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Ohio Report Faults Montana Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
By League of Women Voters of Montana   
January 06, 2008

Ohio has just done Montana voters a huge favor.

Last summer, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner asked an independent review team of nationally accredited academic and corporate computer and election experts to test Ohio’s voting machines. Many are the same machines used in Montana to count our votes.

The results?

Released on December 14th, the $1.9 million EVEREST review found “critical security failures” in machines made by Election Systems and Software (ES&S).   Forty-four of Montana’s fifty-six counties use one or more ES&S machines. M100 precinct counters are used in twenty-three Montana counties, the 650 central counters in eleven and the AutoMARK in all.

Researchers found the M100 optical scanners are “susceptible to attacks at the polling location that could affect election integrity,” and “an unauthorized individual could delete records of votes by zeroing out the vote totals.” The 650 central counter was, “successfully tampered to alter elections data in erratic ways and with obvious, but unpredictable results.”  The AutoMARK’s sensitive inner machine was easily accessed by disassembling its cover.

A key finding of the review was that ES&S had “failed to adopt, implement and follow industry standard best practices in the development of the system.” Many of these weaknesses have been known for several years, yet continue to exist in ES&S systems.

The report recommended that ES&S adopt these best practices. “Applications themselves need to be hardened against known forms of attack, while the various other components should be configured to enforce the basic security rules of the best practices frameworks.”  Anti-virus software, firewalls, complex passwords, and malicious programming alerts also need to be added.

Montana law [MCA13-17-103(2)] requires that state approved voting systems , “… be based on commonly accepted industry standards for readily available technologies.” The EVEREST report reveals that ES&S machines used in Montana are not.

Montana’s Secretary of State Brad Johnson claims, “Montana’s counties and the Secretary of State’s office take a long list of measures to ensure the integrity of our voting systems,” but those measures, although critically important, are not sufficient as long as the machines themselves are vulnerable to malicious tampering by the public or insiders that could change election results.

Ohio’s EVEREST report has done Montana voters a huge favor.  We now know the security weakness of our vote counting machines, what to do about them, and without spending $1.9 million!

Montana voters deserve to know that the machines that count their votes have, at the least, met industry standards for accuracy and security.

The League calls on the Secretary of State to assure voters that their votes are secure and accurately counted by decertifying ES&S machines, then re-certifying them only if they meet the specific recommendations in the EVEREST report.
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