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Open Source Program Reveals Diebold Bug

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the rabble-rousin'-ne'er-do-well dept.

Government 175

Mitch Trachtenberg writes "Ballot Browser, an open source Python program developed by Mitch Trachtenberg (yours truly) as part of the all-volunteer Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, was instrumental in revealing that Diebold counting software had dropped 197 ballots from Humboldt County, California's official election results. Despite a top-to-bottom review by the California Secretary of State's office, it appears that Diebold had not informed that office of the four-year-old bug. The Transparency Project has sites at humetp.org and http://www.humtp.com." Trachtenberg also points to his blog for the Transparency Project, and his own essay about the discovery and the process that led to it.

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175 comments

First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110103)

Hey, Trachtenberg do you have a sister? And was she somehow the key to all of this?

Re:First Post (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110839)

Oh cone on mods, that was funny. Haven't you guys ever heard of Harriet the Spy [imdb.com]?

Re:First Post (3, Informative)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111113)

on the off chance you're actually after an answer to the question in your .sig, the reason is that irregular forms such as -en simply die out when a generation of speakers rarely hears and uses the past-tense of a particular word, and so when it finally comes time for an individual to use the past-tense and they've never heard it, they just apply the regular rule of adding -ed. so a corollary would be that the past-tense of "prove" is being used less frequently than it was in previous times.

words and rules [wikipedia.org] by steven pinker is an entire book about irregular verbs, and i believe has a sentence or two about proven/proved. he definitely has many paragraphs, possibly a chapter, on the -en / -ed deal. he also talks a bit about why irregular forms persist over time. he also has some serious pedantic axes to grind.

Re:First Post (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111705)

Thanks for the knowledge, even if you got modded "Off Topic". Considering I'm only 25, I find it kind of funny that you say a "generation of speakers". Maybe I'm just getting old before my time...damn kids! ;)

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111391)

That wasn't a troll... it was pretty funny (no I'm not the same AC)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Trachtenberg#Films (see specifically Harriet the Spy)

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm141333504/nm0005502

Re:First Post (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111647)

Harriet the Spy? I assumed it was referring to her role as Dawn in the Buffy series, playing a character referred to throughout the entire fifth season only as "the key".

I'll see you in court (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110123)

Papers arriving shortly ...Esq.

Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (5, Interesting)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110143)

It's usually correct to not blame on malice what can be explained by incompetence. But I do find it hard to understand how a seemingly-simple requirement (essentially, count the number of times a button has been pressed) can be so badly botched by a company whose other "secure terminal" products (eg, ATMs) seem trustworthy and reliable, without the implication of a sinister motive.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (5, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110165)

Someone with 30 minutes of quickbasic experience can write an application that accurately counts button presses.

The fact that we are being asked to swallow this is disgusting.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110295)

Don't be a retard. No one with 30 minutes of Quickbasic experience can write an application scanning paper ballots and perform optical recognition on them with any degree of accuracy.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111301)

Your right. They would say "that's a fucking stupid idea to scan ballots and use OCR to read them and then just rely on the machine when it promises that it got the answer right, at the very least we should be counting button presses".

Do you hold your ATM pin number up to the screen waiting for it to be scanned or do you punch the buttons...

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111429)

Yes, but someone with several years of python experience could do this in less than 30 minutes. Just type import ballot_counter Although in Py3K they've changed the name to ballotCounter, just so you know.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111433)

Don't be a retard. No one with 30 minutes of Quickbasic experience can write an application scanning paper ballots and perform optical recognition on them with any degree of accuracy.

And the people who write ATM software didn't do any better.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26112283)

print 42

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110297)

If you read the article, they were Not pressing buttons. This was a paper-and-pen method followed by a scanning machine. The scanning machine was dropping ballots for some unknown reason.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Informative)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110355)

The point is that the machine failed at identifying the ballots, not just identifying votes.

I can see that optical scanning might have issues, but then the counting machine needs to spit out the "bad" ballot into a different pile so that it can be manually checked. The machine failed to do this.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

York the Mysterious (556824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112045)

This is really discomforting especially since I've voted in Humboldt County using those optical scanners. Makes me wonder if they ever counted my vote.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Interesting)

Elder Lane Hour (1430813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110661)

The fact that we are being asked to swallow this is disgusting.

The fact that we're being asked to swallow electronic voting is disgusting. Some things electronics simply don't do well, and one such thing is accountability. We should be demanding accountability. Not just in angry letters to congress-critters, but outside voting booths, to the people who mindlessly register their vote, without any real clue if their vote will count or not.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (5, Insightful)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110765)

This is a bit of an overreaction. There's no reason that a properly designed electronic voting system can't achieve greater speed and accuracy while producing a paper trail which allows full accountability. Just have the machine produce a printout which the individual voter can verify, then in case of doubt you can always resort to a manual count. Ultimately electronic voting systems should save time and increase accuracy, and we're going to switch to them.

The problem here is that the politicians have no idea what a properly designed electronic voting system looks like, and so they just leave it all up to Diebold and the like, who have no real incentive to do things right. What we really need here is a detailed set of specifications for how voting machines ought to perform, and laws that prevent machines which don't meet those specifications from being used in an election.

Nobody want's that. (-1, Troll)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110867)

Why do you think there is a constant drum beat for paper ballots?

Because one political party (in the USA) has cheating on paper ballot elections down pat (via registration fraud and corrupt county boards that 'find' as many ballots as they need, e.g. Washington state Gov race of 2004, Minnesota's current senate race, the attempted theft of Florida in the 2000 pres contest).

Electronic systems have the potential to one day deliver very difficult to cheat on elections. Nobody from Illinois wants that.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Insightful)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111845)

That's shit. I'll take the ballot I handle and allow it to be scanned. If the count is suspect then the ballots exist outside of some computer generated fantasy and real humans can count them.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112169)

Having a single corporation or institution count the votes is a problem in itself, no matter whether humans or machines read the actual ballots.

What I really want after I push the button is to immediately get my vote acknowledged by multiple independent (and competing) parties.
When both the democrat's and the republican counter has acknowledged my vote then I can be fairly sure that any tampering will be detected.

So how can this work? My idea would be cryptographic signing. Each vote gets a unique number that is sent to the counting parties over the internet. Their servers will register my vote and return a signed confirmation for that particular vote, which the physical voting machine can print on my receipt.

Then when I get home I just go to the website of each counting party, enter my signature (or its fingerprint) and re-check that my vote was *really* received by everyone.

Obviously there are still ways to tamper with this approach, e.g. by patching a diebold so that it re-prints receipts so that all democrat voters get the same receipt while only one vote is actually sent out to the counters. But IMHO it would make detection of such tricks much easier and the whole system much more transparent than what we have today.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (2, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112259)

Your union rep wants to see your voting receipt to make sure you voted 'correctly'!

If that doesn't scare you imagine the same scenario with your boss doing the verification.

You can't make the system 'voter auditable' without losing the secret ballot.

Take your idea but don't print the verification number on the ballot. Store it in the voting machine then reconcile the machine records to the central databases at the end of the day as a check. Hackers would have to change multiple systems in synch to get away with steeling votes.

Registration fraud still needs to be fixed.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112341)

Well, yes, my proposed system is obviously not perfect, I just think it'd be a step into the right direction.
I'm not sure I buy into the union rep/boss scenario. That kind of opression would clearly be illegal and I doubt it could
be pulled off on a large scale without someone reporting that union rep/boss to the authorities.

Anyways, an interesting (but probably too complicated) variant could also be to combine the vote with a user-chosen pin and duress pin.
The counter-websites would only return the actual vote when the request contains a pin that the user chose at vote-time and that is
not printed on the receipt. A simple algorithm would be needed that lets the user alter the pin in a way so that the website reports
a vote for any other party. Thus, *every* entered pin would return a vote confirmation, but only the real pin reveals the real vote.

As said, this is probably too complicated for someone to grasp who could possibly get into the union rep situation (most likely
a low education person), but imho even this problem is theoretically solvable with a technical solution.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112359)

PS: Thinking about it more, maybe not even *that* complicated after all.
The voting machine could indeed just display the list of PINs after the user is done voting.
"Pin 1234 for reps", "Pin 1235 for dems" etc.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110861)

Yes, well, my vote counted! That is what the sticker I got after I voted said anyway (no joke).

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (2, Funny)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111513)

Mine too. After the OCR machine acknowledged my ballot was readable, they gave me a sticker that said "I voted".

I asked him for a second one and walked around all next day with two "I voted" stickers on.

Surprisingly, nobody asked me if I voted twice.

Are you sure your vote counted? (4, Interesting)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111723)

Mine too. After the OCR machine acknowledged my ballot was readable, they gave me a sticker that said "I voted".

It may well have been readable, but the first articles I saw on this make it clear that being readable is not a guarantee of your vote actually being included in the result.

The first articles make it clear that votes were counted and then, in some circumstances, From that article: [wired.com]

The ballots even showed up in preliminary tallies counted on election night on November 4 and in a report printed out on November 23. But some time after this point, the tabulation software inexplicably deleted the ballots without election officials ever knowing.

Still sure your vote counted?

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Insightful)

scribblej (195445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111601)

I program banking systems for a living.

It's cute that you think "electronics simply don't do [...] accountability." Believe me, I'd be out a job real fast if they didn't.

The bottom line is, this was handled really, really poorly.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110715)

The fact that we are being asked to swallow this is disgusting.

Thats what my ex used to say.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111117)

My user number is probably lower than yours.

Congratulations. You win the prize.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112329)

>>The fact that we are being asked to swallow this is disgusting.

>Thats what my ex used to say.

So what changed his mind?

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111455)

my thoughts exactly..

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110257)

It's usually correct to not blame on malice what can be explained by incompetence. But I do find it hard to understand how a seemingly-simple requirement (essentially, count the number of times a button has been pressed) can be so badly botched by a company whose other "secure terminal" products (eg, ATMs) seem trustworthy and reliable, without the implication of a sinister motive.

That's because money is heavily monitored and tracked wherever it goes. Votes are registered and received, but not monitored and traced on two ends.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111583)

really? so the ATM machine remembers the serial number on each bill it dispenses? they must use massive databases just to keep track of the millions of ATM withdrawals that are made each day, not to mention all the bills already in circulation (16,650,000 $1 bills are printed each day). seems like that would be a heck of a lot harder than tracking electronic ballots cast only once every 4 years.

votes don't need to be "traced" on two ends. you only need to authenticate (verify the identity of) each voter when they case their vote, and then securely transmit that vote to a central database of electronic ballots. a one SSN, one vote system would work if you just have each person select a password when they register to vote, so the job of identifying the voter is done long before the actual election day. then on the day of the election, everyone logs onto the official voting site (whether from home or using public internet access at a school or library) and inputs their social security number, d-o-b, and password for authentication. then they simply cast their vote and write down a confirmation number (or print out a receipt).

with the ballots being entirely electronic, they are immediately processed and added to a secure central database, at which point a second public ballot-tracking database will also be updated with the vote. so before the voter even leaves the voting booth (computer), they can confirm (using the confirmation number above) that their vote has been processed and properly recorded. if you are extremely paranoid, you can check your vote again from a different computer--heck, you can call up your friend in a different state and ask them to check from their computer.

basically, this gives each voter the prerogative to verify that their vote was recorded properly (and to catch any election fraud). the system can also double-check that the official ballot database perfectly matches the ballot-tracking database. if they don't match, then you know that there has been vote tampering, and you know exactly which ballots were tampered with.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111765)

You're missing my entire point, which is that when you (for example) send money to someone, the documents of this transaction is on both ends (the sender and the receiver). Votes basically go one way.

The point is that there is room for voter frauds simply because of this. If it was a money transaction, it would never work simply because the documentation had to match on both ends.

Don't dig too deep into my comment, because I was only making an obvious point about why financial security systems are far more complex and secure than voting systems.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112347)

>really? so the ATM machine remembers the serial number on each bill it dispenses?

It can be arranged that way, if you control the order of the bills when they are loaded. And that's done under a strict protocol with armed security.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (3, Interesting)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110293)

I am also a believer in Hanlon's Razor. In fact, I I'll stick with Hanlon on this one and disagree with you.

When the owner of Diebold boldly promised to "deliver" Ohio to the Republicans (was it in 2004?), I'm pretty sure he was talking about how easy his product is to hack, not about bugs in the software (intentional bugs or otherwise). There is strong circumstantial evidence that Diebold has been involved in intentionally changing the results of elections, but I don't think this particular counting mishap is further evidence of that; I think it's just shoddily-written software.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111609)

what moron modded this comment a troll? is "-1 Troll" the default mod for "waaahhhh! reality doesn't agree with me!"?

if you disagree with the views expressed in a comment, the appropriate thing to do is to respond to it (and preferably refute it in mature/rational manner). modding someone down just for disagreeing with you is a sign of intellectual cowardice.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

BryanClark (29840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112193)

(and preferably refute it in mature/rational manner).

You must be new here

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (3, Insightful)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110303)

If anything is simple enough for formal verification to work, yet important enough that formal verification should be used, surely voting machines must be it. Of course, if they're really doing this out of a sinister motive, then (to them) there's no point.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (4, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110309)

It's a little more complicated than that...

Premier told her the problem wasn't her but its Global Election Management System software (also known as GEMS) which is used to tabulate votes from all of the company's voting systems -- optical-scan machines as well as touch-screen machines.

Premier explained that due to a programming problem, the first "deck" or batch of ballots that are counted by the GEMS software sometimes gets randomly deleted if any subsequent deck is intentionally deleted. The GEMS system names the first deck of ballots "deck 0", with subsequent batches called "deck 1," "deck 2," etc. For some reason "deck 0" is sometimes erased from the system if any other deck is erased. Since it's common for officials to intentionally erase a deck in the normal counting process if they've made an error and want to rescan a deck, the chance that a GEMS system containing this flaw will delete a batch of ballots is pretty high.

Yes, this looks ridiculous considering it's a voting machine, but to me it looks like a pretty normal software bug. I've seen far worse things get paste a full blown QA team.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (2, Interesting)

Elder Lane Hour (1430813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110533)

All the more reason not to trust even a full blown QA team with our votes.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110669)

You've got to trust a lot more people than a QA team even without the electronic voting machines. The solution is to build a system where you don't have to trust anything (or as little as possible), because it's fault tolerant and has verifiers in place to catch things.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110991)

The solution is to build a system where you don't have to trust anything (or as little as possible), because it's fault tolerant and has verifiers in place to catch things.

And the problem with that is that it's supposed to be a secret ballot. I'd like to be able to use an online form with some sort of hash so that I could check my ballot had been recorded correctly. Such a system leaves others open to being pressured into voting in a particular way however.

You can't have a voter verified system that is also secret (unless you require those who want to secrete their vote to be active in hiding it). So, like you said you have to have some trust involved.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111023)

I'd say of the two, secrecy is the less important requirement and if one of them has to be dropped, it should.

It comes down to a choice between:

  • A system where votes can be stolen one at a time, with the individual voter's full knowledge and participation.
  • A system where votes can be stolen wholesale, with the voters never knowing.

Which do you suppose would be harder to rig?

--MarkusQ

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111989)

Secrecy is a constitutional requirement in California.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112281)

Secrecy is a constitutional requirement in California.

In some places, the right to own slaves was at one time too.

It's a matter of picking what's more important. Property rights or human rights? The right to privacy or the right to honest elections?

--MarkusQ

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

TuaAmin13 (1359435) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110955)

Yes, this looks ridiculous considering it's a voting machine, but to me it looks like a pretty normal software bug. I've seen far worse things get paste a full blown QA team.

It seems that's a fairly normal typo, and got past your preview pane

a pretty normal software bug .. :) (3, Interesting)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111145)

"it looks like a pretty normal software bug"

maybe on your planet the ability to count up in single integer increments is considered too esoteric for the average QA team, but here it's something the average IT student can manage ..

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111725)

I've seen far worse things get paste a full blown QA team.

Or a copy editor ;)

Simple Election Algorithum (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110543)

Step 1) Did the Democrat win?
No -  Step 2) Recount!
      Step 3) goto Step 1
Yes - Step 2) "The people have spoken!"

 

...Algorithum ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111627)

You must be a Republican.

Re:Is Hanlon's Razor sharp enough to cut this? (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110603)

There are a few differences between ATMs and voting machines. First of all, ATMs are used daily, and if there was a bug in an ATM, it would be caught very quickly. Second of all, ATMs can be reflashed using the same connection that they use to contact the bank, so if a bug was found, it could be corrected very fast. Also, a bank has a HUGE financial incentive to test ATMs extensively before putting them in service, so it is unlikely that a bug would make it into the real world.

In general, it is hard to reflash a voting machine when a bug is found. The states' have laws about modifying those machines, and require that a long certification process take place after the modification (which is not to say that the certification process is in any way useful). The only incentive to check the machines for accuracy is idealism about the voting process, which is great in theory but not really shared by the majority of society.

I'm not defending the voting machine companies here. Malice is a stretch though; so is ignorance. I would blame it on tight schedules, poor internal engineering standards, and lack of initiative on the states' part to require useful certification. What probably happened was a small team was told to put their ATM project on hold for as short a period of time as possible to develop a voting machine, and their manager got uppity and tried to get them to finish even faster.

you are talking rubbish .. (4, Insightful)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111237)

"There are a few differences between ATMs and voting machines. First of all, ATMs are used daily, and if there was a bug in an ATM, it would be caught very quickly. Second of all, ATMs can be reflashed using the same connection that they use to contact the bank"

Firstly, voting machines should be subject to a full stress test before being deployed in a live election. Secondly ATMs can not be remotely 'reflashed', To upgrade required the replacement of the ATM module and the use of an external hand-held unit (plugged into the ATM) and the presence of two bank officials and the use of two unique PINS.

Trachtenberg?... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110163)

Dude! Your sister is HOT!

DIEBOLD: We vote so you don't have to ... (5, Insightful)

Rockin'Robert (997471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110171)

Stalin told us: "It's not who votes. It's who counts the votes," but we NEVER listen to anybody - huh? (Not that I am a fan.)

What bothers me more (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110623)

is not that companies like Diebold would be corrupt. It is that BOTH dems and pubs have pushed NOT to have a paper trail. Basically, they claim to have our best interest at heart, and yet, we have the likes of Cheney, Rove, Libbey, Delay, Hastart, Stevens, Jefferson, Blogovitch, Daley (certainly original ) , possibly Jackson Jr, etc, etc, etc. Even now, some dems are pushing for NO punishment for Stevens and others are saying no investigations into all of W's admin hijinks. Makes you wonder who these ppl are really representing.

Re:What bothers me more (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110723)

This just in: People look out for their best interests - always. In other news the sky is blue...

Re:What bothers me more (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110913)

Public servants CAN have all's best interest at heart. There are many. I would argue that most state politicians and most civil servants do in fact have just that. Feds are a different matter. They tend towards corruption. This is true everywhere. Heck, just look at EU. Watching the copyright/patent issues being pushed there. Many citizens object to America's INSANE IP policies, and their citizens are fighting them. But their federal politicians and employees are split. A number of their tactics have suggested that the changes have occured after at least 1 major company came in and pushed for software patents and copyrights. That was total corruption (just like here).

Re:What bothers me more (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110975)

Public servants CAN have all's best interest at heart. There are many. I would argue that most state politicians and most civil servants do in fact have just that. Feds are a different matter. They tend towards corruption.

That's so naive I almost feel sorry for you.

Oh, and get a clue. There's a difference between doing what's in your best interest and being corrupt.

Re:What bothers me more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111245)

I would argue that most state politicians and most civil servants do in fact have [all's best interest at heart].

I work for a political consulting company. Ninety percent of our clients are state politicians. I can say, with certainty, that you would lose that argument.

Re:What bothers me more (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26112037)

They're representing the people who got them elected: lobbyists and large campaign contributors.

One area where open source will definitely win (5, Interesting)

Raleel (30913) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110195)

In testing. You need to be able to verify the testing mechanism. Open Source will win there because of the ability to view and modify the code. Just verify that you are testing with the same stuff that you reviewed.

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110207)

In testing. You need to be able to verify the testing mechanism. Open Source will win there because of the ability to view and modify the code. Just verify that you are testing with the same stuff that you reviewed.

Live Free or Diebold!

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (0)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110453)

*doesn't make sense in German.... Live free or "deebold"?*

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110547)

Really? Jesus Christ! Thank fuck it wasn't in German then.

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110513)

Do you guys really need an '-e' switch? C'mon..

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110463)

In testing.

You mean testing of open source products, right

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110695)

In testing. You need to be able to verify the testing mechanism. Open Source will win there because of the ability to view and modify the code. Just verify that you are testing with the same stuff that you reviewed.

While normally you would be correct, open source will only 'win' in the testing department if the goal in the first place was to have functional software that works (as close as possible) to how it claims to work.
Can you honestly with a straight face say that was Diebolds want/desire at any point during this e-voting scam?

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110751)

Just verify that you are testing with the same stuff that you reviewed.

Huh? How do you know that the binaries in the machines came from the source you are testing? There is always this question regardless as to whether or not the source is open. As soon as you resign yourself to testing the binary on the actual platform (in this case a voting machine) you are basically blind to the source. And you are kidding yourself if you test it anywhere else.

Seriously, this whole fiction about OSS being more trustworthy or reliable or bug-free than closed source is nonsense. 99+% of us download prebuilt binaries. We don't really know what source the binary was built from. Every OSS application I have ever tried is riddled with (serious) bugs -- and I have tried the big names like Open Office, VNC (beware of this one), Virtual Box, Firefox, etc. Mind you, I am not saying they are worse than closed source ... but they are most certainly not any better. All are created by human beings, who are fallible.

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111159)

Huh? How do you know that the binaries in the machines came from the source you are testing?

Compile and diff.

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111321)

Only if you have exactly the same revision compiler, and libraries. Even then I don't think the binaries will match. I know that is the case with Visual C++ compiler; the binaries never match even when you recompile the same EXE on the same machine with the same compiler. I don't know if this is the case with gcc, though on a multicore CPU I would bet that it is (modules get compiled in parallel in separate threads on separate CPUs so the scheduler somewhat randomizes the compilation order).

Re:One area where open source will definitely win (1)

Toll_Free (1295136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111797)

Oh bullshit.

Q & A doesn't exist anywhere else?

You're argument is elementary and full of crap.

Sorry, but THAT'S the truth.

--Toll_Free

64,161 votes with 197 errors (2, Interesting)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110211)

Sounds like they used humans to count the vote in reality.

A very small percentage. Still a concern.

Re:64,161 votes with 197 errors (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110311)

Don't say "still" "a" "concern". *Any* percentage can shift the outcome of an election, and each single vote counts. And it's not a concern. This gotta be fixed one way or the other and possibly cleared up in detail. How something like this could happen at all, who would be to blame and should (be forced to) take responsibility.

Re:64,161 votes with 197 errors (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111019)

*Any* percentage can shift the outcome of an election, and each single vote counts.

Each single vote _may_ count, you don't know until after it has been cast though. If who I vote for wins by an easy landslide majority then you can hardly say my vote counted.

If the margin between outcomes is within n-times the expected counting error then recounts are usually made (in places that value their democracy). If the expected error is +/-200 and the outcome is a win by a 10 000 then it ain't worth counting it again.

Re:64,161 votes with 197 errors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111387)

Sure, but as demonstrated vividly with FL-Pres in 2000 and MN-Sen in 2008 (which by some projections may come down to a difference of three -- count em, three -- votes), you have to assume the worst case scenario of just a handful of votes determining the winner. If your system cannot handle this scenario, it's fundamentally broken.

Re:64,161 votes with 197 errors (2, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111555)

Exactly. In a lot of places, jerrymandering has made individual votes less important because the winners often win by a large margin. This is true for both major parties.

However, for statewide elections as evidenced in Minnesota recently, individual votes can have a HUGE impact. A +/- 200 error isn't good enough when the winner's margin is only 100 votes.

Re:64,161 votes with 197 errors (2, Informative)

iammani (1392285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110445)

A very small percentage.

... Assuming that there were no further bugs.

197 votes out of a single precent .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111359)

"Sounds like they used humans to count the vote in reality. A very small percentage. Still a concern"

No, not 197 out of 64,161, but 197 votes out of a single precinct, and unknown numbers of others as they were never checked.

"Crnich said she was told that the software begins counting decks of ballots at zero, and that sometimes when a deck is deleted from the machine due to normal complications, the software also deletes the Deck Zero [times-standard.com], which in this case was the vote-by-mail ballots from Precinct 1E-45"

Start by informing everyone you know. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110263)

We don't need this garbage determining public offices. We have to start educating people that don't understand otherwise that these are a bad idea. Don't be condescending or anything like that, just start discussing with your friends and family that these are a bad idea and why they are a bad idea. Might help if you keep articles like this handy.

Re:Start by informing everyone you know. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110339)

I believe that electronic devices could do a much better job however they're doing this ass backwards with closed source software and one company.

Slashdot's polling software is more useful.

Re:Start by informing everyone you know. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110343)

just start discussing with your friends and family that these are a bad idea and why they are a bad idea.

right-o! I'll be sure to let everyone know how bad of an idea voting is.

Re:Start by informing everyone you know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110759)

Hey, fuck-face, that wasn't the point. The point was to inform people about electronic voting. I'll be sure to inform everybody about how bad of an idea it is to read your idiotic dribble.

Kudo's (3, Insightful)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110539)

To this guy who took it upon himself to provide this check, and kudo's to the supervisor who made it possible. The idea of providing DVD image scans so anyone can verify the vote is genius. I hope other counties start providing real verification like this.

What was the bug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26110541)

I've read a few pieces on this including the author's essay. I still dont know what the actual bug is? Did I miss it somewhere? Is the bug that it just drops every 50th batch that is scanned? :>

Error not a problem (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 5 years ago | (#26110775)

Error itself is not a problem in a general election. This assumes that the error is uniformly distributed, which would not generate a meaningful change in the percentage results.

Of course, this is rarely the case since the "error generators" tend to be localized, which may bias the error towards a particular side or candidate. Proof are the "found" ballots in the Minnesota race, which mysteriously (and statistically impossibly) favor a particular candidate.

error is a big a problem in a general election .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111119)

"Error itself is not a problem in a general election. This assumes that the error is uniformly distributed, which would not generate a meaningful change in the percentage results"

Total nonsence, error is a big a problem in an election, as you can't make any assumptions, as you don't know what the software is doing and finally discarding votes in an election is illegal ..

on my planet 1 + 1 = 2 or maybe sometimes 1.9 or maybe 2.01

1100 0101 1100 0101 1100 0101 1100 0101 1100 0101 1100 0101

Re:Error not a problem (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111169)

Proof are the "found" ballots in the Minnesota race, which mysteriously (and statistically impossibly) favor a particular candidate.

you probably mean "which significantly differ from the rest of the ballots".

That proves little. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111669)

One assumption could be that the counters in the most left leaning districts were hiding Franken votes during the initial count.

The other assumption could be that the counters in the most left leaning districts are creating new ballots in response to the number of ballots they need (like they did four years ago in Washington state).

No good chain of custody for the ballots and they should not be counted under any circumstances. Guaranteed they are fraudulent.

why Open Source works .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111079)

"SANE didn't work with the serial number imprinter on our Fujitsu scanner, so I contacted [mitchtrachtenberg.com] [the] "maintainer" of the SANE Fujitsu backend. He was incredible, getting us some initial changes the same day"

This is what amazes me about Open Source, if you have a problem, you can contact the developers directly, instead of 'Dave' in some call center in Bangalore ..

Again: Not a surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26111129)

Just on the face of it...OpenSource revealing a bug in Diebold's gear...isn't that redundant?

If OpenSource comes to a project, it wasn't OpenSourced before. Meaning (these days) it was Windows.

Have we not all been taught that every Windows bug is sanctioned by Redmond, deemed 'what the customer wants' and is forgivable for the next purchase of a computer?

(OK, drawing it to an extreme...)

Closed source makes it hard to spot errors: so few eyes on the code. It limits the input too, from other authors which make it interesting and vibrant.

Diebold the last I looked still relied on Windows for an ATM (mission-critical job) so how is this a surprise?

why not have dual voting programs? (3, Insightful)

kingduct (144865) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111183)

I have read over and over about unreliable software counting votes. Why not have each vote be counted by two programs? It seems like it would be fairly trivial to have them share the same interface, but the actual methods of counting votes and securing themselves would be completely independent. They would be written by two sources (whether free or not) and then could be used to test each other (in addition of course to humans counting the paper trail the two would print out).

Re:why not have dual voting programs? (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111885)

I'm just gonna go out on the limb and say it would cost double the money. I'm not saying it wouldn't be money well spent, or otherwise it's a bad idea, I'm just saying this is the reason you will be given.
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