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Elections officials no longer in denial about "ballot-stuffing" attack risks

Reversing an unofficial policy of denial, the Florida Secretary of State's office has conducted an elections study that confirmed Tuesday what a maverick voting chief Ion Sancho discovered nearly two years ago: Insider computer hackers can change votes without a trace on Diebold optical-scan machines.

   The study by Florida State University found that, despite recent software fixes, an "adversary'' could use a pre-programmed computer card to swap one candidate's votes for another or create a "ballot-stuffing attack'' that multiplies votes for a candidate or issue.

     A Diebold spokesman, Mark Radke, said the company is confident it will upgrade the "minor'' software glitch by an Aug. 17 deadline the state has set. If it doesn't, Secretary of State Kurt Browning said his office will ban the use of Diebold machines in Florida, where 25 counties, including Monroe, use its fill-in-the-blank systems.