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Re: University Researchers Challenge Bush Win In Florida
From: Paul Schmehl <pauls () utdallas edu>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 11:21:41 -0600

--On Wednesday, November 24, 2004 05:39:31 AM +0000 Jason Coombs <jasonc () science org> wrote:

In the case in point, even with the variables you mention, the entire
technical problem can be reduced to observing how the election officials
in various places have historically constructed ballots and influence
just those that can be influenced in just those states where it will
matter. The Republican party (my party) apparently has advantages over
others when it comes to influencing the technical details of the design
of voting machines. Diebold, for example.

The horse has already been packed up and shipped from the rendering plant, but I'll give this *one* more try. (One side note - the management of Diebold are mostly Democrats, not Republicans, not that *that* makes one iota of difference in the competence (or lack thereof) in designing electronic balloting equipment. Pointing to someone's party affiliation as proof of something is merely a distraction from the real issues.)

You are talking about an extremely complex and unlikely set of possibilities, *all* of which have to fall into place perfectly for this to happen. It might be fun as speculation, but the implementation would be nigh until impossible and would take some real genius to pull off.

It makes just about as much sense for every regional election office to
do their ballot construction differently as it does for everyone to
create their own home grown crypto.

And yet it's done all over America.  Imagine that.

Your point about differences in ballot construction is also a red herring
to begin with. If you think that there is the same degree of variability
with ballots in electronic voting machines as there is with legacy
ballots, then perhaps you are the one who does not know how the process
really works with the machines in question.

Why would you assume the ballots all have to be the same just because the same machines are being used to count them?

Given three candidates for President (and there are usually more than that) there are at least six different ways the ballot could be arranged *even* if the basic design was the same.

Furthermore, the methodology used by an electronic voting machine is independent of the ballot design, for all intents and purposes. For example, an optical reader merely senses the dark spots where a vote has been cast. *Which* candidate that represents is determined by the configuration, which is determined by the construction of the ballot. Having to fit within certain machine-driven parameters does not force the ballot design into one pattern. The votes could be on the left, in the center, on the right, staggered from left to right, staggered from right to left. The possibilities are great.

Yet you want to control *all* of that to "take advantage of statistical anomalies" in the equipment?

Do we have a mathematician on this list who can calculate the probabilities of this?

I would contend that it is infinitely more likely that the machines would be either deliberately tampered with or incompetently misconfigured, ending up in statistical anomalies then I would ever consider your scenario possible.

You really need to stop making things seem so complicated that the
difficulty of influencing their behavior or outcome couldn't possibly be

Jason, I'm not making anything complicated. I'm observing the complication that already exists - the complication that you apparently refuse to acknowledge.

Paul Schmehl (pauls () utdallas edu)
Adjunct Information Security Officer
The University of Texas at Dallas
AVIEN Founding Member

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