines.
You entered a big telephone booth sort of kiosk and clicked little
levers down to select your candidate, then moved a huge railroad
switch sort of master lever to "cast" your ballot. No receipt, no
returns. All done and all the records are in the big metal box.

Now, after the brouhaha about hanging chads, you want technology to
fix the problem, but not really?

So, you mark with a pencil (a #2 pencil) and scribble a spot in an
oval. You put the paper through a slot into a box to be read by a
Scantron. Are you sure that happens today? Are you sure that box makes
it down from the polling place to the County courthouse? It always
has.

Paranoia serves no useful purpose. With both sides observing elections
and all players buying into the system, the reliability of high tech
voting shouldn't be dangerously compromised.

And, regarding the original author's piece--does it make a difference
where the machine was made? Is there a lot of significance if the
software is noted as version 4.2.4 on the back and only 4.2 on the
screen? Gimme a break.


It might. What was inserted for the x.x.4 version? Was it recertified by a
bipartisan group before the election?

The problem I have with the current crop of e-voting systems is lack of
implementation control.

It *could* be done well, but that doesn't appear to be happening.

Reports of vendor techs removing systems back to the office for 'repair' and
no recertification prior to the election, untrained poll workers ("How do I
restart this?"), and swept under the rug 'known problems'.

One election system last year(?) used MS Access as the backend DB. While
Access may be a good smallscale tool, it is nowhere near secure or stable
enough to be trusted to handle an election. Expecially when the db is left
on a LAN, unsecured. Anyone could change the data, and no one would know. I
use and develop in Access daily, and would never, ever consider it for an
election system.

Even worse is the wireless solutions. Each booth is wirelessly connected to
a central server. Given the lack of controls in other areas, how locked down
is that wireless traffic?

What e-voting purports to fix is the user interface. Chads evidently have a
problem. 'Filling in the circles' is the same. People screw it up.
So fix that. A good GUI, maybe on a touch screen, prints out a standard
'vote'. Circles filled in the same way, every time. The voter slides it into
the Scantron scanner, and the paper is retained in the locked box in case of
future need/verification/recount.

Not much different than now, but you won't have stray marks on the paper, or
hanging chads. The part the voter touches (the 'computer touchscreen') is
merely a printer, not a tabulator/reporter.

A company where the CEO states "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its
electoral votes to the President", and gives sizeable campaign funds should
not be allowed to build and sell the machines and the software to deliver
those votes.
That he is pro-Republican makes no difference. If he were visbly
pro-Democrat, I'd feel exactly the same.

Just has that air of shadiness. "Use this. Trust us, it's secure"

Pete


  #9  
Old March 7th 04, 02:52 AM
Pete
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


"Thomas J. Paladino Jr." wrote . And
people should get a copy of the paper record as well, so that they can
verify their vote. A simple printer with carbon paper connected to these
machines would solve all the problems. One copy goes to the voter, the

other
straight into a box in the machine.


I disagree. The voter should *not* retain a copy. Too easy to cause a forced
vote.
"Tomorrow, after the election, bring your ballots to work. I assume you
voted for X. If you want to keep your job."

The voter should see and verify the printout, which then goes into the
locked box.

Pete


 




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