I just finished watching the tail end of HBO’s documentary, Hacking Democracy. Having not watched the beginning of the program, I can’t comment on the entire program but what I can comment on is the end where they show, live on camera, a way to flip an election winner without compromising the total number of votes.
In the documentary, they took a random Diebold voting machine and had 8 people cast a ballot (written – they had to mark yes or no). The ballot asked a simple question, somewhere along the lines of “Do you think that this can be hacked?” 6 people marked that it could not be hacked and 2 people marked that it could be hacked.
The election official put in a card, that was previously hacked by a infosec guru to flip votes, and ran the ballots through. The first thing the machine does is to do a self test to make sure that it can do a zero vote count, which it does properly; 0 for yes and 0 for no.
The official then ran the ballots through and then a piece of paper that signifies the end of voting. The Diebold machine printed out the results. They were no less than astounding. According to the machine, 7 people voted that it could be hacked and 1 person voted that it could not be hacked. 8 total votes, yet completely false information.
The next step was to check the actual record on the card, so they took the card out and fed the information into the tabulating program GEMS. Same result. 7 said that it could be hacked and 1 said that it could not be hacked.
Of course, Diebold has called for HBO to pull the documentary and called and said that the information was inaccurate.
Look, I’ll be honest with all y’all. The documentary seems to have a left-leaning air about it and I don’t believe everything that I see on TV (hell I saw Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear. Ask me if I believe that one.) but this documentary should make everyone stop and think.
After watching the program, a few questions were left in my mind.
Should electronic voting machines be closed source or should it be open source? Closed source meaning that only the manufacturer knows how it works and open source meaning that the guts of the system would be available for all to see so that no one can try to pull a fast one. Of course “all to see” is a bit of a misnomer. Only technically minded people would be able to actually interpret and understand the source code and technical schematics of the hardware, but I’d feel more comfortable if hundreds of thousands of eyes were looking at something like this rather than trusting a company to do it.
Should candidates from any party be able to select which machines are used for any electronic voting or should the company be selected by an independent council?
Should candidates of any party be able to buy stock or support companies that make voting machines?