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UPDATED Many Times With the Latest Bowen Watch News & A Few Things to Look at While Waiting
PLUS: Now an Open Thread as We Wait...Announcement Now to Come at 11:45pm PT...
By Brad Friedman on 8/3/2007 5:32pm PT  

Blogged by Brad, just minutes down the road from Diebold Election Systems Inc. in Plano, TX...

[UPDATED MANY TIMES. ANNOUNCEMENT NOW TO COME AT 11:45pm PT, ACCORDING TO SOS OFFICE. SEE BOTTOM OF ARTICLE FOR LATEST UPDATES. DETAILS OF PRESS CONFERENCE NOW POSTED HERE.]

We were hearing "five o'clock hour." Now, the latest we're hearing for CA SoS Debra Bowen's announcement about what she plans to do with CA's electronic voting systems in light of her "Top-to-Bottom Review" (news of which has all but taken over The BRAD BLOG for the past week or so) is "around or after six PM tonight."

That would be 6pm Pacific Time. Around or after. We will, of course, let you know whatever we learn as soon as we learn it.

To review: Bowen has essentially three basic options that she can choose to make...

a) Do nothing, let everyone use the previously certified crappy, hackable, non-disabled accessible voting systems as are.
b) Decertify any or all of those systems.
c) Re-certify any or all of the "conditionally" with new security mitigation procedures in place --- such as no more voting machine "sleepovers," extra-large post-election audits, etc --- long enough to get the state through the February '08 primaries and/or November '08 general elections.

Or any combination of any of the above.

The SoS office is being exceptionally tight-lipped about their plans. And so, on pins and needles, we wait...Stay tuned...

UPDATE: By the way, while we're waiting --- and as I am currently parked literally minutes from the main headquarters of Diebold Election Systems, Inc., in Plano, TX --- feel free to check out their main web page. I don't know about other browsers, but using Firefox, all kinds of HTML code is sticking out that shouldn't be visible. These jackasses can't even code a webpage and we're relying on them to code our elections?! Oh, please someone save me...

UPDATE 5:50pm PT: Also, while waiting, you might enjoy this:

A busted computer system hamstrung the House (video link courtesy Breitbart.tv) for at least 45 minutes Friday on one of the tensest legislative days of the year.

The House electronic voting system malfunctioned at approximately 2 p.m. as lawmakers began a vote on a procedural motion sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.).
...
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he had consulted with a House technical expert who advised that the system be taken down for 30 minutes to fix the problem. He suggested vacating the vote and revoting once the system was fixed.

Nice that Hoyer and friends have the luxury of voting later and/or re-voting if they feel like it after their voting computer breaks down. Would that every American...

UPDATE 6:26pm PT from Emily Levy: Bowen press conference to be streamed live San Francisco Air America affiliate KQKE (960 AM) announced they will interrupt regular programming with the press conference when it takes place. However, no time has yet been announced. KQKE can be streamed online right here. (Click on "Listen Live.")

UPDATE 7:00pm PT: The good John Gideon reminds us that Bowen has until Midnight tonight (Pacific Time) to make her decisions. It's getting late here in TX, so we'll hope she doesn't wait that long. Her staff is still being frustratingly tight-lipped as of the past few mins...

UPDATE 8:33pm PT: Yes. In case you were wondering. We're still up and waiting...

UPDATE 9:49pm PT: More to look at while you wait...A 'Toon of the Moment' if there ever was one...

Comments below have become an Open Thread with guesses, speculation, and other questions about what Bowen may or may not do...Join us if ya like...

UPDATE 10:15pm PT: This just in via email from Bowen's press office:

TONIGHT: Secretary of State Debra Bowen Will Announce Her Decisions on California Voting System Certifications

UPDATE on tonight's Sacramento press conference regarding Secretary of State Debra Bowen's voting system certification decisions...

We have heard a couple of people unaffiliated with the Secretary of State's office passed along some incorrect information earlier today. I wanted to let you know we still do not have an exact time for gathering here for the press conference but, pursuant to Elections Code 19222, Secretary Bowen will announce her decisions tonight. We will send out an advisory with press conference details as soon as they are confirmed.

Thank you again for your patience during these unique circumstances,

Nicole Winger
Deputy Secretary of State, Communications
Office of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

UPDATE 11:15pm PT: Word just in from Bowen's office. Announcement to come (emphasis in original) "TONIGHT at 11:45 p.m." Here's the full press release...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By John Gideon on 8/2/2007 8:15pm PT  

Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

"The problems we found in the code were far more pervasive, and much more easily exploitable, than I had ever imagined they would be." Matt Blaze 02 August

Today the California Source Code Review Reports were released by Secretary of State Bowen's office. Reports were released on the Diebold, Sequoia, and Hart Intercivic voting systems.

The lead researcher for the Sequoia source code team was Matt Blaze. In his blog, Exhaustive Search, Blaze discusses the results of all of the inspections.

In spite of the short time and other sub-optimal conditions, the project found deeply-rooted security weaknesses in the software of all three voting systems reviewed.

I was especially struck by the utter banality of most of the flaws. Exploitable vulnerabilities arose not so much from esoteric weaknesses that taxed our ingenuity, but rather from the garden-variety design and implementation blunders that plague any system not built with security as a central requirement. There was a pervasive lack of good security engineering across all three systems, and I'm at a loss to explain how any of them survived whatever process certified them as secure in the first place. Our hard work notwithstanding, unearthing exploitable deficiencies was surprisingly --- and disturbingly --- easy.

Blaze then concludes with what may be a hint of decisions to come:

The root problems are architectural. All three reviewed products are, in effect, large-scale distributed systems that have many of their security-critical functions performed by equipment sent out into the field. In particular, the integrity of the vote tallies depends not only on the central computers at the county elections offices, but also on the voting machines (and software) at the polling places, removable media that pass through multiple hands, and complex human processes whose security implications may not be clear to the people who perform them. In other words, the designs of these systems expose generously wide "attack surfaces" to anyone who seeks to compromise them. And the defenses are dangerously fragile --- almost any bug, anywhere, has potential security implications.

This means that strengthening these systems will involve more than repairing a few programming errors. They need to be re-engineered from the ground up. No code review can ever hope to identify every bug, and so we can never be sure that the last one has been fixed. A high assurance of security requires robust designs where we don't need to find every bug, where the security doesn't depend on the quixotic goal of creating perfect software everywhere.

In the short term, election administrators will likely be looking for ways to salvage their equipment with beefed up physical security and procedural controls. That's a natural response, but I wish I could be more optimistic about their chances for success. Without radical changes to the software and architecture, it's not clear that a practical strategy that provides acceptable security even exists. There's just not a lot to work with.

I don't envy the officials who need to run elections next year.

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By John Gideon on 7/31/2007 11:42am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

To date the "Red Team" reports have been released; a preliminary report on audits has been released; and the accessibility report has been released. Our cup nearly runneth over.

But wait, there's more?

Yes, there are still 6 more reports that have not been released. There are three reports, one for each vendor, on the source code review. There are also three reports, one for each vendor, on the document review. All six of these reports are important to the total picture and all of them will be used in the final decision making process.

We encourage the Secretary of State to let the voters see those remaining reports. If the reports are 100 pages each, that's 600 pages of information that we need time to read and study.

Secretary Bowen, release the reports, please.

UPDATE 01 August: Today Princeton Prof. Ed Felten of Diebold Accuvote TS hack fame, asked on his blog, FreedomToTinker, "Where are the California E-Voting Reports". In his blog Prof. Felten says:

With the Secretary having until Friday to decide whether to decertify any e-voting systems for the February 2008 primary election, the obvious question arises: Why is the Secretary withholding the other reports?

Here’s the official explanation, from the Secretary’s site:

The document review teams and source code review teams submitted their reports on schedule. Their reports will be posted as soon as the Secretary of State ensures the reports do not inadvertently disclose security-sensitive information.

This explanation is hard to credit. The study teams were already tasked to separate their reports into a public body and a private appendix, with sensitive exploit-oriented details put in the private appendix that would go only to the Secretary and the affected vendor. Surely the study teams are much better qualified to determine the security implications of releasing a particular detail than the lawyers in the Secretary’s office are.

More likely, the Secretary is worried about the political implications of releasing the reports. Given this, it seems likely that the withheld reports are even more damning than the ones released so far.

If the red team reports, which reported multiple vulnerabilities of the most serious kind, are the good news, how bad must the bad news be?

We ask again; Secretary Bowen, release the reports, please.

UPDATE 02 AugustAnother set of reports, source code review, has been released today. Thank you Secretary Bowen.

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The Greatest Threat to Election Integrity Comes from Elections Insiders...Just Like the Ones Who Keep Telling Us Their Systems Are Secure...
By Brad Friedman on 7/31/2007 9:55am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

If you've yet to find time to read the hundreds of pages from the landmark "Top-to-Bottom Review" of voting systems from California University, as commissioned by CA SoS Debra Bowen, we don't blame ya.

So after plowing through dozens of articles covering the reports, we'll make it easy for you, and recommend two short articles which will get you all quickly caught up with an overview of some of the most notable findings from all of the various reports as written in nearly human-being language.

As well, we're happy to sum up --- and destroy --- the pathetic, predictable, and lock-step Election Officials' and Vendors' response to Bowen's report in a few easy paragraphs....

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Previous Administration's Accessibility Testing Did Not Exist For Computerized DRE Voting Systems and Was Unfair for Vote-PAD, a Non-Computerized Accessibility Solution...
By John Gideon on 7/31/2007 9:50am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org with input from Ellen Theisen, also of VotersUnite.Org

Now that the California Secretary of State's "Top-To-Bottom Review" testing is complete and the reports have been submitted, nearly everyone is falling over themselves to read and talk about the many startling vulnerabilities easily found by the "Red Teams" who performed hack testing on the systems.

However, there is another report that has been overlooked, for the most part, by the media and the public. That is the "Accessibility Review" which examined whether the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems meet federal requirements to allow voters with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently as required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Maybe it's because, as some have pointed out, accessibility issues are not as "sexy" as hacking into voting machines. Or maybe it's because this report is 155 pages long as compared to less than 20 pages for the "Red Team" reports. Either way, the failures found in the accessibility report may pack more dynamite and leave more questions unanswered than the security reports.

The "Executive Summary" of that report says it all:

Three voting systems, the Diebold AccuVote TSx, Hart eSlate and Sequoia Edge I and II, were evaluated for usability and accessibility for voters with disabilities and voters with alternate language needs, using both heuristic and user testing techniques. Although each of the tested voting systems included some accessibility accommodations, none met the accessibility requirements of current law and none performed satisfactorily in test voting by persons with a range of disabilities and alternate language needs. In some cases the accessibility or usability deficits could be partially or wholly mitigated. Some of these mitigations would not require new federal and state certification testing.

Notice that the researchers say, "none met the accessibility requirements of current law." That's federal and state law. The machines have been sold for years --- and, in fact, the use of DRE machines as a whole has been jammed down America's polling places --- on the basis that they meet federal HAVA mandates for an accessible means of voting in every polling place. And yet, the California analysts found, they are not accessible at all...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Detailed Coverage from Historic Hearing in Sacramento, California...
By Emily Levy on 7/30/2007 11:19pm PT  

Guest Blogged from Sacramento by Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us (with assistance from Michelle Gabriel, photos by Bill Lackemacher of Sacramento for Democracy) from the public hearing on 7/30/07, called by California Secretary of State to receive comments on her landmark "Top-to-Bottom review" of the state’s electronic voting systems. No internet access was available in the hearing room, so I wasn’t able to live blog as I’d hoped. I did, however, take copious notes, which are posted in full below this brief summary.

ED NOTE: The video of the hearing, which was not easily available as it streamed live today, is now posted here and here. But I recommend Emily's detailed description below for a great deal of value-added content and perspective! And it's faster! - BF

Note: Story very slightly updated with some corrections in the spelling of names, plus one substantive correction regarding Jim Soper's testimony (the very last one in the entire article).

SACRAMENTO - California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made opening remarks, followed by an overview of the Top-To-Bottom Review by the chief investigator, Matthew Bishop, University of California Davis (UCD) Professor of Computer Science.

Following that, each of the three vendors whose machines went through the Top-To-Bottom Review were given 30 minutes to respond to the report. Diebold went first and only took about five of the 30 minutes, followed by Hart Intercivic and Sequoia.

I’m absolutely thrilled to report that Sequoia knows just how to solve the problems found in the Top-To-Bottom Review: California should just by newer systems from them!

After lunch was the public comment period, the longest part of the hearing. I’ve paraphrased and sometimes quoted the comments of just about every person who testified (including my own testimony). There were maybe 25 or 30 county election officials present, many of whom spoke. Freddie Oakley of Yolo County, an election integrity hero, spoke in favor of the Top-To-Bottom Review and said we bought these systems to accommodate voters with special needs and disabilities and “we have let them down in the most appalling way” by certifying systems with such obvious defects and continuing to use them despite those defects.

I believe every other elections official spoke critically of the Top-To-Bottom Review, most criticizing Bowen for not including county elections officials in the review, not reviewing policies and procedures as part of the Top-To-Bottom Review, and conducting the review in a laboratory setting rather than a real election setting. (I, in contrast, think our elections in recent years have been nothing but one giant beta test!)

It will take some scrolling to find my notes on the remarks of the many election integrity advocates who spoke. Most spoke late in the day, probably because they signed up later, after the pre-hearing press conference they held outside the Secretary of State’s office building. But it’s worth the scrolling, because many important things were said. Many of the EI advocates encouraged Secretary Bowen to decertify not just the three election systems tested, but all electronic voting systems. Many advocated for hand-counted paper ballots. Testimony was frequently backed up with credentials, experience, statistics and technical information. The depth and breadth of expertise in the election integrity movement continues to amaze me. (Note: I’ve posted my own comments in full because I had them available. If others who spoke would like their testimony posted in full, I invite them to paste them into the “comments” section of this blog item.)

Several people with disabilities and advocates for people with disabilities spoke. Some, notably Jennifer Kidder, spoke about the importance of election integrity. Kidder said, “The purpose of any equal opportunity legislation is to get marginalized voices heard,” and went on to note that this purpose is defeated if, after voting privately and independently, the vote of a disabled voter is changed by an electronic voting system.

Most of the people with disabilities and their advocates, however, cautioned against going “back” to paper ballots, saying that would be a move in the wrong direction in terms of the accessibility of voting systems. In general, they were supportive of the types of mitigations recommended by the accessibility team of the Top-To-Bottom Review, despite the findings that none of the systems tested actually met the federal accessibility standards as required by law.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office is accepting public comments by email until Wednesday, August 1 at VotingSystems@sos.ca.gov On Friday, August 3, Bowen will announce what actions she will take in light of the Top-To-Bottom Review. We can only hope that she remembers why she was elected, and will take bold action to protect California's elections.

Detailed notes on the hearing appear below. Where I have paraphrased a speaker, I have done so in the first person, sometimes making my own [occasionally snarky] comments inside square brackets. I hope this isn’t confusing...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Larger Samples, Escalation of Audit Sizes When Problems Found, Among Suggestions to Raise Confidence Level That Election Results Correctly Declared After Electronic Tabulation...
By Brad Friedman on 7/30/2007 11:53am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

"Publicly observable post-election audits are the single most important safeguard we can have for the integrity of elections in this era of computer-assisted voting," according to Livermore National Labs computer scientist David Jefferson.

"They allow everyone, winners and losers alike, to be satisfied that the races are correctly called, but without the need to trust any computers or software," he added in a press release from the California Sec. of State's office released just moments ago (posted in full at the bottom of this item) on the study he led for the SoS Debra Bowen, which examined the effectiveness of --- and made recommendations to improve --- the state's 40-year old 1% manual audit law.

In addition to her stunning announcement on Friday that her team of independent analysts at Univeristy of California, attempting to hack the states electronic voting systems as part of her promised "Top-to-Bottom Review," were able "to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," Bowen has also convened a "Post-Election Audit Standards Working Group" in order to "examine whether California’s post-election audit standards should be strengthened."

Their report has now been released online [PDF].

Among recommendations made by the group (emphasis in original):

  • Take a risk-based approach to conducting post-election audits by manually counting a higher percentage of precincts – above the 1% required by law – in close races and in races involving only a small number of precincts.
  • Develop an adjustable sample model that fits California’s needs. With an adjustable audit, the size of the random sample for close elections and small races is not a flat percentage, such as California’s current 1%, but is calculated using the margin of victory, number of precincts in the race and other key factors to produce a desired confidence level (for example, 99%) that the winner of the election has been correctly declared.
  • Develop a comprehensive approach to verifying election results, including rules for escalating an audit when errors in the machine counts are discovered during the manual count and rules for determining whether to trust the outcome of the election when small discrepancies are found between the manual and machine counts. In California, the law sets no standards when it comes to audit escalation.

"No matter what voting systems California counties use," Bowen said in the statement, "we have to make sure we’re doing meaningful audits of election results to provide voters with the confidence that every vote is counted as it was cast."

The complete press statement on the just-released finds of the "Post-Election Audit Standards Working Group" follows in full below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 7/30/2007 9:41am PT  

CA SoS Debra Bowen's public hearing concerning her "Top-to-Bottom Review" of electronic voting systems carried out by the University of California, takes place at 10am today (Monday) in Sacramento. Her office has just let us know that the hearing will be webcast live here.

VelvetRevolution.us' Emily Levy will be at the hearings and is hoping to live blog them for The BRAD BLOG from the hearing room.

According to a statement from Bowen's office this morning, the hearing will be at "the Secretary of State’s Sacramento building auditorium at 1500 11th Street."

"Secretary Bowen’s decisions on system certifications will come on or before August 3, after her thorough review of the UC team reports and input from voters, voting system vendors and local elections officials," the state says. "Today, the independent UC review teams, led by nationally respected computer science experts David Wagner and Matthew Bishop, will provide an overview of their reports. Voting system vendors will have an opportunity to respond, then public comment will be welcome."

The landmark, independent reports from UC are available online right here.

UPDATE 1:00pm PT: The live webstream out of the hearing is almost completely unwatchable, as they must not have enough bandwidth to accommodate those trying to watch. As well, though Emily is at the hearings, there is no Internet access available in the room. So despite all best-laid plans, we'll have to wait for the her report to be posted here later tonight, and for a video archive of the hearing itself to hopefully be made available later.

UPDATE 11:27pm PT: Emily Levy's tremendous, detailed coverage of the hearing is now finally posted here...

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PLUS: Following up with Bowen on the ES&S LA County InkaVote Issue, and the Bizarre Comments from Steve Weir, President of CA Election Officials Association
By Brad Friedman on 7/29/2007 10:31am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

We'll certainly have more, from various voices, in the days ahead concerning CA SoS Debra Bowen's landmark independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of electronic voting systems. The reports from the teams at University of California are now available online here.

As well, Bowen will be taking public statements on these reports both via email at votingsystems@sos.ca.gov and, in person, during a public hearing tomorrow (Monday, July 30) at her office in Sacramento beginning at 10:00am. She'll announce her decisions for decertification or otherwise next Friday, August 3rd. So your input is important, as she mentioned on during a media phone call last Friday.

But even while the results, as Bowen described them on that phone call just prior to their release, found that "the independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," and as the report on accessibility for disabled voters found that none of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems met federal disability standards, Democrats and People for the America Way (PFAW) in the U.S. House were busy hammering out a deal to institutionalize the continued use of such disastrous voting systems into federal law.

Out of touch much? Which part of a transparent, counted, paper ballot (not a "trail" or a "record") for every vote cast in America do these guys not understand?

Late Friday, as Bowen's UC Report was being released, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) finally came to terms, reportedly, on a deal for a revision of Holt's HR 811 Election Reform bill which allows for the use of DREs as preferred, almost exclusively, by PFAW, elections offficials, and voting machine companies. We've been reporting for months that PFAW was the main insider advocacy group moving the ball with this disappointing bill, and Saturday's New York Times confirms that it was "Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, [who] helped broker the deal" between Holt and House Leadership.

That despite Neas having previously chided me for suggesting that PFAW had the power to make or break this legislation in Congress. As we've also long reported, of course, by their own written admissions, PFAW prefers unaccountable DRE systems to paper ballot voting systems.

And though Christopher Drew's reporting at the New York Times is getting slightly better with each new story, it would be nice if "The Paper of Record" could learn enough about our voting systems so they could accurately report, and help Americans understand what's really at stake here and how the technology actually works.

Drew reported --- misleadingly --- that "The House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts."

That's just plain wrong. The fact is that adding "cash-register-style printers to...touch-screen machines," as Drew describes it, does not allow a voter to verify that their "ballots had been correctly cast." It allows them only to verify that the paper record of their invisibly-cast electronic ballot accurately matches their intention. Maybe. The fact is: There is no way to verify that a voter's vote is correctly cast on a DRE touch-screen voting machine. Period.

Unless, of course, it's me who is out of touch in presuming that if a "ballot" is "cast" it means it will actually be counted by someone or something. Paper trails added to DRE systems are not counted --- only the internal, invisible, unverifiable ballots are. A "cash-register-style" print-out prior to the ballot being cast and counted internally does not change that.

But more on all of that, and Bowen's UC reports, as we move forward. For the moment, if you'll allow me, I wanted to touch base on a few items I asked Bowen about during the phone call which followed up on several specific issues that we've been reporting on here at The BRAD BLOG over the last several weeks.

Specifically, I asked her whether there had yet been a resolution to the discrepancies in version numbers for LA County's InkaVote system source code as turned in by ES&S, versus the version secretly stored in escrow. And whether or not she could explain the comments reportedly made by Steve Weir, Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County, CA and President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO), that CA election officials could choose to ignore Bowen's recommendations if they wanted to.

According to Bowen (full transcript and audio below) the ES&S LA County InkaVote issue remains unresolved, and she's unaware of what Weir might have been referring to. A transcript of my questions with Bowen follows, and I hope to have more on Weir soon --- and the adversarial comments he's been making in the media on behalf of CACEO --- but this article has already become much longer than I had intended...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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[NOW UPDATED WITH MORE DETAIL & AUDIO...]
By Brad Friedman on 7/27/2007 3:35pm PT  

Blogged by Brad from Houston...

Going on air in 4 minutes...But still on line on media conference call w/ CA SoS Debra Bowen concerning her landmark independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all voting systems in the state.

I'll have more on the air tonight (see link above), but she has just said "The independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested."

The reports are not yet posted, but should be any moment right here.

As mentioned, more throughout tonight's Peter B. Collins Show which I'm currently Guest Hosting...

UPDATE BY JOHN GIDEON: None of the voting systems tested were found to meet federal mandates for disabled voter accessibility. This may present a problem for the state as they will not be able to allow those systems to be used for accessibility unless the vendors can find solutions for their shortcomings.

EVEN LATER UPDATE (BY BRAD): John and I discuss (and rant about) all of the above, along with more details on the reports findings in this audio clip from today's Peter B. Collins show [appx. 10 mins]...

UPDATE 7/28/07: We'll have much more on this in the days ahead, and we strongly recommend folks read comments below for more details, thoughts from citizens. But in the meantime, here's NY Times' coverage: "Scientists’ Tests Hack Into Electronic Voting Machines in California and Elsewhere" and San Francisco Chronicle coverage: "STATE VOTE MACHINES LOSE TEST TO HACKERS."

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Independent Reports to Be Released Friday, Public Comment Hearing in Sacramento on Monday, SoS Bowen's Final Certification Decisions on Aug. 3...
By Brad Friedman on 7/26/2007 8:11am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

Following up on yesterday's report on the latest machinations surrounding the release of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen's unprecedented "Top-to-Bottom Review" --- including independent hack testing and source code analysis --- of electronic voting systems. The BRAD BLOG has received a few more details on official release dates and timing, including a public hearing in Sacramento next Monday, from the SOS's office [emphasis ours]:

-- The independent reports will be finalized and posted to our website this Friday, July 27. These will include all the teams' findings in the four areas of the voting systems review, without opinions about what the state and counties should do.

-- A public hearing will be held in Sacramento beginning at 10:00 a.m. Monday, July 30. It will begin with the two principal investigators presenting an overview of their findings, followed by vendor responses and then a general public comment period.

-- Secretary Bowen's decisions on system certifications will come August 3, after her thorough review of the findings and public input.

We're in Texas, but hoping those within driving, walking, running distance from Sacramento will show up to the Capitol to give their thoughts on the findings on Monday, as we expect the voting machine vendors to be there in droves, and they may need a reminder that they do not own these elections. The citizens do.

We're also still waiting to hear back from Steve Weir, the Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County and President of the California Assoc. of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), for details on his published comments indicating that CA registrars may choose to ignore Bowen's findings. The CACEO has blasted Bowen's review of voting systems previously.

Not sure what Weir's legal theory is for such an action, which seems to fly in the face of both the law and the will of the people --- Bowen was elected precisely on her promises to take the actions she's currently taking after both her predecessor in CA and federal agencies had failed completely to properly test these voting systems before certifying them --- but we'll let you know what we learn. We've invited Weir to appear on the Peter B. Collins Show, which we continue to Guest Host through the end of this week. We'd love to hear from him, of course. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 7/27/07 2:40pm PT: Still waiting for the release of the reports, which I'm told by the SOS will be "any moment". When it's released, it should be right here.

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Results of Unprecedented Testing to Be Released Next Week, While Voting Machine Companies Continue in Denial, and CA Clerks Association Says They May Do What They Want Anyway...
By Brad Friedman on 7/25/2007 11:24am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's landmark "top-to-bottom" review of electronic voting systems in California are due on August 3rd. (UPDATE: The SoS's Office informs us the report will be released this Friday. Details now posted here.) It'll be the first such official analysis, performed by several teams of testers, in which these voting systems have actually been tested for vulnerabilities and failures by "red team" hack/penetration testers, as well as having the system source codes fully and independently tested.

An article by Steve Harmon published in several CA newspaper this week offers a preview of the battle which may be ahead, including one exceedingly disturbing suggestion that California Election Clerks may be preparing to "ignore Bowen's findings and continue to use their systems" no matter what she may find, and whether or not she decertifies the systems for use.

Yours truly is quoted early in the piece, suggesting that "voting machine companies are quaking in their boots," as Bowen is doing precisely what she was elected to do and is fulfilling her campaign promises through the unprecedented series of tests.

John Gordon of Public Radio's Future Tense program followed up that printed report with his own four-minute audio report in which I'm also interviewed:

Of note in both reports, the voting machine company spokesholes are on the defensive, as expected. But the real battle after Bowen releases her findings may lie with the California Association of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), currently led by President Steve Weir, who makes some startling statements in the report...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Letter Obtained by BRAD BLOG to Voting Machine Company Confirms Potential Violations Of California Election Law as Revealed During CA SoS Bowen's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems
Matter May Have Far Reaching, National Consequences Concerning the Effectiveness of Escrowing Secret Vote-Counting Software...
By John Gideon on 7/10/2007 9:03am PT  

Blogged by John Gideon and Brad Friedman

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" of electronic voting systems previously approved for use by her predecessor is still underway. But before any of the findings from her teams of security specialists, software analysts and voting systems experts have been made public, the unprecedented analysis has already revealed a disturbing anomaly which may have far-reaching implications for both state and federal voting systems laws across the country.

As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively almost three weeks ago --- precisely zero media outlets bothered to file their own reports on this matter until last weekend --- all voting machine vendors certified in California had submitted their source code to Bowen for the review, except for ES&S, America's largest voting machine company.

After their refusal to submit the code as required for the test, Bowen demanded the source code used for the InkaVote Plus voting systems marketed by ES&S, and used exclusively in Los Angeles, be released to the state by the escrow firm which had been holding it as per state law.

Following Bowen's demand to the escrow company, Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management, ES&S reluctantly agreed to give their own version of the source code to the state.

Oddly enough at the time, the voting machine company, in an arrogant letter to Bowen (posted here in full by The BRAD BLOG), demanded that she withdraw her request to receive the version of the source code already stored in escrow at Iron Mountain. The letter succeeded in keeping our already-raised eyebrows at full perk, as the demand that Bowen not review the code in escrow, but rather look only at the one ES&S was sending, raised several troubling questions. Among them, we wondered at the time if perhaps the version stored in escrow was not the version actually used on the county's voting systems during last year's election. If so, there could be enormous ramifications for the company, and for the idea of escrowed source code for voting systems in general.

Over the weekend, an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the first organization to jump into this matter following our series of reports, filed a story on the matter which began to validate our suspicions. The paper reported that due to the late submission, the InkaVote Plus system would not be included in Bowen's "top-to-bottom review", presenting questions about which voting system would be allowed for use in 2008, in the country's most populous county. LA County is larger than many states in America.

It's as yet unclear whether Bowen will completely decertify the InkaVote Plus system for use, or whether she will take other steps.

Perhaps more disturbingly, however, the Daily News report includes comments from CA's Deputy SoS for Voting Systems, Lowell Finley, indicating that our concerns about differences in the submitted and escrowed source code may have been precisely on target.

We contacted Bowen's office for more details, and they shared with us the letter sent from Finley back to ES&S in response to the company's curious demands. The letter is posted in full at the end of this article. And if the issue Finley raises is indeed true, there may be a whole lotta trouble ahead...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Peter B. Collins Show Hosts Extremely Lively Discussion on Pros and Cons of Controversial House Bill's Allowance for Use of Dangerous DRE Touch-Screen Voting Systems
ALSO: CA SoS Debra Bowen Refuses to Support HR 811, Concerned About Putting 'Paper Trails Into Statute'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/2/2007 6:35am PT  

Blogged by Brad from Nashville after Escaping Atlanta...

"It's been a thriller," said the eponymous host of the Peter B. Collins Show as Friday's live radio debate wrapped up between myself and attorney Lawrence D. Norden, Chair of the NYU Brennan Center for Justice's Task Force on Voting System Security.

Norden made, in our spirited debate, what I believe to be some stunning admissions.

Complete "must listen" audio of the debate is available at the end of this article...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Arrogant Letter Agrees to Comply With Law by Submitting Source Code for Review, But Mysteriously Insists That SoS Bowen Revoke Demand to Release Version of Source Code Held by Escrow Firm...
By John Gideon on 6/28/2007 8:05am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

As The BRAD BLOG reported yesterday, voting machine company ES&S has finally relented and agreed to join all of the other companies operating in the state by cooperating with the Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all electronic voting systems previously certified by her predecessor Bruce McPherson. After previously refusing to supply the state with source code for the company's InkaVote Plus system used exclusively in Los Angeles County, Bowen had demanded the release of the source code from escrow where it was stored by state law, as we also reported previously.

But has ES&S really relented? Or is something else up?

We asked yesterday why ES&S decided to send their source code, instead of allowing Bowen to pull it from the escrow facility at Iron Mountain, as she had previously demanded. And now, based on a letter from the company which The BRAD BLOG was able to obtain from one of our sources, as sent to Bowen's office when they agreed to supply the source code Monday, the smell of something fishy continues to permeate. The complete ES&S letter is posted in full at the bottom of this article.

On Monday, June 25, ES&S sent the letter to Lowell Finley, California's Deputy Sec. of State in charge of Voting Systems Technology and Policy, agreeing to supply the source code for InkaVote Plus is an amazing example of the company's arrogance even as it continues to beg a myriad of unanswered questions.

ES&S opens the letter repeating their desire for changes to the previously agreed upon Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they have with the state. AS well, they believe the cost of Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" is too high, and they have concerns with some of the researchers who are doing the review. Nonetheless, they agree to cooperate.

Yet, after informing Finley that they intend to finally send the required source code, they instruct him that they expect him to send a letter to Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management Inc. to release the firm from the state's request for the escrowed source code. Now why would they need to do that?

"As ES&S is providing the InkaVote Plus voting system source code directly to your office, ES&S requests that you send a letter to Iron Mountain retracting your request for the InkaVote Plus voting system source code," writes ES&S' Steven M. Pearson in the letter.

"This will provide the required notification to Iron Mountain that you are no longer in need of the requested source code and allow Iron Mountain to close your request. In addition, this will avoid ES&S from having to issue contrary instructions to Iron Mountain to prohibit the release of the InkaVote Plus voting system source code."

So what the heck is that all about?...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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