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E-voting: A Trail of Money, Lies and Deceit

by Jim MacAulay
Pennsylvania State University

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."
-Joseph Stalin

A democracy consists of common people that exercise majority rule and strive for social equality (  Rushing to implement e-voting has the potential to rewrite the definition of a democracy in this country.  Digital policy, ethics, and laws are still far behind the creation of new technology, so wouldn't it be wise to wait for further testing and design?  The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was an effort to push for the digitalization of e-voting, but it seems a portion of lawmakers are failing to review the validity, security, and integrity of current e-voting systems.   A call for standardization and verification needs to be implemented at a national level.  It would be rather foolish to hand over the responsibility of developing e-voting software to a partisan company. 

Disturbingly enough, most companies that develop e-voting software have resisted academic review and software audits.  The introduction of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has thrown a complicated twist into the situation.  Experts looking to criticize and review voting software have come under fire for alleged copyright abuses, forbidden by the DMCA.  In 2003, 40,000 internal documents were circulated on the Internet indicating flaws in Diebold's electronic voting system (  The documents in question show how to resolve or hide problems with Diebold's systems.  Diebold has since been sending cease and desist orders to Internet Service Providers (ISP) claiming violations under the DMCA (  A non-profit group, the Online Policy Group is suing Diebold for what they call a violation of fair use under copyright law (  The case is still in litigation, but the fiasco with Diebold still continues.

Diebold is one of the leading e-voting systems in the country, but just last year researchers from John Hopkins and Rice University discovered several more unreported flaws in the terminals.  It was found that if not changed the machines could allow voters to vote more than once, gain administrative privileges to the machines and even terminate elections before votes are submitted.  This does not even bring into mind the people that would monitor and be in charge of the machines.  A partisan official with knowledge of the security lapses in the machines or software could easily stage or rig an election. 

Compuware Corporation performed a technical analysis of four major voting machine manufacturers and found 57 potential security risks in both hardware and software (  It's hard to say if these are backdoors to tamper with votes or lapses by programmers.  E-Voting activist Bev Harris discovered that she could enter a Diebold vote database using Microsoft Access and change votes without leaving a trace (  Diebold hadn't password-protected the file or secured the audit log, so anyone with access to the tabulation program during an election such as employees, election staff or even hackers could change votes without a trace (  This would all be possible if the county server were connected to a phone line during the election.   Among other problems, the use of uncertified software and paperless trails in e-voting machines has caused concerns.

The debate over whether or not states can legally use paperless systems is underway.  Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida's 19th District is filing a federal lawsuit claiming that it is unconstitutional to have no means of printing ballots for a recount (  "Essentially, what the Secretary of State is saying is that touch-screen voting machines are infallible -- which would make them the first machines devised by mankind in the history of the world that will never make a mistake," Wexler said.  Wexler isn't the only person concerned.  The State of California is filing a federal lawsuit against Diebold Inc., alleging fraudulent and deceptive business practices (  The California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel is proposing a ban on uncertified machines and has forwarded a report to the Attorney General, which recommends civil and criminal charges against Diebold.  California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley chimed in with the words, "The core of our American democracy is the right to vote. Implicit in that right is the notion that that vote be private, that the vote be secure, and that the vote be counted as it was intended when it was cast by the voter. And I think what we're encountering is a pivotal moment in our democracy where all of that is being called into question ("  Consumer and advocacy groups are up in arms with e-voting. and The National Committee for Voting Integrity are calling for action to the issue of e-voting.  These groups propose that several standardized measures be implemented.  The measures include: incorporating a physical secure ballot box, the ability for a voter to void a ballot and cast a new one, the ability to maintain vote anonymity, use of physical ballots for recounts, ban of wireless communication devices, ban of uncertified software, requirements for random recounts and audits with paper ballots.  Senator Bob Graham, D-Florida introduced the Voter Verification Act and if passed it would outlaw the use of e-voting machines that do not meet the above standards for the November 2004 Election.
Currently, many are concerned with conflicting interests of third parties in the development of e-voting systems and software.  Walden O'Dell, the chief executive of Diebold Inc., at a fundraiser for Bush supporters inadvertently said, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year [2004]" (  O'Dell claims he wasn't talking about his business operations, but many are still questioning his motives (  Amounting to more suspicion O'Dell is an adamant Bush campaign supporter, where at one fundraiser he helped generate over 500,000 dollars for Vice Presidential candidate Dick Cheney (  Many are crying foul in Georgia's 2002 elections when a Republican Governor and U.S. Senate candidates, unexpectedly ousted Democratic incumbents.  Cathy Cox-R, the Georgia Secretary of State, spent 54 million dollars of Georgia bond money to purchase Diebold machines (  Cox is adamantly fighting legislation to put printers on the machines and just so happens to appear on Diebold sales literature (  In 1996, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel had an upset victory in Nebraska.  Hagel, the CEO and chairman of Election Systems and Software, the company in charge of programming, installing and operating the systems used in that election denied any wrongdoing (  Connections in other states have been reported also.  In Maryland, a top Diebold lobbyist was hired by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich to determine if the systems were secure enough to purchase (  The State Ethics Commission recently discovered that the same lobbyist represented Science Applications International Corp., the company in charge of determining the security of the Diebold machines (

Charges and reports of abuse have even been pointed towards Diebold staff and programmers.  In 2003, it was brought to light by e-voting activist Bev Harris that there may be questionable employees working for Diebold (  She stated, "One of the country's largest voting equipment vendors, included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records." Jeffrey Dean was Senior Vice President of Global Election Systems, a company purchased by Diebold in 2002.  A Washington court document indicates that Dean was arrested for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that "involved a high degree of sophistication" (  A Diebold spokesman said that Dean and others left after the accquisition and strict background checks are performed.  It seems troubling that a convicted felon has knowledge of the operating system Diebold uses. 

Diebold has begun to open up a little bit since the recent outbreak of e-voting mishaps.  The company has apologized for not training some employees on the proper use of the machines.  During an instance in San Diego voters were turned away from the polls because the operators were unsure of how to correct errors in the systems (  Diebold Election services President Bob Urosevich said, "We were caught, we apologize for that"(    California has had just about enough with the hassles of the machines and is about to decertify a majority of touch screen stations.  It seems Diebold's developers are beginning to question the security and promise of the systems.  Diebold chief developer, Tab Iredell said, "I understand your frustration [California].  Why did we sell something that we didn't think we could run? Our understanding based on past experience was we thought we could get that certified"(  This was after Diebold sold and installed thousands of their election machines without first seeking national or state certification (  California is also blasting Diebold for the lack of a back up plan in untested systems.  California Undersecretary of State Mark Kyle criticized Diebold Elections president Bob Urosevich when Diebold submitted a two-page proposal that called for more than a million hand-counted paper ballots (  

Citizens and e-voting activists are now beginning to demand that most e-voting machines be withdrawn from the November 2004 Election.  However, the State of California is in an awkward position.  Blind and non-English speaking voters were recently granted the right to privacy by using touch screens.  This entails no additional assistance is provided.  Groups such as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) are in outrage after the state proposed switching back to traditional optical scanning systems.  Kathay Feng, an attorney for the APALC said, "We would do well to remember the lesson that separate is not equal. Going back to optical scan is tantamount to segregation" (   Lobbyist groups for the blind and minority speaking languages are threatening legal charges against the state for not giving their members private voting rights.  These groups are failing to realize the overall implications of inaccurate, insecure voting in elections.  Vendors have tried to fan the outrage of these groups by proposing an audio ballot system compatible with the traditional optical systems. 

This has offered Diebold some leeway in convincing state officials to give them one more chance.  It seems some state officials have not taken a proactive stance to understanding the vital issues surrounding e-voting.  Conny McCormack Los Angeles County registrar of voters said, "There's still not any evidence of electronic voting systems anywhere is this country counting votes inaccurately" (  These are words that are making many activists cringe.  Diebold machines up to this date have been blamed for many miscounts and mishaps during elections.  Florida's Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa Lepore said technologists are wrong about the flaws with e-voting.  She stated,"It's just a bunch of lies" (  Lepore is failing to realize that e-voting has the potential to turn Florida elections into a laughing stock once again.

    E-voting poses a dangerous threat to our democracy and the way we elect officials.  Not caring about the situation surrounding e-voting is letting up on both morale and civic duties that make us American citizens.  I've presented only a few of the major issues that surround e-voting.  Activist groups that I mentioned and others are trying to make e-voting safe and secure, but they need our help.  We as citizens need to establish a strong voice, by flooding our State Representatives and Congressmen with emails, letters and phone calls expressing our concerns.  Many worldwide elections are performed by corrupt officials and it effectively robs the voice from the people.  Without a voice we will be a country run by big money and corporate interests.  Please help save this democracy by becoming an e-voting activist.

Bibliography  E-voting Articles.  Voting Machine News.  Definition of Democracy.

Electronic Frontier. Foundation.  EFF E-Voting.  Electronic Miscounts of Votes. 

Created by sevoy
Last modified March 04, 2005 05:03 PM

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