'Hacking Democracy' | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, November 4, 2006

'Hacking Democracy'

Posted By on Sat, Nov 4, 2006 at 8:26 AM

Finally got around to watching the TiVo'ed version of the HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy." It's a chilling, 90-minute look at election fraud nationwide linked to electronic voting devices, especially those made by Diebold, but also including the ESS machines used in Arkansas.

The central point is how jaw-droppingly EASY it is to jigger the software to affect the vote totals that election officials certify. Surprisingly, the machines that the documentary homes in on are not the touch-screen devices (although those get their share of attention for recording votes for candidates other than the ones the voters intended to vote for). No, the optical-scanner machines like the ones we used to use (and that are still available at some polling places in Arkansas) get the most attention.

An election official in Tallahassee, Fla., allows the watchdog group to use his optical-scan machines to try to prove to him they can jigger the outcome of a test vote. They use a test ballot in which the choice is "Yes," I believe a voting machine can be hacked, or "No," I do not believe a voting machine can be hacked. The vote (shown on camera) is 2 "Yes" and 6 "No." Using tabulation software that has been hacked (without a trace, by the way) by a Finnish computer expert, the machine tabulates the vote as 7 "Yes" and 1 "No."

The most poignant moment in the show comes when one member of the watchdog group, rather than being elated that they'd proved their point, bursts into tears over the implications of what they've proved.

The show is available on HBO On Demand if you missed it the first time around.

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