Monday, November 06, 2006

HBO: Hacking Democracy

The e-voting systems in use throughout the US are proprietary and are not reviewed by independent security analysts. We have to take the vendors' word that the information is secure. As dramatically illustrated in HBO's expose, that is emphatically not the case.

The most widely used e-voting systems are provided by Diebold. First the team went into the Diebold General Elections Management System (GEMS) and altered results. Diebold said this was not possible without creating an audit trail, but nothing the team did produced an access log. They were able to alter results in a number of ways. Speaking of access, votes are stored in a Microsoft Access database. I am very familiar with Access' security, but I also know from personal experience that it can be circumvented and as shown in this documentary, it doesn't take a knowledgeable person very long to do it.

As a final test, the team successfully altered the results of a mock election by directly altering the memory card used in the voting machine. According to Diebold it is not possible. The security analyst only touched the memory card for the voting machine prior to it being inserted in the machine. He never touched the machine itself, nor did he have access to the card after it was put into the machine. When the voting machine came up it printed a 0 total report, showing that there were no votes already in the unit. 8 total votes were cast, 6 were "No", 2 were "Yes", then a final tally was printed. It showed 7 "Yes" and 1 "No".

To verify these were actually recorded results and not just the result of altering the report, they loaded the results into GEMS. It showed the altered results. According to Diebold this is absolutely not possible. In reality, it absolutely is. This is the most likely way that John Kerry ended up with negative votes in some Florida counties in 2004.


  1. Funny that all the conspiracy theories I have heard about the voting machines have always pointed to a Democrat losing for one reason or another. Even Cynthia McKinney said that blacks just don't know how to use them and she lost to another black person! Please...

    Anyway, I never saw that stat about Kerry getting negative votes. Do you have a link for that?

  2. This isn't a conspiracy theory, it shows clearly how easy it is to tamper with the results. Numerous independent reviewers have voiced the same concerns. Also, in the program they show certified election results being thrown out in the trash before they were reconciled. They also show an instance in Ohio where a supposedly random selection of ballots were presorted before going through a recount, indicating they had already been tallied and calling into question the randomness of the selection.

    I truly don't care who wins or loses because they're all crooks. I just want it to have the appearance of being fair. Republicans in Oregon are fighting e-voting while Democrats in Michigan are doing the same. Politicians (and I use that word with contempt) on both sides of the aisle aren't genuinely interested in fair elections, they just don't want the other party to use the hacks against them.

    If you do a Google search for "kerry negative votes" you'll see some references to Ohio discrepancies. The first instance of this was actually when Gore received negative 16,000 votes in Volusia county Florida in the 2000 election. This was corrected in the hand recount.