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Can Static Electricity Generate Votes?

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the dc-elections-crack-me-up-and-barry-too dept.

Government 377

artgeeq writes "A recent local election in Washington, DC resulted in 1500 extra votes for a candidate. The board of elections is now claiming that static electricity caused the malfunction. Is this even remotely possible? If so, couldn't an election be invalidated pretty easily?"

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My friends (4, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 6 years ago | (#25241039)

If I am elected, all charges will be positive.

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

The Redster! (874352) | about 6 years ago | (#25241155)

Now that's charge I can believe in!

Re:My friends (0, Troll)

hdparm (575302) | about 6 years ago | (#25241563)

Totally off-topic (almost) but what I can't believe is that Sarah Palin (just watching the debate live) also pronounces THAT word nucular.

WTF?

Re:My friends (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241615)

To disagree with El Presidente is to be unpatriotic.

That, or she is as clueless as she seems.

Re:My friends (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241693)

Well whatever. I want my Malibu Palin Doll.

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

n dot l (1099033) | about 6 years ago | (#25241169)

If I am elected, all charges will be positive.

Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent wants to take away your electrons! If you value your molecular bonds - and what true patriot doesn't? - you will vote against these anti-electronist policies!

Re:My friends (4, Funny)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 6 years ago | (#25241367)

Whomever is elected, I'm sure sparks will fly.

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241389)

Let's not let this go negative now....

GOOD (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241195)

I'm tired of all this damn negativity in politics nowadays.

Re:My friends (1, Funny)

msauve (701917) | about 6 years ago | (#25241285)

Electrons have rights, too, you know.

Re:My friends (4, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | about 6 years ago | (#25241385)

This electron was rigged!

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

Shikaku (1129753) | about 6 years ago | (#25241591)

You have no ground!

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

IdahoEv (195056) | about 6 years ago | (#25241677)

This story has potential!

Re:My friends (5, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | about 6 years ago | (#25241739)

You don't find it at all shocking, do you?

Re:My friends (4, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about 6 years ago | (#25241419)

just as long as you're not advocating any of that ungodly same-charge attraction and strong force coupling, that queer stuff needs to stay in the closet, dammit!

Re:My friends (4, Funny)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 6 years ago | (#25241573)

I must agree! I, for one, believe that Shroedinger's closet must stay closed, so that anyone inside can remain both gay and not-gay simultaneously, thus preventing a collapse of the state!

Lets get down to Watts what! (5, Funny)

Banquo (225167) | about 6 years ago | (#25241497)

As the third party candidate, I'd just like to say that I'm completely grounded and I won't charge you AT ALL. Those other candidates say that a vote for me is throwing your vote away, but I say they cause Washington to be so polarized that nothing will get done.

Sure they talk about delivering a path of least resistance, but I think there is a path which will save us from charge and discharge alike.

(Also those other two guys support Islamist free radicals, and decreasing the capacitance of the middle class)

I'm the Thane of Lochaber and I support this message

don't know about you guys... (4, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | about 6 years ago | (#25241055)

... but I'm shocked.

Re:don't know about you guys... (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 6 years ago | (#25241425)

... but I'm shocked.

I'm feeling positively negative about this year's election.

Don't know 'bout voting machines (2, Interesting)

Worf Maugg (585507) | about 6 years ago | (#25241063)

but it once got you a free pong game.

The real question is (5, Funny)

Haoie (1277294) | about 6 years ago | (#25241073)

Is static electricity smarter than the average, uninformed voter?

Re:The real question is (4, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 6 years ago | (#25241095)

Yes but it's more biased.

Religious Perspective (4, Funny)

Wowlapalooza (1339989) | about 6 years ago | (#25241081)

Nah, it's just all those Body Thetans trying to vote Xenu into office.

Nice try, fellas. Better luck next time...

Static electricity has a right to vote (4, Funny)

burnitdown (1076427) | about 6 years ago | (#25241085)

In addition, it's smarter than many of the voters.

That's how ye're gonna report it, boy... (2, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 6 years ago | (#25241371)

"What we have here..." *THUMP* "...is a failure to communicate."

Valid election? (4, Insightful)

stm2 (141831) | about 6 years ago | (#25241089)

I can't understand how do you people accept voting with back boxes (that is, w/o access to source code).

Re:Valid election? (5, Insightful)

j0nb0y (107699) | about 6 years ago | (#25241141)

I personally have no problem with black box voting machines, provided that they print out a human readable ballot, and the printed ballot is the only official ballot for the purpose of vote counting.

Open source was always a distraction from the real issue. I like open source, but we shouldn't use this issue to try to push open source. It just doesn't make sense. Open source doesn't guarantee security. If the computer is responsible for maintaining the vote total, there will be the possibility of mischief, whether the software is open source or not.

Re:Valid election? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241365)

A distraction until they attempt to print out the paper in a [study proven] format that deceives the elderly's eyes and memory into counting an extra vote or miss a vote for the person they wish to help. Just a wild theory though.

Re:Valid election? (3, Interesting)

Metasquares (555685) | about 6 years ago | (#25241391)

Since they're going to use the electronic vote tallies anyway, random sampling a proportion of the votes and verifying them against the paper tallies should be a practical means of verification. Since the sampling is random, there is no predictable pattern the voting machines could exploit. And no letting them write special routines for sampling; the output should be read as if from a mini-election and the sampling performed *after* the data is acquired. The counts should have to match exactly, or at least very closely.

If they don't consistently match, the results should be invalidated, the company that creates the machine should be banned from providing machines in future elections, and they should be required to pay the government back for the machines they already bought, for the cost of the rerun election, and with a punitive damage added on. That should provide sufficient economic incentive for them to make sure they do it right, if the internal motivation to conduct a fair election is not enough.

Re:Valid election? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 6 years ago | (#25241397)

I agree that open source is a distraction from the real issue(though it is, I would argue, a likely part of the solution to the real issue, so it comes up for a reason); but I think that the real issue is slightly different. For the purpose of discussion, I propose a measure, call it the "Nixon Number". A system's Nixon Number is the smallest plausible number of people who would have to conspire in order to subvert that system successfully. The real problem with electronic voting is not closed vs. open per se, it is the fact that, thus far, we keep building systems with pitifully low Nixon Numbers in order to do the job, when what we need is the exact opposite. A system's Nixon Number depends on hardware, software, procedures, and institutional safeguards.

Open Source licencing is not necessary to build a system with high Nixon Number, nor is it assured that an OSS system will have one. However, I would argue that(barring substantial advances in static analysis of binaries, or the like) publicly auditable code, along with a publicly available trusted compiler, publicly disclosed hashes of all binaries, etc, etc. is in practice necessary to achieve a Nixon Number high enough to be considered for critical uses like voting. The code doesn't have to be under a licence allowing free reuse, or reuse at all; but it must be available for inspection by anybody, for any reason, without limitation or expense.

That alone is by no means good enough, the other main issue is hardware security. Unfortunately, techniques for assuring that hardware is doing what it ought to be are as yet immature(see this [eetimes.com] from EETimes). In practice, voting and similar critical systems should probably be conducted on minimal complexity systems, so that the necessary chips can be manufactured with oversight, in secure fabs, and optically or otherwise verified.

Even, that, though, isn't enough. Beyond hardware and software security and transparency, a high Nixon Number requires that the technology be surrounded by a robust institutional structure. We have, thus far, failed here as well. The election commissions have, on the whole, done an awful job of enforcing oversight of voting system vendors, and have rubber stamped known broken systems.



Ultimately, I think the difficulties of electronic voting have two parts. The first is that it isn't an easy problem. The second is that we don't take it nearly seriously enough. If elections are not free and fair, democracy has fallen. Period. Full Stop. No ifs, ands, or buts. E voting is not something to be done on the cheap. It is not something we can trust vendors to do. We are treating E voting like a minor IT procurement project, when we should be treating it as Democracy's Manhattan Project.

Re:Valid election? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 6 years ago | (#25241741)

I propose a measure, call it the "Nixon Number"

That was very biased. Can we call it the "Freedom Number"?

Re:Valid election? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241441)

Even if the program is open source, you have no way of telling if the version the machine is running has been altered.

Re:Valid election? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241681)

I personally have no problem with black box voting machines, provided that they print out a human readable ballot, and the printed ballot is the only official ballot for the purpose of vote counting.

Open source was always a distraction from the real issue. I like open source, but we shouldn't use this issue to try to push open source. It just doesn't make sense. Open source doesn't guarantee security. If the computer is responsible for maintaining the vote total, there will be the possibility of mischief, whether the software is open source or not.

I would go so far as to say it prints off one human readable ballot, and stores a copy in the machine. Each one is kept separate and guarded. You'd have to bribe twice as many people, in the unlikely event of attempted trickery, to pull of a scam.

You really want open source schematics (2)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 6 years ago | (#25241383)

So that you can verify that the electrical design is static safe.

Although designing for static safety is non-trivial, it is a very well understood field and should be part of any electronic design.

This Just In (5, Funny)

ThanatosMinor (1046978) | about 6 years ago | (#25241117)

The Carpeted Man wins the general election by a whopping 6.88x10^89 votes! It was surely a shrewd maneuver to choose a Van de Graaff generator as his running mate!

This is one for the record books, folks.

Solution? (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | about 6 years ago | (#25241123)

Paper ballots?

Re:Solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241213)

The ONLY way to go. What are you gonna do, count fucking bits and electrons when the power goes out??

Re:Solution? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241241)

There's no way static electricity could create several thousand new rows in a database, the odds of bits being flipped randomly in the correct format are extremely low. However, if they just have a row for each candidate, with a count next to it, then it could be altered... but wouldn't you want some sort of signature to protect from this kind of accident? If a bit if flipped, the signature is invalid and you count the paper ballots to verify the count.

Re:Solution? (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 6 years ago | (#25241401)

What paper ballots?

Re:Solution? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | about 6 years ago | (#25241535)

Paper ballots... right...

Actually this is how it goes :
- Some kind of guy nominally in charge : WTF is this ? we have fifteen hundred votes that are unaccounted for ! You told me that this software of yours was fool proof !
- Local BOFH (browsing his excuse list) : Ah, umm...
It must have been because of... Uh...
"Solar flares"... nah,
"hardware stress fractures", no, too many words,
"fat electrons in the line", love that one, but not this time,
"static from nylon underwear", hmmm, pretty good but far fetched...
Um. Wait a minute...

Re:Solution? (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 6 years ago | (#25241449)

Paper ballots?

Chad disagrees. Ask him yourself - he's hanging out around here somewhere.

Re:Solution? (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | about 6 years ago | (#25241617)

I find it difficult to believe that people cannot design and implement a reliable, electrically actuated hole punching machine usable by everyone eligible to vote in the bloody country.

I can see... (1)

MadUndergrad (950779) | about 6 years ago | (#25241133)

I can see a lot of potential for this to cause problems with our current political situation. Maybe this will finally get people charged up about bringing back paper and pencil voting.

As we used to say back in the '60s (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 years ago | (#25241429)

Maybe this will finally get people charged up about bringing back paper and pencil voting.

Power to the people!

Re:I can see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241621)

I can see a lot of potential...

I see what you did there.

Repeat it? (4, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about 6 years ago | (#25241139)

Generating static electricity isn't very difficult. I can't imagine it would be very hard to repeat this problem and prove that static was causing it. But the whole idea of the scientific method has really fallen out of favor in this country, why not just make up an explanation that feels true instead of investigating. I'm sure no one was trying to sway the elections...

Electronic voting is such a horrible, horrible idea.

Re:Repeat it? (3, Insightful)

rtconner (544309) | about 6 years ago | (#25241361)

I think the point is that this is not physically even possible, and it's obvious that lies are being told. A data storage device that is not protected from static electricity is not a storage device at all.

Re:Repeat it? (1)

Duffy13 (1135411) | about 6 years ago | (#25241421)

I kinda disagree. Seeing how the hand counts are actually done, and how often they still make mistakes implies to me that electronic counting is the solution. My big question is how the hell do they keep screwing electronic counting up? I mean, can it really be that hard to come up with a secure friggin counting system? It counts for crying out loud! Simple integer increases!!!!! I'm tempted to look at what they already have and try to come up with a solution in my spare time.

Re:Repeat it? (1, Insightful)

PatDev (1344467) | about 6 years ago | (#25241491)

Electronic voting is such a horrible, horrible idea.

Not really true. Electronic voting is a great idea implemented very badly. Let's consider how it compares to paper ballots:

  • If everyone is honest.
    • Paper ballots produce the correct output.
    • Electronic ballots produce the correct output.
  • If those counting the votes are not honest.
    • Paper votes get recounted if and only if someone powerful enough convinces a judge to order a recount.
    • The incorrect outcomes are hopefully detected beforehand in the massive open nationwide audit (because that should exist).

The problem isn't that electronic voting is a bad idea, the problem is that as a citizen I can't audit the code. Remember, if you put an honest algorithm into a computer, you get an honest answer.

Re:Repeat it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241517)

Remember, if you put an honest algorithm into a computer, you get an honest answer.
Iff the computer is actually running only your algorithm with the right input data.

Re:Repeat it? (2, Insightful)

PatDev (1344467) | about 6 years ago | (#25241633)

Agreed. Every voting system has a point of failure somewhere. Those who actually count the votes must trust that those who bring votes to them are bringing actual ballots. Once each polling place tolls its own votes, these are added up elsewhere, where they are assuming they are getting honest data.

The point isn't that it's bulletproof, the point is that its better. The more humans we can involve openly before the election and the fewer humans we can involve unsupervised during the election, the better.

Excuse me? (4, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | about 6 years ago | (#25241143)

Also, voters wearing paraphernalia, caps, t-shirts and stickers, for candidates to the voting precinct, the board of elections said if poll workers see it, they will throw people out.

I guess these places are not free speech zones.

Re:Excuse me? (2, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | about 6 years ago | (#25241277)

Well, considering what the Free Speech Cage(360 degree panorama) [flickr.com] at the DNC in Denver looked like, where the Pepsi Center [flickr.com] was barely visible, that restriction doesn't surprise me.

Re:Excuse me? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 6 years ago | (#25241313)

I'm not surprised either, just pissed that somebody who is willing to give up their rights can vote mine away also.

Re:Excuse me? (3, Informative)

nate_in_ME (1281156) | about 6 years ago | (#25241291)

Most areas have a "no-campaigning" zone a certain distance from voting sites. I know here in Maine, you see a bunch of "vote for me" signs leading up to the voting sites, then they all end right by the sign that says "no campaigning beyond this point." I tried finding a good article about it, but this was the best i could find quickly...http://dallassouthblog.com/2008/09/23/no-campaign-t-shirts-or-buttons-inside-texas-new-york-new-jersey-and-other-polling-places/

Bullshit. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 6 years ago | (#25241147)

I don't buy it. Static can definitely frag electronic devices that aren't properly protected; but having static damage and/or random bit flipping cause 1500 extra votes to appear in an otherwise valid filesystem is the computer equivalent of a human getting cancer and, instead of a lethal tumor, growing an extra, fully functional eye.

At best, the system is seriously, seriously flawed. If there is even basic checksumming in place(never mind signing) it would be functionally impossible for static damage to imitate valid data. At bad, there is some other error entirely, and it has been decided that an idiot emitting bullshit is cheaper and easier than actually investigating the problem. At worst, which is upsettingly plausible, the system is suffering from outright fraud, and those involved don't even feel the need to lie convincingly.

Re:Bullshit. (3, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | about 6 years ago | (#25241359)

Actually, depending on just how badly designed the system is (think primary-school-level understanding of technology that most managers have) it could be plausible... Especially without any details on how the system works.

Static (when it doesn't destroy an input by shorting out the diode protection network on it) causes a signal to be received.

If you designed a basic enough cartridge (eg, 1 button on each input, with the cartridge just registering "Button Presses") then yes, I can actually imagine that causing false votes registered.

And I can also imagine vote machines using this type of technology as non-tech savvy people design this equipment and I've seen designs as stupid as this in money changing machines...

And it didn't take the kids at arcades long to figure out rub your feet on the carpet, get free coins.

If they can make this mistake on a machine giving out their own money, then beleive me, it's not that much of a stretch of imagination to beleive they would do something equally stupid in the design of a voting machine.

GrpA

It would take quite a bit of static electricity... (1)

isBandGeek() (1369017) | about 6 years ago | (#25241161)

for John McCain to win DC's electoral votes, considering that at least 70% of DC is going to vote for all Democrats this November...

Having worked with embedded systems (5, Interesting)

gillbates (106458) | about 6 years ago | (#25241189)

The answer is yes, it is possible.

However, in my rather limited experience with inadvertently shocking boards, the most common result is that the board resets itself.

11 points, though:

  1. While it is indeed possible for static electricity to jostle bus lines, power supply lines, etc..., I find it rather unlikely that static discharge would add an extra 10111011100 (binary) votes for a candidate. I would find a power of two (such as 2048 or 4096) more plausible, but still unlikely.
  2. Any engineer worth his salt is going to design the board and layout to minimize the possibility of static discharge damage. I'm not sure why any competent engineer would design the case with an electrical path from VCC or data lines to the user interface; regardless, it seems very odd that static is the culprit. Still, those who can remember the Palm cradle fiasco know that such oversights do occasionally make it into commercial products.
  3. I don't for a moment believe static is to blame. Even assuming well-intentioned engineers, it is far more likely that the code has a race condition, or the box was hacked, or it was deliberate sabotage. They're probably saying static because they have no clue what happened.

BS! (2, Interesting)

cuby (832037) | about 6 years ago | (#25241191)

Can static create 1500 times the right wave patterns in order to simulate the electrical signals of a vote?... come on!

Re:BS! (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 6 years ago | (#25241327)

I'm with you. It's a flimsy excuse, as cited up-thread.

Sadly, someone will buy the excuse at a level of government where that excuse will be accepted.

And we'll lose further faith in electronic voting capabilities, because they are so rife for fudging.

Re:BS! (1)

firmamentalfalcon (1187583) | about 6 years ago | (#25241701)

If there's a large enough sample size, substantial deviations from 0 can occur.

Static electricity doesn't sound right however. But it'd be the first excuse I would think of if I had no clue about electrical engineering.

I'm reserving my judgment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241193)

I'd like to know who it wrote in 1500 times. Noted candidates __________+#%#_ and @%*(DFB(_#@_!_ are probably the favorites for this electron season.

What's in a word? (3, Funny)

martyb (196687) | about 6 years ago | (#25241199)

The title to the linked article is: 'Static' Blamed for D.C.'s Extra Votes Snafu

<Inigo_Montoya_mode>
You keep using that word [wikipedia.org] . I do not think it means what you think it means.
</Inigo_Montoya_mode>

Re:What's in a word? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241437)

From the OED:

Snafu:
...
C. n. Now usu. with a and pl. A confusion or mix-up; a hitch, mishap; muddle, confused state.

Re:What's in a word? (2, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | about 6 years ago | (#25241519)

Trust me. When talking about D.C., SNAFU is ALWAYS the right word.

There are many other way that vote would of got on (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 6 years ago | (#25241201)

There are many other way that the votes would of got on there like.

The cartridge and or voting system not being reset.

People finding away to vote 2+ times in a race.

Some rigging the vote.

A hacker doing it to see if it can be done.

Some kind of buffer / overflow / bad software that adds some number to the votes.

A error code / build in testing code that some how got triggered.

A build cheat code in the voting software.

Just another attempt (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 6 years ago | (#25241203)

to polarize the electorate.

C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now...

What kind of static ? (1)

mbone (558574) | about 6 years ago | (#25241211)

Republican or democrat ?

Stop voting, already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241219)

Isn't it about time we stop voting and start governing? [metagovernment.org]

My fellow Americans! (2, Funny)

fishthegeek (943099) | about 6 years ago | (#25241237)

In this charged election cycle it is imperative that our current resistance to voting be overcome by taking the time to cool things off.

Mr. OhmBama is conducting himself fluidly and we must expand our internal capacitors to make sure that our output never fluctuates.

You already know that when the heat is on the resistance will increase! Be ready! We have a lot of ground to cover and we must always be careful not to take short cuts to that ground to avoid catastrophe.

If a static shock... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241243)

...can generate 1500 votes in a single day during a local election. I think blizzard would have a hell of a time dealing with the billions of gold being mysteriously generated in WoW every /second/

slot machines are protected from static shocks and (3, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 6 years ago | (#25241249)

slot machines are protected from Static shocks and other hacks and this seems like a hack job and not a static shock.

Why can't they make voting systems that are just as hard to hack?

I think that the NGC should look at the voting system to see how bad they are.

Re:slot machines are protected from static shocks (5, Informative)

systemeng (998953) | about 6 years ago | (#25241417)

I always post this on voting machine articles but here goes. . . Take a look at 1.020 in the attached nevada gaming regulations: http://gaming.nv.gov/documents/pdf/techstds_05nov17_adopted.pdf [nv.gov] Slot machines are required to withstand 20,000V static shocks at 1 second intervals with no problems whatsoever. They are also required to withstand 27,000 volt static zaps which can cause them to freeze momentarily but must cause no loss of any stored data.

In contrast, when I worked on DDR SDRAM clock buffer chips for PC's, I believe the ESD test was something like 1500 volts.

In short, if voting machines cannot meet the Nevada gaming commission regulations then politicians are at best gambling with our votes.

Re:slot machines are protected from static shocks (1)

Kent Recal (714863) | about 6 years ago | (#25241471)

Amen. Furthermore remember that gambling even without a stake is illegal in many states of the USA. Think about it...

Re:slot machines are protected from static shocks (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 6 years ago | (#25241477)

That makes an alarming amount of sense.

With all the bullshit politicians like to spew, voting is already a gamble.

Re:slot machines are protected from static shocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241613)

Casinos care more about their money then government cares about protecting the right to vote.

Hmm... (0, Offtopic)

Anton Styles (1336251) | about 6 years ago | (#25241255)

Hmm... We have all the major news networks controlled by a totalitarian government, roughly 90% of the population making serious decisions based on the opinions of celebrities, and now static electricity generating votes... George Bush must really love television.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241353)

and you must really love being a moron and an asshat.

Superhero (1)

ZeroNullVoid (886675) | about 6 years ago | (#25241293)

This looks like a job for Static Man...
manipulating votes for the common man.

yeah, yeah, that's it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241347)

Yeah, static, that's it. And the dog ate my homework.

Re:yeah, yeah, that's it (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 6 years ago | (#25241487)

You see, my family is poor; we use an old voting machine as a PC and... I really did have my term paper written. It was a really, really good one, too, would've been an A for sure.

Then, I got up to get a drink of water and... well... I have carpeting. When I sat down, ZAP! and it was gone!

Both the summary and article are FUBAR (5, Informative)

Pinckney (1098477) | about 6 years ago | (#25241349)

You can read the board's report on their site [dcboee.org] [pdf].

Highlights include the following:

Sequoia was the manufacturer of the machines.

They don't know why the error happened. It could have been static, or many other things. The board "accepts Sequoia's determination,reflected in its response to the board's queries, that multiple possibilities regarding the cause of the tabulation error exist, including: the speed which the Memory Packs were processed leading to some type of transient malfunction in the MPR unit; the Memory Pack not making full contact inside the MPR socket; or some type of electrical or static discharge taking place while inserting,reading or ejecting the cartridges at a rapid speed."

"Random numbers" were added to vote totals. They say nothing about write-in votes, except that their procedure calls for auditing vote tallies by looking for "large write-in vote numbers, more recorded votes than registered voters".

The errors were confined to precinct 141 in ward 2.

They recorded 4759 votes, while their audit found that only 326 were cast.

Electricity (1)

jhp64 (813449) | about 6 years ago | (#25241357)

Well, what do you expect in DC?

Reporters these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25241375)

I'd just like to take a moment to highlight the amazing writing skills of the reporter:

Also, voters wearing paraphernalia, caps, t-shirts and stickers, for candidates to the voting precinct, the board of elections said if poll workers see it, they will throw people out.

Not sure who wrote this; no byline.

I know it's customary to write another sentence in similar style to the prose one wishes to mock, but I don't think I can do justice to this. Rock on, anonymous reporter dude/dudette.

I always thought journalism was a refuge for people who only could pass English classes. I guess in the Web 2.0 world the whole "passing English classes" thing was dropped.

Yes (3, Funny)

John.P.Jones (601028) | about 6 years ago | (#25241379)

Static electricity generally has very high voteage, but not much power, due to a small current.

Can PES create a back door and rig the elections (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 6 years ago | (#25241395)

Because it is a black box, from all I know: Yes

There needs to be a paper trail that the voter can verify his/her vote was correct.

If you allow them to say static cast votes, they'll be reusing that excuse over and over whenever they're caught rigging an election.

Not impossible. (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | about 6 years ago | (#25241403)

When I was in college at the small start up I worked for I did enter strange characters from the keyboard just by static electricity. I remember as I was about to hit the key I saw a bunch non-related characters on the terminal screen, when I did hit the key it gave more non-related characters. We thought the terminal was "possessed" so we changed the terminal but the same thing happened again later. It took us a few weeks and discovered that the manufacture of the terminal didn't properly ground the keyboard to the terminal and when we did ground the connector properly the problem went away.

Actually, I think it is possible, here's why: (3, Interesting)

nilbog (732352) | about 6 years ago | (#25241413)

Okay, no joke - I have this big "Yahoo" button that they sent me for doing search marketing with them. It's basically the same as one of those easy buttons you see from Staples.

I have it sitting on a ledge over my stairs. Every time you touch the wall and discharge static electricity, it goes off. Curious, I did some further testing. I found that if I put the button anywhere near an electrical field (such as that created by one of those lightening ball gizmos) it will go off. I cannot explain it other than they are using a very sensitive switch.

It goes to show that static electricity CAN throw a switch though.

Perhaps they are using the same electronics here?

It's 'static electricity' (0, Flamebait)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 6 years ago | (#25241467)

...only if all the votes went to the GOP candidate. Otherwise, it was voter fraud!

A Neutron Walks into a Bar, er Voting Machine (1)

Jruu (1135663) | about 6 years ago | (#25241469)

Alpha/Neutron radiation could also be the culprit. Radiation (neutrons generated from cosmic rays) may have affected voting machines in Belgium; look up the Schaerbeek elections in Brussels in 2003, where 4096 extra votes appeared. As gillbates mentioned, the more likely outcome would have been some multiple of 2, though.

Re:A Neutron Walks into a Bar, er Voting Machine (0)

typedef (139123) | about 6 years ago | (#25241647)

4096 is a multiple of 2 you dumb ass

Gremlins must have done it... (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 6 years ago | (#25241533)

Or, these lying cheating bastards got caught. Cheating, no matter who it's for is wrong.

Voters Must Wear Anti-Static Bracelets (1)

anarking (34854) | about 6 years ago | (#25241543)

Remember those anti-static bracelets? And how you've never worn one while working on open computers for 15 years and have never ever had any problem from static electricity? Yeah, those, let's make all voters wear them when voting with diebold machines... That'll fix this!

Does that make then susceptible to "clickers"? (4, Informative)

Mr_Tulip (639140) | about 6 years ago | (#25241587)

In my mis-spent youth, I was able to get free credits from certain arcade machines by holding the exposed part of a lighter (the piezo-ignition type) against the coin slot, and pressing button to set off the electric charge. Every 10 or so 'clicks' would result in a free credit. If these voting machines are susceptible to static electricity, using a clicker on it would likely cause some sort of mischief as well. Oh well, back to the old lead pencil and paper voting, I say :)

DAMMIT WHICH SIDE (1)

RJBeery (956252) | about 6 years ago | (#25241657)

I know that it's popular to mix "black box voting" with Diebold and Republican corruption but I can't for the life of me figure out whether a Democrat or Republican got the 1500 "phantom votes". My suspicion is that it was a Democrat, otherwise the issue would have been made clear...

Hooked on Speed (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | about 6 years ago | (#25241669)

Got to love this part:

Evans said that's not good enough. "There's no excuse for slow results."

Honestly - what's the rush? I don't see any practical reason why the results need to be in any sooner than, say, within a week from the election.

It sounds to me as if Councilor Evans would rather have an inaccurate result than a slow one. Well, I have good news for him - I can whip him up a random number generator, no trouble, and at a bargain price, too. Just think of it - all the inaccurate results he could ever want, there at his fingertips, with no waiting whatsoever!

Simple answers work (1)

NoName6272 (1376401) | about 6 years ago | (#25241705)

A simple answer would be that there is a flaw with the program and they are trying to cover it up. This is neither truth nor fiction but a concept so don't blow it out of proportion or flame about it.

Yea, disclaimers rock.

"Also, voters wearing paraphernalia, caps, t-shirts and stickers, for candidates to the voting precinct, the board of elections said if poll workers see it, they will throw people out."

This is kinda both lame and dumb.

Shocking! (1)

kawabago (551139) | about 6 years ago | (#25241715)

Just shocking!

how deeply rooted this bullshit is (0, Flamebait)

mestar (121800) | about 6 years ago | (#25241737)

American politics is full of bullshiters, this thing shows. Media plays along.

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