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Hacking Democracy
November 5, 2006 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Hacking Democracy. A frightening and well-made full-length HBO documentary.
posted by Espoo2 (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anything that starts with the words "America, the world's greatest democracy" just demands to be taken seriously.
posted by mattoxic at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2006


If Brazil can do it...
posted by phaedon at 4:39 PM on November 5, 2006


The description on this video says "Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today" but I've never heard a number anywhere near that before. Most sources I've read claim about 50% of votes are done electronically.

Maybe they mean any and all electronic (ie, not paper and pencils) vote tallying devices?
posted by mathowie at 5:04 PM on November 5, 2006


It's got the Diebold all up in a frenzy. HBO, knowing the facts are on their side, shot back:

In a letter to Diebold president David Byrd, HBO contends that accusations of factual errors and unfairness are unwarranted (HR 11/1).

"You assert in your letter that the documentary contains 'significant factual errors'; however, based on several of the purported examples you have cited, you do not appear to have viewed the film which will premiere on HBO on Nov. 2," HBO attorney Peter Rienecker wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. "HBO stands by the accuracy and fairness of the documentary. Of course, if after viewing the film on the HBO service (Thursday night) you continue to have concerns, we would be happy to discuss them with you at that time."

posted by VulcanMike at 5:09 PM on November 5, 2006


So does this mean I should buy some Diebold stock to short sell on Wednesday for my stock market simulation?

(only half kidding)
posted by niles at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2006


God, that's depressing.
posted by disillusioned at 5:34 PM on November 5, 2006


maybe by "greatest" they meant biggest or most powerful
posted by subtle_squid at 5:37 PM on November 5, 2006


it made me feel like no matter what i did, my vote would be worthless.

i hope that wasnt their goal.
posted by tsarfan at 5:50 PM on November 5, 2006


Hacking Copyright?
posted by Falconetti at 5:51 PM on November 5, 2006


mathowie: I've heard a number in the ballpark of 87% that includes non-touchscreen systems like optical scanners. Of course, those are completely different from the current crop of touchscreens because they have a paper trail and no big yellow "Hack Me" button on the back.
posted by revgeorge at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2006


Either this is rehashed footage or it's a double.
posted by IronLizard at 6:08 PM on November 5, 2006


Election Data Service's report on equipment (PDF). I presume that's where they get their numbers from since they say that 87.3% of voters are using scanned or electronic. 49% scanned and 38% electronic. They even break it down by individual machine types: the Diebold Accuvote are used by about 10% of the voters.

(It's pretty much just NY and Connecticut that are still using the old machines.)
posted by smackfu at 6:40 PM on November 5, 2006


from 39:11:
(paraphrasing) "Kerry had promised to challenge the vote, and setup a network of lawyers to do it, but 12 hours after the polls closed, he conceded. WTF?"
I think they're too hard on Kerry for conceding. He wasn't talking about challenging the count, he was talking about making sure that all the provisional balots were counted. Even if they were, he couldn't win.

The real crime was the long lines outside the poor districts, but once the polls close there is really no way to contest that.

Fortunately the architect of this debacle, Ken Blackwell is heading off to a political graveyard.
posted by delmoi at 6:44 PM on November 5, 2006


The real crime was the long lines outside the poor districts, but once the polls close there is really no way to contest that.

Someone who watched it, please: how well, if at all, does the video address the issue of "socially hacking" the vote?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:03 PM on November 5, 2006


Related: American Blackout

'American Blackout' director Ian Inaba is staging a revolution to combat potential fraud at the polls -- and he damn well wants it televised.
posted by homunculus at 8:37 PM on November 5, 2006


"AMERICAN BLACKOUT director Ian Inaba announces his new campaign to docuement the 2006 elections."
posted by smackfu at 8:44 PM on November 5, 2006


When you have machines that basically make a vote unverifiable, what kind of a challenge can you petition the court for? Ask the returning officers to press the "report" button again on the machines?
posted by clevershark at 8:47 PM on November 5, 2006


Redistricting alone should be sufficient evidence of "socially hacking the vote." Perhaps at one time people were able to convince themselves that an unobjective, human decisioning system for separating populations by geographical lines made sense. People in a given neighborhood tended towards community, and shared many interests and concerns. That's not the way things are today. Moreover, those redistricting today are far from interested in community voices being heard, unless of course they happen to say what those in power want to hear.

Making independent contenders impotent due to the outrageous costs of running for office? Only corporate interests can get a face into so many homes today. "Social hacking" has been going on for quite awhile. Do we really need a documentary to tell us that?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:55 PM on November 5, 2006


Gerrymandering isn't a new invention.
posted by smackfu at 9:06 PM on November 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


We can still take the country back. Everyone must vote for Democrats on November 7.

Exit votes must be counted, all precincts must be watched. If all anomalies fall only on the Republican side (As they always do), we've caught the crooked bastards rigging another election.

But this time, we rub their faces in the elephant shit on the carpet. No more nice Al Gore--John Kerry statesmen guys who just let the cheating shitheads slide. "Bad Republicans, No election fraud!" we say firmly. Say it again with me, bad Repblicans!

Then we whack the bastards across the nose with what’s left of the free press (The Internet). Finally, we tie George Bush around their necks until he stinks to high heaven, and neocons never steal or win elections again.
posted by BillyElmore at 9:59 PM on November 5, 2006


I have voted. Oregon votes by mail and hopes that those nice ladies who count the ballots are honest.

Oregonians who have not voted: there is still time but do not miss this opportunity to restore a two party system, and end the oligarchy.

Could I respectfully ask that you do not waste your vote on a splinter party this election?

Write the splinter candidate a nice note and assure him/her that you will support him/her in future, just not this time.
posted by Cranberry at 10:12 PM on November 5, 2006


cran, i live in Oregon, and just wondering, but when is it splinter party time, i heard this argument in 2000, 2004, now 2006.

2118, year to finally elect non demo or repub candidate!
posted by efalk at 10:17 PM on November 5, 2006


Frightening? Yes. Well-made? No.
posted by Monochrome at 10:22 PM on November 5, 2006


Well, efalk, Teddy Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, Strom Thurmond, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader are a few of the more prominent splinter party candidates whose presidential hopes failed.

Perhaps the US will have multiple parties some day. This is not that day. At present we have one party rule and it is not working well, and surely is not the way founders intended the country to be governed.

It is possible that there are people who swallow whole the party line of any party - I am not one of those people. If you have ever been to a platform convention, you know that there are various, even opposed, factions within a party. The best the average voter can hope for is an approximation of his ideals or more practically, what is in his/her best interest.
posted by Cranberry at 12:16 AM on November 6, 2006


I just grabbed this off of ThePirateBay...criminy, that's fucking frightening.

It's truly disappointing that they chose to air this on HBO. A large majority of the American public who NEEDS to see this documentary probably can't afford or simply don't subscribe to HBO. They should have threw this up on YouTube and Google Video (as well as the HBO homepage) from day one. I'm well aware of the revenue motives with subscription cable channels, but this seems way too important a film to be limiting its viewing in such a manner.
posted by melorama at 3:17 AM on November 6, 2006


Maybe they mean any and all electronic (ie, not paper and pencils) vote tallying devices?

I believe that's exactly what they mean. It was surprising to see how easy it is to hack the optical scanners (PDF). Interesting stuff.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:25 AM on November 6, 2006


It's truly disappointing that they chose to air this on HBO.

Freedoms of thought and expression are for people who can afford them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:59 AM on November 6, 2006


I really really really hope there are lots of clever angry hackers out there in places with less-important races going on. I hope there is a huge coordinated plan afoot nationwide to demonstrate how bad the situation is, the more absurdly, the better.

If Stephen Colbert doesn't win at least one major office on Tuesday, it'll be bitterly disappointing.
posted by bink at 6:40 AM on November 6, 2006


It's truly disappointing that they chose to air this on HBO.

I can't think of a single non-cable network that would show this program, can you? I'm not seeing the networks going out of their way to poke the powers that be in the eye too terribly often ... or risking losing advertising money by showing something extremely controversial.

For as long as it lasts, it is available at Google Video in its entirety.
posted by Orb at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2006


If Stephen Colbert doesn't win at least one major office on Tuesday, it'll be bitterly disappointing.

What I thought while watching it was that next Presidential election, friendly hackers should give 49 states to Steve Wozniak, because in a worst-case scenario, you'd have Steve Wozniak as the President of the U.S. The way the system stands at the moment, the worst-case scenario is that one or other of the official candidates wins, so that would be a significant improvement.

Of course, the hackers should give Washington State to Steve Ballmer. It would only be fair.

Oh, and the theme song was by Wayne Kramer and Mick Farren - is MC5 + The Deviants the ultimate garage psych crossover? And shouldn't it sound less like Neil Young, if that's so?
posted by Grangousier at 7:25 AM on November 6, 2006


You can watch a video on how to hack voting machines.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:37 AM on November 6, 2006


Starting at around 31:30, there's a segment where Bev Harris and Howard Dean appear together to demonstrate the flaws in the central tabulator. (That segment is also here if you don't want to slog through all of Hacking Democracy.)

The tabulator says:
Howard Dean - 1000 votes
Lex Luther - 500 votes
Tiger Wood - 0 votes


Then she leads him into the file system to open the Access database to change the vote totals. The database reads:
Howard Dean - 800 votes
Lex Luther - 400 votes
Tiger Wood - 0 votes


They change this to:
Howard Dean - 400 votes
Lex Luther - 800 votes
Tiger Wood - 100 votes


Then they go back to the central tabulator report and it reads:
Howard Dean - 500 votes
Lex Luther - 900 votes
Tiger Wood - 100 votes


The numbers they enter change (but the vote totals are the same). So does this show that:

* the segment was recorded in several takes and it was bad editing to put these different numbers together?
* although the file is named "central tabulator votes," the database that they manually changed was only part of the votes that the central tabulator had collected?
* The Diebold GEMS software is fundamentally fubared?
posted by peeedro at 11:40 AM on November 6, 2006


I just came up with an astonishingly simple long-term plan to ruin democracy forever. All you have to do is tell the machines to systematically undercount the votes across the board. Just completely ignore, say, every fifth vote. That way, proportions remain accurate and consistent with polls, so there's no suspicion, but the public as a whole looks unmotivated. The next election, based on the previous apparent turnout, there will be fewer machines. Lines will grow longer, turnout will be suppressed, and the Republicans will benefit as they always do when people don't vote.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2006


The Diebold GEMS software is fundamentally fubared?

The fact that they used Access for a production system established that immediately.
posted by flaterik at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2006


“I think they're too hard on Kerry for conceding.”

That whole ‘lives, fortunes, sacred honor’ thing was a bit hyperbolic anyway.

“Could I respectfully ask that you do not waste your vote on a splinter party this election?”

Voting Dem in my state (in certain parts) means voting for corruption. I can’t in good conscience support Blagojevich, no how, no way. There’s a couple races I might vote Dem in (the candidate makes the difference, the Dems haven’t really stood for...well...anything, much less anything I agree with).
A few I’m voting Republican in, but the majority is going for third party. More votes = more money = more viability for a third party. And it’s always “just this election.” I think everyone should vote third party. That would be a message. But I doubt folks will split much from the Kodos/Kang dichotomy.

“I can't think of a single non-cable network that would show this program, can you?”

Air America went bankrupt because of the sponsors - there’s your warning to network t.v. for you. I’m not exactly a big fan of Air America - but I like that it exists.

“All you have to do is tell the machines to systematically undercount the votes across the board.” - posted by Faint of Butt

Brilliant. But wouldn’t it ruin the illusion? I mean a close shave vote every time with your guy winning makes it look like your vote counted.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:43 PM on November 6, 2006


Exit votes must be counted, all precincts must be watched. If all anomalies fall only on the Republican side (As they always do), we've caught the crooked bastards rigging another election.
posted by BillyElmore


Sarcasm? Or are you just ignoring the previous 100 or so years of American electoral history?
posted by paxton at 3:53 PM on November 6, 2006


Sarcasm? Or are you just ignoring the previous 100 or so years of American electoral history?

Seriously, some people think "always" means the last three years.
posted by Falconetti at 4:07 PM on November 6, 2006


im in ur diebold votin against ur d00dz
posted by O Blitiri at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2006


O Blitiri - heh heh. I don’t know why I still get such a kick out of that.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:53 PM on November 7, 2006


I'm glad I watched that, but damn was that a poor-quality documentory. I had to go to HBO.com to verify that this wasn't just pretending to be an HBO documentary to gain more clout.
posted by pwb503 at 10:37 AM on November 9, 2006


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