Saturday, October 04, 2003

More on voting and e-voting

Many of these links are from the votingtech list:

Of course, Bev Harris' Black Box Voting . Required reading if you're interested in the subject.

Center for Voting and Democracy

LA County Registrar of Votors: Voting System Replacement

Maryland's Accuvote Report, and Verified Voting's rebuttal


From LYNCHING BY LAPTOP by Greg Palast and Ina Howard

In 2002, with little public notice, Congress passed and the president signed the "Help America Vote Act." When the Bush family wants to "help" us vote, look out. Hidden behind the apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil rights time-bomb.
The new law to "Help America Vote" will eat up $3.9 billion of taxpayers' money, partly to tempt states and counties to adopt computerized 'touch-screen' voting. Why is King worried? The first elections with computers produced vote-count horror shows that make one yearn for hanging chads. In 2002, Comal County, Texas, tried out new computer voting machines-and three Republican candidates each won their respective offices with exactly 18,181 votes. "Isn't that the weirdest thing?" County Clerk Joy Treater asked at the time. "We noticed it right away, but it is just a big coincidence."
Just down the road in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. That county's clerk, Joan Bunch, investigated and found that a "faulty" computer chip had caused the county's optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican instead. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount using a replacement chip in the scanner, the Democratic candidates were found to have won by large margins and the original results were overturned.


Dave Zweifel: High-tech voting must be fraud-free
Clinton, Dean

Great quote from Clinton in '97:

I'd also like to say that whatever it is that Howard Dean knows, or whatever it is that he eats for breakfast every morning, if I could give it to every other Democratic office holder and would-be office holder, we would immediately become the majority in the Congress and we would have about 35 governors. I have to tell you, I think a big part of it is just producing for people, actually doing what you say you're going to do at election time.

Translation: Dean is a guy who does what he says he's going to do.

I don't need to tell you how badly we need that in contemporary American politics. But I will anyway.

As a gen-X voter, I was personally, completely, *shocked* when I realized, in a disagreement with my parents a year or so ago, that they actually felt trust for the government. There is an age gap there that I expect will never be bridged.

I have never trusted my government. I grew up in a post-Watergate era. I cut my political teeth on Oliver North. I have never believed my duly (or unduly) elected representatives of the legislative and executive branches act on any real perception of the public good What.So.Ever.

Pretty much the only trust I ever had is that I feel I can rely pretty well on my government officials to betray the general welfare of citizenry for a quick buck and a re-election.

So, when I vote, and I do, it's in the hopes that by keeping Republicans and Democrats at each other's necks they'll be too occupied to come down on mine and those of ordinary citizenry. And we can get on with our lives without too much interference from a bunch of assholes.

Cynical, isn't it? Yes, yes it is. Justified? That, too.

And Howard Dean. A guy in politics who does what he says he's going to do.

I cannot think of a single idea more galvanizing to my cynical fellows, more hopeful, and more desperately necessary to climb out of the terrible hole that the current administration has dug and then jumped into, headfirst.

Hope. It's not just a four-letter word anymore.

Quote via Value Judgment, opinion, of course, via me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Recent Salon article re: Diebold voting systems

Hacking Democracy (Salon)

A critical point the article overlooks arises from Lewis's assertion about certification:

Lewis says, the testing labs simulate actual voting on each type of machine. The test, which is 163 hours long, "puts tens of thousands of votes into the system, and we know what the outcome is supposed to be."

Once an application has been patched (which we know happens[*]) *after* certification but before use, the certification is now in question -- because the software has *changed* due to the patch. Any responsible developer performs what checks they can before releasing a patch (because a patch is supposed to FIX something), but the patched code and the certified version of the application are *not the same*, and patches *frequently* are released without substantial QA, certainly not the 163 hour testing to which Lewis refers. You cannot state that version X.12 software is certified, and then assume that subsequent patches don't introduce an unexpected problem. This is why you need to constantly re-test code. Once you've patched X.12 with patch B44, you now have software version X.12.B44 -- software *based* on a certified application. But not itself certified.

This, by the way, is why when you go to download an open source application, you'll see versions marked as 'robust' or 'public' or 'official' -- they've been tested/certified/reviewed and released for general use, as well as 'beta' or 'developer's' versions, the two latter labels referring to code actively undergoing changes on a regular basis. Not tested or not tested fully. Not certified. Not reviewed. And, not released for general use.

[*] A technician describes loading new code onto touchscreen units for Diebold immediately before elections. Logistically, such code could not have gone through the 163 hour certification. Ref: Bald-Faced Lies About Black Box Voting Machines

An Open Invitation to Election Fraud (Salon)
Hacking Democracy (Salon)
Black Box Voting
Who spilled the beans?

The finger points at Karl Rove

Sunday, September 28, 2003

We call it 'Reason'

Dean on 'Face the Nation'

One thing I'd like to call to your attention.

SCHIEFFER: Listening to you talk about this, listening to you talk about some of the things that you said about Medicare and so forth, the republican national committee has put out a long press release that just says you're a flip-flopper, that you've changed on so many issues. How do you respond to that, governor?

DEAN: I have changed on some of the issues. I think that's one of the hallmarks of who I am. I'm a doctor. I believe if you have a theory and the fact comes along that changes the theory, then you throw out the theory. The republicans believe that if a fact comes along that changes the theory, they throw out the fact. They deny there is such a thing as global warming. President made the case now that bipartisan committee in congress admits was exaggerated and ignored the facts for going to war in Iraq. This is pretty serious stuff. I have no complaint and no embarrassment about changing my positions at all. If facts come along that show you things need to change, you need to change them.

This, my friends and fellow voters, is what we like to call, 'the scientific method':

  1. Look at some 'data' (information).
  2. Form an 'hypothesis', or conclusion, based on that data.
  3. Test your hypothesis (by using it to make a prediction, and then checking to see if that prediction is right).
  4. Correct hypothesis as needed.

Repeat until you can make no more corrections!

Even for the big brains, *thinking* *about* *stuff* frequently involves throwing away earlier ideas that no longer work given your revised understanding of the situation.