Ohio voting machines confiscated in criminal investigation
Ohio investigators are treating a warehouse where 15 electronic voting machines have been quarantined as a crime scene following a report someone may have illegally tampered with them to remove a candidate's name from the ballot.
Officials from Ohio's Franklin County Board of Elections asked for a forensic analysis of the touch screen machines after Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner reported seeing something she regarded as odd while voting during last November's election: A gray bar and the words "candidate withdrawn" appeared where candidate Jay Perez's name should have been. Brunner's husband, who was using a nearby machine at the same time, said Perez was on his ballot.
"This is a huge problem," Brunner told The Columbus Dispatch. "There is great concern that not every voter has the same ballot."
Investigators have already found that last April someone manually disabled a logging feature in Franklin County machines that is designed to help officials track unauthorized changes to the devices. They also found that many of the machines hadn't been tested prior to the November election, according to preliminary results submitted by SysTest Labs, a Colorado quality assurance and testing company.
Ohio has a checkered history with elections. Two state elections officials were convicted of rigging a 2004 recount after admitting to doing precounts and displaying the evidence while being videotaped. Last year, a study commissioned by Brunner's office found state e-voting machines contained critical security failures that could jeopardize the integrity elections.
Brunner alerted the director of the Franklin County Board of Elections of the missing candidate a few days after the election and officials promptly pulled every suspect machine to check the ballots. Perez's name was listed on each one. Officials have also checked ballots and paper tapes, but have also found no evidence to support Brunner's account.
But she says there are reports from other precincts of voters seeing the same "candidate withdrawn" words on their machines.
Brunner has conceded investigators may never learn what really happened.
Separately, Princeton University Ed Felten said e-voting machine seller Sequoia Voting Systems has threatened him and a fellow researcher if they conduct an investigation into vulnerabilities into devices submitted by the state of New Jersey for testing. "We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property," a Sequoia attorney wrote, Felton reports. ®
Several places in the Free World already basically do it this way:
1) Voter uses machine to enter votes. Machine is in a
2) Voting machine spits out a human- and machine-readable paper with votes tallied on it. Machine displays summary of entered votes and maybe an image of what the printout should look like. Voter inspects and verifies his ballot.
3) If the voter decides that the ballot isn't correct, he puts it into another slot in the voting machine, where it is cross-cut shredded and the voter tries again.
4) If the voter approves the ballot, he takes it to the pollworkers' table. There he signs a form declaring that he has inspected and approved the ballot that is about to be put into the ballot box. He keeps one part of the form; the other is put into a box separate from the ballot box (where it can be counted later, to make sure that the number of affidavits and ballots match). There is an ID number on both parts of the form, but that does NOT match or get correlated with any information on the ballot proper....it's just an auditing check.
5) After the polls close, both sealed boxes (ballots and affidavits) get sent to the central counting location, where they are unsealed, counted, and the number of ballots matched against the number of affidavits.
1) If the number of ballots and affidavits for a precinct did NOT match, resolution would be difficult. Even if an electronic record were made by each voting machine as to how many votes had been cast, discrepancies would still risk endangering confidence in the election's integrity.
2) Manual recounts would be entirely practical, though difficult to match against voting-machine electronic records unless identifying/correlating information were added during the counting process - which would have its own set of problems.
I don't think anyone's yet come up with a plan for electronic or electronic-assisted voting thats sufficiently fraudproof and sufficiently idiotproof to trust a real election to it. Americans have learned not to trust "black boxes" in the voting booth, with good reason. While I wouldn't go quite so far as rd232, I am quite confident that highly motivated individuals and organizations are working to perfect his theory. At which point, comparing the US to a third-world banana republic would be even more egregiously unfair than it is already - to the third-world country in question. If we do not have transparent, straightforward, trustable elections, then nobody will trust them - not only the wingnuts on all sides, *everybody*. When that happens -- and if we keep going as we are, it IS 'when', not 'if' -- then the 'great experiment in democracy' will have been conclusively, objectively proven to have failed. Not that the theory is invalid - but in practice, the price of freedom IS eternal vigilance, and what was once the United States of America has been distracted, triangulated, hyperbolized and otherwise marginalized for a generation.
@Matt Caldwell and Bronek Kozicki
A few questions:
1) The tallies are not announced until after the polls close, so why is an instant tally of votes important?
2) Cannot the instant reading of the ballot be used to correlate how a given person voted?
3) Cryptographically signed papers and pens could be used to correlate votes to individuals too, no?
It seems to me that the old school manual method of holding an election is not broken, and does not need to be 'fixed'. Most of the 'fixes' proposed here, including yours' look a lot like application of computers merely because we can, not because there is a real benefit... and there are some possible serious ill effects.
Where there is Foreseeable Harm risk of Secrecy which could possibly be used/abused to hide embarassment and/or professional blundering, rather than hiding jealously guarded industry-specific Knowledge or notions of national security.
You only have to Ask 42 Make IT So:
Dear voters, we apologise unreservedly for this transgression of the voting system's integrity.
We seek to assuage your legitimate concerns by reintroducing a paper-based voting system with immediate effect, until such time as a reliable electronic voting machine can be built by a non-profit company. Further, the design of the machine case, user interface and software will be made internationally available for peer review, comment and subsequent improvements will be fully implemented.