The Salt Lake Tribune


Diebold's reassurances are not enough

Machine politics

Tribune Editorial


The more they tell us not to worry, the more we should worry.


Experts are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the Diebold Elections Systems machines and the opening they reportedly present to any semi-skilled hacker with a little spare time and a charge account at Radio Shack.


Pennsylvania and California have ordered fixes. Wisconsin is having second thoughts. The Maryland Assembly voted to ban the machines, only to have their Senate kill the bill.


But in Utah, where we are spending $27 million to adopt the touch-screen voting system statewide, the only official to express any concern is now an ex-official. Those still running our elections, all the way up to Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, insist that none of us need worry our pretty little heads about it and the June 27 primaries should go off without a hitch.


Frankly, it would be a lot more comforting if our officials were eager to be seen as solving the problem instead of denying that there is one. Because, according to some very heavily credentialed experts, there is one.


Top tech-heads from Finland to Stanford have taken a look at the Diebold system, particularly the biopsy allowed recently by then-Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk, and pronounced the Diebold system stunningly vulnerable to sabotage. The picture they draw is of a system that has taken some pains to lock the front door while removing the back door altogether.


Even more disconcerting than the attacks on the Diebold operation has been the absurd defense mounted by the company itself. The corporate attitude is basically that the system is only vulnerable to people who are crooked.


That is like saying that you need not lock your doors, take your car keys or call your children in after dark unless you are paranoid enough to think that there are any would-be criminals out there.


Emery County's Funk, who resigned in a rage when no one would take his concerns seriously, is in court trying to withdraw his resignation and get back to his job of securing the democratic process. County commissioners, who hastily accepted that resignation and changed the locks on the door, are among those clinging desperately to Diebold's Panglossian reassurances.


We need more than Diebold's word for this. And we need it now.


Copyright 2006, The Salt Lake Tribune.