December 8, 2005 5:57 PM PST

EFF moves to block e-voting system certification

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a court complaint Thursday aimed at blocking North Carolina's recent certifications of voting machines, saying state elections officials failed to meet legal requirements before signing off on the systems.

The complaint (click for PDF), filed in Wake County Superior Court by the EFF and a Raleigh lawyer on behalf of a local voters' advocate, calls for a judge to void certifications that the Board of Elections issued last week to Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia Voting Systems.

It also requests a restraining order that would prevent elections officials from certifying any new systems until they comply fully with state election laws. The state legislature modified those laws this summer, setting new standards for e-voting machines and requiring that existing systems be decertified.

State elections officials "exceeded their statutory authority" in signing off on the systems, because they disregarded the law in two areas, the complaint charges. First, they failed to complete a comprehensive review of various security features on the systems, and second, they neglected to obtain every bit of source code associated with software on the devices--one of the new legal requirements.

E-voting machines continue to generate security concerns and calls for reform. During the 2004 presidential election, officials acknowledged that glitches in some systems led to lost votes in a few states' tallies--including 4,500 in one North Carolina county.

Diebold, an Ohio-based company that makes automatic-teller machines as well, is also no stranger to controversy. Last year, California officials questioned the company on the integrity of its systems and recommended banning Diebold machines from the state.

In a court complaint filed last month in North Carolina, Diebold said the state's stringent new laws were unreasonable, arguing that it couldn't conceivably turn over the source code for all of the programs run by its machines, as it has no ownership over third-party programs, such as Windows CE. A judge threw out the complaint and cautioned the company that it would be penalized if it failed to comply with the laws. Just days later, the Board of Elections decided to certify Diebold and the other companies anyway.

Keith Long, a state voting systems manager, defended that decision in an interview with CNET News.com, saying information about the systems from "independent testing authorities" was sufficient for certification. And furthermore, having concluded that "none" of the companies could meet the source-code requirements, elections officials decided to go ahead with the certifications on the grounds that the companies hand over all of their proprietary code and tell the state where to find third-party source code by a certain date.

The Board of Elections declined to comment on the suit Thursday. According to the EFF's Web site, a hearing is set for next Wednesday.

6 comments

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Wasnt Ohio...
The state that gave Bush the last election? Isnt the Gov. of Ohio up of investigation? Hmmmmm
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
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And...
Weren't the electronic voting machines designed so that there could be no printed proof that the machines collected the votes they reported? There should always be a hard copy backup for something as crucial to democracy as voting.

Oh wait... that's right. There is no more democracy.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
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Good enough??
The article said they "trusted" the Independent Test Authorities (ITA's). I know of only two of them. There needs to be more ITA's to do the testing and "qualification" work. This is part of the problem, too much work for too little resource.

And yes, there needs to be a paper printout to backup the person's vote record when using an ERD (electronic recording device) like a touchscreen terminal. The paper/scanner based systems are about the safest in terms of being able to 'retabulate' an election.
Posted by (35 comments )
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Too bad...
It's too bad Diebold was allowed to make machines that don't allow a printout. After all, who can forget when Walden O'Dell, head of the company, wrote "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
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Kerry/OHIO/voting/investigation
We, in the Dem.for Kerry were told that he had his
full legal team in Ohio, investigating "irregularities". Kerry, alas, like
Clinton, Gore etc. etc. Democrat's have not carried the "stolen" election (florida,ohio,etc) into legal arenas. Has Democracy failed us in our
lifetime?..... The consequences of Democratic submition to bush/cia/gop greedmongers will remain
yet to be seen..
Posted by (3 comments )
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The Worse Part is that it is a Wireless System!
Not only does it not have a Hard-Copy Printed Backup Copy, it can be Hacked from up to 1000' Away! Can we be sure the real Winner is in the White House or did he and his Cronies manage to steal another Election!
Posted by (6 comments )
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