Friday, October 20, 2006

More trouble for Diebold

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I was just sent an alert by The Brad Blog. According to The Washington Post, Diebold is once more at the center of the e-voting storm:

The FBI is investigating the possible theft of software developed by the nation's leading maker of electronic voting equipment, said a former Maryland legislator who this week received three computer disks that apparently contain key portions of programs created by Diebold Election Systems.

But all is not clear: The disks were "delivered anonymously" to Cheryl Kagan, the Democratic legislator in question. The included "unsigned letter" criticizes Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone and claims that the disks had been "accidentally picked up". And it gets weirder and more confusing:

Lamone's deputy, Ross Goldstein, said "they were not our disks," but he acknowledged that the software was used in Maryland in the 2004 elections. Diebold said in a statement last night that it had never created or received the disks.

But "the Diebold statement said the version of one program apparently stored on the disks is still in use in "a limited number of jurisdictions' and is protected by encryption". And the FBI may or may not be investigating the matter.

How serious is this? Pretty serious — so serious as to call into question the very foundation of democratic legitimacy whenever and wherever Diebold (and e-voting generally) is involved:

The disks delivered to Kagan's office bear labels indicating that they hold "source code" — the instructions that constitute the core of a software program — for Diebold's Ballot Station and Global Election Management System (GEMS) programs. The former guides the operation of the company's touch-screen voting machines; the latter is in part a tabulation program used to tally votes after an election.

Methinks someone, or some company, isn't being entirely honest here. In fact, a few inter-linked companies that are making a lot of money off e-voting may not be telling the whole truth. But what else is new?

Read the WaPo article, and keep checking in at The Brad Blog (including its response to this story), which as some of you may know is doing incredible work following (and breaking) election fraud stories around the country: "[W]ill someone finally understand that this is a massive problem that needs immediate attention?"

For the sake of American democracy, we should hope so.

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UPDATE: CBS News is also reporting on the Diebold-Maryland theft story:

Gov. Robert Ehrlich questions the reliability of the touch-screen machines and has suggested that Marylanders use absentee ballots if they have any doubts whether their votes will be counted accurately.

"This raises yet another unanswered question with regard to Diebold technology," said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the governor.

This is another recent instance in which the security of electronic voting machines was brought into question, just weeks after a Princeton University study published in September demonstrated how at least one version of Diebold's electronic voting machines could be easily hacked to switch votes without leaving any trace of the corrupting software. A virus could also be spread from machine to machine via the memory cards used to tabulate votes. Diebold claims that the machine software studied is no longer in use.

The article also includes "other developments" in e-voting from around the country.

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