Sunday | September 28, 2003
Spotlight Returns to Diebold Voting Machines
By Meteor Blades
Serious concerns about Diebold’s touch-screen voting machines have taken an interesting turn. The Washington Post is reporting that the Maryland governor has ordered a probe into potential conflict-of-interest of a former state official. The target of the investigation is a lobbyist for Diebold and simultaneously for Science Applications International Corp., the company that recently did an independent audit of security and other problems of the Diebold machines.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has asked state investigators to look into the opposite interests of a well-known Annapolis lobbyist who represents two companies involved in the overhaul of the state's voting machine system.
Ehrlich requested the inquiry last week after learning that Gilbert J. Genn, a former Montgomery County delegate, is registered as a lobbyist for Diebold Election Systems Inc., the company that has a $55 million contract to provide the state with its electronic voting system, and Science Applications International Corp., the computer security company the state recently hired to examine the Diebold voting machines for flaws. …
The governor's request for an independent review of Diebold came on the heels of an analysis by computer security experts Johns Hopkins University who found that the company's touch-screen machines had major flaws that could potentially change the outcome of an election.
Hopkins's Information Security Institute reported that Diebold's machines were so susceptible to security risks that even an inexperienced hacker could wreak havoc on the state's election process.
After the Johns-Hopkins report, Ehrlich ordered an independent review by SAIC.
In its study released Thursday, Science Applications found 328 security weaknesses, 26 of them critical, in the new computerized system, which is supposed to be in full operation by the March presidential primary election. State officials said they will correct the problems identified in the Science Applications report and have the system ready by then.
The SAIC report is not yet available on line.
Every day, more and more, the idea of returning to paper ballots appeals to me. This would provide a few more seasonal jobs for counters, recounters and auditors. It would give the media days instead of minutes to speculate on what the final count will be. It would even let the hemp lobbyists campaign to require all ballots to be made of their favorite renewable crop. Best of all, with checks and balances provided by all those redundant eyes in the counting rooms, it would give our democracy an accurate measure of the desires of the voters.