Programmer alleges FL congressman commissioned vote altering code (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 14 Dec 2004

Programmer alleges FL congressman commissioned vote altering code

This story has been floating around for a few days now, but I've hesitated to write about it because it sounds potentially fishy and I was hoping some of the questions would get answered.

In a nutshell: Florida programmer Clint Curtis has filed documents with the FBI claiming that while he was working for Yang Enterprises, Tom Feeny (then a FL state representative and lobbyist for Yang, now a US Congressman) asked him to develop prototype software in order to rig the vote in Florida. (story in Wired) (story on Blue Lemur)

All rather suspicious, but there are lots of questionable aspects to the story. Why did Curtis wait so long to come clean? He claims that he assumed any such software would be easily detectable through source code inspection, and it was only after recently reading that voting software was proprietary that he had the shocking realization that perhaps there wasn't much source code review going on. It's hard to believe that a programmer who had worked on such a project would have been able to miss this point for so long.

Curtis has apparently also been to the FBI complaining about Yang's ethics before, on an unrelated charge. Details are skimpy about what that charge was, or what the resolution was, but until those details are available, one has to be slightly skeptical.

On Curtis' side, the fact that Yang nor Sweeney are willing to comment on the story suggests that there may be some truth to it. If his past allegations against Yang, or other aspects of the case, cast doubt on his claims, wouldn't they be pointing to that?

That the FBI is unwilling to comment is not surprising: investigation is ongoing, and I wouldn't expect any comment from investigators at this point.

It seems unlikely that Curtis' actual code was used, in any case. He had no access to the voting machine software, and simply wrote some scripts in Visual Basic as a proof of concept. But we'll likely never know for sure, since the public hasn't had access to the voting machines for quite some time and it would be quite easy for any such evidence to have been long since wiped from memory. (Though perhaps forensic analysis of the disks might reveal something?)

Still, it's an interesting story, and it'll be fun to see how it resolves.

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[ 14:20 Dec 14, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | ]

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