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"Unsecured Memory Card" Prompts Election Fraud Investigation In Georgia (ajc.com) 172

McGruber writes: On Tuesday, there was an election in Dekalb County, Georgia. An area of the county known as LaVista Hills voted on a referendum on whether they should incorporate into a brand-new city or whether they should remain an unincorporated part of the county. The referendum failed by a mere 136 votes, less than 1 percent of all votes cast. The second in command at DeKalb County's office of elections is now alleging there were very serious irregularities regarding the LaVista Hills cityhood vote. Piazza says voters were turned away at their polling places, voter material wasn't properly secured, and that "there was a memory card that collects citizen votes loose in the office." Piazza's allegations have prompted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to open an investigation. Local Atlanta television stations are reporting that Piazza first reported the irregularities to his boss in Dekalb County and that she responded by putting him on leave. One TV station is also broadcasting footage of state investigators removing election equipment from Dekalb County offices. (Those reports are not yet posted on their websites.)
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"Unsecured Memory Card" Prompts Election Fraud Investigation In Georgia

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  • by beckett ( 27524 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @07:02PM (#50873807) Homepage Journal
    canada has pencils and paper they use for voting. when the voting is done, the ballot boxes stay in the room, and designated counters stay there with observers until the count is complete. we got our election results within 4 hours of the last poll closing in our last federal election. the scrutiny, traceability, and physical counts of paper ballots makes it difficult to do the type of election tampering described in the article. There is no need for electronic voting machines.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2015 @07:08PM (#50873829)

      That makes too much sense. It would never work here in the US.

      • We had pencils and punch cards once, when democracy was hanging by a chad. [usnews.com]
        • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @08:45PM (#50874247)

          We had pencils and punch cards once, when democracy was hanging by a chad. [usnews.com]

          That kind of voting was not based on marking a piece of paper with a writing implement. That kind of voting was based on pushing a mechanical button that had to make a physical change in the paper medium over which it was placed. That system was unsound because it required maintenance of equipment and was subject to the abuse that the average person could put on a mechanical device.

          I do not have a problem with electronic-tabulated voting so long as the medium on which the voter casts the vote is human-readable and human-markable. That pretty much means optical scan, a technology that has been used for a couple of decades now. Optical scan means that the results can be tabulated as the voting occurs and be known as polls close, but in contests where there is a need to recount it's still possible for humans auditing the individual ballots to read the ballots with their eyes, without any special equipment at all.

          Either way, human-tabulated from the outset or computer-tabulated and capable of being human-tabulated or human-audited, the process needs to allow for tabulation without any special equipment whatsoever.

          • Any system that leaves a physical trail, paper or otherwise, allows for the luxury of a physical recount if voting tabulations are in question.

            FWIW, that means results are being reviewed by potentially flawed and subjective humans. Yes. Results are much easier to adulterate en masse if compromised at the electronic compilation level.

            No. Human reviews of elections are not beyond reproach... the hanging chad was often an interpretation.

            • by fgouget ( 925644 )

              Any system that leaves a physical trail, paper or otherwise, allows for the luxury of a physical recount if voting tabulations are in question.

              Recounts are useless: by the time they are performed the ballots have been taken out of view of the voters for so long that there's no way to tell if they are still the same as those that once were in the ballot box. Counting must happen in the polling station, by voter volunteers, as soon as the election is closed.

              This is also why any electronic voting system is bad: it purports to make manually counting the votes something that's optional so that when you do want to do it there is no one to do so when th

              • by jaseuk ( 217780 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @05:31AM (#50875577) Homepage

                Dunno how things are done in the US, but ballot boxes are sealed here (with actual lead / hard to change seals). The boxes are then couriered (with several different people accompanying the box) to a central location. There are various different registers that show who has attended the vote, what papers have been used. ie. Double Entry. with different people responsible for each register. Usually with a completely separate observer overseeing the ballot box.

                At the count all the politicians and representatives can watch the boxes opened and counted. The teams responsible for counting boxes will not know ahead of time which box(es) they are counting. There are careful initial checks to count the papers, to ensure they tally with the registers. There are usually teams of about 8-9 people per box, with an overseer. The room is sealed / guarded. Politicians and representatives can ask for a recount. It is done then and there.

                Any deviation from an X in one box on the voting paper, is carefully considered by a team of very senior well trained staff, with a very comprehensive manual to consider all the various ways that a vote can be considered valid or spoiled.

                It would take an amazing level of conspiracy and corruption to rig a count in the UK. There are no volunteers, these people are usually paid (and paid well enough) for their role in the ballot and count. Consequences for interfering with the vote in any way are harsh and will include criminal charges as well as most likely loss of employment (staff typically are Local Government staff).

                All these protocols would expose fraud or deception quite easily. It'd be simpler to put a gun to people on the way in to the count and tell them who to vote for and check they do this, than to actually create a convincing scenario where the count itself is corrupted.

                I know techies often think traditional paper counts are more open to abuse, absolutely no way. If you've ever been at a count or worked with the people at the polling stations you would understand. The only problem is that a vote is expensive with all the oversight and double checking.

                Jason

                • All these protocols would expose fraud or deception quite easily. It'd be simpler to put a gun to people on the way in to the count and tell them who to vote for and check they do this, than to actually create a convincing scenario where the count itself is corrupted.

                  Actually, that would be another weakness. There should be no way for a voter to prove how he voted. Ban smartphones at the polling station to prevent "stemfies". Make sure there are strict rules in place to make ballots which are too "artistic" invalid (... to prevent people marking their ballots by making each cross a different color, or other such nonsense...)

                • by fgouget ( 925644 )

                  Dunno how things are done in the US, but ballot boxes are sealed here (with actual lead / hard to change seals). The boxes are then couriered (with several different people accompanying the box) to a central location. There are various different registers that show who has attended the vote, what papers have been used. ie. Double Entry. with different people responsible for each register. Usually with a completely separate observer overseeing the ballot box.

                  Lead is not hard to find and if security [arstechnica.com] keys [schneier.com] can be replicated from a photograph then a standard seal should not be much of a challenge. Who picks the people accompanying the box to the central location? Can the person picking them be trusted? Is a single team carrying a significant fraction of the ballot boxes? And if they constantly have people supervising the ballot boxes, how can they forget [nottinghampost.com] them at the polling station? And recounts don't always happen immediately (at least in the US) so the issue is n

                • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
                  The ones in my US polling station are payed as well, by the parties. There is usually one from each party.
                • There are no volunteers, these people are usually paid (and paid well enough) for their role in the ballot and count.

                  Just to clarify - the large majority of the personnel involved in the counting in the UK are not full-time election officials. Typically they are clerical staff of the local council, and are paid overtime for the (normally out of hours) work involved, and allowed time off in lieu (if a recount goes on to 7 in the morning).

                  Some nations - e.g. Scotland - just don't bother with the overnight c

              • Around here, we use optical scan. I fill out my ballot, and it's fed to the scanner, which drops it into the ballot box. The box is sealed and stored, except that spot audits are conducted in random precincts. The sealed boxes are kept in a secure place. All processing of the paper ballots is done with party representatives on site.

                It would be possible to replace the boxes, but if the paper ballots were significantly off the machine totals that would raise suspicion, and that would cause an investiga

                • by fgouget ( 925644 )

                  The box is sealed and stored, except that spot audits are conducted in random precincts.

                  If Joe random voter cannot overview the selection of the precincts to audit, you have no guarantee do you have that they are really random.

                  It fundamentally depends on enough people being willing to work towards a fair election, but that's true of all voting systems. If the system is sufficiently corrupt, the elections will be rigged, no matter what the mechanics.

                  It also depends on transparency. Without it there is nothing to keep the few people involved with the actual counting in line.

                  • I don't know what the procedure is to ask for a manual recount, or if there is one.

                    The people who do the actual counting are supervised by representatives from the major parties. This should suffice for the precinct counts. As far as the overall total goes, it's the sum of the precinct votes, and that's transparent.

                    • by fgouget ( 925644 )

                      The people who do the actual counting are supervised by representatives from the major parties. This should suffice for the precinct counts.

                      There is still no valid reason to prevent regular voters from watching the recount. So why prevent it?

                      As far as the overall total goes, it's the sum of the precinct votes, and that's transparent.

                      As for the overall total it is indeed public which makes it trivially easy to handle, which is why one never talks about it. Not having to deal with the secrecy and anonymity issues enables use of all sorts of computers or schemes without drawbacks.

            • by quetwo ( 1203948 )

              I actually like how a majority of the polling stations are setup in Michigan.

              User gets a paper ballot. They either need to fill in the bubble or complete a line to vote for somebody. When they are finished, they feed the paper ballot through an electronic reader that places them in a locked box.

              When the election is closed they count the paper ballots in the open. If the number they count matches the electronic number then the vote is certified and the precinct is reported. If it doesn't, then they have

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Don't knock it - it worked as designed so provided enough uncertainty to give you Baby Bush instead of Gore.
            Paper and pencil results in less uncertainty so makes it less possible to argue against "undesirable" results.

            Such a fuckup that was an international laughing stock was not corrected because the winner gained benefit from the fuckup. Having a professional independent body run things, such as the US does when supervising other countries elections on behalf of the UN, would be far better for the count
          • Direct human-markability isn't necessary IMO. Let the human make selections on a touch screen. Let the computer print out a ballot with both human readable text and a machine readable barcode (QR code perhaps; that would allow many smart phones to check a ballot.) Scan the barcodes as the ballots enter the ballot box. In the event of a recount the election officials would read the human readable text and that would be the official count.

            The computer doesn't need to be anything special; a machine from Best B

            • by TWX ( 665546 )
              Apparently you've never seen how computers in the field are treated, or had to account for the volume use of computers.

              Their software issues (ie, fraud) aside, Diebold makes voting machines in much the same way as they make ATMs. These computers as public kiosks have to take whatever abuse is foisted on them by an indifferent or even hostile public. These machines need to just work when they're pulled from mothballs and plugged in to house power by the barely-trained pensioners that usually crew the po
              • by fgouget ( 925644 )

                Apparently you've never seen how computers in the field are treated, or had to account for the volume use of computers.

                More importantly regular computers are way too complex for the task at hand, making it even more impossible to verify they are not hacked (either at the hardware or software level).

                Besides, if you use a paper ballot you can still have an election even if the power is out, even if people are filling in ballots in the dark by flashlight or candle.

                Or you could hold your elections during the day instead of in the dead of the night ;-)

                Voting is too important to hand-over to machines entirely.

                Absolutely.

                • Voting around here is generally 6 AM to 8 PM to give as many people as possible the opportunity. (I normally vote on the way to work.) This is November, which is more than a month past the Fall equinox. We're at about 45 degrees North. There is not sufficient daylight to cover 14 hours of voting. We'd have to hold the elections in the Summer.

                  • by fgouget ( 925644 )

                    Voting around here is generally 6 AM to 8 PM to give as many people as possible the opportunity. (I normally vote on the way to work.) This is November,

                    Eh eh. True, you always hold your elections in November (and on a Tuesday even!), here they can happen at any time of the year, but always on a Sunday so people are available.

            • But that has a major weakness: someone could modify the computer to display the correct vote on the screen, print the correct vote for the human-readable part of the printout, but make the QR code correspond to the other candidate. The better way to do that would be to have it print a scantron-like form, so that the exact the machine-readable section is also human-readable.
      • We must be as cool as Canadians down here in Blacksburg, VA :)
      • The ADA would sue because pencil and paper discriminates against people without arms.

    • Won't someone please think of the trees!
    • Or how about just plain revolution? No, not 1776 or 1860... How about 1946? http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/at... [jpfo.org]

    • And as of today we haven't found any other technology that preserves both the integrity of the ballot and the secrecy of the vote (when implemented properly). With numeric voting, you can have one or the other, not both, as far as I know.

      Numeric voting can still be useful when it comes to votes from representatives in parliaments (because secrecy is not a concern, so you can focus on integrity), but as far as citizens' votes go, I'm not aware of any algorithm that would cover both imperatives.

    • I agree completely. Aus uses paper ballots and has mandatory voting so while the relative workload is higher than the US.

      The other thing that I couldn't find with google is how elections are managed in the US. In Australia Federal level elections are handled by the Australian Electoral Commission and then State and below levels are handled by the "State" Electoral Commission. They all seem to run the exact same processes. But when I read about the US elections it seems like every state, town and council

      • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @09:16PM (#50874395)

        There really are no "Federal" elections in the US. In the elections for President/Vice President the individual states hold elections for electors to the Electoral College [wikipedia.org] and those electors actually vote for the person who will be President. The number of electors each state has is equal the the number of Congressional seats they have (based on population) plus two for the two Senators. In all but two states it's winner take all and the electors will be those who stood for the state's winner. In Maine and Nebraska the winner in each congressional district will get an elector for them and the two electors for the Senators will go to the state's overall winner.

        So the Federal Government makes some general rules for elections (such as no discrimination based on race, religion, etc.) but the states are the ones who make the detailed rules for their state. The actual elections are mostly run at the county (or parish) level. Here in Oregon it's the County Clerks who are responsible. So in general it's the county's Clerk or Director of Elections, taking into account the Federal and State rules, who determines exactly how the ballots are produced and processed leading to some variety even within a state.

        • That isn't terribly different to most other places. For example in Australia you vote for the person who is in your electorate, they then go on to become a member of the House of Representatives, the US House, and each State has a certain number of Senators (12 each for the States and 2 each for the territories). The big difference is we don't vote on a president, the party with the most seats in the House of Reps chooses who the Prime Minister will be so there is no equivalent to the Electoral College.

          So

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          The actual elections are mostly run at the county (or parish) level

          Which has clearly become completely unworkable. There's so many stupid barriers to entry and general fucking about which prevents citizens from doing their duty of voting and mostly relegates the process to the people who love to play political games. For example, nobody should be turned away due to lack of resources, that's a sign of the sort of election the UN wouldn't call fair if it was in an emerging nation. Fuckups like the "hanging

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            The whole voting process needs to be reviewed in the US. Elections should be a major social event, everything done manually, lots of people at the polling stations, with representatives from all politicians running. There should be charity booths with sausages sizzles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], girl scout cookie sales http://www.girlscouts.org/prog... [girlscouts.org] and other charity events. The polling stations should be open throughout the day and promoting the social nature of elections.

            There is only one rea

            • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
              Yes, election days should be standardized and it should be a holiday. There's no reason for off cycle elections like the one last week. They are just set up that way to disenfranchise voters.
      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        Yes, this is one of the things our wise founding fathers screwed up. The constitution gives the responsibility for holding elections to the states. The states usually hand it off to the counties. This results in a terrible patchwork of voting methods and rights.
        In some places you need a picture ID, in some places felons can't vote, in some places you have to pass a test that the proctor will not allow any black person to pass (wait, we got rid of that one).
        Several of our states were under review by the fed
    • To be fair, we also only vote for one candidate, and don't have any ballot measures.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Right we only vote for one candidate, but we do have ballot measures. They're common in municipal politics, sometimes provincial politics too.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Another advantage of our system, Federal, Provincial and Municipal elections are kept separate. In the States, elections are overwhelming, with offices from President down to dogcatcher on the ballet therefore almost guaranteeing that the average person won't be able to make informed choices for all offices and encouraging the same party apparatuses on all levels of government with people just ticking D or R for everything.
        In Canada, often the Provincial parties are quite distinct from the Federal parties,

    • Canada has 30 million people. Equal to one large state.

      • by beckett ( 27524 )
        >Canada has 30 million people

        More than that, but pencils were fine.

        Dekalb County, GA in TFA only has 691,893 people, equal to a small city, and you guys need a computer to count that?
      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Your point? The polling system scales very well and would work even better in a country such as the States with 10x the population density as a polling place is more likely to be close by.

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        And it scales, so that's not a problem - just get more people to help with the counting. It would still save money and be less prone to fraud.

        Side note: do you also chime in with "but the US is so biiiig!" when the shitty state of US internet is mentioned? Gotta have those excuses ;)

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      There is no need for electronic voting machines.

      Of course there is - it provides a place to work for ex-cons not permitted to work on Automated Teller Machines (Diebold) and hypothetically makes electoral fraud a lot easier for those very closely connected to such a company (Diebold make no secret of which Party they want to win).
      Going back over a century there are plenty of nasty little games around elections designed to get advantage - these machines are just the current bit of sleazyness.

    • The US has 10x the population of Canada. Mightn't that be a factor in what systems are feasible?
      • by beckett ( 27524 )

        The US has 10x the population of Canada. Mightn't that be a factor in what systems are feasible?

        Dekalb County, GA in TFA only has 691,893 people. And you guys need a computer to count that?

    • It's also a backwards way of doing things. That isn't something to laud.

      We have the technology for secure votes, and have had it for some time. A technological solution, properly implemented, only has pros over the old pen and paper method, and very, very, very, like less than 5 cons.

      That's dependent on it being properly implement though, with strong PKI, which no one has bothered to do.

      Seriously. Posts like yours depress me. It's sad to see people stay in the past instead of pushing for better solutions.

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    Chain of trust. Every vote is represented as a transaction in a block chain*. So it won't matter if copies of the storage media are floating around. If the chain doesn't trace back to an original (authenticated) state, it must be fake. I'm not a crypto, Bitcoin wizard. But I'm sure some smart people can work out the details.

    *Not necessarily _the_ Bitcoin blockchain. But one created along the same principles by election authorities.

    • *Not necessarily _the_ Bitcoin blockchain. But one created along the same principles by election authorities.

      The Economist magazine has a cover story this week on blockchain technology [economist.com] and how it can be used to create a trusted transaction between untrusting people. Some banks are already using blockchains to clear transactions in seconds that used to take days.

      • by Troed ( 102527 )

        ... which makes no sense. You cannot have a secure blockchains unless you have a lot of processing power verifying it - and no one will invest in processing power unless there's an incentive for doing so. That incentive, for the most secure blockchain that exists (processing power surpassing _all_ computers in the top 500 super computing list) is called "bitcoin".

        Banks cooperating on a blockchain is equivalent to them agreeing on using the same database.

        Or in geek terms: If you want to solve the Byzantine G

    • Yep so each vote is stored with a hash that includes the vote plus every vote before it. Hence why it's called a block 'chain'.

      If you were given a print out of the hash your vote generated it would prove that your vote was still present in the chain at the end, it would not reveal any information about previous or future votes nor your identity.

    • There are all sorts of problems with that idea. Just off the top of my head as a non-expert, however, the key issues are that:
      1) Bitcoin is pseudonymous (i.e. people are identifiable by their keys), not anonymous, so votes can be traced.

      2) Key creation (i.e. pseudonym creation) is decentralized in bitcoin, but that doesn't work with voting, since we need a way to ensure one vote per voter, which isn't possible when people can create multiple identities for themselves whenever they want.

      3) If we allow the go

  • by Gim Tom ( 716904 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @07:07PM (#50873821)
    One more reason that the ethics reform initiative passed by greater than a 90% margin. It seems to be sorely needed
    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @07:48PM (#50874017)

      One more reason that the ethics reform initiative passed by greater than a 90% margin.

      One reason it passed was that the ethics reform vote wasn't tabulated by voting machines.

      • by Gim Tom ( 716904 )
        Unfortunately it was. That's how I voted for it. On one of the infamous Diebold touch screen machines from the early 2000's. Even with those machines it becomes a bit too obvious when the margin is over 90%.

        Don't get me started on the voting machines since I fought them as hard as possible when they were introduced in a panic after the "hanging chad" fiasco in 2000. I retired in 2007 after 10+ years as a Network Engineer and the Security Officer for an agency in this state and thought they were a dumb
  • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Thursday November 05, 2015 @08:25PM (#50874147)

    There's more information about the scandal on the AJC's (easily circumvented) paywalled site: MyAJC:Voting irregularities alleged in LaVista Hills election [myajc.com]

    The article includes a key detail not mentioned in the slashdot summary:

    Leonard Piazza, the second in command in DeKalb’s elections office, said there were serious problems regarding the LaVista vote.....Piazza said he took the memory card and copied information from DeKalb’s voting tabulation server so that he could try and prove tampering. But those actions aren’t allowed, and he has been placed on paid leave.

  • If only GA had a voter ID law to prevent fraud....

    oh.
    wait.

    • Yes. Require all voting machines to have valid ID.

      Stop illegal voting machines: BUILD THE WALL.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        The wall didn't work for the Chinese so why do people think it's going to work this time?
    • If only GA had a voter ID law to prevent fraud....

      oh. wait.

      I know. Do these kooks have any ideas that actually work?

  • Many countries around the world have proven that paper and pencil voting is reliable, traceable, and scalable. Even in countries with mandatory voting where the turnout density is higher than the US.

    In Australia, most public schools & town halls become voting centers for the day, so most people don't have to travel far and the numbers are manageable. A small army of trained electoral commission recruits control the process, and do the counts at the end of the day. The results are in that evening, whi

  • instead of Family Guy, but I'm standing by my decision to wait till this morning to find out what happened. (I live near Atlanta)
  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @09:44AM (#50876191) Homepage Journal

    In the US Democrats assure us that election fraud is nonexistent, unles Republicans commit it. DeKalb county is not Republican.

    Electronic voting in the US can only serve to enable fraud. It solves no problem.

  • Why can't voting contain some sort of hash that you get after voting? You can enter the hash into the website to confirm that your vote actually recorded as what you entered?

What sin has not been committed in the name of efficiency?

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