"We don't trust voting machines"

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maquinas-electorales-de-votacion(Now, to keep the conversation on our electoral system going, a guest post from friend-of-the-blog Sasha Ojeda and IT Specialist Sander Plas. Both of them are based in Amsterdam. Enjoy!)

When we read Juan’s article about the (im)possibility of monitoring the voting process in real time and the many doubts surrounding the subject, we started talking about a similar public discussion that took place in the Netherlands about voting computers and their inherent problems a few years ago. The discussion ended in favor of the manual vote, and the Dutch government subsequently banned the use of voting computers.

Elections in Venezuela have been a major topic for bloggers and news outlets worldwide. The whole process always led to heated debates about the democratic credentials (what?) of the government, corruption and fraud. From the voting walking dead to people casting multiple votes to kicking out the opposition observers from the centros de votación, we’ve seen it all. We also always come back to the issue of the actual voting system. When it comes to the technical side of the story things usually stay pretty vague and discussions start sounding real tin foily real fast. We then are left with a bunch of questions. Are the voting machines part of extensive electoral fraud? Do the voting machines send out information throughout the day? (Will privacy ever become an issue in Venezuela?!) It’s worth exploring…

Radiation

Most electrical appliances send out radio waves and magnetic radiation. Most of these “side effects” go unnoticed. We’re not talking about the kind of ‘intended’ radiation that mobile phones use to communicate, but about the kind of radiation that devices like televisions and computer keyboards emit as a side effect of their intended operation.

In many cases, if interpreted correctly, these side-band electronic-magnetic emissions reveal information about what the device is doing. This is also the case for voting machines. With the right receiver you can easily intercept the signals the machine emits up to a few hundred meters away. Testing done in the Netherlands successfully identified the leaking signals and demonstrated the possibility to interpret those signals. But are Venezuela’s Smartmatic machines just as vulnerable?

We decided to contact Rop Gonggrijp, spokesman for the Dutch activist organization “Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet” (Translates to: We don’t trust voting computers), to ask him about what he knows about the Venezuelan situation. Gonggrijp successfully campaigned against the use of voting computers in the Netherlands which led to a general ban in 2006. We asked him about the feasibility of intercepting signals from voting machines in general. Surprisingly he knew a lot about Venezuela and Smartmatic.

Leaks

When researching the leaky voting machines we stumbled upon a Dutch electoral council report about electronic voting. Gonggrijp had told us to look into the fact that the Belgian government had bought Smartmatic voting machines a few years back. From the appendix of that report:

“Smartmatic has provided a solution for the voting computers that will be used in Belgium. The devices will be certified according to NATO standards, reducing the reach of the compromising radiation to 20 meters. However, Smartmatic notes, that the costs double if we want to reduce the radiation distance by 50%. The protection against radiation is therefore a trade-off between costs and benefits.” (translated from Dutch)

This bit is part of the transcripts made during talks with different voting machine suppliers. Apparently it’s pretty much a given that these machines leak radiation, that can compromise a free and fair voting process. The machines leak electromagnetic radiation which means they can be tapped using Van Eck phreaking, compromising ballot secrecy. The Belgian government verified the NATO certification (there are three zone certifications: 8, 20 and 100 meters), that assumes a potential hacker can’t get within a 20 meters range from the voting machine and go unnoticed. The assumption doesn’t really hold up but the fact is tapping and processing the signals isn’t really a viable option for large scale operations.

Gonggrijp told us about the stories he’d heard about the intimidation of voters and polling station personnel, about the “mobilisation” of voters and the mystery surrounding the ownership of Smartmatic. “Don’t vote for the opposition, or else”, he says, and startlingly follows that with “considering the way Smartmatic machines work, it’s not inconceivable to imagine the government in fact knows who voted what”.

Sort of surprised, we obviously asked him to explain. We’ve both never been in Venezuela during elections (ones I was eligible to vote during, anyway) but I thought I had a pretty good idea of how the process plays out: once you enter the station your identity is verified by means of your cedula and your fingerprint, then the voting computer is accessed and you cast your vote which is verified with a printed copy, which is then deposited in the ballot box. It might be naïve but we always thought the two steps were carried out by two physically separated machines.

Think again.

Check out this promotional video starring Smartmatics Electoral Solutions V.P. Eduardo Correia and “the president of the voting machine”:

This video clearly shows that the same device (the remote session activator) that is used to verify a user’s identity, has a button that is used to unlock the actual voting machine. In other words, we know for sure that the two devices can and do communicate throughout the election day.

How do we know for sure that this connection can only be used to unlock the voting machine with the button on the remote session activator, and not to send back information about the votes it processes?  We don’t.

We know the remote session activators have some sort of “on line” connection to (at least) the CNE, because the MUD technicians say so, and because there is no other way to retrieve the personal details of voters from the central database, which is done to verify your fingerprint with your stored personal data.

How do we rule out the possibility that someone (Smartmatic, the government or a crazy hacker) could be using that connection to send other information back to the CNE or some other place during the day? We don’t.

Or that someone could be combining the data from the voting machine with the personal information on the remote session activator, effectively registering not only who voted but what aswell? We don’t.

Rop proposes to helm an international investigation on the workings of Venezuela’s electronic electoral process along with his voting machine-cracking buddies Alex Halderman and Harri Hursti. He jokingly suggested his unpopularity in the US (he was rumoured to be extradited to the US back in 2011 because of his involvement with Wikileaks) is probably considered a redeeming quality in Venezuela.

In all seriousness it all comes down to just that. Without thorough investigation of both the hardware and the software, we simply don’t know what the machines do and don’t communicate. And, even if we could get access to one of the machines, how do we know that the other machines, spread throughout the country, are identical?

We cannot prove that Venezuela’s electoral system is being tampered with, or that it’s physically possible for the machines to send information about the votes back to the remote session activator. This does not mean there is fraud, it means that there could be and that is bad enough. It should be enough reason to distrust the system and it is the reason many countries have chosen to stick to the good ol’ manual vote, and that others have gone as far as banning electronic voting all together. Manual voting (and counting) is a process that every citizen can understand and verify. The paper ballots are identical and thus anonymous, the booth shields you from prying eyes, the ballot box is padlocked and stays closed until the end of the day, leaving little room for (large scale) fraud.

Jimmy Carter made a big mistake endorsing the electoral process in Venezuela but no matter who praises it (or whether the machines have 1 or 100 BIOSes), the whole scheme of things looks like a miniature version of the Venezuelan government: no clear division of power, a complete lack of transparency and lots of propaganda about the one thing it does right: the paper ballots match the electronic votes.

1 COMMENT

  1. Juan ya me gusta por donde van los tiros!
    … en dos platos: basta que el sistema no sea confiable (para una gran parte de la base de electores) para que por definidcion no sea recomendable su uso.
    punto.

    • Para los chaburros enchufados de la cúpula podrida trillonarios, sus subordinados los choros violadores y asesinos, es confiable de a bolas, les ha dado la impunidad necesaria para descuartizar a Venezuela durante 16 años consecutivos y poder seguir presentando sus “credenciales democráticas”.

  2. Vamos a ver, muchachones:

    El fraude no importa.

    Lo que importa es la construcción de una mayoría sólida que crea en una historia distinta de la del gobierno.

    Discutir sobre el sistema electoral es como discutir acerca del sexo de los ángeles.

    La cuestión es esta: ningún gobierno puede mantenerse con el 80% de la gente en contra. Y menos robando una elección en la que nadie conoce ni sabe de gente votando por ellos.

    El regimen es una ficción que se mantiene porque la gente cree que no existen alternativas. Armar una narrativa que una a 8 de cada 10 venezolanos y Maduro estará haciendo maletas un mes después de las elecciones, Smartmatic o no.

    • El que la elección en sí sirva para desbancar el régimen es una falacia risible.

      Ahora, para lo que PUEDE servir es como un método de MOTIVACIÓN Y MOVILIZACIÓN de la base, para que sea posible que se dé luego la tan mentada “huída en el chupadólares”.

      La gente en este país no va a pararle a ninguna “narrativa” por muy lógica y cuerda que sea, mientras sigan teniendo la cabeza llena de la gangrena de antipolítica populista que sembraron los comunistas desde los 60s que infiltraron este país, según la cual “todo lo que venga de un partido es mierda, todo lo que no es chavismo es la 4ta y el que se atreva a hablarle golpeado al chavismo se merece que lo metan preso y lo maten sólo.”

  3. What this article says is correct.
    The whole automated infrastructure can –and most probably does– reveal in real time who has voted and whom they voted for, breaking the basic rules of secrecy and anonymity and handing unfair advantages to the government.

    And yes, just the mere fact that possibility exists, should be reason enough to ban the automated system.
    The problem is that it is not in the hands of the opposition to do so. They can protest and argue until their faces are blue and the government and the CNE will not budge one inch.
    Why would they give away their advantages?
    They will not.

    What people need to understand is that the plan of action can not be:
    1.- First clean up the voting system ===>
    …in order to … 2.- defeat the government.

    It is the other way around:
    1.- First defeat the government ====>
    …then you can… 2.- clean up the voting system (and do many other things)

    Even with a rigged system voting is a very important tool in the process of defeating the government. So people should vote.

    The article justifies very well why an automated system is not desirable but that is different to saying that the system can change votes or create votes out of thin air (unless there are not witnesses).

    • “They can protest and argue until their faces are blue and the government and the CNE will not budge one inch.”

      Because they aren’t protesting in the right way.

      No one will give a crap for a person who gathers in a plaza after a bailoterapia session.

      • It is just because they do not have the power to sway the government.
        The efforts should be aimed at swaying the people.

  4. Claro.

    And forget about “radiation”. These people are not even discussing that with the right passwords the CNE’s Intranet can easily be access, and that any apprentice programmer can infiltrate a simple malicious software code to play with the data. ANY computer expert will confirm that, as Christopher Bello, who actually had access to Chavez’s little Olivetti gambling machines (that’s what they are) and the CNE game.

    And we’re not even talking about the HUGE intimidation factor here, the threats and/or bribes that the Dutch don’t even know.. the poor, uneducated people in Vzla, with these “modern” systems feel completely insecure, vulnerable, even if the vote is secret, or secretly being watched, and tampered with.

    • They forgot to mention that the pusv has full access to the source code at any time because they have all the security passwords and keys, while the opposition, well…

  5. I am a software developer. I won’t go into Francisco Toro’s account about “I saw it in The Man of the Year” and it’s not possible to keep it as a secret.

    There is one simple thing we need to mention and that was mentioned already:

    THE INTIMIDATION FACTOR.

    Finger prints and the fact – and this is a fact – Chavistas know when people vote at almost real time. And that is enough to scare a lot of people. It would in any country and I don’t see why Venezuela should be special in that sense.

    That’s all.

    And yet I also agree with Francisco in the fact the only way forward is to empower witnesses.

    How do I know? Because I have been a witness in Tocuyito, one of the most dangerous areas of Venezuela, and I have lots of friends and relatives who have been many times witnesses in the critical areas of Southern Valencia, of Guacara, Los Guayos, etc.

    So: on one side I am completely against e voting and I know Smartmatic sucks (I am also Belgian and I know how badly their system has worked here), the company has dubious practices. On the other, I would ask people to go to vote until the government falls.

  6. Let me make sure I understand:

    We have no evidence that anyone in Venezuela is using any kind of exotic machine to pick up radiation from voting machines and read their inner workings from it. Nobody’s been seen holding such a device, no documents suggest this, no sign of the massive operativo that PSUV would need to hold to train tens of thousands of people to do this have been seen, nothing’s been leaked, nobody’s talked to the media, not even a stray tweet about it.

    Nothing.

    We know, however, that it is theoretically possible that such a thing could, in principle be done, and Dutch researchers have even managed it in some circumstances.

    And THIS is what we’re using as an evidenciary standard to make decisions about how to run elections? Really?

    Would we make decisions on any other sphere of life on the basis of evidence this thin?

    Let’s play!

    Nobody has ever seen anyone put cyanide in a CriCri. There is no evidence that this takes place. No documents suggest it, no sign of cyanide lacing of CriCris is alleged. However, it is theoretically possible that somebody *could* inject cyanide into a CriCri bar. Therefore, I think CriCris should be banned.

    • The Dutch and the Germans think so. Why? Because the key factor is intimidation, fear, as the German Supreme Court wrote.

      You are telling us the Germans and the Dutch are cowards to consider the possibility of fear as an argument
      and the Venezuelan population is impervious to this kind of fear, so it is not an argument.

      Tell them about the CriCri

    • So, your reasoning goes something like this: “The argument against electronic voting is analogous to my argument against CriCris. The latter is a clearly ludicrous argument, and it illustrates how ludicrous the former also is”.

      The problem is that your analogy is incomplete. I mean, imagine there is a guy who would poison you at the first opportunity if he could, and you know this for a fact. Would you eat a CriCri if this guy gave one to you?

      • If the guy who is out to get me has a long history of stabbing murders, a sharp, pointy knife in one hand and an amolador in the other, and no history of ever poisoning anyone…I know where my focus would be.

    • The article does mention the Van Eck Phreaking as a rather sophisticated possibility but then it shows that there is a simpler way: the finger print machines and the voting machines are connected. In that case it is not necessary to use an exotic radiation scheme, the cable is there.
      Is the software in the finger print machines audited?

      The point is transmitting a couple of bits in a covert way per each voter is extremely easy. So easy that you would wonder why wouldn’t they do it.

    • …It is also possible to extract voice information from the vibration of objects around people that are talking. So, theoretically, a conversation inside a room could be reconstructed just by studying the vibration pattern of a window. Does this mean that everybody should be silent on election day?

      I am much, much more concerned about the gross abuses that the CNE allows on election day, than on sophisticated electromagnetic tracking.

      I don’t like voting machines, but I think that at this stage, this type of convoluted technical implementation theories only harm us. We need to send the word that voting is worth it. These theories take us back to the 2005 abstention results, and the handing over the Parlament with silver lining to the chavista government. In the last 15 years, we have been beaten by abstention, over and over.

      • “… 2005 abstention results…”

        Whoa, chaburrismo really did a good job on burning that bullshit in people’s skulls.

        Learn your history, folks, in 2005, the so-called leaders told everybody to go home and listen salsa after a day where chaburrismo was proven to have only less than 12% of the votes.

    • When I read the part about pick up the radiation I remember the “puntos rojos” near voting places….

    • Thats a bit unchartiable. That was a side line explaining one of the ways things could be done… and then the article goes and says that it doesnt matter because, apart from complex and impractical, we already KNOW there is bidirectional communication and there is command and control capabilites, so moot point

      So, basically, your criticism is already adressed on the source.

  7. Reblogged this on The MasterBlog and commented:
    The money quote:

    “We cannot prove that Venezuela’s electoral system is being tampered with, or that it’s physically possible for the machines to send information about the votes back to the remote session activator. This does not mean there is fraud, it means that there could be and that is bad enough. It should be enough reason to distrust the system and it is the reason many countries have chosen to stick to the good ol’ manual vote…”

  8. Let’s apply Occam’s Razor here.

    It’s simple to infer voting patterns out of turnout patterns. Child’s play.

    If I know that in the last three election, Voting Center A voted 72%, 68% and 70% for chavismo, I’m reasonably safe in assuming that if 100 people vote there in the next election, chavismo will probably get about 70 votes.

    If I know that in the last three election, Voting Center B voted 37%, 40% and 43% for chavismo, I’m reasonably safe in assuming that if 100 people vote there in the next election, chavismo will probably get about 40 votes.

    To get a sense for how I’m doing on election, all I have to do is sit at the entrance to both Voting Centers and count the number of people going in.

    If, instead of 100 people going into Voting Center A we just have 50, and instead of 100 going into Voting Center B we have 130, it’s not hard to figure out we have a problem.

    You don’t need to posit a complicated conspiracy to say chavismo probably knew (more or less) how well it was doing on election day. Chavismo has an operativo that day to monitor turnout, just like the opposition does.

    • It doesn’t have to do with Occam’s razon nor with Guilette’s!
      The Germans and the Dutch government reject e-voting because of the fear it can create in people, even in their systems where there is rule of law.
      This is the fact you very conveniently ignore.

    • “Let’s apply Occam’s Razor here.”

      They tried in the crime topic, by excusing them saying that “because chavista regime cronies are stupid, they can’t fight criminals, thus, they are not using criminals AT ALL to control the population.”

      Stating that chaburros are stupid isn’t a valid argument (Or ISn’t even an argument) to excuse what they do, they’re doing it on purpose, criminals might be stupid for some stuff, but they’re not plain retarded as some people want to paint them.

    • Occam’s Razor does not apply in this circumstance. O.R. is an heuristic to find what is the most plausible explanation for something in that sense simpler tends to be better. But here we are talking about people trying to subvert a system, simpler or most plausible is just not good enough, you have to consider all that possibilities no matter how far fetched they may seem.

      In the world of computers weaknesses in security are discovered everyday. That is why there are constant updates of the operating system and programs. Many of those weaknesses have never been used but if the wrong person knew about it they would be a real threat.

  9. Also, this ->

    This video clearly shows that the same device (the remote session activator) that is used to verify a user’s identity, has a button that is used to unlock the actual voting machine. In other words, we know for sure that the two devices can and do communicate throughout the election day.

    is wrong in a subtle but important way.

    What the captahuella activates is not the voting machine. What it activates is the blue button that unlocks the machine.

    The order of activations is scrambled precisely so you can’t match a person to a vote. The opposition insisted on this and got it like four elections ago. It’s been audited to death.

    Of course, you can always add one more epicircle to the conspiracy theory if you’re so minded. But to what end? It’s easy enough to just post a guy at the door to the voting center, monitor turnout, and infer results from that. Both the government and the opposition do that.

    This cat has four legs, guys. Not five. Not 17. Not 22,394,582.

    • 1. You don’t need to correlate a finger print activation to a vote in order to forecast how any given election center breaks down in terms of votes.

      Past performance cross related with (pick your datasets) can give you decent results in real time without hacking anything. The rest of how “real time” reporting works has been written of here by folks who work elections, and do not bear repeating.

      2. For me the it’s not just that the choice comes down to how reliable/trustworthy/etc. a given method is, whether paper or digital, but also that the arbiter, the voter roll and the rest of it must be like Caesar’s wife.

      Our current version has more in common with Av. Libertador at 3 am.

      3. Seems to me that paper ballots work good enough, and there’s little need to use a system that is potentially vulnerable in ways that the average Joe can’t even fathom. Cheating with paper ballots can be defeated by training average Joes and Joleens to spot the attempts, no need to be a geek.

    • The article doesn’t actually state that the finger print scanner activates the voting machine.

      It says that the button that is used to unlock the machine is physically located in the same box as the equipment that does the fingerprint and cedula checking.

      Without looking inside that (black) box, we have no way to know for sure that there is absolutely no connection between the blue button and the rest of the device.

      What we’re trying to do here is project the criteria that many western countries use when evaluating their electoral systems, on the Venezuelan situation, in a pure technical way.

      You can call it conspiracy theories. My reply to that is that when it comes to voting secrecy, you SHOULD be paranoid.

      The Smartmatic system and similar systems replace the possibility for every single citizen and even for the official witnesses (unless they’re suddenly all computer experts) to verify what’s happening, with trust. Trust in the government, in the experts of the opposition, in their “audits”.

      As many people already pointed out, there is the intimidation factor. Just the fact that people don’t know for sure that their vote is secret, may cause them to alter their vote.

      This is an article about whether the voting machines should be trusted. It’s theoretical. It’s not about whether they are actually being abused, or about whether you should vote or not.

      I’m pretty sure that 98% of the articles on Caracas Chronicles are about the “realities” of the country. This one is not.

      It seems to me like you’re suggesting to just not share information because you feel it’s highly unlikely, but mostly out of fear people won’t vote because of it.

      What mostly strikes me is the fact that Venezuela should reach for the stars when it comes to oil but when it comes to democracy we can’t possibly even want to live up to first world standards…

      • I just think you’re failing to grasp the basic context: you’re not writing in a vacuum, you’re writing in the middle of a disinformation war.

        You’re writing in the context of a CNE determined to convince the opposition that it cannot be trusted, as an all-but-declared strategy to suppress opposition turnout.

        You’re writing days after CNE declared it wouldn’t hold Parlatino elections, virtually explicitly for the negative coverage it would receive in opposition circles.

        Let me be explicit: CNE HAS A CLEAR INTEREST IN GETTING PEOPLE LIKELY TO VOTE AGAINST PSUV NOT TO TRUST IT!

        At the same time, CNE needs to keep the international community and organisms like the Carter Center satisfied that its machines cannot change the outcome.

        Articles like this are the exact kinds of outcomes CNE strategy seeks to produce.

        This is a huge win for them.

        • I kind of thought the opposition already didn’t trust the CNE, seeing as they contested the freaking outcome, send their whole constituency to the streets to protest and as far as I know, we all agreed. It’s not like we all went “okay” when Capriles lost.

          I don’t get how we distrust everything Chavismo touches but it’s become forbidden to speak about this (technical) part of the process. I understand the importance of the voters voting, if that’s the exit strategy that’s been chosen, but that doesn’t keep me from being annoyed about the fact that we keep talking about crap like if it’s relevant that the device has 1 or 4 BIOSes. And that that shit needs to get sorted informationwise.

          I feel you’re also failing to graps the basic fact not everyone feels like a backstage manager for the Mud campaign. I’m realize now, I’m speaking to a politician and failed to see that the news blog is part of that campaign.

          For me I am writing in a vacuum seeing as the disinformation about the voting machines has become a discussion purely based on who said what. So hell, I thought an article summing up the actual possibilities, a relevant discussion that has taken place on the other side of the world and the shortcomings would rationalize the convo. And maybe refocus the concerns. Which you then twist into making some sort of politicized decision about how to/or to not startle the masses.

        • Since when did the criteria for posting an article become “how does it help or not help in the CNE’s information war?” Eso … a mí … plin.

  10. Step one:

    A fingerprint scanner gets your fingerprint, it can store the data in memory, even calculators do that.

    Step Two:

    You tell the machine for who you are voting for, it stores the data in memory, as ANY PROGRAM DOES.

    Step Three:

    Add the data from step one with step two’s data, and you get who voted for who.

    Step four:

    “Accidents might happen”, “He woke up in a gutter with a mouthful of flies”, or “He got fired from his job”

    Keep watching the colorful scales in the Hydra’s face, dude, you won’t see it when it lunges to eat you.

      • And who can prove that they are NOT connected? No one, because the CÑE won’t let anybody audit more than what they want audited and they’ll lie their asses off when asked about it (Which is like asking a choro if they steal, rape and kill).

        Good try, keep believing that the regime didn’t incorporate the fingerprint hunters to that end.

      • In order to associate person with vote, the two parts of the device do not need to communicate, the only requirement is that each part keep an ORDERED record:

        1) every cedula number or other personal identifier entered into the machine
        2) the ballot

        Ideally you would have a time stamp recorded with each event, but you can get by as long as the records are ordered sequentially as they are written to each components memory. To ensure that you are not making too many errors mapping names to votes you can identify known chavistas and use them to double-check the remainder of the map.

        But, my guess is that a) no personal information is permanently stored anywhere on the devices, and as FT mentioned above, the ballot data is somehow scrambled, that is, it is recorded to memory in a nonsequential randomized way, so that even if someone should independently record who is voting, for instance by taking a photo, they should not be able to connect the vote and the person.

        • your argument is based on buying the sell of it being scrambled/ randomized.
          This is something that is not demostrated.

          The level of opacity is such on what auditorias have been done and what results each had revealed (by oppo and regime) that it all adds to the mix of distrust.

          Yes i agree with Kiko that the master game is to disincentive oppo turnout and vote, while keeping to mobilized dependant/ blackmail chavista vote and back door shenanigans.

          I go back to the great post by Amieres above:

          What people need to understand is that the plan of action can not be:
          1.- First clean up the voting system ===>
          …in order to … 2.- defeat the government.

          It is the other way around:
          1.- First defeat the government ====>
          …then you can… 2.- clean up the voting system (and do many other things)

          Even with a rigged system voting is a very important tool in the process of defeating the government. So people should vote.

          Voting is tactical. needs to be done, but the whole discussion should centre in understanding that this regime is a criminal enterprise, not aligned wit the national best interests and bend on destroying the economy so they can rule over the impoverished masses (Cuba anyone?)

      • I think it is important to consider that they do not need to be connected.

        Create two log files, as most computers do. Each has a time stamp.

        Machine one (activator) has a base timestamp and two pieces of information: an ID number (cedula) and a second number, indicating activation timestamp. Net size for all data would likely be under 100 kb.

        Second machine (voting) records activation timestamp and vote in the form of ballot number. Net log size is under 100 kb as well.

        Take the two files, set the lower limit as the activation time stamp and the upper limit as the next activation timestamp and voila, you have your bound for identifying your voter.

        As a side gig, I get paid ridiculous sums to do a slightly more complicated version of this exact thing over multiple datasets all the time. It is stupidly simple but it appears really complex. Give me several .csv files with the above and it would take me about 10 minutes to combine, compile and sort.

  11. In the end the whole discussion is pointless. It is not in our power to decide whether the machines are going to be used or not. They are going to be used.

    In that sense it is important to know what is possible and what is not.
    1.- Can they do ballot stuffing in some centers?
    Only where there are no witnesses.

    2.- Can they change the tallies in several centers?
    Nope. No way. The audits prevent this possibility.

    3.- Can they monitor in real time the flow of voters?
    Definitely, whether using the voting machines/finger print machines or by simple manual count. Both the government and opposition do this.

    4.- Can they know in real time who has voted and who hasn’t?
    Most probably yes, through the finger print machines, not the voting machine.

    5.- Can they know who each person voted for?
    It is not impossible. Maybe they can, maybe not.

    6.- What could they do in case they were losing and they knew about it?
    They could ramp up the get-out-the-vote campaign, disrupt audits, intimidate witnesses and voters.

    7.- Would it be any different if we had manual voting instead?
    Only points 4 & 5 would be different.

      • “Last Word”: “1.Can they do ballot stuffing in some centers? Only where there are no (Opposition) witnesses”. Now I’ll have to look in my files where LL, in charge of Oppo witnessing, admitted publicly inadvertently that in the last Chavez Pres. Election the Oppo only had some 40-60% voting tables witnessed–and I was surprised/chagrined, because I had gone to bat for him on Blog boards that, if anyone could get the Oppo witnessing job well-done, he could. No, Rodrigo, there really ISN”T a Santa Claus, at least in Venezuela. The 6 million or so phony REP registered voters, some with names such as “Superman” and “xxx” are there for a reason, and not because the Regime believes in universal suffrage.

        • You do have to get that file because I am certain that the level of witness coverage was way higher.

          We were cheated by Chavez on the last election, just not election day, but in the 6 months prior.

          • We weren’t cheated in April of 2013?! Tell that to Henrique “Nicolás, te robaste la elección” Capriles.

          • I’ll tell the same thing to Capriles. He was cheated way before that.

            And any cheating on april 2013 was legitimated by his lack of understanding of the electoral system and the premature arguments and requests he presented.

          • Kepo, the problem isn’t the made-up names, it’s the 19mm 99% or so REP Electoral Registry of all 18/+ eligible voters/ID numbers, in Venezuela where voter registration is not compulsory, vs. other non-compulsory countries where said registration might be 65% or so, indicating there are some 6mm phony voters/ID numbers to play with and ballot-stuff..

    • Nicely put… I think the conversation we should be having is –

      8. What can we do to mitigate the effects of (6) ?

  12. If you are all going to argument about the possibility of correlating the vote to a person.
    You should focus on the possibility of communication over the internet, not over a button, nor impracticle to read electromagnetic fields.
    In other words, focus on the software not the hardware.

    BTW, Are you all trying to win the election or to bring more abstention?

    • “BTW, Are you all trying to win the election or to bring more abstention?”

      If the so-called leaders decide to send everybody home to listen salsa no choice would matter in that issue.

    • We on this Blog should be searchers of truth, not apologists for chicanery, no matter what the objective. If we can arrive at the truth, we have a better chance of avoiding the chicanery. Meanwhile, you say upfront: There will be ventajismo, there probably will be fraud, but all thinking Oppo voters should turn out en masse so that it will be difficult to subvert the vote (and, even if subverted, will set the stage for Regime change in the future a la 1957 Plebiscite–even the Military in the end likes to be on the side of large majorities, as in 1958).

  13. The biggest issue with accepting the hypothesis that the government knows in real time the voting patterns and can manipuIate the information in the voting machinesis that this requires a conspiracy of truly massive proportions. This in itself is an oxymoron, particularly in a place like Venezuela where people can’t help boasting about all kinds of shit after they have two drinks, or where people will sell information for a few lochas.

    Don’t get me wrong. Therre is fraud in the Venezuelan elections, but not through the machines. The fraud is indeed in stuff like the voto asistido, the intimidaiton of opposition voters and witnesses at the voting centers, and the grotesque misappopriation of the nation’s money for the government own’s partisan purposes, which goves it a huge advantage. This is not a scret. It is something that the government is intent in showing everyone to let them know that the opposition cannot possibly win.

    • I might add the 2009 electoral law, gerrymandering in legislative elections, and the gross bias in penalizing political parties during the race for elections. In summary, the “free and fair elections” mantra becomes “partly free and not fair elections” in Venezuela.

    • Because tampering with every other element of the system to keep the fraud in every election isn’t a massive conspiracy.

      Saying that “chavismo can’t make fraud because is too stupid” won’t solve anything, because that idea blocks any other attempt to solve the problem.

      • Conspiracy: a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.
        Secret, Grabriel, is the key word. As I said, the other stuff the government has done is not a secret. It is flaunted by the government itself. It is illegal. it is criminal. It is not a conspiracy.

          • A conspiracy doesn’t need to be “secret” to be considered as one, a conspiracy is considered as such when several persons join to commit a crime, which fits perfectly what’s been happening in Venezuela during the last 16 years:

            “In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future.[1] Criminal law in some countries or for some conspiracies may require that at least one overt act must also have been undertaken in furtherance of that agreement, to constitute an offense. There is no limit on the number participating in the conspiracy and, in most countries, no requirement that any steps have been taken to put the plan into effect (compare attempts which require proximity to the full offence). For the purposes of concurrence, the actus reus is a continuing one and parties may join the plot later and incur joint liability and conspiracy can be charged where the co-conspirators have been acquitted or cannot be traced. Finally, repentance by one or more parties does not affect liability but may reduce their sentence.” –Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_%28criminal%29

            So, stop trying to excuse chaburro “cúpula podrida” claiming that “they’re too stupid or too incompetent to do their job”, they’re doing what they do on purpose, they’re conspiring to keep power at any cost forever.

  14. Hello from the “Man in Catia” of the 2009 referendum election. (http://caracaschronicles.com/2009/02/15/our-man-in-catia-update-v-441-pm-psycho-mesa-president/). My own experience is that witnesses do matter; and I agree with Quico that if we had opposition witnesses in most of the voting centres that matter (i.e. not Chacao or Lagunita, but Catia, Petare and rural Venezuela) that this would make a difference on voting day.

    The problem is that for every person that has the conviction and commitment to spend their Election day in a dangerous place like Catia there are about 50 people who would rather spend their Election day at a parrilla talking to their friends about what “should” be done by the “opposition”.

    However, full disclosure: I left Venezuela not long after the 2009 referendum. I gave up, and I’m not proud of it.

      • It’s not just about having the witnesses there. Some of the witnesses in April were ordered to leave the center at gunpoint.

        • In those cases is where I ask, what can be done about it? A crowd of hundreds can be subdued at gunpoint, so “having witnesses everywhere” isn’t the magical formula to stop the fraud.

  15. I’m glad that there are so many Dutch experts on Smartmatic and voting machines, you guys will be very important when Smartmatic’s crimes finally reach The Hague.

  16. Why would you go to all the trouble of hacking when you can just use old fashioned exit polling to determine in real time where you need to beef up your voting/round up your absentees?

    • Because exit polls are the most unreliable poll to be, as no one’s gonna say they voted against the regime in a zone surrounded by armed choros.

  17. I remember seeing some poll numbers a while back that said that 48% thought the vote wasn’t secret. Out of those 48%, 95% didn’t care.

    On the fingerprint machine, there are two, at the entrance of the voting center (which has connection to CNE) and in front of the machine (which doesn’t). Just as an FYI.

    • If following on Rodrigos numbers only 2.4% of the total voters might be intimidated by the possibility that their votes might become known by the regime through the use of the fingerprint machines , the effect of having those machines is pretty near neglible . Lets not forget that in one of the last elections international observers where able to demonstrate that many of the machines in any event didnt work at all , so this is one area which should cause little concern to an oppo voter.

      • The focus group answers had two funny/interesting quotes:

        “I don’t know if the vote is secret, but I hope it isn’t, so they know I voted for el comandante! So they know I am loyal”

        “I don’t if is secret or not because no matter what I hate chavistas and I don’t care if they know, I would tell it to their face”

        • Concluding: in politically highly polarized societies vote secrecy isn’t perceived as all that important? Shocker.

  18. Interesting. The touch-screen voting machine second from the left in the picture is very familiar to me: it has been used throughout Chicago for the last several elections. However, there’s only one touch-screen machine at each polling place on election day; the majority of votes are cast using mark-sense paper ballots which are scanned after the polls closed. Early voting is all touch-screen, because a touch-screen can be switched on the fly for each voter’s ballot form. (With the elaborate tangle of Federal, state, and county constituencies, there are literally hundreds of variations.)

    When a voter is to use the touch-screen, a judge of election activates a token for the voter to insert in the machine. The voter puts it in and the machine then displays the voting screens; when the voter is done, the machine pops out the token.

    Before this, the voter and a judge complete an application for ballot, which uses an electronic voter list in a small tablet computer. The voter then asks for either a mark-sense ballot or a touch-screen token. That choice is not recorded. Thus there is no way to correlate individual voters with touch-screen votes, nor of course with paper ballots.

    In Venezuela – does each polling place have only one voting machine? Also, how is the machine enabled for each voter? In Chicago, as I noted, there is no physical connection between confirming the voter, and enabling the vote.

    • There are more than one voting machine in several centers in Venezuela, depending on the population of the zone, for voting, the person has her fingerprint scanned first through a reader as to “confirm that you are who you’re claiming to be and supossedly avoid voting twice” (Though the machine might fail or not read at all, so some people go and vote that way); then the voter goes to another point where she signs the “electoral copybook” where her namd and ID number are registered, again to “stop people from voting twice”; later, the voter goes to where the voting machine is located, the CNE volunteer (more or less equal to the “judge of election” you mentioned) activates the machine so you can cast your vote, where you press the option in the touch screen and the machine prints a receipt stating whou you did vote for, then you deposit said receipt in the ballot box.

      Here, the machine is connected to the print scanner and the other device used to activate it through cables.

  19. I think the problem is that you guys are all comparing voting in The Netherlands, where the government’s intentions are NOT to steal the elections and Vzla, where everyone knows the governments intentions are precisely the opposite. It is TO STEAL THE ELECTIONS, plain and simple. You can argue till you are blue about how unjust and unfair and corrupt… How in other parts of the world they conduct business with transparency but you forget IT IS VZLA!!! The rules of engagement changed, gov is a mafia that plays by their own rules!! nobody outside of Vzla can do anything about trying to bring decency and transparency to the process… Same as nobody outside of Syria can do anything about how unfair things are there or nobody outside of Africa can do anything about Boka Haram and nobody outside of…… Get the picture?
    It is up to the people of Vzla to take their country back…. don’t wait for help from the outside
    Change happens within…..

    • True, and as they say in Venezuela, “Quedense sentados”–i. e., don’t wait around standing–it could be a long wait.

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