New Letter from Governor to State Board of Election Repeats Call for Paper Ballots, Expresses Additional Concerns About Security of E-Voting in Diebold's 'Showcase State' of Maryland
Says Machines May Be Vulnerable to 'Hursti-like Attack' Even if California's Recommended Security Measures are Implemented
By Brad Friedman on 3/6/2006, 2:33pm PT  

Maryland's Republican Governor Ehrlich continues to face the music about the Diebold voting machines that his state bought into hook, line and sinker (emphasis on sinker). He's been had by Diebold's use of the state as a "showcase", but at least he now seems brave enough to admit it, even while the Diebold dead-enders (like State Elections Board Chairman Gilles W. Burger and Democratic Election Administrator Linda H. Lamone who brokered the deal) are trying to hang on to the very last.

Ehrlich has sent a new letter to Burger today, demanding that Maryland's paperless touch-screen Diebold voting machines be sent back to federal authorities for further testing in light of recent discoveries of the vulnerability of the machines to hacking and tampering. Ehrlich writes, "We are spending too much time protecting the status quo instead of evaluating Maryland's current election system from an objective and unbiased perspective."

-- The complete new letter from Ehrlich to Berger is now available in full right here [PDF].

Washington Post picks up on the Governor's letter today and reports:

"Maryland's lack of a paper trail means we are no longer a national leader in elections systems and that our equipment is susceptible to system failures," the governor wrote in a letter to be delivered today to the chairman of the State Board of Elections. "It is inexcusable for us not to be prepared for a catastrophic system failure in the 2006 cycle."

It should be pointed out that Ehrlich's motives may not be entirely pure. He is up for re-election himself this November, and the Democratic legislature has approved a measure to allow for early voting and other measures to help increase voter turnout. As Republican's do, Ehrlich opposed the measure to make it easier to vote by vetoing the bill, but the Dems in the legislature were able to muster enough votes to override that veto. Again from WaPo...

Last month, Ehrlich --- who championed the Diebold machines in 2003 --- wrote to Burger to express concern about reliability questions raised in California and Florida about those machines, which Ehrlich said would be exacerbated by early voting.

Nonetheless, Ehrlich is now joining the Dem run House Ways and Means Committee who, as we reported last night, voted 20 to 3 last Friday to support a measure calling for paper ballots...

In the latest letter, of which a copy was given to The Washington Post, Ehrlich calls on Burger to endorse legislation by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery) that would require the state to lease an optical scan system for the coming election. Hixson has said it would cost the state less than $16 million; the elections board has estimated it at more than $60 million.
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Ehrlich's latest letter also recommends that there be two independent security studies of the electronic machines and that the board "aggressively and publicly" push to delay plans for early voting.

The new letter from Ehrlich to Berger, sent today, as mentioned in the WaPo piece above, calls for sending the machines back to the federal Independent Testing Authority (ITA) for further testing in light of California's recent independent security analysis [PDF] finding that these machines are hackable and contain at least 16 other bugs (or "features" as Diebold might call them).

The ITA is a small consortium of companies who conduct testing, funded by the vendors themselves, on voting machine hardware and software. They only look at what the vendors ask them to look at, in general, and were responsible for completely missing (or ignoring) the hackable "interpreted code" used on Diebold voting machines which is specifically banned by federal Voting System Standard (VSS) guidelines.

In the new six-page letter, Ehrlich refers to the recent analysis commissioned by California Sec. of State Bruce McPherson (who used that same study, inexplicably to actually certify the machines in the state). Ehrlich points out that the report found:

...that tampering of vote totals through memory card attacks are a significant threat to the Diebold voting systems. This study confirmed the potential for the "Hursti hack" - the demonstration in Leon County, Florida, by Harri Hursti that vote totals could be manipulated by modifying the scripts on the memory card in a process that would be impossible to detect during the vote canvass. The study also found numerous interpreter bugs (16 security vulnerabilities in the AV-OS source code and 10 in the AV-TSx) that are "classic security flaws" and would allow vote tampering...Moreover, the study finds that even if the interpreter bugs are fixed, the Hursti attacks are still possible.

Much more to come. In Maryland and everywhere else. And soon. Bank on it.