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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Ordinary Stupidity 
18th-Mar-2008 03:56 pm
Inspiration
Sequoia Systems, a maker of voting machines, is thrashing around wildly in an effort to prevent criticism. The latest? a letter threatening a lawsuit if their system is evaluated. Evidently, they want it evaluated only under their control. They were spanked by the feds for this sort of thing before, but managed to calm down and cooperate.

To be fair, I suppose, they are probably fearful of another report like that done in California, which indicated that their security, both software and physical, could be compromised fairly quickly -- and that was without the time to analyze that would ensue after downloading their master system files from public servers it didn't belong on. For those who want simpler methods of voting circumvention, google handily turns up specific, easy recipes for monkeying with the vote (though in that particular case, Sequoia insists it's not a bug, but a feature).
Comments 
19th-Mar-2008 12:20 am (UTC)
HAVA (the Help America Vote Act, passed & signed into law in the wake of debacles both real and imagined in 2000) attracted a number of opportunistic business start-ups. These noobs were in it for the federal money, and once they had their fill from the trough they quickly sold out to other companies, leaving behind buggy, poorly-developed voting machines.

I'm not sure if Sequoia falls into that category, but I can say with some pride that since 2006 my county (in Kentucky, of all places) has used the eSlate, a durable and virtually hack-proof HAVA machine from a reputable company. We still use the old Shouptronic machines as well, because it's not certain the eSlate will do everything the FEC and other authorities may require. I wish they would settle on the eSlate, because one control box can run up to a dozen booths. The Shouptronics are stand-alone machines, so each one has its own memory module and paper tape, each one has to be activated separately, and so on ... much more work (and possibility of error) for us workers.

In just a few weeks I'll spend part of a day at poll worker training, in advance of the May 20th primary. :)
19th-Mar-2008 04:22 am (UTC)
Sadly, all systems have had problems, though I suspect that the ones reported were training problems.
19th-Mar-2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
I had seen that report too, and yes, those all look like ESTO* incidents.

Since '04 I've worked at a school with four precincts. Although I'm assigned to one particular precinct, over the years I've become everyone's fix-it guy. Every eSlate problem we've had (and there haven't been many) occurred during startup, due to not following procedures, and we solved every one by "rebooting". Once the eSlate is ready for voting it works flawlessly.

Although some reports out of CA make the eSlate sound vulnerable, any successful jiggery-pokery would require a rare level of smarts, plus equipment that would probably be noticed.

* ESTO = Equipment Smarter Than Operator
19th-Mar-2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
"Equipment Smarter Than Operator" -- cool abbreviation. Having dealt with flashing 12:00 VCRs and other technical problems, I'm a little more likely to put it down to poor design (think of a car with a Windows operating system: pointing and clicking to change gears, steering with a slider -- while it might be visually intuitive, it would also lead to more accidents).
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