Counters Previous Positions by both the Acting Secretary of State and Voting Machine Company Diebold
By Brad Friedman on 12/18/2005, 3:11pm PT  

Over the weekend, at least two reports out of mainstream Florida papers --- one in the Miami Herald and one in the Tallahassee Democrat --- report that Gov. Jeb Bush himself is now questioning the reliability of Florida's electronic voting system in light of the recent hack test in Leon County, home of the state's capitol Tallahassee. That security test, carried out last week, successfully flipped the results of a simple mock election test held on Diebold, Inc. voting equipment. The hack, which changed the results of an election from 2-6 to 7-1, left no trace of evidence behind.

After reports of the test were released, Florida's Sec. of State's office had initially criticized the messenger, Leon County's Director of Elections, Ion Sancho, suggesting that the matter was not the state's concern, but rather was an issue between Diebold and the county. That, despite the fact that it was the state of Florida who had certified the particular Diebold made machinery for use in the Sunshine State.

Acting FL Sec. of State David Mann also echoed Diebold's statement on the matter, criticizing Sancho himself because they believe that in allowing the hackers to gain access to the memory cards --- where a very short executable program capable of changing the election results had been secretly placed --- the test did not replicate 'real world' conditions.

Bush, who may be realizing the untenable position the state and their friends at Diebold now find themselves in, is at least taking the public stance that Sancho's findings and concerns should be taken seriously.

Quoting from the Herald coverage:

Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that the state ought to consider relooking at the way it examines electronic voting machines, following a county election chief's tests that showed insiders could hack into the computers, change votes and not leave an electronic fingerprint behind.

Bush, saying the subject is ''too important'' to ignore, echoed national computer-security and voting experts, and struck a dissimilar chord to acting Secretary of State David Mann, who expressed less urgency Thursday to retest vote machines. Mann said he was ''concerned'' only that Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho might have given an outsider access to his vote machines' computer codes Tuesday.

Bush also questioned whether Sancho gave away privileged information --- which Sancho denies --- and noted Sancho's ''unorthodox'' media-friendly style, in which he conducted his computer-hacker tests and spoke about them with The Herald before discussing them with the secretary of state's office, which oversees elections.

'My general thought is, probably, they're saying, `Well, here he goes again. We don't want to deal with him because he's a maverick.' And I would suggest that, no, this is too important, that we ought to get his information, look at it carefully,'' Bush said.

"If there needs to be any changes in policy as it relates to certification of machines, then we should do so."

Over in the Tallahassee Democrat Sancho responds to the criticisms of the state and Diebold about granting access internally to the hackers, and the absurd charge that such things could never occur in a "real world" election:

"What am I going to do if somebody offers one of my employees $4 million in a secret bank account in the Bahamas, if they'll rig an election?" said Sancho. "I'm charged with safeguarding the votes of our citizens in this county."

Of course, we know that nobody in either Florida or Ohio or any other state in the union would ever try to rig an election from the inside.

Since the test, Sancho has announced that Diebold voting equipment will no longer be used in the county's elections and has requested funding to replace them with an alternate system that allows for recountable paper ballots and additional access for the disabled.

Earlier in the week, a Securities Fraud Class Action suit was launched against Diebold, in part, for failing to disclose flaws in their voting equipment.

Later in the week, after the test in Leon County, another Florida county, Volusia, decided against using the same unsecure Diebold machinery for their elections as well.

The BRAD BLOG has previously reported that even a branch of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has warned about security flaws in Diebold voting machinery, and a recent non-partisan GAO report which has further confirmed such concerns about all of the currently available electronic voting systems now being deployed around the country.

UPDATE 12/22/05: Miami Herald calls on Bush to retest all touch-screen and optical scan machines in the state!