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Rocky Mountain News

Voting machine foes cite Net hacker threat

September 19, 2006
By Anne Imse

Some computerized voting machines approved by Colorado officials for November's election can be reprogrammed over the Internet, according to expert witnesses for the group trying to prevent their use.

The witness reports are among the documents filed for Wednesday's trial in the case, which claims the state failed to follow state law in certifying the machines. If Denver District Court Judge Lawrence Manzanares bars the now widely used equipment, Colorado could be left scrambling for a way to conduct a vote in seven weeks.

The four types of computer systems in question are manufactured by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Hart, and are used in some fashion by every county in the state, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. Citizens cast their votes electronically, using a touchscreen or other device.


Both of the expert witnesses presented by the plaintiffs in Colorado have doctorates in computer science and work as university professors. The state employee who certified the systems for use, John Gardner, has no academic training in computers.

Doug Jones of the University of Iowa said in his report that Diebold machines can be reprogrammed over the Internet, and that rules set by Secretary of State Gigi Dennis indirectly require all of the computerized voting machines to be connectedto a network.

Security rules should call for election equipment to be kept physically separated from any network, he wrote.

Colorado's testing process is "deeply flawed," Jones wrote, and specifically overlooked problems with Diebold and Sequoia machines that should have been addressed before they were sanctioned for use.

Dan Wallach, a Rice University professor, said the state failed to document its testing of the machines so the tests could be reproduced. ...

Both ES&S and Hart use a roll of thermal paper, ... and this thermal paper turns black and unreadable in heat, Wallach said.