Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hacking doesn't crack the code

HBO Hacking Democracy

What Went Wrong in Ohio & Black Box voting
...A year after the publication of her book, Harris and her organization Black Box Voting, along with computer experts Harri Hursti and Hugh Thompson, publicly hacked Diebold optical scan electronic voting machines in Leon County, Florida in the presence of election supervisor Ion Sancho, thereby demonstrating the ease with which electronic voting machines can be rigged.

Fox News Herbert Thompson comments about the documentary. He said it seems from the documentary like this could happen...

He's asked has this happened?

He doesn't answer the question.

You Decide 2006

With less than a week until midterm elections, what issues matter most to Americans? We'll have a fair and balanced debate with Republican strategist Terry Holt and Steve Murphy, former 'Gephardt for President' campaign manager

Thursday's Rundown:
• Could flawed electronic voting machines derail the November elections?
• Plus, is the Middle East on the verge of crisis again?


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Diebold demands that HBO cancel documentary on voting machines
Film saying they can be manipulated 'inaccurate'


Diebold Inc. insisted that cable network HBO cancel a documentary that questions the integrity of its voting machines, calling the program inaccurate and unfair.

The program, "Hacking Democracy," is scheduled to debut Thursday, , five days before the 2006 U.S. midterm elections. The film claims that Diebold voting machines aren't tamper-proof and can be manipulated to change voting results.

"Hacking Democracy" is "replete with material examples of inaccurate reporting," Diebold Election System President David Byrd said in a letter to HBO President and Chief Executive Chris Albrecht posted on Diebold's Web site. Short of pulling the film, Monday's letter asks for disclaimers to be aired and for HBO to post Diebold's response on its Web site.

According to Byrd's letter, inaccuracies in the film include the assertion that Diebold, whose election systems unit is based in Allen, Texas, tabulated more than 40 percent of the votes cast in the 2000 presidential election.

The letter says Diebold wasn't in the electronic voting business in 2000, when disputes over ballots in Florida delayed President Bush's victory for more than a month and raised questions about the reliability of electronic voting machines.

"We stand by the film," said Jeff Cusson, a spokesman for HBO, which is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

"We have no intention of withdrawing it from our schedule. It appears that the film Diebold is responding to is not the film HBO is airing."

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold, said the company bought another firm, Global Elections, in 2002 that served about 8 percent of balloting in 2000, including voters in Florida. The company, which hasn't seen the film, based its complaints on material from the HBO Web site, Bear said.

This is Diebold's second recent defense of its system. On Sept. 26, Byrd wrote to Jann Wenner, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, saying a story written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Will the Next Election Be Hacked?" was "error-riddled" and that readers "deserve a better researched and reported article."

The HBO documentary is based on the work of Bev Harris, the Renton woman who founded, which monitors election accuracy. In 2004 the attorney general of California took up a whistle-blower claim filed by Harris against Diebold and settled with the company for $2.6 million in December.

'Hacking' Doesn't Crack the Code

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006; Page C07

Something -- maybe a lot of things -- is wrong with how America conducts its elections. As you might have heard, there were a few problems down in Florida back in 2000, and more recently in the Maryland primary. No doubt, voting and vote-counting can be messy, complicated and subject to potentially outcome-shifting flaws.

With that as backdrop and five days before Election Day, HBO weighs in tonight with "Hacking Democracy," a somewhat torpid documentary that is itself complicated, flawed and messy.

The documentary's basic theme is that elections can be stolen by people able to manipulate the vote-recording software in electronic balloting machines. That should not shock anyone who has touched a computer. Given the increasing use of electronic voting machines -- they are counting about 80 percent of the votes cast today, according to the documentary -- it's no stretch to imagine that they could be worked to subvert democracy.

Could be. But "Hacking Democracy" doesn't actually show democracy's corruption. The documentary merely suggests the possibilities and tallies the suspicions, leaving viewers to come to the obvious conclusion.

To cast doubt on the results of Ohio's pivotal presidential vote in 2004, for example, the documentary dwells on a mandatory hand recount of the vote in Cuyahoga County (the documentary incorrectly identifies Cuyahoga as "a swing county"; Cuyahoga was a Democratic lock, going 2-to-1 for John Kerry). Indeed, "Hacking" finds a few things amiss, such as a random selection of ballots for the recount that might not have been so randomly selected. And?

Well, that's it. Content with introducing a vague mist of doubt, the documentary moves on.

But hold on. Surely, there was more going on in Ohio in 2004 worth raising questions about. Such as: the state's misallocation of voting machines, which led to long lines at the polls; restrictions on provisional ballots; the rejection of thousands of voter-registration forms by the Republican secretary of state (who happened to be chair of Bush's statewide campaign); Democrats alleging voter "intimidation" by Republicans; and the existence of tens of thousands of "spoiled" ballots.

Naw. At least not here.

The filmmakers also have chosen to make a TV documentary about one of the least telegenic subjects imaginable: software security flaws. To make their story more visual, and to humanize it, they've built their narrative around Bev Harris, a Seattle writer and gadfly who is convinced that electronic voting machines threaten the political process. Harris comes across as a zealot, imbued with the spirit of the righteous crusader, which is a nice way of saying she's a little hard to take

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