Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated a low cost and relatively low tech method of remotely hacking electronic voting machines. Activists in in Ohio gathered more than enough signatures to put the State’s controversial election law on hold for the 2012 elections. The Maine Secretary of State sent a letter to out-of-state college students encouraging them to re-register in their home States. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that electronic images of voted ballots should be open for public inspection. Two computer science professors began a forensic auit of Venango County’s iVotronic voting system. The New York Times posted an editorial examining the worldwide disillusionment with the democratic political process and the Charleston Post and Courier called for an independent audit of South Carolina’s voting systems. And Saudi King Abdullah announced that the nation’s women would gain the right to vote and run as candidates in the next municipal elections in 2015.
- National: Researchers hack e-voting system for US presidential elections | Macworld UK
- Ohio: New Ohio elections law put on hold after groups deliver petitions to put issue on ballot | cleveland.com
- Maine: Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State | ThinkProgress
- Colorado: Court of Appeals rules voted ballots should be public records | The Denver Post
- Pennsylvania: Venango County: Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny | WICU12
- Editorials: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe | NYTimes.com
- Editorials: Independent vote audit needed in South Carolina | The Post and Courier
- Saudi Arabia: Saudi king grants voting rights to women | CBS News
Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory this week showed how an electronic voting machine model that’s expected to be widely used to tally votes in the US 2012 elections can be easily hacked using inexpensive, widely-available electronic components.
Roger Johnston, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at the US Department of Energy’s science and engineering reseaech lab, said the hack, which requires about $25 and very little technical expertise, would let cybercriminals “flip” votes gathered on Diebold Accuvote TS machines and change election results without raising any suspicion.
Johnston and his team have long warned about vulnerabilities in e-voting machines. And two years ago, the team demonstrated how a Sequoia touch screen e-voting machine could be similarly manipulated using cheap components. The latest research was first reported by the Salon news site.
In the latest experiment, the Argonne researchers showed how a Diebold Accuvote TS touch screen voting machine can be compromised by inserting a man-in-the middle electronic component to intercept the vote cast by a voter and change it before it is recorded by the system.
The component which is less than half the size of a credit card, was assembled using a $1.29 microprocessor and a homemade circuit board that cost less than $10 to assemble. The handmade component, which Johnston calls “alien electronics,” can be simply plugged into a ribbon cable inside the system. There is no need to solder it on to the system, he noted.
Once installed the “alien electronics” can be controlled remotely from a distance of up to a half mile using an ordinary store-brought $15 remote control. Johnston said the machine is “incredibly easy to tamper with” because all the crucial electronic components are accessible and can be easily modified. The Accuvote TS’ enclosure isn’t tamper resistant so hjackers can work on the machine without leaving visible signs, he added.
“All we had to do was find out what the machine was doing in terms of communication,” Johnston said. “We just had to understand the various components and how the data was being sent. We needed to understand what signal had to be sent to fool the machine into thinking the voter had touched the screen at a particular location.”
The experiment shows that e-voting systems are susceptible to more than just cyberattacks, which get the most attention but are harder to pull off as the perpetrators must have some knowledge of the machine’s software, hardware and firmware.
The so-called man-in-the-middle attacks don’t require knowledge of the voting machine’s proprietary software or hardware, Johnston said. “All you need to do is understand the communication between the different parts of the system. Then you just sit there and listen and do whatever mischief you want to.”
The Diebold intrusion was simpler than the Sequoia hack, which required his team to program the man-in the middle component to get the machine to alert users that their votes had been cast as well as changing the selection, he said. “[The latest hack] was ridiculously easy. We just had to control the information coming in from the voter. If you send the computer the wrong candidate it simply assumes the data that is being sent is what the voter meant,” Johnston said.
And “we could easily tamper with the printer output where the paper record would match what was stored electronically,” he added.
Johnston described the microprocessor and the other electronic parts used in the experiment as the sort that can be easily purchased at hobby stores or online. The chip could be programmed by people with only rudimentary skills, he noted.
- Venango County: Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny | WICU12
- Independent vote audit needed in South Carolina | The Post and Courier
A controversial new Ohio elections law was suspended on Thursday as a coalition of Democrats, voting-rights and labor groups submitted over 300,000 signatures to put the law on the fall 2012 ballot. That means the Nov. 8 election — and probably next year’s presidential election — will be run under the same early-voting laws that benefited Democrats in 2008.
The referendum effort is aimed at House Bill 194, a Republican-backed law that restricts early-voting opportunities and makes other changes that Democrats say amount to voter suppression. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat, said suspension of the law will increase turnout among the elderly, minorities, the needy and the disabled — all groups that tend to support Democrats.
“It could change the outcome of an election,” Fudge said at a Thursday news conference in Columbus to announce 318,460 petition signatures had been gathered. “It will make a difference by [HB 194] being on the 2012 ballot and not taking effect two days from now.”
The law will remain suspended during the presidential election as long as 231,147 of the signatures are verified. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said the verification process will not be completed before this fall’s election.
- Democrats push referendum to end Republican voter law | Politics Extra
- Obama campaign helps get signatures for bid to block state early-voting limit | cleveland.com…
- Democrats in ‘Make-or-Break’ Fight Over Early Voting | ABC News
- Husted: Political fights make running election more difficult | The Chillicothe Gazette
- Sen. Durbin raises alarm on state laws affecting voter turnout | The Hill’s Ballot Box
The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.
The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.
In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.”
Here is the relevant section of theletter:
On July 25, 2001, I was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.[…]
Our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine. Maine’s election law (Title 21-A of the Maine Revised Statutes, section 111, subsection 1) defines “residence of a person” as “that place where the person has established a fixed and principal home to which the person, whenever temporarily absent, intends to return.” […]
If you are currently using an out-of-state driver’s license or motor vehicle registration, I ask that you take appropriate action to comply with out motor vehicle laws within the next 30 days (i.e. by October 20, 2011). If, instead, you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine so that out our central voter registration system can be updated.
The letter does not explicitly accuse the students of violating the state’s residency laws — and indeed it would be very difficult for Summers to defend such a claim. The Supreme Court ruled over 30 years ago that students cannot be held to a different residency standard than other people within the state. Nevertheless, the letter succeeded in intimidating many of its targets.
- GOP chair: College students sully elections – UM student appearing on list of 206: ‘I’m not welcome here’ | The Maine Campus
- GOP chairman says if students want to vote, they should pay taxes | Bangor Daily News
- GOP Official Tries to Suppress Student Voters—Despite No Evidence of Fraud | Campus Progress
- Election Day registration supporters battle opponents’ stagecraft | Sun Journal
- Turning away college students in Maine | Bangor Daily News
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today that electronic images of voted ballots should be open for public inspection, provided the voter’s identity cannot be discerned from the ballot. The ruling could have a major impact on Colorado election law, though today’s decision likely is not the end of the fight.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said he would use the court’s decision as guidance to begin the rulemaking process for how public reviews of voted ballots should be conducted. Gessler has said that public access to voted ballots will improve transparency, and therefore increase voter confidence in elections.
Colorado’s county clerks association has maintained that ballots should be secret, and not subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. They have said they will fight efforts by Gessler or the public to review voted ballots, either in court or the General Assembly. Today’s ruling stems from a case filed in Pitkin County by election activist Marilyn Marks.
Marks was one of multiple candidates who ran for Aspen mayor in 2009. For the first time, Aspen used a computerized tabulation system to determine the winner through new “instant runoff voting.” Voters ranked candidates, and the computer system used those rankings to determine a winner, avoiding the need for a second, runoff election.
Marks was among the losing candidates. About a week after the deadline to contest the election, the clerk disclosed that there had been a discrepancy between the results tallied from the paper ballots and the electronic images created by the new system, so that the winning candidate actually won by more votes than originally announced.
- Colorado’s besieged clerks | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post
- The sky didn’t fall after all | The Denver Post
- ES&S representatives fail to show for ordered depositions | Center Post Dispatch
- Secretary of State backs Marks in Colorado election suit | Aspen Daily News
- Could new court ruling impact elections lawsuit against Mesa County? | NBCnews11
Two Pittsburgh College professors today began an examination of reported electronic voting machine problems in Venango County. And while the forensic audit takes place, voters will use paper ballots in the November general election.
After the May primary, the county received complaints from voters who said the touch screen machines did not register their votes correctly, basically flipping the votes to another candidate. Other problems included reports of missing write in votes.
So the election board felt the study was needed, to see if the system is somehow flawed. Right now all 172 touch screen machines are under lock and key in the basement of the county courthouse in Franklin. The audit will focus on the system’s central computer in the coming weeks.
Meantime, the county will spend up to $20,000 to use paper ballots in November, much of the cost to lease a high speed scanner to count the votes. If the audit confirms problems, a permanent switch could be made, with even more costs for the county.
Election Board Chairman Craig Adams said, “What is a vote worth? If the vote is counted it is priceless. If it is not counted, I don’t care what it costs. Let’s get a right.”
- County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal
- Researchers hack e-voting system for US presidential elections | Macworld UK
- Zirkles win Fairfield election; state can’t confirm investigation | NJ.com…
- Monroe County cancels voting machine contract with ES&S | The Indianapolis Star
- Voting in Mahoning County to return to paper ballots | Youngstown News
Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.
Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box. “Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
Economics have been one driving force, with growingincome inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.
But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change.
Young Israeli organizers repeatedly turned out gigantic crowds insisting that their political leaders, regardless of party, had been so thoroughly captured by security concerns, ultra-Orthodox groups and other special interests that they could no longer respond to the country’s middle class.
In the world’s largest democracy, Anna Hazare, an activist, starved himself publicly for 12 days until the Indian Parliament capitulated to some of his central demands on a proposed anticorruption measure to hold public officials accountable. “We elect the people’s representatives so they can solve our problems,” said Sarita Singh, 25, among the thousands who gathered each day at Ramlila Maidan, where monsoon rains turned the grounds to mud but protesters waved Indian flags and sang patriotic songs.
“But that is not actually happening. Corruption is ruling our country.”
Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.
- Researchers hack e-voting system for US presidential elections | Macworld UK
- New Ohio elections law put on hold after groups deliver petitions to put issue on ballot | cleveland.com…
- Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State | ThinkProgress
- Court of Appeals rules voted ballots should be public records | The Denver Post
- Venango County: Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny | WICU12
During the last legislative session, a Senate judiciary subcommittee heard testimony from the State Election Commission and its critics about problems in the 2010 elections. The committee suggested that the two sides work together to recommend improvements to the process.
So far that hasn’t happened. Critics of the system, including the League of Women Voters, contend that the state’s electronic voting system is inherently flawed. The State Election Commission says the system is functional and that problems experienced in the last general election can be fixed.
Given the continuing disagreement over the electronic voting system, which is used throughout the state, an independent look at the situation is in order. The Legislative Audit Council ought to be given the task. A column on our Commentary page from former Clemson computer science professor Eleanor Hare cites problems with verifying data from the 2010 election.
Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire concedes difficulties in that process, which he attributes largely to having undertaken the review months after the end of the election.
Nevertheless, he acknowledges that election officials have had difficulties working with their critics. “It’s hard to have any level of trust for a group whose stated goal is to discredit the system,” he said.
Duncan Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina who has been working with the League on its voting integrity project, says the goal is rather to produce a reliable system for which voting results can be verified. Dr. Buell acknowledged that “there has been essentially no back and forth whatsoever” with state election officials.
The League and other critics have raised objections that won’t easily go away. Confidence in the state election system has been shaken. An independent performance audit could resolve the issue by examining the system here as well as similar operations in other states. The LAC could measure the adequacy of the commission’s response and recommend further improvements. The election process is essential to democracy, and the credibility of the system is in jeopardy.
- Votes were miscounted, laws ignored | The Post and Courier
- Audit of 2010 South Carolina Elections Shows Widespread Problems | Free Times
- Still Clueless About Touch-Screens in South Carolina | The Brad Blog
- Local Governments wants an audit of State’s ES&S iVotronics | The Post and Courier
- Elections System and Software could face contempt charges | Alamosa Valley Courier
Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday that the nation’s women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015 in a major advancement for the rights of women in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom. In an annual speech before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, the Saudi monarch said he ordered the step after consulting with the nation’s top religious clerics, whose advice carries great weight in the kingdom.
“We refuse to marginalize the role of women in Saudi society and in every aspect, within the rules of Sharia,” Abdullah said, referring to the Islamic law that governs many aspects of life in the kingdom.
The right to vote is by far the biggest change introduced by Abdullah, considered a reformer, since he became the country’s de facto ruler in 1995 during the illness of King Fahd. Abdullah formally ascended to the throne upon Fahd’s death in August 2005.
The kingdom’s great oil wealth and generous handouts to citizens have largely insulated it from the unrest sweeping the Arab world. But the king has taken steps to quiet rumblings of discontent that largely centered on the eastern oil-producing region populated by the country’s Shiite Muslim minority.
Mindful of the unrest, which reached Saudi Arabia’s doorstep with street protests and a deadly crackdown in neighboring Bahrain, King Abdullah pledged roughly $93 billion in financial support to boost jobs and services for Saudis in March.
Seizing on the season of protest in the Arab world, Saudi women’s groups have also staged public defiance of the kingdom’s ban on female driving. Saudi authorities went relatively easy on the women, who took to the roads earlier this year and gained worldwide attention through social media.
Abdullah said the changes announced Sunday would also allow women to be appointed to the Shura Council, the advisory body selected by the king that is currently all-male.
Full Article: Saudi king grants voting rights to women — CBS News.
- Saudi women to be given voting rights | ABC News
- Saudi society to change forever | Arab News
- UAE holds second-ever advisory body elections, women elected | Philippine Star
- Slave descendants get Cherokee voting rights, possible tribal inclusion: War ‘still not over’ | The Washington Post
- Parliamentary vote marked by pluralism and respect for fundamental freedoms, OSCE observers say | ODIHR