The 2008 Presidential election may hinge on a primary in which the votes are recorded and tabulated exclusively by paperless electronic voting machines.
South Carolina's primary will be pivotal in the nominating process of both major parties. South Carolina uses a paperless touch screen system statewide, the ES&S iVotronic
. It is apparent from the state Election Code
that this is the system used for primary elections (section 7-13-1900).
Paperless e-voting is reckless in any right, but the iVotronic has managed to become notorious on its own terms.It is the machine of Sarasota 2006 fame, producing 18,000 undervotes in Florida's 13th Congressional District, as well as high undervotes in other races in six Florida counties that used the machines. It is the same machine whose firmware version 126.96.36.199 was described by Princeton University computer scientist Edward Felten as "terribly insecure" and in need of serious improvements before it used in another election.
Douglas Jones, a computer scientist at the University of Iowa, says he's heard similar stories from voters in several states, including one computer scientist in South Carolina who said that his attempts to vote for one candidate on the iVotronic were repeatedly changed to an opposing candidate by the time he got to the voter verification screen."
A note about the above: vote-flipping on the selection screen can be explained by the screen's sensitivities falling out of sync with the candidate display positions. That is the so-called "calibration issue." Deliberate miscalibration can be a form of an attack, as the above-quoted University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas Jones
observed in 2005.
Vote-flipping on the review screen
cannot explained by calibration problems. A calibration slippage would reveal itself when the voter chose a candidate on the selection screen, not at the last stage of the voting process. Most alarming: a study done by Rice University graduate students found that 60% of subjects failed to notice vote alterations on the review screen
The iVotronic is the machine discussed in Dan Rather's special, "The Trouble With Touch Screens" in August of this year. Manufactured in sweatshops (a fact which, unlawfully, was not disclosed to the Election Assistance Commission), and with abysmal quality control.
And it's important not to forget the big picture on paperless e-voting. In 2006, a task force of computer scientists working for the Brennan Center for Justice
at NYU Law School concluded that attacks against electronic voting machines could alter a statewide election, with as few as one to three informed participants. The Verified Voting Foundation
noted in 2004, "computer systems can be deliberately corrupted at any stage of their design, manufacture, and use. The methods used to do this can be extremely difficult to foresee and detect."
What can citizens do? It may not be possible for South Carolina to implement an emergency paper ballot requirement for the January 19 and Janaury 26 primaries. At any rate, citizens from all over the nation could contact the South Carolina State Election Commission
and let them know of their concern. All citizens should educate the Presidential campaigns about the iVotronic and paperless voting in general.
It would be a pity if a Presidential candidate drops out, claims front-runner status, or is subjected to an on-the-ropes news cycle as a result of his or her showing in the iVotronic primary.
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