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Utah voting machines left unattended in lobby -- even after authorities were notified

Utah voting machines left unattended

Phil Windley saw an odd sight Tuesday in the lobby of the office building where he works in Lehi, Utah. He noticed nine voting machines loitering unattended on push carts.

Windley knew what they were and how sensitively they should have been handled and stored because he is a longtime IT professional, and for a few years was the chief information officer for former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt.

"I believe these are voting machines sitting in the lobby, unprotected & unwatchef," Windley tweeted to his 2,500-plus followers, obviously so disturbed at his discovery that his message had a typo. He took a photo, posted it to his blog, and added it to his tweet.

Wednesday morning he saw that the machines had yet to be stored in a locked facility. "Voting machines are....

... still in the lobby. Overnight," he tweeted.  Windley, an adjunct professor of computer science at BYU and chief technology officer at Kynetx, then took another photo, posted it on the Web, and called the clerk of Utah County, who seemed to shrug off any responsibility.

"We just drop them off," Windley said the clerk told him. "The building is in charge of locking them up." The CTO tweeted the reply and added a #fail hashtag to the message as a commentary.

Voting machines left "There are hundreds of locations that they go to, it's not unexpected that this would happen," Utah elections director Mark Thomas told the Daily Herald, reminiscing about the time two years ago when voting machines were left unattended at the Utah state Capitol for days after an election.

The paper speculates that the lobby in question would be used as a polling place on Tuesday.

Utah County chief deputy clerk-auditor Scott Hogensen told the Herald that as soon as he heard of the unsecured machines he made sure they were stored properly and ensured that they will be replaced before the elections on Tuesday.

Hogensen added that there was no possibility of foul play, however, because "the memory cards that have the election information on them are not in the machines," he told the paper. "Everything is all sealed up so that election judges will be able to tell if there was tampering."

Windley, who co-founded iMall with a partner in the late '90s and sold it to Excite for $450 million, isn't so sure the lack of memory cards make unattended voting machines incapable of being tampered. "I disagree with Hogensen," he told The Times via e-mail. "There are many ways the machines could be compromised without the memory cards.  Updating the firmware, for example or installing a card skimmer [that writes rather than reads]."

"This isn't a crime of opportunity, so hacking the machines in not something I'm worried about in this case," Windley added. "But if people knew that machine distribution is typically lax, they could target machines in transit."

-- Tony Pierce

Photos: Nine voting machines left unattended in an office lobby in Lehi, Utah.  Credit: Phil Windley, used with permission

Comments () | Archives (7)

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I live in Orange County and here the Registrar of Voters drop of the machines at the polling place a few days in advance. It has to be done that way so they will be there when needed. But there is another machine (called the JBC) which remains locked-up and secured until the morning of the election. The machines, dropped off earlier, cannot be used at all until the JBC is connected, turned on, and a code is entered. So there is no reason to worry about the machines.

I do not know about Utah, but I assume it is the same there.

These machines were being "fixed" by SEIU contract workers for Obama, and were waiting to be transported to Nevada, already pre-programmed to register all votes for Harry Reid.
This is not news, Democrats do it in every election, please move along. Messages to U.S. Atty Genl Eric Holder demanding an investigation were not answered. Holder was busy holding a training session for "New Black Panther" security guards at all polling places.

I'm sure the SEIU Democrat Progressives have all ready preset the machines to just vote Democrat, thats why no one is worried.

@jon: If the machines are unsupervised, there is no assurance that their integrity is intact. If $bad_guy has physical access to your voting machine, you don't know what he may have done to it. Additionally, unsupervised machines (at any time between preparation at the registrar's office and their return after the election) breaks the chain of custody. In the event of a contested result, all votes from that location could be challenged and possibly thrown out.

@byzantium: Not to interfere with your anti-Obama rant, but the internal sabotage you hint at wouldn't have to happen outside of government buildings. The auditor assures that these machines will be replaced, and that they won't be used this election, which is the right thing to do.

Silly Glenn Beck follower, Byzantium, there aren't any Democrats in Utah.

I thought christians were honest and do not cheet. With all the churches and religious folks in utah. Whom would want to game the system.

Hey Joemamabush, excuse me, few Christians only do cheating and are not honest. What about you? What is religion? Do you think all of you are honest and so do not cheat? Do not judge them generally.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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