Manipulation of Votes in Elections
Questioned in Key Newsweek Article
"Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems."
-- Newsweek, 5/29/06 issue
Our form of representative democracy is based on an elections system in which each person gets one vote and the majority decides who is elected to represent us in government. In order for this system to be truly representative, it is vital that the vote of each person participating is counted. The below Newsweek article reveals a clear and present danger to our democratic process with the widespread use of electronic voting machines. Major security flaws have been reported to exist in these machines for years now, yet the media appears not to have seen this as a high priority. Why isn't this vital news making the top headlines?
Besides the important article below, you can see one-paragraph summaries of some of the best major media articles raising serious questions on elections manipulations at http://www.WantToKnow.info/electronicvoting. For an abundance of reliable, verifiable information on various aspects of the manipulation of votes and elections, see our Elections Information Center at http://www.WantToKnow.info/electionsinformation. By choosing to educate ourselves and spreading the word to our friends and colleagues, I have no doubt that we can and will build a brighter future for ourselves and for future generations.
Will Your Vote Count in 2006?
By Steven Levy
May 29, 2006 issue - Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the voting booth, here comes more disturbing news about the trustworthiness of electronic touchscreen ballot machines. Earlier this month a report by Finnish security expert Harri Hursti analyzed Diebold voting machines for an organization called Black Box Voting. Hursti found unheralded vulnerabilities in the machines that are currently entrusted to faithfully record the votes of millions of Americans.
How bad are the problems? Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. Basically the trouble stems from the ease with which the machine's software can be altered. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems. "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it," says Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-science professor and elections-security expert.
Diebold Election Systems spokesperson David Bear says Hursti's findings do not represent a fatal vulnerability in Diebold technology, but simply note the presence of a feature that allows access to authorized technicians to periodically update the software. If it so happens that someone not supposed to use the machine—or an election official who wants to put his or her thumb on the scale of democracy—takes advantage of this fast track to fraud, that's not Diebold's problem. "[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," says Bear.
Those familiar with the actual election process—by and large run by honest people but historically subject to partisan politicking, dirty tricks and sloppy practices—are less sanguine. "It gives me a bit of alarm that the voting systems are subject to tampering and errors," says Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, who worries that machines in his own St. Louis district might be affected by this vulnerability. (In Maryland and Georgia, all the machines are Diebold's.)
The Diebold security gap is only the most vivid example of the reality that no electronic voting system can be 100 percent safe or reliable. That's the reason behind an initiative to augment these systems, adding a paper receipt that voters can check to make sure it conforms with their choices. The receipt is retained at the polling place so a physical count can be conducted. "When you're using a paperless voting system, there is no security," says David Dill, a Stanford professor who founded the election-reform organization Verified Voting.
To their credit, 26 states have taken action to implement paper trails. But the U.S. Congress has yet to pass legislation introduced last year by Rep. Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, that would extend this protection nationwide. Holt says his bill is slowly gaining support. "The voters are saying that every vote should count, and the only way to do this is by verified audit trails," he says. But even an optimistic scenario for passage would challenge his goal of mandatory paper receipts for November's elections. In other words, it's unlikely that every voter using an electronic voting device in 2006 will know for sure that his or her vote will be reflected in the actual totals. Six years after the 2000 electoral debacle, how can this be?
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Manipulation of Votes in Elections