Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government United States News Politics Your Rights Online

Kentucky Officials "Changed Votes At Voting Machines" 494

Posted by kdawson
from the smoking-gun dept.
The indispensible jamie found a report out of Kentucky of exactly the kind of shenanigans that voting-transparency advocates have been warning about: a circuit court judge, a county clerk, and election officials are among eight people indicted for gaming elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006. As described in the indictment (PDF), the election officials divvied up money intended to buy votes and then changed votes on the county's (popular, unverifiable) ES&S touch-screen voting systems, affecting the outcome of elections at the local, state, and federal levels.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Kentucky Officials "Changed Votes At Voting Machines"

Comments Filter:
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:32AM (#27267307) Homepage Journal

    We never had it before electronic voting systems. And it is impossible to catch because there is no paper trail.

    • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Informative)

      by mmontour (2208) <mail@mmontour.net> on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:42AM (#27267443)

      From the article:

      , the Election Day scheme, carried out in primary and general elections in at least 2004 and 2006, was accomplished by taking advantage of a "feature" on all DRE (usually touch-screen) voting systems and "voter unfamiliarity with new voting machines."

      Essentially, they tricked voters into leaving the 'booth' after pressing the "Vote" button on the ES&S iVotronic. That button, does not actually cast the vote, as one might think (and as these voters were told), but instead, it brings up a review screen of the voter's "ballot."

      So this looks like basic social engineering, not exploiting any specific flaws of the electronic machine (other than poor UI design).

      • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

        by titten (792394) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:54AM (#27267615)
        The flaw exploited would be the fact that the voter had no 'receipt' or evidence of what they voted. Had there been such a thing, nobody would leave without it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          ...and a receipt would also mean that people in positions of authority could force you to vote a certain way. "Vote for Joe Schmoe and bring me the receipt to prove you did it or you'll lose your job", that type of thing. People could also buy and sell votes, because there would be a a way that the buyer could know for certain whether or not the voter voted the buyer wanted him to (and of course refuse payment until the seller brings proof to the buyer).

          • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:48AM (#27268303)

            Vote for Joe Schmoe and bring me the receipt to prove you did it or you'll lose your job", that type of thing.

            No, it's not a lottery ticket that you take home. The voter checks the receipt and immediately puts it in a box or something. It is an audit trail that election officials can check against the electronic count.

          • Re:Election Fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday March 20, 2009 @11:06AM (#27269451)

            ...and a receipt would also mean that people in positions of authority could force you to vote a certain way.

            Only if you could keep the reciept. Which would be the wrong way to do things, both for that reason and for the ability to validate the tabulation of the election results, since then detecting errors would requiring getting all the voters to come and turn in their ballots to compare to the tallied results. What you want to do is have the receipt -- or, more accurately, hardcopy ballot -- printed in the booth, have it reveiwed by the voter, and (assuming it is correct -- exception handling is necessary if it is not) the voter places it in a ballot box before leaving the precinct, just like they would a ballot in a non-machine election.

            Then, when the automated count is complete, you do a manual tabulation of the hardcopy ballots from random (actually random, not arbitrarily-chosen by officials) selection of precincts, and if there are substantial discrepancies (an objective standard must exist to judge this), a complete recount is done based on the hardcopy ballots.

        • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:03AM (#27267691)

          While some sort of verification would seem necessary, there is a rather significant problem created if anyone can "leave [with] it".

          If you can walk away with proof of "what" you voted, you can prove it to anyone willing to buy your vote. Or to Guido who is threatening to beat up your little ones if you don't vote a specific way.

          This is a rather serious problem all the world over. So whatever we do to verify or to authenticate, it cannot involve the voter walking out with the means to show anyone how they voted.

          • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:25AM (#27267985)

            Voting machines can work .... but ....

            Press the button on the the screen marked "Obama" the machine prints out your vote...you check it says you have voted for Obama , you put this in the ballot box

            What you put in the ballot box is not kept by you ...

            It is easily machine readable so is quick to count ...

            The voting machine does not need to remember who voted, how many votes etc ...it cannot be gamed

            The paper voting slip is as anonymous and as verifiable as the old "place cross here" system ...

        • by mmontour (2208)

          The voters thought that the screen that came up after they clicked "Vote" was their confirmation that the vote had been cast. They left without thinking anything was wrong, just like the Florida voters who mis-punched their famous butterfly ballots in 2000.

          No voting system is going to let you leave with a paper receipt showing how you voted. That is too vulnerable to abuse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Columcille (88542)
      If it is impossible to catch how did they catch these guys? Election fraud has always happened and always will, no matter what the method of voting. And some people will get caught while others get away, just like it's always been. There are reasons to oppose electronic voting - and reasons to support it. At least be a little realistic in your opposition.
      • That is the best part of the joke. The first part is a little snarky - the second part is pure comedic gold. Saying this pretty much kills it though. And I wouldn't say anything - but the point of the joke is not to oppose electronic voting and so I've got to correct that misunderstanding.

        The whole thing hinges on the fact that here at the dot we regularly rail against things that are considered 'new' because there is an electronic component. Well - what happened in this case is just good old election f

      • Re:Election Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The FNP (1177715) on Friday March 20, 2009 @10:16AM (#27268683)

        They could have been caught much sooner if the machines had been using a paper trail. My local machines print out each selection as it is made. Then if at the ballot review screen I change a vote, then it prints that on the paper trail. So if even 10% of the paper trails from a single precinct shows significant and consistent changes at the review screen, that's a huge red flag!

        If the machine had a paper trail, the 2002 election could have been the only one that was affected. And the 2004 and 2006 elections would have been unaffected. As it is, it took over three election cycles to catch these guys, ***BECAUSE THERE WAS NO PAPER TRAIL***.

        As for the question of how did they catch these guys, there are any number of methods, including, the wrong person talking; or an actually smart and observant voter who was waiting in line and noticed that they were given incorrect instructions and the poll workers seemed to be spending a lot of time in the booths after each voter; or a candidate being asked for bribe money; or a poll worker being approached to join the scam; etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam . . .

        So the people who say that the voting machines will always reflect the will of the voter are idiots. I don't think that the machines need to be fully open source, but they need to be certifiably as secure as possible and part of that includes independent penetration testing and a paper trail ***AND PAPER TRAILS SHOULD BE REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW***

        --The FNP

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TapeCutter (624760) *
      Sure you can get it retail but you need a counting machine to handle wholesale.
    • Re:Election Fraud (Score:4, Interesting)

      by worthawholebean (1204708) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:02AM (#27267681)
      That's not true at all. The U.S. has a long history of various forms of electoral fraud. See for example this book [amazon.com].
  • Treason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:32AM (#27267313) Homepage Journal

    Elected officials subverted the voice of the people for personal profit. Execute them. I am serious. There needs to be an example made, quickly and decisively.

    • Re:Treason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:34AM (#27267333) Homepage
      Bear in mind that the people who write the laws are the winners of elections. You can see how they might be disinclined to change a system that demonstrably favours them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        Bear in mind that the people who write the laws are the winners of elections.

        That's why it's critical that this be handled harshly. When the guardians deliberately attack their charges, the penalties must be severe.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          If they penalties aren't severe enough, perhaps you could run for election and get them upgraded?
    • Re:Treason (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kokuyo (549451) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:35AM (#27267347) Journal

      Even though I do not agree with a death sentence, I agree with the acting decisively part. Our countries are there for the people. The people IS the country, so to speak.

      And since this directly went behind the backs of the people, treason is the proper definition here. Imagine what shenanigans will happen, if this kind of behaviour is not come down upon hard.

      • by Atrox666 (957601)

        "Imagine what shenanigans will happen, WHEN this kind of behaviour is not come down upon hard."

        There, fixed it for ya.

      • Re:Treason (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:12AM (#27267807)

        And since this directly went behind the backs of the people, treason is the proper definition here

        Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution:

        Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.

        I trust you can demonstrate how this action fits, since you have declared that "treason is the proper definition"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Executing corrupt pols is always a popular choice, but we should really consider public humiliation. Bring back the stocks. Seize all their assets, all their family's assets. Then, after a month or two of leaving them in the town square, throw them in federal PYITA prison, and let them rot for all eternity
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GMFTatsujin (239569)

        So now I'm thinking of the Battlestar Galactica in which Roslyn rigged the election. How many people who cheer her on as a strong leader are calling for charges of treason here?

        Just a thought from my sociological mind. Personally, I think they should all swing.

  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:36AM (#27267377) Journal

    Apparently the people told voters that hitting the "Vote" button would complete their vote, when it actually just brought up a confirmation screen. It was after the voter left that the people charged went and changed the votes, then completed the vote.

    So, yeah, that's definite election fraud and those involved should go to jail for a nice long stretch. But the headline leads you to believe this was somehow a voting machine flaw, rather than a social engineering attack based around shitty UI design ("Vote" means vote, not, "Confirm my Choices").

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      But the headline leads you to believe this was somehow a voting machine flaw, rather than a social engineering attack based around shitty UI design ("Vote" means vote, not, "Confirm my Choices").

      In what way is that not a security flaw? If an ATM were to fail to log me out for several minutes after returning my card and money and receipt unless I know to hit a specific button, it is a problem with the ATM.

      • Perhaps not the best phrasing; it's a flaw in the design, but it's not like flaws that allow you to manipulate the vote database with impunity and without an audit trail, or manipulate the machines totals. It depends partly on shitty design, and partly on lack of education for the voters.

        Interesting you should mention ATMs - I used one near my house the other day that would have allowed me to withdraw money from the previous user's account. It's one of those ones where you just swipe the card, and apparen

        • it's a flaw in the design, but it's not like flaws that allow you to manipulate the vote database with impunity and without an audit trail, or manipulate the machines totals.

          Understood and agreed. It's more of a bad specification than an outright bug in that the screen works (IMHO incorrectly) as designed. Still, that and the unexpected ATM behavior you described are security issues, even if someone thought they were good ideas at one point.

      • There was an ATM scam a while back similar to this.

        People would use matchsticks to jam the cover of the dispenser, where the money comes out, closed and then wait around a corner for someone to make a withdrawal. The machine would say "please take your money" only they couldn't as the cover wouldn't open, so they would go in to the bank to complain, meanwhile the scammer would prise the compartment cover open and take the money.
    • by ControversialMatt (1070718) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:48AM (#27267509)
      Which is interesting, because it contradicts the image many of us have of the average end user. Personally I believed that they would be programmed by now to automatically click OK on any popup without reading it.
    • by jrumney (197329)

      But the headline leads you to believe this was somehow a voting machine flaw, rather than a social engineering attack based around shitty UI design

      A shitty UI design is a voting machine flaw!

    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:06AM (#27267729) Homepage

      I think the point your respondents are missing is that -- while the machines are clearly flawed -- the electronic voting machines didn't greatly magnify the officials' ability to corrupt the vote. Had one of them altered hundreds of votes using a USB stick and three minutes of "alone time" with the machines, this story would have a completely different flavor for me.

      IOW, Kentucky electoral officials can't hack. What scares me is that this is probably why they got caught; there must have been a dozen people involved. I'm sure the more tech-savvy vote riggers are just getting away with it.

  • Life inprisonment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joebert (946227) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:36AM (#27267379) Homepage
    Conviction for tampering with election results should be met with life inprisonment. The scope of things affected by gaming elections warrents nothing less.

    Death would be better, but sometimes we get the wrong guy and at least with inprisonment we can let them out of jail and make sure they live well with a fat stack of cash for the rest of their life.
  • by rodentia (102779) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:47AM (#27267501)
    same old solution: vigilance.
  • Were any of these guys named Chad?

    Seriously. I would much prefer paper voting. Be it punch card or optical scan (used where I am). Of those two it seems optical scan is easier for people to deal with at least I have heard no major problems.

  • Apologize Now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:58AM (#27267649) Homepage Journal

    I want everyone who sneered at me in 2000 and 2004, saying "changing those electronic machine votes would require a conspiracy so vast, with nobody ever leaking, that it's impossible, you're crazy, just get over it" to apologize now.

    Not just to me, though I want that now. But also to the entire country, for standing in the way of fixing this basic corruption that destroys democracy that should be ancient history by now.

    Apologize. Preferably door to door. But a reply here would start to count.

    • RTFA now (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shivetya (243324)

      Nothing about this article supports you.

      So, quit banging your own drum when you don't even know the tune being played.

      I am so tired of you "Bush stole the election freaks". Any excuse to ignore the fact that the person whose views you supported was not accepted by the majority. So how does the 2008 election get a pass? Is it only because the person you wanted to win did so?

      Really, I want to know, is it only a problem when you lose?

  • Doesn't surprise me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:11AM (#27267785)

    It really doesn't surprise me about this. A lot of judges and officials really just don't "get it" IMHO for stuff like this. During this last presidential election, the lines were very long in some areas depending on where you went to vote (I waited until about 5:30 and didn't have to wait but about 30-40 minutes, so it wasn't too bad).

    Now, I work in government, so the election committee was discussing turnout on the mass email the next day. One of the judges wrote, commenting about low long the lines were and how ridiculous it was, and actually suggested that perhaps just calling (by phone) a random subset of people and basing the whole election off the sample would be better than letting each and every person vote.

    Sure, no possible way THAT could be abused . . .

  • by somethingwicked (260651) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:31AM (#27268073)

    "affecting the outcome of elections at the local, state, and federal levels. "

    Source please? Not saying your wrong, I just missed that detail when I RTFA.

  • by tsstahl (812393) on Friday March 20, 2009 @09:49AM (#27268311)
    Since the crimes were committed with a computer, why aren't there a whole heap of additional federal charges piled on? As we all know any crime with a computer element is much worse than murder. /sarcasm

There are never any bugs you haven't found yet.

Working...