Well, it LOOKED secure

E-Voting Vendor’s Web Site Hacked
IDG News Service (03/20/08) Montalbano, Elizabeth; McMillan, Robert

Sequoia Voting Systems’ e-voting Web site has been hacked, stirring uproar from New Jersey officials that used the Ballot Blog in a February presidential primary. Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten reported the breach, following an inquiry from a state county clerks coalition to investigate the e-voting system. Evidence of the infiltration was apparent because the hacker had inserted a message with a cyber tag name. The system was temporarily suspended and users were redirected to a hosting-provider page, but Sequoia later brought the blog back online.

“My guess is that they took the site down temporarily while they were clearing out the stuff left behind by the intruder,” Felten says. The county clerks have asked New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram to probe Sequoia Voting Systems AVC Advantage e-voting machines, due to discrepancies in vote counts during the primary. Sequoia says different vote totals were due to poll worker mistakes and warned Felten against investigating it further.

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That last sentence is the scary one.

People, the only way to truly secure a computer is to unplug it from the internet.  With an issue as important as voting, we need a paper trail.  I don’t care if hand counting takes longer.   Correct, honest results are worth waiting for.

And we thought it was because the machines were rigged

  Apostrophes in Names Stir Lot o’ Trouble
Associated Press (02/21/08) Odriscoll, Sean

Despite their sophistication, computers are still often confused when an apostrophe appears in a name, which can cause problems for users when they to vote, schedule appointments, rent a car, book a flight, or take a college exam. In addition to names with apostrophes, names with hyphens and names with surnames such as “van” can also cause problems.

Permission Data’s Michael Rais says the problem is sloppy programming. “It’s standard shortsightedness,” he says. “Most programs set a rule for first name and last name. They don’t think of foreign-sounding names.” Rais says problems normally arise in two ways. First, online forms often have a filter that searches for unfamiliar terms that might be a mistake or a joke and might automatically block a last name with an apostrophe, hyphen, or space.

Second, if the computer system is sophisticated enough to accept unusual last names, the names must be stored in the database, where a hyphen or apostrophe can be mistaken for a piece of computer code, corrupting the system.

During the 2004 Michigan caucus, thousands of voters with names such as O’Connor, Al-Hussein, and Van Kemp did not have their votes counted. The technical problem is difficult to correct because computer systems have numerous ways of recognizing names. “It depends on the form filters and it depends on the database program,” Rais says.