Thursday, December 01, 2005

NC & voting machines. [Redux[redux[and so on]]]

I thought that I'd seen it all.

Voting the graveyards.

Voting the "moved left no forwarding address" mailboxes.

Challenging the residency of people who have been living at the same address for decades.

Reestablishing the poll tax.

Purposely making the phone lines for the "get out the vote" efforts unusable.

Police pulling over voters and harassing them with nonsense until after the polls closed.

Voting machines that registered hundreds more voters using the machines than were registered.

Machines that were purposely designed to prevent audit trails and recounts.

Hearing voting machine vendors claim that their "trade secrets" are so inviolable that the public cannot see what (if any) process was used to "certify" that their votes would be counted at all, never mind counted with the same vote that was *cast.*

".. Oh, the list goes on...."

When I saw the new law in place in North Carolina, requiring certification of machines, and code escrow, my thought was " about f-----g time."

Then the vendors started trying to get out of the provisions. One of the vendors looking to dip into that cookie jar, Diebold, managed to convince a judge to not only let them get at the cookies (be able to bid on the contracts without having to escrow the code), but started to give the whole cookie jar away, when the judge worded a temporary restraining order (TRO) such that *none* of the penalty provisions in the law would apply to *anybody.*

Now, I don't know if the briefs filed by organizations such EFF had any educational effect, or the courts realized that Diebold and the other vendors didn't need to be protected from the law, or the courts realized what a PR nightmare this could be, with AP happily writing away for a national audience. But the courts decided to lift the TRO and the companies would have to comply with the law after all. (See my earlier article here

And, according to as story in the UK's The Register, Diebold was going to pull out of the North Carolina markewt for voting machines, rather than comply with the law ("It's official: Diebold election bugware can't be trusted")

But now, it appears that the *State of North Carolina* doesn't need to be compliant with the law, either.

According to an AP story carried in today's Durhan, NC Herald-Sun, ("Diebold among winning bidders for N.C. voting equipment sales " ) Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems and Election Systems and Software have all decided to "stay the course," and have all been "certified" to sell electronic voting terminals and optical scanners.

This quick turnaround means that the N.C. Elections board has done some pretty fancy testing of these machines. One of the Election board "advisors", Keith Long, claims

"none of them have the source code for all of their software they use."

If this is true, then these vcompanies are going to be, pretty plainly, in violation of the N.C. Law that requires them to have source to escrow for all relevent portions of their systems.

And, in the event that the escrow libraries have to be opened, how is the state of North Carolina going to be able to *use* the escrowed code to either keep machines running or to fix bugs?

But, it gets better -- this same Keith Long used to work *for Diebold,* and claims to have been instrumental in several big ticket projects for the firm. Too bad for the State of Georgia, at leqast one of those projects created major headaches for that state's voters.

Maybe he's pulling a "Brownie," -- he's screwed up enough that he can now trade on his "expertise" on not what to do?

Matters are even more complicated, because there will be demos in mid-December, a Jan. 20 deadline to ddecide on a vendor and equipment, and primaries in April and May. This is going to provide even more incentive to cut corners. From the AP article:
Now state and county election officials must select vendors, choose machines, have them delivered and train precinct workers on the new units before early primary voting begins in April.

That means counties need to meet a Jan. 20 deadline to contract with a vendor. The machines will be demonstrated at four locations statewide the week of Dec. 12.

"For this timetable to work, the gods are going to have absolutely on you and having everything in place," state elections board chairman Larry Leake said. He didn't rule out recommending the election be delayed or counties resort to paper ballots if counties and the vendors can't get the machines ready in time for the May 2 primary.

"Everyone needs to cross their fingers," he said

I think the voters of North Carolina are getting shafted, and their own tax dollars are going to pay for it.

Why do I care? I'm from Yankee-land, after all.

Aside from the outrage, in general, I know that these machines are coming, and if the crappy ones aree allowed to be the benchmark, it means that elections in my state are going to be suspect as well. Call it enlightened, self-interested, outrage.

"Pam's House Blend" caught it before I did with "Diebold somehow slips into NC", and so did The Brad Blog with "'IMMACULATE CERTIFICATION'! DIEBOLD ALLOWED IN NORTH CAROLINA AFTER ALL!"

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