Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PAC-Man Ate My Ballot


by Noah

Homer Simpson Tries To Vote For Obama

I have been voting in New York City for 30 years. In those 30 years, we have always had the same mechanical voting machines. From the looks of them, my grandparents probably voted with them when they arrived in America in the 1920s.

They worked beautifully. You walked in to a booth, pulled a curtain closed and moved a 3 foot lever to the right. You then looked at all of the columns of names of those competing for the right to collect graft. Each party was given its own column. Next to each name was a little one-inch metal tab that you clicked into either the yes position or left alone. Once you made your selections, you moved the 3 foot lever back into its original position and all of the votes were registered with the machine’s mechanical tabulator. When I say mechanical, I mean just that. It was a marvelous system of gears and levers, harkening back to a simpler time. Forget computers: these babies didn’t even use electricity. No carbon footprint. No chads. No smudges. No fuss. No muss. No conspiracy theories. The machines didn’t lie and they couldn’t be hacked. As long as each machine total was counted and recorded, people could rest assured that the person they voted for was the person who got their vote.
It was beautiful. Sigh, that’s all over now. It had to go. Someone, somewhere in our government decided that New York would have to join the dark ages of the 21st century. Come our September Primary, we will be using Optical Scanner voting machines. Instead of one step in a booth, we will fill out pieces of paper with our selections and then take them to a machine that does who knows what with them, but leaves a paper trail. As VP Biden would say, Big Effin Deal! Forget about how many soldiers had to die for our right to vote. Now, it’s how many trees had to die, and, how much electricity had to be used? Maybe our Con Edison Electric Company is behind all of this. Someone probably even got a brand new car just to rubber-stamp all of this. Who knows? Believe it or don’t, but it could be worse. Remember Die Bold? Florida and its hanging chads? Ohio? Georgia?
It can get worse and it will. Some states already using a piece of computer crap, made by Sequoia, called the AVC-Edge DRE Voting Machine. I’m not sure what the corporate tools at Sequoia mean by “Edge” but I’m sure it isn’t good. After all, it stores votes on a… wait for it… Computer Memory! Isn’t that soooo cool? Wow! Digital Voting!
Back in 2008, this sucker was used in large parts of Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia. Virginia liked the machines so much that they’ve now banned it and you can buy one from them for only $100! Why would you want one, you say? Well, for one thing, you can hack them and use them to play video games. How’s that or security? Why the hell are we plagued with companies that make shit like this? Machines like this should go to countries where there’s only one useless pig of a two-bit dictator on the ballot. Then again, maybe that’s the long-range plan for here and maybe it’s why we are plagued with machines that the likes of Karl Rove and Darth Cheney can hack and play games on while altering election results from somewhere deep in the bowels of Fox News.
Here’s what you can do with Sequoia’s machine.

Well, here’s one thing you can do with Sequoia’s machine. You know, if the teabaggers had one ounce of brains, they’d see this for the disaster it can be, but I’m sure, like most Republicans, they will only see this as an Obamuslim Plot to take away their so freely exercised rights to make complete asses of themselves on a daily, no make that hourly, basis.
Step One: The AVC Edge has innards similar to PCs from 20 years ago. How’s that for a great start? The election software is stored on an internal flash memory card. You can buy ’em anywhere where newspapers, ciggies and $5.00 porn mags are sold. Wanna modify it? Just take it out and modify it on your PC. Then put it back in. OK. This does take a little time, but what’s time when you have an election to fix? You have to reformat the flash memory card. You have to know how to reconfigure using a config.sys file. It also takes a while to get the software to run without logical block addressing or a math coprocessor. Is this so easy a caveman can do it? I have to admit that I can’t do this but I work with a few people that assure me they can show me how. Gee, I never thought I was much of a computer wiz! If I can do this then, Houston, we’re screwed!
Two computer geeks, Alex Halderman from the University of Michigan, and Ari Feldman from Princeton decided to use their talents to reprogram an AVC-Edge to play Pac-Man. Just imagine Pac-Man eating up your votes. They chose Pac-Man as a way to demonstrate the fraud that is this machine because 2010 is the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. They point out that if you can get the machine to play Pac-Man, you can get it to do more nefarious things, which, of course, they do not endorse. This is what we get for not stomping the Die Bold people into nothingness. We let them get away with Ohio so Sequoia comes along and pushes the envelope. Tampering made easier.

Step Two: Forget it. You’ve already done what you need to do. You didn’t even have to mess with the tamper-evident seals. How cool is that? You can just use a damn screwdriver and open up the machine, thus going around the seals! Talk about security! They thought of everything at Sequoia! Genius! I bet the engineers at Sequoia have just discovered that you can park your ass on a Xerox machine and fax a lovely print of your butt, suitable for framing, to your old high school principle!
Feel my sincerity and mark my words; it’s only a matter of time before some 10 year old chooses the President Of The United States by using his Sony Game Thingie in the security of his own bedroom. Welcome to the world of 21st Century technology. Isn’t it grand?


I thought of also including, in my above post, the thought that computer voting will finish the job of making our elections a completely meaningless farce that the corporatocracy is already making them. But then, people might just stop trying and I wouldn't want that. People might stop contributing to and/or working for the few Alan Graysons of the world. When I think of the corporate corruption of so many aspects of our world, I think of shoveling shit against the tide. Are we all just a bunch of Don Quixotes? The thing that is scary is that, for some, the next step past being Don Quixote is being a terrorist or, at least, a total anarchist. Bad things happen when you take everything away from people, including jobs, education for the kids, and even food, to the point where people have nothing to lose. It's a chilling thought that while we, as a society, worry about muslims or mexicans, the biggest threats of violence may just come from what the republicans would call "normal Americans", not "outsiders". The spectre of more McVeighs is looming right in front of us while, being directed to look elsewhere, we refuse to see it.



At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Election Software said...

It's about the time we give some serious thinking over the technology used in these voting machines and security issues..That PAC man is funny though..


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