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California Election Used Flawed Voting Machines

In Tuesday's California vote for governor, one county cast their ballots on computerizedvoting machines that are easy to hack. Election officials want to avoid hanging chads, but the real problem is that a poll worker or an outsider could change the vote on these machines without being detected.

Kim Zetter writes in wired.com that Alameda County uses 4,000 touch-screen voting machines manufactured by Diebold. But last month, Maryland officials released a report saying the machines are "at high risk of compromise" due to security flaws in the software, allowing the votes to be changed as officials transmit them electronically.

But security in Alameda County is an even bigger problem. Officials left the voting machines at polling stations days before the election. The machines contain memory cards with ballots already loaded on them, which means that someone could alter the ballot file in such a way that voters would think they were voting for one candidate, while their votes actually went to another.

The memory card is behind a locked door on the side of the voting machine. But supervisors receive a key to the compartment the weekend before the election, giving them plenty of time to tamper. The same key fits every machine at a polling station.

Poll supervisors are selected with no background checks and are given keys to buildings where the machines are several days before the election. The machines are locked with only a bicycle lock. The lock combination is the same for every polling station in the county and is given to poll supervisors during their training.

Computer expert David Dill says the security lapses are "jaw-dropping?The Maryland study emphasizes page after page how essential physical security is to these machines. And yet people here are saying they're not worrying about it. We don't know everything there is to know about these machines and there are probably attacks to these machines that people haven't even thought of yet. It's very clear that there are serious problems here."

We may believe that Arnold won with his charisma and his Hummers, but let's hope someone in the future doesn't figure out how to buy votes.

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