13 October 2003

Did E-Vote Firm Patch Election?

Diebold Election Systems has had a tumultuous year, and it doesn't look like it's getting any better.

Last January the electronic voting machine maker faced public embarrassment when voting activists revealed the company's insecure FTP server was making its software source code available for everyone to see.

Then researchers and auditors who examined code for the company's touch-screen voting system released two separate reports stating that the software was full of serious security flaws.

Now a former worker in Diebold's Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machines before the state's 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.

If the charges are true, Diebold could be in violation of federal and state election-certification rules. The charges also raise questions about the integrity of the Georgia election results and any other election that uses patched Diebold systems that have not been re-certified.

At the last NSW state election the software for the legislative council election jammed. That was not a problem because if necessary there were the paper ballots to fall back on. Electing 21 legislative councillors from the whole state under STV is a tad more challenging than counting first past the post. The votes were cast on paper, then entered into a database, then calculated. The process was public, accountable and verifiable.

What Diebold is reportedly doing is the equivalent of opening up a ballot box, fiddling with the contents and then closing it again without explanation.

A certain baboon has argued in the past that the Diebold problem is the result of bad design and inappropriate outsourcing.

The ACT experimented with evoting at their last election. Wired on the event just has to be quoted:

Electronic voting could meet its match this weekend when Australian voters test an electronic system under some of the most fiendishly complex voting rules in the world

I'd prefer to stick with a paper trail for the time being.

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