Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Humboldt Hand-Count Campaign Maintains Media Presence

Two Tuesdays ago, on the 21st, the Election Advisory Committee had its monthly meeting. The EAC now meets the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm at the Eureka Courthouse. The Eureka Reporter ran an article about the meeting the next day, half of which describes the presentation (.mp3) I gave about the the Voter Confidence Committee report, hand-count campaign, and spreadsheet tool (.xls).

Supervisors John Woolley and Jimmy Smith, as well as Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, all attended the 5.5 minute presentation and participated in the roughly 30 minute discussion that followed. I'm pleased with the way this went. The Registrar stated that she had played with the spreadsheet tool and it is "interesting." Supervisor Woolley said he wouldn't be able to support any kind of change without doing the kind of cost and time analysis that the VCC's spreadsheet tool permits. He said he likes the approach we are taking to developing and presenting this info. We agreed Aryay Kalaki is a fine mentor for community organizing. And I politely emphasized at least three times that we are awaiting the Registrar's best estimates to create the most official labor, cost, and time forecasts.

Last Friday the Eureka Times-Standard (archive) published a column with quotes only from Secretary of State Debra Bowen in response to a study she commissioned on voter confidence. I don't put any stock in these figures showing 44% of respondents have a "great deal of confidence that their votes are being accurately counted." 52% reported "some" or "only a little" confidence. Whatever. Like usual, the un-bylined T-S story strays far and wide from the crux of the matter, which is creating a basis for voter confidence, a reason for people to believe the results.

The Eureka Reporter did not mirror the T-S coverage of Bowen's survey. Last Friday, I did receive a call from Cerena Johnson, the new elections beat writer who had written the EAC article. We spent at least 15 minutes talking about some of the fundamental paradigms of the voter confidence movement. She seemed to understand and I figured there would be an article the next day. Those quotes did not appear until today, in an article that had a gross typo of omission. This is the end of the article:

Some say this could create an opportunity to take transparency a step further, with an entirely hand-counted system.

Dave Berman, a founding member of the Voter Confidence Committee, said the committee is trying to work with the county by recommending areas for improvement.

Berman said the criteria for a sound voting system should be transparent, secure and verifiably accurate, also distinguishing casting from counting.

"We should be required to have faith in election results," [EMPHASIS ADDED] he said, adding that results should be tangible. "What we have is a secret process."

The committee is in the process of forecasting a workable format by which votes could be hand-counted, factoring in numbers of volunteers, costs and time.

Ultimately, Berman said, the committee would like to be in a position to bring the county information it doesn't have, as well as the support of the community, to advance the idea that there is "not just one way to do elections in Humboldt County."

Humboldt County will hold its next election on Nov. 6.
As soon as I saw that on the Reporter website this morning I called Editor Glenn Franco Simmons. I reached his voice mail and left a polite request for a correction to be printed. A little later Ms. Johnson called my cell phone. We spoke for maybe seven minutes or so, continuing to break down and spell out why our current vote counting methods are secretive, how this is the opposite of the basic democratic concept of checks and balances, and that faith and trust are not relevant. She assured me a correction would appear. Also look out for a tight letter to the editor from Ruth Hoke.

Now going back to last Friday once again, in the evening I went down to the Ferndale radio studios of KSLG. Plastic Jackson is the evening DJ and he had recently reached out to me wondering how he could plug in to the work of the VCC. First I sent him a public service announcement, which I mentioned last week. He then let me invite myself in for an interview which you can hear in part one and part two (both .mp3 approx. 5.5 min). I hope to return to PJ's "Happy Endings" show, 6pm to midnight, weekdays on

On Monday I received a phone call from John Matthews, morning host on KSLG, but also producer of the KHUM public affairs show The Humboldt Review, hosted by Arcata Eye editor Kevin Hoover. This week's show (Thursday 6pm PT) will be about election integrity. I will be a guest via phone.

I so prefer to do interviews in the studio, however, I am currently in NY looking forward to my sister's wedding this weekend. More immediately, tomorrow morning at 10:15, my grandfather and I are going to lead a group discussion with his senior's group at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack. This is going to be fun.

* * *

For anyone who missed Dan Rather's expose about voting machines, it is a MUST SEE available here through


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Keepin' your head above water

Keepin' your head above water,
Making a wave when you can.
Temporary lay offs.
Good Times.

It seems warped to me, but the honest truth is I can't get the theme song from the 70's sitcom Good Times out of my head. I think a defiant posture of positivity in the face of real-life challenges is something to strive for. I'm enthusiastic and encouraged that today I heard both Jon Matthews and Plastic Jackson, morning and evening DJs respectively, read the brief Voter Confidence Committee public service announcement on KSLG. Then I think, who cares, Martin Cotton II died last week in the Humboldt County jail after a physical encounter with the Eureka Police Department.

Good times. Right.

Last Thursday I received a phone call from a representative of the Humboldt Green Party. With apologies for the short notice, I was asked to make a presentation about the Voter Confidence Committee "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, CA," and our campaign for hand-counted paper ballots, at the Green Party General Assembly on Saturday. I was glad to do it and especially pleased that two people offered to join us in tabling to sign up people wishing the County to know they are willing to hand-count votes on election night. I had my voice recorder, but forgot to start it when my talk began. I'm not sure I said anything WDNC readers don't already know.

The same day I got that call, I also attended a so-called Town Hall Meeting convened by Eureka police chief Garr Nielson. About 50 community members filed into a back room at a restaurant owned by Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass. That might not be the ideal setting for such a gathering, but this too was presented as a matter of short notice. Nobody had planned for the death of Martin Cotton II on August 9. Likewise for the five other community members who have died from dealing with the Eureka Police Department in the past two years. In each case, skeptical members of the public challenged the police version of events.

I should point out that I never met Martin Cotton II, nor was I present for his final altercations. By all accounts, he was fighting with folks at the Eureka Rescue Mission, which precipitated the arrival of the police. At this point there are many different stories and I shall not attempt to portray any one of them as reality. Consider this inherent uncertainty part of a vast trend I have outlined many times before.

And still, the VCC campaign rolled on with a promise from Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich that the group will be able to make a brief presentation about the report, the campaign, and the spreadsheet tool (.xls) at the next meeting of the Election Advisory Committee. That is less than two hours from now. Taking place at the same time is a Eureka City Council meeting at which members of the Redwood Curtain CopWatch intend to attend en masse, making their views known to the Council about the death of Martin Cotton II and the role of the police in that sad loss.

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, RCCW claimed to have documented reports from many witnesses who have been too afraid to speak to the police or the media. I think they will have an uphill battle trying to change popular opinion about recent events, even if the majority view states that once again we'll never have a definitive "truth." That's not to say they shouldn't try to bring forth witnesses and help the story evolve. But I'll put out there what I think is the most likely point to get traction.

Now, it is not as if I'm the first to say that Martin Cotton II should have been taken to the hospital instead of the jail. But what I have to offer to the discussion is how Chief Nielson's words indict the officers involved for a judgment call the Chief can be pressed into questioning. It has already happened once, though it seems to me the impact has just slipped on by. What I'm talking about stems first from a question asked by another community member at the Town Hall Forum. Nielson was asked about a quote in the media in which he alleged that Martin Cotton II was on dangerous drugs. This allegation by Nielson was not based on direct observation or a toxicology report. Yet he defended it, as if it were almost self evident.

Following up on this question, I noted to the Chief that in defending his allegation, he was thereby repeating it, and also defining what could be considered a reasonable assumption of his officers on the scene. Nielson acknowledged the logic of my statement. I then went further to point out that if his officers could be expected to conclude that their suspect was in this condition and behaving violently and erratically, then the appropriate course of action anyone might expect of these officers is that they would take their arrestee to the hospital and not the jail. In response, Chief Nielson said, "That is a reasonable premise and I can't argue with that."

Nielson then deftly moved on to the next question. He gave this type of "agreement" in response to several other questions that would seem to have pegged him to a position he likely wouldn't otherwise volunteer to take. So when it comes to this pattern of officer-involved deaths, there is no shortage of emotion or allegations that look to have no real potential for resolution. What may just exist, in at least this one most recent death, is an admission from Chief Nielson that could completely define the rightness or wrongness of the actions of his officers, but which do not seem at all likely to stick unless the logic above is laid out and emphasized repeatedly by RCCW and others.

While I was writing this, Plastic Jackson at KSLG scheduled me for an interview Friday at 7pm.

Ain't we lucky we got 'em. Good Times.


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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Accountability Moment For Eureka Times-Standard

Recently here at WDNC, I have been calling attention to fact-deficient articles in the Eureka Times-Standard (see here and here). Naturally the focus has been on the coverage of "voting machine" news. Today the T-S has published a "My Word" guest opinion column (archive) that pulls it all together. The full text is at the bottom of this post.

But first, I want mention this past Tuesday, when Voter Confidence Committee members Rabbi Les Scharnberg, Ruth Hoke, and I met with the T-S editorial board to discuss the VCC's Report on Election Conditions In Humboldt County, our campaign for hand-counted paper ballots, and of course, their recent dreadful coverage. The meeting was roughly 42 minutes and on the record. A complete recording is here (.mp3). It may not be uniformly exciting, but then we stood our ground several times in challenging their assumptions and rejecting some of their marginalization tactics, and that may be worth hearing.

And one last thing before I get to the My Word column, in case you missed it last night, click here for a letter to the editor which I had published in this week's issue of the Journal.

* * *
Eureka Times-Standard

Collective amnesia about e-voting safety
Dave Berman
Article Launched: 08/16/2007 04:15:49 AM PDT

Election conditions have figured prominently in recent news, thanks in part to a technical review of the state's voting systems conducted by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Bowen's "Red Teams" of computer security experts compromised the security of every system tested, including Diebold and Hart InterCivic equipment used in Humboldt County. The Times-Standard's coverage of this topic deserves serious scrutiny.

On July 28, the T-S ran this headline [on the Web]: "Local election systems may be vulnerable to hackers." This was the first paragraph: "A team of University of California computer scientists were able to hack into several voting systems used by California counties, including the two systems currently used in Humboldt County, the secretary of state announced Friday."

When clearly reporting that election systems are vulnerable ("were able to hack"), why does the T-S headline say they may be vulnerable? [Editor's note: The headline in the print edition said, "Election systems at risk of hacking."]

The T-S quotes Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich being dismissive of these results, and in a manner extraordinarily similar to corporate propaganda defensively spun by "voting machine" vendors. This phenomenon is afflicting registrars throughout the state. They want the public to believe some new precautions can offset the machines' systemic design flaws.

In a report found on the secretary's website, Bowen's Diebold Source Code Review Team wrote: "Improvements to existing procedures may mitigate some threats in part, but others would be difficult, if not impossible, to remedy procedurally. Consequently, we conclude that the safest way to repair the Diebold system is to reengineer it so that it is secure by design."

On Aug. 7, the T-S presented another distortion: "E-voting order may have little impact here." While I may not think Secretary Bowen went far enough in defining new certification conditions, it is definitely a good thing that she has banned modems from transmitting precinct results to election department headquarters. Memory cards from all precincts will now have to be physically delivered to central HQ, and announcing results on election night may no longer be possible. Little impact?

On Aug. 8, the T-S again created a false impression with the headline: "County election system fares well in review." This headline contradicts previous T-S reporting as well as the facts.

This same article also congratulates the registrar for previously choosing optical scanners over touch screen machines, both of which "count" votes in secret. The T-S is correct to place a premium on paper ballots. But the methods of casting and counting votes must be evaluated separately. Lauding this decision is like feting Ford for new seat belts in response to exploding Pintos.

Why is the T-S shaping news this way, without even a balancing view from within the community? How can the registrar defend previously discredited equipment now again debunked? How could recent test results have strengthened her resolve to use Diebold's optical scanners? Why does the registrar choose to align herself with a company that employs convicted computer fraudsters and faces multiple class action lawsuits from investors, rather than with results of legitimate state-sponsored academic university studies?

Humboldt County's Voter Confidence Committee recently completed an eight-month study and published a "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, California." Over the past several years, Humboldt media have documented numerous breakdowns of "voting machines." Yet somehow, word on the street seems to be that we have never had any problems here. Is there any wonder where such confusion comes from?

Regardless, this report is both an antidote for collective amnesia, and a blueprint for community involvement needed to make our elections transparent, secure, and verifiably accurate. The VCC has developed a spreadsheet tool for creating labor, cost and time estimates for an all hand-counted election. Using the VCC spreadsheet tool, The Journal's Hank Sims "twiddled" with the numbers and found hand-counting "wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly" ("Town Dandy," Aug. 2).

Publicly counting votes by hand involves the community in its democracy and makes elections a citizen-owned endeavor. The media witnessing and documenting the process would establish the credibility of the reported results.

The VCC tool and report are now available at We encourage more public discussion about election conditions, and in particular, what creates a basis for voter confidence without relying on blind trust.

To get involved, e-mail: or look for our volunteers signing up people who want the county to know they are willing to hand-count paper ballots on election night.

Dave Berman is a founding member of the Voter Confidence Committee. He resides in Eureka. His blog is

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Diebold's Wobble (LTTE in the Journal)

WDNC readers know I've been closely following the Humboldt media reporting on "voting machines." Hank Sims at the Journal has been doing better than most lately and so I told him so in a letter to the editor published in this week's Journal, at newsstands as of today but not yet online (I don't think they publish letters online anyway, which is too bad). The full text is below.

One other quick note first and that's about the paper with the poorest record lately, the Eureka Times-Standard. Yesterday, along with two other members of the Voter Confidence Committee, I met with the T-S editorial board. I'll have more on that in the morning, when I'm told Thursday's paper will contain a guest opinion (My Word) column I wrote.

* * *
The Journal
August 16, 2007
Page 4, "Mailbox"

Diebold's Wobble

Dear Editor:

These are words of encouragement for Hank Sims to continue writing about Humboldt County's election conditions. In his last two "Town Dandy" columns (Aug. 2 & 9), Sims made it real for our community that official state-sanctioned computer security experts, aka Red Team hackers, "made mincemeat of the machines, demonstrating a variety of ways to skew the vote." The machines in question are Humboldt's so-called "voting machines," optical scanners made by Diebold.

Sims succinctly summarized that our machines "could be easily jimmied and rendered inoperative." I will not stand by and let people say that all election reporting is as misleading as the Times-Standard's coverage ("County election system fares well in review," Aug. 8).

Sims has it right. He even got a sneak peak at the Voter Confidence Committee's new spreadsheet tool for creating labor, cost and time estimates for an all hand-counted election. This tool is now publicly available in conjunction with the VCC's new "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County." Both can be found at

When Sims "twiddled" with the numbers, he found hand-counting "wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly." This addresses a major misconception in the community. But for those who think having election night results is crucial, Sims also notes Secretary of State Debra Bowen's new prohibition on the use of modems to transmit precinct results to the election department headquarters, "which means that we will no longer have election night results."

Could hand-counting be faster, cheaper, and more accurate? Twiddle onward.

Dave Berman, Eureka

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

How To Forecast Labor, Cost and Time For Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

At the risk of being immodest, what I'm about to describe has the potential to greatly advance the hand-counted paper ballot (HCPB) movement in every community. Credit where it is due, let me first say that last November the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) began working on the recently published Report On Election Conditions in Humboldt County, California. In the course of researching this report, I came in contact with Nancy Tobi of Democracy For New Hampshire (DNH). She is an amazing resource and an effective advocate for HCPB.

Shortly after the VCC report was first posted, DNH made a presentation that Nancy called to my attention. When I viewed it, something clicked for me. There on the pages was a step by step--SIMPLE--explanation for how many people would be needed to count ballots in a given amount of time. I copied the formula and started working with numbers representative of Humboldt. It was Ernie Stegeman who suggested making it dynamic in a spreadsheet. From there it only took me about 15 minutes.

Why is this so important?

Anybody who has ever tried to lobby local government for change knows the elected officials always want to know the cost, and in this case the other obvious questions are how long will it take to count, and how many people will be needed? As with most issues, there is a talking point meme that says hand counting will take too long or we can't get enough people. Now we have a concrete way to challenge these assumptions.

Hank Sims of The Journal got a sneak peek at the spreadsheet tool (.xls) and then published in his August 2 "Town Dandy" column:

Berman's suggestion: Ditch the machines and go to a pure hand-count of all votes cast. Initial twiddling with the numbers suggests that it wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly -- and wouldn't you rather wait a few days and spend a little more for a trustworthy count?
On Thursday I submitted a letter to the editor of The Journal but I won't post that here just yet. I actually want to point out something I wish I had included in that letter. Even as Sims is saying basically, this is more feasible than you think, he also extends the faulty premise "wait a few days and spend a little more." Says who?

As presented by DNH, the first component of the formula is based on the amount of time allotted for counting. Different counties may allow counting until different hours of the night (11pm or midnight or whenever). Whatever this variable is set to, the needed number of counters adjusts accordingly. If the time allowed was three hours, the formula would calculate more counters needed than if five hours were allowed. The point is that there basically is no argument any more that it would take too long because the finish time could be stipulated. There is still the need to prove that enough People will step up and do the counting.

The VCC is currently expanding community outreach efforts, tabling at various times and places to interact with the public. We're promoting our report with a flier and asking people to sign up if they are willing to hand-count paper ballots on election night. I had a few interesting hours at the Eureka Co-Op on Saturday afternoon. Ernie and I collected about 30 names.

We don't have a target number yet for how many names we'd like. This is a function of wanting Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich to provide her official assumptions for the spreadsheet variables. With these numbers we would then have an official forecast that would add tangible elements to our fledgling campaign. I will report follow-ups in our attempt to get her to provide those numbers. We've been waiting a long time.

Now I know there are HCPB supporters all over the country. I hope some of these people will get their hands on the spreadsheet tool (.xls). It may be one of the best, most direct ways we have to take back our elections.


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Have We Learned About Elections Lately?

CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen made a dramatic late-night announcement on Friday, August 3, presenting her certification decisions for the state's voting systems. Bowen completely decertified InkaVote, sold by ES&S and formerly used only in Los Angeles, because the source code was not submitted for review. All other equipment was decertified and recertified with new conditions for use, based in part on the reports (lower on same page as above link) of Bowen's Red Teams of computer security experts (see my summaries of the Diebold and Hart Intercivic reports). Some of these terms are vague or confusing, and I'll cover that in a bit.

What is clear to me is that the public is becoming more aware and more concerned about our election conditions. I have observed more people than ever having open discussions about Diebold, Bowen, and hand-counting paper ballots. More than a few people contacted me by e-mail in the past week to ask how to get involved. The increased interest in election integrity feels palpable to me.

While plentiful, Humboldt media coverage has been mixed, at best, while at other times presenting an alternate reality. On July 28, The Times-Standard gave us a headline of "Local election systems may be vulnerable to hackers" above a lede that makes clear local election systems ARE vulnerable to hackers. Today, a T-S headline read, "County election system fares well in review" - despite the Red Team reports of countless exploits found in our Diebold optical scanners.

Hank Sims had a little more on the ball in last week's Town Dandy column in the Journal: "...the hackers basically made mincemeat of the machines, demonstrating a variety of ways to skew the vote...The Red Team also verified that the optical scanning machines found at our precincts could be easily jimmied and rendered inoperative."

Having checked out the amazing calculator tool (.xls) I wrote about last week, Sims went on to address the feasibility of the Voter Confidence Committee's campaign for hand-counted paper ballots:

Berman's suggestion: Ditch the machines and go to a pure hand-count of all votes cast. Initial twiddling with the numbers suggests that it wouldn't be all that time-consuming or costly -- and wouldn't you rather wait a few days and spend a little more for a trustworthy count?
I have no objection to being called "obsessive" when the same article makes my case this well. The new issue of the Journal is out but not yet online. Sims again writes about elections, referring to Bowen's "weekend massacre." The problems this will cause Humboldt are "relatively minor," says Sims, contrasting with the newly machine-less LA. True that.

However, I believe Sims understates things when saying that shoring up security for the GEMS central tabulator will merely mean "our elections office will have to change up procedure a bit." I leave it to the reader to re-trace my many prior references to the dangers of GEMS. Here I shall only point to the words from another of the reports provided to Bowen in her Top To Bottom Review (TTBR). This is from the Executive Summary of the Source Code Review of the Diebold Voting System:
Vulnerability to malicious insiders
The Diebold system lacks adequate controls to ensure that county workers with access to the GEMS central election management system do not exceed their authority. Anyone with access to a county's GEMS server could tamper with ballot definitions or election results and could also introduce malicious software into the GEMS server itself or into the county's voting machines.

Although we present several previously unpublished vulnerabilities, many of the weaknesses that we describe were first identified in previous studies of the Diebold system (e. g., [26], [17], [18], [19], [33], [23], and [14]). Our report confirms that many of the most serious flaws that these studies uncovered have not been fixed in the versions of the software that we studied.

Since many of the vulnerabilities in the Diebold system result from deep architectural flaws, fixing individual defects piecemeal without addressing their underlying causes is unlikely to render the system secure. Systems that are architecturally unsound tend to exhibit "weakness-in-depth"-even as known flaws in them are fixed, new ones tend to be discovered. In this sense, the Diebold software is fragile.

Due to these shortcomings, the security of elections conducted with the Diebold system depends almost entirely on the effectiveness of election procedures. Improvements to existing procedures may mitigate some threats in part, but others would be difficult, if not impossible, to remedy procedurally. Consequently, we conclude that the safest way to repair the Diebold system is to reengineer it so that it is secure by design.
It doesn't get any more devastating than that. All the preening of Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich is plainly phoney, and the media pandering to her is reprehensible. Sims gets a pass for his support of HCPB, but here is more bad journalism from the T-S ("E-voting order may have little impact here"), and without Rebecca S. Bender it seems the Eureka Reporter has gone mute on this subject, save a great letter to the editor submitted by VCC members Ruth Hoke and George Hurlburt.

What is happening is that Crnich and other Registrars throughout the state are in a highly defensive posture. Being forced to give up all their equipment would mean maximum uncertainty and the greatest amount of work. Instead, in fine CYA fashion, we see continued apologies for secret vote counting machines. You don't have to look all that closely to see the similarities in the rhetoric of Registrars and machine vendors such as Diebold. It is unconscionable that the results of Bowen's TTBR would make anyone more inclined to support "electronic voting machines." We're past the time of being surprised by such things, including the media's facilitation role. It is time we use these points against them. Ready for the first great example?

As Sims points out in his new column, Bowen has banned the use of modems for transmitting precinct results to the central tabulator. The VCC report addresses the risks of modems and obviously calls for their banishment as they are unnecessary with hand-counting. The beauty of what Sims says:
"The machines will have to be physically delivered back to Elections HQ before the counting commences, which means that we will no longer have election night results."
Of course, one of the most common blusters we hear against HCPB is that it will take too long. We are now very close to having definitive proof that HCPB will be faster. The VCC continues to call upon Crnich to help us narrow down the range of estimates plugged into the calculator tool (.xls) for forecasting manpower needs and costs of hand-counting 100% of the paper ballots. And now, thanks to Sims, I believe we should hereby permanently lay to rest the canard of immediate election results being prioritized over accuracy.

* * *

Now, regarding Bowen's conditional certification of Diebold, the way she has this posted online, I'm unable to copy and paste text directly out of the document. So, here I'll just re-type brief references and encourage you to read the full document for yourself.

Page 2

"voting systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results...contain serious design flaws...which attackers could exploit to affect election outcomes...Diebold software contains vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to install malicious software on voting machines and on the election management system, which could cause votes to be recorded incorrectly or to be miscounted, possibly altering election results...due to these shortcomings some threats would be difficult, if not impossible, to remedy with election procedures...with access only to the Windows operating system on the Diebold GEMS election management server supplied by Diebold and without requiring access to Diebold source code [Red Team members] were able to access the Diebold voting system server software and to corrupt the election management system database, which could result in manipulated voter totals or the inability to read election results, rendering an election impossible to complete electronically."

Page 3

"...without accessing Diebold source code, [Red Team members] gained access to the election management server to manipulate and corrupt the election management system database...some of these attacks could be carried out in a manner that is not subject to detection by audit, including review of the software logs."

[WDNC]: the next quote is from page four and it strikes me as contradictory and dangerously hypocritical (sorry Bowen)

Page 4

"...tampering with optical scan equipment...can be readily detected and corrected through hand counting of the optical scan paper ballots marked and directly verified by voters."

[WDNC]: First of all, this begs acceptance of the vulnerability. With various exploits described as difficult or impossible to detect, there is no justification for guaranteeing detection, let alone correction, with opscans. This puts an undue burden on the People whose rights are not being secured here, as a government is charged to do. Rules and regulations trying to promote public oversight must first clear the view with a more transparent method of counting votes.

Page 4

"...studies have shown that many voters do not review VVPAT [Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail] records and that test voters who do review VVPAT records to not detect many discrepancies that have been intentionally introduced..."

Page 5

"In order to provide accessible balloting to voters with disabilities in compliance with HAVA, jurisdictions may use no more than once AccuVote-TSx per polling place on Election Day."

[WDNC]: This refers to the touch screen models, not used in Humboldt. Registrars have been complaining about this and it is easy to understand why. They are either going to have massive logjams of voters all trying to vote on one machine where there used to be several or many, or they will urgently have to buy many new optical scanners, or they will have to resort to hand-counting.

Page 5

Requires "a 100% manual count of all votes cast on an AccuVote-TSx."

[WDNC]: This is astounding. Hand-counting 100% of the votes defeats the purpose of having the machine count them. My assumption is that Bowen's is trying to discourage use of the touch screen machines and so the hope would be for relatively few votes cast this way in need of being hand-counted.

Page 6

"Before any use in the February 5, 2008, Presidential primary election, jurisdictions must reinstall all software and firmware (including reformatting all hard disk drives and reinstalling the operating system where applicable) on all election management system servers and workstations, voting devices and hardware components of the voting system. Voting system application software must be reinstalled using the currently approved version obtained directly from the federal testing laboratory or the Secretary of State."

Page 7

"Within 30 days of the date of this document, the vendor must develop and submit to the Secretary of State for approval, a plan and procedures for timely identification of required security updates (e.g., operating system security patches, security software updates, etc), vendor testing of the updates, and secure distribution and application of vendor-approved security updates."

[WDNC]: Why should we have confidence in the machines in their newly approved form when the expectation is that more security flaws will be found? Avi Rubin makes a similar observation. This page also inexplicably allows for networking, though it does have the modem prohibition. It also makes reference to the two-person rule which I believe goes back to the Feb. 2006 VSTAAB report, which recommends that optical scanners and memory cards never be in anyone's sole possession. This would seem to preclude sleepovers, however, page 9 seems to allow poll workers to take home machines prior to Election Day.

Page 8

"Upon request, members of the public must be permitted to observe and inspect, without physical contact, the integrity of all externally visible security seals used to secure voting equipment in a time and manner that does not interfere with the conduct of the election or the privacy of any voter."

[WDNC]: This is looks great on paper but we've seen Registrars plainly obstruct the access of citizens to their Democracy. This should carry a severe criminal penalty. Page 8 also requires posting of poll tapes, another apparent victory that in reality carries no weight. As the VCC learned last November, precinct poll tapes are useless when the County never provides as a basis for comparison raw precinct scanner data that has not been combined with absentee or other ballots not cast on the scanner in the precinct on Election Day.

Page 8

"Any post-election auditing requirements imposed as a condition of this certification shall be paid for by the vendor. Jurisdiction users are required to conduct the audits and the vendor is required to reimburse the jurisdiction."

[WDNC]: I'm getting near the end now. Just a few more stray notes, such as page 9 continuing the requirement (begun under McPherson?) that counties submit a post-election problem report to the SoS. Page 10 describes how to deal with machines whose security has been compromised, and also machines that have been rebooted or which have rebooted themselves. The bottom of page 11 and the top of page 12 is a bit troublesome. It attempts to put vendors on the hook for warrantying their equipment, but all it really does is say they have to stand by their word and repair equipment at their expense when they have been caught lying again. This is not nearly strict enough. Finally, page 12 expands the requirement for vendors to give the SoS a copy of the source code, in addition to placing a copy in escrow.

So, what have we learned about elections lately?


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Posted by Dave Berman - 11:34 PM | Permalink
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We Do Not Consent, Volume 1 (left) and Volume 2 (right), feature essays from Dave Berman's previous blogs, GuvWurld and We Do Not Consent, respectively. Click the covers for FREE e-book versions (.pdf). As of April 2010, paperbacks are temporarily out of print. Click here for the author's bio.

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"If in the future we have vital elections, the "no basis for confidence" formulation that GuvWurld is popularizing will have been a historically important development. This is true because by implicitly insisting on verification and checks and balances instead of faith or trust in elections officials or machines as a basis for legitimacy, it encourages healthy transparent elections. It’s also rare that a political formulation approaches scientific certainty, but this formulation is backed up by scientific principles that teach that if you can’t repeat something (such as an election) and verify it by independent means, it doesn’t exist within the realm of what science will accept as established or proven truth."

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— Elizabeth Ferrari, San Francisco, Green Party of California

"This is an important collection of essays with a strong unitary theme: if you can't prove that you were elected, we can't take you seriously as elected officials. Simple, logical, comprehensive. 'Management' (aka, the 'powers that be') needs to get the message. 'The machines' are not legitimizers, they're an artful dodge and a path to deception. We've had enough...and we most certainly DO NOT consent."

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