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How To Spot E-Vote Tampering? 507

Precinct Election Judge writes "I am one of the Republican Party Precinct Chairs in Harris County, Texas. Since in 2006 Republican Rick Perry won the Governor's race in my precinct I will be the head election judge at my polling station this November. (My Democratic counterpart will be assistant election judge.) I have read with interest the stories about voting machine hacking, and I want advice from those of you who are experts on what to watch for to make sure there is no fraudulent activity at my precinct during the election. What activities should I look for? Keep in mind my restrictions: I will be at a table in the front of the room with the voter rolls signing people in, I can only approach the voting machines if a voter asks a question or if I have strong reason to believe there is fraudulent activity, the last thing I need is for someone to say the Republicans are trying to keep people from voting! And finally, although each station and voter will be visible from my seat each machine has 'blinders' around it so I will most likely not be able to see the hands of each voter while they are at the station. Thank you in advance for all suggestions."
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How To Spot E-Vote Tampering?

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  • by llamalad ( 12917 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:08PM (#23673257)
    So what you're really asking is what sort of evidence of tampering you should be sure to avoid leaving behind?
    • Things to watch for (Score:5, Informative)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @07:42PM (#23676301)
      First your question holds the telescope at the wrong end. Tampering by voters is much less likely to occur because it is unlikely to change an election out come or occur in an undetectable manner. The people to watch are the election officials, with pre-a nd post voting access to the machines.

      That said what a voter can do depends on what machines you have in use. Lets consider the big three Diebold, Seqouia edge or ES&S ivotronic and no voter verified paper trails.

      On the ES&S, the voter is usually facing the machine in a privacy carrel and the machine is a flat block. It very possible for a voter to complete obscure the following transaction ( I know because I've done it). Flip the 5 pound machine over and you find little plastic door. you can easily force this open. Behind it is the Flash memory cards. Yank these out and put them in your pocket. close the food and flip the machine over. Leave and the election is screwed.

      It's also possible a diabolically well outfitted voter could have a second PBS device in his pocket. Armed with that, he can can admin access to the machine and do anything they like and vote as many times as they wish.

      With Sequoias edges, depending on the model revision number there can be a little yellow button on the back. Pressing that causes the machine to go in to supervisor mode. If I lean forward I can just reach around and get that button. If you were watching you could see me execute this clumsy maneauver.

      I've never had the chance to play with diebolds so I can't offer specifics Some diebolds have an unguarded IR port that a hacker might be able to do something interesting with on their palm pilot. But I don't think there's any known attacks yet.

      On all of these machines, it's possible to miscalibrate the screens. The screens can be miscalibrated by heat or scratching them with keys. In the neighboring county we had one guy running for office actually carve his name into the machine. Unfucking believable.

      That same county had a vote buying operation going on (a few people got arrested and convicted). So make sure people vote alone.

      For systems with paper tapes (not paper ballots) you can sell your vote if you have a camera or cell-phone camera because a picture of the voted paper tape before it scrolls out of sight is proof of vote. So no cameras!

      But the problem with all these is that there's a huge risk to the bad voter and they can only affect a few votes. At worst they wreck one machine and probably get caught. Vote flipping is hard if not impossible at the retail level.

      THe really fun things happen when supervisors can reprogram systems, get access to the flash media and have the ability to replace it.

      Perhaps the best way to sabotage an election is the Denial of Service attack. Simply having machines not boot in the morning tends to filter out working wage-class folks over seniors or people on salaries. Having long lines in the late afternoon filters out working moms that have to go pick up the kids and take them to soccer practice. Likewise breakdowns in the evening are cool because you can close the polls while there are still people who have not voted. (see Ohio for example).

      • Things to do (Score:5, Insightful)

        by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:27PM (#23676711)
        The chances of election tampering happening in your berg are pretty slim. People are just not sophisticated enough and the system is in too much flux to pull is off easily. As things settle and people gain experience the security holes will be bigger issues.

        The bigger issues are two fold. Errors and the Appearance of fraud. These are indistinguishable on electronic voting machines.

        So you job is to stay calm and go the extra mile to keep everything transparent. It does me no good if your deputy, the guy you've know since you were 8, donated his kidney to you, and married your kid sister seem trustworthy to you. You still have to do things the long boring way. Two people do operations, other witness. No ones word is taken for granted.

        post results on the precint door if the law allows, BEFORE you transmit any results.

        transparency is the key to trustworthy elections. Don't worry so much about fraud as making people see how the process works.

        • You are wrong on nearly all counts.

          (1) E-voting tampering has proven to be rampant and has been reported virtually "everywhere", i.e., it is impossible to predict what precinct will be victim, rural or otherwise.

          (2) "The people", sophisticated or not, are not the problem. The problem is sophisticated, carefully prepared, and sneaky people who are in positions of authority or easy access. That is, the people to watch are voting officials and employees of the voting machine company, and anyone else who
  • by bit trollent ( 824666 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:10PM (#23673287) Homepage
    Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

    If it doesn't have a paper trail, ask yourself why.
    • by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:23PM (#23673535) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, without a paper trail, the question you should be asking is - how can you spot E-Vote integrity? The answer is: You can't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radarjd ( 931774 )

      Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

      What does a paper trail do on its own? Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail? Who does the verifying and who verifies the verifyers? Let's say the software is open source and auditable (and competent, trustworthy people do the auditing), how do you ensure that untampered software is on the machine?

      If it doesn't have a paper trail, ask yourself why.

      I could come with several reasons, ranging from innocuous to stupid to malicious to criminal. It could be that a paper trail which simply prints out the votes in hard copy adds nothing to the secur

      • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:33PM (#23673727) Journal

        What does a paper trail do on its own? Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail?

        The voter should have an opportunity to verify the paper trail. He is the only one who can confirm the paper trail recorded his vote correctly. A shutter system could easily reveal only the voters's record to him. A comparison of the sign in rolls reveals that no "extra" votes were added.

        • by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @05:09PM (#23674293)
          And that's exactly what we have in my county, San Mateo County in California. The voter votes on the electronic system. The system then prints out a paper listing of his ballot, which displays for that voter. The voter must then physically approve that paper display as matching his/her vote choices. Only after the voter has verified the paper matches his/her intent, then the voter finally casts his/her ballot.

          The paper ballots are on a roll that is held in a secure paper trail unit, which is sealed with a uniquely coded seal that cannot be disturbed from the time the unit is certified prior to election day until the unit is returned for verification and tallying. If the seal is broken or disturbed, that unit is immediately reported for auditing, etc.

          When I am assisting voters, I make sure to highlight that the paper vote that displays is the "paper trail" they have heard about, and that to ensure their vote's integrity, they should be careful to seriously check the vote and verify it matches.
          • It's just great that California has instituted a requirement for a voter-verifiable paper trail for e-voting machines, but the fundamental problems still remain.

            The problem with these machines is that there's no guarantee that the ballot that the voter verified actually matches what gets recorded in the memory of the machine, and what eventually gets transmitted upstream.

            Yes, a manual recount based on the paper trail would catch massive vote fraud - but that's only going to happen if the results are obvious
      • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy.gmail@com> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:35PM (#23673763) Journal
        Ideally the machine should spit out a paper confirming your choices, and you should drop that in a box on the way out the door, after you verify it. Generating a piece of paper that the voter never sees is pointless.

        Now, you're probably thinking, "That sounds like a paper ballot system? Why would we pay all this money for these fancy machines when we have to basically fall back on a paper ballot system to make sure they're reliable?"

        And that is the real question.
        • by Gyga ( 873992 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:51PM (#23673991)
          I like my backwards town for this reason. "Here's a magic marker, here's a piece of paper. Here's a sticker. There are the booths. Ask if you need help."
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wfeick ( 591200 )

          I'd like to see a system where the computer accepts your input, verifies the integrity of your ballot (e.g. you haven't selected more than one person in the same race, etc.) and prints out the ballot you'll be casting for you to see. Having approved it, but without being allowed to touch it, the ballot is dropped into the box and also added to a matching electronic tally.

          When the polls close, the two totals should match. Just to be sure, we select a small percentage of the devices at random and verify the

      • What does a paper trail do on its own?

        By itself, nothing, but it is part of a system for adding some level of checking.

        Couldn't the software falsify the paper trail?

        Yes, but it becomes easier to spot.

        Who does the verifying and who verifies the verifyers?

        Here's the crux of thew whole system I mentioned:
        Does your E-Vote equipment produce a voter verifieable paper trail?

        A voter verifiable paper trail doesn't just spit a piece of paper into a locked box. It spits out a piece of paper which the
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheMCP ( 121589 )
      I'll go one further. If it doesn't produce paper ballots which are readable by the voter to ensure they reflect the voter's intent, and which are counted rather than a direct electronic tally, the system can be hacked. Period.

      As a computer scientist and programmer I have 0% confidence in any system which doesn't produce a paper audit trail, but even if it does, if the voter can't personally validate that the audit trail for their vote reflects their intent, the system could still just be producing a phony a
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:10PM (#23673289) Homepage
    That's the hard part about e-voting. It's hard to tell when something fraudulent is happening. With pen and paper, human counted voting, it's easy to watch to ballot box to ensure it's empty when you start, that no extra votes are deposited, and that all votes are counted properly. With computers, it's hard for people to actually watch and see what's going on. You could probably swap out the entire insides of a voting machine, make it work completely differently, yet look exactly the same, without anybody noticing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hoppo ( 254995 )
      Actually, that's not true. It would have been pathetically easy to deposit extra votes in the ballot box without anyone noticing.

      It is fallacious to think we can have a foolproof voting system. And those who complain the loudest will never be satisfied. Use paper voting, and there is outcry of fraud, ballot box stuffing, etc. Move to computer voting, and there is still outcry of fraud, ballot box stuffing, etc. If a paper trail is added, suddenly they're tracking who votes for whom. There's no winning
      • Here's my (serious) question: What's worse?

        a) Having a paper trail and therefore eliminating the anonymity of voting


        b) Having no idea whether your vote actually counted

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dascritch ( 808772 )
        Here in France, the ballot box is transparent (plexiglas) and most of the time, vote are put in a envelope.

        But it is also true that we are planning elections so that never more than two simultaneous consultations are done the same day (and never during Presidential Indecisions days).

        I was assesseur (co-judge) in numerous elections, and we rarely have to count more than one hour for 2000 exprimed votes. I think symbolic transparency of the ballot box help to have more than 50% of participation for major elec
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by doconnor ( 134648 )
        I've been an scrutineer in several Canadian elections where we use paper ballots with no computers.

        Dropping extra votes in the box could be done in a Canadian election, but it would be detected at the end of the day when the number of votes are compared to the number of voters and the number of ballots handed out. If there was a problem on a wide scale, it would be known, and presumably the election rerun.

        Many of the procedures in a Canadian election are about detecting fraud which is somewhat easier and le
  • Is that tampering is difficult or impossible on a black box electronic voting machine. Does it spit out a paper trail?
    • whoops, I meant difficult or impossible to spot tampering. Not that tampering is difficult or impossible with an electronic voting machine.
    • But what good is a paper trail if you can't get a recount? It's very hard to get an actual recount. And even if you do, they don't recount everything. They recount a certain percentage, and then if there's a problem found with that "randomly selected" sample, you get to recount the whole batch. And what happens if the recount finds a discrepency. They correct it. But what about all the other voting districts. They haven't done a revote yet. So if there was something really wrong with the way the mac
      • I'm trying to understand what is so good about an electronic voting machine? Here in my state, we do use an "electronic" voting machine of sorts. It is an optical scan machine. The voter marks a paper ballot with supplied pen, and then the ballot is inserted into the machine for counting. One could verify the count by hand counting the original paper ballots. If the machine is purely electronic with no physical ballot, tampering could occur without detection.
        • by Shagg ( 99693 )
          I'm trying to understand what is so good about an electronic voting machine? ...
          If the machine is purely electronic with no physical ballot, tampering could occur without detection.

          I think you've answered your own question. That's a definite plus to the people who are forcing these things on us.
  • by yo303 ( 558777 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:11PM (#23673305)
    If the machine says Diebold on it, there's a good chance it has been tampered with.
  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:13PM (#23673341) Journal
    But here in Illinois where we're so patriotic that even being dead won't keep you from voting, there is only one question that needs to be asked:

    "Did anyone vote?"

    If yes, there was fraud.

    "Vote early, vote often". Note that our last Republican Governor is in Federal prison, and our last Democratic Governor spent time in prison after he lost to the Republicans.

    Seriously though, the only way to keep an electronic voting machine honest is to use one that spits out a human-readable paper ballot that you, as an election judge, can make sure gets in the ballot box so if there's any doubt, humans can perform a recount.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ptbarnett ( 159784 )

      Note that our last Republican Governor is in Federal prison, and our last Democratic Governor spent time in prison after he lost to the Republicans.

      And now your current governor has been implicated [chicagotribune.com] in the recent trial of Tony Rezko.

      Is there something in the water of Lake Michigan that makes Illinois politicians ethically-challenged?

      Not that Texas has any right to gloat, being (in)famous for "Landslide Lyndon" [wikipedia.org]

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <j@jjcm.org> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:13PM (#23673345) Homepage Journal
    Look for the flashing lights and sudden appearances of 3d interfaces - because everyone knows that hacking is just like it appears in the movies [imdb.com]
  • 1. What kind of equipment will you be using?
    There are a number of models which have been shown to be tamperable with no evidence of tampering available at the time of voting. Step 1 is to make sure you aren't using any of these machines.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:15PM (#23673373)
    I think you should be more concerned with malfunctioning e-voting systems, in particular situations where the voter believes his/her vote has been recorded as intended, but the final tallies do not reflect the voter's intent.

    A good way to achieve this is to have a verifiable record of the votes cast.

    As far as hacking, you should probably seal the machines with strong tape, including any keyholes, ports, access panels. This would make it easier for you to detect someone tampering with a machine, due to the increased effort required to do so. It also would make it more difficult to tamper with the machine without leaving a trace.
  • Not you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:15PM (#23673383) Journal
    The system is set-up to PREVENT voters from fraud. Even on the electronics, it is set-up. Any issue will almost certainly be out of your control. The real problem with the electronics is that the COMPANY who built and service it can commit fraud. And it is next to impossible to detect. All a politician has to do is pay off somebody up high and then the company will do things like last minute software updates in warehouses, that were post inspection. Sadly, it is easy to do.
    • Re:Not you (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {cornell.edu}> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:57PM (#23674089) Homepage
      In addition - In most cases the suspicion is not that someone randomly walked in and tampered with the election, but that an election official (such as the person who submitted this to Ask Slashdot) tampered with the election.

      Sad to say it to the submitter, but for many people "Republican" and "E-Voting" instantly casts suspicions of tampering for a wide variety of reasons, including but not limited to significant monetary connections between Diebold (now PES) and the Republican party and a claim from someone from Diebold that they would "deliver the election" or something like that.

      So, sadly, the question as a Republican election coordinator is not
      "How do I prevent tampering", but it is
      "How can I prove that the election was not tampered with" and "How can I prove that *I* did not tamper with the election"

      How? I'm not sure, but based on other requirements a voter-verifiable paper trail is the first step, and not using Diebold/PES is the second (although there is lots of evidence that most other E-Voting vendors are not giving any thought to security whatsoever.)
  • by TRRosen ( 720617 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:17PM (#23673403)
    Bush wins.
    • Actually, since the question comes from the Republican chair, if Obama gets 60% in a county that voted 60% for Bush the last time, that HAS to be tampering.
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:19PM (#23673437)
    1. Verify that you're using electronic voting machines.
    2. You cannot verify the voting machine itself.
    3. Elections are fraudulent without transparency.

    I maintain that the whole concept of electronic voting machines is so idiotic that anyone who doesn't realise what using one means, is in effect giving up his/her right to vote.
  • by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:19PM (#23673441)

    The most egregious fraud on electronic voting machines is completely out of your control, and most likely happens out of sight of any precinct level election official: in the software that is installed on the machines. Unless you have the authority and knowledge to inspect many thousands of lines of code on each machine, you are powerless in this regard.

    However, most machines have some type of USB, SD card, or other hardware interface that might be protected with some type of tamper proofing, like the foil seals on aspirin bottles. This is probably beyond your authority to put in place, though.

    The only thing you can do is pay attention to the tabulations, if you get to see them.

    I recommend you watch Hacking Democracy for insight on what to watch for.

  • by beadfulthings ( 975812 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:19PM (#23673445) Journal
    (In other words, I'm a Democrat striving for civility.) I would suggest to you that most types of fraudulent activity will take place where you can't see them--that is, not in your presence. These machines have a lot of vulnerabilities, and it's not necessary to stand there and tamper with them while you are pretending to vote. My first thought on being confronted with one of Maryland's soon-to-be-vanished Diebold systems was that I could have brought in a pocket full of cards containing whatever I wanted them to contain. Assuming that your jurisdiction is still making gestures towards the secrecy of the ballot (via the privacy screens), you and your counterpart wouldn't even see that. I suppose that the poll watcher/election judge/whoever who is assigned to escort voters to the machines and get them started could watch for clumsy fraudsters dropping extra cards out of their pockets. Aside from that, if the fraud happens, you won't see it.
  • Black Box Voting Org (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:20PM (#23673465)
    In all fairness to the /. crowd, I'd say that the best place to ask this question would be the forums of http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ [blackboxvoting.org] From what I have read of their analysis of previous elections I would guess that they have seen it all before.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:36PM (#23673773)
      replying to my own post. I found some analysis that I had seen before about Sequoia e-voting machines used in the 2004 presidential race in Palm Beach County (FL). When I first saw this data I was astounded at what their analysis showed. Assuming that BBV is a fair and honest non-profit (after all you should be suspicious of everyones motives when dealing with things like this) what they found is horrifying. http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/1954/19421.html?1141918235 [bbvforums.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by R2.0 ( 532027 )
      Fuck fairness to the Slashdot crowd - all the answers so far have been along the lines of
      - Diebold is evil
      - Bush is evil
      - You can't do anything, so don't try
      - the election is already rigged

      I'm waiting for "You are a republican, so I'm not telling you. Nyaahhh nyaahhhh"

      Only one has had a real suggestion - seals on physical access - and even that was surrounded by "but your fucked no matter what you do."
  • Apparently there are these tubes that stuff moves through. Try to make sure no one is crawling through them with bombs like Al-Keida.
  • Just ask the votes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:21PM (#23673489) Homepage
    There is a standard, well developed way to determine if a ballot has been rigged. Tampering with e-voting machines is just the most modern technique, in the past people have stuffed ballot boxes or simply lied about the results. Easy stuff.

    So, standard solution: ask the people as they leave the polling station.

    This is called an "exit poll" and it's remarkably accurate. Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed, especially in districts that had new shiny e-voting machines with no paper trail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed, especially in districts that had new shiny e-voting machines with no paper trail.
      Yeah, weird thing. Exit poll doesn't match election results in Ukraine: the verdict is election fraud.

      Exit poll doesn't match election results in the USA: oh, the exit poll must be wrong!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This is called an "exit poll" and it's remarkably accurate.

      Really? People do lie, you know. I lie - out of principle - whenever I'm polled.

      According to my local papers, I'm illiterate. :)

      Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed,

      Race is going to be a big factor for 08. White folks, not liking to be perceived as "racist", will lie their lily white asses off if they're asked who they voted for.

      Well, those that care. As for trolls like me, I have nothing to lose. Society has already shunned me. I'm voting for McCain or Barr.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
      So, standard solution: ask the people as they leave the polling station.

      This is called an "exit poll" and it's remarkably accurate. Except of course in the last couple of elections in the USA, where the exit polls utterly failed, especially in districts that had new shiny e-voting machines with no paper trail.

      You can't make exit polls part of the official process, as then it would no longer be a secret ballot. Unless you do an exit poll with complete anonymity, in which case you're just making people vote t
  • On election day (since the machine could have an internal clock and work just fine any other day), leave one voting machine alone, and at the end of the day, cast your ballot on it (this may be necessary to "activate" it).

    Then check the machine and see if your vote was counted correctly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      On election day (since the machine could have an internal clock and work just fine any other day), leave one voting machine alone, and at the end of the day, cast your ballot on it (this may be necessary to "activate" it).

      Then check the machine and see if your vote was counted correctly.

      Expensive, but an extremely good idea; I'd add that you should have a number of people cast ballots who will cast known ballots.

      If you make sure all administrative openings are taped over with tamper-resistant tape, keep one (random) stataion aside during the voting and then have a "control" group vote using it, that's about all you can do from your end, apart from preventing e-stations from being used in the first place.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      And if the fraudsters were smart enough to make their code only corrupt the votes once more than a few dozen have been cast, that won't show anything. The fraudsters have complete free-reign over the counting, so it's impossible to tell. Even on an untouched box, you just can't tell. If you can't tell, it's not democracy.
  • I'm not sure if there's much you can do unfortunately. I don't think you're allowed to do exit polling since you're a precinct judge. If somebody was able to do some exit polling at your precinct you'd at least be able to see if those numbers are similar to the final tally to see if any tampering happened.
  • It's the first answer I thought of.
  • chain of custody (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garyrich ( 30652 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:23PM (#23673539) Homepage Journal
    If it is tampered with, it is probably going to before you ever see it. Your watch is not a good target. Too many people and a single hacked machine or two will stand out like a sore thumb to statistical analysis. Much better to get at a bunch of them while they are waiting to be distributed to the polling stations.

    Are you even an interesting target? Would a 2% shading of your numbers change cascading electoral numbers? The perfect crime would be to hack hundreds of machines in a critical state's critical swing districts and then shade the numbers by the tiniest amount needed to do the job. See Ohio in 2004. That kind of electoral sharpshooting is beyond my expertise, but it's part of what makes Rove the power that he is.

    Where did your machine come from? Who guarded it and how? Where did they get it from? Can it be opened with a hotel mini-bar key?
  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:23PM (#23673541)

    Your post's enumeration of duties seems the best place to focus your efforts. Checking IDs and sign in sheets, preventing voter intimidation, and generally keeping a lid on procedure seems more important than being distracted by the possibility of a subtle electronic scam. Electronic fraud would most likely have been done to the machines before you get to see them and would be undetectable if done right. If done wrong, it will probably just look like a broken machine.

  • You're not going to spot it, that's the problem. For all you know the machines will have already been tampered with before you even open the polls.
  • honesty is tricky (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jaazaniah ( 894694 )
    Unlike our first commentor, this is a more serious approach to the problem. Depending on the model of machine you're using, there's really no way to spot it as it's happening given your restriction set. Your problem is not with "box" stuffer vulnerability, but record vulnerability - Slashdot's collective outcry has been because there was no security or checks and balances put into Diebold's (and their later off-shoots) machines, causing potential for huge abuse at any point before voting, and any point aft
  • After sorting thru blackboxvoting.org and .com and otherwise trying to stay abreast of this stuff for years, I have to admit that the HBO documentary I saw last year blew the doors off any other analysis I have ever seen. Also, it makes sense to people who don't understand hardware, network security, or statistics, only sparse attention span required.

    Check it out: http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/hackingdemocracy/synopsis.html [hbo.com]
  • by beegle ( 9689 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:28PM (#23673635) Homepage
    I think it's important to realize that voting machines are so insecure that preventing fraud entirely is impossible. That said,

    1) Ensure that the machines are physically safe before the election. Don't leave them in an insecure area between the time that you check them to ensure that the counts are at zero (and DO check that) and the time that voting begins. Allow nobody near the machines without both ID and a witness at all times, including yourself (you don't want to be accused of anything), ESPECIALLY if they claim to work for the company that makes the machines. In fact, if anyone you don't know shows up to work on the machines, get approval from as far up the chain of command as can be managed and WRITE DOWN the name, time, etc. if it happens. Consider some sort of tamper-evident seal for the area where the machines are stored (your local trucking company can provide you with a handful of the ones that they use on freight trailers).

    2) Watch for voters who are holding either memory cards or keys. The best-publicized ways of messing with a machine involve unlocking the machine and/or inserting a card with altered data. Keep in mind that the memory cards can be a lot smaller than those giant plastic cases around some of the official cards. Also keep in mind that if you see this, it might just be somebody with a spare memory card for their camera and a set of car keys.

    3) After the polls close, physical access becomes a big deal again. Don't allow anyone near the machines or cards without ID and a witness, including yourself. Ensure that the machines are locked away, and find out who has a copy of the key to the room/closet/truck/whatever.
  • by SoundGuyNoise ( 864550 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:28PM (#23673637) Homepage
    You said you had to be "behind" a table, but is there a restriction to how high you can sit?

    A hoverchair would provide a great view of the room.

  • if you do, scrap whatever you have there and buy brasilian electronic ballots.

    they're not tamper proof, but i bet they're a lot more resilient than anything from diebold.

    other than that, what i can advise is to put as many sticker seals as you can. any place where two or more casing parts touch each other (covers, joints, seams, whatever) put a sticker there. if there's a key hole, cover with a sticker. this will help with detecting any physical tampering that could give an atacker access to the internals o
  • When and if the candidate you like doesn't win, cry fraud at every opportunity, and don't stop insisting until you've proven it. When the candidate you like wins, insist that the vote is airtight and rock-solid.

    That's pretty much all there is to it.
  • by jlazzaro74 ( 613844 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:30PM (#23673665)

    I'm a resident of Galveston right next door to you, and I'm really glad to hear that people in my area are thinking about this. Unfortunately, there probably aren't many things you can do during actual voting without appearing to be violating the voters privacy or interfering in the process, this is why the ability to conduct an audit in the event of fishy results is so critical.

    The best I can suggest is to make your concerns heard among your peers and superiors, make sure that as many people as possible know that this is an issue we should *all* be concerned with. The more reasonable people who speak up the less we look like a fringe group of paranoid geeks. Other than that, find out as much as you can about the machines you are using. Do they have a paper audit trail? If not, who approved their purchase and why? Look them up by make and model, have they been broken before?

    To slashdot users, enough with the trite smart-ass responses. Here is someone who is ostensibly trying to keep things fair, lets give him the benefit of the doubt (besides, our counties are so red he doesn't need to tamper to win) and try to come up with solutions. We have been complaining about voter machine vulnerabilities for years, now someone is finally listening. Do we jump down his throat, or do we welcome him to the table?

    Spoken as a registered Democrat who desperately wants his vote to be counted.

  • A cynic might suggest that someone who wanted to ensure they didn't get caught manipulating the vote would surely seek input from a community uniquely suited to catching them out or, for that matter, hacking the system.

    I can't imagine that the person honestly doesn't know any shenanigans would take place long before the machines were on public display.

  • That's the whole problem with these voting machines. Because the entire process is shielded from view by the code being proprietary, it's impossible to guarantee no-one is fudging the numbers.

    So, to sum up: You can't.
  • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:33PM (#23673725)
    This is admittedly a little off-topic as it doesn't answer the original poster's questions, but I'd like to see a national system where, when I vote I'm issued a random number. When I get home I can look up my number on the net and it will show how I voted. That way I at least know how my own vote was counted.
  • You need a way to verify that the electronic results have not been changed. The only solution I have been able to come up with is to generate a paper trail. When a citizen votes electronically, he should be shown a paper receipt that he verifies has his choices on it. That paper receipt is stored.

    At the end, your number of paper receipts should be the same as the number of electronic voters. You can sample from the paper receipts to make sure the distribution of votes in the paper receipts is the same as th
  • Not much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:35PM (#23673765) Homepage
    As a precinct chair, there is very little you can do, besides asking folks to report any suspicious behavior on the machine's part (displaying a selection other than what they selected, for example).

    The real fraud, if it happens at all, happens quietly behind the scenes. The machine behaves exactly as it is supposed to but adds a number to the wrong tally. You can't check it later because there is no permanent record of what the voter saw on the screen before pressing "vote." The sole record is of that machine's final tally at the end of the day.

    As others have said, the solution is: paper. Whatever they select on the screen, you ask the voter to print it out and read the paper. Then you stuff the paper in a locked box. You count the machine's tally (it's more cost-effective) but you now have a permanent record verified by the individual voters which you can audit in order to verify that the machine did as it claimed. Someone hacks the machine? No problem: just count the papers.
  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:48PM (#23673969) Homepage Journal
    carefully place bubblewrap under each machine - listen for the popping if anyone starts manhandling them
  • by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @04:55PM (#23674055)
    I'm assuming that you have the Hart InterCivic system as stated by The Verifier [verifiedvoting.org]. In that event, as other authiors have noted you may have no hope of detecting truly electrionic tampering. However you may spot some things. The links below also apply to Diebold and ES&S systems as well.

    I would be sure, to tell all voters to read the confirmation screen carefully. Many other locations have reported instances of vote switching where voters, once they reach the closing screen, see a different outcome than they pushed. Evidence from a Rice University study indicates that less than 30% of people even read this screen but those that do have reported nontrivial numbers of flipped votes.

    Secondly I would educate yourself about the machines. Ohio's Everest study [state.oh.us], particularly chapter 14 [state.oh.us] contains many scary things about the machines. Some you can look for, many you cannot.

    You will also find information from the California study [ca.gov] notably the red-team reviews of the hart system.

    Voters Unite is also a source of some good info As does [votersunite.org]Pollworkers.us [pollworker.us] which is a useful site for those working the polls.
  • no trail, no dice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davek ( 18465 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @05:01PM (#23674153) Homepage Journal
    The only way I personally will trust an electronic voting machine is if it prints out my vote on pain paper and asks for my approval before the vote is dropped in the box. This is obviously not how any of these machines are designed, so unfortunately we can trust none of them.

    In the absence of the ideal, the only thing that somewhat ensures a proper vote tally is a paper trail. Every vote is printed directly on some physical medium when it is cast.

    But even this is sadly not the case in many districts. Without the paper trail, you have NO guarantee that the election means anything at all. You can demand open source for the software on the machine; you can demand to see statistics before, during, and after the election; you can demand a box for yourself to see if you personally can figure out how to hack it; but all those acts are moot, if you don't have the paper trail to begin with.

  • by SengirV ( 203400 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @05:30PM (#23674645)
    But you will NEVER be able to convince the bleeding hearts that there was not cheating, as long as a Republican wins. It's in their nature. It's OK for Daley to cheat in elections in Chicago, it's OK to vandalize buses set to get GOP voters out to the polls, etc...

    Remember, it's not fascism when they do it.
  • by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @05:55PM (#23674983)
    I work as a elections inspector in California, which means that I'm in charge of a single precinct -- I'm basically the head pollworker, responsible for the accountability of the ballots and equipment from the time it's delivered to me until the time I turn it in immediately after the election. Because of that, it's important that I am fully aware of what's going on with our equipment and alert to the possibility of tampering. My best defense has been knowledge -- which is a double-edged sword. I know how our system works. I understand the reasoning for each step of our process. I've taken every possible class offered by our county and achieved the highest possible level of certified proficiency with the equipment. So, instead of wondering what could go wrong, I understand the risk areas. For example, our equipment now has unique coded seals for every unused input/output port, and I know to watch to ensure those stay intact.

    Ask "Why?" Ask to have equipment and processes explained to you. But at the same time, make sure that every moment of the day, you're acting beyond reproach. I hold my poll workers to very high standards, because every moment of every day, we're possibly under scrutiny, and it's important that there never be even the slightest incorrect impression that we're not being fully compliant to the rules and laws involved. I've actually had poll workers get angry and leave early because I was asking them to comply with the rules and they were unhappy being told, "No, you can't talk to your friend who is voting about politics" or "No, you can't imply you don't like a candidate by giving someone a funny look when they ask about a ballot option," or "No, you can't use your laptop/PDA/cellphone in our polling place".

    But I'm pretty freakin' idealistic about what I do. If I lived where I grew up, I'd be a poll worker in a place where these have been real problems for decades. Right now, I live and work as a poll worker in a part of the country that has not historically had problems with voter disenfranchisement. So my work may have less meaning, in some ways, but it's still important. (Sorry, I feel very strongly about what I do, and it's hard not to talk about that.)
  • You would do yourself and the voters a big favor by considering BOTH. They are different things.

    Voter Fraud is where a voter misrepresents some element of their vote cast. Maybe it's casting more than one vote, a vote in the wrong place, a vote without entitlement to vote, etc...

    The GOP seems focused on the latter, BTW. It's a touchy subject for sure. IMHO, you are doing the right thing, and will have the high ground if you are focused on getting as many voters to vote as possible, not keeping as many voters from voting as possible.

    The key here is that Voter Fraud is some act on the part of the voter.

    Election Fraud is where the result of the election is being manupulated. That difference between preventing as many voters as possible, and promoting as many voters as possible, is one that can be election fraud, as well as being voter fraud. One example that serves to demonstrate election fraud would be to publish information that would disqualify voters that would not otherwise be disqualified. If this is done in a discriminatory fashion, there is a solid case for it potentially being voter fraud. Could be ignorance too, and that's gonna be one for the courts for sure!

    Another case of election fraud would be mis-programmed voting machines, or deliberate under / over allocation of them to impact the numbers of votes and the accuracy of the votes. (and I'm getting to the topic of accuracy in a moment) We saw some of this in Ohio big time in 2004, BTW.

    Still another would be manipulating the record of the vote. This could be done to impact or prevent a recount, for example. That's totally election fraud, not voter fraud. Maybe every voter did the right thing, but the election is still hosed. That's one way to tell the difference right there.

    Now, can you trust the damn things?

    No. Absolutely not. I don't care if they have a paper printer fitted or not, and here is why:

    When you make a mark on media, as the voter, the chain of trust between your intent and the record of the vote is complete! You know what who you want to vote for, and you can directly see the record of the vote cast. This record does not require any enabling technology to be observed and verified as being true to the intent and therefore the "right" vote cast.

    When you vote with electrons, this chain of trust is broken! Really, the voter knows who they want to vote for and does something to tell the machine their intent. So far, so good. Now, here's the kicker and why we should NEVER, EVER use the machines.

    What gets recorded is what the machine thinks the voter intent is! Think this part through. Let's say we walk up to the machine and cast a vote for Bob. We push the Bob button, get visual feed back, and a printed piece of paper that shows that the vote was for Bob. Feeling good right?

    What if the electronic record of the vote is for Jane? How can we know? We can't actually see the electrons now can we? The machine can easily show us a Bob vote and contain a Jane vote in the record used for the tally and there is absolutely no way we can verify that didn't happen, short of direct observation and a real time tally, keyed to each vote. (and that's just stupid)

    Here's another very simple way to look at it. Say I am the voting machine and I'm keeping a mental record of votes cast so that I can contribute them to the final tally. You vote Bob, and I count one for Bob. Then, I change that to Jane, after you have verified it. What evidence is there for that vote having ever been Bob? There is none. Electrons can just change, where paper will show some evidence of having been changed. The physical media is rendered less than perfect in the process of counting votes. Electronic storage devices don't exhibit this same quality on a directly observable human scale.

    Put simply, it's a vote by proxy and therefore cannot be trusted.

    Some will say the paper can check the electronic results. I would agree, but invoking the check i
  • Tamper evident tape (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NimbleSquirrel ( 587564 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @06:06PM (#23675119)
    Firstly, I'm going to assume that you have no control over the initial condition of those voting machines, and whether or not those machines generate a paper trail. Of course one would hope that the machines are checked by an independant authority, and that they generate a verifiable paper trail. This is more about protecting the machines while under your watch.

    If someone is determined to hack a voting machine, there will be little you can do to stop it. The key is being able to detect that some change was made. I doubt you'd have the kind of access or knowledge to detect software changes, but since nearly all voting machine hacks require access to the hardware you will be able to do something. Use tamper evident tape to seal the case, cover keyholes and block any open ports. The important part to this is to have multiple witnesses around when you apply the tape, and when you verify the tape is still there at the end of the day. Get them to sign an affadavit if you can. If a machine (or machines) have been tampered with under your watch, then you can alert the appropriate authorities.
  • by JimMarch(equalccw) ( 710249 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @06:20PM (#23675353)
    http://arizona.typepad.com/blog/files/Stonewall_handout.pdf [typepad.com]

    This was written for the Stonewall Democrats. It includes boilerplate public records text at the end, some examples of dirty stuff seen in public records, examples of screwed-up facilities (with pictures) and more.

    This is an example of an after-action report written along these principles:

    http://www.bbvdocs.org/sequoia/Maricopa-County-Elections-Report.pdf [bbvdocs.org]

    I'm doing another right now for Monterey County California for the election of June 3rd '08. Found all sorts of crazy stuff. That should be posted at http://blackboxvoting.org/ [blackboxvoting.org] in a day or two.

    Jim March
    Member of the board of directors
  • by qazwart ( 261667 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @06:26PM (#23675449) Homepage
    We get so hung up on paper ballots as if this would be a cure all for voting fraud. In the Northeast, paper ballots were eliminated in favor of mechanical voting machines in order to eliminate fraud.

    Yup, that's right. Back in the beginning of the last century, the biggest voting fraud was ballot box stuffing and ballot replacement. Read Carter's book "Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age" about his 1962 election for State Senate and see what type of fraud can occur with paper ballots.

    When New York and New Jersey went with the mechanical voting machines, they instituted quite a few procedures to help eliminate fraud. The polling chief has a book containing all registered voters with their signatures. When a voter comes to vote, they sign that book, and the signatures are compared. Once the polling chief is satisfied that the person is a registered voter, they have the person sign a voting ticket in the ticket book. Once the ticket is signed, it is given to the person in charge of the voting booth. This person threads the ticket onto a string, and pulls a large lever to set the machine for voting. The voter enters the machine, pulls a lever to close the drapes, and this unlocks the voting switches. The voter can flip the switches for the people they want to vote for, and then pulls the lever to open the drapes. This registers the tallies and resets the voting switches.

    The procedure is overseen by representatives of everyone on the ballot. A voter cannot vote twice because the machine needs to be reset by the person in charge of the voting booth. Diseased voters no longer show up to vote since you now have signatures to match against. The levers are set by the county and the machine is sealed and cannot be reset without a master key. The mechanical machines and the procedures that went with them helped clean up the elections in the Northeast.

    The problem is that these mechanical systems (which could be programmed in a very limited way) have been replaced by general CPUs with some form of voting software that no one is 100% sure how it works. You could always see how the gears and levers turn, but you can't see electrons flowing through silicone. It isn't the lack of paper as much as the lack of assurance that no one replaced the software or the tallies on the memory card.

    What we must understand is that a secure voting system is more than just a paper ballot which can be stuffed by the dozen into a ballot box. It is a whole procedure of verifying the voter, the ballot, and that there is a one-to-one correspondence of voters to ballots.

    My suggestion is to take care of what you can. There is no way of knowing if the software on the machine hasn't been tampered with before it was brought into the polling station. But, verify that the memory card is sealed and cannot be tampered with. Verify that the counters are reset and are zeroed out before the voting starts. Put a system in place to make sure that voters can only vote once. Make sure that no one is hanging over the voter. Make sure the voters actually finished voting. Some will press the buttons for their candidates but forget to push the final "Vote" button. Make sure that the machine has been reset before each voter.

    When the vote is finished, tally up the various totals and make sure they are in agreement. The number of votes should match the number of voters. Track the number of voters who simply decide not to vote and count them in any total.

    More importantly, follow whatever procedures you have. Get a hold of them before election day and study them thoroughly. That's the biggest problem. The volunteers at the polls not knowing the voting procedure.

    Lots of luck. I use to be a Texas poll watcher when we had those idiotic punch card ballots. We would verify that each card has cleanly punched chads before handing them to the voter. We had to verify that each voter had only a single punch card and we also would quickly examine the punched ballot for dimpled or hanging chads before
  • by djmoore ( 133520 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @06:35PM (#23675565) Homepage
    I'm not an expert, but here's my take:

    When you cast your vote, you are given a printed, human-readable copy of your ballot with a unique random index number printed on it, assigned at the moment your vote is cast, which is not linked to the voter rolls.

    All the votes are available on a website as a spreadsheet, sorted by index number. Anyone can download the sheet for a given district, or for all precincts.

    So, you download the sheet for your precinct, find your index number, and verify the recorded votes against your paper copy of the ballot.

    You can also count the votes for each candidate, and see that your totals match the officially reported ones.

    If they're not already, make the voter registration rolls open public records. That means that anyone can make spot checks, verifying that there are no dead people on the rolls. This list can be sorted by address, so you can check that there are not bogus addresses, or 100 people living in a two-room apartment.

    The total number of voting records must be less than the total number of registered voters.

    So, any individual voter can verify that:
    1. His vote was recorded correctly.
    2. The totals are being reported correctly.
    3. Bogus votes haven't been inserted into the system.

    Although that last check is weak, if enough people do spot checks, widespread, systematic fraud will likely be spotted, increasing the risk.
  • That's easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:17PM (#23676633)
    1) Make sure the company who built the machines is 100% reliable and they do 100% effective background checks on 100% of their employees and 100% of their patches and upgrades are secure and legitimate, and that no human there ever errs.

    2) Make sure that all your machines are 100% physically secure 100% of the time up to and after elections so that the internals cannot be swapped or hacked, and that no human in charge of this errs

    3) Watch 100% of voters 100% of the time to make sure none of them alters or hacks the machines, and make sure none of your staff ever err

    See? It's easy! All it requires is blind faith that humans are infallible and will never do wrong intentionally or through error.

    I'll stick to paper.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.