TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Diebold Source Code Leaked Once Again

Re: Diebold Source Code Leaked Once Again

Scott Dorsey (
27 Oct 2006 10:59:57 -0400

TELECOM Digest Editor noted in response to Scott Dorsey

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: No one can be positive on this at all.
> That's one reason I have never been too harsh with Diebold and thier
> work with elections. Either they can be trusted or they cannot be
> trusted.

No. You cannot EVER trust a black box. Computers are designed by
humans and humans are flawed. As long as systems are designed by
humans, they will have errors in them.

Because we know all systems have errors, it's important that critical
systems be open so that those errors can be seen and dealt with.

> But beleive me you, coming from a background in Chicago, Cook
> County, Illinois, in my lifetime I saw so many _totally outrageous_
> things done in _supposedly_*fair* elections, I was thrilled to see the
> first sign of progress when they began automating elections. You want
> to complain about Diebold in elections? Why not complain about all the
> dead people voting and police officers who hang around polling places
> ostensibly to 'help' voters in Chicago with their choices? Election
> fraud did not begin with Diebold, believe me. The Chicago Board of
> Election Commissioners -- supposedly a non-partisan operation
> intended to secure the integrity of elections in that city -- turns a
> blind eye at the shenanigans which go on there intended to insure
> that the 'right' people get elected.

I'm not just talking about fraud ... although fraud is an issue, there
is also the substantial issue of error. Things go wrong in complex
systems. When things go wrong, we need to be able to figure out what
went wrong and figure out how to deal with it.

The possibility of fraud is ANOTHER reason why systems need to be
open, but computerizing election machines doesn't inherently do
anything to prevent fraud or to make fraud easier.

Locking up the design of voting machines, computerized or not, DOES
make fraud easier. It also means that inadvertent errors either are
never detected or cannot be dealt with when detected.

You would never accept a mechanical voting machine that was a
proprietary system that was sealed by the manufacturer and could not
be looked inside, checked, verified, or repaired? Why should you
accept a computerized one?

I have nothing against Diebold per se, other than the fact that their
systems are sealed boxes that nobody can look inside, and that this is
bad and is something they need to remedy.

--scott -- "C'est un Nagra.
C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Here you see an example of where the
two of us were talking in different directions, with different goals
in mind. I was thinking in terms of fraud, Scott was thinking about
the possibility of errors. Chicago, with which I am familiar, has
election fraud galore. They've had it for many years. Therefore, it
seemed to me that a relatively 'fraud proof' method of voting would be
a welcome relief. But Scott's issues are equally important, at least
to people who do not live around nor endure Chicago politics. Now,
there are a lot of voters who contend that Diebold -- Mr. Diebold
himself is a staunch Republican I am told -- is not above and beyond
some shady tricks. Yet who else has offered that sort of software for
the administration of voting? I do not know of anyone. I'd like to see
a system where a truly non-partisan commission was in charge of
voting; one of their duties -- and I would force Diebold to go along
with it if they wanted to be allowed to bid for the contract -- would
be (a) a full inspection of their software/hardware _only_ by
employees of this non-partisan commission (who would be sworn to
secrecy as to the workings, etc), if you will, sort of like the
old-style election judges who sat as observers in the polling place.
Any voter who asked for assistance or asked a question, then a judge
from each party got up to answer his questions, etc. and (b) staggered
voting hours so that everyone voted in essentially the same absolute!
time frame as everyone else, i.e. polls on the east coast open from
9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and in California from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Voters
in Alaska/Hawaii would vote on Monday night from 8:00 PM to midnight
and again on Tuesday morning from 6 or 7 AM to around noon. (As it is
currently configured, voters in Guam and that area wind up voting [if
they bother at all] on 'their' Tuesday anyway, before the rest of us
have gone to bed on Monday night.)

I also happen to think voting could be done from home computers if
security precautions were taken, but that would require some effort to
_carefully identify_ voters AND assure that voting remained anonymous
like it is now. A number of years ago, I wrote a paper on this very
topic and submitted it to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners,
but there were a couple things wrong: (a) computers and the internet
were not nearly as advanced as they are now, and (b) who is going to
listen to anything an ignorant old man in a tin-foil hat has to say
anyway. PAT]

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