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Not-so-independent testing of voting machines

“There has never been an attempt to hack into a voting machine on Election Day.”
— Brian Hancock, Certification Director for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, dancing on the head of a pin.

What difference does that statement make, when the machines can be hacked long before they are set up the day people go to the polls? As election day nears, we hear even more news that should make your stomach turn.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the body that reviews testing data provided by independent labs that are certifying e-voting machines, held a hearing yesterday, and during testimony by Hancock said it is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to ensure electronic voting machines meet federal standards. Isn’t it a little late for this?

“NIST will address security and wireless access,” Hancock noted. He said that focus will be in addition to the standards already in place on usability, performance, accessibility, etc.

…The tests being developed by NIST and performed by private test labs will be as transparent as possible, Hancock said.

The law requiring the voting machine certification also requires that the test results be posted on the Commission’s Web site.

However, Ian Piper, representing the Election Technology Council of the Information Technology Association of America, expressed concern that such posting might reveal trade secrets.

The article later mentions that Piper works for Diebold. Surprise! Piper also things it is a problem to have duplicate testing or required frequency of the tests.

Gee, I wonder why?

By the way, did I mention that those “independent” labs are actually paid by the manufacturers for their work? If you tuned in to Lou Dobbs last night, a report by Kitty Pilgrim shows how f*cked up the whole damn system is. (CNN):

PILGRIM: But at this hearing in Washington, a clear demonstration of just how cozy manufacturers are with the labs who test their machines. Executives sat elbow to elbow on the same panel and testified together.

Electronic voting machines have proven reliability and security flaws. But the labs who test and certify those machines are actually hired and paid by the manufacturers themselves.

WARREN STEWART, VOTETRUSTUSA: The manufacturers contract directly with the laboratories and pay for the testing that is done. So the manufacturers essentially are the clients of the testing labs.

PILGRIM: Sure enough, testing labs at today’s hearing refer to the manufacturers as their clients.

FRANK PADILLA, WYLE LABORATORIES: Independent test labs normally do not release test report data to any other source but the client and who the client directs us to release them to.

PILGRIM: Shouldn’t the testing labs be more independent of the manufacturers? The government panel ducked the question.

BRIAN HANCOCK, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMM.: If there are other ways of trying to do that, we would be more than happy to hear from anyone out there that would like to talk to us. Virtually every other governmental program does it that way.


PILGRIM (on camera): Manufacturers say their electronic voting machines are proprietary and the labs can’t release the information publicly. But voters are demanding to know why the entire process is so secret, why the manufacturers and the testing labs are defending their relationship and most importantly, why voting machines are failing in elections all across this country — Lou.

DOBBS: These manufacturers — the entire government must think that the American people are the biggest fools on this planet. This is absolutely — there’s no other word for it. It is scurrilous, disgusting. It is ridiculous. Why in the world is anyone tolerating this relationship and this entire process?

PILGRIM: Well, many of the voters activists we’ve been talking to are delighted that some of this is coming to light, because the relationship has been so secret and so quiet that the public has not been aware.

As always, The Brad Blog has been following e-voting debacles closely…

* Touch-Screen Votes Reportedly Hopping to Republicans During Early Voting in Texas, Missouri and Arkansas

* Hart Intercivic Voting Machine Screen Displays in Texas Fail Like The Ones In Virginia. Candidate Names Truncated on ‘eSlate’ Review Screens…

* Bush’s U.S. Elections Assistance Commission is Hopelessly Compromised, Misleading America and Has Utterly Failed in Their Job of Overseeing U.S. Elections. Current Chairman Paul DeGregorio Now Running a Desperate Misinformational Propaganda Campaign Just Days Before Election…

* WaPo Reveals Hidden Work by Diebold in Maryland as Thousands of System Boards Were Replaced in Secret! Multi-Partisan Group of Maryland Candidates Call for Use of Emergency Paper Ballots instead of the Machines in Wake of ‘Lack of Confidence’ After Latest Reports of Diebold Touch-Screen Chaos

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding