Inside Tech



Don't trust vunerable Diebold voting machines, use absentee ballots


Andrew Kantor


When Jeffrey Dahmer was on trial for murder, at one point there was a discussion over whether he was insane at the time.


A DJ at the time made what I consider one of the funniest and most apropos observations I've ever heard. "The guy killed people," he said, "then drilled holes in their heads and poured antifreeze into them hoping to bring them back to life. What else would he have to do to be considered insane whistle Dixie while he was doing it?"


The same logic applies today to Diebold electronic voting machines.


What more do people need to hear or to see or to read to convince them Diebold voting machines simply can't be trusted? A burning bush?


After the past few years and specifically the past week, we have reached the point where it has become obvious that there is something seriously wrong with Diebold machines.


Let's look at the hard evidence.


Most recent and most damning was the paper and video released by researchers at Princeton in which they not only discussed how simple it was to hack a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine and get it to secretly and undetectably rig an election, they demonstrated it in a video.


Once again: Researchers at Princeton demonstrated conclusively that it takes less than five minutes to insert software into a Diebold AccuVote machine and rig an election.


And no, their demonstration doesn't apply only to the AccuVote-TS; that just happens to be the model they were able to get for testing. All Diebold machines are suspect.


But the Princeton paper isn't alone.


It's in the company of one from Johns Hopkins. In 2004 a paper on e-voting security from researchers there said, " We conclude that this voting system is unsuitable for use in a general election." [] (Incidentally, it was presented at the 2004 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. So this isn't lightweight stuff.)


And then there's evidence from Diebold itself, such as the leaked memos from some employees discussing, among other things, how easy it is to alter the database used to tabulate the votes. []


And let's not forget Diebold's 2002 Election Support Guide. I can't say I'm thrilled to see that they're told that, despite a variety of problems with the e-voting machines, we must always promote the consistency and accuracy of our voting systems." [,%20Private%20Interests]


It seems that integrity and honesty aren't terribly important at Diebold, yet we're letting them play an integral role in our government. Does this make sense? The company also makes automatic teller machines. If Diebold ATMs were shown to be as untrustworthy as their voting equipment, do you think banks would even consider using them?


Paranoids have enemies, too


Maybe it sounds like I'm being a conspiracy theorist. I'm not. I think Lee Harvey Oswald operated alone. I think TWA 800 was brought down by an electrical problem that detonated its center fuel tank. I think Islamic terrorists, not the U.S. government, orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.


And I think that Diebold voting machines are at best extremely vulnerable, and at worst already hacked.


The arguments against it are weak. We should trust Diebold (even though they won't allow their machines to be tested my independent experts). Politicians are too dumb to use that kind of technology to steal an election (as if they work alone out of a tiny offices, and don't have a huge staff at their disposal).


What more do people need to see?


We're not choosing the high-school prom king here. This is our democracy we're screwing around with. We send people to death row on flimsier and more circumstantial evidence than I've outlined here, and I'm only writing about the bigger and more recent events.


Replacing them is expensive that's one excuse for allowing them to be used. Which begs the question: How much are you willing to pay for secure, trustworthy elections? How much value do you place on them?


And as for election and elected officials who insist that there is no danger in using Diebold machines, here's an important question: What will it take to convince them that these machines are not safe?


And I mean that. There has to be some threshold of evidence that will cause them to de-certify these machines. What is it? Does the San Diego Chicken have to be elected governor before you admit there's something wrong?


Because if we've entered the realm of "Nothing will convince me that these machines pose a problem," then they don't deserve to be in office. Period.


If nothing else, a reasonable person can have a reasonable doubt about the integrity of Diebold voting machines. And that alone should compel election officials to dump them.


Seriously, what more would these machines have to do to prove they're dangerous, whistle Dixie while they miscount our votes?


Andrew Kantor is a technology writer, pundit, and know-it-all who covers technology for the Roanoke Times. He's also a former editor for PC Magazine and Internet World. Read more of his work at His column appears Fridays on


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