County says electronic voting machines can be hacked


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Tests on an optical-scan voting system used around the country showed it is vulnerable to hacking that can change the outcome of races without leaving evidence of fraud, a county election supervisor said.


The voting system maker, Diebold Inc., sent a letter in response that questioned the test results and said the test was "a very foolish and irresponsible act" that may violated licensing agreements.


Company spokesman David Bear did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday. Diebold's letter was written by its senior lawyer, Michael Lindroos, and sent to the state of Florida, Leon County and the county election supervisor, Ion Sancho.


Optical-scan machines use paper ballots where voters fill in bubbles to mark their candidates. The ballots are then fed into scanners that record the selections.


In one of the tests conducted for Sancho and the non-profit election-monitoring group, the researchers were able to get into the system easily, make the loser the winner and leave without a trace, said Herbert Thompson, who conducted the test.


He also said the machine that tabulates the overall count asked for a user name and password, but didn't require it.


In the other test, the researcher who had hacked into the voting machine's memory card was able to hide votes, make losers out of winners and leave no trace of the changes, said BlackBox founder Bev Harris. The memory card records the votes of one machine, then is taken to a central location where results are totaled.


Sancho criticized the Florida Secretary of State's Office, which approves the voting systems used in the state, for not catching the alleged problems.


A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office said any faults Sancho found were between him and Diebold.


"If Ion Sancho has security concerns with his system, he needs to discuss them with Diebold," spokeswoman Jenny Nash said.


The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Sancho scraped Leon's Diebold machines this week for a voting system from another manufacturer.


Many Florida counties switched to computer-based elections systems after the 2000 presidential election, when the cardboard punchcard ballots then in use were plagued by incomplete and multiple punches.

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