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Voting Machines Routinely Failing Nationwide

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the to-boldly-die-where-many-machines-have-died-before dept.

United States 237

palegray.net writes "Voting machines in several critical swing states are causing major problems for voters. A Government Accountability Office report and Common Cause election study [PDF] has concluded that major issues identified in the last presidential election have not been corrected, nor have election officials been notified of the problems. How long can we afford to trust our elections to black box voting practices? From the article: 'In Colorado, 20,000 left polling places without voting in 2006 because of crashed computer registration machines and long lines. And this election day, Colorado will have another new registration system.'"

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237 comments

Voting machines (5, Funny)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069453)

Maybe it would just be easier to bribe Diebold more than whoever is holding their leash now? Saves all that pesky trouble of actually fixing the problem.

Re:Voting machines (5, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069495)

I think it's insane that this is left to a private company to do anything more than fit the parts together.
I mean this is the sort of thing which Open Source would be perfect for.
There would be no shortage of coders willing to review the code and point out any problems.
It would help with the "open" part of "open and fair" election

Re:Voting machines (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069555)

Aye, but then thar be no booty in it, and what's good for gold is good for all landlubbers, savvy?

Re:Voting machines (2, Interesting)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069595)

It might be off topic, but if a country can have a private (at least quasi-public) central bank, they sure as hell can have private voting systems.
---
In the States no one can hear you vote.

Party On! (2, Insightful)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070357)

It mattereth not much as the nominating process has been privatized as well.

Re:Voting machines (3, Funny)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069685)

I mean this is the sort of thing which Open Source would be perfect for

I like to use open source thinking when I vote:
Vote early and vote often.

Re:Voting machines (5, Interesting)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069781)

I'm surprised that these municipalities don't hold mock elections to test the machines. It wouldn't be so much of a stretch to locally run mock elections. Maybe give everyone who participates a small tax credit. The process could be figured into the overall budget for rolling out new election equipment.

I also wonder whether organizations like Common Cause have many elections' worth of data to show that now there are significantly more problems than before...

Re:Voting machines (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069881)

I would be happy to participate in mock elections to see how the machines work and how they are tested. :)

Re:Voting machines (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069915)

Depending your state and party, November 11th will be a test vote.

Re:Voting machines (4, Informative)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069957)

If you vote on Nov 11 your vote definitely will not count.

Re:Voting machines (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070385)

I'm going to vote absentee this year specifically to avoid that issue.

Re:Voting machines (2, Insightful)

srussia (884021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070543)

I'm surprised that these municipalities don't hold mock elections to test the machines.

Au contraire, that's what they've been doing all this time.

Re:Voting machines (5, Insightful)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069759)

I mean this is the sort of thing which Open Source would be perfect for. There would be no shortage of coders willing to review the code and point out any problems. It would help with the "open" part of "open and fair" election

You make an excellent point. A community reviewed and verifiable voting machine system is the best way to ensure that the voters have faith in the vote. Democracy as a concept is worthless if the voters have no ability to verify the vote. If voters can not have faith in the system of elections, then the voters cannot have faith in their government. Electronic voting machines are eroding voters faith in their government and faith in democracy. It's hard to convince people to trust their government if they can't even trust the system that elects the government.

Re:Voting machines (3, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070239)

You make an excellent point. A community reviewed and verifiable voting machine system is the best way to ensure that the voters have faith in the vote. Democracy as a concept is worthless if the voters have no ability to verify the vote. If voters can not have faith in the system of elections, then the voters cannot have faith in their government. Electronic voting machines are eroding voters faith in their government and faith in democracy. It's hard to convince people to trust their government if they can't even trust the system that elects the government.

You know the problems with these machines and I know the problems, but are you willing to bet (and how much) that the majority of Americans are aware of the problem or even care? Ask yourself how much you would be willing to bet that the majority of Americans care, and if you can't justify a significant amount of assets, you'll have your answer.

Re:Voting machines (4, Interesting)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070353)

I don't think the problem is the lack of caring, but rather the lack of understanding. When I talk to my mom about this problem, her eyes glaze over and I can tell that she can't quite wrap her head around this problem. She doesn't get the mechanics of the problem and gets frustrated. Once she's frustrated, she can't move on to the other points and develop an opinion.

I saw this when I sold computers and cell phones. People would come in, not knowing what they wanted, try to ask some questions and then end up frustrated when they didn't "get it". They would usually leave empty handed, or buy the one that fit their price point the best. It's not that they didn't care, but rather they couldn't hold all the variables in their head. This problem is similar, non-technical people can't quite conceive of the problem and its intricacies so they'd rather not be frustrated and just ignore it.

This means that those of us that do "get it" need to be responsible in advocating for proper solutions.

Re:Voting machines (4, Informative)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070873)

Try describing it using money. If she has $10 and buys something costing $5, if the till says she gets $4 change then the machine is wrong. Obviously.
The voting machine tells you things via a process you can't and more importantly aren't allowed to independently verify. But the results seem to be wrong. The machine must be examined to see where the problem lies. They won't let you. How long would you argue in the store that the till was wrong ?

The People (3, Insightful)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070547)

The majority of the people who vote think that they are making a real choice. They believe that Tweedledee or Tweedledum are, in fact, meaningfully different. It's true! They saw it on television.

Re:Voting machines (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070503)

Democracy as a concept is worthless if the voters have no ability to verify the vote.

and everyone shrugs when you ask them why the percentage of people who vote is so low in this country.

Re:Voting machines (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070755)

Maybe we could put the code in a Wiki, but then the only problem would be the ancient voters would want it in C or COBOL, the middle aged folks would want something like Java, and the kids would want Django or whatever the newest hippest language is these days. Of course, the Diebold guys probably want it written in CABAL.

More seriously a "Democratic" government should be transparent, and it does not make sense to use an opaque voting system.

Re:Voting machines (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070851)

Who says that our government is even remotely interested in the voters having faith in them? They routinely and overtly lie to the voters, already.

Re:Voting machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25071053)

no security concerns with open source voting?

Re:Voting machines (2, Insightful)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070139)

...this is the sort of thing which Open Source would be perfect for.
There would be no shortage of coders willing to review the code and point out any problems.
It would help with the "open" part of "open and fair" election

Then why not do it? That's how open source works, isn't it? Identify a need and get to it?

Don't stop at just software though. Make a playbook for the entire system that any precinct is free to implement. Call out the check in procedure, how to handle privacy, how to aid people with disabilities, minimum manning requirements, the redundant paper trail, etc. Make an open source rock solid "how to run an election without blowing it" guide.

Re:Voting machines (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070649)

I think it is insane to even let a company fit the parts together. How do you know that they don't patch the software beforehand ? When it is proved than in less than two minutes with physical access you can rig a machine to falsify stealthily its results, how can you trust a private company to assemble it or even to store it ?

Re:Voting machines (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25071027)

Why do you need open source?
Make a mark on a bit of paper, and putting said bit of paper in a closed box - It's easy to operate, easy to understand, failure tends to be highly localised (one bit of paper, or possibly one box full of bits of paper).

Closed source - very bad, only gets reviewed by those that own it.
Open source - bad, only gets reviewed by techies.
Bits of paper with a tick on it - good, anyone who can read can review it.

Does it matter that it takes a bit longer to know the result? Is the potential for fraud on a massive scale worth the saving of a day or two of people counting?

Sometimes technology makes things worse.

Re:Voting machines (5, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071063)

Keep in mind that the message is clearly and loudly being sent:

"Profit is the most important thing in the United States of America."

Never in so few, or just those words, but sent nonetheless.
"Government should not do anything that can be done by the private sector."
"The Medicare Part 4 specifically prohibits the government from using its buying power to negotiate a better price on pharmaceuticals."
"A company is *only* responsible to return value to its shareholders, while obeying the law."
etc, etc, etc

With mantras like these, what do you expect?

Obama really is a miracle-worker... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069613)

Never underestimate the power of liberal white guilt.

Re:Obama really is a miracle-worker... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069871)

how is that different from conservative white guilt? ... oh, hey...

Re:Obama really is a miracle-worker... (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071279)

The latter can be proven in a court of law.

Re:Voting machines (1)

keithltaylor (966667) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070455)

Betcha they're mostly in democratic districts.....

big deal (5, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069465)

voters have been routinely failing nationwide for years.

Re:big deal (2, Funny)

adpsimpson (956630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069609)

voters have been routinely failing nationwide for years.

However, doctors have made good progress at unravelling the mysteries of their interior designs and workings, and have been making good progress in recent years at 'hacking back together' malfunctioning units.

It should be pointed out that their efforts are being slightly hampered by businesses patenting certain bits of the voter units, methods of interacting with it and chemical processes for alteration of failures and reactions.

User Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070253)

+1 ... funny :-)

on a related note i have a feeling 99% of the time it's user error anyways

Problems: (5, Interesting)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069493)

FTA:
""We're seeing a lot of problems where people are being kicked off the data base rolls if their name is on as Alex as opposed to Alexander or they've put a middle initial in there name and it's not there," said Susan"

It sounds like these problems could have been avoided if the system was designed properly in the first place. Whoever was contracted for this should be made to solve the problem for providing a product that clearly lacked testing.

Re:Problems: (4, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069513)

You can't actually hold companies responsible for their mistakes!!!

Re:Problems: (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070231)

True that. 'Cause companies ain't people. Get that enshrined into law and you'll be much better off.

Re:Problems: (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069683)

Didn't anybody see Man of the Year!?

Re:Problems: (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070643)

Didn't anybody see Man of the Year!?

Hmmm...So the Diebold system will give McCain a billion extra votes for having two cs in his name and it will give Obama three billion extra votes for having two As? What crazy language are those things written in?

Re:Problems: (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070363)

Whoever was contracted for this should be made to solve the problem for providing a product that clearly lacked testing.

Testing? This is a requirements problem, plain and simple. Unless the spec says "Must be able to perform name lookup in the case of name variation, such as missing middle initials or shortened forms", then they would've implemented it.

The real question is, who wrote the requirements for the thing, and why did this get missed?

Re:Problems: (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070389)

Err... that is... "If the spec says". :)

wow... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069531)

How long can we afford to trust our elections to black box voting practices?

Classic bigotry on Slashdot. I believe the correct phrase is "African-American box", thank you very much.

Re:wow... (1)

psychicninja (1150351) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070471)

I believe the correct phrase is "African-American box"...

Giggity!

Easy Solution... (5, Insightful)

blcamp (211756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069601)

Paper. Pencil. Manual count. Done.

I love tech as much as the next geek. It's my life, and my living. But sometimes, the better solutions are the simpler ones.

Re:Easy Solution... (5, Insightful)

snsh (968808) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069731)

Pencil? Pen!

Re:Easy Solution... (2, Interesting)

kalirion (728907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070713)

Even pens can be erased. Felt Tip Marker!

Felt Tips (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071087)

That's what we use, and the paper ballots are stored in sealed boxes in case we feel the need to do a manual recount.
Unlike those third-world states listed in TFA

Re:Easy Solution... (4, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069739)

Paper. Pencil. Manual count. Done.

I love tech as much as the next geek. It's my life, and my living. But sometimes, the better solutions are the simpler ones.

Its not that computer based voting is a bad idea, its just that it was tackled as a means to make money, not to provide a better voting service. Corners were cut in the name of profits, and the result is the shit systems currently giving the concept a bad name.

Re:Easy Solution... (5, Insightful)

shilly (142940) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070039)

Of course it's a bad idea! At the end of the day, any computer-based system is inherently opaque and impermanent, whereas paper-based systems are inherently transparent and permanent. It requires the simplest of skills (literacy and numeracy) to check out the veracity of a paper poll, and once a mark is made it's difficult to erase. Contrast that with computer systems.

Re:Easy Solution... (1)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070819)

"At the end of the day, any computer-based system is inherently opaque and impermanent, whereas paper-based systems are inherently transparent and permanent."

I agree but, for the sake of speed of results and convenience, we will move to an electronic system. I just want that system to print a paper receipt that can be used in the case of a dispute and a recount.

"It requires the simplest of skills (literacy and numeracy) to check out the veracity of a paper poll

Skills which are rapidly disappearing in this culture.

Re:Easy Solution... (0, Troll)

DogDude (805747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070879)

I just want that system to print a paper receipt that can be used in the case of a dispute and a recount.

Computer based voting is simply unnecessarily complicated. Who says that the system will print out the correct information? What happens to the receipts?

Nah, pen and paper have worked for thousands of years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Re:Easy Solution... (5, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070067)

Not only that. It provides a solution for a problem that is unrelated to the issue.

The fact that it takes longer to count should not bother anybody. So what if the counting takes two weeks? For all I care they only release the information all at the same time one month after the election for all of the country.

I am not interested in knowing who is the winner at 14h04. I am interested in the fact if the winner has been elected in a fair way. And if you can not bring people in to hold up your counting (by volunteers, appointing or by paying them) then perhaps you should abandon this whole democracy thing as it is clear that the people have no real interest in it.

Re:Easy Solution... (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070097)

Its not that computer based voting is a bad idea...

Yes it is. Computer based voting is a bad idea. Computer based vote counting is a bad idea. I cannot fathom how any honest person who knows anything about computers and computer programming would ever condone the use of computers to count votes in elections. A lot of Slashdotters in particular need to get real on this issue. Technology is great, but sometimes it's better to keep things simple.

When it comes to elections the most important thing is that people have faith in the vote. Computers have never, and will never be able to provide this. This is true today, and it will be true a thousand years from now. A thousand years from now democratic societies will be voting and counting on paper ballots. Lip service democracies and the like will be using computers.

Re:Easy Solution... (5, Informative)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069885)

Here in Brazil we use voting machines for more than 10 years and it works pretty good. Also, the new version we're using this year is running over linux.

Believe or not, it works without frauds in the 3rd world.

Re:Easy Solution... (2, Interesting)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070445)

I'd hardly consider Brazil 3rd World & I'm surprised that you do.

Re:Easy Solution... (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070465)

My opinion exactly. Keep things as simple as possible. It takes a really long time to change 10,000 votes on paper. It can be done in .25 seconds for electronic voting.

Re:Easy Solution... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071029)

I found TFA to be quite enlightening. As a long time poll worker in the People's Republic of California, I have worked through the transition from paper to machine. And I have sort of been mystified by all the hubbub. Now I understand. We haven't ever had the problems cited. Unless someone has hacked the machines, (?), Everything is kosher here. The only problem we ever have is provisional ballots for out-of-precinct voters, and that is just a little extra work as they have to be hand counted, as long as they are registered in our county the vote counts. All the machines have done besides (possibly) providing a vector for fraud, is make things one hell of a lot easier at the end of the night. We don't have to count the votes by hand, and square up all the totals, which used to be fairly difficult, especially after already working 15 hours straight. Now we get out one hour after the polls close. If there seems to be some problem, we have all of our PAPER BALLOTS sealed up in boxes available for a hand count.

Re:Easy Solution... (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071067)

I still believe that a well done electronic voting system can be significantly more secure than the most secure paper ballots.

Re:Easy Solution... (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071227)

Reminds me of the last Eureka episode.

Fine them 500,000 per 'failure' (4, Interesting)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069607)

This is a company that makes ATMs, right? If their money was at stake, I'd wager they'd suddenly become rather reliable.

Hey (4, Funny)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069625)

As long as my guy wins, who cares right?

Re:Hey (4, Interesting)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069845)

As long as my guy wins, who cares right?

Only if your guy is also my guy.

Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (3, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069629)

How about we fix this problem a few years instead of a few weeks before the next major election? This is further proof that voting needs to be standardized in order to uphold the virtues of our 'democracy.' Otherwise any election can be rigged, and we will end up with another hanging chad fiasco or Diebold epic failure.

it's not too late to fix many of these problems. Although many states don't have the laws on the books to require some safeguards, they can act now to make sure that there are enough back up ballots at the polls, workers are properly trained and there are enough poll workers on election day.
Why does this exact same scenario happen every 4 years? Haven't we learned ANYTHING?

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069709)

American ingenuity ceases to function unless there is a carrot hanging in front of them or their back is against a wall.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (4, Informative)

Tridus (79566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069949)

Its honestly baffling sitting up here in Canada, looking down there and trying to understand how this keeps getting screwed up year after year.

Up here, federal elections are handled by a federal body (Elections Canada), and are done the same way everywhere in the country. Its all standardized. We use a pencil. The whole thing is over pretty fast, and all these problems just don't come up.

Considering how much more often Americans vote, and how many more things there are to vote for, its hard to figure out why the process hasn't been perfected down there yet. If anything it seems to be getting worse.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070335)

At some point, even the densest among us must start to wonder whether it's a bug or a feature.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070481)

India too has a neutral constitutional organization that is devoted full time to organizing and regulating all the various state-level and national elections. They also have support of various government machinery (including the police and para-military) at their disposal during the elections to do whatever it takes for a free and fair election. Their operation is transparent, have adopted electronic voting in the past decade and having been running without a glitch for years.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (2, Informative)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070511)

What I find truly bizarre is this belief that adding more technology to the problem will fix it. As you say, here in Canada we use simple paper ballots marked by hand. Once voting is complete the votes are hand counted. The process is simple, transparent, and reliable.

The American system, by contrast, seems like an exercise in complexity for the sake of complexity. Yeah, there's more people voting, but that just means there's more people who can do the counting. Yeah, the ballots are more complex, but there's no reason why you can't design a straightforward ballot that's easy to fill in and easy to count. Yeah, there's the whole states rights issue, but given the problems in the electoral system, I sincerely doubt it would be hard for the federal government to get a majority of the states onboard with a standardized system. There really seems to be no excuse, other than sheer incompetence. It's truly strange.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070665)

I agree with you. Things are much simpler in Canada. I find it amazing that Americans actually have to wait in line to vote, for hours sometimes. Last time I went to vote, I only waited maybe 10 minutes, although that's probably an upper bound. I don't really think there was any waiting at all. The US seems like they want to make it difficult for people to vote.

Re:Freedom and Democracy EPIC FAIL (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070841)

We don't trust our politicians to do it right. I can't speak for everybody, but I'd bet that there is a significant population of us who are worried about handing the entire Democratic process over to congress and saying "Ok, give us something that works well, and doesn't have any crazy or corrupt loopholes in it"

We also can't trust each other to do it right. The most disgusting thing I remember in politics was after the 2000 election, when my party, the democrats, started complaining about all the corrupt practices taking place in Florida and all over the country. The republicans didn't care because their guy got the prize. Then, after a couple of weeks, maybe a month, the democrats dropped the issue entirely and it became business as usual. Meanwhile, those of us who were outraged at the outright corruption in the most fundamental component of our political system, were regarded as part of the tin-foil hat crowd.

The only way anything will ever get done is if we make a big deal about it next year. If it sounds the slightest bit like someone is complaining that their guy lost, then nothing will get done. If we wait any longer, then we will be caught up in another campaign season, and it will be heavily politicized.

"In Colorado, 20,000 left polling places ..." (1)

vandelais (164490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069639)

OMG! Zombies!

Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (2, Informative)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069643)

So, where exactly are these voting machines I keep hearing about? I have voted in every election (even in off-Pres years), and in several states (Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and Pennsylvania), and I have yet to use one of these Diebold (or anyone else's) voting machines. I've used the punch-card system, with the "hanging chads" and all, although most of the time it's simple "fill-in-the-ovals". So, maybe I just haven't been lucky enough to live in a precinct with fancy-shmancy voting machines,... or maybe I'm still living in the 19th century and no one told me?

Also, when are we going to be able to vote on the internets? You'd think they could work that out by now, right? Maybe the real reason we can't vote by internet is because the politicians know that it would increase the vote of the well-connected (and usually liberal) student population, and they really don't want to do that,...

Re:Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069765)

Basicly it's a big black box with a large lever. Next to that lever there's a text saying "To vote for the Republican party please pull the lever. For other parties please punch yourself in the face".

Re:Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (3, Funny)

NoisySplatter (847631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069795)

And if you do vote for the republicans you end up punching yourself in the face anyway, just much later.

Re:Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070031)

Hahaha! Insightful indeed. Thank you for the complement. ;)

Re:Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070243)

Wow! Insightful, funny, and flamebait, gotta catch 'em all.

Re:Where exactly are these "voting machines"? (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070383)

I used a touch-screen voting machine in the 2004 presidential election in Falls Church, Virginia.

I just don't get it. (5, Interesting)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069649)

How can law makers think that it is OK to buy and deploy unproven, closed-source devices to measure elections? There is no other segment of our society that would allow such a mission critical piece of technology to be deployed without independent or redundant systems. My electric tea kettle has been more rigorously tested by third parties than these voting machines.

The only reasons I can come up with are these: 1. The senators are deaf, dumb and can't hear our collective screams or 2. Appreciate the uncertainty that electronic voting machines provide. I believe both could be true varying degrees for most of our representatives. We have certainly all been screaming enough that they should have heard us by now.

What can we do? I've written to my representatives only to get a form letter back acknowledging their sincere concern for my "issue". When I lived in Colorado, I insisted on voting by mail. At least vote-by-mail provided a physically countable ballot. Unfortunately, in the 2004 election, my county clerk FORGOT to mail out a chunk of ballots and I had to vote by fax because I was out of the country. Perhaps the absolute worst way I could possibly vote other than a touch screen.

If you are afflicted by touch screen voting, I suggest registering to vote by mail. At least then there's a chance that some real person will really count your ballot and really record the proper vote. Seems like only a chance these days though.

Re:I just don't get it. (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069841)

How can law makers think that it is OK to buy and deploy unproven, closed-source devices to measure elections?

To save money

There is no other segment of our society that would allow such a mission critical piece of technology to be deployed without independent or redundant systems.

What about the people responsible for the New Orleans Levy system? Wasn't that built under spec to save cash?

My electric tea kettle has been more rigorously tested by third parties than these voting machines.

And those laws are in place now because when such devices first appeared they weren't checked as well and people died.

The only reasons I can come up with are these: 1. The senators are deaf, dumb and can't hear our collective screams or 2. Appreciate the uncertainty that electronic voting machines provide.

or (3), they like the money it saved them because these crap machines cost less then rigorously tested and robust machines.

Re:I just don't get it. (4, Insightful)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070095)

Or:

4) They liked the money the Diebold lobbyists contributed to their reelection war chests.

Re:I just don't get it. (4, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070169)

Voting by fax should be illegal as your vote can be traced back to you.

Voting by mail is ok, as long as you put the ballot in a sealed blank envelope and at the other side people check if the envelope is really blank and closed.

I have done some sit ins in Belgium and votes by mail were opened one at a time. And checked against a list, so that only one vote would be done for that person. If the envelope was not closed or if there were clear recognizable marks on it (somebody even put his name on the envelope) the envelope is destroyed without opening and the vote is not counted.

All the blank envelopes where then placed in one place and then first opened one by one, to see if there were no two ballots in it. Once that was done, the ballots were divided by party and counted.

This all under the watching eye of people who were of said party, but were NOT allowed to tough the ballots. Even with this paper, there was a LOT of overlapping control and about 4 to 5 times more people involved as would actually be needed.

And still that is something I trust more then a machine that counts all that in 2 minutes, instead of us doing it in 6 hours.

Re:I just don't get it. (4, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070317)

In the US, we take all of the mail-in ballots, and put them in a crate. Then, if and only if there are enough to swing the election, we try to figure out the best way to count them, because we weren't really expecting that to ever happen.

web based (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069677)

Why don't we just go with a web based voting system. Everyone could vote from home. Surely noone could figure out how to break that. Ooh, how about american idol style. And the candidate you vote for could send you a personalized message back asking for more donations.

Re:web based (2, Insightful)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070237)

Why don't we just go with a web based voting system. Everyone could vote from home. Surely noone could figure out how to break that.

You're right. The inter-tubes are perfectly secure and safe. It's unpossible that anyone could break them ;)

Ooh, how about american idol style. And the candidate you vote for could send you a personalized message back asking for more donations.

Now yer on to sumthin. Vote by texting REPUB or DEMO to 6657. Normaltextmessagingfeesapply.

The idea of web voting is a really interesting one, with some really interesting consequences. If you look at broadband penetration and home computing numbers, you'll see an interesting pattern. The highest connectivity to the web is among affluent white folks. These are the same folks that shop from their bathrobes at 2:00 am.

One possible consequence of online voting is that the bathrobe-shoppers are more likely to vote than if they have to go to a poling place. Because they are more likely to vote and represent only one segment of the population, the vote can become skewed in one particular direction or another. It could effectively disenfranchise other groups that are less likely to have computers at home.

Re:web based (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070371)

Now yer on to sumthin. Vote by texting REPUB or DEMO to 6657. Normaltextmessagingfeesapply.

Oh god, not a poll tax. Has no-one learned anything from the Thatcher government?

How hard can it be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25069873)

Here are the choices, vote for one. Whoever gets the vote ads to a total.

How hard can that possibly be to implement?

Re:How hard can it be? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25070027)

It's hard to implement backdoors to manipulate the votes in such a way that it appears to be faulty equipment.

2 things (1)

beerdini (1051422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069947)

First of all, and this has been said a hundred times already, it is not difficult to make a voting software program that is secure, collects and counts votes. Fairly simple programming, no ports on the machine, no additional software like virus/spyware needed, etc...

And secondly, with failure after failure of this system, lets go back to the big booth with the buttons and all that other stuff. I've only used it once since I could vote, but that was always considered 100% accurate.

I prefer the fill in the bubble method, it is pretty hard to mess up, but after a local election I'm getting skeptical of those. I knew the mayor that got voted out and allegedly they randomized the ballots for who appears on the top. Now what I remember about OCR testing is you have to send a master through to determine scoring, so you could be voting for the person in spot 2, but the OCR is programmed to count that as spot 1. Hmmm...maybe I should have told the mayor that.

Re:2 things (1)

TimTheFoolMan (656432) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071211)

Typically, candidate order randomization isn't done within a given precinct, but is a variation from one precinct to another. In areas where it IS done within a precinct, you end up with a multitude of "ballot styles" that each have an identifying code that tells the scanner which style is being scanned, and which OMR (not OCR) spot goes with a given candidate.

Ordering issues are also why getting humans to count ballots correctly has always been an issue. US ballots are complex for a variety of reasons that don't apply in Canada or other countries, and State's rights issues fall into the mix as well, precluding large-scale standardization, other than the testing that has been done by NASED and (more recently) by the EAC.

It's endlessly amusing how often all of these discussions come up in Slashdot, how they rarely touch on the real issues that affect voting in the US, and how amazingly complex situations can be simplified when one wants to look at a problem superficially.

It's like being the guy writing some parser code trying to explain why the project is late to a senior manager. The manager doesn't have a clue what the issues are until he gets down and lives with the problems, so how are you supposed to explain to him why seemingly unrelated issues caused so many problems? - Tim

athens, tn (5, Informative)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25069963)

Strangely enough, the last armed revolt against the government in the US was in Athens, Tn. in *1946*. The cause? Voting issues...

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1985/2/1985_2_72.shtml [americanheritage.com]

Not that I am advocating it, but it will be interesting to see just how PO'd folks will get...

Who cares??? (-1, Flamebait)

AndyWit (1238658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070013)

Voting is a feel good exercise anyway. If anything it should be harder for someone to vote. Lets first start by taking some sort of intelligence test. Weed out the idiots. Live of the gov't? No vote. Then institute share-holder like voting. After all everyone who pays into the system has a stake. So let those who pay more have a larger stake. Remember there is only one objective in the 2008 election. Transfer of personal responsibility to the gov't. Why else do you think Obama is running?

Nationalize the voting machine corps? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070071)

I guess the USA just has to follow its standard practice of problem solving and nationalize all the voting machine companies. Yes, that'll do it...

When do the US folks wake up ? (-1, Flamebait)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070519)

You have been totally screwed. While you worry about your credit rating, saftey and all, your freedoms have been stolen. Thank God that there is 3000 miles of ocan between you and us. If only the distance from UK was the same.

Follow the footsteps of EFF (2, Interesting)

jriding (1076733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070733)

Why has an organization not filed a lawsuit against the states that agree to use the known failed machines? The EFF just filed against G.W. Is this something that can not be addressed legally?

Write to your representative (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070947)

It is vitally important that people write letters [rocknerd.co.uk] - actual paper letters, with a stamp - to their MPs, Congressmen or equivalent. MAKE NOISE.

Re:Write to your representative (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25070965)

argh. I meant to post this to the next story. Never mind, it applies to this one too! Where applicable.

The political side of an Open source initiative (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071085)

Some people have stated that we need an open source voting software, and we do, but can you imagine how it will go over when Sean Hannity begins claiming that anyone can go to the website the night before the election and change the software to vote for their candidate? It doesn't matter if it's not true, bigger lies are repeated every single day, in politics. We would need a limited-access open source project, in which the general public has read-only access, but any changes must be made by a limited group of people who are either well-known well-trusted public figures, or representatives of organizations.

If we paid several different organizations to spare a programmer or two to collaborate on the job, and required them to keep it available via subversion, then we might be able to get something done. From a technical standpoint, it probably will not work better, but, politically speaking, we would need to have some public figures to hold accountable.

Re:The political side of an Open source initiative (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071261)

Punch Sean Hanity in the face.

This whole election is crazy... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071151)

Obama is running with a promise to change America, talking up liberalism, while Bush is actually the biggest liberal this country has had -EVER-. Democrats 100 years of liberal activism, from a financial perspective, pales completely compared to Bush's federal takeover of the entire US mortgage market. I'm looking at drudgereport and I'm just stunned.... I'm almost really drawing a blank trying to imagine what Obama could do that could actually be more socialist then the government absorbing the largest financial part of the USA economy. 8 years of supporting Bush and I wind up getting the biggest liberal in human history. Just reminds me of a scene in Lord of the Rings, when the king says shortly before the battle of Helms Deep "How did it come to this."

Oblig. (2, Funny)

qualidafial (967876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25071185)

Now your vote didn't matter.
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