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Irish Reject E-Voting, Go Back To Paper

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the progress-is-progress dept.

Government 154

Death Metal tips news that the Irish government has announced their decision to abandon e-voting and return to a paper-based system. "Ireland has already put about $67 million into building out its e-voting infrastructure, but the country has apparently decided that it would be even more expensive to keep going with the system than it would be to just scrap it altogether." John Gormley, Ireland's Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, said, "It is clear from consideration of the Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting that significant additional costs would arise to advance electronic voting in Ireland. ... the assurance of public confidence in the democratic system is of paramount importance and it is vital to bring clarity to the present situation." He added that he still thinks there is a need for electoral reform.

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first vote (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721515)


Why it won't work there (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721623)

Because they are all so drunk they can't pick the right buttons to press. And believe me, I know.

alcohol consumption by country (-1, Offtopic)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722409)

"Because they are all so drunk they can't pick the right buttons to press. And believe me, I know"

Only because you in the UK are all on Ketamine or crack. Which is why no one ever buys drinks in clubs, which is why they turn the taps off in the club bathrooms at night, a whole room of people out of their collective trees, and none of them buying a drink.

According to this [] , Luxemberg and France come out ahead of Ireland, but you don't ever get comments like yours maligning their national character.

Re:alcohol consumption by country (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724271)

but the french smell sometimes of wine... but mostly they just smell... and Luxemberg sure BE JAYSUS TED THAT PLACE isn't even a country ...

STV (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721533)

For those unaware of Ireland's electoral system, they use Single Transferable Vote, which is quite complex to count. Everyone rates the candidates in order. Counting then proceeds in a sequence of rounds where the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes distributed to the next candidate on each voter's list until one person has more than 50% of the vote. If they can manage with paper voting, anyone can.

Re:STV (5, Informative)

mosiadh (1045736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721575)

Well that's not entirely true. Most elections in Ireland work on a basis of there being more than one representitive per electoral area. The actual amount of votes to be elected on the first count is the quota based on the number of votes cast and the number of seats available. If no one makes the quota, the votes are counted in successive rounds until the quota is reached or enough canidates have been eliminated.

Re:STV (3, Interesting)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721707)

Here in British Columbia we are having a referendum in a couple of weeks on adopting STV [] for provincial elections. B.C. politics have become so heavily polarized that I am in favour of anything that would break the current logjam.

We use paper ballots, and have always done so. I don't see this changing, and would oppose any moves to do so. A ballot is definitive: an actual person made marks on it, and an actual person counted it. This is as it should be.


Re:STV (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721945)

I recommend, that you implement the system that they implemented it Zürich in Switzerland. It is mathematically proven that there is no system that is more fair than this one.
There's a nice article about it in the German magazine "Spektrum der Wissenschaft". [] (German version of the "Scientific American".)

Re:STV (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722079)

I wasn't aware that any electoral system had been proven superior.

In fact I thought someone had proven that they're all flawed, one way or another?

Re:STV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722143)

I wasn't aware that any electoral system had been proven superior.

In fact I thought someone had proven that they're all flawed, one way or another?

Arrow's impossibility theorem []

Re:STV (5, Informative)

dmartin (235398) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722583)

Arrow's impossibility theorem proves that no voting system can simultaneously satisfy all five of his requirements in a system with more than two choices *for arbitrary input*.

That does not mean that one cannot be better than the others, or even the best. For example, a simple system may satisfy all 5 criteria for 65% of possible inputs. Another system may satisfy it for 75% of all possible inputs. Note that all the votes of a single election are one single "input", not each vote. What we are looking at what fraction of possible ways of voting are "fair".

If we weigh all inputs equally (and this is an assumption, because one may choose to argue that certain combinations are more likely than others) then the second system is better. Arrow's impossiblility theorem only tells you that the goal of getting a fair election for an arbitrary election, or 100% of possible inputs, is impossible.

Re:STV (3, Insightful)

palindrome (34830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724593)


Say there are three choices for society, call them A, B, and C. Suppose first that everyone prefers option B the least. That is, everyone prefers every other option to B. By unanimity, society must prefer every option to B. Specifically, society prefers A and C to B. Call this situation Profile 1.

On the other hand, if everyone preferred B to everything else, then society would have to prefer B to everything else by unanimity. So it is clear that, if we take Profile 1 and, running through the members in the society in some arbitrary but specific order, move B from the bottom of each person's preference list to the top, there must be some point at which B moves off the bottom of society's preferences as well, since we know it eventually ends up at the top.

It's an intellectual argument that takes a fluid dynamic and focuses on a theoretical point in a transition. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't this just say that "in a major upheaval there will be a point where one person makes the first move"?

I'm open to arguments as to why this isn't tripe but, to me, it reads like a psychologist trying to sound scientific (psychologists think scientific means confusing).

Re:STV (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722313)

In fact I thought someone had proven that they're all flawed, one way or another?

They all let idiots vote.

Re:STV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724105)

In fact I thought someone had proven that they're all flawed, one way or another?

They all let idiots vote.

The worst systems let them win an election without anyone voting []

Re:STV (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724503)

It is mathematically proven that there is no system that is more fair than this one.

Could you please refer to an English proof, or failing that at least translate from german what "more fair" means; i.e. what the theorem actually says?

I'm skeptical of the claim that there's "no system more fair". I think you have to (somewhat arbitrarily) decide what fair should mean in the context of the theorem; whether that's the fairness we really want from election systems is open to debate.

Then there's of course Arrow's Impossibility theorem, which may or may not apply to the voting system in question.

Re:STV (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723535)

I am in favour of anything that would break the current logjam.

Have you considered a beaver?

Re:STV (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721761)

The Irish have this habit of preserving their democracy [] . It's nice to know there's still someone to draw the line.

Re:STV (0, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722145)

How can they preserve what they don't have? Ireland is a papocracy.

Re:STV (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722953)

Which is why we're being forced to vote on it again. At least they won't be able to rig^H^H^Hcount it electronically and out of plain view.

These machines were bought in by a minister with a record for failed projects and ruining departments he was in charge of. There was no debating it in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and it was a rushed purchase. The secure storage that the machines were kept in cost E528,000 last year and there's a 25 year contract on that!

The best part of this so far is, "Mr Gormley announced his decision at University College Cork yesterday, saying the cost of adapting the machines to make election results verifiable would come to 28 million, a sum which could not be justified in the current economic climate." That E28m could buy a lot of paper, pens, stamps and man hours to check the results.

Re:STV (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721951)

It doesn't sound like it adds that much difficulty. After the first round, you know how many ballots you have, so you know how many ballots you need for a winner. If you don't have a winner, you take the smallest pile and distribute those votes into new piles (I mean, I would use math, but I suppose you could re-count every single ballot), so as a practical matter, I doubt that more than ~30% of the ballots get looked at more than once (I wonder if they publish such a thing?).

eVoting Premature (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721963)

Regardless of the Irish system, and it may be as convoluted as Piece County's (Washington) Ranked Choice Voting, I think eVoting is premature. So far, all the systems shown are very hackable and much more prone to tampering than with hand counted. And, yes, I am even counting Seattle's/King Co. (Washington) and the Minnesota's recent debacles.

I'd love to go all geek on voting, but to me, its easier to count ballots and keep them honest with people standing over shoulders watching the count.

Kind of like Vegas with pit bosses. Sure, they have technology keeping things honest, but they also have humans watching the system looking for human traits.

Re:eVoting Premature (4, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722333)

E-voting is not pre-mature. We have more than enough capability to produce secure machines. The military uses such machines all the time, and provided they follow their own security policies they are almost impossible to hack.

The problem is not that the machines were hackable, you'll never be able to get rid of hackers and there is an acceptable risk limit. The problem was that "hacking" a lot of these machines meant plugging in a USB drive and Alt-tabbing to the windows desktop to start messing with the text files that the votes were stored in. Some were slightly more secure, but even most of those were pitiful.

Why were the USB ports on these things not disabled? Why was there even physical access to the USB ports? Why were some of the systems not password locked? Why didn't they use a type of encrypted storage for the voting records? There was so much crap they didn't do with these systems, stuff that isn't even creative, you could pick up a book for $20 and learn how to do basic system hardening and it would have been 100 times better than Diebold $ company managed.

The only difficult parts really are figuring out a reliable paper trail, and how to detect tampering. They could probably go hand in hand. Diebold & co failed at both anyway.

The problem is the people with the money (OUR money, aka the local Governments) for some reason did no more than a minimal amount of Quality Assurance. In most every municipality, and absolutely every state, there are a number of people who already work for the government who had to knowledge to do basic security testing. Most all of those people would also know how to get a system hardened, even if they couldn't do it themselves. NONE of these people were used to check the systems, and so in a lot of cases you ended up with $500 kiosk machines with $200 software on them being sold for $10k each.

The problem was local governments trying to be hip after the 2000 election and allowed "We don't want another Florida" to be their excuse for complete incompetance in comissioning these systems.

Like my contract management professor usded to tell us: Quality Control is the responsibility of the Vendor, Quality Assurance is the responsibility of the Customer. QC is making sure it's right, QA is not accepting it if it is wrong. The electronic voting vendors may be the actual dirty slimeballs, but it's our local governments who have let us down.

Re:eVoting Premature (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723453)

The conclusions from this article's "Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting" agree with yours:

Comparison with Paper Voting

Following the comparative assessment against the paper system of voting that it was requested to carry out, the Commission has concluded that, in terms of secrecy and accuracy, the paper system is moderately superior overall to the chosen electronic system as currently proposed (and in some respects only marginally so) and that, subject to the Commission's recommendations being implemented, the chosen system has the potential to deliver greater accuracy than the paper system and can provide similarly high levels of secrecy.

Re:eVoting Premature (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724839)

I believe that the e-voting machines are deliberately insecure so as to undermine democracy. Like you said: it's not hard to make these systems more secure.

"Change Vote To Republican" not the same there (3, Funny)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724371)

The real problem with using American-style electronic voting machines is that the "Change the vote to Republican" option that was such a big sales pitch here in the US doesn't work in Ireland, where the "Republican Party" is a different group of people...

It's the same in Australia (2, Informative)

daffmeister (602502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722059)

Although we call it preferential voting. It you don't get your first preference (because no-one else likes them) then your vote counts towards your second, etc.

And it's also counted by hand. Doesn't seem to be a problem with doing that.

Re:STV (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722473)

And they CAN manage with paper voting!

There is nothing wasteful about the intense man-hours of manually reading each vote when your Democracy is at stake.

complex counting? why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722931)

For those unaware of Ireland's electoral system, they use Single Transferable Vote, which is quite complex to count.

I've admit I've never been to an STV count, but in my mind's eye, I don't see how it would be complex.

You take all the ballots, and sort them into piles to people's first choice (where "1" or "X" appears). Once they the piles are sorted you count them. If there's no clear winner, you take the smallest pile, and look at people's second choice, and move the ballots there. Add the moved ballots to each pile's total.

This may be a bit time consuming, but it's not like you have to do triple integrals or something.

In Canada we usually have multiple polling stations with volunteers (both neutral and from each candidate). At the end of the night the boxes are emptied and everyone helps / witnesses the sorting and counting.

The only different between STV and 'first past the post' is that you may have to shuffle some ballots after every "round".

Re:STV (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722939)

If they can manage with paper voting, anyone can.

Population of Ireland: 6 million.
Population of Germany: 82 million.
Population of US: 306 million.
Population of India: 1,148 million.
Population of China: 1,322 million.

Re:STV (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723049)

Utterly irrelevant. Vote counting is an embarrassingly parallel problem.

Re:STV (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723531)

Not in all voting tabulation systems. Note that for some systems, localized calculations do not simply aggregate to result in universal calculations. Thus, universal calculations require access to each individual ballot.

Some systems, like First Past The Post (a.k.a. Plurality) can be embarrassingly parallelized. But Plurality is also embarrassingly bad.

Re:STV (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724121)

and if the same percentage of people turn up to count the votes, who cares what scale it's on?

Re:STV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724739)

There's such thing as hierarchical system of returning boards, which is proven to be able to count hundreds of millions votes in a much more transparent and checkable way than e-voting machines.

Re:STV (5, Informative)

Helvick (657730) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723197)

The Irish STV implementation also has to redistribute so called "surplus" votes.

Since it features multiple candidate constituencies the amount of votes required to get elected is not a simple majority but a quota defined by the Droop formula (Total number of valid ballots/(Total number of candidates +1))+1. Ballots for candidates who exceed the quota have a surplus and that surplus gets redistributed according to the next preference on the ballot. The exact mechanism for choosing the actual votes that comprise the surplus amount is random and those randomly selected votes are then transferred as full votes to the next preference candidate. So when a candidate has 10000 votes with a quota of 8500, 1500 ballots are chosen at random and the preferences in those ballots are used to transfer them to the remaining candidates in play. For situations where a candidate gets a surplus on a second count (ie including transferred preferences from an eliminated candidate or from surplus votes from an earlier elected candidate) only the ballots transferred at the last stage are used when selecting the surplus votes to be transferred.

These shortcuts were introduced to speed up manual paper counts but they meant that the task of comparing an electronic count to a paper Voter Verified Audit Trail (VVAT) presents an interesting problem. In order to be able to fully and accurately validate the electronic count the VVAT records would have to be able to be tied exactly to the sequence of the electronic votes (so that each electronic record could be tied to each paper record and the random selections for surplus redistributions could be matched up). One solution to this would be to remove the shortcuts for electronic voting but that would have meant moving to e-Voting entirely as they could not use two different counting methods in different constituencies. So they had to implement an e-Voting STV counting mechanism that followed the same rules as a paper count would. Not hard to do but this then led to a further issue for those of us arguing for a voter verified audit trail for any e-voting system.

One of the Irish Government's least silly arguments against any VVAT for e-Voting was that such a capability might be compromised and could result in someone figuring out exactly how (some) individual voters had voted. Since the Irish constitution explicitly specifies that parliamentary voting must be secret this was something they were very much afraid of - it's notable that since the constitution does not explicitly require counting votes to be accurate (it only implies this) they were less concerned about that. Anyway that's how it seemed to me when I met them about the issue - they didn't say it as bluntly as that but they were terrified about the potential secrecy problems but only worried about the potential for "small" errors.

The real problems with the Irish e-Voting debacle had very little to do with the complexities of an STV count - they were the same as they were\are in most other counties though. The machines in question were provided by private companies, closed and not adequately tested by properly independent security professionals, the vote tabulation software was also closed, similarly unavailable for inspection by independent specialists and most worryingly it was never available any significant period of time ahead of any given election as it had to be rewritten for each count. The lack of a voter verified paper audit capability (which could have been implemented safely despite the concerns described above) meant that the systems could be attacked\compromised\fail in ways that could materially affect an election without being detected. In the end though few of those problems led to the current Government's decision to abandon the problem, they finally got fed up with the political and financial costs associated with fighting to keep the project alive and they gave up. I'm pretty sure that many of the Government Ministers and civil servants involved still think that the Nedap\Powervote e-Voting system was perfectly fine.

Not suprising (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721657)

The e-voting machines were too hard to use when pissed.

Re:Not suprising (2, Funny)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721685)

Their appears to be a lot of more Irish racism then i would of suspected. I wounder why that is.

Re:Not suprising (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721821)

Their appears to be a lot of more Irish racism then i would of suspected. I wounder why that is.

Why on earth wouldn't you suspect a lot? I know in the US Irish immigrants were notorious for it; witness how many Irish were hired as slave overseers in the US and West Indies, since they were reliably brutal towards black slaves, or the race riots in New York during the civil war, or the frequently violent resistance of Boston Irish towards school integration. I am the descendant of Irish immigrants but I have no illusion about how racism seems to be an unfortunate characteristic of Irish culture.

Re:Not suprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724381)

unfortunate ?

a REAL Irish man wouldn't say that !!!! Have some Guinness boy... GROW A PAIR.


woof wooff...


get to the back of the bus... no dilly dallying....


Re:Not suprising (1)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721823)

Wouldn't that be prejudice. Not racism.

Re:Not suprising (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723301)

Yes it would

Racism's amazingly flexible about targets (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724459)

Racism's amazingly flexible about who you count as the "racially different" enemy. The Irish weren't just Catholics from a different island in the British Isles, they were red-haired or non-Anglo-looking black-haired people, and talked funny even if they did speak English and not Gaelic, and they got stereotyped as drunks in an America where the dominant-culture locals were also drunk off their asses most of the time but were also starting to have rabid temperance movements. And the Brits had centuries of practice in identifying who the Celtic cultures they ruled were...

Re:Not suprising (1, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722103)

Would have, not would of. Dumb Paddy.

Re:Not suprising (5, Funny)

kpainter (901021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723147)

Their appears to be a lot of more Irish racism then i would of suspected. I wounder why that is.

Would that be racism as in "I'll race you to the pub"?
Lighten up. And yes, I am Irish.

Re:Not suprising (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723333)

Well i would not have posted anything if that was the first post stating that the Irish were drunks.

Re:Not suprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724203)

Not before I can piss down the leg o' me trousers boy-o... /back to rooting sheep running the nedap OS

Re:Not suprising (1)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721957)

Shamus: What? What! Oh, so this is your doin', Willie?
Groundskeeper Willie: Aw, you speak like a poet, but you punch like one too!

Re:Not suprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722053)

Shamus? Really?


Re:Not suprising (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722887)

"The e-voting machines were too hard to use when pissed on." There, fixed it for you.

Paper and Electronic (4, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721669)

You can still use paper in the voters hands and collect it for a fully scrutinized and auditable system.
You then mass scan the paper votes and electronically tally them. This gives fast results.

Then you do hand counted audits of the ballots that can take a day or two to verify the electronically counted tally.

The problem with the electronic system is the question of is a recorded vote the voters intent and is the record valid. Nothing beats paper (except scissors).

electronic voting why the rush? (3, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721689)

Unless it can reduce costs, why the rush to electronic voting in most of the world? Our election systems all appear to have built-in schedule to take into account how long it takes to tally the votes. In the US we vote in November and really have a few weeks before we need to know the results. (the president-elect needs to setup his/her office and prepare for the transition, which is why it's not more like several weeks of time)

And if you do use e-voting, why can't anyone do something cool with it? Like support anonymous voting, or public-private key systems for signed and authenticated voting.

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722081)

Because those cost money and when you start offering contracts to the lowest bidder it becomes a race to the bottom.

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722177)

why the rush to electronic voting in most of the world?

Because meatspace fraud is easy, sure there are plenty of countermeasures against it, but the way forward is defiantly a dual system. Electronic voting on secured machines AND a full paper trail, that way attackers have to both tamper with the machines AND the ballot boxes.

Like support anonymous voting, or public-private key systems for signed and authenticated voting.

I think the problem with encryption systems is they are all either not anonymous (if something has you sig on it, YOU signed it) or not secure (schemes where an attacker can fake any message therefore there is no way to tell if you sent the message)

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722561)

The fundamental problem with all electronic/cryptographic voting systems is lack of transparency. Any reasonably intelligent person can fully understand the paper system and can, with sufficient motivation, verify an election. As soon as you introduce electronics and/or cryptography you are forced to entrust the election to experts.

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722979)

A reasonably intelligent person can't check for fraud if the officials are corrupt, the best they can do is get what the voting officials give them, a dual system means you only need to trust the officials haven't messed with the computer OR the officials haven't messed with the ballots. OFC much more transparency is needed in the electronic system (atm its far to closed), but at the end of the day your always going to have to trust the software running on the box, is the software that's meant to be running on the box.

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723115)

And if you do use e-voting, why can't anyone do something cool with it? Like support anonymous voting

Is voting not anonymous in your country? Or do you mean that someone just walks in with a ski mask on and places a vote, without the need to identify himself at all? If so, how do you prevent said person from repeating that at each polling place?

Re:electronic voting why the rush? (1)

Ciaran Power (447593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723595)

Because counting votes can be done by a computer and therefore should be done by a computer (saving time, money, effort). I don't know what the technical problem is but there's no way online voting is this complex. If we can put satelliltes in orbit we should have 'online voting'.

Mainly a US Republican Party PR problem (3, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724561)

The electronic voting push was mainly because the US Republican Party got embarrassed by how narrowly they might or might not have won the election in Florida, where a Republican governor and Republican election commission official were widely accused of having rigged the vote count. Electronic voting machines were "corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative" about Republicans wanting the election results to be objective and accurate. (Not that the Democrats don't have a long history of voter fraud themselves, but at least they did it with skill and style.) And if they're a Good Thing here in the US, they're a Good Thing to push everywhere, and the voting machine companies did have sales people with quotas to make.

The push for non-verifiable voting machines probably had more to do with protecting the friends of the Republican party who were big players in the business than in actually facilitating fraud - after all, casting doubt on the trustability of the machines is casting doubt on the trustability of the Republicans, which is entirely off the message.

Also, even if the machines were trustable and auditable, they're still useful for voter fraud. In the 2004 elections in Ohio, the black urban voting precincts that were likely to vote Democrat didn't get enough of the machines, or all the parts needed to have them working, leading to hours-long lines on a rainy election day, while the suburban white Republican districts didn't have those problems. With paper ballots, it's much easier to fix that kind of problem, but with an all-electronic system and an election commissioner who'd promised to deliver pro-Republican results, it's just way too complicated, sorry, not our bad.

silly (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721765)

While it is understandable why they would feel this way, given the number of high profile problems with electronic voting machines (not to mention the electronic voting machines I've used have horrible UIs), paper voting is not necessarily more secure. Ballot fraud is as old as democracy, and from stuffed ballots to false-bottom ballot boxes, there are tons of ways to cheat. Electronic voting with a paper trail IS more secure, because it is necessary to not only cheat electronically, you also somehow have to make the paper ballots match.

As an example, Vladimir Putin fixed the most recent election in Russia (although it wasn't really necessary, since most people actually did support him, it was mainly for show), and as far as I know they use mainly paper ballots in Russia.

Re:silly (1)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721863)

In Russia, vote makes choice for you.

Re:silly (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722111)

Electronic voting will never be more secure than paper voting until it has a verifiable method of quality assurance. There are far too many points and method of potential failure/fraud that can go entirely undetected.

Re:silly (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722123)

Indeed. Which is why I specifically mentioned voter verifiable paper receipts.

are you kidding? (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722431)

if you increase the complexity of a system, you increase the number of attack vectors. yes, election cheating is possible in all systems. it is just that with mechanical voting, there are 100x more schemes you can cook up than paper voting, and with electronic voting there are 100x moreschemes than even that

now fi there were some sort of proven ebenfit from doing electronoc voting over paper voting, maybe that would outweigh the security detriments of electronic voting. but there aren't any. you ocr the paper, end of story, its just about as good

electronic voting is inherently less secure than paper voting, and offers nothing better in return, and is a hell of a lot more expensive

Re:are you kidding? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722525)

There are benefits to electronic voting, if it's done right. With hand voting you are guaranteed to have some error. The counting can be done quicker electronically (when done right). With electronic voting, it is easier to make sure the ballots are valid. For example, look at this ballot from the recent Minnesota election [] . Did that person want to vote for Al Franken or for lizard people? That is not a question that would even come up with electronic voting.

As long as there is a voter verified paper trail, it can work. Furthermore, it will be harder to rig the election, because not only will you have to rig the electronic box, you will also have to rig the paper ballots. If they come out unequal, there will be problems. Although it can be simple to rig one or the other, rigging both is harder.

that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722711)

fact: show me a way to cheat on paper, i'll show you 100 ways to cheat electronically

that, and the ridiculous expense

its a no brainer

Re:that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722759)

If I give you an electronic voting machine with a voter verified paper trail, you will not only have to give a way to cheat electronically, but also a way to cheat on paper. Electronic voting done right IS more secure.

Re:that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

Dash_Rantic (647004) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723003)

Not true. I've heard of voting machine attacks where the compromised voting machine will accept a person's ballot, print out a paper copy asking for verification. Now normally if there's an error, the person can go back and void that paper copy and re-vote. However, with this attack, the voter will verify the paper ballot, the machine will tell the voter that everything is done, and then after a few seconds the machine will go back, void the ballot, change a candidate, and print a new paper ballot. Everything looks fine and official, and nobody could ever tell something went wrong, though both the machine and the paper trail have both been cheated. Doing this attack on only a few percent of the votes wouldn't set off any warning signs for anyone looking at the votes after the fact, but would be enough to throw an election.

I don't think there's any way that e-voting can be secure than plain paper voting.

Re:that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723243)

You can't think of a way to fix the problem you just described? It's poor design.

Re:that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723571)

Require the paper printout to be manually taken from the printer and placed in a ballot box.

And/or tally quantity of voters going through a booth and compare to quantity of votes coming from a booth.

I believe this is actually a known and accepted design.

or there's a better solution: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723649)

throw the expensive, fundamentally insecure electronic machine in the garbage, and use paper ballots. ocr them. save money to boot. end of story

nope. more points of entry (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725031)

I'm sure a study could be done and I know there are already studies similar enough to prove a significant number would MISREAD the paper trail. I've seen ones on how people see something that is NOT there because they expect something else; its more than your think and increases with being tired etc.

These people are not "crazy" or stupid. Its also unfair to blame lazy people who wouldn't make an effort to verify or bother to fight it and revote (since many people vote AGAINST somebody, make the errors for the 3rd party when you hack it.) No discrimination. period.

WTF is it with not having a legit DAY OFF? Its unfair to hard working TIRED people who don't want to fight their boss. Officially, you can not be punished...We all know how little those laws really work. It has to be worth the effort/risk/loss beyond just the time involved to vote let alone figure out who to vote for with a pathetic media, less free time, and no newspaper.

If you think voting should "filter" people out, then you should be arguing something else.

Re:that's some nice rationalizations there (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724919)

Do you have _any_ idea of the expense of manual vote counting? It may cost more, it may cost less, but the overall cost is not wildly greater than that of manual vote counting.

Switzerland seems to do a good job with manual counting. But Switzerland is much smaller, and in many ways a lot saner than the US: they've also done a much better job of handling confidential banking for centuries, and of sane, respectful negotiations among diverse groups.

Re:are you kidding? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723159)

For example, look at this ballot from the recent Minnesota election. Did that person want to vote for Al Franken or for lizard people?

Obviously, though he wrote in his own candidate, the one he voted for was Al Franken. If he wanted to vote for the Lizard People, he would have filled in the circle for them.

The vote itself is quite clear. I think he should have chosen the Lizard People though, I hear they are made for politics.

The problem with e-voting is the idiot elected officials who don't know diddly squat about quality assurance concepts. Most of the electronic voting systems that have been put forward have been abysmal, -I- could do better, and I don't have much confidence in producing a reliable voting system with a verifiable paper trail.

You know, probably the best system would be a combination of the "fill in the dot" paper voting schemes, which are electronically read and counted, a machine for filling in said dots. You receive a ballot after you sign in at your local polling place, put the ballot in the machine, make your selections, hit "go", it fills them in and records it electronicly before spitting the ballot back out for the voter to look at before turning in. With procedures for dealing with bad ballots, a system like that should be nearly error-free.

Apparently California has used a hole-punch version of the same thing, sans electronic recording, for 30 years now and it works out well. Or so I hear.

Re:silly (2, Insightful)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723285)

well the local paper reports over 50 million euro spent on the 7,500 machines since 2002 and they have gone unused in 5 years and 3.5 million is spent per year to keep them in a storage facility in meath
Minister Gormley said "It is clear from consideration of the report of the commission on electronic voting that significant additional costs would arise to advance electronic voting in ireland"
Or to put it simply they cost too much and ireland really can't justify spending any more on the things what with rising unemployment and less revenue from tax.

It's not a problem with voting electronically, but the cost of electronic voting.

Has e-voting really made the process better? (2, Interesting)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721799)

Does anyone know if e-voting substantially decreases the time it takes to validate elections? Given even this most recent election in the US, it seems like there are still legal challenges upon challenges upon challenges.

I would be very curious to know if these new e-voting systems have saved enough money, time, and costs to validate their use?

Re:Has e-voting really made the process better? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722085)

If stupid evote contractors made their machines at least as secure as a locked paper box (which is an easy standard, really), I would

As it is, with the way Diebold's screwed up, I wouldn't touch an evote machine with a ten mile poll, efficiency be damned.

It's no good being efficient if you sacrifice security.

Or, in a programming context.

Don't optimize by cutting out error checking and security.

Garbage in is still garbage out no matter how fast you process it.

Re:Has e-voting really made the process better? (3, Interesting)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723655)

Cryptographer David Chaum and some researchers from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), George Washington University (GWU), University of Ottawa (UO) and University of Waterloo (UW) have for several years been working on a system called Punchscan. []

It is an End-to-end (E2E) cryptographic system with independent verification. The system is designed to be transparent to everyone, candidates, voters, election officials, media, courts et al.

Why not mechanical voting? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721833)

In western New York, where I grew up, we had traditional mechanical voting booths. You press a lever next to the candidate's name. When finished, you pull a larger lever to register all your votes. Votes get tallied mechanically, and when the polls close they just take the back cover off the machine and read off the numbers. Machines are then impounded and kept in a warehouse for a second go-through later. Works great.

All you have to do to get all the benefits of electronic voting is to add a wireless transmitter to the insides of these machines to send the totals in.

Re:Why not mechanical voting? (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722369)

When I lived in Maryland, we had those voting machines also. They also have a paper tape (or individual ballot stack) that goes with them. Pulling the final lever (that registers your vote) punches the paper as a second copy of the vote. The blades on the punch *should* be resharpened every election to prevent hanging/dimpled chads in the paper and whatnot, but they almost never are. This can lead to serious problems, like discrepancies between the machine tally and the paper tally.

Now I'm living in Minnesota, and we use paper ballots, as in fill in the circle by the candidate. Idiots still manage to screw that up. I saw some challenged ballots from the Senate election, and it looked like some people let their 3-year-old vote for them.

This is good news. (2, Insightful)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721847)

I'm glad to see they are staying with paper voting. I think that our society is not yet ready for important documents to exist solely digitally. Our governments and companies have not demonstrated the security necessary to keep them fully secure. Also, much of our society (especially the older ones) does not yet have the facility to use new electronic devices reliably

And kudos to the public officials that actually have the balls to scrap these voting systems they have invested heavily in to ensure a more trustworthy vote. Of course, better planning could have avoided the investment entirely, but lawyers (err, I mean governments) have never been good at long-term or large-scale project management.

Then again... (3, Interesting)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722927)

I feel that this a good thing in the short term, but bad in the long run.

When this e-voting was suggested there was a huge outcry from the technical community because the system that they were intending to introduce was a joke. On top of this, there was a general feeling that without a proper audit trail, there would be too much opportunity for corruption (and the current ruling party are not renowned for their integrity).

Both of these problems were technically solvable - but, as is common, the government was unwilling to accept that they didn't know everything.

Long term, however, electronic voting would have been a positive thing, but now the majority of the electorate will see e-voting as a bad thing without any idea why, and therefore even if the problems are solved will maintain to negative view of it.

Spoil votes could not be cast (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721849)

They ran a limited trial - some people immediately complained that there was no way to spoil a vote on the machines. You had to select one candidate.
It should be pointed out that in addition to buying *all* the machines for the country before discovering this, a large part of that 67 million is for the cost of storage until they decided to scrap them!

Different in the US (1, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721901)

We have two pretty clear choices:

  • Rescind freedom of the press, esp. TV News, until official election results are available.
  • Make sure that official election results beat the midnight, Eastern time deadline.

    What deadline? There seems to be a pretty simple formula here. The TV News folks want to report results. The people want results and watch TV until they have to go to bed. If there wasn't going to be results they wouldn't watch TV and the TV networks would lose millions in advertising - and relevancy. So they need to report results before people turn off their TVs. Really simple.

    In 2000 CBS announced that Gore won just before midnight. People went to bed and showed up the next morning thinking that "their candidate won". Well, after they went to be around 2:00 AM or so it turned out that the winner was far less clear than CBS had announced. I'd say in 2008 if anyone had announced Obama as the winner and then it turned out to be McCain when official results were in, we'd be looking at cleaning up from the riots still. Maybe a revolution.

    So it is simple. We either have fast results or we have riots. Because the TV News isn't going to lose millions in ad revenue and probably more in relevance. If they don't announce something, nobody will watch anymore. Or they will simply turn to a channel that announces something, anything.

    How do we keep this from happening? Fast results. Or block the news programs from announcing anything based on statistics and exit polls. I don't reslly see the 1st Amendment getting rescinded for elections, so we better have fast results.

    This might be one of those cases where fast is absolutely necessary and complete accuracy is secondary. Important, but secondary.

Re:Different in the US (1)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722147)

I'm a touch confused by your post. On the one hand, you say that "we either have fast results or we have riots". On the other hand, you say that "if anyone had announced Obama as the winner and then it turned out to be McCain", we'd have riots. So clearly, according to you, fast results cause riots. You then go on to say that "fast [sic] is absolutely necessary and complete accuracy is secondary". But I think you're flat out wrong. Speed is the secondary concern; getting the wrong result fast is worse according to you than getting the correct result slowly.

Moreover, it seems the true problem here is the dichotomy between speed (caused by a desire for ad revenue) and accuracy (caused by a desire to avoid rioting). Clearly, accuracy should take the higher priority. That or else force TV stations to report the truth: that they are predicting the outcome of the election based on current statistics, not reporting the outcome of the election.

It works in Canada, surely you can get it to work in your country too.

Re:Different in the US (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722157)

That seems a remarkably stupid reason.

If the idiotic news networks can't help but make a guess and announce it as reality then don't publish any counts until everything is counted. Then let them announce their guess.

If you get riots you'll only have them a couple of times before no one believes the news networks anyway.

Re:Different in the US (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722707)

The problem is how much we let the "news" media to get away with posting guesses/wishes as fact.

There IS a statistical point where there is no way one candidate can get more electoral votes than another, however the news media tries to one-up each other, so as soon as reports come in and the line is crossed they declare a winner. This is a mistake, because there are any number of reasons why the count could be off, and several recounts needed, which make the statistical "certainty" little more then a very good guess.

Technically, even after the popular vote, and a statistical certainty for one candidate is reached, that candidate can still lose if the members of electoral college choose to vote for the other candidate. This is possible for all but a couple of states, though it is almost unheard of for a voter to go against his candidate. This happened to Roosavelt or Truman or someone else around that time period, I don't remember which, when their second term would be a unanimous vote, one member of the college voted against him, so that only Washington would have been voted in unanimously. Something like that.

In any case, the final tally isn't completed for weeks after the vote, and the actual vote doesn't happen for another week or two at the earliest. The the actual vote for the presidency is not until long after the popular vote, and I'd appreciate it if the "news" media more accurately portrayed this myself.

Re:Different in the US (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722897)

I'd say in 2008 if anyone had announced Obama as the winner and then it turned out to be McCain when official results were in, we'd be looking at cleaning up from the riots still. Maybe a revolution.

Good christ, are you the same guy I remember predicting that back in 2000? Please, give it up. It's the most demonstrably untrue thing we've heard in the last decade.

ep!*!? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721921)

Come Here b0t now the rain..we can be Fact: *BSD is dying for membership. if I remain turd-suckingly Mistake Of electing very sick and its the most. Look at

Same (discarded) computers as in The Netherlands.. (3, Informative)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721987)

...made by Nedap []
We returned to paper ballots [] in The Netherlands about a year and a half ago. As the computers are exactly the same, it's a logical (albeit late) decision.

Re:Same (discarded) computers as in The Netherland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722461)

Can we have our money back? We really need it at the moment ;-)

Hehe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722667)

...although, actually, part of my paycheck in some way or another indirectly came from those darned computers...
But no, I ain't giving you any :)

Re:Same (discarded) computers as in The Netherland (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722771)

Cool. Now can you manage to elect a mayor of Amsterdam who doesn't want to scrap everything that's good about it?

$67 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722029)

What kind of a Free Software solution would you get with that? Pretty extensive and bullet proof. Now, it's all wasted money. Not to mention, other countries would also chip in, everybody's facing the same problem.

Fiddler (2, Insightful)

hidflect (769917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722377)

It's mass madness to switch from paper to e-voting. What's the idea? Save on paper? Ridiculous. Faster results? Won't help if the results have been hacked with no physical record to audit. Insanity. There's somethings that aren't broke which you should never try to fix.

Re:Fiddler (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723377)

You obviously don't remember, but the reason for the big push to go electronic was because of Florida in the 2000 election. It came down to election officials' opinions on whether the hanging/pregnant/dimpled chad constituted a vote for one candidate or not.

That election was decided by around 100 people if I remember correctly, and certainly less than 1000 people. With so few votes being the difference between one president and another, every single vote counted.

The idea was that an electronic vote would either be a Yes or a No. And conceptually that's true, it eliminates the specific problems they had in Florida by its very nature. However, for some strange reason, the government(s) that comissioned the e-voting machines for some reason did not put any kind of oversight or quality assurance in place to make sure that the machines would be as good or better than paper. This was IN SPITE of well known flaws in the systems, with thousands of security professionals pulling their hair out trying to point out the problems and just being flat out ignored in most cases. You would think that these issues would come out, and the government would send in an expert - either already affiliated with the government or a third party - to verify the designs and implimentations of these systems.

And why they cry "Trade secret! trade secret!", well, too bad. Often when a company comissions a product, especially a highly specialised product, they are involved with the design and implementation from the beginning making sure that it meets their needs. If the e-voting machine companies wanted to keep it all secret, no problem. Just scrap them and do business with somebody who will work with you. I bet they'd change their minds real quick.

Anyway, the whole reason for e-voting, at least in the US, was for accuracy and reliability. Speed and paper savings were supposed to be bonuses to using an electronic system. In reality we got significantly less reliable results, slower results (due to increased challenges on the accuracy), probably didn't save much on paper, and we ended up with a plethora of new problems that not only make it less accurate, but actually make it easier to cheat!

And you know what? There is absolutely no technical reason for any of it not to work well.

Re:Fiddler (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724799)

" ... You obviously don't remember, but the reason for the big push to go electronic was because of Florida in the 2000 election. It came down to election officials' opinions on whether the hanging/pregnant/dimpled chad constituted a vote for one candidate or not. ..."

I obviously do remember, and the election in Florida with voting machines that have been used in the US for decades and that punch chads is in no way similar to paper ballots marked with an X, as is done everywhere else, including Ireland.

It's irrelevant to the parent and just barely relevant to paper ballots vs computer-based voting machines as the US has not used paper ballots marked with pencil in decades.

You know (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723001)

I'm all in favor of making things electronic, god knows I've spent the last 20 years doing so- but regardless- i'd estimate that all of us here know exactly how easy it would be for one person to interfere with a voting system, regardless of how safe it may APPEAR to be- every system is breakable, many within seconds.

Case in point- Newer isn't always better.

Period of reflection (1)

notjim (879031) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723277)

Although there was some anxiety about the paper audit, the main problem people had in Ireland with electronic voting was that it was too damn fast. Ireland has quite a complex voting system, there are between three and five seats for each constituency and votes are transfered, either when someone is elected with more than enough votes, or when someone who hasn't a chance is eliminated. The counts take a day or so, with disputed seats taking much longer to resolve. When the results come in the government will be a coalition, there are two large parties, one medium party, some small parties and some independents. Even within parties there is quite a range of views. While the counting is going on there is tallying, people watch the sorting and guess the result and the period of the count is important as a time of reflection on the result, the different potential results, on the countries political direction and on the possible future governments. Even when one party does well, the final composition of the government is usually unclear until the end. In the last election but one electronic voting was trialled in a small number of constituencies and people hated it, to fast, no tallies, no rumours, the candidates told the results without getting used to some likely outcome. It seemed to injure the whole ritual of democracy and the idea of it happening everywhere in every constituency seems terrible. A lot had been spent on the machines and the count at the moment is quite expensive, so it took a while to admit the trial had failed, but failed it had.

Re:Period of reflection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724085)

I would agree with all that notjim has said. It is often said that politics is tone of the legal bloodsports in Ireland.

But the main reason that electronic voting failed in Ireland is that there was no confidence in it. A Paper trail would have solved most of this as people just didn't believe that their vote was faithfully recorded - either through accidents or non-malicious errors in the technology or through fraud. All of which are believed possible. the paper trail would have sorted this.

another problem was that the government had deliberately introduced errors into the vote counting system. When determining the distribution of one successful candidate's surplus
(eg if the surplus is 100 votes) the manual method is to take a random 100 ballot papers fron the pile and redistribute them. this is usually done by taking the top 100 and can be fairly imprecise as all the papers will probably come from the one town and this may favour one candidate more than others. If this was done electronically, you would work out the exact proportions of votes to be distributed. Needless to say the Government had the programmers follow the manual method.

On top of this the body in charge of the evoting implementation had ignored the machines that were used to tally the votes and assumed that they would just grab a few PCs from some civil servant's desks and do the tallying on these.

THe whole thing was ill thought out and a shambles from the start. I, for one, am happy to be stuck with my stupid old pencils and paper.

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