Hacking Democracy

Posted: November 2nd, 2006 by Militant Libertarian

I guess now that I’ve urged you to go vote, I’ll give you reasons not to. haha. I got this via email today. If you can get access to HBO, then you should watch this. Definitely worth it!

Electronic voting machines count 80% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud,
concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing by the day. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is America’s democracy.

The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY exposes gaping holes in the security of America’s electronic voting system when it debuts THURSDAY, NOV. 2 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT) – less than a week before the midterm elections – exclusively on HBO. Other HBO playdates: Nov. 5 (9:00 a.m.), 7 (9:00 a.m., 6:30 p.m.), 13 (12:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m.), 18 (6:00 p.m.) and 26 (1:15 a.m.).

HBO2 playdates: Nov. 4 (noon), 7 (11:45 p.m.), 10 (6:30 p.m.) and 15 (3:00 a.m.).

In the 2000 presidential election, an electronic voting machine recorded minus 16,022 votes for Al Gore in Volusia County, Fla. While fraud was never proven, the faulty tally alerted computer scientists, politicians and everyday citizens to the very real
possibility of computer hacking during elections.

In 2002, Seattle grandmother and writer Bev Harris asked officials in her county why they had acquired electronic touch screen systems for their elections. Unsatisfied with their explanation, she set out to learn about electronic voting machines on her own. In the course of her research, which unearthed hundreds of reported incidents of mishandled voting information, Harris stumbled across an “online library” of the Diebold Corporation – which counted around 40% of the presidential votes nationwide –
discovering a treasure trove of information about the inner-workings of the company’s voting system.

Harris brought this proprietary “secret” information to computer security expert Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, who determined that the software lacked the necessary security features to prevent tampering. Her subsequent investigation took her from the trash cans of Texas to the secretary of state of California and finally to Florida, where a “mini-election” to test the vulnerability of the memory cards used in electronic voting produced alarming results.

As the scope of her mission grew, Harris drew on the expertise of other computer-science experts, politicians and activists, among them: Andy Stephenson, candidate for secretary of state in Washington state; Susan Bernecker, Republican
candidate in New Orleans; Kathleen Wynne, an activist from Cleveland; Hugh Thompson, director, Security Innovations, Inc.; Ion Sancho, Florida’s supervisor of elections; Susan Pynchon of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition; and Harri Hursti, a computer-security analyst.

Academics, public officials and others seen in interview footage include: Deanie Low, supervisor of elections, Volusia County, Fla.; Mark Radke, marketing director of Diebold; David Cobb, presidential candidate, Green Party; and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio.

Diebold software, or other software like it, is installed in thousands of counties across 32 states. David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford, says the problem is that there are “lots of people involved in writing the software, and
lots of people who could have touched the software before it went into that machine. If one of those people put something malicious in the software and it’s distributed to all the machines, then that one person could be responsible for changing tens of
thousands of votes, maybe even hundreds of thousands, across the country.”

In Florida, Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho presided over a trial “mini-election” to see if the vote could be hacked without being detected. Before votes were actually cast, computer analyst Harri Hursti “stuffed the ballot box” by entering votes on
the computer’s memory card. Then, after votes were cast, the results displayed when the same memory card was entered in the central tabulating program indicated that fraud was indeed possible. In other words, by accessing a memory card before an election, someone could change the results – a claim Diebold had denied be possible.

Ultimately, Bev Harris’ research proved that the top-secret computerized systems counting the votes in America’s public elections are not only fallible, but also vulnerable to undetectable hacking, from local school board contests to the presidential race.

With the electronic voting machines of 3 companies – Diebold, ESS and Sequoia – collectively responsible for around 80% of America’s votes today, the stakes
for democracy are high.

One of the executive producers of HACKING DEMOCRACY is Sarah Teale, whose previous HBO credits include “Dealing Dogs” and “Bellevue: Inside Out”. HACKING DEMOCRACY was directed by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels; produced by Simon Ardizzone, Robert
Carrillo Cohen and Russell Michaels; executive producers, Earl Katz, Sarah Teale and Sian Edwards; edited by Sasha Zik. For HBO: supervising producer, John Hoffman; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

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