It’s too easy to tamper with voting machines
By BILL MEGO email@example.com October 9, 2012 11:10PM
Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:09AM
Last week, there wasn’t enough space to explain why I am again asking questions about DuPage voting procedures. This week I will.
Because we’ve moved away from hand-counting ballots in full view of all political parties, we’ve made it easy for someone to secretly manipulate the vote by tampering with both the computers that tabulate the vote and the voting machines themselves, both touch screens and optical scanners.
Although operationally transparent voting machines using open source programs are available, the machines we actually use are manufactured by companies with close ties to intensely partisan political groups and even some election commissions, which have lobbied for them.
These machines are inherently faulty, even when they’re not hacked.
Election supervisors from around the country have found that they often do not accurately record the vote. But because their workings are a legally protected trade secret, it isn’t possible for citizens to learn how they work or improve them, an absurd situation considering that tax money paid for them.
In addition, it has repeatedly been demonstrated by experts that anyone with access to a voting machine memory card or printer port can secretly reprogram the machine to shift votes. Recently, the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne showed that, with $26 of readily available electronics, someone with minimal knowledge can remotely alter the communication between the touch screen and the computer, which itself remains unaltered.
For these reasons, it is critical that no electronic components ever be taken home, that the machines be security tested before the election, and that they are never set up and left unattended before the election.
That was one of the questions I asked because the machines are apparently not security tested, and numerous people have told me they’ve seen the machines left unattended in a variety of locations. Perhaps they were mistaken, but Sun readers deserve to know.
Similarly, I asked about tamper revealing seals because, up to now, we apparently haven’t been using them. Also, we have apparently not counted paper ballots at the polling places, as state law requires. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask if those policies have now changed.
Contesting elections costs thousands of dollars. Those costs are borne by the candidate, so only a few votes are typically re-examined and we do not go back and hand count paper ballots. Instead, we do a “retabulation,” asking the machines, which are apparently not retested beforehand, to again spit out the numbers they previously stored.
Why would we expect those numbers to change? Of course they’ll spit out the same numbers, whether the election had been fixed or not. Also, three reputable people have told me that we do not include absentee ballots or the printer tapes from early voting machines, which are occasionally crumpled, unreadable, or even blank.
Finally, I have been told by people who have volunteered to be election monitors that they do not feel they have acceptable access to the tabulation process, and that the computer logs, that tell who did what computer activities and when they did them, are not available. These databases show whether the election was conducted properly or not.
Admittedly, most but not all of the people who called or wrote me were in the Democratic or Green parties. Perhaps they were paranoid or simply unreasonable. I have no first hand knowledge of our election procedures.
I am not a reporter, and have no authority to investigate.
Like any private citizen, all I can do is ask those public employees who should know the answers to my questions because they have voluntarily taken the responsibilities of conducting our elections upon themselves.
And that is what I have done.