Some worry about computer voting

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:57

Milford - Sixty new computerized voting machines will debut in Pike County’s general elections Tuesday. Some people, like Donald Minasian, of Dingman Township, are not happy. “I’m concerned my vote won’t count,” Minasian said in reference to the security of the machines. “It has been shown in study after study that these machines are susceptible to manipulation … it is just inexcusable.” Candace May, the director of Elections, however, asserts that the new voting machines “are very secure ... and have been very successful in the primary elections.” None of the candidates in next week’s elections expressed concern to the Courier. Mike Peifer, running for State Representative, said, “I just worry about it being fair and equitable for everyone. Some people have anxiety towards it, but they shouldn’t.” Lisa Baker, a candidate for Senator, concurred, saying the machines are secure and ready for use. Minasian pointed out the latest study from Princeton University which examined the same machine, the Diebold-TS AccuVote, and a similar system to that being used in Pike County. The experiment, available on the internet, demonstrates a scenario in which the machine gets hacked. The hacking takes less than one minute. A virus is loaded which quickly manipulates the tally. The study also showed how such a virus is undetectable and is able to self destruct at the end of the voting day, displaying what is appears as legitimate data. May was not aware of the study and said no entity, besides Diebold itself, has verified the security of the electronic voting machines in Pike County. Diebold released a statement saying, “By any standard - common sense or academic - the (Princeton) study is unrealistic and inaccurate.” Also in defense of the system, Commissioner Harry Forbes noted that the machines are not “daisy chained” together or connected to the internet, so a potential virus could not be spread from one infected machine to another. “There is no way you can get in,” he said firmly. Yet the Princeton experiment demonstrated how a hacker can gain access by loosening a few screws or by getting a copy of the key. Forbes conceded, “Anything can be beaten. Anything is possible.” Forbes reaffirmed the security of the voting machines by pointing out how the total number of votes cast and total number of people who voted will be compared with each other at the end of the day. There will be election officials watching the voters too, he said. Forbes continued, “We’re going to extreme levels, the machines will be triple checked on the day of elections.” These machines are not the ones the county had most desired. Due to issues with the vendor of the preferred machine, the Diebold systems were purchased instead. Forbes assured that security-wise, both machines are the same. As for Minasian, he is taking things into his own hands. Besides his efforts to address the issues with local and state government, he and others will conduct unofficial exit polling. This will occur at as many polling places as they can in order to ascertain for themselves if anything fraudulent occurred by comparing data. “Voting is what our democracy is based on. If we cannot trust that our vote has been counted properly, we have no legitimate government,” he concluded.