Unauditable Diebold TSx Machines supposed to comply with ADA don't
County buys paperless voting machines
Vince Lipsio
September 2005

Some $305,683 was paid out the week before last by Alachua County for infamous Diebold TSx voting machines. The county commission approved this with no discussion ... it took 43 seconds from the time it was first read to the time it was voted on with a unanimous "aye". Unknown to the citizens of the county, with no public notice either before or after, the ability to recount our votes has been taken away from us together with any reason to have confidence that votes will counted correctly.

The weekend before the meeting the funding request was inserted in the consent agenda, which is supposed to consist of non controversial items that are not deemed to require discussion but that need the commission's approval. It was done at the request of the Supervisor of Elections, Pam Carpenter, on the mistaken belief that state law required the county to sign a purchase order by June 30th for voting machines with disabled access.

The TSx is the laughing stock of voting equipment. California decertified these machines last year, notwithstanding millions of dollars of advertising and lobbying by Diebold, thanks to activist scientists and engineers at institutions including Stanford, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They have been damned as readily hackable, generally insecure, and of poor quality by numerous papers and reports by respected computer scientists and computer security corporations (see URLs below).

There will be one of these machines for each polling place in the county for visually impaired and illiterate voters. Unfortunately, unless the race is a landslide, that is enough to pollute the election results because it is easy to change out the software in the machines without leaving a trace or to hack them while using them to vote and the machines' software is not well-tested in the first place, which is a real concern when one realizes that it is well known that some of the programmers are convicted felons, including an embezzler. There is no assurance that the votes registered on these machines bears any resemblance to what those who vote on them intended: It is trivial to program a computer to display one thing but record another. A machine can be programmed so that, say, 56.7% of the votes go to John Doe. You might vote for someone else, and the machine will tell you that you voted for whom you intended, but if you're one of the 56.7%, then it will record your vote for John Doe. Paperless voting machines store the results in several places (all electronic), and all these tallies will show that John Doe got 56.7% of the votes. If it is a machine that can print out copies of ballots, the printed ballots will also show that John Doe got 56.7% of the votes. This is why it is imperative that something tangible and durable ... such as a print-out on paper ... be available for observation by the voter and retained as an audit trail.

There is a better solution for complying with requirements for disabled voters: The State of Florida is presently testing a machine called the Automark. It will be certified for use in Florida in October or November, well in time to meet the federal deadline of January 1, 2006. The Automark produces a filled-in optical scan ballot ... just as most of us fill in with a pencil ... but it has an audio interface so that a blind or illiterate voter can use it in place of a pencil. Independent machines could be made available to read back the ballot to the voter so that she or he could be assured it filled in the ballot as intended; however, for public confidence in the machines working correctly during the election, it is sufficient that some sighted, literate people use the machines and confirm that they are behaving properly.

That aside, the Diebold TSx voting system, although accessible by the blind, does not provide a full range of accessibility features, is not compliant under HAVA (the Help America Vote Act), and therefore does not meet state or federal requirements or qualify for federal funds under HAVA, which is what sets the January 1, 2006 deadline! The Florida Department of State, in what many see as an attempt to force purchase of paperless voting machines, moved up the federal deadline for disabled access to voting machines by six months, but only requires compliance in counties that hold elections subject to the Florida Election Code during those six months, and compliance only requires having machines available, not purchased. Alachua may have had such an election in the City of Micanopy, in which case we could have borrowed a voting machine to comply with state law. (As it turns out, only one candidate qualified for that race, so there isn't an election after all.)

I found out less than a week before writing this that the Diebold TSx machines had actually been bought and paid for, and I spent most of the past week on the phone with officials who could explain to me what was really going on. There is no course of action yet, but I'll soon post something on a website I own but hasn't yet been used: http://www.Voters-R.Us

More information, progress (or lack thereof), links to other sites, and so on will soon be posted there.

Meanwhile, please call or write Alachua County's Supervisor of Elections and county commissioners and demand tht no citizen of this county ever have to use faith-based voting machines and demand that we buy secure, auditable voting machines to comply with HAVA:

Supervisor of Elections: Pam Carpenter 352.374.5252 PWC@Alachua.FL.US

County Commissioners:
All commissioners: 352.264.6900 BOCC@Alachua.FL.US
Cynthia Moore Chestnut, Chair CMChestnut@co.Alachua.FL.US
Lee Pinkoson,Vice Chair LPinkoson@Alachua.FL.US
Mike Byerly Byerly@Alachua.FL.US
Paula M. DeLaney PDeLaney@Alachua.FL.US
Rodney J. Long RJLong@Alachua.FL.US

Analyses of Diebold TSx voting machine:

General information on verified voting:

The largest activist site for opposing unauditable voting:

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