When I got home, I slapped the CD into my computer. On the CD was a single file, list.tar.bz. I opened it up, and saw a list of folders. Judging from the titles, they looked like mailinglist archives. Things like "bugtrack.w3archive". There was an index file which I popped open. I had to wait an extremely long time for the archive to extract. It was huge, just now I checked the size and discovered that it was 93 megabytes. And there were thousands and thousands of files in the file. I made myself some coffee and settled in for a long night.
The index file was not really any help, there were too many files to make sense of. I randomly opened a file. For the most part, it contained innocuous statements about the behavior of an electronic voting system. However, the sigline at the end of caught my attention: "If voting could really change things, it would be illegal." Well, that grabbed my interest.
Then, I scanned information on an error in the system, a municipality wrote in to ask about a bug. Apparently, the voting system recorded 800 votes, but only 500 hundred had actually been submitted. In the email, the representative of the county claimed that even so, they wouldn't be throwing out the election. The error wasn't signifigant enough. Another email from Virginia complained that the machine was incorrectly recording the votes; voters would select "No", and see their vote recorded as "Yes". Chicago lost 108 precincts of 403; the tech support operator narrowed it down to a faulty pin on a cable connector.
Those were just the tech support memos. But then I entered the archive marked "bugtrack.internal". A testing group discovered that a specific sequence of votes on the ballot would result in a program being run. According to the response, it was an intentional bug, a useful backdoor for testing purposes. A memo from a high ranking executive cautioned the press release team to handle a mistake where Georgia lost several of the memory cartridges that stored the votes. 10,000 votes were swallowed in the loss.
Another internal memo explained how to go into the back end database and alter values without authentication. Apparently, the engine for the database uses Microsoft's Access Database. I'm not a computer geek, but I've worked on those before, doing data entry. One day I needed to get at data secured by a manager. The guy in the neighboring cubicle came over and showed me how to get in simply by deleting a few files and replacing them. And according to the memo, the database wasn't even password secured.
I sat there, flipping through these memos, my jaw gaping. More and more, it was looking like these companies chose to leave gaping holes in their system. I found in the memo archive instructions for changing values remotely, always for "diagnostic purposes".
And so I sat there, in my apartment, staring at the computer screen, and wondering if voting was actually going to affect anything. Ever. It certainly didn't seem that way. Now I understood why my little cell was trying to get this information passed around.
I'd like to point everyone towards Black Box Voting. Most of what I've thrown in are points brought up on that site.