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Microsoft Moves To Change NY State Election Law 222

Posted by kdawson
from the taking-a-page-from-the-telcos dept.
myspace-cn sends us to Bo Lipari's blog where it is revealed that Microsoft has moved forcefully into New York State with proposed changes to NY state election law drafted by Microsoft attorneys. A document has been circulating (PDF) among the legislators for a while now. The proposed changes would gut the source-code escrow and review provisions in current law that were hard-fought-for and passed in New York in 2005. Microsoft is siding with the makers of voting machines that run on Windows — the company doesn't want its code inspected by outsiders. From the article: "Now the software giant has gone a step further, not just saying 'we won't comply with your law' but actively trying to change state law to serve their corporate interests... Adding insult to injury, these changes are being slipped into a bill that may be voted on Monday or Tuesday, June 18 or 19."
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Microsoft Moves To Change NY State Election Law

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  • Read Subject.
    • by HermMunster (972336) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @08:34PM (#19545409)
      This is just something Microsoft will have to live with. If they want to provide access to software for that sort of device and that sort of service they need to make the code accessible to the proper authorities, otherwise stay out of that business.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by perlchild (582235)
        It's not enough that they have to live with it...
        Why can't we charge them with attempted electoral fraud, just for trying to hide the code?
  • Wrong (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ramble (940291) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @04:58PM (#19543871) Homepage
    No matter how sympathetic I am to Microsoft and no matter how much I like Vista. This should be illegal and it is most certainly wrong. Lets hope that NY state officials have the sense to stick with open source software.
    • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

      by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:02PM (#19543913) Homepage Journal

      Companies lobby all the time to get laws changed in their favor. This is just "business as usual."

      The real cure is electoral reform, including campaign financing. As long as "lawmakers" (I use the term liberally) can be tempted by companies with deep pockets and the hope of a seat on the board of directors after the bums are thrown out, this will just keep happening.

      This is a symptom, not the disease itself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
        Could you name one issue where current law diverges from majority opinion, backed by some recent survey?
        • by Associate (317603)
          Some would argue the recently killed and revived immigration reform bill falls into this category.
        • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

          by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:48PM (#19544327) Homepage Journal

          "Could you name one issue where current law diverges from majority opinion, backed by some recent survey?"

          Totally irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is that companies have more "access" to legislators than the electorate does.

          Electoral laws need reform.

          But since you asked - the current war in Iraq. Current law funds it - current public opinion is that the invasion was a mistake and to get out.

          Another one - the deficit. Current law says its okay to run huge deficits, and to keep raising the legal deficit ceiling. public opinion is WTF [ttp]

          The debt ceiling was raised just over a year ago. It's going to have to be raised again in the VERY near future.

          Ten trillion or bust? More like Ten trillion AND bust!

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
            otally irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is that companies have more "access" to legislators than the electorate does.

            I'd say it's completely relevant -- if the law currently already does what "the people" want, what's the "value-add" of more stringent campaign financing rules?

            But since you asked - the current war in Iraq. Current law funds it - current public opinion is that the invasion was a mistake and to get out.

            No, it isn't. The Democrats control both houses and would have already done this if t
            • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Martin Blank (154261) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @06:24PM (#19544633) Journal
              The Democrats control both houses and would have already done this if they didn't think it would get them kicked out of office at the next election.

              No, that's a balance of power issue. Pulling the troops won't hurt the Democrats in the next elections -- not as a whole, anyway -- but Bush will veto any bill that contains a deadline, and Congress doesn't have a veto-proof majority on the topic. What ends up happening (theoretically) is that the troops eventually don't get supplies, and due to that the Democrats get hurt. The president simply has the upper hand on this issue, regardless of the feeling of the populace or the majority party in Congress.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Alsee (515537)
                The president simply has the upper hand on this issue

                Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks exactly the opposite to me. Congress supplies funding for the troops, Bush vetoes the funding. After the usual delay in running a new bill through the legislative system, Congress should pass the exact same bill funding the troops. Bush yet again vetoes funding for the troops. After yet another delay, it's "UhOh we need money for the troops ReallySoonNow" and congress makes a big production "Rushing" to push the e
            • by chihowa (366380)
              OP:

              "Could you name one issue where current law diverges from majority opinion, backed by some recent survey?"

              Totally irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is that companies have more "access" to legislators than the electorate does.

              (to supply context)

              But since you asked - the current war in Iraq. Current law funds it - current public opinion is that the invasion was a mistake and to get out.

              Your reply:

              No, it isn't. The Democrats control both houses and would have already done this if they didn't think it would get them kicked out of office at the next election.

              A bit of a non-sequiter? He says that legislators don't represent citizens and cites public disapproval of the continuing war in Iraq. You claim that he's wrong because some group of legislators support the war. I think you just made his point.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by value_added (719364)
            Totally irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is that companies have more "access" to legislators than the electorate does.

            While I agree with the sentiment, I think that statement is somewhere between overbroad and naive. Put yourself in the shoes of an elected official (in any level of government) and see if you can answer the Pop Quiz "Whose call would you take?"

            (a) Brad and Angelina call to make an appointment to discuss an issue of importance.

            (b) A non-profit public interest group calls to advocate t
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Cheviot (248921)
          Backed by a current survey... no... but...

          Recently a 14 year old girl was charged with producing and possessing child pornography for taking and sending a topless picture of herself to her 14 year old boyfriend.

          Now, no one thinks she should be doing this... but likewise I think the majority of people in this country can agree that not only wasn't she producing child pornography, but that she's also not a sex offender, as she would be automatically classified if she's convicted of the child pornography charg
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by 644bd346996 (1012333)
          Duh?

          Music Piracy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617)
          I don't think a survey should be necessary in the case of the DMCA. It was passed through unscrupulous means and measures. It is abused more often than it's used and it definitely does not reflect the interests of the public at large. And without resorting to a poll, I think it's safe to say that nearly 100% of all people in the US would like to be able to back up their movies and record any given TV show or movie for later viewing whether the recording device is a tape, a DVR or a DVD+-R.
      • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

        by daeg (828071) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:15PM (#19544059)
        I think having full "cvs blame" on ALL legislation would be a great start to complete overhaul.

        Currently we can see some of the evolution of a bill into law, but much of the direct personal responsibility is masked by committee changes. A lawmaker would be far, far more careful if he knew everyone (media, citizens, etc) could see exactly what changes he made, and when.

        The "when" is important, for instance, a change of a bill a day before being voted on should be a major red flag.
        • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Original Replica (908688) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @06:51PM (#19544821) Journal
          I would like to see reform go even farther. How about, "only one specific topic per bill" no tagging anything on any bill, ever. There would be no need for a line item veto, because there would ever only be one line item. With the enormous bloat of our legislation we don't need to worry about the efficiency with which more law can be passed. But we do need to have clarity in what is being proposed, and voted on.
          • My state's constitution (Washington) has this provision, so it's not unknown. However, it needs to be rigorously defined--a few tax-reform initiatives were struck down over the years for violating this provision.
        • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

          A lawmaker would be far, far more careful if he knew everyone (media, citizens, etc) could see exactly what changes he made, and when.

          I have the impression there's a name [transparency.org] for that.
          BTW, I think Slashdot and Transparency Intl. should collaborate more closely. Just a thought.
        • Not to mention having a good compiler and unit test coverage.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The real cure is electoral reform,

        And a very significant part of the electoral process is haveing a voting system you can count on. From the proposed changes to the law, it looks like MS would like to make voting software from "off the shelf" Windows components. Why would they push for a differentiation between primarly-for-voteing or not, unless they were not going to be building this 100% custom? Do we really want our voting software to be compatible with home PCs? Do we want that software even based o
      • by bit01 (644603)

        Companies lobby all the time to get laws changed in their favor. This is just "business as usual."

        So what? This doesn't change whether particular law change lobbying is ethical or not. In this case it is clearly unethical; openness in every aspect of the voting process is needed for obvious reasons, despite M$' self-serving attempt to obscure that.

        Or to put it another way: Why does getting paid to do something automatically make it ethical and right?

        The "I was only doing my job" excuse went out at N

      • by RexRhino (769423)
        The real cure is electoral reform, including campaign financing.

        No, the real cure is not having the government spend most of our money. When the U.S. government is the worlds biggest consumer, then it is inevitable that corporations will lobby the U.S. government to continue to sell the government product.

        Just like the drug trade, when the stakes are as high as they are, you are not going to stop corruption. We have been fighting a 30 billion dollar a year war on drugs, and it hasn't done anything to preven
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IdleTime (561841)
      I can not believe what I'm reading...

      When are you American going to say enough is enough and cut down this crap? The US political system is a disaster and designed for corruption and this you think is the best? It's one of the worst political systems I have ever seen.

      But I guess, you all feel fine and still think that USA is greatest thing since sliced bread. It is not, I have lived and worked in 6 different 1st world countries and USA is by far the worst.
      • Yeah, the US is pretty much the only country left who doesn't choose its leaders with a voting system based on open source software. Wait, what?
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      No matter how sympathetic I am to Microsoft and no matter how much I like Vista. This should be illegal and it is most certainly wrong. Lets hope that NY state officials have the sense to stick with open source software.

      Wait you like Vista? So that makes what? 3 people now.

      And yes it should be illegal. So should many other things that companies do like downsizing in the name of profit.
    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @07:02PM (#19544871)
      This is just one more reason we should have stuck with the paper ballot. Despite all the complaints about the 2000 election, there was a clear paper trail to follow. I do not believe that there is any way to make an electronic ballot that there is a way to make it so that the average person could be confident that the vote wasn't rigged. Even with open source software, unless you compiled the code yourself (or at least were present when it was compiled), how do you know that the "open" code is actually what they installed on the machine?
  • by cyberianpan (975767) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:00PM (#19543891)
    Any form of eVoting will raise trust issues. Without source code there cannot be trust of a complex computer program - testing won't work. E.g. maybe only when sysdate is 15.May.2009 will a particular "feature" manifest. Microsoft are a closed source firm so they shouldn't go near eVoting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      What's the big deal? It's already a BLUE state...
      • by barzok (26681)
        Only because of NYC & Long Island.

        Look north of Westchester County and NY favors the republicans, though that has been changing slowly over the last few years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Testing with source code or inspection doesn't work either.

      The only thing that works is a verifiable paper trail, so arguing about open vs. closed source on voting machines is totally moot.
      • by bit01 (644603)

        Testing with source code or inspection doesn't work either.

        It works better than closed source.

        The only thing that works is a verifiable paper trail, so arguing about open vs. closed source on voting machines is totally moot.

        Nonsense. This is a false dichotomy, beloved of marketing parasites everywhere.

        To take just one example closed code could randomly not provide or make inaccessible options so the voter is not even aware their vote is being biased. Even something as simple as changing the colo

        • by dhasenan (758719)
          A physical voting system rather than an electronic one helps. The labels on the buttons aren't going to change if they're engraved, and they can directly mark a piece of paper to record the vote in a way that a user can observe and verify.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Even if you get the source code, you still can not trust "eVoting". How do you know the voting machines aren't using modified source code?

      Answer: You don't.
    • by Tatarize (682683) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:19PM (#19544115) Homepage
      This is a match made in heaven though. The mission critical nature of eVoting combined with the fantastic security of Microsoft.

      There's a reason so many Computer Scientists oppose eVoting, we think we could steal an election if we tried... and that's just a wee bit too easy.
    • The only thing that keeps the voting system honest is *people* who care more about the accuracy of the results than whether or not a particular party wins. In other words: little old ladies, and they're not the ones pushing for these devices. They're perfectly happy to keep counting the slips of paper.
  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:05PM (#19543943) Homepage Journal
    these changes are being slipped into a bill that may be voted on Monday or Tuesday, June 18 or 19."

    Can someone explain why it is that politicians are allowed to "slip" completely unrelated items into bills that must be voted on all-or-nothing? They do this all the time, tacking on things that only a small minority want, onto a bill that is important and that everyone is going to pass because the main item is needed by most/all.

    One reason I could see is if they believed that congress moved too slow to be able to vote on everything unless things were bundled like this. That's a sad excuse still.

    The other reason I could see is that there may be too many cases where it was impossible to get a majority vote on any single issue without puting something into the pot for several different interests to help the bill pass.

    Anyway, what is this process by which they can just tack on other unrelated provisions? And who gets to say what gets added? Just pay off a senator and it's in basically?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bender0x7D1 (536254)

      Amendments are reuired to meet germaneness rules [house.gov]. However, if you try hard enough, you can make almost anything sound germane to a specific bill. For example, if you are working on the state budget, you could attach almost anything since the costs associated with it affect the budget. Highway bill - anything related to oil and gas and automotive industry. Heck, even air travel since widespread construction may change the number of people flying. If you are changing the deadline for election paperwork,

      • Is why aren't the amendments debated and voted on separately? It's completely bizarre that they are just stuck on like used chewing gum.

         
        • It's only bizarre if you are thinking that this part of the legislative process is intended to be clear and concise. But if you look at it as a part of the process intended to allow for the quiet incorporation of personal agendas, it makes perfect sense.
        • The problem isn't amendments. For example, you might introduce a bill that addresses repairs of Interstate 80 from Chicago to Nebraska. After you introduce the bills, a Senator from Iowa points out that a part of it dealing with repairs around Des Moines doesn't work for some reason. (Maybe emergency repairs on I-35 would interfere.) The bill gets amended to deal with that problem.

          Without the amendment, the entire bill would have to be redrafted, go back into committee and be debated (again) on the flo

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Smight (1099639)
      The idea is that in order to get a bill passed in which 45% of the people agree you will add on some things that that you aren't happy about to get the opposition to vote for it.

      In practical application though they create a bill that 65%-70% would agree with and then see how many things they can stick on to make their constituents happy or those that give them funding.

      Some would argue that items should pass on their own merit. But then how are you ever going to get a $315 million bridge built to an isla
    • by quacking duck (607555) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:31PM (#19544197)
      They're called riders [wikipedia.org].

      Slashdotters may remember software patent proponents in Europe tried attaching a rider to an agriculture and fisheries bill a few years back allowing them. Because you know, software patents are SO relevant to fish stocks and pig farmers.

      These damn things should be outlawed. The supposed benefits are far outweighed by those that think nothing of abusing the good intention of riders ("think of the children!" "it's to fight terrorists!")
      • by ozbird (127571)
        Fight fire with fire... Attach anti-rider legislation to the back of something like the politician's payrise bill.
        • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
          Riders are seen as a way for a Democratic Congress to force a Republican president to pass a law that he doesn't want to. Attach anti-war legislation to the 2008 budget, for instance.

          You may remember that Bill Clinton closed the federal government several times. It was because of riders like this.

          Oh, and riders will never be outlawed. They are seen as a "bird in the hand" for the Legislative Branch. There may come a time when they need riders to get rid of an unpopular President.

          I would, however, like t
    • by Pizaz (594643)
      Because they can.
    • "I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work".
      -- Kent Brockman
  • Just pile the whole mess of these machines into a trailer rig, attach a bill for them to the rear door, and send it off to Redmond. There...no code, no code escrow worries. Next, locate a vendor that will produce a machine *with* a specification so that the software can be developed by any vendor that follows the specification. This would make a great open source project.
    • Given that voting is (generally) considered quite an important activity, with natinal security implications, I see no reason why the relevant software/hardware combination should be held to lesser standards than, say, software in avionics on our planes or on-board software on our satellites, both of which seem to work "just fine" (relatively speaking, yes, you get thousands of newspaper articles when there is a single failure).

      Or, (google for the story) apparently writing the e-voting bill was really easy i
      • by Khashishi (775369)
        Nah, voting needs to be held to much higher standards than that, seeing as political parties have much more interest in tampering with e-voting software than airplane software. Only terrorists are interested in designing flaws into plane software, and I'm much more afraid of politicians than terrorists.
  • by widget54 (888141) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:09PM (#19543993)
    Lets cut out the well bribed middlemen and just elect corporations to run the country...think of the money it would save them!!!
  • how convenient (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hxnwix (652290) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:12PM (#19544023) Journal
    * Voting machine manufacturers want their code closed so that they can take bribes for deciding the winner.

    * Microsoft wants their code closed in order to protect lock-in.

    * Those in power take bribes from Microsoft and the voting machine manufacturers, and moreover, they want to be able to hand their offices to friends and supporters when their own terms are up.

    Summary: things are happening that appear to be motivated by agendas antithetical to democracy.
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
      You assume the worst.

      >>* Voting machine manufacturers want their code closed so that they can take bribes for deciding the winner.

      Not really. Mark Twain once remarked that two men can keep a secret only if one of them is dead. The government can't keep the political firings of US Attorneys' General secret. Why do you think that could keep bribing for election wins secret? HP can't violate the privacy of their own board members without everyone in the world reading about it.

      Secrets as big as "9-11"
  • Used car salesman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:14PM (#19544055) Homepage

    When the used car salesman if performing gymnastics to guide your eyes away from some aspect of the car, that's where you'd BETTER look if you don't want to be ripped off.

    What we have here is a salesman who is desperate to keep us from examining the source of the OS.

  • This is the company that sells software to Automatic Teller Machines, which are very important pieces of machinery in how they can effect a person's life. We've all read horror stories [gizmodo.com] about ATM's running windows crashing, but MS expects people to put their trust in them when deciding who runs the country?!? This is lunacy!
    • "This is the company that sells software to Automatic Teller Machines"

      How much software do ATM machines buy?
  • Corporatism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by k1e0x (1040314) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @05:54PM (#19544387) Homepage
    Here in Soviet Amerika, Microsoft and Haliburton write our laws. This is Corporatism, its Mercantilism, and its evil.. If we let it continue we will find ourselves homeless in the country our forefathers conquered.
  • by feranick (858651) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @06:09PM (#19544509)
    From Bo Lipari's blog:

    "Take Action Now - It's urgent that you call your State Senator and Assembly representatives on Monday, June 18, at their Albany offices, and tell them they must not weaken New York State's escrow and review requirements. Remind them that the Legislature passed a strong law 2 years ago - they must not give in to pressure by voting machine vendors to undermine those protections.

    Find your Assembly member's contact information here:
    http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ [state.ny.us]
    (Not sure who your Assembly member is? Click here to search by Zip Code)

    Find your State Senator's contact information here:
    http://www.senate.state.ny.us/senatehomepage.nsf/s enators?OpenForm [state.ny.us]
    (Not sure who your State Senator is? Click here to search by Zip Code)"
  • Get a hacker to hack the said machines and display:

    "This voting machine was infected with a virus. Who knows if they're altering the votes? MUAHAHAHAHAH!
    P.S. Thank you for choosing Microsoft products :) "

    That'll teach 'em. The voters i mean >:D
    • by hoggoth (414195)
      You are joking (I think), but just imaging if on election day every e-voting display said something like 'THIS ELECTION HAS BEEN HACKED'.

      The uproar would cause e-voting to be outlawed for good.

      On second thought... maybe almost nobody would notice at all, and the few who noticed it woule think it was an ad for a new movie.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515)
        Shya. The public would go on a rampage alright.. to lynch hackers. That's the way it works. Hackers are the bad guys, the idiots who make software with big security holes in it because they can't practice well known techniques are the victims.

        • by hoggoth (414195)
          Alright, then a message with a litle more ooomph, like little letters in the corner reading 'Error 1d-10t: remote connection from skunkworks.halliburton.com disconnected'
          • by QuantumG (50515)
            Nah, see, this isn't the way the public perception works. They have no imagination. You may scream that this stuff isn't secure but they're just going to say "no harm was done". If you want to get these things recognised as the danger to democracy that they are, you need to rig an election. Not to "prove it is possible" but simply to have something to say shouldn't have happened.
            • by hoggoth (414195)
              > If you want to get these things recognised as the danger to democracy that they are, you need to rig an election.

              Ok then, it's Duncan Hunter in 2008!
          • by hoggoth (414195)
            It just occured to me that if that exact message appears on e-voting screens I am going to be spending some time at Abu-Ghraib.

            I don't know you, who is this? Prank caller, prank caller!

  • And control needs power. Twice so in a democracy. The foundation of democracy is the free, anonymous voting system. So this voting system has to be testable by anyone in any way.

    If the foundation of democracy cannot be tested by the people, the whole system is lacking a solid base to build on. I'd be very wary to weaken this kind of basic foundation of democracy. The building on top might collapse if the base is weak.
  • Why an OS? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 17, 2007 @07:39PM (#19545105) Journal
    Why an OS for an appliance computer? (Because a voting machine is basically an appliance computer).

    I mean, what does a voting machine needs to do? Read a keyboard (or touch screen), write to a display device, print a receipt/results, read and write to a RAM card (to get the candidates and put the results).

    So why do you need a whole goddammed operating system to do that? Are programmers becoming sufficiently incompetent to be unable to do those basic I/O tasks from scratch???

    What's so difficult in booting from ROM? Set stack pointers, memory access registers, jump to start of POST routine and go.

    It's not very hard at all.

    So why do you need schwindoze (or schlinux) to do all those basic things????
    • by belmolis (702863)

      No doubt a full-fledged OS is not necessary. I assume that the situation is that some companies are lazy and are basically putting some DB software on top of MS Windows. (Wasn't there something in one of the Diebold stories about the votes being tallied in Excell or in an Access database?)

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      So why do you need schwindoze (or schlinux) to do all those basic things????

      Because it's a lot cheaper to buy (or download) an off-the-shelf OS than get someone to write the code you are talking about.

    • My smart-ass criteria for a true embedded system is that it's not allowed to parse any ASCII while booting.
  • The other problem with these laws is that they go hand in glove with laws making it illegal to test the system or hack it or to publish the results.
  • Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it isn't credible. But, this is just a bloggers site, and the PDF could have been created by anybody. Could this possibly be a hoax?
  • Would like to say get the fuck out of my state Microsoft. -A New Yorker content without M$ fucking with my legislation.

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