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Legal Troubles Continue To Mount For Diebold 115

dstates writes "The State of Maryland has filed a $8.5M claim against Premier Election Systems (previously known as Diebold), joining Ohio in seeking damages from the company. The claim alleges that election officials were forced to spend millions of dollars to address multiple security flaws in the machines. Previously, Diebold paid millions to settle a California lawsuit over security issues in their machines. The dispute comes as Maryland and Virginia prepare to scrap the touch screen electronic voting systems they bought after the 2000 presidential election. California, Florida, New Mexico, and Iowa have already switched to optical scanners, and voters in Pennsylvania are suing to prevent the use of paperless electronic voting systems in their state. Meanwhile, Artifex Software is suing Diebold for violations of the GPL covering the Ghostscript software technology used in the proprietary voting machines."
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Legal Troubles Continue To Mount For Diebold

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  • Ho! Ho! Ho! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:29AM (#26229827) Journal

    Man, it must really be xmas! LOL!

    • <insert comment about not celebrating Christmas>
      • Re: (Score:5, Funny)

        by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:40AM (#26229867) Homepage
        He didn't say Christmas. He said Xmas. Totally different holiday.
        • Re: (Score:4, Funny)

          by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <<spydermann.slashdot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:18AM (#26229981) Homepage Journal

          You mean XF86-mas, or X.org-mas?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) *
            I thought it was OS Xmas.
          • Merry X-ed-Mas. Maybe, staring at the weight of Mounting OlympBUST, diebold might GET OUT OF THE VOTE and just DIE BOLD...

        • Yeah, Xmas is the holiday with an evil robot Santa that rains destruction on everyone that's been naughty (and everyone has been naughty).
      • Re: (Score:5, Funny)

        by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@[ ... m ['bar' in gap]> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:21AM (#26229993) Journal
        Fine. It's "D-Day", aka Die! Bold, Die! day.

        We could celebrate with a new newsgroup, alt.die.bold.die

        Hopefully, when it comes time to nail them to the wall, they'll use Wilson's Nails [nobeliefs.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    elections in the USA for what, to replace one corrupt politician with another?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efKguI0NFek [youtube.com]
  • !Paperless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Xerolooper ( 1247258 )
    The truth is that while paperless may sound sexy it is not really practical. They are trying to apply technology to what is a social problem.
    • Re:!Paperless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:58AM (#26230141)

      The truth is that while paperless may sound sexy it is not really practical.

      The truth is that Diebold's problems have nothing to do with the paper or paperless issue, and everything to do with incompetent design and execution. Which is all the more galling considering the relative straight-forwardness of the programming task. A corrupt or inaccurate paper audit trail would be just as useful as no audit trail at all, and arguably more harmful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bokmann ( 323771 )

        I'm sorry, but if you think this is a straightforward task, you are making the same mistake Diebold did. Programming is just one minor part of the whole system they need to implement.

        • I'm sorry, but if you think this is a straightforward task, you are making the same mistake Diebold did. Programming is just one minor part of the whole system they need to implement.

          Yes, and it's this "one minor part" that Diebold fucked up. My original comment stands.

          • Re:!Paperless (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @01:23PM (#26230535) Homepage

            Yes, and it's this "one minor part" that Diebold fucked up. My original comment stands.

            Well not exactly. Diebold managed to screw up several parts of the system.

            The software
            The lousy hardware locks
            The poor update process

            Just to name three off the top of my head before my second cup of coffee. Makes one wonder about Hanlon's razor. I guess you gotta be good at something.

      • Re:!Paperless (Score:5, Informative)

        by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:52PM (#26231221) Homepage Journal

        The programming itself is quite straight-forward but the system design is subtle due to the need for verifiability at every step, not just for experts, but so that interested laymen can at least grasp the verifiability in overview.

        The Diebold systems fail on all counts INCLUDING the straight-forward programming.

        They also managed to fail at version control, source audit and binary certification by loading unapproved patches onto unknown binary versions the night before an election while refusing to reveal the source even to government auditors.

        The fact that they have anti-virus software on them (which has caused at least one problem) shows that they REALLY didn't design it right. A device like a voting machine should only accept new executable code through a JTAG or similar port locked safely inside the case. That means that Windows was a poor choice for an underlying OS. Windows just does far too many things without explicit commands and apparently can't be configured not to. It's source is also a problem to audit by anyone.

        More proper options would have been programming on the bare metal or a seriously stripped down Linux or *BSD. Not so much for size but to simplify auditing and testing.

        • by MsGeek ( 162936 )

          Here in LA County, the reader/verifiers used in the InkaVote system run Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Unfortunately the Sequoia units used to do the count that matters are all closed-source pieces of shit. At least we have one thing to be happy about: according to LA County election law, the paper ballot is the vote of record. Any recounts are done by humans looking at a key, looking at a ballot, and then determining voter intent for each paper ballot.

          Someone needs to build an OCR reader capable of reading Inka

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            That is good that the paper ballot is the vote of record. It's auditable and most people (especially anyone who has been in school in the last 30 or 40 years) understand the principle of optical scan.

            Given the high cost of the proprietary systems, I t might be cheaper for a few local governments to go in on a project together to produce a free implementation. Perhaps a hybrid approach where the software is openly developed and then a particular cut is audited fully.

      • by ponzio ( 889432 )
        Maybe that's the point.
      • "The truth is that Diebold's problems have nothing to do with the paper or paperless issue...[snip]...considering the relative straight-forwardness of the programming task. A corrupt or inaccurate paper audit trail would be just as useful as no audit trail at all, and arguably more harmful."

        Yet another "insightfull" slashdotter that doesn't get it. The issue is TRUST and you can not simply code your way around it.
        • So a broken system thats trusted is useful?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TapeCutter ( 624760 )
            "So a broken system thats trusted is useful?"

            Yes. You know it's broken, you know how it's broken, and you probably know who broke it. With an auditless election you cannot logically know any of these things beyond a reasonable doubt.

            Do you understand the normal paper counting process and why it is logicaly possible to trust it? Do you understand why it is logicaly impossible to trust a computer that the opposition cannot audit? Paper is not perfect, neither is democracy come to think of it but both ar
            • Ah... trust is being used in two different ways here. I was thinking more like the American people trust Diebold machines.

              • "I was thinking more like the American people trust Diebold machines."

                Hah. Yes, but I would call that kind of trust "blind faith". The kind of trust I am on about can be granted using a rational argument.

                The simplistic version of paper counting is that all candidates get to supply X unpaid counters, the box is emptied on a table and the counters start counting. When they have all been counted each counter hands his pile to the guy next to him and so on around the table. Each counter then checks the co
      • It's only a matter of time. One of there own. [theonion.com]
        You may be under the impression that is common today that technology can improve everything and make life generally better. Mmmm... technology... what was I saying again?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )

      The truth is, you can't have secret ballots and still have an election that isn't subverted.

      Here's my take on how to do a proper paperless democracy:

      Everyone gets a personal digital recorder that acts as a "testament", and when they cast their votes, the device preserves a copy as evidence.

      Votes are public information, not secret.

      We establish two networks for the casting of votes. One secure wired network that carries votes to a centralized point for counting, and one citizens mesh network that logs votes

      • Re:!Paperless (Score:4, Insightful)

        by repvik ( 96666 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:35PM (#26231159)

        Won't work. Once the vote is public information, people can be bought/pressured to change their vote.

        • I was sort of thinking that a properly working democracy could REPLACE money. Which is likely to be rather important, considering the rate at which it's being devalued. As for being pressured, there's nothing wrong with that, that's how politics are supposed to work. Intimidation, that's a problem, but it's a problem that can be dealt with just like any other physical violence, it's not like the nature of physical crime changes when you bring politics into the equation.

          The Roman empire was built on the f

        • people can be bought/pressured to change their vote.

          we currently allow absentee/mail in ballots which have the same feature. I think a few minor tweaks like having independently programed/run servers. And having just 1-2% of the total voters who are selected be trusted voters (randomly changed each election) some from each pole who get to know their voter ID (everyone else can't verify their vote)
          Basically by having a general insignificant number able to be pressured, but still a significant enough amount to verify the system, We could have everyones votes

    • Paperless shouldn't even be attempted.

      This is the system used to elect leaders. Trillions of dollars and millions lives are affected by election results.

      Whatever system you choose must have full audit capabilities ... and that means paper.

      The only reason for using electronics is to get faster results to those with short attention spans.

  • by Pichu0102 ( 916292 ) <pichu0102@gmail.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:54AM (#26229899) Homepage Journal

    They'll probably get a bailout for their efforts too.

  • They should hold a referendum so people can vote for getting rid of these flawed electronic voting machi.. oh wait!
  • Weird... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:13AM (#26229961)
    Anyone else find it kind of weird that this is happening right around the time that Bush and Cheney and Co. are heading out of office?
  • I told them so... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) * on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:14AM (#26229967)
    And this is what pisses me off so much! People like Avi Rubin WARNED of the pitfalls in Dielbold (and other) systems years ago and the pols didn't listen. I remember writing to my Maryland State Rep YEARS ago about inherent problems in Diebold systems and referred him to Professor Rubin's work and got the pat-on-the-head response telling me not to worry. Screw all of them. I can't believe how angry this makes me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eddy ( 18759 )

      Write "Told you so." on a letter. Include a copy of your previous correspondence. Send it in. Might make you feel good for a minute or two.

      • Then take a picture of it, put it on a blog, post it to a high traffic site like slashdot, include digg and fark, and wait for a reply and post that too.

  • Exactly how was electronic voting EVER considered a good idea?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phantomlord ( 38815 )
      Congresscritters when they kneejerked after the 2000 elections and gave us HAVA [wikipedia.org] in an effort to look like they were doing something. 357 Representatives and 92 Senators seemed to think it was a great idea, not to mention all the states that signed up going "ooh, free money!"
    • by symbolic ( 11752 )

      Much like most government programs...it's a place to throw other peoples' money so that certain interests can keep some of it for themselves. All the while, the elected "representative" that was responsible scores points with said interest so that they'll have a fallback when they're finally voted out of office.

  • 8.5 million is a small price to pay for that level of control.

  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:52AM (#26230107)

    Seriously, the crap that kept the Bush administration in office has paid off.

    Does anyone believe that the 2000 election was a legitimate Bush win? Does anyone believe that Diebold DIDN'T tamper with the machines? Now that bush is leaving office, we find that the machines are insecure and aren't going to be used?

    Now, *all* of the wealthy Bush supporters made HUGE amounts of money under Bush. The bailout was basically a theft of $700B (and more to come) from the U.S. treasury for the very people that have been getting rich 8 years. Never in the history of man-kind has so much relative wealth been given to so few. How did this happen?

    I can't think of a single policy of this administration that was designed NOT to remove money from the middle class and transfer it into the hands of the more wealthy. Immigration, trade, health care, intellectual property, and even the department of the interior and the CPB have all been centered around either allowing corporations to make money at the expense of the people, or out-right giving money to large corporations directly.

    Now, we, the regular people, call us middle class, working poor, unemployed engineers, have to somehow rebuild the economy after its departure.

    I'm 45 years old. I am ill at what I've seen happen to my country. It is a rush to the bottom. If we are not a third world nation already, we will be. Its disgusting.

    • Actually I saw a report on Florida's ballot irregularities. There is a case to be made that the paper ballots were manipulated - different grade paper was used which was not approved for use in the machines. There was more, but given the whole hanging chad debacle, it seems that people intentionally wanted to have problems in FL. Then all you have to do is make sure that counties with a small democratic bias get the bad ballots.

      If you want to commit fraud, you don't need a computer. Given that FL is a huge

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a lone rant it won't make a difference, but as a group you can change what's happening in Washington. Get rid of the aspects of the US that clearly go against your espoused morals, including but not limited to Guantanamo Bay (the weakest excuse ever to perpetrate atrocities), move towards the principles of the Constitution once more and go after ANYONE who tries to get away with anything dodgy. INSIST on transparency, also from all the agencies. You may have to bury a bad past, but that's no excuse fo

      • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:40PM (#26231177)

        then don't rant - act

        Think I haven't? Short of taking up arms against my country, I've done all the legal things I can. The tide is turning, I think, but it takes a long time to wake up the U.S.A.

        I honestly believe that the vast majority of Americans are motivated less by money and more by "doing the right thing." The problems is that "the right thing to do" has been purposefully obfuscated by the bastards in power. By using christiantity and the talking heads of talk radio, propaganda minister of the Bush administration, Karl Rove, has successfully turned America in against itself. Dividing families and groups against each other over simplistic moral debates, while completely drowning the substantive discussions about what is truly best for the country.

        All this so that they can rob the country of its wealth and make themselves rich at the same time.

        I'll say here and now, Bush and Cheney and everyone in their administration have been traitors to the U.S.A.

        Signed, patriotic American!!

    • Same as the new labour goverment in the uk.
    • by Jaeph ( 710098 )

      "Does anyone believe that the 2000 election was a legitimate Bush win?"

      As I recall, that was all about the poor layout and handling of paper ballots ("butterfly ballots"). Diebold's machines were a reaction to that (over-reaction, IMO).

      "...long anti-bush rant..."

      Who cares? I know that it's fun to bash Bush, but geez, let's stick to bashing diebold.

      Anyways, I disagree entirely that this has anything to do with Bush. In MD, the republicans are mostly a non-factor, and we got our stupid machines just like ot

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mlwmohawk ( 801821 )

        Who cares? I know that it's fun to bash Bush, but geez, let's stick to bashing diebold.

        It is Diebold in Ohio that enabled the shrub to get re-elected.

        For the record, I have no problem with computerized entry machines, but the final output that I turn-in needs to be easily readable paper that is counted by human eyes at some point in the process, IMO.

        One of my first jobs, right out of high school, was as a bank teller. Right around the time of the introduction of the ATM in the late 70s/early 80s.

        More or les

  • Santa knows who's been naughty....

  • Re the supposed GPL violation, the mailing list [ghostscript.com] post linked to from the article doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    We do not consider bundling as an integrated component intended to work with other software as "mere aggregation" under the GPL.

    This seems nutty to me. As far as I understand, there's never been any prohibition on simply loading GPL software onto a machine that has a proprietary OS and other proprietary apps.

    The GNU GPL and our own "AFPL" license which explictly disallows commercial distribu

    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
      IIRC, they said their Ghostscript software was used as an "integrated component". This means under the GPL license, that the software it was interrogated with should be available to the users/owners/renters of the machines. Note, the Ghostscript software does have an commercial license that Diebold Election Systems did NOT buy. The Ghostscript people maintain that the Ghostscript software was distributed on/via the rented/leased voting machine in other words. Tim S
      • IIRC, they said their Ghostscript software was used as an "integrated component".

        What I'm saying is that their "integrated component" idea doesn't make any sense. The GPL doesn't anything about "integrated components." This [gnu.org] FAQ entry may be relevant. What's clearly not allowed is linking non-GPL code to GPL'd code. All Diebold did was to put both GPL'd and non-GPL'd software on a special-purpose Windows machine, and sell the Windows machine.

        • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
          That is what is meant by some people when they say "integrated component" that it was linked in a way that they say violates GPL/NON-GPL code linking terms. It used to be that Dynamic linking of GPL and NON-GPL code was allowed as long as the GPL was not an required component of the software; I have no idea how the new GPL states it. Tim S
    • You expect to make sense out of this from just one post in the middle of the conversation?

      I can make sense of that post, I suppose, because I've gone through the GPL and related stuff for myself, to determine whether I wanted to use a free software or open software license, whether I wanted to use an existing one or roll my own, etc. (I end up using different licenses for different projects.)

      So I suggest you do more research of the licenses themselves, and read more of the threads there, for starters.

      In the

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Lennie ( 16154 )

        While we are on the subject of licences, do you have any idea why so many programming library writers choose GPL instead of LGPL for there library ?

        • by reiisi ( 1211052 )

          That's the point where people start taking offense at RMS. He encourages that -- pressure politics.

          I am not particularly offended. The author did not have to choose to publish his or her code, and society benefits more from the publishing, even if direct use requires reciprocation.

          Moreover, the GPL has a lot in common with the original purpose of patents and copyrights. Lots of people think software needs something separate from either copyright or patent, and there it is: copyleft. Share, but retain an imp

  • Diebold was doomed as soon as their management started openly playing politics. That is just bad policy for a company that is supposed to deliver the pretense of accurate electoral results.
    (the president of Diebold publicly said he'd do everything in his power to get George Bush elected president)

    I suspect the world will move towards open source voting systems as the only way to use modern technologies in the voting process and still have a shot at accurate results.

    • Well, he said that at a private fund-raiser for George W. Bush. Just as bad though.

      • Duh, not really. I thoguht he said that at the hearing in front of the bipartisan committee that decided whether or not to accept the machines...

        If you're in the business of selling ANYTHING to the government that MIGHT possibly affect the outcome of elections, even if you're just selling the damn pencils, you have no official political view. Period. At least if you're smart. The moment you even so much as mention that you might have a political view, you offer the other side ammo against your machines.


  • by shish ( 588640 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @01:17PM (#26230503) Homepage
    "Diebold" always struck me as such a typical bond-villain type of name; "Premier Election Systems" sounds like it's trying to cover up that the company is run by the mafia... maybe they should buy voting machines from ACME? Sure they'd blow up every now and then, and the roadrunner would get away, but in many ways such obvious failure would be better than subtle and undetected vote-rigging :-)
  • as (s)he said over here [slashdot.org], this made my holiday a very happy one indeed.

    Merry War on Christmas, everybody!

  • Stephen Heller (Score:4, Interesting)

    by troll8901 ( 1397145 ) <troll8901@gmail.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @01:58PM (#26230747) Journal

    I feel sorry for Stephen Heller, the whistleblower who was charged with three felonies for revealing Diebold's legal problems, in Feb 2004.

    • Re:Stephen Heller (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:12PM (#26231293)

      Mr. Heller pled guilty to a felony, per his legal fund website. If ever a case SCREAMED OUT for a pardon. This is it!! Mr. Heller committed a crime and was properly convicted for it, but the mitigating circumstance are outstanding. Cases like this are why State and Federal Constitutions provide the pardoning power. I sure hope for the best for this guy.

  • I'm usually not someone who sides with people trying to drain a company through legal means, but in this case I'm willing to make an exception. Bleed them. Make them go bankrupt. If they go under, that's the last we'll see of EVoting, because nobody would willingly touch it again with a ten foot pole.

    Make them die.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jedi Alec ( 258881 )

      I'm usually not someone who sides with people trying to drain a company through legal means, but in this case I'm willing to make an exception. Bleed them. Make them go bankrupt. If they go under, that's the last we'll see of EVoting, because nobody would willingly touch it again with a ten foot pole.

      Bah, if there's any proof that they tampered with election results, surely that should be grounds for a criminal case, not a civil one?

      Heck, as far as I'm concerned screwing with the democratic process amounts

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"