Dobbs Says, 'This country has got to think about going to paper ballots...If an election is close, we're in deep, deep trouble."
By John Gideon on 9/29/2006, 1:43pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

"Congress today heard alarming testimony on the threat of electronic voting machines and experts at the hearing testified that e-voting machines are vulnerable to tampering, outright fraud, and political manipulation. They also testified it's uncertain whether the votes of millions of Americans will count on election day," said Lou Dobbs at the top of yesterday's report.

Thursday's Lou Dobb's Tonight Democracy at Risk segment centered on a hearing before the House Administration Committee yesterday where experts told the committee about the possibility of tampering, fraud, or political manipulation.

Dobbs closed with: "I think, we're at the point...that this country [has] got to start thinking about going to paper ballots because these machines --- it's obvious. The training is not there. The backup, the lack of a paper trail. If there is a close election anywhere in this country, we're in deep, deep trouble."

Princeton University's Ed Felten was on hand among those testifying to demonstrate his Diebold Virus Hack originally reported by Brad the week before last. Here's a taste:

PROF. EDWARD FELTEN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It takes about one minute of access to the machine. And I can show you roughly what would be involved. It would involve opening the door on the side of the machine, which would require getting a key, as I said, those are for sale on the Internet. There may be some security tape that would need to be removed and might be missing already.

Opening up this door, putting in a memory card like this, into the side of the machine. The memory card would have been prepared in advance with the computer virus on it. Then pressing the red power button and waiting about 30 seconds.

PILGRIM: The committee clearly need no additional evidence that the computer could be effectively hacked.

The text-transcript of Thursday's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full...

DOBBS: Congress today heard alarming testimony on the threat of electronic voting machines and experts at the hearing testified that e-voting machines are vulnerable to tampering, outright fraud, and political manipulation. They also testified it's uncertain whether the votes of millions of Americans will count on election day. Kitty Pilgrim has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): The hearing is focused on how insecure the technology is, featuring a demonstration of how quickly a machine could be hacked.

PROF. EDWARD FELTEN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It takes about one minute of access to the machine. And I can show you roughly what would be involved. It would involve opening the door on the side of the machine, which would require getting a key, as I said, those are for sale on the Internet. There may be some security tape that would need to be removed and might be missing already.

Opening up this door, putting in a memory card like this, into the side of the machine. The memory card would have been prepared in advance with the computer virus on it. Then pressing the red power button and waiting about 30 seconds.

PILGRIM: The committee clearly need no additional evidence that the computer could be effectively hacked.

BARBARA SIMONS, U.S. PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEE: Because of the risks of software bugs, malicious code, or computer failure, we cannot trust that the results in a paperless voting machine accurately reflect the will of the voters. That is why voter verified paper ballots or audit trials, or VPATs, as we refer to them, are needed.

PILGRIM: In many primaries the deficiency of the machines and the inadequate preparation of the poll workers who run them was evident. Testimony about review of the recent Ohio primary was chilling.

KEITH CUNNINGHAM, ELECTION DIR., ALLEN COUNTY, OHIO: Nearly 17 percent of those tapes showed a vote discrepancy of one to five votes from the electronic machine. And nearly 10 percent of those tapes were either destroyed, blank, missing, taped together, or in some other way compromised.

PILGRIM: Some say the machines can be made secure and flaws repaired in time for the November election. But experts caution just jerryrigging a paper trail attachment is dangerous.

PROF. MICHAEL SHAMOS, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: It should be obvious that adding a new device with moving mechanical parts to an existing electronic machine cannot improve its reliability.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the legislation considered by the House committee calls for a voter verified paper trail on every electronic voting machine. Another bill, by Senator Boxer, provides financial reimbursement for the states to help pay for backup paper ballots.

DOBBS: I think, we're at the point, it looks to me, Kitty, that this country is, as Senator Dorgan, or Congressman Holt have suggested, I mean, we've got to start thinking about going to paper ballots because these machines --- it's obvious. The training is not there. The backup, the lack of a paper trail. If there is a close election anywhere in this country, we're in deep, deep trouble.

PILGRIM: It's very clear. And the technology's just been put in too fast. It's not understood and it's definitely not understood at the local level, which is the most important level when you have an election.

DOBBS: And unfortunately, nearly all of the knowledge on these machines is held by the companies that manufacture them. And that does not make me, for one, and I'm sure millions of others very comfortable.

Kitty, thank you. Keep up this terrific reporting on this very scary proposition. Kitty Pilgrim.