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"Secure Elections Act" Coming Up For Vote

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the paying-for-paper dept.

Government 83

Irvu writes "The US House of Representatives is considering HR. 5036, the 'Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008,' as introduced by Representative Rush Holt. The bill is scheduled for a floor vote later today. It would provide for emergency paper ballots, money for the addition of voter verifiable paper ballots to existing systems, and post-election audits. Crucially, the change to paper is opt-in, making it possible for local jurisdictions to govern their own choices. Here are two summaries of the bill. It was reported out of committee with strong bipartisan support. As of this morning the White house has opposed the bill but not threatened a veto, and some previously supportive Republicans have now changed their tune. Calls may be made to your house rep (click on 'Find your representative'). Here's a sample support letter."

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Nonsence... (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 6 years ago | (#23083092)

It's got to be a trap... the end result is a fair election. Where's the tinfoil hat!?

Re:Nonsence... (3, Insightful)

Metasquares (555685) | about 6 years ago | (#23083104)

Holt is one of the few congressmen who have actually earned my respect - and he's one of the few I'd actually expect to sponsor such a bill without any traps.

Re:Nonsence... (1)

electrictroy (912290) | about 6 years ago | (#23092964)

I could care less.

McCain, or Billary, or Obama... it's all the same result (more taxes, less freedom). It matters not which one of them wins. What we need is a real liberty-loving president like Thomas Jefferson. Too bad no such man exists.

Re:Nonsence... (1)

CommanderIsm (978259) | about 6 years ago | (#23130078)

more filth from the corrupt yankee pidogs - they would not know a genuine election if it was shot from the 'Grassy Knoll'

Re:Nonsence... (4, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | about 6 years ago | (#23083204)

A fair election? You mean this ends automatic ballot access for Democrats and Republicans, as well as matching funds?

Re:Nonsence... (1)

Insightfill (554828) | about 6 years ago | (#23088704)

A fair election? You mean this ends automatic ballot access for Democrats and Republicans, as well as matching funds?

To be more accurate (but not "fair"), the ruling on ballot access and matching funds is generally decided by percent of popular vote in the prior election and these rules vary by state [wikipedia.org] . All parties have to get a certain number of signatures (via petition) to get on the ballot, but the number of signatures varies depending on the performance in the past election. Once the threshold has been passed (5%), the party in question gets matching funds and the lowered signature count for the next election.

The Libertarian Party has passed this threshold in many states. Also: Texas has some of the most restrictive rules; a non-dominant party can't start collecting signatures until after the primaries have left, have 60 days to collect, and the signatures of those who voted in the primaries don't count.

Re:Nonsence... (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 6 years ago | (#23083928)

Suspicion arises when Obama wins 65% of the vote on paper ballots and McCain wins 98% on electronic voting machines;
"We cannot accept these strange Democratic biases we are seeing with paper ballots" claimed Bill Frist.

How depressing (4, Informative)

jweller13 (1148823) | about 6 years ago | (#23084116)

How depressing that my country is experiencing 3rd world style voting problems 200 year after establishing democracy. Citizens having trust in elections is the fundamental backbone to a democracy. I'm further amazed that voters aren't outraged and up in arms over this. This should be THE most important platform issue in our current presidential elections.

Check out this article and you'll get really get upset about some electronic voting machines in use.

http://www.bradblog.com/?p=4066 [bradblog.com]

Re:How depressing (1)

et764 (837202) | about 6 years ago | (#23084892)

How depressing that my country is experiencing 3rd world style voting problems 200 year after establishing democracy.

Perhaps even more depressing is that this isn't even all that surprising. Democracies don't tend to stay democracies for much more than 200 years.

Re:How depressing (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 years ago | (#23086480)

Well.. it's a good thing we've got a Republic, then...

I'm sure that they said the same thing (with a smaller number, of course) in 1861. After all, how many republics or democracies had even existed before then? (I know it's at least one of each, but the number is small until the modern era, in which the US was one of the first.)

Re:How depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23094488)

Do you know how they vote in Third World countries, if they do vote?

Paper ballots.

Do you know how everybody on this God forsaken website wants people to vote in America?

Paper ballots.

Someone has to explain to me how paper ballots - which are used to rig and steal elections the whole world over, right here in 2008 - are somehow the answer to voting problems.

Here's the facts: if you're not in the computer system, you're not going to be able to vote. The people who keep bitching for paper ballots want everyone, even those who are not registered, who are not citizens, who do not have ID, to be able to vote.

This isn't out of any sense of moral obligation or justice. They just want to win the elections through fraudulent ballots, like they did for years and years (and continue to do in places like Philadelphia and St. Louis).

Re:Nonsence... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23084476)

The trap is they're phasing out tinfoil hats for worthless yet stylish paper ones. Be afraid.

ID's (1)

rujholla (823296) | about 6 years ago | (#23084802)

One thing I don't see mentioned here is the issue of some kind of proof you are who you say you are before you vote. In my opinion thats as much an issue as counting correctly, but it seems to be ignored. Why?

Re:ID's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23086816)

wouldn't that be a matter for state law?
It seems stupid, but it is possible that Congress lacks the power to require that voters present ID when they vote.

Re:ID's (2, Interesting)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 6 years ago | (#23088330)

"One thing I don't see mentioned here is the issue of some kind of proof you are who you say you are before you vote. In my opinion thats as much an issue as counting correctly, but it seems to be ignored. Why?"

Because the Democrats have largely been successful in pettifogging and demagoguing the issue so that in the publics' mind, asking for ID==discrimination. No politician can afford, especially when their party is in a major election cycle, to be accused, however falsely, of discrimination. The Democrats have been increasingly using the tactic of busing in homeless people and illegal aliens to vote, sometimes across multiple districts, over the last 20 to 30 years.

This is not anecdotal, this is observation at my polling places, watching the buses pull up and empty out, with the organizers instructing the passengers, and sometimes even blatantly in full view handing out various "payments", from gift cards to cartons of cigarettes. I've overheard the passengers complaining about how many stops and long lines they've had to stand in to the largely unsympathetic organizers.

At first I tried to get someone to take action. I've met with indifference and hostility from both parties' election workers and even the police. I've been shoved around, roughed up, and threatened with arrest and major violence. I've had cameras taken from me, smashed, and the media destroyed. Newspapers, TV, & radio stations have all ignored the situation.

I finally had to give up and just be thankful I was even allowed to vote at all. When I hear Democrats scream about electronic vote rigging, I have to wonder if it's only because they didn't think of it first, and that they're losing the money they spent on the buses and payoffs.

I think there should be a secure way to vote that minimizes shenanigans, but there needs to be just as much concern, if not more, about what other non-electronic tactics are being used to subvert the vote.



Re:ID's (1)

dwye (1127395) | about 6 years ago | (#23093098)

The Democrats have been increasingly using the tactic of busing in homeless people and illegal aliens to vote, sometimes across multiple districts, over the last 20 to 30 years.

What? They stopped doing that before 1980? That is the classical behavior of Tammany Hall and the Chicago Machine (bums used to grow their hair before Election Day, so that they could shave part off before revisiting the election site, impersonating another dead man).

Of course, before we Republicans get all self righteous, it should be remembered that our political machines did much of the same, in the rural areas and the cities that we controlled. The joke was that the Illinois election results were absolutely fair, because the fraud that the Daley Machine perpetrated was exacty balanced by the fraud in Southern Illinois (the Republican stronghold, since the founding of the party). Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (of Little Round Top fame) lost his governorship by opposing such fraud by our party.

If the states were required to furnish free IDs for non-drivers, with the same original security as for licenses, that could cut most of the legs from under the Democrats arguments. Then they are left with their partisans uniquely distrust government interest, or are too stupid to keep their ID, or some such nonsense.

Re:ID's (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 6 years ago | (#23094238)

What? They stopped doing that before 1980?

Yes, I'm well aware of the long history on both sides. I was just reporting my actual experiences and observations. I'm not aware of any Republican shenanigans of the same type in the same time frame and areas as I reported on. There were most certainly Republican vote shenanigans going on, no doubt..I just never observed them personally. Given the atmosphere and my experiences, I'm also sure that whatever shenanigans the Republicans pulled had to be a lot more low-key and smaller-scale than the large-scale, blatant, and open actions I saw occurring on behalf of Democrats, where the police were actively helping the Democrat organizers keep unwelcome attention and publicity at bay.

Maybe the best we can hope for is that the two parties' shenanigans....Democrats with bus-loads of serial-voters...and Republicans with electronic vote-rigging...will roughly cancel each other out.



Re:ID's (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 6 years ago | (#23106856)

I think it's ignored because when it's been investigated it's never been found to be much of a problem. There have been a few isolated cases but I don't think it's ever been shown to be enough to change an election.

Accountability, Ashmountability (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083098)

If the public would just take the leaders their given instead of trying to choose their own, then maybe we'd get somewhere!

What, trampled under foot is a place, isn't it?

slashdot is broken (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083100)


What a waste of money (3, Funny)

Skyshadow (508) | about 6 years ago | (#23083144)

In all seriousness now, wouldn't it just be easier to call up Diebold on November 4 and ask them who won? Think of all the time and money we'd save.

Re:What a waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083950)

There is too much truth to your comment for it to be too funny!

Crucially Broken (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23083198)

Crucially, the change to paper is opt-in, making it possible for local jurisdictions to govern their own choices

Yes, that is crucial. Because in the jurisdictions that are running rigged elections, that don't want to leave evidence of their rigging, or are just getting bribed by crappy non-verifiable voting machine vendors to buy the crap, despite how it fails any reasonable quality test, those jurisdictions don't have to change anything.

A good bill would require opt-out, and only subject to some accountability, like a judge's decision that there are extenuating circumstances, or a (paper trail) vote by the people in the jurisdiction.

I mean, who else but a crooked politicial or a salesperson for a crooked or broken machine could possibly have a reason to opt out, when it's all paid for by the Feds (you and me)? What kind of priorities put anything above the integrity and respectability of our most essential link to democracy, the counting of our votes?

Re:Crucially Broken (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | about 6 years ago | (#23083286)

And how! It's like saying-

We're going to install this fancy security system at the bank, so we can identify anybody who tries to rob the bank. But before you enter the building, make sure you *opt-in* so that we can catch you in the act, otherwise, we'll make sure not to watch or verify your presence.

This sounds like the most rediculous non-answer I've ever heard to a real problem.

Re:Crucially Broken (1)

Irvu (248207) | about 6 years ago | (#23083456)

Good Opt-Out bills have been tried Noteably HR 811 which failed explicitly because it was opt in and the budget hawks attacked it as a waste of money while the National Association of County Commissioners, a lobby group for the voting machine makers, claimed it was a big government attack on county territory.

All those groups claimed a willingness to support an opt-in version. None of them stepped up to the plate today though.

Re:Crucially Broken (1)

InternetVoting (809563) | about 6 years ago | (#23083828)

Ummm...I think you've got some (all) of your facts wrong. HR811 was a mandate, you couldn't opt in or out. That is the largest reason it was opposed by many state and local groups including the National Conference of State Legislatures [ncsl.org] and National Association of Counties (none of which are voting machine maker lobbyists). I encourage you to read their words why the opposed it. (seems like they have some decent reasons)

Re:Crucially Broken (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23085894)

Their claims, if true, sound reasonable:

H.R. 811 runs contrary to the fundamental cornerstone of (HAVA) which is state flexibility in implementation of federal election reform mandates. H.R. 811 sets very specific standards for paper trail and audit procedures that currently don't exist in any state. It requires "durable" paper for paper trail receipts and calls for random audits of federal elections and creates a private right of action against a state for perceived violations. H.R. 811 also requires states to comply with all of its provisions in time for the November, 2008 presidential election. If H.R. 811 becomes law, every state, even those with paper trail and audit provisions currently in state law, will have to revise their laws to comply with new federal mandates. There is no appropriation for the implementation of H.R. 811, and HAVA itself has yet to be fully funded; therefore, it is reasonable to assume that states will be bearing most if not all of the implementation costs.

HAVA achieved implementation of new voting equipment and procedures within a four-year timeframe without disastrous unintended consequences only because Congress carefully crafted its provisions through extended consultation and significant input from organizations representing state and local elected officials and election administrators. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), the sponsor of H.R. 811, failed to consult with the states or NCSL in the process.

In other words, they like HAVA, and they don't want anything interfering with HAVA. But HAVA is a travesty. It was indeed a highly funded, no specifics set of new rules. That did practically nothing to ensure voting integrity, which is why new rules like HR811 and now this new (indadequate) bill by Holt even make sense. All HAVA did was transfer a lot of money through states to unaccountable digital machines, even replacing mechanical ones (like we have in NY) that are not problematic in vote verification. In other words, HAVA was a conjob, that wasted a ton of money and time making the problem worse, if anything, but giving those in the money chain an excuse to say "we fixed it already".

FWIW, I don't believe that Holt "failed to consult with the states", as the NCSL claims, considering all the hearings I've seen Holt have on the matter over the past several years.

No, the NCSL has its reasons, which are probably just bribes from digital machine vendors like Diebold that can't pass real tests, combined with laziness. But they're not good reasons. Certainly not good enough to sacrifice the integrity of our voting for another year or more. Unless, perhaps, you're a state legislator elected by that broken system, and you've come to depend on it, and fear an accountable system that's different from the one that gave you your power.

Re:Crucially Broken (1)

Irvu (248207) | about 6 years ago | (#23094114)

NACO or the National Association of County Officials [naco.org] is what you refer to. NACO includes a Premier Corporate Membership [naco.org] program which allows companies to become members of the group. Microsoft, one of the members was heavily opposed to the bill (Windows CE is in the Diebold systems) and got NACO to lobby on their behalf.

Re:Crucially Broken (1)

InternetVoting (809563) | about 6 years ago | (#23100248)

It's NACo, the National Association of Counties, not the "National Association of County Officials." Yes NACo is a 501(c)(4), but they represent 2000 US counties, the folks that actually have to try and fulfill all these federal mandates and describing them as a Microsoft lackey is absurd.
Microsoft had nothing to do with the NACo's decision to oppose HR811. The NACo Board of Directors adopted a resolution expressing their concerns over it, which primarily related to do with HR811's mandates for paper records. Microsoft was primarily concerned with source code disclosure, and they did quite well lobbying that issue on their own.

Re:Crucially Broken (3, Interesting)

omega_dk (1090143) | about 6 years ago | (#23083930)

View it like this: if there is a significant discrepancy between voting trends in paper-ballot w/ audit counties, and those that decided not to opt-in, those counties may have an angry electorate on their hands that would demand an explanation.

If they can't offer a suitable explanation due to a lack of a paper trail because they decided not to accept free money from the feds... well, I am not going to say they *would* be in trouble because the American Electorate is notorious for not caring, but there would at least be some eyebrows raised.

Re:Crucially Broken (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23085812)

Like in Florida? Funny how that never happens. People just get discouraged, bitter and cynical. That's what the crooks count on. And so far, they're winning.

No surprise (5, Insightful)

stonecypher (118140) | about 6 years ago | (#23083248)

The president whose election tallies were never counted, in the closest election we've had in more than a century, doesn't want verifiable voting. I wonder why.

Tin foil hats won't cover this one. :(

For those allergic to PDF... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083278)

Here's the content of the Sample letter:

Honorable Members of the Pennsylvania Delegation
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
As organizations and individuals representing Pennsylvania, we are writing to urge your co-sponsorship and continued support of HR 5036, the Emergency Election Assistance for Secure Elections Act, recently introduced by Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey.

This "opt-in", voluntary bill will provide federal money for states and counties to protect the integrity of their 2008 election in the way they deem best for their own citizens, be it purchase of a voter-verified paper ballot voting system, auditing or hand counting the election results, or providing the added protection of emergency paper ballots to be used in the event of a failure of Direct Record
Electronic voting machines. We believe that the "opt-in" approach of this new bill, coupled with the sensible and cost-effective array of solutions it offers to fund, makes HR 5036 an excellent measure that should be passed without delay.

HR 5036 will benefit Pennsylvania in many ways. There are several counties that already have purchased new paper ballot voting systems, or would like to purchase them very soon, and this bill will fund those purchases for these cash-strapped local jurisdictions. And our already-required emergency paper ballots could be funded by this bill, reducing the financial burden to most of the other counties in our state.

As you are aware, Pennsylvania will be an important battleground state in the upcoming 2008 Presidential election. Also at stake in November will be your own seats, and many other statewide and local offices. For this election it is more crucial than ever before that we do everything possible to assure that every eligible voter gets to vote and to have his or her vote counted accurately.

Please add your co-sponsorship to HR 5036 if you have not already done so. And as a co-sponsor please continue to support it, by urging House Leadership to move it rapidly through Committee and to a favorable floor vote as soon as possible.

Thank you very much.

Marybeth Kuznik, Executive Director
6093 Pleasant Valley Road
Irwin, PA 16542

The bill failed to pass (5, Informative)

mepperpint (790350) | about 6 years ago | (#23083292)

This showed up a little bit late. The bill failed to pass [govtrack.us] 239-178 with 14 not voting. While this is a 55% vote in favor, it required a 2/3 supermajority to pass due to a motion to suspend the rules.

Re:The bill failed to pass (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | about 6 years ago | (#23083370)

Damn, thanks for the heads up, but this really sucks. In CO we had most of our voting machines de-certified (I believe some have since been re-approved for use) but I was looking forward to a verifiable vote here (most our county clerks can't afford to print paper ballots without assistance from somewhere).
Very disappointing.

Re:The bill failed to pass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083482)

Damn, too late.
Without paper trail there is no way to make sure the election won't be rigged.
For example, countries like Brazil, which got all their electoral system made by electronic voting machines (running Linux, actually...), have lots of reports of fraud, like the guys from the Press just jumping behind the electronic ballots and voting for all the absent electors on the last minutes of the voting period, like 50 votes in 2 minutes, by using a special code key that releases the voting machine authentication.
(Journalists in Brazil are the evilest class in the world, they are always on the side of death squads, drug gangs, human organ harvesters. Name something evil, and Brazilian press will support it)

Re:The bill failed to pass (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083528)

Wow, just look at those results! It was essentially a party roll call. Hopefully things will slide a little further toward the "D" side next year, and we just might see bills like this made into law.

So why did Dr. No say NO? (2, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 years ago | (#23084272)

Wow, just look at those results! It was essentially a party roll call.

Notice that "Dr. No" also voted against it. Ron Paul is NOT going to base his vote on trying to improve or preserve election cheating.

That says to me that there's an issue with the Federal Government exceeding its constitutional authority by meddling in the states' election procedures (which ARE the (states' business), there's some "devil in the details" that makes it do the opposite of what it claims, or it's a feel-good-do-nothing bill that would raid the treasury and derail any REAL fix.

The last thing I want to see is more "election reform" that either makes the elections less accurate or gets enjoined and killed by the courts for a legitimate reason while REAL reform is headed off.

(Elections aren't about "fair". They're about heading off violence by predicting its results, well enough that the losers understand that violence won't reverse the loss. So it's very important that the election is both honest and visibly so.)

Hopefully things will slide a little further toward the "D" side next year, and we just might see bills like this made into law.

If any of my conjectures above is correct that's an outcome to be avoided.

Re:So why did Dr. No say NO? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 6 years ago | (#23084952)

That says to me that there's an issue with the Federal Government exceeding its constitutional authority by meddling in the states' election procedures..

That situation has already occurred several thousand times over with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which further aided in privatizing the American voting process - and it shouldn't be the states' business until real and ethical voting rights are put back into place so that the electorate can finally experience an honest election: not a phony election called by Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems, Premier Election Systems (Diebold), ES&S, Accenture - with the operational control element as S.A.I.C.

'Nuff said......

Crap. (1)

MsGeek (162936) | about 6 years ago | (#23086962)

However, amazingly enough my Congresscritter, Howard "Berman the Ermine" Berman (D-MAFIAA) was an aye vote. He was also a co-sponsor. He takes some ridiculous stances for his Big Media patrons, but when I'm ready to tell him to go Cheney himself, he does something like this.

Re:The bill failed to pass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23088316)

What I find amazing, is that almost every vote 'against' this bill, is by a republican.

How is it, than anyone truly concerned about the security of our democratic process of electing officials to govern our country...could vote AGAINST something like this?

Call me what you wish, but this sends a very clear message in my mind about the republican party as a whole, especially given the Diebold fuck ups and sheer level of incompetence it has shown as a voting systems company.

I will revolt if John McCain becomes president via this deceptive practice of electronic black box voting.

Let's get one thing straight (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083466)

Let's get one thing straight: Rep. Holt is anti-voting technology. If it were up to the Representative, we would have absolutely zero voting electronics. Why is a community like Slashdot supporting such a thing? We are supposed to be the people supporting technology.

Why do we want paper ballots? Are they really more secure? Absolutely not!! How easy is it to throw ballots in a river or forge them? A six-year old can do it for God's sake! In contrast, how many people can really hack an election? How hard is it? (well, minus Diebold and Sequoia machines).

The problem is that we need to secure the technology. We need transparent processes to verify that our democratic process works. We should not be supporting any law that restricts technology. We should be the ones embracing it, making it work correctly.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 6 years ago | (#23083534)

I think you're missing the point. This is about having a paper trail to verify the results of the electronic machines, not throwing all the voting machines into a landfill.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23083584)

Why do we want paper ballots? Are they really more secure? Absolutely not!! How easy is it to throw ballots in a river or forge them? A six-year old can do it for God's sake! In contrast, how many people can really hack an election? How hard is it? (well, minus Diebold and Sequoia machines).
A paper trail...not necessarily hand-marked paper ballots.

Hacking a set of identical electronic voting machines across the country only needs to be done once, and you can repeat the process for as many votes as you need. You can't adequately secure bits inside a machine. You can feasibly secure physical paper ballots from being tampered with. Big difference.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (3, Interesting)

Murrquan (1161441) | about 6 years ago | (#23084666)

Maybe the Slashdotters are against voting machines because they actually understand the machines' limitations, and potential for misuse without traces of tampering.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (3, Informative)

et764 (837202) | about 6 years ago | (#23085020)

One reason I'm a fan of paper ballots is that you don't need a degree in Computer Science to understand how they work. Just about any second grader could devise a paper ballot system, which means almost everyone not denied the right to vote can easily reason about whether the system works the way it's supposed to. They don't have to trust experts to be able to trust the voting system.

Just because we're the Slashdot community doesn't mean we should be in favor at gratuitously throwing more technology at everything. Some things are better done the old-fashioned way.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (2, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | about 6 years ago | (#23086302)

Some things are better done the old-fashioned way.

That's right. Voting and sex. For everything else, a computer a guaranteed to provide an improvement in speed, quality, or reproducibility.

Re:Let's get one thing straight (2, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | about 6 years ago | (#23085474)

We are supposed to be the people supporting technology.
You've got it backwards. Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

How easy is it to throw ballots in a river or forge them? A six-year old can do it for God's sake! In contrast, how many people can really hack an election?
With paper, you would need many six-year olds to rig an election. With technology, you may only need one six year old adept at Visual Basic to hack the elections (Yes, Diebold uses Visual Basic for Applications). With paper, everyone can be included in the design of the election process. With technology, the majority of election officials and the majority of the people can easily be bamboozled into an half-assed solution. With paper, security comes from transparency. With technology, security comes from obscurity (even if most of us disagree with that, the fact is that many of our leaders do not think the same way we do).

Also the law on the books was about using both technology *and* paper, therefore increasing transparency and audibility. Framing this debate as Technology vs. Non-Technology is a distortion of what this proposal is trying to achieve. This law is only trying to add transparency to the technology. It is not trying to replace the technology.

And finally, take a look at any gerrymandered congressional district maps (I don't know if you have them where you live). But the congressional maps we have now are the perfect examples of what can go wrong -- when incumbents (both republicans or democrats) are free to make decisions about small technical matters that will affect their own reelection chances. If we can't trust them to draw their own maps (with the help of the right technical consultants), we certainly can't trust them to design the right software processes for their own elections (we just know that the majority of people will be left out of that design process, as opposed to the design process for paper ballots and a paper trail).

Re:Let's get one thing straight (1)

rsborg (111459) | about 6 years ago | (#23086598)

Why is a community like Slashdot supporting such a thing? We are supposed to be the people supporting technology.
Perhaps technology is not a panacea for everything. Pushing technology as the solution to every problem is just as bad as saying C++ is the best language for all occasions. Both are examples of "hammer-wielders seeing every problem as a nail".

Re:Let's get one thing straight (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 6 years ago | (#23094848)

Because amazingly paper ballots leave these things called 'paper trails.' Electronic voting, on the other hand, tends to be very lax in that capacity.

Paper's no pancea, hope it gets done right (2, Informative)

InternetVoting (809563) | about 6 years ago | (#23083492)

In general it's not a bad bill. I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion that throwing paper at the problems will fix everything and the fact that it allows jurisdictions to opt-in is a very big step, I just hope people do paper ballots right not just paper for paper's sake.

It's a little scary seeing the pretty wide authority given to a single federal agency with not a lot of regulation. Eligibility isn't particularly clearly defined. I think in general retrofitting DRE's with VVPAT, particularly in time for November, has a huge potential for causing more harm than good. It's nice to see we've stopped the fairly phony "verified vs. verifiable" debate. My reading says anyone who by state law has to count emergency paper ballots as provisional is ineligible for that portion. For all the requirements there are for the audit section, I'd like to see some in there for handling paper ballots. How about teaching people about ballot design, chain of custody...?

I think it's great that we're expressing the need for research. I'm interested on NIST's input on how feasible this is and more interested on what the actual dollar figures end up at.

Re:Paper's no pancea, hope it gets done right (1)

freedom_india (780002) | about 6 years ago | (#23085338)

Nahhh, it would be vetoed by our educated president who would think this would place an unbearable burden on our budget.

Re:Paper's no pancea, hope it gets done right (1)

Irvu (248207) | about 6 years ago | (#23094150)

CBO Cost estimates are linked from the bill description on Thomas. Click on the first link in the story.

As to NIST, well when asked they stated that the only trustworthy systems are ones that can be verified independently of the technology and to date only systems equipped with a VVPAT provide that as all the other proposed ones (e.g. Prime III) at some point require faith in preexaminations.

NIST, like most sensible people does not trust advance explanations to cover all cases.

Re:Paper's no pancea, hope it gets done right (1)

InternetVoting (809563) | about 6 years ago | (#23100300)

Yes, I understand the CBO guesses around $1 million, but CBO estimates are by no means a guarantee. The federal government doesn't have a great track record with funding the research provisions in reform bills. (HAVA still hasn't been fully funded, largely the research aspects) NIST isn't a person and NIST has made no such statements. If you're referring to the Draft White Paper on SI, that was largely dismissed and did not represent NIST policy. If not, please cite your reference.

Pointless (1, Troll)

cdrguru (88047) | about 6 years ago | (#23083544)

It is pointless to consider "paper" ballots in any real way. Any election that takes longer than about 12 hours is going to be "called on account of time" by the news services. They will announce a winner, based on exit polling, other polling, the way the wind is blowing and the entrails of a calf. But by God they are going to release the name of the winner before everyone goes to bed.

Look at 2000 - Gore was announced as the winner by CBS. Then, later, that announcement was retracted but there are people that believe today that Gore won the election fair and square. Too bad they couldn't reproduced the winning after two months of selective recounts and rule changes. Can the US survive another announced winner later proven to be false? I don't think so.

If the news services can't be silenced, we cannot rely on recounts or anything else that takes days to count properly. The authoritative answer has to be presented the evening of the election, probably by midnight Eastern Time or there will be all hell to pay. And by "authoritative" I do not be absolutely correct, just accepted by the majority of the population. This is what we had until 2000. It is something we will never have again if the news services preempt the process and announce a winner in advance of ballot counting again.

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23084860)

Can the US survive another announced winner later proven to be false?

Of all the problems the US may face, having a news anchor fuck up is near the bottom. "We are projecting a winner" doesn't mean shit which is why people wait for a concession speech.

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23085498)

No, people believe Gore won because he won the popular vote by a considerable margin, because of voting problems in Florida, and because of the not-so-evenhanded intervention by the SCOTUS. The news projections, while they might have gotten people's hopes up, isn't the reason people believe Gore won.

Oh, and let's not forget buyer's remorse as a reason, as well. President Numbnuts makes it easy to believe Gore won.

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23085846)

couldn't reproduced the winning after two months of selective recounts and rule changes.

Yet, when all the major news groups got together and recounted the Florida ballots themselves with specific rules in place for hanging chads (remarkably, the exact same rules for handling hanging chads as had been in place for SIXTY YEARS, despite the insistence from pundits that everyone had gone stupid after Y2K and couldn't figure out how to vote on those "newfangled" punch cards), Gore would have won the popular vote, as long as the entire state had been recounted with the correct rules, something that neither Bush nor Gore nor the Supreme Court (for whatever reason it thought it had the authority to tell everyone how to vote) wanted.

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23093604)

Yeah you keep believing that. Don't let little things like 'facts' get in your way.

Re:Pointless (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 6 years ago | (#23087414)

Canada does just fine with paper ballots. After the polls close we get running tallies on CBC as the votes are counted on election night. It's not rocket science.

The problem is not paper ballots; the problem is with the people running the show.

/, as a lobbying vehicle? (2, Interesting)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about 6 years ago | (#23083710)

Is this really an appropriate fashion to present such content, via full endorsement and support by ./?

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (3, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | about 6 years ago | (#23083888)

I've been here for quite a few years. I think maybe 9.

Since when has /. not lobbied for certain things?

Democrats, liberals, net neutrality, voter verified paper trails, and tons more. This has only increased (unsurprisingly) since the Politics section was created (which helped reduce the S/N on the other bits). Slashdot has been quite vocal in various things (like almost anything anti-Bush) for years and years.

All that said, this is a private website. They can lobby for whatever they want. That story went through the firehose (or at least other copied did) and was quite popular. Readers seem to want to discuss it as well.

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about 6 years ago | (#23083964)

They haven't openly lobbied for anything to the point of actually posting "how-to lobby your Congressman" notes.

Um, yes, that's general idea behind private property...

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (2, Insightful)

Nethead (1563) | about 6 years ago | (#23086382)

Actually they are telling you to get off your ass and be a citizen. They have been doing that since I've been visiting the site.

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about 6 years ago | (#23089072)

Being a citizen isn't about being led around by the nose by /.. As for being an active citizen, I'm certainly not someone they need to be working on, and using /. to direct the clueless ones is a bit unnerving. Unless the implication is that the only way to be a "good" citizen is to nod your head as you march in line to /.'s drums.

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (1)

Nethead (1563) | about 6 years ago | (#23091054)

I very much doubt that Malda would consider himself a political leader rousing the geek-sheep to fight for his causes. Clueless ones will be directed by someone anyway, be they political, religious or commercial. One way to get the clueless clued in is to get them active directly with the system so that they may more clearly see how it works and what the adoption of their platform would mean within the larger picture. That takes time, dedication and a willingness to modify ones views. Civilization is a long series of debate and compromises. The results of that debate must be open and trusted for the civilization to advance. I think that this article is trying to promote that. Still, read the bill yourself and decide for yourself what is best for you and your community. Then report back here with what you have found and add to the debate. Also thank Malda that he gave you a place to do just that.

I'm glad that you are an active citizen and hope that you have researched your views coming to them through analytical thinking rather than misplaced outrage feed by someone's agenda that does not have your best interests at heart.

Re:/, as a lobbying vehicle? (2, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about 6 years ago | (#23091236)

I think judging a bill based solely on what is "best for you and your community" is a wrongful approach. First, one must ask themselves, "is this bill Constitutional under the strictly enumerated powers given to the Federal government?" If not, then obviously the bill is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed out of hand. If it is Constitutional, the second question to ask is "does this bill limit individual rights and liberties?" If yes, then it should be dismissed as an instrument of tyranny. Then, and only then, can one ask the self-interested question of "is this bill good for me and my self-defined community?"

Wait... (1)

jberryman (1175517) | about 6 years ago | (#23083836)

so are you saying that this bill is actually an attempt to make elections MORE HONEST? Let's stick to the rules, guys: if you name the bill the "Secure Elections Act", I expect it to be an Orwellian attempt to deliver all state control to the shadowy members of the PNAC.

Gosh. Why would Republicans be against this? (1)

Asterra (1087671) | about 6 years ago | (#23084312)

Ironic questions aside.. in 30 years, the only people still maintaining illusions about the truth behind the 2000 and 2004 elections will be the lingering remnants of the once significant horde who were easily swayed by an overweight radio personality.

This bill has a loophole (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 6 years ago | (#23084630)

The loophole in this bill is that it is allows states to slap printers onto the election machines and claim that they have paper trails. Unfortunately that doesn't really solve the core problem.

I discussed this over email with some people at TrueVoteMD [truevotemd.org] and their opinion was that, at least for Maryland, that didn't matter since our voting machines don't even have ports for printers. It still kinda scared me though.

Re:This bill has a loophole (1)

proselyte_heretic (1030466) | about 6 years ago | (#23084798)

At the end of the night, the results are printed (from the diebold machines) in paper. Also, you get a paper copy of that allows you to vote, and I don't think that anything significant happens if you ask a second to be printed. I worked the primaries, and as far as I can tell, the only difference between those and the general election is that party affiliation is not asked.

Open Source is (surprisingly) the only solution (2, Interesting)

jr76 (1272780) | about 6 years ago | (#23085232)

You know, I am not the person always gung-ho about open source technology, but I do believe that open source software and hardware is the only way to have electronic voting work. It's the only way to get enough peer-review so that all sides and all parties can be assured it would be tamper-proof. Any private entity is the exact opposite, since they have no requirement, and often the exact opposite incentive to make it tamper-proof, so therefore the devices are more likely to "deliver" the votes the company wants to deliver, all in the argument that "it's more secure" because they say it is. Has anyone ever brought this up in slashdot? It really is worth it's own article. P.S. Paper can be manipulated, too.

Re:Open Source is (surprisingly) the only solution (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 6 years ago | (#23108660)

Open source isn't the answer. How can you ever know that the code you're running is truly the open source code you validated unless you compile and install it yourself (I'm talking about every voter here)? How can you know for sure that the OS or BIOS isn't corrupted somehow? If you're going to use software in the election process then the process needs to be designed in such a way that it doesn't matter if the code is open or closed source.

Re:Open Source is (surprisingly) the only solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23108816)

Which is why I said software AND hardware.

The Vote: a right or a duty? (1)

LaoziSailor (866696) | about 6 years ago | (#23088066)

Is the vote a right or a duty?, this is where in IMO you should start. If you consider it a right, then you've already lost, irrespective of technology. Voting is a duty and failing to do so should result in penalties.

Best Solution (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 6 years ago | (#23094228)

Go back to punch ballots. Require chads to be removed by the voter for the selections to be valid. ITs really that simple.

Technology in th evoting process only makes it easier to hack.

I subscribe. And I vote in pennsylvania . (1)

Besna (1175279) | about 6 years ago | (#23153506)

3.5 mil democrats, 49.1% Obama, 48.2% Clinton. 2.2 mil Republicans, 70% McCain, 20% Huckster.
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