So, we have projected close elections all over the place, and, depending on where you are, either fairly high or fairly low voter turnout predicted.
So, of course, political dirty tricks and machinery that either performs badly or outright lies are going to make things even more entertaining!
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006; B06
A recently distributed guide for Republican poll watchers in Maryland spells out how to aggressively challenge the credentials of voters and urges these volunteers to tell election judges they could face jail time if a challenge is ignored.
Democrats said yesterday they consider the handbook, obtained by The Washington Post, evidence of a Republican effort to block people from voting Tuesday. "The tenor of the material is that they are asking folks, if not directing them, to challenge voters," said Bruce L. Marcus, an attorney for the state Democratic Party. "It's really tantamount to a suppression effort." [...] No one disputes the legality of having poll watchers set up folding chairs and monitor the election on behalf of their party. Typically, though, poll watchers are present to help ensure that their party's supporters get to vote, not the other way around. Democrats, for instance, have distributed advice to their poll watchers to "make sure that voters are not being turned away."
"The key is the perspective each party brings to the process," Marcus said. "Our philosophy is, if we have a qualified voter, we're going to turn things inside out and upside down to get them to be able to vote."
The GOP poll-watcher program, outlined in a 13-page document, states: "Your most important duty as a poll worker is to challenge people who present themselves to vote but who are not authorized to vote." It cautions, "Undoubtedly, the challenge process will be awkward and may cause consternation on the part of the challenged voter as well as the judges." It advises, "If there is cause to make a challenge, you should not hesitate to do so merely because it upsets the challenged voter or the election judges." It adds, "If the election judge should try to ignore your challenge, point out that they would be committing a criminal offense punishable by not less than 30 days in jail." [...]
Early voters finding new machines aren't without faults
November 2, 2006
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter
Corrine Stoker pushed the button for one candidate, but her voting machine showed she voted for the opponent. She said it happened two more times as she voted early Monday at the Skokie courthouse, shaking her confidence in a voting system that has been under fire since a problem-plagued March primary. "I don't know what caused it to misvote, but I know I didn't press the button," said Stoker, of Wilmette. "I caught it, but I would urge people to be very careful." [...]
City withholds payment for voting machines
By John McCormick
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
October 24, 2006, 9:55 PM CDT
Concerned about potential glitches, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Tuesday withheld all payments, at least for now, to its voting equipment vendor until after the Nov. 7 election. The two election authorities have paid about half the bill for new electronic balloting machines but still owe roughly $26 million to California-based Sequoia Voting Systems. Most of the remainder was due after state officials certified the latest versions of the equipment earlier this month. "We haven't seen whether the system will work under the pressure of an election night," Commissioner Richard Cowen said. "After Nov. 7, then, hopefully, we will all shake hands." [...] After the meeting, Sequoia president Jack Blaine said his company deserves payment. "We feel that we have made the usability improvements that we committed to," he said. "The system is working quite well."
Earlier payments were temporarily held after equipment snafus and a lack of sufficient poll worker training led to a virtual meltdown in the March primary. Election officials have since boosted worker training and demanded many repairs to the machinery and software. Officials also questioned Sequoia about problems some early voters experienced when they inserted a key card into touch-screen machines. Officials said the machines gave error messages in some cases when voters inserted the cards incorrectly. In other cases, the cards created errors if an election worker or voter smudged them with greasy fingers. [...]
Button on e-voting machine allows multiple votes
Sequoia touch-screen is California's most widely used
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area/Oakland Tribune
Article Last Updated:11/01/2006 07:53:11 PM PST
Days before the election, state officials have learned that California's most widely used electronic voting machines feature a button in back that can allow someone to vote multiple times. Several computer scientists said Wednesday that the vulnerability found in all touch-screen machines sold by Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems was not especially great because using the yellow button for vote fraud would require reaching far behind the voting machine twice and triggering two beeps. [...] A former poll worker in Tehama County tried alerting state elections officials to the vulnerability about a month ago and said he was told the problem did not seem significant. Ron Watt then obtained poll worker-training documents through a public records request and brought them to the attention last Friday of the state's chief voting systems tester.
On Monday, state elections officials issued a caution to the more than one-third of California counties that use Sequoia equipment, including Santa Clara County, where the touch screens are the primary voting system, and Alameda County, which relies on almost 1,000 machines as a secondary voting system intended for disabled voters. State elections officials reminded the counties to keep a close eye on the machines and post warnings that tampering with election equipment is a crime. [...] Recognition of a potential new security problem that requires no knowledge of special passwords or access to the inner workings of a voting machine revives questions about the effectiveness of state and national evaluations of voting systems.
[...] [California state senator Debra] Bowen has pointed to numerous findings of security problems by computer scientists and argued that electronic voting systems are not mature enough to be trusted in elections. "And just this morning we learned that the Sequoia machine will allow a voter to vote multiple times if they do something very simple, which is to hold a button in the back down for three seconds," she said on a Los Angeles radio show Tuesday night, adding that McPherson's office "must have known" about the vulnerability for some time.
"No, that is not true," McPherson replied later in the same show. "That is not true. I think she is throwing a lot of fear and doubt out there, and it's unwarranted."
Sequoia's yellow button isn't a hack or flaw. The button has been a feature on Sequoia's mainline AVC Edge touch screens for years, designed as a backup for the typical method of voting on the machines. In most counties, poll workers use a separate machine to activate a card that a voter inserts into the touch screen in order to retrieve the proper ballot. The yellow button is for counties that can't afford the separate machine or for cases when the card activator becomes inoperable, as happened to Diebold systems in March 2004 in Alameda and San Diego counties and last primary in Kern County. Pressing, then holding the button for several seconds twice and answering a screen prompt sends the machine into a "manual activation" or "poll worker activation" mode. In that mode, someone can call up one ballot after another and vote them. "You can literally vote continuously until you are physically restrained," said Watt, the former Tehama County poll worker who reported the problem to state elections officials. Unlike the Diebold vulnerability, he said, using Sequoia's yellow button "takes no tools." [...]
California secretary of state unveils new election checks
By: GIG CONAUGHTON - Staff Writer
North County Times
Thursday, November 2, 2006
Last modified Tuesday, October 31, 2006 11:05 PM PST
SAN DIEGO -- California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson held a news conference Tuesday in San Diego to say that he had complete confidence in electronic voting machines - but added that he was ordering random checks of machines and dispatching extra observers around the state on Election Day to guarantee the machines perform accurately.
"I'm here in San Diego to assure the voters of this county and the entire state that the voting machines of California are secure and reliable," McPherson told a gathering of reporters and TV cameras. [...] Voters in San Diego County are preparing to use electronic "touch screen" voting machines en masse on Nov. 7 for the first time since March 2004. The 2004 debut, before McPherson was appointed, was marred by electronic "glitches" that caused 36 percent of the county's polling places to open late and prevented an unknown number of voters from casting ballots. McPherson and Haas said that electronic voting machines used since 2004 include a big improvement: a locked, secure, cash register-type paper tape that tangibly, rather than just electronically, records votes. However, the issue of electronic voting continues to be a lightning rod in San Diego County and across the country for critics. They argue that computerized voting machines can be rigged or otherwise tampered with and are a threat to democracy.
[...] On Monday, a lawsuit was filed in state appeals court on behalf of a San Diego woman, asking courts to demand that Haas spread 1.3 million paper ballots at the county's 1,650 polls for Tuesday's elections to ensure that people will have paper ballots if they want them. That lawsuit also wants the courts to force the county to start counting votes cast on paper ballots on Election Day - not two days later during the so-called "canvass period - and to ban the county from allowing poll workers to store voting machines at their homes before Election Day. Haas and McPherson did not address the lawsuit Tuesday, other than to continue to say the county would place "adequate" amounts of paper ballots at the polls as backup. Meanwhile, Haas and McPherson said the electronic voting machines were accurate and safe "if they're used in a proper way." [...]
Jefferson County Voters Continue To Raise Concerns About Voting Machines
Early voting for the November election started Monday, and during this first week of it, Jefferson County has experienced high turnout. [...] KFDM continues to get complaints from Jefferson County voters who say the electronic voting machines are not registering their votes correctly.
Friday night, KFDM reported about people who had cast straight Democratic ticket ballots, but the touch-screen machines indicated they had voted a straight Republican ticket.
Some of those voters including Lamar University professor, Dr. Bruce Drury, believe the problem is a programming error.
Saturday, KFDM spoke to another voter who says it's not just happening with straight ticket voting, he says it's happening on individual races as well, Jerry Stopher told us when he voted for a Democrat, the Republican's name was highlighted. Stopher said, "There's something in these machines, in this equipment, that's showing Republican votes when you vote for Democrats, and I know Ms. Guidry's a nice lady, and she's working hard, but her theory that my fingernail was somehow over the Republican button is just unrealistic, my fingernail was not. The equipment is not working properly as far as I can tell."
Jefferson county clerk Carolyn Guidry says her office has checked the calibration of the machines and found no problems. She says the electronic system is very sensitive.....
Reports: Security Assessment of the Diebold Optical Scan Voting Terminal (PDF)
by A. Kiayias, L. Michel, A. Russell, A.A. Shvartsman
We present an independent security evaluation of the AccuVote Optical Scan voting terminal (AV-OS). We identify a number of new vulnerabilities of this system which, if exploited maliciously, can invalidate the results of an election process utilizing the terminal. Furthermore, based on our findings an AV-OS can be compromised with off-the-shelf equipment in a matter of minutes even if the machine has its removable memory card sealed in place. [...] In this section we present a simple low-tech attack that is based on the following facts regarding the ballot
feeding mechanism of the AV-OS terminal:
- The ballot-feed sensor is located on the right side of the slot. Feeding paper into the left side does not trigger the feed mechanism.
- Once a ballot is fed into the AV-OS, the rollers cease. It is thus possible to retract a ballot from the other side of the rollers. This is easily done even when the AV-OS has been properly locked into position atop the ballot box. Moreover, this can be done very quickly, so that the amount of extra votes is only limited to the amount of time the voter is able to spend alone with the ballot box on election day.
- The machine is unable to recognize ballots that have already been cast. Although the AV-OS verifies an election identifier which is global to every ballot in a precinct, it allows the same ballot to be cast as many times as desired.
We demonstrate how this vulnerability can be very easily exploited by any voter during the actual election if she is allowed to operate the machine without being observed by a poll-worker. See Figure 9 for an example of an AV-OS ballot with the two Post-it notes affixed to its side. The attacker in this case is allowed to use the machine while unattended and he can pull out and re-insert the shown ballot so that the same vote is cast multiple times....
Wait ... San Diego County plans to allow poll workers to take voting machines HOME? On what planet does this constitute reasonable security? You're going to give the machines to people who, by definition, need to know how to get into the machines, and telling them that they can take the thing home.
And the mechanical issues alone are impressive. Sequoia's machines allowing people to follow the traditional Cook County dictate, "Vote early, vote often," aren't flawed; the little yellow thing is a feature. And they wonder why Cook County is so twitchy about past results and expected difficulties that they're withholding payment. And Diebold's machines (conspiracy theories aside) try to make you vote for the wrong candidate, and can be compromised with two post-it notes!
The problem with a lot of the voting machine companies -- at least, with their public pronouncements -- is that they seem to be making this peculiar default assumption that all people are honest. This despite a long and storied history of poll shenanigans and dirty tricks in this country. Thus, when people keep popping up and saying, "You need to guard against dishonest people corrupting the process," the equipment companies' response is this baffling, "Huh? Wha'? Nobody would EVER do such a thing with our wondrous machines!" and this response flies in the face of experience. (We, of course, know better than to believe secretaries of state and local election boards who bluster, "Why, how could you say such a thing? Our wonderful workers, all of whom have some allegiance to our party or they wouldn't be working for us, would never ever EVER do such a thing!")
There aren't likely to be any close races or results in Chicago proper; most of the various contests are walkovers, or close enough as makes no difference. In outlying Cook County, however, the election for governor could be a surprisingly close affair, never mind the other local contests. And there are likely to be many many close contests in other states.
Makes you wish for the good old punch ballots and the hanging chads, doesn't it?Posted by iain at November 02, 2006 03:10 PM