Diabold in hot water
May 2, 2004 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Diabold touchscreen voting has suffered a setback. The Sec. of State of California (Kevin Shelly) has just decertified 14,000 Diabold AccuVote machines and ordered an investigation of whether or not to charge the company with fraud. Main story here (Washington Post reg required). A few .pdf related documents include the decertification order/finding and what must be done to be recertified including allowing voters a strictly paper vote option. (more inside)
posted by edgeways (14 comments total)
first must thank carpe decorum for the story, and second. even if you don't want to reg for the main story read the .pdf documents, some real gems in there. Always have been slightly mistrustful of Diabold and this kinda supports my paranoia.
"DRE voting systems currently approved... d. Use proprietary source codes that are complex and secret so that the absence of malicious code in the firmware is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove or determine"
posted by edgeways at 5:03 PM on May 2, 2004

Ahem... the company's name is Diebold, unless you were making a subtle editorial comment by making the name look more like "diabolical". (Which is okay by me...)
posted by wendell at 5:25 PM on May 2, 2004

They don't have this update yet, but there's massive amounts of background at blackboxvoting.com.

This story in particular contains the most incredible quote: "We were caught. We apologize for that." As PR blunders go that's about as bad as when the CEO of Diebold promised Ohio's votes to Bush.

By the way, I haven't heard them called "Diabold" before. That's pretty funny.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:25 PM on May 2, 2004

I was just about to link to BlackBox. It all makes "hanging chads" seem good by comparison.
posted by amberglow at 5:29 PM on May 2, 2004

VerifiedVoting.org is another good site for info about this topic.
posted by stopgap at 5:44 PM on May 2, 2004

Well what is funny is I originally wrote it that way, realized my mistake (thought it was amusing) meant to change it, got distracted and didn't. So like most of life it was partially intentional partially not. For those it offends I apologize... sometimes it goes that way
posted by edgeways at 5:44 PM on May 2, 2004

For more background, How E-Voting Threatens Democracy.
posted by Vidiot at 6:30 PM on May 2, 2004

Vidiot: that article not only missses the point, it has an incredibly stupid title which is not only inaccurate but plays into the hands of companies like Diebold by allowing them to cast their detractors as anti-technology luddites. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some of the sternest critics of these flawed, corruptible and almost certainly already corrupt machines are computer scientists, who actually advocate e-voting in principle. The problems are very much a matter of implementation, honesty, integrity and professionalism -- not with the concept itself.

For the record, *ahem*: E-voting is not only not inherently unsound, it has the potential to be far more secure and accurate than paper systems. The problem is the naked incompetence and rancidly self-serving if not entirely corrupt companies that are presently implementing it.

With proper audit trails, cryptographically-sound checksumming, publically audited software and other techniques that are already in wide use in finance and communications, e-voting is surely the way to go. But first we have to fire all these companies; and the government shills that hired them. Get Carnegie-Mellon or MIT to design the system and the validation protocols, and only then hire private contractors to actually build the things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:46 PM on May 2, 2004

DRE voting systems currently approved

Last time I heard the acronym "DRE" it was in reference to a data source used by Forrester Research for their Internet growth projections. DRE=Direct Rectal Extraction.
posted by alms at 6:52 PM on May 2, 2004

George_Spiggott: And ensure that the standards for both production and certification of e-voting systems are consistent and open in nature.

Diebold isn't the only company out there selling e-voting machines. It's just the largest one that's been caught doing something illegal. Flip more of the political carpet over, and you'll find some other roaches will scurry out.
posted by FormlessOne at 6:58 PM on May 2, 2004

I think that in all future discussions on MeFi (which I'm sure there will be) about this company it should be referred to as "Diabold." Excellent coinage, even if accidental.
posted by soyjoy at 9:10 PM on May 2, 2004

In the truly ideal case, elections data would be freely disseminated in an openly published format, verifiable by a public algorithm with multiple implementations, with the identities of the voters cryptographically protected in a way that they would have the ability to verify (and on failed verification, correct or at least invalidate). Election results collected and tabulated via multiple widely divergent and often shadily opaque methods, certified by corruptible local officials, and reported as absolute fact where multiple full recounts would reveal truly horrifying variance would be replaced with a single block of data, openly verified by officials, news agencies, and concerned citizens alike.

Of course, this presupposes a solution to the trillion dollar cryptography problem, that of assigning a long-term cryptographic identity to an individual human in a convenient, comfortable, secure, and corruption-resistant way. We'll get to the Valhalla of electronic voting when every man, woman, and child has a digital cryptographic identity that is immune to apathy, loss of password, corruptible escrow arrangement, privacy concerns, and Book-of-Revelation ick-factor. (Subcutaneously implanting a device that could recite the public key and transform data streams with the private key, but only in a way that required the explicit knowledge and consent of the user, would do the trick, but would have tinfoil-hat apocalyptophiles cataloging all the places the bit-pattern 1010011010 appears in the embedded computer code, and would probably make everyone else at least slightly queasy at the prospect.)

Until then, we're stuck with opportunist contractors and their friends in the dirty-tricks machine of their party of choice, people who honestly believe Microsoft Access password protection is security (or at least believe that other people can be made to believe it is), people whose behavior cannot be rightly classified either as evil or incompetent because of the preponderance of evidence supporting both explanations.
posted by Vetinari at 10:30 PM on May 2, 2004

well, if this electronic vote is going to be done, why not do it using tried and tested methods? if filling in a bubble with a #2 pencil and running it through an optical scanner is good enough to get you your elementary and high school performance assessments, get you into college, and complete 80% of the exams required for your college diploma, it's good enough to choose public officials. plus we get the holy grail of elections - a paper trail (gasp!)

i've spent too much time stuck in an automated checkout line behind people unable to figure out the touch screen to be convinced it's a good idea. if we as a nation can't buy groceries with one, how the hell can we use it to pick a leader? on the other hand, we've been trained to fill in a bubble from elementary school onwards...
posted by caution live frogs at 9:41 AM on May 3, 2004

In principal I think e voting is a good idea if designed and run correctly (see above arguments), however at the same time I think the option to use paper only should be kept. We have a hard enough time convincing people to vote in the US and adding even the appearance of corruption will only disenfranchise and alienate many more people. And personally I think *ahem* Diebold (Diabold) should be taken to the cleaners for the Calf. fiasco, think class action lawsuit. btw optical scanners work pretty well, is what we use in MN. Fast, there is a paper trail and easy to understand.
posted by edgeways at 11:25 AM on May 3, 2004

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