Voting machine transparency costs one county clerk

Voting machine transparency costs one county clerk

Summary: Emery County, in Eastern Utah isn't a very big place, at least by population--there are only around 10,500 people. So you wouldn't expect Emery County to be a hotbed of voting activism, but one person, the County Clerk, has taken a courageous stand that has landed him in some hot water.

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Emery County, in Eastern Utah isn't a very big place, at least by population--there are only around 10,500 people. So you wouldn't expect Emery County to be a hotbed of voting activism, but one person, the County Clerk, has taken a courageous stand that has landed him in some hot water.

How do you feel about voting on machines that even the people who control them aren't allowed to inspect?

Last year Utah's Elections office determined to use electronic voting machines and selected Diebold as the vendor. There are lots of people who have questions about the integrity of electronic voting machines and especially those that you can't inspect. One of those people was Bruce Funk, the Emery County Clerk--the person charged with running elections in the county

On December 27, 2005 Bruce took possession of 40 Diebold TSx touch-screen machines as part of a statewide change to the new machines. Upon unpacking the machines Bruce noticed that the "new" machines has some problems "crooked paper feeds that jam, memory card bay doors that wouldn't close, parts getting stuck, coming loose, falling off, etc." Moreover, two of the machines failed their initial, Diebold run, acceptance testing.

Given these problems, Bruce decided he wanted a second opinion on the health of his machines and invited BlackBoxVoting (BBV), a non-profit group, to examine them. BBV in turn asked Harri Hursti and Security Innovation, Inc. to do a thorough examination.

Some of the results of Security Innovations' investigation are in, and they aren't good. He found that some of the machines had inexplicable memory usage, that the machines were network aware all the time, and that there were safety problems with the way the power cord attaches to them. BBV promises more results at a later date.

Meanwhile, things haven't gone well for Bruce Funk. Diebold asserted that he'd broken the warranty of the machines and wants to charge the State $40,000 to "recertify" them. After a heated closed door meeting with State elections officials and the Emery County Commission, Bruce orally resigned his position, but later changed his mind and is going to fight for his job.

It's clear to me that Diebold is sending a message to any other County Clerks who may step out of line and question the quality of the product that they're getting. The Utah Elections seems to be playing along. They ought to be supporting someone who is willing to make sure that the voting system works.  No matter how you feel about electronic voting, Diebold seems to be supplying a low-quality product and charging top dollar for it. 

How do you feel about voting on machines that even the people who control them aren't allowed to inspect them without being subject to financial penalties? It gives me the creeps.

If you're interested in sending Bruce an expression of support, here's his contact information:

Bruce C. Funk - Clerk/Auditor
Fax: (435) 381-5183
95 East Main
Castle Dale, Emery County
Utah 84513
funk@co.emery.ut.us

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37 comments
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  • The Problem Is....

    If you buy a new car and it has problems WHO do you take it to first?? The Dealer which you bought it from or your cousin the mechanic down the street.

    If he didn't like the quality of the machines he should have called the manufacturer to complain not a non for Profit "group" to investigate the voting machines.

    I'm sorry but if this doen't smell of political opportunism I don't know what does. I personally would have fired him on the spot.

    The author also neglected to mention the reported problems the Diebold company had during our last Presidential Election. I think that would paint a more damning picture for our County Clerk.
    JoseTorr
    • WRONGO!!!

      When you suspect that your new computer may have some security problems, you go to a third-party expert, not the guys the company sends you.

      We aren't talking about whether your Ford idles rough when it's cold, we are talking about if the machines are secure, reliable and free of hidden surprises -- surprises which could only have been put there by the vendor whose techs you say should be trusted to tell you all about the problems.
      critic-at-arms
      • RIF-O

        Reading is Fundimental - O

        Obvisouly someone didn't read the article..

        <<
        Bruce noticed that the "new" machines has some problems "crooked paper feeds that jam, memory card bay doors that wouldn't close, parts getting stuck, coming loose, falling off, etc." >>

        I see NO MENTION of secruity worries, His issues were all MECHANICAL.

        BTW The article left a lot to be desired so I went to Emery County's own Website for the FULL Story

        http://www.ecprogress.com/index.php?tier=1&pub=2006-03-28&page=news#3
        JoseTorr
        • Maybe you oughta take your own advice...

          "[B]...He found that some of the machines had inexplicable memory usage, that the machines were network aware all the time, and that there were safety problems with the way the power cord attaches to them.[/B]"

          Excerpt from the article itself, so the previous posters point stands.
          Linux User 147560
          • Er no

            The he they are referring to is Harri Hursti here and not the clerk. Notice the sentence right before your quote "Some of the results of Security Innovations' investigation are in, and they aren't good."
            Worktruck
        • Moron

          Maybe you don't care who is elected to office.

          But Be damn sure i want to make sure my vote is not given to someone in error or corruption.

          Bruce did the right thing to protect the people.

          If you can not see that, well maybe you need to retake those ethics courses from college.
          Edward@...
          • I agree with Edward G

            Well, Im not sure the the Emery County Progress is the place to go to for the FULL STORY. If I want to know the full story I usually turn to the Salt Lake tribune. My dad did do the right thing he did it to protect the people. These machines are not cars, they are computers and if you sent it to the manufacture for security reasons why would they agree and risk losing the sale. I would think any American Voter who cares if there votes matter would want a 3 party to check things out to make sure. Now if there are other problems like my dad found about paper jaming and low battiers then yes take them to the manufacture. I believe the people should control the ballot box, NOT corporation

            www.sltrib.com
            eric_funk
    • Okay, Mr. "I work for Diebold"....

      It is my opinion that we should INSIST upon having third-party experts inspect such machines, or simply NOT BUY THEM FROM DIEBOLD AT ALL.


      Let's look at an excerpt from the the report:
      "He booted each machine up to check the battery. Some of the machines were marked with little yellow dots, and he got to wondering about that, too. He studied the screen messages, and noticed something very odd.

      Most machines had about 25 MB of memory available, but some had only 7 MB of free memory left. One had only 4 MB of available memory. For perspective, the backup election file generated by the Diebold TSx is about 7.9 MB. Now why would brand new voting machines have used-up memory?

      Time to get a more in depth evaluation

      This prompted Funk to seek an evaluation. He asked Black Box Voting to help him analyze his voting system.

      After several consultations, Black Box Voting determined that the nature of the problems in Emery County might be systemic and might be national in scope. Therefore, we arranged for and underwrote the services of Harri Hursti and Security Innovation, Inc.

      Neither Funk nor Black Box Voting were prepared for the depth and breadth of the problems discovered. Based on these discoveries we will begin with a series of articles followed by concise, but more formal reports.

      Part I

      Hursti quickly determined the three most likely causes of the low memory problem:

      1. There might be completely different software in the machines with low memory.

      2. Some machines might contain different external data

      3. Or, some of the machines might have been delivered with natively different amounts of memory available. "


      Pretty scary for supposedly NEW machines.
      They should investigate Diebold.
      I'm not saying they did anything wrong...
      then I'm not saying they didn't do anything wrong.
      Either way, the least they are guilty of shoddy workmanship, or selling used machines as new. The worst they are guilty of, is something I would rather not think about.
      el1jones
    • Update

      Looks like our County Clerk is an Elected Official so I can't fire him :)

      The Emory County Progress has a more enlightning story though.

      http://www.ecprogress.com/index.php?tier=1&pub=2006-03-28&page=news#3

      And for the record if elections are going the electronic route; I would make it uniform nation wide, have a paper trail, build it on a proprietary OS and make it as secure as Fort Knox (virtually of course).

      Most of these touch screen systems are all built on a watered down version of WindowsXP anyway. I would built it on the same technology as ATM machines because when was the last time you heard of an ATM machine being hacked?

      Nuff Said
      JoseTorr
      • The source code must be available

        ---I would make it uniform nation wide, have a paper trail, build it on a proprietary OS and make it as secure as Fort Knox (virtually of course).---

        You could build it on a proprietary OS, but if you do so, the source code for that OS must be made available to auditors. That way everyone could inspect the software and be sure that it was fairly counting all votes. Might just be easier to base the whole thing on open source code. Transparency in government is something that should be encouraged.
        tic swayback
        • I am not sure...

          >>Might just be easier to base the whole thing on open source code.>>

          That would be like giving out the blue prints to your bank.

          The sad part about all this is that there are no federal or state guidelines (as far as I know anyway) that say how electronic elections should be run.

          Two or three years ago people where making a big stink about not getting a paper reciept from there e-voting machine. But there was no law or regulation saying that they needed to be required...
          JoseTorr
          • Security through obscurity...

            ...is a really bad strategy. The source code for Windows is not publicly available, yet that hasn't stopped all the hacks and exploits out there.

            And even if a voting machine is compromised, allowing constant monitoring of the source code would show that it has been altered.

            And the reason there are no regulations on these things is that companies like Diebold donate large amounts of money to politicians in order to get their second-rate products purchased by states for large sums of money. Regulations might require them to make a quality and secure product, and that's going to be expensive, cutting into profits.
            tic swayback
      • Well...

        how about the 5th of this month?

        [url=http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/05/citibank_under_fraud.html]OUCH![/url]

        [url=http://www.linuxelectrons.com/article.php/20060228202036277]Another recent one...[/url]

        [url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11731365/]09 March 2006[/url]

        So you were saying? ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • Hold On

          All 3 of your examples were more related to ID Theft than anything else

          by "ATM being hacked" the mental image of someone walking up to an ATM machine with a PC and hacking into it to get our money.

          In one of the articles you mentioned somehow a guy got a "program" on a bank pc and was able to funnel money to him/her self.
          JoseTorr
          • Still affects ATM's and is still

            considered a hack... how the hack is done is irrelevant, the fact it was done is. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
    • Thing is this is a bit different

      in that when you buy a car it affects a very small group of people in the grand scheme, and generally auto manufactures / dealers are willing to work to fix the problems presented.

      But in this case going back to the manufacture is NOT a wise decision. Reason being? Simple, in today's political arena there are many that do not trust the government nor the corporations that support them or provide materials for them. These voting machines have been in question for quite some time. To ask an outside party that is technically neutral to inspect these systems was about the smartest thing this fella could have done!

      Now there are more questions that need to be answered, such as what is in the memory that was found? Why do these things need to be network aware at ALL times? Just to start. The reliability of these systems coupled with the fact that many Americans, myself included, are not happy that how they function and what they are actually doing is being kept a secret.

      There should be no secrets when it comes to voting for our leaders, other than who you voted for. In other words, your identity and affiliation / who you voted for should be private. BUT everything else should be above board and in the open to public scrutiny. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
  • I live in Emery County

    This is a case where the machines are mandated by State law. If the clerk is worried, he should go to the state and have them investigate. Who would tamper with the results of a local election in a county where the whole population is 10,500?

    I think that the conniptions our county clerk is having over these voting machines suggest that he's either paranoid or he's got some other reason to not want to give up his control over the vote counting.

    I know him and I don't trust him. He wants control, not security, in the voting system.
    FlatAffect
    • I KNOW BRUCE FUNK

      In regard to your messege i live in Emery County as well and I know Bruce Funk, He is my dad. I see the troubles that he is going throw. Not to long ago I asked my dad why and is it worth it going throw all this, and he said "When there is something out there that u believe in and you know it's right you have to be willing to stand up no matter what, cause if you dont your the one that has to deal with it the rest of your life." And thats just it, my dad has turned to the State sending letters to meet with him but he is getting no response or support, You would think the state would be willing to check out the machines after all the problems they have had with them in Florida and Cali. Bruce Funk isnt in it for the control, he is doing it because thats his duty and thats what the people of Emery County elected him to do. I know him and trust him and all he wants is security, how can u have security in diebolds voting system when u find flaws in it? He is just doing whats right
      eric_funk
    • I Am Bruce Funk I've been here a lot longer

      I have watched this election situation for well over a year now. Diebold last year hired 5 of Utah's top lobbyists in 2005. And do you think they were paid to just sit around? The other vendor ES&S did not hire lobbyists. I was at the South Town Mall for a mock election it was advertised statewide. Both vendors had 3 touch screens each. Both vendors had to replace 1 each, which as I see it is about 20% failure rate. California had about the same failure rate. This was no big election like a Presidential Election where you have a lot of candidates. And you wouldn't be worried? I take very seriously the responsibility of elections for Emery County. Emery County was the first in Utah to go to optically scanned ballots and it provides that essential mark made by the voter. In the state plan Emery County was to have the option to stay with what we had or go with State. If we kept the optical ballot the State would still give us the money for HAVA equipment. It went from that understanding to the Lt.Gov. forcing all to go Diebold. Diebold used this as a marketing tool in other states that Utah was all Diebold. When the commission chose Diebold I committed to give it my best. There is a whole story on how I stumbled on to the backup storage problem one having 4 MB total. Eight machines had this problem. Well now Diebold says that it is because of fonts (various languages!) they had loaded on them software for California. You remember California rejected those early Diebolds. They have admitted last week in public meeting to my questioning that some came from their California warehouse and also that we have three versions "A" "B"&"C" touchscreens. This thing continues to raise additional questions. The Utah Attorney General needs to do sonething because these were to be unused/new. And you want me to just sit with my mouth shut? What I now know scares me, I watched these two experts examine the machines and what will come out in the report could effect the whole State of Utah and other states across this great land. No I don't think this has a great impact on Emery County because of our size and now knowing that I know I can put proper securiety in place.
      Thank's to all who have sent me e-mails. I care & you care, if we should stop careing then what?
      I will take your questions.....Thanks Bruce
      BruceFunk
      • Thank you Bruce

        for all you've done and are doing for Emery County voters.

        How did you happen to notice those dots? Were they obvious?

        That mock election sounds amazing. If each company had 1 machine out of 3 fail, that would be a 33% error rate, wouldn't it? Pretty terrible. Imagine if 1 in 3 cars (or computers or anything else we bought) was a lemon. . . We would never accept it and there would be an immediate product recall. Did your local media report on those poor results?

        Your Commission should give you a big fat raise and they should sue the pants off Diebold.
        Catherine Ansbro