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Building a Better Voting Machine

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the better-mousetrap-not-included dept.

245

edmicman writes "Wired News has an interesting article about what would make the perfect voting machine: 'With election season upon us, Wired News spoke with two of the top computer scientists in the field, UC Berkeley's David Wagner and Princeton's Ed Felten, and came up with a wish list of features we would include in a voting machine, if we were asked to create one. These recommendations can't guarantee clean results on their own. Voting machines, no matter how secure, are no remedy for poor election procedures and ill-conceived election laws. So our system would include thorough auditing and verification capabilities and require faithful adherence to good election practices, as wells as topnotch usability and security features.'"

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Make it complicated please (3, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | about 8 years ago | (#16492897)

I'm serious. The more stupid and computer illiterate people you scare off, the better off we all will be.

Trollish but valid point (4, Insightful)

joggle (594025) | about 8 years ago | (#16494361)

I would just like to point out that while the parent post is trollish in nature, it is a sentiment similar to what nearly all (if not all) of the founding fathers believed. That being certain qualifications are needed in order to cast a ballot. Their fear was some rogue could convince less educated people to vote for him so that he could, in turn, pillage the government and/or be a tyrant. I'll grant it's a thorny issue, but the problem of attempting to intentionally limit people who vote is that inevitably some racial groups will be disenfranchised (as well as other categories of population, such as the elderly in this case). Also, some local officials will try to exacerbate the situation to their favor (as happened-- and is still happening--in the South).

Better for who? (-1, Flamebait)

RLiegh (247921) | about 8 years ago | (#16492907)

The republicans, the democrats, or the american public? I'm confused here, who is this supposed to benefit?

The Better Mousetrap (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 years ago | (#16492917)

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door*

* Subject to verification of safety by Underscribblers Laboratories; application, denial, re-application, re-denial, vetting by 12,256 paper shufflers, 52,469 rubber stampers, 245,193 red tape processors; re-re-application and final acceptance by the USPTO. Further said design must be the subject of scrutiny, in that it does not deprive any current american mousetrap assembly personnel or their employment in most favoured states, diminish compensation of executives, tip political balances one way or the other by being to simple or complex for the average lemming to operate, or threaten the United States Strategic Mousetrap Reserve. Further said design must be accepted by the US Mousetrap Think Tank and Allied Trade Council, 5870 G Street, Washington DC. Said mousetrap must be put forward in the US House of Representatives and Senate before proffering for acceptance by the head rat himself. Should said design be deemed without backdoor, defect or flaw**, please include next of kin to notify upon your mysterious disapperance.

** Particularly in Ohio where victory is already predicted by a mousetrap supplier who is a solid supporter of the head rat's party and has pledged to deliver as many votes for the head rat and his pals as possible. We can't have him looking bad now, can we?

Re:The Better Mousetrap (1)

devnulljapan (316200) | about 8 years ago | (#16494157)

You'r eall coming at this from the worong direction and presuming that anyone (anyone with a say in the matter anyways) is actually trying to build a system that's (a) reliable and (b) immune/highly resistant to fraud. Seems like the perfect solution those pushing for these systems would have only a single big red 'Vote Republican' button that automatically deposited a large sum of money in the bank accounts of each of the congresscritters responsible for getting the machines installed along with a sizeable sum into the coffers of the corporation that built it.
Sounds like the rest of the wrangling is to get as close to that goal as possible.

Random spot checks (4, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 8 years ago | (#16492923)

From TFA: "Random spot checks...This involves taking a random number of machines out of commission just before polls open on election morning to run a sample election on them to make sure the machines are recording and counting votes accurately.

Before the polls open? How about during the election? At random times during the day?
The poll workers should be required to have an extra one on hand just in case one breaks. It would be used to stand in for the one that was being checked. ( It could also be chosen for a random check. )

Re:Random spot checks (1)

vondo (303621) | about 8 years ago | (#16493001)

Yeah, voters are going to react really, really well to someone coming into the polling place, playing with the machine for 10 minutes, counting votes before and after and saying "Don't worry, I'll erase all this when I'm done.'

As a general comment on these "the sky is falling articles," it was very easy to rig the vote on a lot of the older technology as well.

Re:Random spot checks (1)

JimBobJoe (2758) | about 8 years ago | (#16493363)

The poll workers should be required to have an extra one on hand just in case one breaks. It would be used to stand in for the one that was being checked.

In my county (Franklin County, Ohio) that would be an extra 1200 machines at a cost of $5000 per machine. That seems like a lot for the purpose of random testing. (It also messes around with the process workflow of how machines are activated and turned off at the end of the day. At this point in time, only machine rovers (people who go from precinct to precinct and have the keys to open and fix the machines) can turn them on/off during the election.)

Re:Random spot checks (3, Insightful)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 8 years ago | (#16493515)

$5000 per machine? Why? A $100 PC in a $50 arcade cabinet with a $20 printer could do everything that a perfect voting machine needs to do, and thats thrown together from consumer parts. If someone isn't building this 'perfect' voting machine for under $200 then something is wrong.

Re:Random spot checks (1)

JimBobJoe (2758) | about 8 years ago | (#16493929)

A $100 PC in a $50 arcade cabinet with a $20 printer could do everything that a perfect voting machine needs to do

I couldn't agree with you more.

It's absurd that we should spend $5k on a machine that gets used only twice a year, and probably has maximum lifespan of 20 years, but more realistically 5-10 years.

Assuming 250 voters per machine per elections (which is very high) 2 elections per year at 10 years and you get a capital cost of $1/voter without depreciation. That might not sound so bad to you, but the human resource costs (poll workers, machine rovers, people to deliver, setup machines, etc) are enormous.

When you put it alltogether, the average cost for a voter to vote in person is somewhere between $7-$12/voter. If they did it by mail, that cost goes down to $3/voter.

Re:Random spot checks (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 8 years ago | (#16494319)

The cost of Freedom is high.

Prove the code mathematically correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16494303)

How about proving the code mathematically correct? It is expensive which is why it's only used in medical devices and other safety-critical systems. But certainly an election is important enough to merit a formal proof of correctness. The code isn't even all that complicated. The heart of the system just has to increment numbers and compute totals.

Open source & peer review (4, Insightful)

guyjr (180613) | about 8 years ago | (#16492941)

I think Wired is barking up the exact same, wrong, tree, that Diebold and every other manufacturer of voting machines is barking up - namely that they have all the answers.

The solution is very simple: require all electronic voting machines to be open source, and invite all software developers around the world to peer review the code. When that majoriy agrees that a system is secure, then it's ready for use.

Re:Open source & peer review (3, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | about 8 years ago | (#16493067)

require all electronic voting machines to be open source, and invite all software developers around the world to peer review the code. When that majoriy agrees that a system is secure, then it's ready for use.

... and when it's pronounced secure etc. - burn it to a ROM and disable any access to it which doesn't require at least a crowbar.

After the vote, have the machine print out the total.

Re:Open source & peer review (1)

shmlco (594907) | about 8 years ago | (#16493731)

Forget printouts. Punch the results into paper tape! That way you have a continuous, physical, inspectable, machine re-readable recording of the vote! And no more hanging chads!

Ummm.... wait....

Re:Open source & peer review (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 8 years ago | (#16493085)

Open source doesn't mean shit when any random bozo can reflash the system.

"For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong." -- H.L. Mencken

Re:Open source & peer review (2, Funny)

tonyr1988 (962108) | about 8 years ago | (#16493189)

When that majoriy agrees that a system is secure, then it's ready for use.
Exactly! That's where Diebold's machines come in. You can use them to determine when you've hit that majority!

Re:Open source & peer review (2, Insightful)

Mab_Mass (903149) | about 8 years ago | (#16493341)

If you actually read the article, you'll see that they propose something just as good - requiring the full source code to be made public, which allows /. type geeks to do a complete audit.

Essentially, though, the key requirements are simple to state: secure, transparent, auditable.

Anything that fails any one of these is unacceptable.

Re:Open source & peer review (4, Insightful)

Random Utinni (208410) | about 8 years ago | (#16493495)

I think Wired is barking up the exact same, wrong, tree, that Diebold and every other manufacturer of voting machines is barking up - namely that they have all the answers.

The solution is very simple...


Erm? Pot... meet kettle.

There is no simple solution to voter fraud. There always has been fraud, and there always will be. It's the nature of ingenuity. Hence the "build an idiot-proof machine, and the universe will build a better idiot". If someone wants to hack an electronic voting system, they will, open-sourced and peer-reviewed or not.

In my view, the goal is simply to minimize the impact of such efforts, and to make it as difficult as possible to do so, as cheaply as possible. Open source *might* be a good way to go... certainly better than the closed electronic systems Diebold and their ilk are currently pushing. However, it's still an electronic system, and electronic systems are prone to making small errors very quickly (or being hacked to introduce small biases, very quickly). I'd personally prefer to return to a simple paper and pen ballot... simply check the box of the person/proposition you're voting for. Put paper in box. Let people count ballots (with observers, if desired). It scales fairly well, is difficult to introduce large errors into, and can't be hacked remotely. If it takes a little longer to get election results, so be it... there's almost two months between election day and inauguration day.

Re:Open source & peer review (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 8 years ago | (#16493547)

In a rare, serious moment I must add this comment: The type of voting machine makes little difference as long as they keep (unlawfully and unethically) kicking citizens off the official registered voting lists.

And you know who [buzzflash.com] is doing this.....

Re:Open source & peer review (4, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | about 8 years ago | (#16493787)

Every time this comes up, I propose the same idea, but each time it gets a little more fleshed out.
0. The voter completes whatever identification/registration/whatever steps required before being allowed into the actual voting room where...

1. The voter receives a numbered (in an OCR friendly font, see below) blank ballot and is directed to the voting booth. The number indicates both the voting location and the sequence that the cards are issued. If ballots run out, voters are asked to wait while more are printed and delivered.
2. The voter inserts the ballot into the electronic voting machine until a green light comes on. Diagrams illustrate the right way to do this, a notch in one corner prevents the voter from continuing until he/she figures this step out. Red light if they fail to do it wrong (labelled "WRONG" for the colorblind, buzzer for the blind though they will probably have someone load the ballot for them) to prevent them from trying to jam it in harder.
3. The machine displays the ballot in the selected font size or reads the ballot to the blind user.
3a. Each race is displayed separately with the candidates below it in a column. (or "For" and "Against" for appropriate referendums, etc.)
3b. The user selects a candidate using up and down buttons, then presses the "Vote" button to select that.
3c. Their choice is now highlighted on the screen (and read to them).
3d. The user presses the "Next" button to move to the next race. Or presses the "Finished Voting" to indicate that they will will not vote in the remaining races. Loop to 3a until there are no more races or the user presses Finished Voting.
4. A list of races and the selected candidates appears, the user can move up or down and see each race (have it read to them) and if they wish to change their mind, they can press the "Vote" button to return to that race and change their vote (See 3). User presses "Finished Voting" again to indicate that they are done (5 second delay required to prevent accidentially bouncing the button).

Easy enough right? Now...
5. The ballot card is fed through the machine's printer and printed in rows, with each row containing one race. Columns are the name of the race, the selection for that race, and a pattern designed for optical recognition. Each option has a unique code consisting of the code for that race plus a code for the candidate (to prevent misaligned scans) as well as codes for "no vote" and "write-in".
6. Voter fills in any write-in positions.
7. Voter reads the ballot card, and if there is a mistake, the voter presents the ballot to the site overseers who
7a. Record the ballot number as destroyed and then
7b. Destroy the ballot and issue a new one. Go back to 2.
8. Voter places ballot in ballot box and goes home, proud to have done his civic duty.

Lather, rinse, repeat for thousands of voters. The numbered ballots tell us two things: 1) Are there any missing ballot boxes and 2) are there any extra ballot boxes.

8a. At the end of the day, the election observers record the lowest numbered unused ballot and destroy the remainder.
9. Ballot boxes are delivered to a counting station.
10. Ballots are dumped out, stacked up with the notches aligned, and each stack is counted in total
11. The counted stack is then fed through an optical sorter set to sort the possible options for the first race into bins, one bin per candidate, one bin for all write-ins, one bin for no-votes.
11a. Run each candidate's bin individually through the counting machine.
11ai. Election observers spot check stacks by flipping like a flipbook and watching to see if the optical pattern being counted changes.
11b. Count write-ins by hand
11c. Run the no-vote stack through the counting machine....
11d. and make sure the votes add up.
12. Report the total to the next higher up official.

Lather, rinse, repeat for all of the stacks.

Why is this superior? First off, let's look at the actual counting: The counting machine doesn't know what it's counting, so it's impossible for anyone to "hack" the final count by having it lie for a particular candidate. Also, quality counting machines can be had inexpensively.

Second, let's look at the actual voting machine. The voting machines no longer store any record of the election, and the only thing they do is display and print the ballot. Certification requirements should be greatly reduced, allowing the actual units to cost less, and for plenty of spares to remain on hand. Even if one were to burst into flame or pried apart and reprogrammed, no votes will be lost. If evil haxx0rs change all the votes to USDROOLZ ALQAEDARULZ, someone will catch it, point it out to the election staff, and the machine will be removed from service and replaced, and the voter will try again. Finally, a straight-path paper feed will greatly reduce paperjams and allow those that do happen to simply be pulled back out.

Finally the sorter. The sorter is the weakest point in the system, both in terms of mechanical requirements and in terms of vulnerability. The sorter will require as many bins as the maximum number of choices on a ballot+2, if not, it can still be used as long as you can set it to sort out A, B, C, and everyone else, then run the everyone else stack as D, E, no-vote, write-in (to use a 4 bin sorter for 5 candidates). You may want to add an extra bin for "can't read it" ballots and run those again or count those by hand with the write-ins. You'll probably also have a number of jams, but with stiff enough ballot stock the ballots should not be damaged by this. To prevent evil haxx0rs (or operator error) from sorting everyone into the BINLADEN stack, you have the election observers flip through selected stacks like a flipbook. If the pattern dances back and forth, something is wrong (are you looking at the correct line? is the sorter looking at the correct line?). Fortunately there will be far fewer sorting machines needed than voting machines.

This system provides as much guarantee as possible as to the accuracy of an election. The remainder is up to the voters and observers to pay attention. You can trade some of that guarantee for a faster and cheaper count by using an optical counter that can count all of the races in a single pass, then sorting out the losing write-ins by hand, rather than having a more expensive sorting machine and a separate counting machine, but you no longer have a step where someone can observe whether the votes are being counted correctly.

The recount: Should a recount be done, the fastest way would be to scan every ballot (buy a nice highspeed scanner) perform OCR on the ballot numbers (at this point, compare to the list of ballots that were actually used and the list of destroyed ballots, and remove invalid ballots) then sorted by the computer with the computers' selections reviewed individually by officials who are shown only the row for the race being recounted. Or recount by hand, instead of trusting a scanning application written by Taliban, Inc.

Bonus points: Issue ballots in randomized increasing blocks (ie, the person handing them out would unwrap a package of ballots numbered 1-100 in random order, when its gone, they would unwrap a package of ballots numbered 101-200) to prevent people from figuring out the ballot number of the person ahead or behind of them. Remainder of the open package would be individually voided (see 7a) then the remainder marked as unused.

Re:Open source & peer review (2, Interesting)

izzo nizzo (731042) | about 8 years ago | (#16494119)

VoteHere is open source. I believe that it is a secure system even though I haven't analyzed the code personally. Further, its design and implementation adhere very well to the 'trust no one' concept that is one advantage of open source (the crucial one in this context).

With this software, which I think will run on most or all of the machines that have already been purchased by all states, each vote is encoded, encrypted, and published (online) with each step of the process mirrored in an auditable backup channel. Voters don't need to trust local authorities' honesty and capability because they can check for themselves whether their vote was counted via their encrypted receipt. But no one can determine the content of specific votes unless they gather all the decryption keys to themselves. VoteHere [votehere.com]

I'd like to make a suggestion... (-1, Troll)

Mad_Rain (674268) | about 8 years ago | (#16492953)

How about delayed electroshock feedback as a result of your votes? Maybe the people who repeatedly vote for dumb candidates would eventually get the idea. ;)

Re:I'd like to make a suggestion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493463)


How about delayed electroshock feedback as a result of your votes

They already have that for some people here [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I'd like to make a suggestion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493477)

I agree. An electric shock for any vote to a Republican or Democrat would be a good idea.

Don't build anything (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16492971)

Paper and pencil. Mark your choices, put it in a cardboard box. It's the perfect solution and scales wonderfully.

Many countries already use this advanced technique.

Re:Don't build anything (4, Insightful)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | about 8 years ago | (#16493147)

Other famous democratic countries do use pencil and paper. Canada, one of Americas greatest neighbours to the north uses the birchbark and pinecone voting system... just pulling your leg. They, like Australians, use pencil and paper. We have about 70% voter turnout in Canada, with a voting population in the range of at least 10 million people. It takes us less than 2 hours after a poll closes to give nearly complete and meaningful results to the public.

Telephoning the result to a central station is the extent of electrified voting in Canada. Everything else is on paper, for easy double checking if there's a court challenge. To have a system without paper that the voter marked, is an invitation for fraud.

Re:Don't build anything (2, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#16493347)

paper ballots can still be spoilt.

Reading this [bbc.co.uk] from the bbc:

Londoners had to register four votes altogether, a first and second choice for mayor, a vote for a London Assembly candidate and one for an Assembly party. While 2.9% of papers for the mayoral ballot were rejected, the London Assembly paper proved even more difficult.

Over a hundred thousand people, 6.7% of the electorate, failed to correctly fill out the section choosing a constituency member, while 2.53% did not correctly register a London-wide party choice.


Now that was only 2 years ago, but I think all interfaces suffer when dealing with multiple answers or pieces of information.
A simple A B or C ballot works on paper really well, but you have to think VERY carefully about how you layout a complex set of questions.

Re:Don't build anything (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493529)

Canada, one of Americas greatest neighbours to the north...

Canada does lead the world in being just north of the United States.

Re:Don't build anything (1)

JimBobJoe (2758) | about 8 years ago | (#16493589)

Other famous democratic countries do use pencil and paper.

To be fair, a Canadian Federal election basically has one choice for voters to make--their MP. So do other Parliamentary systems.

In 2004, here in Ohio, I had 54 different race and issue choices. I have my mail-in ballot in front of me right now, and this year I've got 31 choices (6 statewide offices, 1 congressional, 2 general assembly, 2 county offices, 14 judgeships, and 6 state and county referenda.)

Counting all that by hand would be an enormously complex task.

Re:Don't build anything (1)

homer_ca (144738) | about 8 years ago | (#16493617)

The difference is there are a lot fewer races in a Parlimentary system. You vote for your MP and then what else? In US elections there can easily be 50 races in one election. You may not get them all in one election, but people vote for President, Governor, Mayor, City Council, US Congress, US Senate, State Legislature, state and local ballot initiatives, Superior Court judges, School Board, and more. There are so many elected offices and ballot initiatives, you would be amazed at the complexity.

Re:Don't build anything (2, Insightful)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | about 8 years ago | (#16494321)

That's an interesting point. The obvious answer seems to be you choose between convenience of electronic voting - and get shafted out of your democracy that you're supposed to be getting. Or you simplify elections so that dog catchers aren't on the same paper as president - increasing the cost, but simplifying the voting. Since voting is pointless unless the voters know who they are voting for, and can easily make their mark, it's obvious that putting too much onto the ballot is actually less democracy than being able to pick every position in one shot.

Re:Don't build anything (1)

green1 (322787) | about 8 years ago | (#16494333)

and after you have added this much complexity, who still knows what they are voting for on every issue? 50 choices to be made? and you think that will be 50 MEANINGFUL choices? maybe they need to work on simplifying the system a bit...

Re:Don't build anything (1)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#16493153)

As I've already posted I prefer a crayon, myself, but there's always that one jerk who presses too hard.

In a world where there are people who cannot handle the technical sophistication of a crayon we're already pretty much screwed just by holding public elections. Besides, who really wants nobody to blame but themselves?

KFG

Re:Don't build anything (1)

bartle (447377) | about 8 years ago | (#16493643)

I'll skip the horse and buggy metaphor and provide to a short list of ways electronic voting is better than pen/paper:
  • It requires a smaller number of volunteers. There are places where people aren't tripping over each other to volunteer to work the voting stations or count paper ballots.
  • It provides a simpler framework for issuing directions in multiple languages.
  • It prevents voters from selecting multiple options and can warn them if they forget to vote on an issue. Ideally we shouldn't be discarding votes just because someone is careless.
  • It makes auditing easier and more likely. Recounts with a pen/paper system require a lot of volunteers to sit in an uncomfortable room for many hours. Voting officials would be more likely to order a random recount if it can be done by a couple of guys feeding a machine for two hours.
  • Long term, it can reduce costs. Grassroots initiatives are currently very expensive and may have to pay their own way to get on a ballot.
  • Once a decent electronic voting framework is the norm in the industrialized countries it becomes easier to deploy to in the war-torn regions where a large, reliable, and incorrupt volunteer force is not available.

Re:Don't build anything (1)

General Fault (689426) | about 8 years ago | (#16493645)

Tell me again why we need a GHz processor with multi threaded capiblilities, several I/O ports and memory types, floating point coprocessors, a system bus, and a full HAL just to do voteCount[candidateA]++?

Re:Don't build anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493897)

>Paper and pencil. Mark your choices, put it in a cardboard box. It's the perfect solution and scales wonderfully.
>Many countries already use this advanced technique.

That's exactly the method used here in my small Maine town - hand written and stuffed in the ballot box.

We even had a recount at the last specal meeting and it matched the original count.

ink fingers too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16494317)

And ink their fingers too. That'll cut down on the voting fraud.

Re:Don't build anything (1)

Natales (182136) | about 8 years ago | (#16494403)

I'm originally from Chile, where vote is 1) a manual process, 2) mandatory, and 3) it is conducted eihter on a Sunday or a weekday declared a holiday, so *everybody* gets to vote, no excuses.

Since I moved to the US 6 years ago, I've become very interested in the political system here, but I've also come to appreciate the "simple things" I had back in Chile, like a totally resilient voting process. Here is a brief description:

Everybody has a voter's id with the place where you need to go vote. Randomly in each election, 5 citizens are chosen per each voting table. If they don't show up, they can get hefty fines.

The vote is done with pen and paper, and sealed with a special government-issued stamp. The boxes where the votes go are transparent. At 5 PM, the voting table closes, and the votes are all opened, counted verbally and aloud, and inspected by each individual member of the table. Any discrepancy is resolved by simple majority. The process is completely open and transparent, and can be observed by anyone. The results per table are uploaded via a computer system or telephone, also in the presence of all members and the public.

My position is simple: until we have an electronic system that can provide the same reliability and transparency as the manual system, let's use the manual ones...

just like encryption (2, Informative)

non (130182) | about 8 years ago | (#16492983)

the best algorithm in the world is worthless in a poor implementation. enacting legislation that governed the process of counting the votes and verifying them is just as important as the machines themselves.

Lines of Code = Tax Code (2, Funny)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 8 years ago | (#16493003)

"If you've got 50,000 lines of code, that's approaching the complexity of the U.S. tax code," Wagner says.

Could you please express that number in Libraries of Congress? If you laid out all those lines of code without newlines, how many times would it wrap around the Earth?

Re:Lines of Code = Tax Code (1)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | about 8 years ago | (#16493141)

Could you please express that number in Libraries of Congress? If you laid out all those lines of code without newlines, how many times would it wrap around the Earth?

What size font?

Don't get too upset over this, it isn't important (0, Flamebait)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 8 years ago | (#16493007)

Yes these first attempts at computerized voting machines have some serious problems. No it doesn't really matter in the end though.

Either we trust the people running our elections or we don't. If we don't there isn't a technological measure possible to prevent fraud. If we do it is mostly a moot point. Personally I have seen enough examples to believe Democrats routinely steal enough votes to gain a 1 or 2 point advantage in any national election and substantially more in certain local races. But we Republicans simply spot em the handicap and go on to win elections.

And yes I said DEMOCRATS steal elections. Think about it, who runs the elections in every major city? Who runs the elections in most smaller cities? How many precincts are entirely run by Democrats vs how many can you find without a single Democrat in the audit loop? Ok. So we have now established who has opportunity. Motive is easy; Democrats, like most politicians desire power. Democrats also tend to believe the ends justify the means.

Consider that every important documented case of election fraud in the 20th Century was Democrats cheating. Lets start with the dead in Chicago putting JFK over the top, along with some outragous fraud by LBJ's machine in Texas of course. I live in Louisiana and can still remember Sen Landrieu winning her first election from a strong turnout among the dead in New Orleans. Now lets consider the multiple smelly elections in WA and we won't even discuss what passes for government in NJ, and I'm comparing and contrasting to my own legendary LA.

And I'll even give a pass on FL in 2000 even though the recount conducted by the press gave the state to the Republicans. After all the Democrats were trying something totally new in that case, lose and have the courts award the race after the polls closed. That is nothing any change in voting machines or elections laws can fix.

But like I said, there is enough transparency that in any national election fraud can't swing the totals more than a point or two and the Electoral College minimizes the damage in Presidential elections.

Re:Don't get too upset over this, it isn't importa (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16493139)

"And I'll even give a pass on FL in 2000 even though the recount conducted by the press gave the state to the Republicans."

There WAS NO COMPLETE RECOUNT!
Shit I am tired of this fucking false rumor. There were thousands og votes not even counted, as well as hundreds of prople being turned away.
People involved with and running varias republican campahains were filmed interruptting the election process.

Plus there was an ever BIGGER problem in Ohio.

Personaly, I don't give a damn about election before I was born, I am concerned about elections that happen while I am a voter.
2000 was a shame, as was 2004, and you should be pissed about it no mattter what party did it.

Yes, if democrates had done that I would be just as pissed.
OTOH we wouldn't have gotten rid of habias corpas.

"But like I said, there is enough transparency that in any national election fraud can't swing the totals more than a point or two and the Electoral College minimizes the damage in Presidential elections.

laughable, giving people more weight then others is an imbalanced system and it needs to be changed.

Re:Don't get too upset over this, it isn't importa (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 8 years ago | (#16493769)

Oh yeah?

Today Bush said: "We live in a global world."

Today, the Department of Homeland Security said: "There is no credible intelligence."

Odd how they should both be right on the same day? So there?

Re:Don't get too upset over this, it isn't importa (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#16493557)

And yes I said DEMOCRATS steal elections. Think about it, who runs the elections in every major city? Who runs the elections in most smaller cities? How many precincts are entirely run by Democrats vs how many can you find without a single Democrat in the audit loop? Ok. So we have now established who has opportunity. Motive is easy; Democrats, like most politicians desire power. Democrats also tend to believe the ends justify the means.

No one said Democrats don't steal votes. Well, no one with a clue. However, while we don't have any proof that Dems have stolen any presidential elections, we have piles of proof that the reps have stolen the last two of them.

Consider that every important documented case of election fraud in the 20th Century was Democrats cheating.

Nixon was a Republican until he ran his 1972 campaign independently. Really, he was still a Republican, but I think he was just trying to insulate his party.

I live in Louisiana and can still remember Sen Landrieu winning her first election from a strong turnout among the dead in New Orleans.

How convenient that Bush repeated the "votes from beyond the grave" gambit (which is older than democracy - oh wait, no one has ever actually tried a true democracy, they've all been representative or restricted, even unto Athens) in 2000... and succeeded.

Of course, you seem to be forgetting the scam with which thousands of non-felons were added to a list of felons who were not eligible to vote down in Florida. The company was explicitly told that they would get paid if they did not check their list for validity.

And I'll even give a pass on FL in 2000 even though the recount conducted by the press gave the state to the Republicans. After all the Democrats were trying something totally new in that case, lose and have the courts award the race after the polls closed. That is nothing any change in voting machines or elections laws can fix.

You are either an idiot or a troll. I put my money on the second. The recount was not completed, it was illegally stopped by the unilateral action of a single supreme court justice. The recount did NOT give the election to Bush; it would have Definitely given it to Gore.

A lot of this is because in the florida precincts where they used the scan-tron type forms, they had a form scanner with a switch on it. This switch determines whether mismarked ballots are kicked back out to the person inserting them, or silently accepted. In at least one primarily black precinct this switch was set to silently accept; in the majority of precincts it was set to reject. I guess in florida you only get to have your ballot checked at submission time if you're white.

But like I said, there is enough transparency that in any national election fraud can't swing the totals more than a point or two and the Electoral College minimizes the damage in Presidential elections.

The electoral college is the thing that makes our claims of Democracy a farce. Even given all of their cheating bullshit, the republicans still lost the popular vote in the last election. This is only like the fifth time that the electoral college has overridden the popular vote, proof that it is utterly unnecessary, but also proof that it sometimes goes against the will of the people and should be disbanded.

The electoral college was instituted because it was supposedly believed to be a necessary item to prevent mob rule. In reality, it is a power structure created to keep the powerful in power eternally.

Re:Don't get too upset over this, it isn't importa (1)

rgmoore (133276) | about 8 years ago | (#16493631)

Either we trust the people running our elections or we don't. If we don't there isn't a technological measure possible to prevent fraud. If we do it is mostly a moot point.

The problem is that things aren't that simple. If you have a well designed system that includes good audits and controls- basically having people looking over the election officials' shoulders- then you can have non-trusted people in charge of the election and they won't be able to steal it even if they want to. If you have a badly designed system, one untrustworthy person can steal the election even though everyone else involved is honest.

Having honest people in charge is great, but it's hard to guarantee their honesty. A system that lets you check their work lets you be sure that they're honest, and can make dishonest people act honest because they're afraid of getting caught. As Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify."

The stupidity of the masses... (0, Flamebait)

Arathon (1002016) | about 8 years ago | (#16493027)

A better voting machine would filter out the stupidity of the masses by selectively reducing votes of people who make bad decisions at the polling places. Just look at our country's history! How many times could we have avoided disaster if we had only had smart computers making real-time decisions about the validity/importance of individual votes?!?!?

Re:The stupidity of the masses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493229)

A better voting machine would filter out the stupidity of the masses by selectively reducing votes of people who make bad decisions at the polling places.

So what exactly are "bad" decisions? Those that don't conform to your particular political and ideological beliefs? Who are you to judge who is stupid?

Just look at our country's history!

Cultural attitudes vary wildly with time - just look at slavery in the US. Maybe something that seems correct now won't do so in 10 years time. And then will you blame the computer for not filtering the "right" people?

How many times could we have avoided disaster if we had only had smart computers making real-time decisions about the validity/importance of individual votes?!?!?

My guess is - none. Political/economic events often transcend who is in power. Asking a machine to predict which particular person will do best is ridiculous.

I hope IHBT, HAND.

Re:The stupidity of the masses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493737)

Oh gee, I wasn't aware that I had to put smiley faces all throughout my post so that people would know it was a JOKE.

Teehee, isn't (-1, Flamebait) hilarious?

It's hard to enjoy posting when you're afraid of how your comments will be interpreted by overzealous mods.

Heh, and now I can't even post this, because I have "Bad" karma. Brilliant.

- Arathon

P.S. I notice that I'm not alone. Some other people who undoubtedly thought they were making funny jokes have been modded as Trolls and/or Flamebait. If we're going to be that sensitive about anything political, why allow people to make comments at all?

Voting machine (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493031)

Oh for crying out loud not this again.

Let me get my Amiga 1000 out of the closet. Here I'll even dust it off for you. Here. Here's the KickStart and Workbench floppy discs. Here's the keyboard with the cool "telephone cord" cable thing. Here's the mouse. Lemee write an AREXX script.

There. Okay? No? Don't like that? Too complicated you say?

How about this PENCIL AND PAPER THEN. Christ almighty. F*cking freaks. Buncha morons.

CAN WE PLEASE BE DONE WITH THIS STUPID SUBJECT NOW?

Ha-ha, vword: realest

Obligatory (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493061)

But does it vote for Linux?

Ive been saying it all along (3, Insightful)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | about 8 years ago | (#16493099)

Have one machine with fancy GUI's that are easy for people to use, which PRINTS a clear paper ballot on which the marks are both human and computer-readable (think of the little ovals you used to fill in with #2 pencil, only bigger ovals) and then a *seperate machine* which does nothing but scan and count the ovals.

The marking machines could be of any complexity, wouldnt require auditing (the names on the ballots would be pre-printed, the machine would only mark in the ovals). Voters could choose to use the machine, or to mark the paper ballots themselves, and in all cases would be able to *look* at the paper ballot and verify their selections before submitting it to be counted. The specs for filling in the ballots could be released (and in fact the ballot specs would be part of the specs for the counting machine), and anyone under the sun could make marking machines, of any design that they wanted. The key is that these machines would record votes only on the paper ballot.

The scanning/counting machine would have to be absolutely auditable, as simple and as transparent as possible. Every aspect of its operation would be required to be public domain, and available to any citizen upon request.

Re:Ive been saying it all along (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about 8 years ago | (#16493327)

Even better, the wonderful thing is that it doesn't have to be transparent. Its auditable. Every single stage can be confirmed "outside the box," by testing against the specification rather than against any specific implementation. Any element can be tested against at any and every stage of the game, and spot recounts can occur against any polling stations.

Re:Ive been saying it all along (2, Interesting)

karl.auerbach (157250) | about 8 years ago | (#16493417)

What you suggest is similar to the proposal via the Open Voting Consortium.

The differences are in that in the OVC approach only the results of a voter's selection are printed onto the generated paper. (We don't use pre-printed papers except that we use marked papers so that it is possible to distinguish between fake ballots that are printed elsewhere and valid ballots printed in response to a real voter's choices.)

The reason why the non-selected choices are not printed is mechanical - to keep the voter's selections on one sheet of paper.

Yes, multiple pages could be printed, each bearing the election idenfication information. This increases the issue of paper handling. One of the biggest problems with these machines are printers (not adequately reliable, need supplies, tend to draw a lot of power, take so long that the voter might walk away, print on papers that are not mechanically strong enough to withstand fast scanning by the vote counting equipment, etc) Remember this stuff has to work in conditions that range from 0% to 100% humidity and with power that is downright awful delivered through building wiring that may date from days of Edison and Tesla.

But overall, I agree with you that the right approach is to consider the voting machines to be ballot marking machines, with variaions to fit the needs of physically disabled voters - and that the paper that is generated is "the" ballot and becomes valid only when physically inserted into a ballot box.

Re:Ive been saying it all along (no panacea) (1)

gosand (234100) | about 8 years ago | (#16493641)

Have one machine with fancy GUI's that are easy for people to use, which PRINTS a clear paper ballot on which the marks are both human and computer-readable (think of the little ovals you used to fill in with #2 pencil, only bigger ovals) and then a *seperate machine* which does nothing but scan and count the ovals.

How would you account for reprints? Misprints? Printing errors/jams? You have to eliminate the possibility of multiple ballots. I suppose you could have unique barcodes printed on each ballot, and the user would have to confirm their changes electronically... and then the reading machine would have to be able to throw out the non-valid ones and only process the valid ones. (and any reprinted invalid ballot would have to be accounted for as well)

All of these could be handled, it just makes them more complex. I think what needs to be eliminated is the idea that results should be tallied and sent over the internet or other such nonsense. And why are there central counting facilities? Why can't each polling place count and verify the numbers (use multiple counters and signatures) and just report those? Is it because we have to have immediate results? Why do we have to know on election day who won? Take a week, process all the votes, verify them, then get back to us with the ACCURATE results. How about having the international community participate in auditing our elections? We force our involvement in theirs, but don't allow them into ours.

Re:Ive been saying it all along (1)

homer_ca (144738) | about 8 years ago | (#16493879)

The article did talk about a machine like that, but closed-source from a proprietary vendor. The problem with using such a machine for everybody is that you've just created a complex, multi-thousand dollar, computerized pen for marking paper ballots, not a wise way to spend our tax dollars. They are useful for letting blind people vote unassisted through audio prompts, but most people do fine with an ink marker and paper ballots. The plan for Los Angeles County is to have one of these machines per precinct for disabled accessibility.

The optical scanners that count paper ballots are the most important link. We absolutely need to put them under a microscope. A hand recount of a small percent of randomly selected ballots helps. It's the law in many states already, but it's no substitute for full disclosure and oversight of the optical scanners.

Re:Ive been saying it all along (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 8 years ago | (#16493909)

Have one machine with fancy GUI's that are easy for people to use, which PRINTS a clear paper ballot on which the marks are both human and computer-readable (think of the little ovals you used to fill in with #2 pencil, only bigger ovals) and then a *seperate machine* which does nothing but scan and count the ovals.

Mr. Hacker has it print your selections but fill in the ovals differently. What's the point of a human-readable printout when it's not the one being counted?

Two components (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | about 8 years ago | (#16493107)

A simple, inexpesnive, secure, effective voting machine which is auditable could have two components. 1) A pen. 2) A paper ballot. Another similar machine would also have two components and be equally effective. 1) A stylus. 2) A cardboard ballot. This whole thing with insecure computerized voting is an absurd solution looking for a problem.

Re:Two components (1)

vondo (303621) | about 8 years ago | (#16493255)

Right. Like those effective and accurate butterfly ballots and ballots with hanging/dimpled/torn chads that made the 2000 election in Florida beyond question of who won?

Exactly.

MY Perfect Voting Machine (5, Insightful)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 8 years ago | (#16493127)

The true perfect voting machine consists of the following four components:

- Paper
- Pencil
- Locked box with slot
- Election official who can count

Anything else is a solution in search of a problem, and a way for partisan election officials to send some contract money to their buddies in the tech industry.

Seriously, who the hell cares about digital records or fast counts? I don't care how fast the results come in, I want them to be RIGHT. A voting system needs to enforce two basic principles: private votes and public counts. The voters need to know that their votes are private and anonymous, and the counting process needs to be simple and transparent enough that it can be understood, audited, and repeated. Computers, for the majority of people, are magical black boxes. They don't trust them as far as they can throw them, and that means there will always be suspicion of fraud, no matter how open the source and how impenetrable the outer casing. When we go to paper ballots, we guarantee that the process is easily understood, auditible, difficult to rig, and that counting is repeatable. There is no electronic system that satisfies all those conditions, and therefore electronic systems should not be used.

However, if we wanted to use touch screen systems to print out ballots instead of marking them, that's fine with me (it would make voting more accessible, with a well-designed UI). The voter can verify their votes before dropping them in the box. But the printed paper ballots need to be counted by hand.

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

laxcat (600727) | about 8 years ago | (#16493379)

Can I at least use a pen? It would make me feel a little better, anyway.

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493513)

no

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

vonPoonBurGer (680105) | about 8 years ago | (#16493425)

"- Election official who can count"
While I almost completely agree with you, your system would flawed without multiple independent counters. Otherwise, there's nothing to prevent fraudulent counting on the part of a single election official. Yes, it might get caught by a random audit, but audits take a lot of time, which runs counter to the goal of delivering election results in a timely fashion.

The Canadian system requires every candidate who runs in an area to provide a scrutineer. This is usually an unpaid volunteer affiliated with the candidate's political party. Each scrutineer counts the ballots, and if the counts don't match with the ones delivered by other candidates' scrutineers, they all have a choice: either make a concession and agree on a set of results, or count the votes again. Enlightened self-interest on the part of the scrutineers (they are *unpaid* volunteers after all, and the polls close at 8pm) ensures that they come to a consensus and phone in a final tally in a timely fashion. Enlightened self-interest on the part of the candidate ensures that the people chosen to count for that person are a) not willing to sell away votes for their party, and b) not so weak-willed that they'll let themselves be bullied into agreeing to a false total.

"Seriously, who the hell cares about digital records or fast counts?"
For true! Digital records don't do anything to ensure greater accuracy, they just cause greater confusion, and remove understanding of the system from the masses. Canadians know definitively who their next prime minister is *two hours* after the last polls close, and that's with paper ballots and people counting by hand. The problem with the US system is *not* a lack of technology, but rather fundamental flaws in the system. Piling technology on top of the existing gaps merely distracts from the fact that there are much, much deeper problems.

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 8 years ago | (#16493649)

While I almost completely agree with you, your system would flawed without multiple independent counters. Otherwise, there's nothing to prevent fraudulent counting on the part of a single election official.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that we lock a dude in a room with the ballot box and then ask him what the totals are when he emerges a few hours later. The two keys to public voting are accountability and repeatibility. Set up the system so that three independent people all count separately, and then when their numbers agree, consider that the official total. Or something similar. The point would be that in a paper system, the amount of effort to change 100,000 votes would be very very high, involving either creating 100,000 fraudulent pieces of paper or convincing a dangerously large number of people to participate in the corrupt counting. No single person could pull it off. With digital systems, changing 100,000 votes can be done with a few keystrokes by one person, with no verifiable trail, and that's bad news.

I also think it would be more worthwhile if the government took the money they are currently spending on electronic systems, and instead spent it on tax breaks for companies who give paid time off to employees for working at a polling place. This would encourage participation in the system, and relieve the burden on the current crop of retirees running the polling places. It would also allow for such systems as multiple independent counters, since staffing would no longer be a problem.

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 years ago | (#16493621)

Just a few tweaks: Two or more election officials who can count. A box with a slot that can be sealed. Scrutineers from the various parties involved to spot check for irregularities. An accurate list of who is eligible to vote.

You're spot on about the speed of counts. Who cares? The election coverage is going to ruin TV for the whole night whether it takes 8 hours or 14 minutes to count the ballots. Stupid politics.

Aside from the private vote, public count principles that you mention, I'd add "One vote per eligible voter". That's where the voters lists come in. Some countries have the voter dip a digit into indelible ink to ensure this last principle.

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 8 years ago | (#16493717)

Aside from the private vote, public count principles that you mention, I'd add "One vote per eligible voter". That's where the voters lists come in. Some countries have the voter dip a digit into indelible ink to ensure this last principle.

Wow, what a great way for politicians to ensure contract money gets sent to their buddies in the indelible ink industry!

**ducks**

Re:MY Perfect Voting Machine (1)

Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) | about 8 years ago | (#16494111)

Seriously, who the hell cares about digital records or fast counts? I don't care how fast the results come in, I want them to be RIGHT. I kind of agree, except with practice you can do it fast as well even without electronic counting. I mean in the UK we can vote in 650+ MP's in one evening and have a good idea who's formed the next government by next breakfast, yet the US can needs weeks with electronic machines and mucking about trying to recount. Like you say, keep it simple and it'll work just fine.

Open Voting Consortium (4, Interesting)

AaronW (33736) | about 8 years ago | (#16493181)

For those who are interested in seeing a proper voting system put together, check out the Open Voting Consortium [www.openvotingcon] . They have a free, open-source voting platform that addresses all of the concerns. It has a verifiable paper trail as well as support for blind users and multiple languages.

I personally have donated money to this organization and believe they are doing the right thing in addressing the current mess we have now.

Their paper trail has a really nice feature in that it also prints a bar code for a quick machine recount of the ballots as well as a human readable output.

-Aaron

Re:Open Voting Consortium (0, Troll)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 8 years ago | (#16493633)

Dude, I'm terribly sorry about you wasting your money like that. You do realize that we now have a president for life, one George W. Bush [buzzflash.com] ?

Re:Open Voting Consortium (2, Interesting)

WaxParadigm (311909) | about 8 years ago | (#16494305)

"Their paper trail has a really nice feature in that it also prints a bar code for a quick machine recount of the ballots as well as a human readable output."

If it's as you describe and the votes are recorded for the machine in a separate bar code from the human-readable portion, well, that's just stupid as the human can only verify the human-readable portion (can't verify that the bar code is also correct). The human-readable portion should be what the machine reads, not some bar code...as stated in the Wired article, "the machine prints the votes onto a full-size paper ballot."

Problem with all this is that the machine used to fill out the ballot is overkill for a vast majority of the population. The exact same paper trail (bubbles filled in on full-size ballot) can be achieved by using a pen to fill in the bubbles. So, the perfect voting center would have a small number of these machines (enough to handle those with special needs) and a ton of those fold-up writing stations with cardboard privacy walls and a pen for the masses of people for whom that works fine...then feed all of the ballots (filled out by computer or human) through a reader that tallies the votes and is audited for accuracy. It's simple, accurate, and has a lot of bandwidth/throughput (number of people who can vote at center in a given time) per dollar so folks don't have to wait around or have their tax dollars wasted on an unnecessary number of machines.

David Chaum's Method (3, Interesting)

John.P.Jones (601028) | about 8 years ago | (#16493193)

At the end of the article they mention David Chaum's method of voter verifiable elections. I first saw this several years ago in graduate school (I believe I was reviewing an earlier version of the paper for a conference). It is a gloriously beautiful protocol, far beyond what I ever hope to see implemented in my lifetime. :( I suggest you take a look, I will look at the version referenced in the article again tonight as the exposition is considerably clearer than the version of the work I read (dumbed down a bit for a mass audience).

Re:David Chaum's Method (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16493719)

If you liked David Chaum's voting scheme, you might also like Ron Rivest's. It has all the benefits of David Chaum's scheme (coercion resistance, voter verifability), without the crypto mumbo jumbo. There's a link here: http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~rivest/Rivest-TheThreeB allotVotingSystem.pdf [mit.edu]

First (1)

porkThreeWays (895269) | about 8 years ago | (#16493231)

First of all, make them not terrible. If we could get them to at least on par with the quality of ATM's we'd be somewhere. I am all for electronic voting machines. However, the job application kiosk at wal mart had more effort put into its engineering and design than our current generation voting machines.

Scantrons (1)

pestario (781793) | about 8 years ago | (#16493285)

What's wrong with SAT-style scantrons? They seem to be highly accurate and speedy...

no to technophilia in voting (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 8 years ago | (#16493317)

the best voting technology ever?

paper

pencil

optical scanning of little filled in ovals

the blind can get by with a guide, just like they always have

end of story

what we need is simplicity when it comes to voting, not complexity. i believe we should never go to electronic voting, and even get rid of mechanical voting booths, which has a sordid history of tampering

of course you can do fraud scams with simple paper ballots too: loose them for entire districts, stuff the boxes with fake votes, etc. but any more complexity in the voting system doesn't remove these scams, it just adds a new layer of possible scams

fraud happens in all forms of voting mechanisms, and voting is just too much of an important and vulnerable part of our social cohesion and the source of so much faith in and integrity of our government. being so vital and vulnerable, the point in my mind would be to oversimplify the voting process on purpose. the more complex the system, the more points of failure, the more possibilities of fraud. internationally, people speak constantly about transparency in good governance. why the heck advanced nations would suddenly want to make a part of government that needs to be as transparent as possible suddenly very opaque to the average man and to the press via technology, is beyond me

i mean seriously, why the technophilia? voting is a problem that is not solved better with more technology, just made more complex. the slashdots crowd of any crowd of people should know all about the various and sordid ways malfeasance can be achieved in electronic communication and electronic storage. voting is not a complex math problem. it's very simple. no computer power need apply to make it work. optical scanning of little penciled out ovals is about as complicated as it should ever get. thats speed of tabulation right there. there is no possible other improvement via technology you can convince me of being necessary

i'm not a luddite, i am simply saying that specifically in reference to the voting process, it must be simplified technologically to ensure faith and integrity and transparency in our government. i am as much a technophile as the next slashdotter. i just have an appreciation for the limits of technology's ability to solve problems, and that for some limited subset of problems, such as with voting, more technology need not apply

more technology, sometimes, is not the right answer

Re:no to technophilia in voting (1)

vondo (303621) | about 8 years ago | (#16493467)

Right, because no one EVER goes outside the lines, or makes a stray mark, or doesn't erase something they should have.

Electronic machines can prevent "overvotes" and warn the voter against "undervotes." Yes, they have issues, but they have benefits too. I run a precinct on election day and our machines are very easy to use (easier than an ATM for the voter). The lack of an auditable paper trail is my only concern about these particular machines.

Re:no to technophilia in voting (1)

cens0r (655208) | about 8 years ago | (#16493845)

My precinct uses the scantron style voting. When you slide in the ballot, it spits it back out if you didn't mark something correctly.

Re:no to technophilia in voting (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 8 years ago | (#16493661)

I always considered one plus to the electronic voting is that votes do NOT get lost or misplaced in a landfill (see Haiti). Don't see why they can't be stored (a) electronically, (b) on a printout that gets saved with a 2D barcode hash that can get scanned (keeps people from 'tweaking' the printout) as well as the results, and a receipt for the user. Heck, there can be an internal printout as well.

There can even be a reader that you can scan the barcode at before you manually deposit it and verify it says what you think it should.

Paper votes have one trail. If it breaks, well... SOL.

In other news... (1)

msimm (580077) | about 8 years ago | (#16493339)

In a bizarre turn of events Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson is elected president in electronic elections held in Bolivia, Ghana, Uganda and prime ministor in the UK.

Re:In other news... (1)

pjt33 (739471) | about 8 years ago | (#16493605)

That really would be bizarre, because we use pencil and paper for voting here in the UK.

Why is this needed? (1)

daeg (828071) | about 8 years ago | (#16493479)

Why the hell is this needed? You can already track how well a game does by tracking sales. Surely you can track those -- how many boxes did you create? You made the damn things, you better damned well be able to count them.

On the other hand, you can now buy your game market, which is great news for stockholders of game companies. Have a questionable game? Pay off Neilsen to make your mediocre game look better.

And while Neilsen doesn't directly lie (that can be proven, although it is highly likely), chaning polling methods can easily bias a result. Want to under-estimate a program? Don't ask about it. Want to over-estimate a program? Ask about it directly. The "home journal" method of TV ratings isn't their only data source.

be sure to include shielding (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 8 years ago | (#16493483)

RFI shielding too, i seen a YouTube video of Voting machines giveing away their info as radio waves that can be recieved by unauthorzed people with the right equipment...

Slightly offtopic, but... (1)

tibike77 (611880) | about 8 years ago | (#16493519)

So what DO you solve anyway by building a "better voting machine" ?
You still have the problems of a "democratic republic" election system in place, so basically you get to pick between the lesser of two evils, if you're lucky.

For what it's worth, you could just as well FLIP A DAMN COIN when you elect the president, the end result would be about the same.

I know what would make a GREAT voting machine (1)

pestilence669 (823950) | about 8 years ago | (#16493533)

First, it should add numbers accurately. Nothing fancy, just count what each persons votes for and make sure it adds up to the totals.

Second, don't allow poll workers to "adjust" votes with administration screens. If the machine can count 'em right in the first place, you don't need to "fine tune" them.

Third, the machine should work as intended. They shouldn't lock up when you use the touch screen (like the "touchscreen" Diebolds that now require mice).

Fourth, they should be at least as secure against hacking as say... an ATM (another Diebold product, that actually works!)

Fifth, print all electronic votes on a government issued printer roll for verification. Get the treasury to design it for anti-counterfeiting.

Sixth, don't allow a company that funds election campaigns to design voting machinery.

Re:I know what would make a GREAT voting machine (1)

vondo (303621) | about 8 years ago | (#16493711)

Fifth, print all electronic votes on a government issued printer roll for verification. Get the treasury to design it for anti-counterfeiting.

The problem with this is that often you know in what order people voted on the machine. If you also know what the votes were, in order, or have any way of finding out, you can determine who voted for whom.

The only feasible paper method is to print out a card or sheet, have the voter check it, and then deposit it somewhere. Personally I like the idea of having the casting machine do the first count and then scanning or going through by hand with the paper later if needed or as an audit rather than the marking/OCR solution the article proposes.

Re:I know what would make a GREAT voting machine (1)

pestilence669 (823950) | about 8 years ago | (#16494407)

Some kind of wicked crypto couldn't be used on each entry?

Several improvements in this model from Wired... (1)

JimMarch(equalccw) (710249) | about 8 years ago | (#16493693)

First, the "ES&S" machine they're talking about as a base is the Automark, which ES&S bought and is now downplaying over their less secure setup.

Second: the optical scan half of this equation should scan GRAPHICS of each ballot, store them for later review, hash them to prevent later tampering and make them available by the DVD load (or HD-DVD or whatever) as a public record. Remember, the voter name is already stripped out at this point. And if you're burning data to "-R" media of some sort, that eliminates tampering with the data once it's out of the initial box. (Right now most vendors distribute the "electronic ballot box" data on either PCMCIA or USB flash read/write media, which is insane...only Avante burns end-of-day tally data from touchscreens onto CD-R.)

Fourth: once "we the people" have the graphic scans in hand, we can tabulate them with OUR software tools versus trusting the county's tools, providing a "software check and balance". The open source "Votoscope" program written by Harri Hursti was the first attempt at this. Now that we have a decent open-source OCR package (the one HP/Google just released), we have a foundation for building more. Imagine a world in which each news agency brought their best "gamer class" powerhouse monster PC to the elections office to get the scans and do a tabulation before anybody else can, with various non-profits like BlackBoxVoting, VoteTrustUSA or local equivelents chugging along on slower gear but still able to churn out accurate numbers on election night. If the various copies don't match, OK, let's figure out why, by eyeballs on the original paper if necessary.

A good electronic voting setup can backstop against paper fraud just as much as the paper backstops electronic fraud.

Jim March
Member of the Board of Directors, Black Box Voting Inc.
http://blackboxvoting.org/ [blackboxvoting.org]

Instant Runoff (1)

kaoshin (110328) | about 8 years ago | (#16493789)

Any new electronic voting method should incorporate IRV [instantrunoff.com] . For anyone not already familiar with this, Democrats and Republicans both want you to think you are throwing away your vote on third party candidates, and that you need your vote to keep someone out of office. During the previous election, third party candidates were even jailed for trying to attend the presidential debate just to be equally heard by Americans. As incredible as that is, you didn't hear about it on CNN, because that would only give third parties more publicity and the government owned media doesn't want that. Americans deserve a choice, and the power monopolists want to see that you don't. If this is not corrected now, as voting methods are being discussed and rengineered, then you will probably never even get an opportunity. It is in neither the republican nor the democrat interest to give up anything that helps them keep their strangleholds on the U.S. political system. Americans should make a stand by refusing any new voting system that does not incorporate IRV. They should also refuse any system which can be easily compromised.

Nobody for electronic (1)

oliderid (710055) | about 8 years ago | (#16494043)

Cost: Here in Belgium We use electronic voting for about 10 years. A minister has caculated that it costs around 4 euro (+/- $5 US) per vote...While a paper solution costs only 1 euro per vote. The reason: Computers for election are only used for...Elections. So you may use them twice in a decade. Try to find a P200 compatible motherboard, Serial port compatible electronic Pen, a 500MG hard disk...A company still supporting Windows 95 ...They still use "official" floppy disk to boot the system . Next election they will have a hard time to find new floppy disks. Security: We all know how "simple" it is to change thousands of votes with a single script, command line, program, virus or whatever, don't we?

My comments (1)

edmicman (830206) | about 8 years ago | (#16494047)

Badass! My first posted submisssion! Anyway, my comments that the editors took out, but that I made on the article itself:
Why doesn't someone / some group create an open source voting machine software? The hardware could even be open source, too. These all seem like good ideas (the article - not the comments, though I'm intrigued by the Brazilian system), so what are we waiting for? Why doesn't someone do it? Who do we talk to to get started?

voting ideas (1)

v1 (525388) | about 8 years ago | (#16494095)

If I had it to make myself, I would use some unique identifier, like ssn but longer, and people could vote either at the polls or on the internet. The number would be hashed in such a way that a list of legal voting IDs would be verifiable but not traceable to the owner. This would prevent duplicate or fraudulent votes. This would also allow you, with your ID, to go in and see how the system recorded your vote. This would allow for unprecidented accountability as any voter could hop on the internet and check in and make sure the system recorded their vote correctly following the election. It would eliminate the question of whether voting machines were rigged or if precincts didn't get added into the tally.

That and the whole electoral college BS needs to go away! Who is still in favor of this? (besides the ppl that are getting elected as a result)

So, is anyone besides me SICK of hearing ads on the radio four times an hour for senators etc? If I run into Dan Rassmussen on the street I am gonna club him I'm so tired of hearing his name. (one of those highly irritating commercials where they say his name every 8 seconds during the 45 second commercial)

Beware the silicon my friends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16494131)

The silicon cannot be trusted.

No matter the openness of the code or its simplicity, the silicon has the final word and it is virtually impossible to verify.

The only way to be sure that a given election can be trusted is to dismantle all machines used, uncap all integrated circuits and scan with an electron microscope layer by layer to make sure the silicon is exactly what it should be. This will never be done.

Oppose voting machines as hard as you can.

I'm less worried about the machines... (1)

Inertiatia (137457) | about 8 years ago | (#16494163)

...than I am the crappy candidates.

When my choices are brown-colored crap and dark brown-colored crap, it doesn't really matter which one rigged the machine best to win.

Better Mousetrap (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 8 years ago | (#16494377)

!. Use non- FOSS software
2. Tie #1 to hardware
3. Name your business Diebold
4. ???
5. Profit!

Until it is a transparent, documented process, then democracy is held hostage.
If I wanted to influence the elections, I might have come up with a better way, but this is sufficient.

There are ways of making this secure and acountable, but the question is why are we not pushing for this?

Fp troLJl (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16494379)

Bullet-Proof Elections - the Geek Way (2, Interesting)

Spinlock_1977 (777598) | about 8 years ago | (#16494387)

Ok, voting machines cannot be guaranteed to be bullet-proof. Anyone who knows a decent amount about computer software & hardware gets that.

But why is it so hard to envision a simple audit trail to absolutely guarantee the authenticity of any election?

1) Make sure every voting machine spits out a paper receipt with a unique transaction number and the vote(s) recorded.

2) Make public a web site that displays *every* receipt number and its vote(s). Ok, it might be 300 million database records, but a simple menu across the top will let anyone drill down to their receipt number and confirm their vote was recorded correctly. We'll file this exercise as each Citizen's Responsibility. (It's important to note that having a citizen enter a receipt number to see those particular ballot results will not be secure since it would take a different path through the web site software, and also reduce anonimity).

3) Democracity loving geeks everywhere will write code to scan that (huge) web site and confirm the final totals.

It seems so simple. What am I missing?
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