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Senior Editor

Consumer group questions Diebold e-voting security

Sep 23, 20043 mins

A consumer group dedicated to exposing security flaws in electronic voting machines hopes the U.S. Congress will still act to halt the use of some e-voting machines in federal races during the Nov. 2 election.

Members of Black Box Voting outlined what they call serious flaws in Diebold voting machines during a presentation in Washington, D.C., and Andy Stephenson, the group’s associate director, said at least one congressional office has expressed interest in legislation proposed by Black Box Voting that would require paper ballots in the upcoming elections for president and Congress.

Supporters of such a bill would have to act fast. Congressional leaders are planning to adjourn around Oct. 1 and not come back to Washington until after the election. Asked if it was too late to stop Diebold and other e-voting machines from being used in the fall election, Stephenson answered, “pretty much.”

“We’ve been ringing the alarm bells now for a year, but no one’s listening,” he added. “I’ve dealt with (e-voting) for a couple of years, and it doesn’t get any better. We just find more and more and more (flaws).”

Black Box Voting contends that Diebold’s Global Elections Management System election management and tabulation computer software contains security flaws that would allow a hacker to change vote totals through a hole in the Microsoft Access database. The alleged flaw, outlined at, would allow a hacker, entering a two-digit code, to manipulate one of three vote ledgers in each Diebold e-voting machine, according to Black Box Voting.

“We were using the real software that’s going to be used in several counties around the country,” Stephenson said. “There is no security.”

Black Box Voting officials say the change can be made quickly without detection. “You simply open any text editor, like ‘Notepad,’ and type a six-line Visual Basic Script, and you own the election,” says the Black Box Voting Web site.

Diebold disagrees with Black Box Voting’s analysis. Hackers would need unfettered access to voting machines to make the change, and even if they could get around physical security at voting precincts, the scenario Black Box Voting describes would only change unofficial vote totals, not official totals, said David Bear, a Diebold spokesman. The voting ledger on the Diebold machines containing official vote tallies would not be compromised in the Black Box Voting scenario, Bear said.

“The fact of the matter is what was presented (by Black Box Voting) was a magic show,” Bear said. “What was presented was something that could not happen.”