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Thursday, September 22, 2005

One nation, under Diebold (part III)

Update day, verse three.

I received a reply from Russ Madison on Monday to the e-mail that I sent him last Friday. Sorry it's taken me so long to post it, with the various car problems that I've been dealing with this week, it slipped my mind.

Mr. Smith:

Thank you again for your comments. As I mentioned in my last email to you, we take seriously the concerns of those who have reservations about our touch screen voting platform.

The alert you referenced stems from a Black Box Voting report on alleged security issues in Florida. The election supervisor in Leon County unfortunately allowed unauthorized Black Box Voting activists full and unrestricted access to his GEMS server, and provided his “secret” passwords. Unrestricted and uncontrolled access by the general public to any election management and tabulation system, including mechanical and paper-based systems, could result in a serious compromise of the accuracy and legitimacy of any real-world election, which is why all responsible election officials have clear security protocols for access to voting and tabulation equipment.

If you have read the report, you will note that it purports to have been able to alter the system in two ways. First, the activists claim to have been able to add additional votes to an individual candidate’s vote total. In truth, what was changed were figures in the data tables within the election software. They did not alter the votes on the memory card, nor the internal results of the archived files, which would be easily discernible upon a quick audit of the results.

The second claim made by the activists was the ability to alter an optical scan memory card. In truth, the only portion of the memory card which was accessed was the portion of the card which records written text that appears on the printed tapes. The actual votes could not be accessed nor altered. The activists would not have been able to load the memory card back into the GEMS server because the server will not recognize any memory card which has been changed once it has been downloaded for an election. Were someone able to access a server and change the text on the printed tapes, this security beach would be identified during Logic and Accuracy testing.

Georgia has an extensive testing regimen—beginning with national certification testing and continuing with state certification testing, acceptance testing of all system components, and Logic and Accuracy testing prior to each election. And contrary to what you stated, official election returns in Georgia never include results "uploaded to the central tabulator via modem." While unofficial results may be transmitted by modem, these reports are optional and are completely unofficial.

Basic information on electronic voting in Georgia can be found on our website [here]. Thank you.

Russ Madison, Jr.
State Elections Division
Suite 1104, West Tower
2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. S.E.
Atlanta, GA 30334-1505

You'll note that with the exception of my statement that the data for Fulton and DeKalb counties were uploaded remotely (my information was taken from the interview with the person who works at Diebold), he does not address any of the concerns that I listed.

Specificly,

  • He doesn't state that his office was ever aware of the US-CERT alert issued before last year's election. Yes, the basis for that alert was the research done by Black Box Voting. However, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team considered the problem significant enough to send out the alert. I would've expect that alerts from the Department of Homeland Security wouldn't be dismissed so cavalierly.
  • He doesn't acknowledge that a Diebold insider has verified the vulnerablilites, and admitted that the company has both long known about the potential problem, and has taken no actions to correct it.
  • And he doesn't state that his office is either planning on taking any action either to correct the problem and/or to hold Diebold responsible.

It doesn't seem as though more letters with that office will be of any use. Maybe the way to go is to contact the AJC.

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