I'm fifteen minutes from the end of the HBO documentary,
And I'm having a reaction I have not yet had to any political issue before:
Most of you who know me know that I am an unashamedly big-"L" liberal. And
my reactions to the elections since 2000 have been pretty much all negative.
I've responded with anger, disbelief, outrage and no small amount of
profanity. But before tonight, I hadn't outright wept before.
In Tallahassee, Florida, on December 13th of 2005, several people from
the Florida Election Commission and the organization Black Box Voting, are
taking part in an exercise they're calling "The Hursti Hack". Finnish
security expert Harri Hursti has claimed that the Diebold tally machines
(the machines that scan the optical-recognition ballots)
can be hacked in an effectively "hands-off" manner by attacking the memory
cards that the machines use. Diebold officials had denied Hursti's originally
written report. The report included the revelation that the memory cards
contained not only data files for vote tallies, but an executable program.
By hacking this program on a sample memory card, Hursti believed he could
alter the votes as they were being tallied, obviating the need for trying to
hack the central tabulation machines. After all, if the memory cards themselves
have altered the data, your work is done for the day.
They set it up like this: Hursti is kept out of the room. He has no
input in which of the scores of tally machines will actually be chosen for
use. One is chosen by drawing it's number from a bowl. A test ballot is used,
that has just one yes-or-no question: Can the votes on this Diebold
system be hacked using the memory card? Hursti and Dr. Hugh Thompson,
another security expert who had come to the conclusion that the Diebold
machines could not be trusted, will vote "yes". Six others, including Leon
County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho, will vote "no". After the machine
is selected and placed on the table, Sancho fetches the memory card from
Hursti in the other room. It is plugged in, the machine switched on, and
the boot-up print-out spools from the box. We watch as all eight ballots are
fed into the machine, followed by the special marker-sheet that instructs
the machine to stop accepting new ballots and print the tape with the vote
Final tally: seven votes "yes", a single vote "no".
Susan Pynchon, Director of the group Florida Fair Elections Coalition,
utters the sentence that titles this post:
Oh my gosh, do you know what this means?
I do, Susan. I know what it means. It means the only reason I don't feel
like I wasted my time voting in 2004, is because the state of California had
already booted the Diebold machines out of the precincts, and
offered a back-handed smack to
Diebold in the process. OK, it was just one model, and Diebold got out
of the suit with a laughable $2.6M settlement. But since it's already past,
I'll have to settle for what reassurance I can scrounge together.
But this also means that I won't be the least bit surprised if I wake up
November 8th to hear that a "surprising Republican voter turnout" is credited
with them retaining control of both houses of congress.
I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.
– Waldon O'Dell, then-CEO of Diebold, in an August 13, 2003 fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans