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WV Voters Say Machines Are Switching Votes

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the he-who-pays-diebold-wins dept.

Politics 900

An anonymous reader writes "Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week. This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for 'Barack Obama' kept flipping to 'John McCain.'"

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Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspiracy (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527727)

These machines are not "switching votes". They're just not.

If the machines were "switching votes", they'd do it internally and secretly, and not make it look like they're putting checkmarks next to the wrong boxes. Especially since the voter isn't able to view a paper receipt.

If I had to guess, the way the ballot is organized in terms of candidate ordering probably makes it easy or possible to look like you're pressing the right area, but the boxes and/or your perception of the boxes' location isn't perfectly aligned with the touch sensing elements. Because people are so sensitive to this issue, any errant touch among thousands of voters accidentally getting the wrong box VISIBLY checked, AND able to be corrected, is going to be interpreted as malice instead of (user) error. "When asked if she is sure she touched the box for Rockefeller, she said, 'I'm absolutely positive.'" Yeah, just like a lot of users are "absolutely positive" that they did the right thing. No, they THINK they did the right thing. That's the only thing they are "absolutely positive" of.

Since so many people want to believe that the electronic voting machines are rigged to make Republicans win elections[1], so I'm sure people will choose to believe that this is due to a GOP conspiracy instead of simple errors. (And yes, it could still be an error, due to the way the screens are physically set up, even if the reported errors are "always" Republican. Does that mean it's not an issue that should be addressed, even if it is only a genuine design/setup error? No. But if you can touch the screen a little more carefully and get the checkmark beside the right name, that is what matters. Who hasn't ever had a touchscreen ATM or a touchscreen POS station not register a touch as something unintended? You don't think the ATM is trying to rip you off when it picks "Savings" when you meant "Checking". You just hit cancel and do it again.)

Remember, too, that in many jurisdictions in which we have electronic voting machines, they're there as a direct result of Democratic-sponsored legislation, like HAVA, in response to the voting difficulties with antiquated machines in Florida in 2000. The problem? Everyone assumed that modern technology was just great and overlooked a mandatory requirement for a paper trail. Of course, now ALL e-voting vendors have voter-verifiable paper trail capability as options, but many municipalities didn't want to spend the extra money to deploy since it wasn't required by law.

Also, "In Putnam County, early voters have the option of asking for either touch-screen machines or optical scan ballots -- paper ballots on which people mark in their election choices." And when people are using the machine, "The main thing people need to remember is that when you are done voting, make sure everybody you wanted to vote for has a check mark beside them." Just because you touch once and it registers wrong doesn't imply that it can't be corrected. Has no one ever used a backspace key on a computer before? Or an eraser on a pencil, for that matter?

Bottom line? Since this clearly is causing so much fear and doubt[2], we should go back to a simple, auditable paper solution, if only so conspiracy theorists can STFU and stop thinking every election where their preferred candidate doesn't win is "stolen".

[1] Have to put in the disclaimer. Very aware of the famous quote about "delivering the election to George Bush" by Diebold's CEO. It was in his capacity as a Republic business leader, but still a very, very, very poor showing on his part, and ridiculous appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none actually exists in reality.

[2] And it's actually not causing a level of problems that are probably any worse than error in paper or any other voting. But the perception is that it is a huge problem, and subverting democracy, and that is reason enough to change.

Clarification (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527781)

And yes, it could still be an error, due to the way the screens are physically set up, even if the reported errors are "always" Republican.

What I mean by this is in this particular instance, not in general. There are reports of votes "flipping" both ways. But if there is something happening in one jurisdiction in one state, and it's always the same problem, and the same order is on every ballot, then it's no surprise that the manifestation of the problem is the same.

Re:Clarification (4, Insightful)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528079)

There are a lot of people who simply don't know how to use a computer. My 75-year-old dad came home and told me about his job switching from paper to PC timecards. His boss directed him: Now move the mouse over to the box and type in your hours.

My dad's reply: What's a mouse?

Now imagine 50 million baby boomers with similar level of non-expertise trying to use a PC-based machine when they've never (or rarely) used a PC. You're going to have all kinds of mistakes, and the user will SWEAR that it was the machine's fault, rather than admit they don't know what they are doing. Nobody wants to look stupid.

- this message posted with LYNX, the Commodore 64 browser (2 kbit/s modem)

50 million can't use a computer? Ain't it funny!! (3, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528175)

Now imagine 50 million baby boomers with similar level of non-expertise trying to use a PC-based machine

I'd like to see Barack Obama ridiculing these 50 million voters' computer (il)literacy, the way he ridiculed John McCain [aol.com] . Wouldn't that be sure vote-winner, uhm?

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (4, Insightful)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527805)

From your reply:

Just because you touch once and it registers wrong doesn't imply that it can't be corrected. Has no one ever used a backspace key on a computer before? Or an eraser on a pencil, for that matter?

From the article:

"The reaction time [on the machines] may be different. And when you hit the screen a second time, it cancels your vote," Wood said. "When you get in a hurry, if you go to fast and hit it again, you can cancel what you just did."

Ketchum said, "I am educated person. I know what I wanted. I am anxious to see who wins. My son Chris said, 'Mom, I didn't vote for the people who came up on that machine. I wanted to go back and vote again. I called the lady at the polls and she said it was my fault because of the way I was punching the buttons.'"

It would really suck if votes came out wrong because of a poorly-designed user interface.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (-1, Flamebait)

Loopy (41728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528027)

Poor interface design isn't the issue. People who are computer illiterate expect computers to respond just like mechanical systems (e.g.: push the button and it instantly responds) and when things don't instantly provide tactile/audible/visual feedback that it "clicked" they will start spamming the button repeatedly. Teaching my parents to wait a few seconds after double-clicking a program icon on their PC's desktop took a while but it has served them well and drastically reduced the "problems" they were having. :P

So, really, it isn't a UI design issue; it's a voting machine response time/feedback issue, IMO.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (5, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528101)

So, really, it isn't a UI design issue; it's a voting machine response time/feedback issue, IMO.

How is response time/feedback not a UI issue?

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (2, Interesting)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528171)

Actually, I think it is a UI problem if double-clicking an icon doesn't give a response. Maybe not the perfect example, but I know that KDE (at least in SuSE) gives a bouncing app icon with the cursor, and OSX gives a bouncing dock icon.

It's really just Windows that gives no feedback!

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528099)

It would really suck if votes came out wrong because of a poorly-designed user interface.

What's with this hypothetical language ("would" and "if")? It's already happened -- hanging chads are caused by bad UI too!

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (2, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527817)

Good points all. Still, the fact remains that voters don't have confidence in the machines. If it does appear to the voter to be switching votes in formant of them, they aren't going to trust that it won't do the same thing after they walk away. For what its worth, I've hears similar stories from friends that have tried early voting in cook county, Il. If that county goes for McCain, we know we have something seriously screwed up.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527835)

UI design is an important consideration. Suppose you wanted to make a machine biased toward one candidate, without having anything obviously incriminating in the code. You could do something as simple as arrange the options so that parallax effects like you suggest make it easy to press the wrong portion of the screen. If the effects make people press high on average, and you put the candidate you wanted to favor at the top of the list, then pressing high on your candidate registers no check box, and people just press again. But, sometimes they'll press on the other candidate, get the one you wanted, and give up before figuring it out.

Ballot design needs to be fair, for all the same reasons the code needs to be correct. Badly designed ballots are probably just that -- bad design by someone who didn't know better. But, with something as important as an election, it's not ok to have badly designed ballots, and it's not ok to let people who don't know better design them. Design sufficiently bad that it shows meaningful bias should be treated as criminal election fraud, whether it was intentional or not -- there's simply no reason not to have that level of accountability.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528201)

Problem: You would have to arrest the State Legislators who tested & approved the machine with their own eyes. So, you'll never have that level of accountability.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527883)

-1, Apologist.

Bottom line? Since this clearly is causing so much fear and doubt[2], we should go back to a simple, auditable paper solution, if only so conspiracy theorists can STFU and stop thinking every election where their preferred candidate doesn't win is "stolen".

Just because conspiracy theorists happen to think that an election was stolen, doesn't mean that it wasn't.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (4, Funny)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527899)

Unfortunately, there's no way to prove that someone intending to vote for Republicans has had their vote switched, because no-one's voted for Republicans.

(Lighten up, it's a joke)

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (4, Insightful)

vlad30 (44644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527909)

sometimes paper and pencil should not be automated

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (1, Interesting)

theskunkmonkey (839144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527925)

They don't need to subversively change your vote, just create a UI for the voting machine that is designed to facilitate voter mistakes, say make the touch area for some candidates bigger than others with a bit of overlap.

This gives you the plausible deniability that it was the voters mistake. Fingers too fat (You know how fat Americans are), plain stupidity (Bubba's just too stupid to work an electronic device), too old (Gramps clearly couldn't see who he was voting for).

Remember, they don't have to deliberately change the votes, just make it so any mistakes made will favor your candidate. From a UI design standpoint, this is easily done.

Until there is a way to be sure the code running on a voting machine is properly vetted, it's insane to think they should be trusted.

If your willing to trust one of these machines, just give me your paper ballot. I promise it will get tallied correctly. ;)

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (5, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527931)

Have to put in the disclaimer. Very aware of the famous quote about "delivering the election to George Bush" by Diebold's CEO. It was in his capacity as a Republic business leader, but still a very, very, very poor showing on his part, and ridiculous appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none actually exists in reality.

I just want to point out that the conflict of interest does exist in this case. It doesn't matter how honorable the guy is. Conflict of interest is a matter of position, not character. He could be the most honorable guy in the world and never let his CEO position conflict with his Republican position, but the conflict of interest is still there.

As a practical matter, nobody is 100% honorable, and somebody who's in charge of building voting machines should not be politically active.

More importantly, we should switch to a form of voting in which a single company is not in a position to completely screw up the entire election.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (2, Insightful)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527971)

Who's to say that these people aren't just liars? If I wanted my candidate to win bad enough that I would compromise my integrity, I might just lie about what was happening to my voting machine. It's just you in the voting booth. No one can prove you aren't telling the truth any more than they can prove you are. If it raises doubt, it could be enough to help your cause.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (1, Flamebait)

shma (863063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527999)

These machines are not "switching votes". They're just not.

If the machines were "switching votes", they'd do it internally and secretly, and not make it look like they're putting checkmarks next to the wrong boxes. Especially since the voter isn't able to view a paper receipt...

Since so many people want to believe that the electronic voting machines are rigged to make Republicans win elections[1], so I'm sure people will choose to believe that this is due to a GOP conspiracy instead of simple errors.

Maybe they're just as incompetent at rigging an election as they are at governing?

Any story about rigged machines needs to include this link [youtube.com] .

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528103)

TL:DR.

Anyway, the retards could probably not work the machine, messed up and blame the machine for their stupidity.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528107)

All that aside, its not like Obama has a shot at WV or even if he did, WV would be the state that put him over the top.

If someone wanted to screw with an election via the machines, they wouldn't do it in WV.

Re:Parallax, touch screens, stupidity, and conspir (3, Insightful)

prelelat (201821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528241)

I don't get why they need to use touch screens in the first place. Having to calibrate them in the middle of a voting session seems unproductive,and are they even allowed to do that which would leave everyone in the same boat. I've used touch screens(I setup smartboards in some of my clients) and I could see someone accidently clicking the wrong person if the screen wasn't calibrated.

I've heard of these new fangled things called buttons... they seem to work wonders, no calibration, AND THERE STILL TOUCH SENSITIVE.
Hell you could have it as simple as a figging atm machine where you have the buttons on the right hand side. Most people are used to ATM machines and having to hit a button.

Touch screens are nice but I think they leave a little room for error and are probably more expensive then an lcd screen with 6 buttons. I in the states you sometimes will be voting for more than one position, well you could have different pages for each position your voting for and have 6-10 buttons one for each canditate with a line marking what button you have to press.

Seems like common sense to me, but people are impressed by flashy touchy thingies.

Frankly paper never had this problem

More Cases Than Just This (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527733)

BlackBoxVoting has been doing some really thorough coverage on these occurrences and I would like to point out that in North Carolina & Tennessee, people are complaining about votes flipping from McCain to Obama [blackboxvoting.com] . Some are saying this is a serious issue [scoop.co.nz] and not just isolated incidents of entropy.

I'm confused as to why the people voting weren't given access to an on site authority or technician that could verify this was occurring. I guess it's also possible this is something that will only happen once rarely but enough to do damage. It could also be attention seeking or insurance to claim fraud if the other side wins.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527865)

Because the on site election officials are 90 year old retired people that have no real training or skills with the gear. Cities and states intentionally do not fund the election departments to be able to hire people that are fully trained and capable of troubleshooting this stuff. but we bought a nice new stainless steel piece of 30 foot tall art for the front of city hall for $290,000!

It's scary at best, insane at worst.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (4, Insightful)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527869)

Is it illegal for someone to take a cellphone into the booth and record this happening? A couple of youtube videos would probably raise public awareness of the problem and encourage a fix, whatever the problem is (having worked with a LOT of touchscreens in the past, I'm going to guess it's a calibration and/or screen angling issue).

Re:More Cases Than Just This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528081)

There were notes all over the polling place saying cellphones were banned when I went Saturday.. This was in NC.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (5, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527875)

Some people are saying this is a serious issue. Everyone else could not be reached for comment.

Seriously, uh, only some people think it's serious? No one else cares?

And, yes, this is a calibration issue instead of a fraud issue. Fraud, of course, we'd never actually hear about.

The fact we can't even managed to have machines that act like they're properly working should be a rather serious indication that even if they do act like they're properly working, we don't know if they are.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527891)

Yes but if the votes are changed to Obama that's OK since he's the "right" candidate. It's only fraud when McCain gets votes.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528183)

See, now you understand.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528223)

Actually, Obama is the "left" candidate, and McCain is the "right" candidate.

I can understand how this might be confusing, but just remember it this way: your left hand is the one that when you hold it up, the index finger and thumb make an "L". Also, it wants to take all your money and give it to the poor. The right hand is the one that makes a backwards "L", and wants to take all your money and give it to the rich.

Hope this clears things up for you.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528155)

I'm confused as to why the people voting weren't given access to an on site authority or technician that could verify this was occurring.

I can't speak for everywhere, but where I voted last time there were about half a dozen electronic voting machines and about half a dozen old people running the show. The place served perhaps a few thousand voters. There are, I imagine, tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of voting locations around the country. Putting an on-call technician at each one is completely impractical.

Re:More Cases Than Just This (1)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528211)

Too bad these stories are only on "the internets", and the mainstream press won't touch them. It assures that this election will be stolen, and nothing done.

Spam inc. (2, Funny)

EvilGoodGuy (811015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527753)

Spamming confirmation will be the next thing we hear about from voting machines I bet.

*Casts Vote*
"Are you sure?"
*Yes*
"Are you positive?"
*Yes*
"Have you researched your options?"
*...

Re:Spam inc. (2, Funny)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527823)

No, no, that's the Microsoft Vista approach to voting....

Re:Spam inc. (4, Funny)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528243)

yes a little caricature called Voty pops up and says,"I see you are attempting to vote for Barak Obama, would you like me to help you? Press yes for me to help you change your mind, or press no to vote for John McCain." Bounce Bounce ... Bounce Bounce

Ban them altogether (5, Insightful)

MisterSquirrel (1023517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527769)

Is there anyone with any depth technical knowledge at all, that seriously believes that we should use such a corruptible technology as electronic voting machines in our sacred voting process?

You can't secure them. Anybody with an ounce of sense about computer security knows this. Plus, there is no way to verify whether they are programmed to do what they should.

And we argue over whether to have paper trails?

Re:Ban them altogether (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527965)

    I would trust an electronic electoral process if I did the work. Then again, I know that I wouldn't falsify any results. Now, for the rest of the millions of voters out there, they'd have to take a blind leap of faith to believe that I am really as honest as I say I am.

    I had talked to some friends about this. We *could* make a legitimate and honest electronic system. It wouldn't cost that much, and would be 99.9999% accurate. The only inaccuracies would come about from funny business at the voting precincts, like dead people voting. A system of my design would never come about. I am a registered "No party affiliation". I can't be encouraged to play by the party lines on either side, but I am just as likely to be bought by either (or both) sides. Being that I don't already align myself to one party, I'm one of those "other" people that they'd never want to run things. I haven't sold out, and I more than likely would be difficult to buy, and would probably post transcripts everywhere as soon as an offer was made. :) That's not good for the good ol' 2 party system, now is it?

Alright I'll play... (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528127)

Actually I think you can make an electronic voting system that's trustworthy and that there are advantages to it. For example, in Chicago they use electronic voting machines for the early voting. The reason for this is that it permits anybody to vote at any precinct in the city because they can pull up the correct ballot electronically. So if your closest polling place is nearer to your work than your home, you can just go there. Convenient and insures more people vote.

Furthermore, electronic systems are easier to use and less prone to human error in the voting booth. It's much easier to screw up punching a hole in the right place or filling in the right bubble. If you click the box and the check mark appears, then it's much clearer who you picked. In fact, the problems we hear of peoples votes being switched is almost certainly a miscalibration of the screen, but it means voters can see the mistake rather than if they punched the wrong box and can't tell for sure.

If you have a verifiable paper trail and you have adequate safeguards of the chain of custody of the machines, then it is a good way to do things. You should also incorporate some degree of spot checking and random sampling of voting machines to insure that they are accurate. If they fail those checks you fall back to the paper trail and do things the hard way.

Also, with an electronic system, you open up the possibility of making the vote even more secure. For example, have each voter receive a receipt for their vote with a unique identifier code. This code would not make it possible to track a vote back to the individual who voted, but it allow them to log into a website the day after the election and confirm that their vote was accurately counted. Seeing that the vote made it through the machines and came out right on the other end would do a lot to help people feel confident in the system.

In the end, no voting system is perfect. Relying on paper ballots is prone to errors too as we saw in the 2000 election. Electronic systems with no paper trail are a horrifically bad idea, but with a paper trail and some effort to insure that the electronic systems are doing accurate counts, I think it's a good way to go.

Re:Ban them altogether (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528131)

What about your statement couldn't be said about an ATM?

My god, I paid my mortgage online the other week, and yes, I trusted not only that my payment would get there, but that it would be right amount, that it wouldn't be eavesdropped on, that an confirmation number would be enough to defend myself if the bank claims never to have recieved it.

If I can trust 20% of my income in an online transaction, I should sure as hell be able to vote securely and anonomously. The fact that I can't isn't a failure of the idea, it's a failure of the implementation. If we can put a color touchscreen monitor on the voting machines (why? I have no idea) we can surely instal a printer to print out a reciept for each voter, that can be dropped in the ballot box on the way out.

Re:Ban them altogether (4, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528157)

I live in WV and voted early. Communities were given the option for paper ballots with optical scanning OR touchscreen machines that print continuous roll tape. In both cases, it is the paper trail that will be followed on a recount. The problem here is one of mis-calibration of the machines and Betty Ireland, the Secretary of State who certified the machines, has ordered all touchscreen voter machines be re-calibrated EVERY DAY since their alignment slips with usage. These machines were calibrated on the first day but not beyond that.

On an aside, Kanawha County, where I live, chose paper / optical scan machines because most citizens are familiar with it since schools use the same "fill in the circle" for testing. Also, the paper trail is far easier with these type ballots.

I don't understand the problem. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527779)

What's wrong with a machine that tries to assist the politically challenged by selecting the right candidate?

Re:I don't understand the problem. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527879)

Problem is, they're selecting the wrong candidate.

Re:I don't understand the problem. (1)

ptelligence (685287) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528147)

Mod candidate up!

It's a touchscreen issue apparently (4, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527789)

This story is a bit old and has been rung through the media wringer already. The issue is that the machines they were using require a 20(!!) point calibration process, and apparently the poll workers weren't being careful enough when setting it up. It's a combination of a badly designed machine and lazy/incompetent poll workers. The good news is that since the states are pushing so heavily on early voting this year, there is a chance they'll figure out workarounds for issues like this before the general election.

Re:It's a touchscreen issue apparently (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528151)

And as such, are another reason why paper ballots are best. People should have confidence in the voting and if people think there's corruption going on (even if it's simply callibration), it's bad for democracy.

So, is anybody going to jail? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527791)

I hope that my vote (haven't decided between Barr and McKinney yet) doesn't get switched to Obama or McCain!

Some may say "jail? it's an honest mistake" and invoke Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org] , but I'd rather go by mcgrew's razor, "Never attribute to stupidity that which can be adequately explained by greedy self-interest."

If the votes are switched randomly, it's stupidity/incompetence. If it's always Dems switched to Repubs or the other way around, somebody needs to spend time in jail. Not only is it not rocket science, there aren't even any rockets involved.

No. No one's going to jail. (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527847)

Nor should they. See my post [slashdot.org] and its followup [slashdot.org] .

It happens both ways, and it can still be attributed to simple error, even if it's the "same thing" every time. It's the individual county election departments (clerk's offices, etc.) who set these things and their ballot layouts up, and they don't have the power nor the skill nor the capability to do what you're describing.

Re:So, is anybody going to jail? (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527977)

If a voter sees their vote registered wrong, it has to be a mistake. Maybe the machine isn't calibrated properly for that voter's viewing angle (my guess), or maybe some nefarious programmer f-ed up and called SwitchVote() in the wrong place, but it's still a mistake. Either way it sounds like they can just touch the screen in a slightly different place to get the result they want, so any possible nefarious intent should be ineffective.

Re:So, is anybody going to jail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528031)

Ohhh.. Yeah, vote McKinney =)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbEEyTIVKMI [youtube.com]

Re:So, is anybody going to jail? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528245)

You can't decide between Barr and McKinney?

Have you ever heard either of them speak? Or looked into their various historical press releases? They are about as far apart as Earth is to the Horsehead Nebula.

touchscreen calibrated incorrectly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527799)

It's incompetence of a different kind.

They are marking the spots on the touchscreen wrong when they are setting them up, possibly not at all or just lazily and it's causing the border between Obama/McCain spots to drift.

Again, why is there not a national standard for fill in cards that can be saved and recounted? We've perfected scan card technology over the past two decades. It's not like there are going to be hanging chads or marks on the card that are WAY off.

Clippy version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527803)

It looks like you are trying to vote for a black candidate.

Would you like help?

(*) Switch vote to McCain with visual confirmation.
(*) Switch vote to McCain without visual confirmation.
(*) Dial terrorist hotline with your personal information.

@

Letter from Diebold CEO (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527807)

Thomas W. Swidarski
President and CEO of Diebold
1600 Styx River Rd
Hades, New Jersey 66666

October 27, 2008

Dear Voters,

I regret to inform you that the evil bit [wikipedia.org] of the IPv4 packet header field was accidentally propagated to the display screen and--subsequently--would ensure that in the last femtosecond your vote was for evil as you were accepting your selection.

Who would have thought that Americans could see this near-planckian event on the screen ... our technicians are even confused how the screen (with milliseconds of response time) managed to show it.

Regardless, we are sorry and promise that I will personally collect and publish information on these three voters although I heavily doubt that 3 votes will change the outcome of John McCain 100% Barak Obama 0% which is what the current count is at.

This may be merely be something we have to live with for now and is trivial. We will fix this when IPv6 is enforced and it is an entire "evil byte" in the packet header that will be much easier to spot and stop. This should not undermine your satisfaction with the democratic process in America--do not let the terrorists win! You must remain ever vigilant and patriotic!

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Swidarski

Mod The Fuck UP!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527907)

Jesus I pissed myself reading this!!

AND I don't have a clean pair of pants at work!!!!!

Re:Letter from Diebold CEO (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528047)

I regret to inform you that the evil bit of the IPv4 packet header field was accidentally propagated to the display screen and--subsequently--would ensure that in the last femtosecond your vote was for evil as you were accepting your selection.

After all, there's no point voting for a lesser evil [cthulhu.org] .

whatever (1, Flamebait)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527813)

IF a machine was going to do this, it wasn't going to show the voter that it did it. Wow. 3 events. Did they go to an ACORN meeting and ask, "HAS ANYONE EVER HAD A MACHINE NOT SHOW WHAT THEY VOTED FOR? PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND" Amazing, three whole times, and always switched to republicans. I'd bet if they went to an NRA meeting and asked the same question, they'd get 3 whole people, and miraculously it switched them all to Democrat. But we all know the media doesn't go to NRA meetings unless they're doing an Expose on bitter gun owners...

Re:whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527933)

I'd bet if they went to an NRA meeting and asked the same question, they'd get 3 whole people, and miraculously it switched them all to Democrat.

just because you "bet" it would happen, doesn't mean it does. your willingness to gamble on a particular proposition is not an indicator of it's truthfulness.

vote absentee by mail (4, Interesting)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527815)

Vote by mail, and make a photocopy of your ballot. It is a lot harder to change a vote when there's a massively distributed paper trail.

Re:vote absentee by mail (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527953)

The only way to ensure your vote is registered properly is to give up your right to vote anonymously.

Fantastic.

Re:vote absentee by mail (5, Insightful)

teslar (706653) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527963)

make a photocopy of your ballot

Err... and then what?

It's not like you could use that photocopy to later on to check whether or not someone flipped your vote...

Re:vote absentee by mail (1)

RiffRafff (234408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527967)

Typically, absentee ballots and any other form of mail-in votes are not even counted unless the outcome is very close and/or disputed.

Re:vote absentee by mail (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528181)

Link please. And make sure it specifies that this "typically" happens.

I know they used to do this in Arizona, but not anymore. Especially now when a good deal of people are voting early/absentee.

mail is more secure? (2, Insightful)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528011)

Mail can get lost, stolen, or modified. It doesn't really help to have a photocopy of your ballot. Sure, you can point to the copy if your ballot was counted incorrectly, but how would you know your ballot was counted incorrectly in the first place?

Re:vote absentee by mail (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528017)

How can it be guaranteed that your mailed absentee ballot would be

  1. Received?
  2. Registered?
  3. Acknowledged?
  4. Counted?

I suppose that you could document every step of the way to show that you sent it (even as much as video recording marking, signing, delivering, and the post office accepting the ballot), but there is no way--at least one that I know--to verify that your ballot was processed and counted.

Re:vote absentee by mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528097)

You've never lived in Chicago, I take it.

Re:vote absentee by mail (1)

Mr. Ascii (9572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528163)

What good will this or a take home receipt do?

Unless everyone brings their "receipt" back and they physically count those, they don't prove or ensure anything.

How are you going to know if /you're/ vote wasn't counted properly in the first place? "I'm sure Kang would have gotten 10,304,234 votes, but he only got 10,304,233, my vote was the one they didn't count!"

Re:vote absentee by mail (2, Insightful)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528199)

Ah yes, that photocopy will certainly come in handy when...

...Actually when did you plan on using the photocopy? If the election results get called into question there will be little to no way for you to know how your vote was counted, or even if it was counted at all. I appreciate your desire for hyper-vigilance...but pragmatism takes precedence. In fact, I would be willing to wager that your mail in ballot receives no more than a passing glance, barring another Miami/Dade fiasco.

Better person to change the vote to. (5, Funny)

Silviiro (1386523) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527825)

These machines aren't very smart. They need to change their votes to Cthulhu if they want to live.

Re:Better person to change the vote to. (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527897)

By "live", I take it you mean "get eaten last."

Re:Better person to change the vote to. (3, Funny)

Talisein (65839) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528193)

They need to change their votes to Cthulhu if they want to live.

I thought advancing Cthulhu's awakening gave you the privilege of being one of the first to be eaten, thereby avoiding the sight of mind-breaking eldritch horrors and such.

ECC on the voting machines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527837)

"No, I really think you meant to say McCain...let me fix that for you."

No Oversight, No accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527841)

This is what happens when you have a bunch of simple programmers tasked with making democracy "work".

There is no oversight, no accountability, nothing.

What does a simple programming #24028 have to lose if the machine doesn't work, it will be patched in version "next election 2.0" anyway.

Worst is he gets fired, and goes to next code jockey job elsewhere.

Engineers on the other hand, stand to lose their license if they get caught. Sure, they "might" not get caught, but there is a whole organization that monitors and reports them, making it generally not worth it.

Quality improves, trust improves, etc.

It's time to add another tier to the programming hierarchy:

Engineers, Programmers/Developers, Java Jockeys, etc...

Curious problems (3, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527845)

    I have to wonder what the source of a problem like this is..

    Is it poor coding practices, that are making the interface do the wrong thing? I've seen this in web interfaces, if you swap your variables accidentally. How well have these devices been QA tested? Probably not well enough.

    Are the touch sensitive screens too sensitive? I was trying to buy at a store, and the touch screen pen would click buttons while it was still about 2 inches from the screen. It made it very difficult to use.

    Is it just user failure, where they're dragging the stylus (or touching with their finger) across both boxes, making it see a corrected input to the wrong selection?

    Is it an evil conspiracy? Ah, why not, I love conspiracies. :)

    Since I don't have access to the offending devices, nor the users, I'll just have to take my guess. I guess #4, evil conspiracy. Occam's razor would tell us differently. Probably option #3 is the correct answer.

big bush up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527851)

now we know why bush is prez

I HATE electronic machines (4, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527853)

In Pennsylvania we have the option of either using the electronic machines, or using a paper ballot. I use the paper ballot every time.

-posted with LYNX, the Commodore 64 browser

Rediculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527857)

This is absurd. I do not understand why the American government continues to invest large sums of money in proprietary software that has been proven to not work. This is of course assuming there is no conspiracy whatsoever behind this.

Will we see any major media coverage for this issue? Will the general populous cause a huge uproar? Sadly, I doubt it.

I wonder if this is how Bush won the last election...

Vote redistribution is all about fairness (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527859)

I think Obama understands that a level playing field is about the common good and John McCain really needs a leg up. And Sen McCain should not feel ashamed because this is not charity.

This is an early example of new hope.

Dirty Tricks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527871)

Let it begin. I predict once again, a Republican will win, despite pre-vote polling and exit polling both showing a Democratic win.

Re:Dirty Tricks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528167)

you mean that you prefer a communist muslim that was born in Kenya for president?

The real problem... (1)

Shadow7789 (1000101) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527885)

is that we don't hear about how the machines work flawlessly in 99.9% of the cases. Everyone loves a conspiracy.

Re:The real problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528001)

is that we don't hear about how the machines work flawlessly in 99.9% of the cases. Everyone loves a conspiracy.

For something this important, only working 99.9% of the time is still a conspiracy.

Calibration? (4, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527893)

Maybe the machines should do the "touch the center of the X" thing with every single voter to make sure they're properly calibrated for the viewing angle of each voter. Most public computer kiosks I've seen have very thick covers / empty space / whatever between the touch surface and the actual display, being too tall / short could easily result in a half inch or more offset from where you thought you touched.

Static electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527895)

I believe this is just "static electricity." Nothing to worry about. Randomly flipping votes tend to happen from positive Obama to negatively campaigning McCain due to the electric attraction force.

Solution. Bring in camera phone with you. (3, Interesting)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527901)

Video tape your election vote.

If it does a dodgy switcheroo, you have the evidence that you hit the right button, etc...

But honestly, if you were going to fiddle a machine to flip a few votes to the GOP, why have the output show the flip at all?
Just edit the totals and display whatever the hell you want on the UI.

printf "You have voted for Obama"; McCain++;

Know what I mean?

Re:Solution. Bring in camera phone with you. (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528195)

Well, yes. We know that you can just switch it internally, so it's probably an issue more about incompetence.

Even so, it's bad for democracy. Someone reading this article might think about not voting ("because it's rigged").

Bullshit (1, Flamebait)

ichthus (72442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527969)

Video, or it didn't happen. Until there's a video-documented case of this happening, it's a bullshit claim. It is unfortunate, though, that whoever ends up "winning" the Presidential race will always have the question of whether the victory was legitimate. We can thank ACORN, among others, for this.

Re:Bullshit (2, Insightful)

Arimus (198136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528037)

What do Acorn have to do with this? The BBC-B was a lovely computer, the electron wasn't too poor either :)

Re:Bullshit (1)

ichthus (72442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528115)

Apologies. I meant Amstrad. :)

Re:Bullshit (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528235)

Reminds me of that infamous phrase: "Vote Early and Vote Often!"
(Of course, this phrase is literally out of Chicago-American Politics...)
...Wait!, Isn't one of the current Presidential candidates from the Chicago Political area??? Coincidence??

In it to steal it (5, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527987)

John McCain's own polling gives him hope, an aide says

When John McCain insisted, during his appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," that he was doing "just fine" in a presidential race in which the polls have shown Barack Obama with a steady lead over the last few weeks, many may have dismissed the comment as just something that a candidate has to say.

Not so, said a campaign official who spoke on background with The Times' Bob Drogin. The aide said the campaign's internal polling showed McCain down only 4 percentage points nationally -- a sharp improvement from a week ago -- and closing fast.

State-by-state, the private polling also showed McCain up 1 point in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Missouri, and behind by only 3 points in Virginia (a new Washington Post survey found him down 8 there).

McCain almost assuredly needs to capture all five states to win the presidency. And even that may not be enough if he fails to win Pennsylvania, one of his campaign stops today. Without Pennsylvania, McCain needs to pull more electoral votes out of some combination of Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico or Iowa -- all states where, as of now, the internal numbers look bleak.

The anonymous McCain official argued a comeback remains doable. "Check with me Wednesday," the aide said. "If we're still within the margin of error (in polling), we're going to win."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/10/john-mccains-ow.html [latimes.com]

Just like the last two times.

Refusing to take personal responsibility (2, Interesting)

VorlonFog (948943) | more than 5 years ago | (#25527989)

Although technical issues such as touch-screen alignment are certainly possibilities, and dirty tricks/malice on the part of political organizations are popular scapegoats, this seems to be more a case of people refusing to take personal responsibility for their own actions. I voted early last weekend in NC, and the electronic touch screens were well-spaced and crisply clear, with large font type. Pressing the wrong button would have required more than a bit of effort for any responsible individual. Additionally, there were voting registrars (local volunteers) overseeing everything, and offering very helpful and thoughtful assistance to anyone who asked. I'd guess this is more about wanting to blame someone else for their carelessness than it is about dirty tricks, political skullduggery, corporate foul play, or technology.

video from reddit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25527993)

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=21a_1225010361 [video]

VIDEOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528041)

or it didnt happen.

If you have a problem on election day, ask any bystander to lend their video-enabled camera phone.

use paper and ocr it (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528049)

the problem with electornic voting is perception. if people perceive their vote is being tampered with, this matters more than the truth of the matter

passions are high in an election. people get upset if they lose. they seize on anything that feeds into their perceptions, and electronic voting is too black box: votes go in, sausage come out, and who knows what happens in the middle

when an election is over, people have to know the vote was fair. knowing the vote was fair is not a matter of trusting a talking head on a tv screen or a poorly paid government worker. its about how they feel about their voting experience. paper you can trust. you can't intrisincally trust a black box process

electornic voting should be abandoned. its a bad idea

Programming polls are so easy... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528073)

.. I just can't figure out how you could program vote software wrong, it's simple integer counts.

It's one of the easiest things to program.

Re:Programming polls are so easy... (1)

Slash.Poop (1088395) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528239)

I agree. Sometime back, and now as well, all I keep hearing was how hard it was to get one of these machines to work correctly. Or how expensive they were. Seriously, how complex can they be?

Simple radio buttons (or possibly check boxes), a few errors checks, couple of dialog boxes, a "VOTE" button, and then just a sum.

Simple and done. Next project please!

Documentation needed: Bring video! (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528187)

This phenomenon has been reported before; it is always blamed on voter error with no investigation.

It needs to be documented.

Everybody, if your district has electronic voting of any kind, bring your video camera (cell phone, pocket camera, PDA--whatever) in with you, and record yourself voting. If this phenomenon is happening, we need to document it.

Capitalism at it's worst (0, Troll)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528191)

These sorts of things should have never been left to the hands of the business sector. I would never champion F/OSS as the answer to every problem, but in this case it seems quite clear that a transparent SIMPLE solution will be the answer. I'd also like to point out that the problems that keep creeping up with these machines are just straight up ridiculous. Let's look at a few:
  • Open USB ports: Seriously? It's not exactly difficult to disable them, like many IT offices do and have done for years.
  • Poor touch screen arrangement/responsiveness: This technology is far from new. My grandmother knows how to understand a touchscreen, and so does yours, no matter what you want to believe. If the ballot looks confusing, it was intentional.
  • Rouge software: This one is my favorite. Voting "technology" is not a crazy science; it's a bunch of people re-inventing "check the box". The machines most likely won't (or wouldn't if done right) need software upgrades. The most external "programming" they should ever need is to update the candidates on them. Why are these things running full pc hardware/software? The simplest answer is usually the best.

While I don't find it hard to believe that an elitist group would seek to control elections this way, my gut tells me it really comes down to is Corporate America selling the Y2K fix for democracy. Just like then it's mostly unnecessary, and for what we'll pay we should have just bought a better ballot.

WHY THEY DO THIS:? (0, Troll)

WEGAH (1389283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25528205)

Hahahaha!! Reading this from Us if funny, Seems again a president with less votes from POPULATION can win. Yesterday In Brazil, they have the 2 Turn of elections ( 1 turn, population decide between a lot of canditates, the 2 most winers, have after a 2 election where one have 51% of votes WIN). They used AGAIN the eletronic machines. same they are using last 10 YEAR and if we think in TESTS like the ones in US, more time. ITS simple. Small. NOT TOUCH SCREEN, BUT BIG SIMPLE KEYBOARD WITH NUMBERS, YES, NO, NULL with BIG COLOURS AND BAILER TO BLIND. AND AFTER ALL PROCESS OF PUT NUMBER OF CANDIDATE, YES, NO, NULL HAVE THE CONFIRM. the screen is simple, black white, candidate number big, photo BIG. The system use standard components, EASY AUDI TABLE. AND A CLOSED (BACK BOX LIKE) CASE. From a total of 406.000 URNS, 285 broke and most of the ones that come from 1998 election ( OFFICIAL DATA here http://www.tre-mg.gov.br/eleicoes/eleicoes_2004/resumao1/urnas.htm [tre-mg.gov.br] ). Everyone can ask the results of URNS when the electoral section close. SAME ME. from all time using this thing. almost no case of ALLEGATION OF FRAUD ( same the parts blame each other, don't discuss the system). EACH ONE HAVE A COST OF R$1.425,96 today near U$ 620,00 The one FLAW is the lack of PAPER confirmation like votes to STANDARD PEOPLES audit. But next ELECTION. after you confirm your VOTE. the urn will print the vote and you can put put inside the VOTE PACK for further analyses and if need. EACH URN can surviee for almost 6h without energy and a simple CAR BATTERY can be used to extend this ( not need a crazy SAT ELITE/NASA with a KIND OF RARE PLUTONIUM like US :-) ) that leave just some minutes of use. More than ELECTRONIC system, was the system to count the votes. each place with electronic urn, or have a kind of secured cable communication or even middle amazon or deep country cities have a sat antenna to transmit the data just after close the electoral zones. So, 8h after the end we know 100% of VOTES COUNT. and we speak MORE THAN THAT, in a test way. the voters already have a ELECTRONIC kind of ELECTORAL DOCUMENT tested finger and eyes to confirm the votes and that Who are in document is who VOTES. and worked 100%. with standar electronics. NOT SUPER MAMBO JAMBO DARPHA/NASA ELECTRONICS. WY a country like US that have/PRINT ( want see who will pay the bill) so much money can not do a simple thing like this? Seem always someone want money or give margin for a kind of fraud. ITS something we cant understand. Why not BLAM a kind of PATENT in this system that already exist ( like do always) and build lot of this systems ( yes, seem they need jobs there now).. and just use this? Hoo, the Brazilian machine use OPEN SOURCE Soft. Something US cant use, maybe because security ( paedophiles or terrorism can take advantage of this, or maybe the P2P. how? don't know, but seems GOVERN speak this all the time now). Well.. why so difficult do it? EVERYONE need to ask, WHY the govern still doing this kind chit? WHO HAVE ADVANTAGE WITH THIS? BECAUSE SOMEONE HAVE. OR WHO RECEIVE MONEY TO DO, OR WHO RECEIVE MONEY TO RESEARCH or JUST A WAY OF MANIPULATE a PERCEPTUAL of VOTES in a CRAZY CONSPIRATIONAL WAY ( something after last 2 elections in US seems be the most obvious). IT IS

What about the Bush votes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25528237)

What about the reports that some of the votes changed to *Bush* ? Doesn't that imply they forgot to update something in the code?
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