Will someone PLEASE help America vote? (BR)
Beware the Ides of November
"I can do it in 18 seconds," says Watt. "I can train you to do it in 3 minutes. Just push the yellow button, wait 3 seconds and it chimes. Push the yellow button again, wait 3 seconds and it chimes again. Then it's all on the screen prompts. You're asked 'Do you want to enter manual mode?' and you push 'Yes'...And then you're on your way."The man quoted above, Ron Watt, is describing the simple-as-pie method of hacking into an ostensibly secure piece of public-use machinery and manipulating it for selfish gain. Armed with no more information than that one paragraph, I know he is talking about electronic voting machines and not an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
How, you ask?
Because if there were a way to hack an ATM in three minutes there'd be riots. Complete chaos. Public hangings of bank executives and computer programmers would become routine. And lo, in the very next paragraph, my clairvoyant talent is confirmed:
"You can then vote as many times as you want. You won't ever have to stop until someone physically restrains you from voting," he explained.Hooray!
We have reason to be suspicious -- but not to believe, mind you, they've covered their trails pretty well -- that the results of the last two general elections were manipulated by the nominal victors. After the 2000 election fiasco, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and, no, the law did not mandate free transport for the elderly or disabled to and from polling places.
What it did, rather, was make available billions of dollars in taxpayer money to be spent by federal and state governments on sleek and shiny new electronic voting machines. The bulk of the business went to Diebold Election Systems, a subsidiary of Green, Ohio-based Diebold. (Aside: Please visit Diebold's homepage and tell me the guy staring at you and lolling his head and smirking isn't among the creepiest things you've ever seen.)
Anyway, these ultramodern updates to the lunky old dinosaur called democracy weren't all gravy, you see. The first wave of Diebold voting machines to be shipped out to the states were touch-screen models, which gave the voter absolutely no printed record of who they actually voted for, rendering a paper audit impossible.
Even this lack of basic functionality could be chalked up to boneheadedness, if not for a series of internal Diebold communications intercepted and leaked by the activist groups Why War? and the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons in 2003. The substance of the memos reveals the company deliberately instructing its employees to deny any and all problems with the machines, "even when their failings become obvious." And when legislators in Maryland started getting all uppity, demanding new machines that printed receipts, one Diebold official remarked "As a business, I hope we're smart enough to charge them up the wazoo [for this feature]".
And all this is not to mention the hundreds of amateur and professional programmers who have come forward, independently, to demonstrate the ease of tampering with machines from Diebold and Sequoia, instances of voting machines being left overnight in the cars and garages of poll workers in California and Arizona, Floridians already complaining that their early votes this year for Democrats are being counted for Republicans, or Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell's 2003 message to shareholders affirming his commitment to "helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." Old Wally sure turned out to be a man of his word, too.
This isn't to pick on Diebold (though Jesus Christ is that website fella disturbing) or even the idea of electronic voting in general. If the electronic and computerized implements that we rely on every day -- trains, cars, cellphones, Treos, etc. -- were as insecure and prone to malfunction as these newfangled election devices, we'd be up in arms. We'd throw the non-working crap in the trash and press charges against their manufacturer. Maybe even question our way of life that demands we lean so heavily on technology that is so undependable and subject to tampering.
They obviously can make these things reliable. That they don't, and that people continue to lose confidence in the idea that their votes will be counted, and also that you never read about these machines taking Republican votes and counting them for Democrats, makes it hard to draw any conclusion other than the type that Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt would call "tinfoil hat conspiracy nonsense."