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ES&S To Buy Diebold, Blackbox Voting To Sue

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace dept.

Government 175

Gottesser writes "Long-time election rights activist Bev Harris (she had an HBO special a while back where she hired Hari Hursti to hack an optical scan voting machine) just sent this out: 'Diebold/Premier Election Systems is being purchased by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). According to a Black Box Voting source within the companies, there will be a conference call among key people at the companies within the next couple hours. An ES&S/Diebold-Premier acquisition would consolidate most US voting under one privately held manufacturer. And it's not just the concealed vote-counting; these companies now also produce polling place check-in software (electronic pollbooks), voter registration software, and vote-by-mail authentication software.' Our voting system is heading toward a server-centric model with our vote being delivered to us by computers under lock and key far away from public oversight. Here's ES&S's press release. Wikipedia's got something on the ongoing string of ES&S controversies as well."

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you asked for it! (2, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305859)

Our voting system is heading toward a server-centric model with our vote being delivered to us by computers under lock and key far away from public oversight.

Didn't we want to be just like all the other democratic countries? The private sector delivers, and now we're bitching about it. Voters -- 'ya just can't please them.

Re:you asked for it! (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305995)

The problem isn't that it is private it is the fact that the private companies are totally screwing stuff up. Between incorrect calculations, "anti-virus software" messing things up, and other random stuff, e-voting is proven a bad idea.

Enforce Good Practices (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306097)

I'm writing software for an FDA-approved device. The requirements are quite stringent and everything gets looked at very closely. From everything I've heard these voting machines would not pass such an inspection. It's a bit of a pain but it does lead to more reliable and trustworthy devices. These requirements and the approval process already exist, seems like a good place to start.

Doesn't matter now. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305861)

The Dems don't care about this shit now; the black guy got elected.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (5, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306199)

So, you have evidence that Democrats, as a group, are any less concerned about the inherent dangers of all-electronic voting systems than the population as a whole?

I'm a Democrat. I voted for Obama. I'm glad he's President. (Or rather, I'm glad McCain isn't President; not quite the same thing, but it's what we've got.) And now that we have a Democrat in the White House, I think it is exactly as important that we have a trustworthy election process as it was when had a Republican. I don't want anyone rigging elections, in favor of any candidate of any party.

No matter how bad things get, as long as we have honest elections, we have a chance to fix them. If we lose that ... forget it, it's over. Democrat, Republican, black, white, whatever: if the people in charge have the means to ensure they stay in charge regardless of the will of the people, they will use that power, and we are permanently screwed.

In short, AC, don't assume everyone else shares your level of asshole cynicism. There are a lot of us who still care about the future of our country.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306273)

You can be an asshole cynic and care.

Let me demonstrate:

Your vote doesn't matter - it's all rigged. Fuck you sheep who refuse to take up arms and revolt to save this country.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (1, Interesting)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306675)

Fuck you sheep who refuse to take up arms and revolt to save this country.

That's hilarious, considering that the extent of your action is to post to slashdot, and maybe complain a bit amongst friends ;) I mean, it's /possible/ you're going to be out there with whatever guns you've acquired, facing down a tank... but it's not very likely.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307513)

He's not scared of tanks, he's a mage!

Re:Doesn't matter now. (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306363)

No matter how bad things get, as long as we have honest elections, we have a chance to fix them. If we lose that ... forget it, it's over. Democrat, Republican, black, white, whatever: if the people in charge have the means to ensure they stay in charge regardless of the will of the people, they will use that power, and we are permanently screwed.

I hate to break it to you but they already have the means [wikipedia.org] to remain in charge regardless of the will of the people. What good does an honest election do you when the politicians get to decide who their voters are instead of the other way around?

In short, AC, don't assume everyone else shares your level of asshole cynicism.

What's wrong with cynicism towards the political parties? They are all a bunch of lying hypocrites. You just feel good about yourself because the guy you regard as evil happened to lose. That doesn't change the fact that the two major parties are both propping up a system that undermines our representative republic and that the major difference between the two of them is which freedoms you'll lose when they are in charge.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (2, Interesting)

wiggle.e (866466) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307159)

I hate to break it to you but they already have the means to remain in charge regardless of the will of the people.

unless they are moving state lines, gerrymandering does not seem relevant to presidential elections...

Who cares. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307497)

The democrat candidate will always be 2% left of center, while the republican candidate will always be 2% right of center. Looking back at all the elections since probably carter/reagan I really don't think it has mattered much who's been in office.

and if you couldn't tell by the above, RON PAUL.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306667)

So, you have evidence that Democrats, as a group, are any less concerned about the inherent dangers of all-electronic voting systems than the population as a whole?

You're damn right I do... Rush Limbaugh said it on the radio!

Re:Doesn't matter now. (2, Insightful)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306799)

And now that we have a Democrat in the White House, I think it is exactly as important that we have a trustworthy election process as it was when had a Republican. I don't want anyone rigging elections, in favor of any candidate of any party.

That puts you and I squarely in the minority. I'm not an R or D, but much more towards the [fiscal, not social] conservative end, for what it's worth. The problem is our friends who vote for either party can't see past partisan issues to fix the ones that are actually important, like voting process integrity.

Re:Doesn't matter now. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306999)

Anyone who respects the process of democratic elections knows that the US presidential election results of 2004 were fraudulent as a direct result of criminal misconduct and secrecy on the part of the elections board of the state of Ohio (and possibly other states). Despite these facts and the untimely death of Mike Connell, to boot, no charges have been filed.

One can certainly be cynical in light of the evidence of misconduct and the constant delay or outright miscarriage of justice. Even the US presidential elections of 2000 appeared fraudulent because of the intercession of the Supreme Court in the electoral process of the state of Florida. We invest a lot in the pretense of democratic freedom, of course, but our political process demonstrates a tact as subtle as the Prime Minister of Italy. That is, none.

When you break it down to its core, on this issue, the tactics of fraud and election-rigging allowed a fraudulent regime to appoint and have confirmed by the elected Senate their own choice for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Whether or not he is truly qualified and capable, we also know this same Senate is incapable of addressing an issue that 80% of the country can decide quite easily.

The disconnect between politicians and the public are such that one could scarcely believe changing the president to Obama, or anyone for the next 30 years or so, will correct the miscarriage of justice, even if some Attorney General had the lot of them frog-marched to prison. The politicians responsible for upholding the law did not move to impeach or censure the executive even one time, much less succeed in passing the measure. Politicians actually come up with excuses to ignore factual reports of criminal incidents - in the process of 'protecting their jobs' ("No comment") they hew the party line into a new shape, based on focus groups, and then repeat that. It's all partisan propaganda and turf-war now, but 90% of them still get re-elected [wikipedia.org] every two years. Citizens end up 'fighting' over things they really have no conflicts of interest with...the elected incumbent simply has political baggage and financing to carry for their next campaign. That's it! In a very, very stupid way, and through a very, very stupid interpretation of the 14th Amendment [wikipedia.org] , we are following a process based on fraud rather than the process outlined in our Constitution.

In short, don't assume everyone cynical doesn't care about the future of our country. We have yet to define a vector where the US government functions as a representative democracy in the 21st century. We might think about Constitutional Amendments to reign in the process of electing these stooges instead of relying on Obama to fix everything.

So now . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305867)

So now not only Ohio, but the whole U.S. will be delivered to the Republicans.

Not at all (4, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306309)

ES&S is not known to be ran by a corrupt republican. So, the election will simply go to the top bidder.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306377)

what is the passive participle of "to run"?

Re:So now . . . (4, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307003)

Actually Cuyahoga County (largest in Ohio) threw out Diebold after they had horrid technical issues in 2004. They didn't need any vote rigging to screw the majority Democrat vote here, the huge failure rate of the machines meant lines were long enough that people left in disgust. We went back to all paper registers and scantron style ballots and 2008 was MUCH smoother despite significantly higher turnout.

Re:So now . . . (2, Funny)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307493)

Depends. How many dead voters can vote electronically in Chicago?

Kidnap their kids (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305875)

Rule the world.

Is this another stacked up hierarchy (1)

Cult of Creativity (1548333) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305877)

Adding up to more power to a bigger company? Or... I guess I am just stupid, maybe I should RTFA. But still trying to get this damned podbox to boot. *curses @ self for stepping back into the world of /.*

I do know that the more competition to this sort of the thing, the better, though. And the better the documentation, word for word, every dash & dot in the right place, brings us closer to better/clearer/more realistic results.

----Yet another off-topic rant brought to you by the creators of BRANDO: the thirst quencher----

FIRST!!11 (2, Insightful)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305879)

... We need open source software so that the voting process is transparent. I'll stick to any location I can find that still uses paper ballots otherwise. I also seem to remember these machines being trivially easy to tinker with.

Re:FIRST!!11 (4, Informative)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306763)

.. We need open source software so that the voting process is transparent. I'll stick to any location I can find that still uses paper ballots otherwise. I also seem to remember these machines being trivially easy to tinker with.

I wanted to mod you insightful but I thought it may be better to let you know that an open source voting system already exists [wired.com] . A security analysis (pdf warning) [ucdavis.edu] has been performed and the ACT Electoral Commission [act.gov.au] has full details of the the behaviour of the code you can download.

You should also check out Open Voting Consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] because we are all friends so lets help each other be free.

Electronic "voting" needs to die (5, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305899)

This is the most precious part of our democracy and we're going to let one company lose people's votes down the memory hole?

This should force the FEC to outright ban electronic voting. I guess my .sig is getting old by now.

While I also dislike electronic voting... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305937)

I no longer think it would be impossible to implement decently. Google Tech Talk [youtube.com] has an interesting 1.5h video about the subject and Schneier [schneier.com] also has a small blog post, hinting that there could well be some self-enforcing algorithms that let us confirm the system is secure even if we don't know all the details to test it.

Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor... (3, Informative)

voss (52565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306095)

optical scan, personally I never understood the motivation for touch screen voting other than gee whiz technology.

When they proposed touchscreen voting to replace punchcards in palm beach county, it cost $20 million while optical scan cost 2 million.

When voters demanded a paper record for recounts it turned out to be cheaper to implement optical scan than to equip
touchscreens with printers.

Sure voters may undervote but at least its their own damn fault and not because of some computer error or dirty tricks.

Re:Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor.. (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306401)

I've been an Elections Inspector in New York State for the last five years. Every time one of these stories crop up I wrote a detailed summary of the procedures and technology we use. In spite of these procedures including the retention of paper ballots I still can't convince the tinfoil hat crowd that our elections aren't being decided by a shadowy cabal working out of the Diebold offices. I've about given up on trying to convince them otherwise.

There are legitimate concerns surrounding so-called DRE (direct electronic record) systems but why those concerns have morphed into people being suspicious of other technology is beyond me. Some days it seems that nothing will satisfy this crowd short of a system where everybody raises their hand.

I'm glad Florida switched away from a DRE system. Don't be surprised when people crop up and start fretting that the optical scan system is pwned though.

Re:Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor.. (2, Informative)

kevinT (14723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306479)

Actually Black Box did show how the Optical Scan system could be pwned! Access to the cards that hold the counts, even for a couple of minutes, could result in the election being rigged!

The only good part, is you still have the ballots. Reset the counting machines, use a card that is good, and the election results will actually (more or less) reflect the votes. I say more or less because the ballots are still filled in by Sheeple, and some of them, even after years of doing it, cannot fill out the ballot correctly!

Re:Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor.. (2, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306491)

Which is why those cards are stored behind numbered seals. Next you'll say that the seals aren't perfect.

Re:Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor.. (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307027)

it does NOT MATTER that you feel you have inside info that the voting system is 'trustable'.

widespread, we (the people) don't trust it anymore. too many reports of bad things happening in the last few elections.

even if those are all made-up (and we know they are not); we need to have trust, first and foremost.

yes, sometimes you have to sell a car (or trade it in) just so you can know you'll not be stranded on the side of the road. we have a used car, now, so to speak; and we just don't trust it anymore.

paper (canada uses that!) is trustable.

open source is trustable.

the lying bastards who 'pledge all they can do' to ensure one candidate gets in; is NOT trustable! it does not matter if YOU, some elections guy, think its trustable. the rest of us lost that faith years ago.

to restore it, we need to go to low-tech methods. high tech is not always the answer. in this case, its the anti-answer.

Re:Florida abandoned touchscreen voting in favor.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307561)

What about voters who have no eyes?

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (0)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306171)

But... but... it's the *free* market... we can't *regulate* it... or we might become socialist... ruled by one evil group of people... ...Oh, wait!

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (1)

zigmeister (1281432) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306627)

Free market theory, traditionally, is not about whether something is done by a private co. or by the public, for the sake of such a distinction, it's about giving people the correct incentive to do the right thing. Versus socialism (in all forms: communism, fascism, modern leftism) is about assuming people have the right incentive to do the right thing or trying to give them an incentive but it's a poor one (poor from the POV of the free market theorists anyways.)

What I mean by regardless of private or public, is a vast oversimplification (of course it matters...) but mostly for the above reason. A quote often attributed to Mussolini, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

So even if a large portion of your economy was privatized it could be very hostile to western ideals like liberty and individualism if it was essentially a corporate economy. I realize and admit that I'm oversimplifying but if you'd like to discuss more, please do.
NB: Also the discussion between what is private vs. public hinges not just on incentive but on rights to property, work, do as one pleases etc. and also on what should be a justified expense on the taxpayers credit card. And after re-reading your post I'm not so sure you even disagree with me.

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306271)

Even if every ballot was tallied perfectly we'd still be choosing between two nearly identical candidates that will represent the interests of their campaign donors over those of the people casting votes. Until we fix the way that campaigns are financed, does it really matter whether votes are manipulated?

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306643)

Was letting two companies lose people's votes any better?

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306717)

The most important part of democracy, is the public trust in democracy. The exact number of votes is not important, and those statistically meaningless details get in the way of the big picture. The less accurate paper system garnered more public trust, because it was more transparent. Even if the "wrong" person gets into office, it's just a temporary matter. When public trust erodes, then corruption sets in, and governments lose stability.

So the trouble with the electronic voting is the inherent secrecy, the block box nature, the whiff of scandal through it all, etc. Public trust erodes, which leads to democracy eroding. We'd be better off if we stuck our finger in a bottle of ink after voting and had trucks drive around to pick up ballots, as long as we accepted and trusted the results.

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306985)

its taking forever to merge sun and oracle; yet these other 2 BASTARD companies are allowed (we know they will be) to merge?

time for pitchforks and torches to be seen in the streets.

(now, we only need caring americans to carry them!)

yeah. hell will freeze over first.

Re:Electronic "voting" needs to die (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307191)

In the past it looks like you had several untrustwothy groups, so this merger will make little difference. What will make a difference is government putting some effort into making sure that these devices work properly instead of trusting the contractor far more than makes sense. This really is one of those situation where you should just dump all these piles of rubbish and get the orders of magnitude cheaper and more effective systems from India. Ballot stuffing is going to happen and the current networked systems make that far too easy. With the Indian systems you start with the assumption that ballot stuffing is going to happen - thus you have lots of cheap machines that cannot hold many votes each and criminals would have to steal a lot of them to make much difference. You don't need a PC with WinXP to run a voting program, no matter how many items there are on the ballot a Nintendo DS is overkill for hardware.
Personally I like the option of bits of paper and a pencil, but more importantly, an organisation running the election that is able to distinguish it's arse from it's elbow. The silly election horror stories I've read here where you have a very small number of elderly volunteers that only get to see the system a few minutes before the door opens to a queue of thousands is just asking for trouble and should be enough of a reason to blacklist the system supplier and take legal action against them.

Why Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305909)

Vote publicly? A public record can be checked by the voter. Verify that their vote was cast accordingly.

Re:Why Not (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306409)

Because then your vote could be verified by people with a vested interest in intimidating you into voting the way they want? Do you really want your employer/union official/wife/etc to be able to see how you voted? Having any sort of mechanism that allows individual votes to be identified after the election would allow this to happen.

Paper ballots (3, Insightful)

seifried (12921) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305911)

Are the only way to be sure, otherwise the voter cannot verify that what they choose is what got entered into the system. Even if it's an electronic system that prints out a receipt that you can then visually check and deposit would be fine (although personally I prefer the low tech ballot + make an X, it's simple, it's easy to assist blind people, and it's _trivial_ to check, if you have scrutineers from more than one party you're pretty safe (who watches the watchers? the watchers watch themselves because they want to make sure they aren't cheating). This system works for most of the world (including the US until recently). This love with high tech voting is quite scary I think (I especially love the argument that electronic voting is faster when you consider the court cases that have been needed t decide various elections).

Re:Paper ballots (4, Informative)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306001)

This is what we do in Canada. Paper is simple. Paper scales well. Paper is cheap. The booths for voting are made from old tables and cardboard. We generally only have problems once in a while when some idiot grabs a ballot box and runs off, only to fling it in a ditch. Paper is also fast. We get our election results as fast as America, and with less second guessing.

Re:Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307033)

You're right. Pencil and paper works fine in Australia and we have complicated preferential voting where you have to sequentially number your choices.

However, I think that the real trouble in the US is that they don't have a consistent electoral system. They have 51 individual systems for each state (or is it more based upon county?).

The other issue is that they seem to vote for everything from the street cleaner to judges. (A politicised judiciary is one thing I can't get my head around either.) This leads to massive work in both voting and counting.

Re:Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307035)

Paper does not scale well when your local election includes ~ 50 items being voted on (President, Senator, Representative on the federal side, Governor, Senator, Representative, judges, corporation commission, initiatives on the state side, and mayor, council representative, dog catcher, yet more initiatives and maybe even a bond issue or two).

Re:Paper ballots (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307049)

Paper's NOT cheap (or more specifically printing isn't) which is one of the motivators behind electronic voting machines. Changes in wording or participants (death, withdraws due to scandal, etc) can mean reprinting all the ballots. You also need to print a ballot for every registered voter even if average turnout is well under 50%. You have all of the various precinct layouts so you have high setup costs for the print jobs. You also have to keep track of all that paper and move it around securely. I agree that it's the preferred system but it's far from perfect, much like Democracy it's the best system we have for the time being.

Re:Paper ballots (1)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307349)

The concept of different ballot layouts doesn't compute here. There's one ballot. The candidates are in alphabetical order.

As for the rest of the costs, I could see ways the whole thing could be cheaper than a patchwork of machines, each variety needing a different set of technicians. Then there are the legal battles, the recounts, teaching people to use the things, the millions spent by states checking whether they're suitable, the backtracking when they're not, etc, etc. The machines also need to be secured, stored, maintained, and moved. No, I still have a suspicion our simple paper ballots work out to cheaper, at least until some useful standards appear for machines.

The frustrating thing is I can't find any info on the costs of these things. The costs of dealing with the machines have shown up here once in a while, but Canada seems to dislike putting costs on the web. Personally, I think any bureaucrat refusing to put any non-classified info on the web, and in the public domain, or even attempting to make an argument against it, should be shot.

Re:Paper ballots (1)

denbesten (63853) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307625)

The concept of different ballot layouts doesn't compute here. There's one ballot. The candidates are in alphabetical order.

Alphabetical order would give a perceived advantage to Aadam Aant of the Apple Party.

Re:Paper ballots (0)

zamboni1138 (308944) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306039)

What about if:

1) When you go to vote, you are given the *option* of entering a long string
2) Your votes are tied to this long string
3) After counting is complete, county posts a public list of each long string that voted for each option/candidate
4) Voter can verify their string appears for each of their votes

It's optional, it's public, it can be verified. My long string could be something like "zamboni1138_wammalammadingdong". Probably would not conflict with anyone else in my voting area, or my county or even my state. And if it did, maybe on my printed receipt it could print my long string and kindly tell me I'm now "zamboni1138_wammalammadingdong (2)" or something. I personally don't care if people know how I vote and I think I should have the option of it being public.

I'll just toss that out there.

Re:Paper ballots (5, Insightful)

ngg (193578) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306073)

I personally don't care if people know how I vote and I think I should have the option of it being public.

However, *I* do personally care if people know how you voted because it makes it far easier for someone to pay and/or intimidate you to vote a certain way.

Re:Paper ballots (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307321)

However, *I* do personally care if people know how you voted because it makes it far easier for someone to pay and/or intimidate you to vote a certain way.

There is already a very easy way for any would-be intimidator to verify the vote - he just tells the victim to provide a photo of a ballot with the desired choice on it, with a cell phone, from inside the voting booth. The worst thing the victim can do in this case is to invalidate the ballot after vote by marking something else or just crossing it all out, but even so this is good enough to prevent people from voting for someone you do not like, and in many cases this is good enough. And no, this isn't theoretical - this method has been used in practice already, IIRC in Brazil, and a few other Latin American countries.

Re:Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307395)

At least then there is evidence of intimidation - you get tons of people with pictures of their ballots. It also requires extra steps and effort and you could probably fake it if you wanted (just photoshop your photo). If there's a posted voting record that wouldn't be the case.

Re:Paper ballots (2, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307521)

At least then there is evidence of intimidation - you get tons of people with pictures of their ballots.

In practice, this is used far more often to buy votes than to intimidate people into voting the right way. Turns out that votes are real cheap, and when you can verify them, it is very much feasible to alter election results simply by throwing some money at it.

And, of course, a picture of a ballot proves nothing. After all, the alleged victim could easily fake intimidation by taking a photo of his ballot and sending it to someone, even when not actually asked to do so!

It also requires extra steps and effort and you could probably fake it if you wanted (just photoshop your photo).

This is trivially circumvented by putting an observer before the polling station, to make sure the voter actually gets inside and out, and sends the photo while inside. I doubt you'll have much time (or means) to photoshop the photo of your ballot while inside the booth.

For vote buying (which, as I've mentioned above, is far more prevalent) this is even less important, because people who sell their vote are unlikely to go to great lengths to cheat the buyer. Without any means to verify the vote, they are very likely to take the money and then just vote the way they like; but when receiving money requires a verification step, even one that can be circumvented with some effort, it is far more likely that they'll just do what they're asked to get the money - it's far easier for them to do so.

Re:Paper ballots (2, Informative)

moz25 (262020) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306381)

That's a pretty interesting idea, but I don't think it's practical. Basically, it fails because it rests on the assumption that people will entirely honest.

Since only you know your own long string, there's nothing to stop you from claiming your string was not found and the election was rigged. Thus, you still end up with the original problem that a recount is impossible.

With paper ballots, you can verify the following phases very reliably:

1. Person submits exactly 1 ballot.
2. Each ballot by each person can be visually seen to be deposited in the box.
3. All ballots in the box can be (re)counted by any independent party.

It's a completely robust system. Sometimes you have to stick to ancient tech :-)

Re:Paper ballots (1)

kevinT (14723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306499)

And a group of cheating jerks can "stuff" extra ballots into the box. The people from the other side are given 1 yrs pay to look the other way while it goes on, or are held at gun point till they agree to it.

See Afganistan Election, 2009!

Or Iran ... or ...

Re:Paper ballots (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307371)

When you get to the "bribes" and/or "gunpoint" stage for everyone involved in the election process (including observers), the exact method for vote count doesn't matter anymore. The result will be whatever the ones in power say, anyway.

In Russia, the rumor was that in 1996, Yeltsin's ass was saved from an electoral defeat by communists when the Central Election Commission simply injected the required number of votes directly into the (electronic) vote counting system on the final stage - after all ballots were already gathered.

Re:Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307127)

4. ???
5. Profit!!!

jokes aside, how do I make sure that the counter did not cheat?

Re:Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307039)

There is another "only way to be sure." We can try yours first.

Re:Paper ballots (1)

denbesten (63853) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307623)

...it's easy to assist blind people...

.... and possibly change their vote, or at least read their selections.

The headphone jack is one of the few advantages electronic voting machines have over paper/scantron ballots. It enables the illiterate and the blind to vote without the need to trust a third party. Of course, this does not mean everyone has to use the EVM. The EVM could be demoted to the role of simply printing on a manually-fed paper/scantron ballot that is then put in the ballot box.

What else is left? (5, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305913)

And it's not just the concealed vote-counting; these companies now also produce polling place check-in software (electronic pollbooks), voter registration software, and vote-by-mail authentication software.

All the ingredients necessary and sufficient to engineer an election result undetectably and without pesky statistical red flags. George Orwell himself couldn't have designed a more riggable system.

Say goodbye to democracy.

Re:What else is left? (2, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305989)

Say goodbye to democracy.

Democracy (in the U.S.) died some time ago. Gerrymandering [wikipedia.org] killed it. The election is already rigged when the districts are drawn.

Re:What else is left? (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306511)

The thing about gerrymandering is that it tends to be self-correcting over time. The party in power will draw lines that are carefully crafted to give them the most seats. That means that you divide the opposition among the various districts to dilute their power. The problem is that when you do this, you tend to create close districts. It doesn't take a great big shift in popular opinion to turn a slightly-Democrat-leaning district into a slightly-Republican-leaning district. It's not perfect, but it tends to work over time.

Re:What else is left? (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307413)

Except that the smart ones won't do that.

Let us assume The parties are named Party A, and Party B, that the population is reasonably close to being split 50/50 for the two parties, and party A is in power. LEt us also say for the sake of argument that there are 12 seats.

Party A starts by drawing 6 districts with nearly 100% support for a particular party. Four of those are party B districts, and two are Party A districts.

So with half the districts drawn, Party A gets 2 seat, and Party B gets 4 seats.
But of the remaining population 2/3 support party A and only 1 third supports party B.

So draw the rest of the districts so each has 2/3 support for A and 1/3 support for B.

The final result is:
Four 100% Party A districts
Two 100% Party B districts
Six 66% Party A districts

I would not call a 2/3's supporting district a close district since 2/3 is considered a substantial supermajority.
Party A is more than willing to give those 4 seats to party B, since they still end up with 2/3 of the total seats in this case, which is enough to get anything through.

A Diagram of the situation (each district is shown on one line, and each letter is 1/72 of the population):

BBBBBB
BBBBBB
BBBBBB
BBBBBB
AAAAAA
AAAAAA
BBAAAA
BBAAAA
BBAAAA
BBAAAA
BBAAAA
BBAAAA

More complicated systems can give similar results even when accounting for undecided voters (try to stick them in the near 100% districts to keep the influence they have to a minimum) and other considerations.

Re:What else is left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306327)

Please don't be one of those 1984, 1984 people. Orwell didn't even come close, Aldous Huxley nailed it and really deserves the credit.

Re:What else is left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306505)

It sure is a Brave New World. We're even tampering with the genetic foundations of human nature now.

Dept of Justice (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305973)

Wouldn't this violate some anti trust laws?

Where's the oversight? When Microsoft looks at a company, Government starts sticking their noses in. I don't get it.

Re:Dept of Justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306011)

When Microsoft looks at a company, Government starts sticking their noses in. I don't get it.

Even with all its money, power & influence Microsoft cant get someone elected. These companies can.

Re:Dept of Justice (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306525)

Actually, I have to wonder why Microsoft didn't submit a bid for these electronic voting machines. I'm not suggesting Microsoft would try to rig an election (but who knows). I'm just saying they've got the experience and resources to at least not do an amateurish job, and could basically serve as an advertisement for Windows 7/8 eye candy.

Re:Dept of Justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307377)

*cough* ATMs *cough*

Is there an Open alternative? (2, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29305975)

Is there Open Source software around to replace their product? I know I've seen enough developers on here discussing how easy of a problem it is to solve. What about a backing company who is able and ready to sell a complete package using it (hardware, support, training, etc.), who can be liable and responsible if anything goes wrong? With the low quality crap these Diebold people keep bringing out, you'd think there would be 100 other companies in line to take their place.

Re:Is there an Open alternative? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306217)

I know I've seen enough developers on here discussing how easy of a problem it is to solve.

I'm involved in the software development cycle as a tester. I hear that a lot, too. It never seems to be true.

Re:Is there an Open alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306723)

There are many other issues aside from simply writing the software. The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV) http://osdv.org/ (also http://trustthevote.org) seems to be making a lot of progress on multiple fronts.

WoW! Matter of time... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305999)

So we're not even going to bother pretending we have fair and balanced elections now?

On the one hand. that's terrible. These people should all be shot for treason.

On the other... Yeah elections should go smoother since theres no confusion with a standard 'this is the only way' system.

Man... our country is so fucked... gonna be 10 years before the majority notices too. And another 50 to even think about fixing it.

Sucks to be US!

You have to hand it to these companies (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306005)

No one trusts their technology, yet not only are the machines still in place, they have exported them to Ireland, England, France, India and other countries.

Money-saving opportunity! (1)

Kabuthunk (972557) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306055)

Sweet, now the political parties will only have ONE company they need to bribe donate to for all of their voting needs. At least that'll curb a bit of the government spending. That, or they'll just give themselves bigger bonuses. I'm sure they'll take the interest of the public to heart first though :P.

wspongGe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306063)

hand...don't Discuusion I'm has run faster contributed code

Inaccurate title (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306081)

"ES&S To Buy Diebold, Blackbox Voting To Sue"

Actually ES&S is only buying Diebold's e-voting business, not the whole company

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125199401359883707.html

Re:Inaccurate title (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306183)

Actually ES&S is only buying Diebold's e-voting business, not the whole company

Indeed. Now Diebold with have to go back to simply making ATM's and other devices that require great accuracy and reliability. But somehow, they just couldn't get a voting machine to work properly and securely.

Re:Inaccurate title (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306239)

I take it you have never used a Diebold ATM.

Thanks for reminding me... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306099)

It's time to re-read "The Stainless Steel Rat for President".

Request: Someone please post or point us to (1)

Radtastic (671622) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306135)

A letter than we can send our congressperson explaining why electronic voting without oversight and a paper trail is a dangerous thing?

I'm not inherently lazy, but I suspect something very concise and precise exists, better than I would create myself by trolling this thread. Thank you.

Re:Request: Someone please post or point us to (1)

Shark (78448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306211)

Don't sweat it dude, they just want to make sure Ron Paul doesn't win in 2012.

Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (5, Insightful)

jeko (179919) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306141)

Washington DC
October 1, 2009

In a stunning display of bipartanship today, Congress saved the taxpayers several million dollars by suspending all future elections. Proponents of the bill point out that most people didn't even bother to vote last time, and that of those who did, polls show the overwhelming majority of them held strong opinions about issues they didn't even begin to understand.

"It was a ridiculous waste of the taxpayer's money," said Sam Rickenbaugh of the GAO. "We'd spend millions, billions even on holding elections, and the voters who even bothered to show up were the same mouth-breathing idiots who get roped into jury duty. It was a pathetic display, embarrassing even."

Democrats and Republicans have agreed to share power across the aisle, and points of contention will now be decided based on who can gather the largest contributions for their side.

"Now this is Democracy," posts John Ringerton of My Country Right Or Wrong.com. "You got an opinion, you can put your money where your mouth is like God intended."

Re:Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306235)

It's sad how close this is to how it really works.

Re:Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306811)

I think elections are a great invention. They only have one small flaw, that was not thought through: The non-voters case!

So I propose the following solution pattern:

Every non-voter *counts*. Either trough making a law, that automatically makes you a foreigner if you don't vote, and adding a "none of the above" option on the ballot,
or more conservative, to automatically count people not showing up to have voted as "none of the above".

BUT: The "none of the above" gets all the same abilities as a party. In its own way.
If, for example, more than 50% vote for that option, then the parliament ceases to have any powers and anarchy is declared. This sounds bad, but actually it is there so it does not happen. and *if* it should happen, then it toggles a switch in all those who just complain but never do anything, so they will start to think and act on their own. Which usually means that differences get resolved pretty quickly, and normality returns after that. People are also free to segregate, and found their own communities in that time.

Something along the lines of that should resolve the voting problems. But don't dare dismiss the entire idea because of some small error! It's just a rough idea. You are expected to think up your own much better version of it, and beat me with *that* one! :)

Re:Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307109)

I've always said Washington works best when they aren't working at all, I wonder what good an entire term without congresscritters would do for the country. (Remember, the opposite of CONgress is progress =)

Re:Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307499)

Most of this is utopian, but I honestly do not understand why you don't have "None of the above" on the ballot in U.S. Back when it was still there in Russia (we called it "against everyone", though - more to the point, I think), it was a great way to opt out of the system in a way that counts - it worked roughly the same way as you describe: if more than 40% voted "against everyone" in a parliamentary election, the election was considered invalid, and a re-election scheduled in no later than 4 months.

Presidential election was even more fun: if there were only 2 candidates (typically in a run-off election), and both got fewer votes than "against everyone" did, then a re-election is scheduled, and those two candidates are forbidden from entering it again.

Interestingly enough, it was one of several things having to do with elections that Putin changed after his first term in power, by removing "against everyone" entirely - at the time, this removal was widely considered to be an attack on democracy in Russia.

Re:Congress passes "God-Bless-America-Bill" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307001)

But everyone's so worried about the worse option coming true that they're afraid to hold back their money in protest because both suck.

Tag with 'democrats' (-1, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306191)

This entire push to "electronic voting" started after the 2000 elections... The sore losers were very vocal lamenting, as usual, US being so behind the wise Europe, and craving change...

Re:Tag with 'democrats' (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306319)

The "hanging chads" were what made the news, but it was districts with electronic counting and/or voting equipment that should be blamed for the 2000 debacle. Why didn't we hear about the county in Florida that reported -16,000 votes for Gore, or the county that reported a vote tally at something like 125% of total registered voters?

we need to get rid of mechanical voting too (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306241)

the most technophilic countries and the poorest should all vote the same way: paper

whatever convenience is gained with mechanical and electronic voting is lost by casting doubt over the legitimacy of the voting process. technologically souped up voting processes renders democratically elected governments open to criticism of illegitimacy, regardless of being just rumors or the truth. more technology in the equation creates dark areas, attack vectors, unnecessary complexity for such a simple process as recording and counting votes (too laborious? use OCR). its also more expensive

so you are basically paying a lot more money for a little more convenience and a giant dollup of doubt in the mind of the public about the legitimacy of their own government. which leads to social instability

yes, you can tamper with paper votes, but its hard and you need a mob of conspirators

mechanical voting increases the number of attack vectors an order of magnitude and decreases the number of people you need to make a dent in the vote, and its harder to trace your tampering

take that further, and electronic voting is a manipulator's dream: one guy with 300 milliseconds of access to a database can do more damage than an army of paper ballot tamperers/ stuffers/ truck drivers, and he can do it in such a statistically invisible way as to make his tampering forensically invisible. public servants are full of integrity and with such high salaries none could ever be paid to look the other way, right, right? and with electronic voting, you need only corrupt one or two obscure key guys, not an army of polling station workers as with paper. a conspiracy of two or three might be airtight with electronic tampering, but a conspiracy of dozens and hundreds with paper/ mechanical is what... more airtight?

as for attack vectors, with electronic voting, take your pick: there are millions where with paper voting there are only hundreds. those tasked with guarding the integrity of the electronic voting process can easily be routed around with the right creative hacker thinking up the right attack vector no one imagined but him. sure, yeah, no one is for hire to do that for a few million and then disappear to rio for the rest of his life, right? oh, and of course, there aren't giant gobs of money floating around politics that often winds up with shady power brokers, right?

electronic voting and mechanical voting must die, for sake of the integrity of our governments, upon which the entire stability of our societies rest. using anything besides paper is insane

Re:we need to get rid of mechanical voting too (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307635)

Problem being, paper ballots get a bit messy when you're having a super-election, as seems to be preferred. One might be voting for president, vice president, federal congressman, federal senator, state representative, state senator, state governor, state ballot measures, judges, prosecutors, chief of police, city mayor, city counselor, municipal bylaws and ballot measures, bond issues, and the city dogcatcher all at once.

And I cannot think of an optimal method to deal with this.

ocr dude (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307671)

#2 pencil

names next ovals

Amerifucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306259)

New word to describe countries where democratic elections were replaced by corporate owned and operated "electiongames".

It makes you wonder if democracy is really going down on the toilet right in front of our eyes - and what will our children, grandchildren say when they learn that we just let it happen.

Will we be seen any better than the common people who let the holocaust, slavery, etc. happen right under their watch?

Suing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306385)

Um, where does it say blackboxvoting.org is suing?

Re:Suing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307155)

Re:Suing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307611)

An anti-trust complaint is hardly suing

Join (or contribute) to the Open Voting Consortium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306559)

http://openvoting.org/

Aside from having a working system, they are working with government officials around the country to get them to try to use the system.

http://openvoting.org/our_solution

to my knowledge, (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306947)

These voting systems are all built on microsoft access database applications.

There isn't even a presumption of security on these machines. They are designed to be able to steal elections.

Why is this even an issue? (1)

Wordloc (542357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307107)

Why is this even an issue? The people do NOT decide who becomes president...the electorial college does. All of these problems that the press is trying to make everyone think are major issues mean absolutely jack. Kill the EC and put the vote on the American people where it should be and THEN we can bitch and moan about the HOW of the voting process.

The survey says... (1)

zaivala (887815) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307639)

I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is thisâ"who will count the votes, and how. - J. Stalin
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