RoundUp – Documented Failures & Real Risks

Update: Another recent story:

1. Brad interviews Gov. Don Siegelman, former political prisoner and now a free man:

Computers don’t steal elections – people steal them with computers:

people don’t want to believe that elections are stolen in this country. They don’t want to believe that we go to war under false premises. And they don’t want to believe that their Department of Justice is used as a political tool. But in fact, in this administration, one can argue that those things have indeed happened…

People who’ve looked at this election and have studied the figures — they’ve done regressive analysis of voting trends — say it’s a statistical impossibility. There was electronic voting manipulation in the 2002 governor’s race in Baldwin County.

Six minute <video and transcript>.

2. Florida shows why Machine Recounts are risky:

After initial denials by her office, our Connecticut Secretary of the State has reversed her earlier policy of paper recounts for close elections, we have strongly opposed this. Here is an example from Florida via Brad Friedman: <read>

16,632 Votes Reportedly ‘Unaccounted For’ in Palm Beach County Primary Election ‘Recount’
Just 18 Votes Separate Candidates in Circuit Judge Race Where Votes Are Said Lost in Re-tally on Sequoia Optical-Scan Voting Systems

The question remains as to how many votes were lost in other races on the same ballot which were not included in last night’s re-tally.

How about Connecticut vs Florida?…we are more at risk because Florida, unlike Connecticut, provides for hand recounts in some circumstances…

Florida state law disallows hand-counting of paper ballots which have already been counted by machine, other than in special circumstances. We’ll see if this ends up being one of those circumstances. Theoretically, a hand-count would determine the correct totals for the race, where the machine-count has misreported totals. [UPDATE: Palm Beach Post reports the machine recount was close enough to allow for a hand-count of over votes and undervotes. See more in the update at end of this article.][* preceding brackets in original]

3. New York Times demonstrates computer vulnerability and one way not to run elections like a business:

We have often compared voting computers to ATM’s. slot machines, gas meters, and electric meters. Now the news that store computers (Point of Sale Devices) are often compromised by insiders. Just the same type of attack via memory cards computer scientists have been warning about. <read>

Thanks to a software program called a zapper, even technologically illiterate restaurant and store owners can siphon cash from computer cash registers and cheat tax officials.

While zappers are most likely to be used by medium and small businesses, the take is anything but small change. A 12-store restaurant chain in Detroit used a zapper to skim more than $20 million over four years, federal prosecutors say.

Zappers — also known as automated sales suppression devices — are a new twist on an old fraud. “The technology is new and getting newer, but the concept is as old as having two sets of books,” said Verenda Smith of the Federation of Tax Administrators, the association of state tax administrators.

Zappers alter the electronic sales records in a cash register. To satisfy tax collectors, the tally of food orders, for example, must match the register’s final cash total. To hide the removal of cash from the till, a crooked business owner has to erase the record of food orders equal to the amount of cash taken; otherwise, the imbalance is obvious to any auditor…
While merchants, security experts and government agencies know of these devices, they exist in such a shadowy realm that it is difficult to assess how big the problem may be or how to address it.

“We can’t get our arms around how much this is in use,” Ms. Smith said. The Internal Revenue Service said it did not track the use of zappers.

Zappers are a worldwide phenomenon. They have been found in Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Australia, France and the Netherlands.

Could this possibly happen in Connecticut?

One of the first reported zapper cases in the United States was Stew Leonard’s dairy, whose owner was convicted in 1993 of skimming $17 million over 10 years. The theft was uncovered after Mr. Leonard tried to board a plane to St. Martin with an unreported $50,000.

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