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We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. — Will Rogers

"Oh my gosh, do you know what this means?" 2006.11.03.08:23

I'm fifteen minutes from the end of the HBO documentary, Hacking Democracy. And I'm having a reaction I have not yet had to any political issue before: I'm weeping.

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 tally.

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

# [/politics]

Who Am I:
Randy J. Ray
Software Engineer


Buy my book!

Programming Web Services with Perl

I've also contributed three chapters to:

Computer Science & Perl Programming

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Reading and Re-reading
· The Annotated Thursday: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Would Be Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Gardner
· The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns
· Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern
· XML Schema, Eric Van Der Vlist
· BEEP: The Definitive Guide, Marshall T. Rose

High in the queue
· Silk, Caitlin R. Kiernan
· Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker
· Idoru, William Gibson
· Shared Source CLI Essentials, David Stutz, Ted Neward, Geoff Shilling

Recently finished
· Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century, Warren Ellis, et al

Recommended favorites
· The Cowboy Wally Show, Kyle Baker
· Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
· The Alienist, Caleb Carr
· Quarantine, Greg Egan
· The Authority: Relentless, Warren Ellis et al.
· Planetary: All Over the World and Other..., Warren Ellis et al.
· American Gods, Neil Gaiman
· Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
· Neuromancer, William Gibson
· A Philosophical Investigation, Philip Kerr
· Say You Want a Revolution (The Invisibles, Book 1), Grant Morrison et al
· You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of..., Oswald T. Pratt and Scott Dickers
· Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson
· Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), J. Michael Straczynski

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