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German Court Bans E-Voting As Currently Employed

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the grandfathered-in dept.

Government 82

Kleiba writes "The highest German Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, Federal Constitutional Court) ruled that electronic voting machines like Nedap ESD1 and ESD2 are not permissible in Germany. Der Spiegel, a well-known German newspaper, is featuring article on today's decision (in German; Babelfish translation here) which was the result of a lawsuit by physicist Ulrich Wiesner and his father Joachim Wiesner, a professor emeritus of political science. The main argument against the voting machines in the eyes of the Court is that they conflict with the principle of transparency. 2009 is a major election year for Germany, with parliamentary elections in the fall." Reader Dr. Hok writes "Voting machines are not illegal per se, but with these machines it wasn't possible to verify the results after the votes were cast. The verification procedure by the German authorities was flawed, too: only specimens were tested, not the machines actually used in the elections, and the detailed results (including the source code) were not made public. The results of the election remain legally valid, though."

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Wheres the tag (3, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050433)

suddenoutbreakofcommonsense ?

HELP (0, Troll)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050703)

ok this is what happening,

my parents are out with family friends, and theyll be back any minute so i need your help

Heres some background:

see, i volunteer on my sisters softball team (im 22, the girls are 15)

and whatever yea i met this girl, her name is Alison, and were going out for a while. We have a lot in common, sometimes i help her with homework. I helped her on her english essay and she still got a D. This is because the teacher is a prick ... anywayz

So she came over like an hour ago, and i really want to lose my virginity, so i ask her to have sex

"no, no i cant, its not right" she said, but i told her "dont worry i know what im doing, ill be done in like 10 seconds, pluss ill give you 2 n64 games if you say yes"

So i gave her Diddy Kong Racing, and Ken Griffey Jr Baseball, and then she goes to my room. Shes a bit confused and scarred.

Then i think to myself - yo i need lube right? Cuz i heard the guys on digg saying you need to lube up her clit otherwise it wont fit properly.

Ok so i have no lube, but i really want to lose my virginity - so i grab some butter from the fridge, but its cold, it wont melt - so i microwaved it for 8 minutes, and then i put it in a glass and poured it on her cooter, now shes saying i burned it.

I don't know what to do, my parents are going to be back any minute and shes crying in the bathroom plz help you guyz are relly smrat and please help me.

Any idea how to shut her up? Should i give her a psp game?

Mod parent up! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050759)

Mod parent up. This guy obviously needs as much help as he can get........

Re:Wheres the tag (1)

genik76 (1193359) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051273)

slowoutbreakofcommonsense would be more fitting.

Re:Wheres the tag (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27058251)

> suddenoutbreakofcommonsense ?
no, the Constitutional Court is the one only example in Germany for decisions with sense.

(but I'll claim a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense if our government or parliament would only act half as wise as the highest court....)

AND NOW A JOKE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050437)

Q: How long does it take a black woman to take a shit?
A: About nine months.

I got a million of 'em.

Everyone should evote (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050443)

It saves paper and voting is meaningless anyway, it's just a facade for the bourgeois dictatorship of the imperialist Fourth Reich.

Sneezing? (0, Offtopic)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050489)

The highest German Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, Federal Constitutional Court)...

Gesundheit!

about time, really (3, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050503)

while those nedap voting machines were easy to use (i voted using them four times), they were so insecure (you would need three guys and one minute of time to hack them as this youtube video [youtube.com] shows) that they were already banned in their home country a year ago.

Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050729)

Experts on the radio said after they got banned in the Netherlands it would only be a matter of time. Nice to see that confirmed. The real question is whether this'll keep. Will they decide to ban e-voting altogether or implement the secure solution that the EU sponsored? Or will they decide that's more trouble than it's worth and reinstate e-voting using equipment that looks different but is not substantially more secure? The judgement leaves enough wiggleroom.

Re:Yup (2, Insightful)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051267)

The judgment indeed leaves for wiggleroom. They did not ban e-voting per se, instead they required the collecting and the counting of the voting to be transparent to the population, in accordance to the constitution. Interesting question is, how e-voting can have transparent counting, open source code for the machine comes to mind.

Re:Yup (1)

jeffasselin (566598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052473)

Open Source coding and hardware + paper receipts + paper trail.

Add in an expert commission to review the machines and report their findings publicly, so they can be looked at by independent expert in turn.

Re:Yup (5, Insightful)

he-sk (103163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27053201)

Add in an expert commission to review the machines ...

Fail. The ruling specifically says that evoting has to be transparent to the average citizen that is no computer expert. Good look coming up with a scheme that fulfills this requirement.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27057037)

In addition: as far as I know the election have to be held in a way that *every* voter can demand a re-counting *at the evening of election*

So you'd need the same amount of people as with paper-only anyway....

Re:about time, really (1)

hviniciusg (1481907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050781)

Actually I donâ(TM)t think its necessary 3 peoples to accomplish this hack. One person can manage it pretty easily, assuming it has all the knowledge required to hack an EPROM

Re:about time, really (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052343)

three people were needed to do it in just 1 minute of time.

Hard copy (1)

sherriw (794536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050537)

I don't understand why they don't make these things punch out an internal hard copy like on a reel of paper inside for purposes of auditing and having a hard copy.

Re:Hard copy (1)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050579)

Wait? Leaving a paper trail of the voting? I don't thing that was "missed" or "left out", it is more like a feature.

Re:Hard copy (5, Insightful)

beleriand (22608) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050675)

This only makes sense if it is verified immediately by the majority of the voters. If it's just an internal hard copy, a manipulated machine can just "punch out" the same wrong vote that is stored, while fooling the voter on the display.

Now what's the point of complicated and expensive machines which would present a printout to voters, ask for confirmation, etc?

Pen&Paper voting is much cheaper, and very secure.

Re:Hard copy (2, Informative)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27054887)

I disagree. Electronic voting, properly implemented would have clear and significant advantages over traditional paper or punchcard ballots. Electronic voting could be both faster and more accurate than the older methods.

It should be obvious that electronic results can be tabulated much more quickly than hand counted ballots. If you're talking about punch cards processed by machine readers, then a purely electronic process would still be faster. There's no need to handle any sort of physical media—you just transfer the vote count electronically to a CPU, and add it up.

As far as accuracy in reflecting the true intent of the voters, an electronic process could also be significantly superior. Each voting machine would have an exact digital record of every vote cast. There would be none of the problems associated with analog ballots—like the famous "hanging chads" of Florida, or poorly marked paper ballots that give false results when processed by OCR. A properly designed voting machine would be capable of detecting user error (like voting for opposing candidates for the same office, or not voting for anyone at all), and notify the voter immediately.

So what do I mean by "properly implemented"? Well, pretty much everyone here will agree that closed, proprietary hardware and software are absolutely not a good idea for voting machines. The design and code must be public, so that the public (or the more technically sophisticated members thereof) can examine them for flaws. There must also be public discussion of the procedures used to safeguard the integrity of the machines and their data. Given such openness, there's no reason why a reliable electronic voting system can't be built and used with confidence.

My strongest objection to electronic voting as it's now implemented is that it leaves no audit trail. Once the electronic votes are tabulated, there's no way to check that the votes were, indeed, counted honestly. I think there's a pretty simple solution to this: print out a copy of the voter's ballot, and allow him to review it when he leaves the voting booth. If the voter agrees that the printout is legible and reflects how he actually voted, the paper goes into a box.

But doesn't that obviate the whole point of electronic voting; aren't we ultimately back to counting paper ballots? Not at all! First, the paper exists only as an audit trail. The votes are counted electronically. Only if a candidate demands a recount are the boxes of paper ballots ever opened and counted.

More importantly, though, the paper printouts provide a way to verify that the system is working correctly on a continual basis. To prove that the electronic system is honest, it's not necessary to count every single ballot to see if the electronic and paper totals are equal. If you have a paper trail, then you can do a statistical analysis of only a small sample of the voting results from randomly chosen districts and machines to verify that the vote was honest. This can—and should—be done continually on a random basis to detect any corruption of the process.

Re:Hard copy (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27056969)

It should be obvious that electronic results can be tabulated much more quickly than hand counted ballots. If you're talking about punch cards processed by machine readers, then a purely electronic process would still be faster.

Where's the advantage? The voting stations close at 18:00 and at 24:00 all or virtually all votes have been counted. Having a room full of people count a few hundred ballots twice doesn't take much time.

As far as accuracy in reflecting the true intent of the voters, an electronic process could also be significantly superior. Each voting machine would have an exact digital record of every vote cast. There would be none of the problems associated with analog ballotsâ"like the famous "hanging chads" of Florida, or poorly marked paper ballots that give false results when processed by OCR.

"OCR" means "representatives from the various parties up for election in the region" in this case. As good as image recognition software has become, the human visual system is usually still better.


Traditional paper voting works pretty well. It's fast enough for the newspapers and even fast enough to have a more or less dramatic vote counting race in the evening. And the German political system doesn't quite lend itself to having a number less than the margin of error entirely decide the fate of the country.

I don't really see why they suddenly want voting machines. Probably because they saw it doesn't work in the States and want to look stupid too.

Re:Hard copy (1)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060735)

Well, since Jesus disagrees with me, I can pretty well regard myself as refuted. Some days, it doesn't pay to post.

Re:Hard copy (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051427)

That would be very scary and therefore it is illegal.
Because the secrecy of the vote would be lost when anyone that can count could figure out what the Nth. voter of the day had cast.

Re:Hard copy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27051519)

Well, prepare yourself for a shock: That's exactly how the machines with paper trail work.

Re:Hard copy (1)

Touvan (868256) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052937)

If you can't see inside the machine to see what it's doing (impossible with computer chips) - you can't trust it. I don't understand why anyone thinks a computerized voting machines (and especially vote counting machines) can ever work. The incentives are all in the wrong place to make these accurate - it's just too important to win.

The best, most accurate, hardest to cheat system, is a hand counted (the emphasis belongs on the hand counted part) paper ballots (stuffed randomly into a cardboard box to solve the "secret" part). It takes a lot of resources to get enough operatives in enough places to sway the vote by cheating hand counted paper ballots - and the more you have, the more visibility there is, and the more loose lips there are. With electronically tallied votes, you just have to have the one guy (even the grunt who sets up the machine) put in code that counts incorrectly in one candidates favor. Can voting booth personel verify that the code they are installing was compiled from a particular source (or even know what that means)? The answer here is _no_.

These things are far too easy to mess with, and should never be trusted.

By the way, listen to the way politicians talk about this issue. Usually it's in terms of the right to a "fair" but not "accurate" vote. Come on, why do you think these guys want to spend all this money on a more expensive, more problematic system than hand counted paper ballots. There are not a lot of good reasons (I can't think of even one good reason).

what's the difference? (2, Insightful)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050577)

We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfatory results

that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen? if you have the means and a set objective, you can "hack" anything. And you don't even need a computer to do so.

Re:what's the difference? (4, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050649)

We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfatory results

that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen? if you have the means and a set objective, you can "hack" anything. And you don't even need a computer to do so.

The difference is numbers. A single programmer in the right place can hack an entire election, untraceable for anybody else. To perform a similar hack in a pen and paper system you would need thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. The chances of none of them talking are slim, thus there is a much better chance of people finding out about the fraud.

Re:what's the difference? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27051175)

The difference is numbers.

Exactly. And there is no way to check the results. You have to trust the people running the voting system.

With paper and pen votes there are people from different political parties in the voting commitee, so they can keep an eye on their fellow commitee members, so that they can't invalidate a paper vote or stuff additional votes into the box.

With an electronic voting system computer professionals can be delegated by different parties, but it is much harder to keep a tab on what the other is doing than with simple paper/pen systems.

Re:what's the difference? (3, Insightful)

Jane_Dozey (759010) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051399)

And to add to that they also have to all be able to verify that the machines do exactly what they say they do internally and that there's no nefarious code, that once the data has left the machine it is verified as being correct and remains so.
Then there's the issue of the machine being left unguarded, who knows if someone tampered with it if it was? At least with paper ballots, if they're unaccounted for one moment and then they show up they can be checked quickly or heck, destroyed if there's any suspicion.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

Peaker (72084) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050651)

The problem is that pen & paper are transparent enough that people understand the threats reasonably well, and are not remote-controllable.

Computers introduce so many ways to remotely hack them in ways you can never detect that they impose almost no risk to the hacker.

Anyone using chemicals or whatnot trying to hack pen&paper elections is going to need a lot of chemicals, or a big operation, and will have a much harder and more dangerous time doing so.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

pinky99 (741036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050739)

But it's about scalability: Of course it is possible "hack" pen and paper, but it's much harder to do for say 5000 votes, while as you just need to hack one machine to be able to change all votes casted with this machine (shown to be achievable in few minutes). Plus, it is undetectable, if it was hacked or not.

Re:what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050741)

Old-school voting is very hack-resilient: In a democratic country, the whole process is public, except for the bit where the voter marks the ballot. The empty ballot box is sealed under the eyes of everybody who wants to see it. You can't stuff the ballot beforehand, each voter can only cast one vote, votes are counted in public. You don't have to trust that the ballots have been kept secure until they're counted: If you care to look, they're right there in the ballot box and don't leave your sight until they're counted.

Even a paper trail, which the German court sees as a way of bringing voting machines in agreement with the German constitution, doesn't provide that kind of observability. The paper trail stays with the machine, which is necessarily hidden from onlookers because voters cast their votes in private. Not to mention the problem that the paper trail will not even be looked at unless someone already has a substantiated doubt about the result.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050745)

how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen?

Its easy to hack it, but its nearly impossible to do it on a large scale without getting caught, thanks to the whole process being completly transparent, understandable by everybody and most importantly verifiable by the voter himself. Your average non-paper-trail electronic voting machine fails on all three of them. With a voting machine with paper trail things look much better then without, but then whats the point of buying expensive machines, when you need to hand count anyway to be sure of the results?

Re:what's the difference? (1)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050999)

what we are saying in all of this is that election frauds were made easier, not created by eletronic voting. that's a huge difference when considering keep on improving the systems or just abandoning them. Hell, i still use my bank internet account and rely on the web for most of my transactions and purchases. Those were once accounted as doomed by hacking, but experience has proven that a controlled environment can be created even in a flooded swamp.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051177)

Using a computer to wipe my butt is a) more expensive, and b) detrimental to my health. (However, both methods offer a paper trail.) Solution 1: I wipe my butt the old fashioned way. Solution 2: I spend money to come up with a better computer.

You're opting for solution 2. I apologise for the crass example.

The success of online banking mostly just proves that many people, myself included, are willing to live the with apparent downsides of online banking (much lower cost to the banks; lower security, though offline banking isn't necessarily secure to start with) for the huge gain in comfort. The stakes are much higher with voting, and since we're not electing our representatives once a week, gains like lower cost and higher comfort aren't a big deal.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052631)

The difference between using online banking and electronic voting is that at all steps in the process for online banking you have a trail. You, as the user, can take a screen shot of each step along the way and print out a confirmation notice so you have a physical copy of what took place. In fact, most places send you a confirmation email. I know this happens when I pay my electric and phone bills online.

The same is not the case for electronic voting. At no point, in most cases, does the user get something that shows them exactly how their vote is recorded. If you use a bubble sheet then yes, you do have a record but when using touch-screen machines, the vast majority do not provide you with any way to verify if your votes were recorded correctly.

The bare minimum that should be done is have a sheet printed out at the end with all your votes which you then put in a box. Unlike chads or other methods, the sheet will be clearly readable and will unambiguously show your votes.

It's a step up from the traditional pen and paper vote-casting but only more definite.

easy... (1)

nem75 (952737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051055)

It's harder to discard tons of paper than to change a number on a digital medium or in memory.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051227)

The difference is simple. If you hack a paper election, evidence is left behind. If you skillfully hack an election with computers, you can do it and leave no evidence.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051419)

If you have an election and the votes are collected on paper the voting can be confidential, free, and equal. And to guarantee these three aspects counting has to be public and a possible recounting in public must be possible. With a computer you loose this correction criteria, because they count in an not observable manner and manipulations cannot be excluded. The only feature you get from a voting machine is, that the results can be presented faster. However, I do not understand why this is an advantage for a democracy. Fast results only mean that they become just one news among other. But they are of great importance for a democracy therefore it is more than ok when the whole Sunday evening is devoted to the election.

Re:what's the difference? (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051797)

We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfactory results

How do you know the results are correct, and to what degree? This is a VERY serious question.

If politician A beats politician B by 10%, with the win fairly evenly distributed across many precincts and recounts of the paper ballots confirm the numbers, then you have a pretty strong reason to believe the outcome is correct, because alteration of that many votes in that many precincts would be intractable, as long as reasonable care is taken in the transportation and counting, and as long as all phases of the process are open to observation by the representatives of the political parties.

People can see pieces of paper, and watch how they're handled, sorted, counted, etc.

People cannot see digital bits represented as minute current flows, so bits are fundamentally less transparent.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27053621)

funny or not, the voting machines here print out automatically all the data inserted, so you can validate the results. The main difference is that the results come in hours, not days or weeks.

like every other sub-developed country, we have international delegates that watch over the elections looking for scams and irregularities. Funny, but we will always have a bigger problem dealing with bullying and bought votes than with the voting machine

may I recall you all about the 2000 fiasco that was bush x gore, relying on the good and old pen and paper.

How much do you think that costed?

Re:what's the difference? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27053825)

funny or not, the voting machines here print out automatically all the data inserted, so you can validate the results.

If those pieces of paper are collected and can be used to perform recounts, and if the voters validate their choices before dropping the paper in the collection box, then that's an excellent system. IMO, the best.

may I recall you all about the 2000 fiasco that was bush x gore, relying on the good and old pen and paper.

Actually, that fiasco relied on paper, but not pen. Remember the "hanging chads"?

Re:what's the difference? (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27053969)

funny or not, the voting machines here print out automatically all the data inserted, so you can validate the results.

If those pieces of paper are collected and can be used to perform recounts, and if the voters validate their choices before dropping the paper in the collection box, then that's an excellent system. IMO, the best.

I agree with this sentiment. It's a simple solution that is actually extremely effective. If there is any reason to doubt the results, they have hard copies that people can go through by hand. Makes it completely transparent.

To be honest though, I'd normally trust the results of a computer collecting tallies over people counting them by hand.

Re:what's the difference? (2, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27055777)

To be honest though, I'd normally trust the results of a computer collecting tallies over people counting them by hand.

Which is more trustworthy is an interesting question.

On the one hand, computers are more systematic. They don't make random errors and they don't have political biases, per se. However, programming errors or deliberately-introduced bias mean that their speed allows them to miscount lots of votes really fast.

Humans make more actual mistakes, and may be prone to shading the results, but their counting is done in the open and at a pace where other humans with different biases can double-check their results. In fact, recounts are typically done by groups of people, with multiple individuals from competing parties examining each ballot, announcing their results audibly and similar checks on the tallies.

Given that sort of a counting structure, I think there's no question but that humans are maximally accurate. No machine will match them. It's also very expensive and inefficient.

Now I shall enlighten you all by explaining THE SOLUTION:

Voting should be done on computerized machines that print human and machine-readable ballots. Counting should be done by:

  1. Incrementing counts in the voting machines;
  2. Automated machine counting of ballots; and
  3. Manual recounts of ballots.

All ballots are counted by method (1), every time. This is the nominal result of the election.

A statistically-valid sample of voting machines should have their ballots pulled and method (2) applied.

A statistically-valid sample of the ballots are pulled and counted with methods (2) and (3).

Any discrepancies among the three counts should motivate expansion of the sampling, ultimately to first a full machine recount of the ballots and if necessary a full hand recount.

The definition of "statistically-valid sample" must take into account the margin of win of the closest race. Enough recounting must be done to assure that the election tallies have a margin of error that is small enough to assure sufficient confidence that the closest race is decided correctly. Since the recounting is easy, I'd probably ask for a 99% confidence interval.

Also, after the required sample size is determined, the random selection must be implemented properly, using transparent random number sources such as dice or lottery ball machines. Representatives of the parties should oversee the sampling and recounting, and the parties should agree on precise sampling techniques before the election.

There you have it. The Answer.

Next I shall tackle World Hunger by ensuring a statistically-sufficient average distribution of food.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27056341)

You win the prize.

Re:what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27057151)

just one question: how do you make sure, Joe Sixpack *understands* and is able to supervise it this method to at least the same degree he understands manual voting and can supervise it?

Re:what's the difference? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27057427)

just one question: how do you make sure, Joe Sixpack *understands* and is able to supervise it this method to at least the same degree he understands manual voting and can supervise it?

Joe Sixpack can understand the counting processes just fine, and he can also easily understand the idea of picking a bunch of ballots at random to see if they were counted right.

The only part that's hard to understand is the calculations that predict the number of samples that have to be taken in order to assure a certain level of confidence in the outcome. And if he's really unsure the samples are big enough, he can just ask for more -- in close elections it's not uncommon to end up doing a full manual recount anyway. In elections with a clear winner, no one will care that much about the exact degree of accuracy.

Re:what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27055305)

We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfatory results

that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen? if you have the means and a set objective, you can "hack" anything. And you don't even need a computer to do so.

In the United States (at least in this area) each party has a representative at the polling place and one person from each affected group is physically present to monitor the proper handling of the ballots. In addition, the ballot box is locked. Those same people accompany all the materials to the central clearing area where again there are representative of all the affected groups. It is quite difficult (when operating properly of course) to "hack" an election. This is very different from compromising a computer.

Re:what's the difference? (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062877)

> that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen?

Very hard: IIRC the paper-based process is designed to be *always* open to inspection: observers can watch the ballot papers going into boxes, the boxes being transported, opened and counted. Just last week a UK by-election check observed that a particular counting table was out of visual line from the observers platform.

There is no way to translate the above to an electronic system (even if the machines GUIs can be made perfect and unconfusing).

I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050659)

OK, maybe I'm naive and all elected officials are "evil" (tm) and continually scheming to become dictators, but this whole electronic voting thing keeps coming up over and over and over. Seriously, are elected officials really that stupid that they can't see the problems that keep coming up? (yeah, I know, somebody is going to reply to this with "yes"... I really don't believe it though). It seems like there is some kind of mental illness that takes over when people are elected that causes blinders to be put on that don't allow people to see the NEGATIVE consequences (or possible negative consequences) of the laws that they pass. This is basic CIVICS & history. In the US, members of congress don't even read the bills that they vote on anymore... how is this happening?
Is there something broken in the system that is causing this?

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050715)

It's just that some votes are more equal than others.

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050891)

A vote is only worth the money it is printed on.

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050935)

The only morsel of intelligence you need as an elected official is the ability to answer a series of yes/no questions during your time in office in such a way that you can get re-elected. The system is not broken. It is perfectly designed to achieve the results it yields.

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

geoffball (1195685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051803)

Occasionally paying your taxes, while not required, is a plus.

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27050957)

Lobbyists.

The companies that build these things have lots of money (although apparently not enough to get some decent software and hardware engineers working on the things), and friends in all the right places.

Oh, and no elected official is technically-minded. They wouldn't have a clue how any of this stuff works. Of course, they're quite willing to trust their friends from the voting machine companies, who assure them that everything's nice and secure.

After they've landed a contract to supply voting machines, they spend the bare minimum required to get something working, foist off all the hard work of actually implementing the system back onto the government, and pocket the difference.

Re:I don't understand how this keeps coming up? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051111)

Yes, election integrity is something that regularly comes under attack. Possibly more in the US than in Europe, but I can't think of a reason why other countries would be immune.

1. Some election officials have major roles in political campaigns (e.g. Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000). There's at least a temptation to make sure their guy wins.

2. Some political ideologies believe that the people are not really capable of governing themselves, and so they don't care of the election results don't match the will of the majority.

3. If a politician believes that their agenda is what's best for the country, they want it to be enacted, and thus want to make it easier to elect allies rather than enemies. The most common way of doing this is gerrymandering, but rigging the election system is tempting.

Wrong metaphor (4, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27050883)

Electronic voting machines are a mistake. While we say that they should be as easy and secure as ATMs, and they should be, but what most people don't see is that ATMs are not easy.

A large segment of the voting population, in the U.S.A. anyway, does not use ATMs because they are hard to use and confusing. ATMs are an "opt in" technology. Banks still have tellers and branches.

yes, over time as the population gets accustomed to technology, electronic voting may make sense. Maybe in a generation or two. Right now, it excludes the elderly or Luddite population. My brother in-law is 40, and he doesn't use ATMs and doesn't own a computer!!

Sure we can argue that maybe they shouldn't vote, but that is a different conversation.

Re:Wrong metaphor (0, Flamebait)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051097)

Americans can't be blamed. They can't even use the metric system, let alone an ATM. I think we should level everything from the bottom as you sugested. Ban those ATM's, Tivos, smart appliances, advanced calculus, e-commerce and cell phones until everyone learns how to use themm

of course, if banks halved the number of tellers, many people would have to LEARN how to use an ATM. That's a nice tought... learning.

Re:Wrong metaphor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27051277)

I guess we need to require our citizens to pass a minimum proficiency test to screen out the ones that can't use such a device as well. Ah, it will be just like the old Jim Crowe days.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051565)

I guess we need to require our citizens to pass a minimum proficiency test to screen out the ones that can't use such a device as well. Ah, it will be just like the old Jim Crowe days.

I am not opposed to a proficiency test for the participation of voting. The problem I have with it is *who* creates the questions and defines the standards?

Should a belief in a supreme being be a requirement to vote as it was a couple hundred years ago?

Should it be necessary to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide? How about trig? How about geometry? algebra? Statistics?

How about reading? How well? What books?

Proper education is, unfortunately, a political issue. Facts are "facts" but what they are tough to mean is political. The books on a curriculum are politically chosen. Look what's happening with ID vs evolution.

If, say, I could not provide an acceptable definition of "irreducible complexity" (bullshit) in Kansas, should I not be allowed to vote?

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051433)

Americans can't be blamed. They can't even use the metric system, let alone an ATM.

If you've never done physics using fractions, you'd know the metric system is easier.

I think we should level everything from the bottom as you sugested.

I suggested no such thing.

of course, if banks halved the number of tellers, many people would have to LEARN how to use an ATM. That's a nice tought... learning.

I am a techie. I built my first computer in 1977. "learning" is a life long thing for me. I can proudly say that, at a minimum, I know the basics of how everything I own and use works. On average, I know a great deal about everything I own and use.

That's me. *WHY* is learning to use an ATM a useful skill? Why should it be? It is, at best, a transient technology. in 30 years, it will all be vocal with no buttons.

I know lawyers who learn and study every day, but can't comfortably use their computers. Should they learn? Take time from learning their profession and focus on a peripheral interest? Sure, they need to learn to use a computer well enough to serve their interests, but why any more?

ATMs suck. People get confused. People who don't know computers intimately are afraid of them. Even the people who use ATMs have a little fear of them. Even practiced computer users STILL have fear when doing things they are not used to doing.

Since voting is usually no more often than once a year, most of the population will not be comfortable with it.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052419)

i don't know about american atms, but here in germany people actually prefer them to the clerks at the counter.

anyway, it is the same as with most software - it is easy enough to use as long as you read the information on the screen and follow it. some people are just too lazy to read.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27053775)

It's not about being peripheral or not, it's about using the best system available. That moves it towards excellency. The only reason you think that ATMs will evolve to voice commands is because you know the problems with the system currently available and you are suggesting a better solution.

That would be really hard if all the atms were shut down simply because people don't want to learn how to use them

like my dutch friend under, I live in a country where people will use the tellers only to pay bills that expired their last day for payment. Everything else is done in the ATMs.

By the way, I live in a 3rd world country. Talk about learning curve for those who can't even buy a computer but use ATM's to pay for their telephone bills.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27055729)

in 30 years, it will all be vocal with no buttons.

I hope that in 30 years we will have finally gotten rid of money printed on paper.

Sure, they need to learn to use a computer well enough to serve their interests, but why any more?

Sure you don't have to know every little detail of how a computer works, but a little basic knowledge can help quite a bit, since it turns all those scary messages that the computer shouts at you into something meaningful.

ATMs suck. People get confused. People who don't know computers intimately are afraid of them.

I think that has a lot to do with the fact that one doesn't use ATMs very often and that one can't use them in private for practice. A lot of the confusion with technical devices goes away when one just plays a bit around with them, but that isn't so easy when it has to happen in public and with your money at risk. With voting machines it of course can be even worse, since you use them just once every few years.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

iris-n (1276146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27059343)

In Brasil we have voting machines available for playing for some months before the election. It's quite fun, actually, the candidates are all poets and writers from the 19th century.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

reashlin (1370169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051577)

What does learnings mean?

Re:Wrong metaphor (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27051789)

The only way an ATM could possibly be difficult would be if you couldn't read or, as is probably the case, they want to remain ignorant voluntarily.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051793)

It is not so much opt-in, it is the control I have over them. If I type to retrieve 50 money units, I will see immediately if I get those 50 or not. I can also ask for a receipt that confirms that and later I can verify it on my bank account.

So the ATM is verifiable. Also the transaction is only between myself and the machine. Also I must not remain anonymous.

Compare that to a voting machine. I must remain anonymous. I have no way of verifying the outcome either directly or later.

The fact that both are often build by the same company or that both use a similar GUI or even hardware does not mean that they address the same problem or should offer the same solution.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051983)

ATMs are an "opt in" technology. Banks still have tellers and branches.

Voting machines are also opt-in technology. At least where I live you can request a paper ballot and there is no plan to require everyone to use the machines.

More importantly, that they're too hard to use may be a valid criticism of some implementations, but it is not valid argument against voting machines in general. As proof, consider that given appropriate technology, a voting machine could exactly replicate the pencil-and-paper process. And if they're well-implemented, voting machines can and should be far easier to use than a paper ballot. They can also provide assistance for the disabled, in the form of large, easy-to-read fonts and perhaps even audio interfaces.

No, there's nothing at all wrong with using a machine to input voting choices, and there is lots of potential value.

The problem is in allowing the machine to store and tally the votes. Unless every machine can somehow be audited continually to ensure that its code is correct, the machines cannot be trusted to do the job right. Heck, we can't even be sure there are no accidental bugs, much less malicious modifications, and given the billions of dollars controlled by the winners, there is huge incentive to cheat.

Re:Wrong metaphor (1)

iris-n (1276146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27059311)

"I'm a Luddite, you sensitive clod!"

You're serious? Your whole argument seems serious, even though I disagree with it, but you're really looking after the interests of the Luddite? Because, you know, the best way to develop a society is to hear the ignorant and unwilling, and dumb down the system to their level. Lets just rehire all the bank cashiers, because, people love to do this job, and while we're at it, why not bus agents for those who can't count money,

If your brother is 40 and he can't (does not want to) use ATMs he is in serious trouble. My grandmother can use them. She's 90. She has never used a computer. She can read the instructions on the screen and follow them, it's not too hard.

Sure, advanced technologies must be opt-in to account for the necessities of the elderly and disabled, but one has to draw a line somewhere. Online banking may be difficult for some, I grant it. VCR programming is a famous issue. But it's the first time I've seen someone claiming that ATMs are hard to use.

Babelfish translation... (4, Informative)

Timosch (1212482) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051313)

As usual, the Babelfish translation of the Spiegel article is horrible, so I just quickly translated it to Englisch myself.

"Federal Constitutional Court stops usage of voting computers
Until further notice, German voters will vote with pen and paper: The Constitutional court has declared the voting machines used e.g. in the last Federal election illegal. The current technology had defects and was hard to control[, the court said].
Karlsruhe. - The approx. 1800 devices with which around 2 mio. voters have voted in the Bundestag election of 2005 contradict the principle of public election [The Principle that votes are counted in public., note of translator], it said in the verdict delivered on Tuesday.
However, as there were no hints of errors, the election itself remains valid, the court in Karlsruhe decided. It can hence be expected that the elections this year will be carried out with paper and a pen.
With the decision on Tuesday, two complains were mostly successful. The appeal complained about several flaws in the machines which, according to the plaintiffs, violate secret voting and democratic control over the couting.
The Vice president of the Federal Constitutional Court, Andreas VoÃYkuhle, stressed that e-voting isn't completely banned now. However, the currently used machines had flaws. "The tenor of the decision could lead to the conclusion that the court was hostile towards technology and misconceived the challenges and possibilities of the digital age.", VoÃYkuhle said. But this was not true. The use of voting machines would indeed be possible. "Nor has the court banned possibilities of internet voting."
Approx. 2 mio. voters haven't voted with a pen and a ballot in the 2005 election, but instead with a voting machine.
The electronic voting devices were used in 39 of the 299 voting districts all over the country, precisely in the states of Brandenburg, Hesse, Nordrhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Pfalz and Saxony-Anhalt.
The Nedap voting machines common in Germany were used for the first time during the 1999 EP election and recently in a municipal election in Brandenburg in September 2008. The decision of the Federal Constitutional Court was aimed at the computers Nedap ESD1 and ESD2.
The plaintiffs were the physician Ulrich Wiesner and his father Joachim Wiesner, a retired policital scientist. In the name of the plaintiffs, Prof. Wolfgang LÃwer from Bonn critizised in the hearing in October that the voters would have to have "blind faith" towards the electronic ballots. "We are concerned about a vacuum of control after the act of voting." This endangered the principle of a public election. In a traditional ballot election, the citizens can be present during the counting of the ballots. Justice Rudolf Mellinghoff, who was the primary responsible judge in the case, then [in October] asked about the possibility to make the computer election more traceable through a printed ballot.
Experts say that modifications of the software could generally be discovered afterwards, but hardware modifications - i.e. on the actual device - were hard to discover, JÃrn Müller-Quade from the European Institute for System Security said. Such manipulations were demonstrated by the Chaos Computer Club.
Voting machines have been used in several countries for years. Especially in the USA, they are very common despite known flaws in elections. Especially punchcards are wide spread over there and played a major role in the problems of the Presidential election of 2000 in Florida."

Re:Babelfish translation... (1)

Timosch (1212482) | more than 5 years ago | (#27051329)

Oops, all umlauts and Sharp-s are messed up. Goddamned character encoding...

Re:Babelfish translation... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27056975)

Who uses babelfish these days anyway? Google translate has eclipsed it pretty decisively, if you tolerate the quirks, such as interpreting "Deutsche WÃhler" as "U.S. voters".

Statistical translation, gotta love it.

Re:Babelfish translation... (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#27057539)

Who uses babelfish these days anyway? Google translate has eclipsed it pretty decisively,

Among the blind, the blind who claims he can see is king.

Re:Babelfish translation... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27068171)

It's not just Google who claims GT is best. It is the best non-domain specific MT you can get, period.

It's contextual intelligence is downright scary - just yesterday I noticed it translated the name of the boardgame "Ticket to Ride" to "Zug um Zug", which is what it's sold as in German (but very far from a literal translation). No one taught it to, it learned it on its own. It's an example of a translation that would be utterly out of reach for classic machine translation.

Re:Babelfish translation... (1)

kromagnon (1408869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060123)

Excellent work by the Chaos Computer Club. Everyone, go to the club and leave a thank you note or a token donation.

"Electronic" Voting is Unnecessary (1)

tripmine (1160123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052269)

Most paper ballots in the US are counted electronically, and still have a paper trail. That's the best of both worlds. The voting system right now in the US is fast, simple, and familiar. There is NO reason to complicate things by adding touchscreen machines of any other kind of nonsense. Like the German supreme court realized, all it does is complicate things and increase the opacity in the voting process.

proud (4, Informative)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052387)

For one, I'm proud to live here.

The higher courts in Germany are very often quite smart and experienced at cutting through the bullshit and finding (and then ruling on) the actual matter. There are actually several such "highest courts", since only certain matters can go to the BVG, and in most areas of the law the specialist top-court is just that. In the words of one judge of the BAG (the highest court for labor law): "Above us, there's only god".

This is another fine piece. If you can read german, I strongly recommend reading the full reasoning once its out.

it's out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27057393)

http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/entscheidungen/cs20090303_2bvc000307.html

only for people that can not only read but understand german legalese, though.

For a short easier-readable version: http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/pressemitteilungen/bvg09-019.html

Seems to be a 7-0 vote, too. That's quite rare.

Good Call (0, Redundant)

jonlandrum (937349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27052445)

Since https has been recently cracked, I'm all for it.

Bundesverfassungsgericht (1)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27055751)

Gesundheit

evoting is black magic (1)

kromagnon (1408869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060013)

Everyone knows that votes are counted in electronic voting. Can anyone say, with full conviction that they have not been tampered ? Anyone ? that would have to be a moron because, chain of custody of the hardware and software is never established in a evoting scenario. Therefore, the vote tally and the voting results are not legally admissible in a court of law. If you want to know if voting has been tampered with - just look at the candidates in the contest. You'll know the results right away. That and the eloborate re-districting being undertaken as a ruse to taking out the good guys. Just use paper. The trouble of counting votes is worth it - for the sake of your liberty and freedom
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