Sunday, August 24, 2008

Premier (Diebold) admits what everyone already knew

The Washington Post article "Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error That Dropped Votes" notes that Premier Elections Solutions (formerly Diebold) finally admits that they have some problems.  Premier has already started downplaying the significance of losing votes- but this is still a big step forward for them to admit anything. From the story:

"A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges."

Hmm, is that a problem? Still, it is progress, because:

"As recently as May, Premier said the problem was not of its making but stemmed from anti-virus software that Ohio had installed on its machines."

Which led to this xkcd comic on that topic.  One of the heroes in this story is Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, she sought out expert help on the issue and listened to what she was told. (Shmoocon has been an outstanding source of info on this topic, including this year's presentation by the Penn State team consulting with Brunner).  But at least we've gotten this out of Premier:

""We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error," Premier President Dave Byrd wrote Tuesday in a letter that was hand-delivered to Brunner."

Great! They've admitted there's a problem, and the jurisdictions using these systems have a couple of months to test and deploy patches to fix the problem before the upcoming presidential election. Right? C'mon, tell me I'm right. No, huh?

"Unlike other software, the problem acknowledged by Premier cannot be fixed by sending out a coding fix to its customers because of federal rules for certifying election systems, Rigall [Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions] said. Changes to systems must go through the Election Assistance Commission, he said, and take two years on average for certification and approval -- and that is apart from whatever approvals and reviews would be needed by each elections board throughout the country."

I guess I kinda get that. But, wait a minute! Isn't this the same rubber-stamp process that certified the crappy systems in the first place, missing multitudes of problems?  So much for my fleeting moment of hopeful naivete.