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Documents surface in NC with Diebold and Gaston Co.elections, vendors, hacks, wtf?, politics, problems, litigation, research, policy, legal
It is an exchange between an attorney at Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (DESI) and the general counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections. It mostly centers around a few incidents that occured in Gaston Co., NC. It is a great illustration of a number of worrying characteristics of the vendor/jurisdiction relationship typical of modern election systems.
Three incidents are of particular note:
In one city, Dallas, NC, a bug appears to have prevented the downloading of 11,945 votes which wasn't caught for seven days. At which point, it appears the county compared paper print-outs from the precinct with the totals reported by the tabulation server. A DESI technician reproduced the bug twice and then decided to forgo usual DESI protocol and loaded the flash-based memory packs directly into the central (GEMS) server to retrieve the votes from the memory pack.
In another case, another memory pack "failed to download" and the DESI technician got approval to send a back-up file electronically to DESI technicians who then emailed the results back. After writing this data to a memory pack, the on-site technician loaded them into the central server via a tabulator unit.
Finally, the document describes hand-entering of "three to five" ballots. DESI claims as a "check and balance" this process doesn't allow the technician to enter more votes than the total vote count (that is, the number of valid plus spoiled ballots). This would implicate that one would be prevented from entering more than a certain number of votes, but, of course, does nothing to constrain what votes are entered. A human looking over the technician's shoulder is the only other constraint.
I've posted more below the fold:
5 Highlights from the document:
There was a problem with 11,945 votes from Dallas, NC. Seven days after the election the County Board of Elections noticed that 11,945 voter were missing (the precinct rolls reported 12,867 where the GEMS system only showed 922). Apparently, 15 early voting memory packs didn't work in the standard (AccuVote-TS) process of accumulating the memory packs onto one unit and then "downloading" them into the GEMS server. That didn't work in a reproducible fashion. These memory packs had to be directly loaded onto the GEMS server by a DESI technician. This seems to have been done in a controlled manner.
DESI's accounting is just as bad as its math. They overbilled Gaston Co. around $10,000 in expenses to Gaston County due to "erroneous" invoices from DESI's accounting dept.
The DESI technician had to hand-enter "three to five ballots". The letter states that "As a check and balance, the candidate totals input must balance with the total votes cast." That's interesting, huh? Doesn't that only mean that you're forbidden from adding an arbitrarily large amount of votes? That is, you would still be free to enter in votes however you wanted as long as you didn't go over the counted+spoiled sum? Is there a stronger check and balance other than having a number of people watch you enter this information alongside with the spoiled ballots?
Look at this back-up recovery process:
"During the auditing process, Ms. Page [with the County] realized that the totals from a single disk hand not been uploaded and included in the unofficial totals. Ms. Barth [DESI] requested and received permission to extract these files by sending a back-up file electronically to DESI technicians. Steve Moreland from DESI faxed Ms. Page an authorization form, which Ms. Page signed and returned to DESI.
Once the DESI technicians had extracted the data, they e-mailed it to Ms. Page and Ms. Barth in Gaston County. At Ms. Page's direction, Ms. Barth then downloaded the information onto a floppy disk, and copied it onto the actual touch screen unit that had not worked properly. Ms. Barth also left this information on the floppy disk."
Great breakdown of costs on the last page. $4900 per tabulator, $100 per tabulator for software licensing per year.
Great illustration of County anxieties with lock-in. These are particularly telling queries from the attorney for the state:
[7.] Gaston County purchased the TS system in 1998. How many other counties in the United States still used the level of on-site support maintenance, and programming that Gaston County was still using eight years after the purchase of the system?
[8.] Is your current TSX voting system designed so that a county will have to continue using the same level of DESI support that is needed for a new system through out the lifetime of that system being used by the county? Is the TS or TSX system designed to allow competent non-DESI information technologists to assume a major part of system maintenance, programming, and trouble-shooting?