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ES&S iVotronic Audit Log Bugs

A news article published May 13, 2004 tells about a "serious bug" found by Orlando Suarez in Miami-Dade's ES&S election equipment nearly a year earlier. ES&S had known about this serious bug for nearly a year and has not fixed it.

Breaking News!
More Bugs! ...and the bugs just keep on comin'
The audit log and the vote image report are unreliable. For example, the audit log failed to report machines at the precinct and reported "phantom" machines instead. It assigned votes from the missing machines to the "phantom." The vote image report failed to report machines AND failed to report votes. Suarez says:*

"In my humble opinion (and based on my over 30 years of experience in the information technology field)," Suarez wrote, "I believe that there is/are a serious 'bug' in the program(s) that generate these reports making these reports unusable for the purpose that we were considering (audit an election, recount an election and if necessary, use these reports to certify an election)."

If your county uses ES&S iVotronics voting machines, your county probably has these problems. Show Dr. Doug Jones' "workaround" to your county officials. Read on to see how these known bugs work.

Anatomy of a Bug ... or two

With the help of Miami-Dade County and Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer sciences professor who serves on the Iowa Board of Examiners for voting machines, ES&S discovered two interacting bugs that show up when the battery is low.

The first bug? two lines of source code were in the wrong order. Source code is the list of instructions for the computer to follow. Two lines in the wrong order may seem like a 'small' bug, but ... consider how important it is to give instructions in the correct order. For example:

1. Jump off the bridge.
2. Tie the bungi cord around your feet.

The second bug? the accumulation software misreads data from redundant memory.

We have to ask:
- How many other odd, undetected bugs are lurking in voting machine software?
- How many of them affect the results rather than the audit log?
- How many do the vendors already know about -- and aren't telling?
- How many are still undiscovered by the vendors?

Here's how the ES&S iVotronic bugs work:

The battery voltage is too low.

The battery might have run down, or it might have been defective in the first place.

A low-battery message is written to MEMORY1 inside the iVotronic.

This is normal. The iVotronic tracks all events, including "low-battery" events.

The software writes the "low-battery" message BEFORE it moves to a new, blank space in the memory.

So, the low-battery message overwrites the previous event message, causing the data to be garbled. Fortunately, this bug doesn't overwrite any vote records, just event log records.

The iVotronic tests the writing process. It reads back the data it just wrote to memory and finds that it is garbled. So it quits it doesn't write the "low-battery" message to MEMORY2 or MEMORY3.

This means the data in MEMORY2 and MEMORY3 remain uncorrupted ... and are different from MEMORY1.

At the end of the day, data from MEMORY2 is copied to the flash card for auditing.

The iVotronic checks MEMORY1 which is the normal place to copy the data from. When it discovers that MEMORY1 doesn't match MEMORY2, the iVotronic assumes MEMORY1 is bad, so it copies from MEMORY2.

The Unity accumulation software misreads the data from MEMORY2.

Configuration data is stored differently on the three memory chips, and the accumulation software is only set up to understand the way it's stored on MEMORY1, which is the normal source of its data.

So, when Unity reads the data copied from MEMORY2, it reads the serial number incorrectly. This can cause a variety of errors in summary reports, particularly if the "phantom" serial number matches the serial number of a real machine.

Tell your county officials: If your ES&S iVotronic comes up with a low power warning on the screen, immediately check the connection to the power brick, and if this does not correct the problem, lock the machine and put it out of service until a replacement power brick is obtained that, when tested, clears this warning message. Do not allow voters to cast votes on machines with low power warnings, as there is evidence that these machines will not always be able to reliably record data in their internal memory. Pay special attention to this issue during pre-election testing and at the time voting machines are powered up at the polling place on election morning. ~ Doug Jones


We believe in the security, the reliability and the accuracy
of the touch-screen systems that we have, the DREs.
~ Ken Carbullido, Senior VP ES&S

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