Most electronic voting isn't secure, CIA expert says
MARCH 24, 2009
"The CIA got interested in electronic systems a few years ago, Stigall said, after concluding that foreigners might try to hack U.S. election systems. He said he couldn't elaborate "in an open, unclassified forum," but that any concerns would be relayed to U.S. election officials.
Stigall, who's studied electronic systems in about three dozen countries, said that most countries' machines produced paper receipts that voters then dropped into boxes. However, even that doesn't prevent corruption, he said.
Turning to Venezuela, he said that Chavez controlled all of the country's voting equipment before he won a 2004 nationwide recall vote that had threatened to end his rule.
When Chavez won, Venezuelan mathematicians challenged results that showed him to be consistently strong in parts of the country where he had weak support. The mathematicians found "a very subtle algorithm" that appeared to adjust the vote in Chavez's favor, Stigall said.
Calls for a recount left Chavez facing a dilemma, because the voting machines produced paper ballots, Stigall said.
"How do you defeat the paper ballots the machines spit out?" Stigall asked. "Those numbers must agree, must they not, with the electronic voting-machine count? . . . In this case, he simply took a gamble."
Stigall said that Chavez agreed to allow 100 of 19,000 voting machines to be audited.
"It is my understanding that the computer software program that generated the random number list of voting machines that were being randomly audited, that program was provided by Chavez," Stigall said. "That's my understanding. It generated a list of computers that could be audited, and they audited those computers.
"You know. No pattern of fraud there."
A Venezuelan Embassy representative in Washington declined immediate comment.
The disclosure of Stigall's remarks comes amid recent hostile rhetoric between President Barack Obama and Chavez. On Sunday, Chavez was quoted as reacting hotly to Obama's assertion that he's been "exporting terrorism," referring to the new U.S. president as a "poor ignorant person."
Questions about Venezuela's voting equipment caused a stir in the United States long before Obama became president, because Smartmatic, a voting machine company that partnered with a firm hired by Chavez's government, owned U.S.-based Sequoia Voting Systems until 2007. Sequoia machines were in use in 16 states and the District of Columbia at the time.
Reacting to complaints that the arrangement was a national security concern, the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States launched an investigation. Smartmatic then announced in November 2007 that it had sold Sequoia to a group of investors led by Sequoia's U.S.-based management team, thus ending the inquiry.
In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Stigall said, hackers took resurrecting the dead to "a new art form" by adding the names of people who'd died in the 18th century to computerized voter-registration lists. Macedonia was accused of "voter genocide" because the names of so many Albanians living in the country were eradicated from the computerized lists, Stigall said…"