No, you're not supposed to open the printer

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The Times Magazine has a mondo article about electronic voting. I haven't had time to write up a full comment on it, but check this out:
Still, the events of Election Day 2007 showed just how ingrained the problems with the touch-screens were. The printed paper trails caused serious headaches all day long: at one polling place, printers on most of the machines weren't functioning the night before the polls opened. Fortunately, one of the Election Day technicians was James Diener, a gray-haired former computer-and-mechanical engineer who opened up the printers, discovered that metal parts were bent out of shape and managed to repair them. The problem, he declared cheerfully, was that the printers were simply "cheap quality" (a complaint I heard from many election critics). "I'm an old computer nerd," Diener said. "I can do anything with computers. Nothing's wrong with computers. But this is the worst way to run an election."

Here's the thing: those printers (called voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs)), are supposed to be tamper sealed, so that they provide a record of how people voted. You're not generally supposed to be opening them up and screwing with them.


That was on a TSx in Cuyahoga Co... the TSx printer is different from that of Hart or Sequoia or ES&S in that it can be opened and tinkered with without disturbing the security seal on the VVPAT paper canister.

Joe: good to know. But I think that allowing someone to modify the printer mechanism itself is a security risk regardless of where we draw the boundary around the paper tape. For example, he could replace the firmware on the printer or enable the printer motor to run backwards.

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