Diebold Voting MAchine Contains Stunning Security Hole

3 September 2004 - 10:00pm

By Bev Harris published August 26, 2004 by

ISSUE: Manipulation technique found in the Diebold central tabulator -- 1,000 of these systems are in place, and they count up to two million votes at a time.

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks. This program is not stupidity or sloppiness. It was designed and tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments.

PUBLIC OFFICIALS: If you are in a county that uses GEMS 1.18.18, GEMS 1.18.19, or GEMS 1.18.23, your secretary or state may not have told you about this. You're the one who'll be blamed if your election is tampered with. Find out for yourself if you have this problem: Black Box Voting will be happy to walk you through a diagnostic procedure over the phone. E-mail Bev Harris or Andy Stephenson to set up a time to do this.

FOR THE MEDIA: Harris and Stephenson will be in New York City on Aug. 30, 31, Sep.1, to demonstrate this built-in election tampering technique. Members of congress and Washington correspondents: Harris and Stephenson will be in Washington D.C. on Sept. 22 to demonstrate this problem for you. Whether you vote absentee, on touch-screens, or on paper ballot (fill in the bubble) optical scan machines, all votes are ultimately brought to the mother-ship; the central tabulator at the county which adds them all up and creates the results report.

These systems are used in over 30 states and each counts up to two million votes at once. The central tabulator is far more vulnerable than the touch screen terminals. Think about it: If you were going to tamper with an election,
would you rather tamper with 4,500 individual voting machines, or with just one machine, the central tabulator which receives votes from all the machines? Of course, the central tabulator is the most desirable target.

FINDINGS: The GEMS central tabulator program is incorrectly designed and highly vulnerable to fraud. Election results can be changed in a matter of seconds. Part of the program we examined appears to be designed with election tampering in mind. We have also learned that election officials maintain inadequate controls over access to the central tabulator. We need to beef up procedures to mitigate risks. Much of this information, originally published on July 8, 2003, has since been corroborated by formal studies (RABA) and by Diebold's own internal memos written by its programmers.

Not a single location has yet implemented the security measures needed to mitigate the risk. Yet, it is not too late. We need to tackle this one, folks, roll up our sleeves, and implement corrective measures. In Nov. 2003, Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris, and director Jim March, filed a Qui Tam lawsuit in California citing fraudulent claims by Diebold, seeking restitution for the taxpayer. Diebold claimed its voting system was secure. It is, in fact, highly vulnerable to and appears to be designed for fraud.

The California Attorney General was made aware of this problem nearly a year ago. Harris and Black Box Voting Associate Director Andy Stephenson visited the Washington Attorney General's office in Feb. 2004 to inform them of the problem. Yet, nothing has been done to inform election officials who are using the system, nor have appropriate security safeguards been implemented.

In fact, Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger recently froze the funds, allocated by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, which would have paid for increased scrutiny of the voting system in California.

On April 21, 2004, Harris appeared before the California Voting Systems Panel, and presented the smoking gun document showing that Diebold had not corrected the GEMS flaws, even though it had updated and upgraded the GEMS program.

On August 8, 2004, Harris demonstrated to Howard Dean how easy it is to change votes in GEMS, on CNBC TV.

On August. 11, 2004, Jim March formally requested that the California Voting Systems Panel watch the demonstration of the double set of books in GEMS. They were already convened, and the time for Harris was already allotted.

Though the demonstration takes only 3 minutes, the panel refused to allow it and would not look. They did, however, meet privately with Diebold afterwards, without informing the public or issuing any report of what

On August 18, 2004, Harris and Stephenson, together with computer security expert Dr. Hugh Thompson, and former King County Elections Supervisor Julie Anne Kempf, met with members of the California Voting Systems Panel and the California Secretary of State's office to demonstrate the double set of books. The officials declined to allow a camera crew from 60 Minutes to film or attend. The Secretary of State's office halted the meeting, called in the general counsel for their office, and a defense attorney from the California Attorney General's office. They refused to allow Black Box Voting to videotape its own demonstration. They prohibited any audiotape and specified that no notes of the meeting could be requested in public records requests.

The undersecretary of state, Mark Kyle, left the meeting early, and one voting panel member, John Mott Smith, appeared to sleep through the presentation.

On August 23, 2004, CBC TV came to California and filmed the demonstration.

On August 30 &31, Harris and Stephenson will be in New York City to demonstrate the double set of books for any public official and any TV crews who wish to see it.

On September 1, another event is planned in New York City, and on Sept. 21, Harris and Stephenson intend to demonstrate the problem for members and congress and the press in Washington D.C.

Diebold has known of the problem, or should have known, because it did a cease and desist on the web site when Harris originally reported the problem in 2003. On Aug. 11, 2004, Harris also offered to show the problem to Marvin Singleton, Diebold's damage control expert, and to other Diebold execs. They refused to look.

Why don't people want to look? Suppose you are formally informed that the gas tank tends to explode on the car you are telling people to use. If you KNOW about it, but do nothing, you are liable.

1) Let there be no one who can say "I didn't know.";
2) Let there be no election jurisdiction using GEMS that fails to implement
all of the proper corrective procedures, this fall, to mitigate risk.




POSTED: 27 May 2004 - 5:00pm

Verify Your Vote

Your vote doesn't count if it isn't counted.
Sign a petition to create a papertrail for electronic voting.

It's not enough just to get citizens registered to vote—we must ensure that each vote is counted and leaves an accurate, verifiable paper trail for recounts. But some states are planning to use machines that don't allow voters to verify their choice. And the head of a major voting-machine manufacturer—also a big Bush contributor—has promised to deliver Ohio's votes to Bush.

Speak up! Join Howard Dean's Democracy For America organization and tell Congress to require a paper trail in November! Click here to SIGN THE PETITION.


Article published Friday, March 5, 2004
Panel may block cash for voting machines
COLUMBUS - The legislative panel controlling the state’s purse strings is expected next week to block release of federal funds to buy electronic voting machines.

The move would increase chances most Ohio counties still will use punch-card ballots like those called into question in Florida in 2000 during this year’s November presidential election.

The war of words between lawmakers and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell escalated yesterday as a joint legislative committee met for the first time to review security questions surrounding electronic voting.

Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R., Vandalia), a review committee member, said language appropriating $5.8 million in state matching funds to the secretary of state was slipped unnoticed by most lawmakers into the state’s capital budget for bricks-and-mortar projects in 2002.

"There was an assumption on the behalf of the secretary of state that the legislators’ proper role was to rubber stamp the process so that they could make all the decisions," Mr. Jacobson said. "We would not be in this situation today if we had had this discussion two years ago."

Mr. Blackwell has exercised contracts with three vendors for the purchase of the machines for 88 counties, most of them touch-screen machines manufactured by Akron-based Diebold Elections Systems. He plans to ask the State Controlling Board on Monday to release $127 million in funds appropriated for Ohio under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.

"Big decisions, big plans, big designs were always shared with the legislature," Mr. Blackwell said. "I found it particularly interesting that a member of the Senate Finance Committee would, in fact, say he had not a clue that this issue was before this committee. Now whose fault is that?"

Mr. Blackwell had hoped to have new touch-screen and optical-scan machines in the 77 counties still using punch-card ballots by August special elections or the Nov. 2 general election. The rest of the state would be converted in 2005.
That timetable is now in serious doubt.

The joint committee is looking at security issues and also at whether the state should mandate that the machines include a verifiable paper audit trail for recount purposes.




POSTED: 5 May 2004 - 9:30am

Update on Voting Machine Scandal

Robert Howe, as the "Hungry Computer", with Laramie Crocker on guitar

[Editor's Note: The following is from an e-mail we received from True Majority. It is an update on the problems with electronic voting fraud. For more info about True Majority, see

Computer Ate My Vote Scores Coast to Coast Wins

We're making waves and the tide is turning. The last week has been a big one for the Computer Ate My Vote campaign, and I wanted to share with you some of the progress we've been making.

In California, 50 TrueMajority members filled a Sacramento sidewalk last week calling for accountability from paperless electronic voting terminals. It was a fun event -- our "hungry computer" prowled around for votes to eat and TrueMajority balladeer Laramie Crocker sang his ode to paperless voting, "Little Black Box," while the crowd urged state officials to dump California's unverified voting machines. The very next day California's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel said that's exactly what should be done. The panel recommended to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley that he revoke the certification of the model TSx paperless electronic voting machine, made by Diebold Election Systems.

This is big news. California is the biggest market for election equipment in America. A rejection of paperless electronic voting terminals there will have ripple effects throughout the country, and we expect California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to issue that decertification any day. We continue to work in California to extend the decertification of the Diebold TSx machines to *all* paperless electronic voting machinies.

TrueMajority's Mark Floegel re-enacts the California primaries outside Diebold's shareholder's meeting. The mockup voting machine, a 50-foot banner and dozens of TrueMajority members all told the company to stop opposing paper trails.

On the day of the California announcement, TrueMajority members in Canton, Ohio gathered outside the annual shareholders' meeting of Diebold Corporation. Ironically, Ohio is considering buying the very same Diebold TSx machines recommended for decertification in California.

A banner reading "Diebold Devours Democracy" floated from three helium-filled weather balloons outside the auditorium where Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell addressed shareholders and media. Activists gathered around a smoking, flashing mock-up of a malfunctioning Diebold voting terminal as TrueMajority organizers detailed the long list of failures by Diebold's machines in states across the nation. The event made news not only in Ohio newspapers and on Ohio television and radio but also throughout the country due to coverage by the national wire services.

Our work continues in Ohio, where the legislature is still debating a bill to require a paper trail (a TrueMajority organizer testified in favor of it). The bill doesn't go as far as we'd like -- some counties would still be able to purchase paperless machines this year, and retrofit them later -- but it's still a turnaround for a state which had been on the verge of locking *every* county into paperless voting for the foreseeable future. Diebold, meanwhile, seems to be changing it's tune. Instead of claiming that paper trails are difficult to produce, as they did at the beginning of our campaign, company spokespeople said last week they'd be happy to make paper-capable machines for states who want them.

We reported to you earlier that eight states have required paper trails for their electronic voting terminals. Here's more good news -- Maine just joined the club April 22, when Governor Baldacci signed LD1759 into law. State Rep. Hannah Pingree, the chief sponsor of the Maine bill, tells us that your messages to the secretary of state there softened the ground and were important in getting the law passed.

We're not stopping there, though. In addition to pushing on in Ohio and California, we'll soon be taking on the new federal Election Assistance Commission. That's the new board tasked with writing the standards for electronic voting machines. We'll be asking them to write "voter verified paper trail" into the federal standards, so all those states who are waiting until next year to buy voting machines will buy the right ones. Look for an alert soon on that topic.

More and more news outlets are waking up to this nationwide movement, and elected officials are listening. I'm glad to be able to work with all of you to protect our democracy.



POSTED: 7 March 2004 - 9:30pm

Will your vote count?

A touchscreen electronic voting machine with no paper trail

Because of the voting problems in Florida during the 2002 Election (remember the “hanging chads”?), there has been a nationwide move to update voting systems. However, there are some major problems with new electronic voting systems which are being adopted in many locations across the country.

The Problem:
With many of the new electronic systems, a recount is impossible if something goes wrong. That’s because there is only the electronic tally, which would be in question, and no paper record of the votes.
Another issue is that the voter is not able to verify his own vote before submitting it. Even if he thinks he made an error in voting, there may be no way to correct it.

Researchers from John’s Hopkins and Rice Universities found that the widely used Diebold touch screen had badly designed software that was full of errors and open to fraud. Defective hardware and bugs could erroneously elect the wrong candidate. Many question the secret software that runs these systems, which is not open to scrutiny by election boards or the public. While the idea of a fixed election may be a paranoid vision, the fact is that the American people deserve a system that is unquestionably reliable and verifiable.

According to (see their website for sources and more information), there have already been problems with defective software and hardware in these systems:

Broward County, Florida, 1/6/04:
In a special election, 134 votes were not counted. These people went to the polls and signed in, and went to the DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) machines to vote, but 134 of these votes were not registered in the totals. No recount was possible, because there was no written record of the votes, and the electronic voting system had malfunctioned. Florida law requires a recount in close elections or when there is a question or problem, but these machines made it impossible to follow the law.

Hinds County, Mississippi, 11/03:
The new AVS WINvote touch screen voting system failed early on Election Day. The systems overheated and began to fail. There was no backup system in place to deal with the problem. After two months of debate, the State Legislature ordered a new election.

Maryland, 11/04:
On new Diebold DRE’s (Direct Recording Electronic machines), when citizens voted for the Republican candidate for governor, an X appeared beside the Democrat candidate’s name. There were no paper ballots, so an audit was not possible.

Fairfax County, Virginia, 11/04/03:
In a school board election, when voters put an X beside the name of the Republican candidate, the X dimmed out and moved to the Democrat. The Advanced Voting Solution WINvote DRE machine was tested, and it was found that it subtracted one out of one hundred votes placed for the Republican candidate. Audits to correct the votes were not possible because of lack of paper ballots.

Snyder, Scurry County, Texas, 11/02:
On election night, it was announced that two Republicans had won their race for County Commissioner. However, it was discovered that a defective computer chip in an optical scanner misread ballots. A hand count and a re-scanning with a repaired scanner indicated that the supposed winners had actually lost the election, by several hundred votes each! The difference here was that a paper record allowed a hand count of the votes. If a system with no paper trail had been used, we might have had the wrong people in office, or at least a new election would have been necessary.

Super Tuesday:
Scattered technical problems with E-voting were reported in California, Maryland and Georgia. Some precincts had to resort to paper ballots because new machines were malfunctioning.

A Solution:
Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003
House Bill HR2239; Senate Bill S1980
This bill calls for amendment of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. It requires a voter-verified permanent record or hardcopy of the votes suitable for a manual audit. It requires the voting system to provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error made by the system before the permanent record is preserved for any manual audit necessary. The voter verified paper record would be available as an official record used for any recount conducted.

The bill states that no voting system shall contain or use undisclosed software. Any software used shall disclose the source code to the Election Assistance Commission, and it will be made available to any citizen on request. No voting system shall contain any wireless communication system. All software and hardware used in electronic voting systems shall be certified by laboratories accredited by the Commission.

Hawaiian Congressman Abercrombie and Case have co-sponsored the House Bill--you can thank them.
Call, write, or e-mail your senators. Ask them to support the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. Akaka and Inouye have not taken positions on the Senate Bill S1980. You can use the sample letter below:


Dear Senator,
I urge you to support the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, Senate Bill S1980.

New electronic voting systems have some major problems that need to be corrected before the general election in November. Many of these systems currently have software and hardware problems, and generate no permanent record of votes. Recounts are not possible. The source code for some of the software is secret, and could be tampered with. These systems pose a threat to our right to have every vote count, one of the basic principles of our democracy.

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act will require all states to use election equipment that provides a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, and election software source code will be available to the election commission.
Please support this important bill..

Sincerely xxx


Thanks for helping to save our democracy.


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