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Hacking the vote

By       Message Rob Lafferty       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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"Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum in Volusia County. At 10pm she called the county elections department and learned that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore's count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,00 -- all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters." -- Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2000


"Anyone within a half mile of any machine could have modified every vote, undetected. I could teach you how to do it over the phone. It might require an administrator password, but that's OK -- the password is 'admin'." -- Jeremy Epstein of SRI International on AVS WinVote machines, 2008


"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we see high turnout because of vote-by-mail. It's extremely convenient and accessible; it's secure and cost-effective." -- Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

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On Election Day, Oregon voters can feel reasonably sure that the paper ballots they dropped off or mailed in will be counted and an honest total will be announced. That's not true in states that rely on digital or electronic voting machines, where even after $3 billion spent in search of new technologies this century, recounts may not be possible because records are suspect -- if they are kept at all.

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Every state has voting booths open on Election Day except the civilized states of Oregon, Washington and Colorado, where mail-in ballots are used because they work better and cost less. Oddly, those same three states were also the first to legalize cannabis consumption; it remains to be seen if there's any direct connection there.

In addition to saving money, mail-in ballots encourage voters to actually vote. In every general election held since 2000, at least 70 percent of the ballots sent to Oregon voters were filled out and returned in time to be counted. In 2008 a solid 84 percent of Oregon voters did their civic duty in the November elections. That's well above our usual national turnout of 50-60 percent of registered voters, although it's still at the low end of what we need to have a truly representative democracy.

Only about half of all states allow absentee ballots to be mailed in. Every other American citizen who wants to vote must go to their local precinct station in order to participate. What they find when they enter the voting booth is the greatest threat to democracy America has ever faced -- voting machines.

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In 2008, Jeremy Epstein of SRI International warned the Virginia state legislature about the AVS WinVote machines they had just used to record the vote:

"Anyone within a half mile of any machine could have modified every vote, undetected. I could teach you how to do it over the phone. It might require an administrator password, but that's OK -- the password is 'admin'. Bypassing the encrypted WEP wireless system also proved easy. The password turned out to be ABCDE. Bottom line is that if no Virginia elections were ever hacked, it's because no one with even a modicum of skill has tried."

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Former newspaper editor and reporter, freelance writer, print production manager and lifetime political news junkie...

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