March 28, 2006
DIEBOLD TRIES OUT VARIOUS EXPLANATIONS FOR DEFECTS, TRIES TO GET RID OF ANOTHER COUNTY ELECTIONS OFFICIAL
On March 18, Black Box Voting released the first part of findings from an examination of the Diebold TSx touch-screen machines in Emery County, Utah.
Diebold has responded. Harri Hursti and also Security Innovation Inc. have rebutted Diebold's initial explanation. Diebold then came up with a new explanation, while trying to maneuver Emery County's elections chief into resigning.
Bruce Funk, the elected official who has run elections in Emery County for 23 years, noticed a critical shortage in flash memory/storage in seven of his 40 brand new Diebold machines. He arranged for an independent evaluation, a right granted to Utah county officials in the Diebold contract. Black Box Voting secured the services of Harri Hursti and also Security Innovation, Inc. for the Emery County evaluation.
The initial assessment was not encouraging: The memory was so low it appeared likely to compromise elections held on the affected machines, and the most likely explanations were all pretty bad: 1) Different programs on the machines 2) Data already residing on the machines from use elsewhere 3) Flash memory near the end of its life cycle.
1. DIEBOLD CLAIMS LOW MEMORY DUE TO FONTS
According to the Deseret Morning News, Diebold spokesman David Bear claimed that the critical shortage in memory was due to different fonts loaded on certain machines.
"Spokesman David Bear said that some of the machines were programmed with more font options than other machines, which is accounting for most of the discrepancy in available memory, although the types of tests run on the machines before shipping could also take up memory.
The Deseret Morning News went on to say, in the context of the David Bear interview but not as a direct quote: "What is happening is that the machines are hosting illicit programs that could affect the performance or, in the worst case, actually change election results. They are not used machines."(1)
Diebold has not explained why some machines would have different fonts than others.
Actually, the memory discrepancies were as large as 20MB, and the low memory triggered text on the TSx machine to flip to RED, clearly an alert that there was a problem. Hursti and Security Innovation cast doubt on the font explanation:
HURSTI: "Fonts, which there are only few, can explain few 100 kilobytes [each] at the most, not 20 meg we have."
SECURITY INNOVATION, INC.: "I went into the tool that builds Windows CE and after adding ALL of the fonts that it contains they *totaled* to 4 megs. Harri is right in that each font individually was small with the largest being a meg but most being like 30k-60k. There exists the possibility that they created a custom font but I don't know why...The only one that's any where near big enough (22meg) is a UNICODE one that can represent things like Japanese characters, Chinese characters.
(Note that Emery County Utah does not have a Japanese/Chinese population sufficient to warrant such special fonts, and even if it did, if such fonts use up memory to the extent that machines experience critical storage problems, that is a significant defect. The existence of Asian language fonts on Utah machines would be consistent with taking delivery on machines previously used in California.)
2. NEW DIEBOLD EXPLANATION: "There is an A, B, and C version"
On Monday Mar. 27, Diebold attended a meeting in Emery County and here they claimed there were actually several versions delivered to Utah. Now, bear in mind that all are the TSx 4.6.4, but in this tape recorded meeting, Diebold stated that within this there is an A, B, and C version.
The main question, of course, is:
Is it the A, B, or the C version that is the certified version?
IN THE MEAN TIME, DIEBOLD IS HOPING BRUCE FUNK WILL HURRY UP AND RESIGN
Diebold's immediate response to Funk's decision to have his machines independently tested was to threaten to charge over $1,200 to check the machines tested to make sure they were suitable for elections.
This brings to mind the question -- why did Diebold deliver machines with memory so low they were not suitable for elections in the first place? The backup election file is 7.9 MB; Note in the photograph above, this "new" machine had only 4 MB of storage left.
And, if the Deseret News report above is correct, if some machines were "hosting illicit programs which could affect performance or in worst case, affect election results," why were they delivered in the first place and why should Emery County pay to have the defects corrected?
Nevermind that, Diebold has now upped the ante to $40,000. The testing involved only two machines, and at $1,200 per day, it is difficult to imagine how it can take 33 days to evaluate two machines, or even 40 machines, which is the total number of machines delivered to Emery County. In a county like San Diego with 10,000 machines, would it take 8,500 days for Diebold to evaluate the machines?
Black Box Voting has requested a copy of the itemization for this $40,000 threat from Diebold. The Emery County Commissioners are, understandably, experiencing some heartburn over Diebold's extortion. Their initial response was to encourage Bruce Funk to resign. A more appropriate response would be to wait for the findings in the upcoming report detailing the security problems found in Emery County machines.
Utah is a state where it is traditional to acquiesce to authority figures. Just how a for-profit vendor managed to gain "authority" over public elections and an ELECTED OFFICIAL is a question that deserves further examination.
This marks the second time that Diebold has attempted to control the actions of an official elected by the people. When Ion Sancho, elections supervisor of Leon County, Florida, opted to have his machines independently evaluated, Diebold refused to provide him with the HAVA-required upgrades that he had already paid for. A Diebold rep stated in a meeting with other Florida election officials that Diebold would honor its contract with Leon County if Ion Sancho [the official elected by the people of Leon County] would step down.
STICK-ON DOTS MEAN DEFECTS
One of the things that prompted Bruce Funk to look at the memory on his machines was his observation that some of the machines were tagged with small yellow stick-on dots. Those machines were especially prone to problems like low memory and problems with the screens.
Black Box Voting has been interviewing other county officials who recently took delivery on Diebold TSx machines, and this is what we have learned: Diebold marks the machines that fail acceptance testing with stick-on dots.
Why Emery County was expected to go into an upcoming election with machines marked with defect dots has not been explained by Diebold.
Now is the time for all good men -- and women -- to wear dots on their foreheads
THE DOT PROTEST
Suggest wearing stick-on dots on your forehead when attending meetings about Diebold.
Citizens forced to vote on Diebold machines: Wear a dot on your forehead when you go to vote.
When people ask about the dots, explain that Diebold marked its defective machines with dots, and you are marking its defective elections with dots.
County officials should examine their machines for stick-on dots. Contact Black Box Voting for non-invasive diagnostic tests which can be performed to evaluate whether you have received defective voting machines. The tests are simple, like booting up the machine and writing down specific information that appears. Keep records yourself of the serial numbers and defects.
NOTICE: During the course of interviews for this article, Black Box Voting has learned that Diebold has been traveling to various counties and swapping the motherboards in its voting machines. Why the entire motherboard would need to be replaced on brand new machines is a question that should be explored. Since this procedure enables a complete replacement of firmware and the insertion of hardware like wireless communications devices, any such actions need to be fully documented.
Activists are encouraged to ask questions locally as to any such changes.
(1) Secure? Vote is no; Deseret Morning News, 26 March 2006
WE ARE AWAITING MORE FORMAL REPORTS ON SIGNIFICANT SECURITY DEFECTS FOUND ON EMERY COUNTY'S TSx MACHINES. NOW THE QUESTION IS: WHICH VERSION WERE WE LOOKING AT -- THE A, THE B OR THE C?