Diebold Voting System Sported ‘DELETE’ Button

Hat tip: RAW STORY
Wednesday March 4, 2009

Election observers already distrustful of the electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold will have more reason to be wary now.

“Following three months of investigation, California’s secretary of state has released a report examining why a voting system made by Premier Election Solutions (formerly known as Diebold Election Systems) lost about 200 ballots in Humboldt County during the November presidential election,” Kim Zetter reports for Wired.

Zetter continues, “But the most startling information in the state’s 13-page report (.pdf) is not about why the system lost votes, which Threat Level previously covered in detail, but that some versions of Diebold’s vote tabulation system, known as the Global Election Management System (GEMS), include a button that allows someone to delete audit logs from the system.”

As for the missing ballots, Wayne Hanson at govtech.com notes that the report indicates a “Deck Zero software error — which can delete the first group of optically scanned ballots under certain circumstances — caused 197 ballots to be inadvertently deleted from Humboldt County’s initial results in the November 4, 2008, General Election. The results were corrected when the error was discovered.”

At Brad Blog, John Gideon observes, “The report is amazing in that it reveals why our voting systems are failing. The issues with the GEMS software go much deeper than just the fact that the system may lose votes. The state also found readily apparent violations of the federal voting system standards. These violations seem to have been ignored by federal test labs, by the National Assoc. of State Election Directors (NASED), and their consultants who qualified the voting system for use, and by-passed CA Secretaries of State and their consultants.”

Wired’s Zetter notes, “The California report states that the ‘clear’ button, along with other problems with the auditing logs as well as the software flaw that caused the system to lose votes in Humboldt County (see below for more information on that flaw), should have been red flags to the testing laboratories that certified the system and should have been sufficient to ‘fail’ the system and prevent it from being used in any federal election.”

Excerpts from Wired report:

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Auditing logs are required under the federal voting system guidelines, which are used to test and qualify voting systems for use in elections. The logs record changes and other events that occur on voting systems to ensure the integrity of elections and help determine what occurred in a system when something goes wrong.

“Deleting a log is something that you would only do in de-commissioning a system you’re no longer using or perhaps in a testing scenario,” says Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten, who has studied voting systems extensively. “But in normal operation, the log should always be kept.”

Yet the Diebold system in Humboldt County, which uses version 1.18.19 of GEMS, has a button labeled “clear,” that “permits deletion of certain audit logs that contain – or should contain – records that would be essential to reconstruct operator actions during the vote tallying process,” according to the California report.

The button is positioned next to the “print” and “save as” buttons (see image above), making it easy for an election official to click on it by mistake and erase crucial logs.

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