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Researchers Reprogram Voting Machine To Run Pac-man

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the vote-cherry-this-year dept.

Classic Games (Games) 132

Philom writes "Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that electronic voting machines can be reprogrammed to steal votes, so when researchers Alex Halderman and Ari Feldman got their hands on a machine called the Sequoia AVC Edge, they decided to do something different: they reprogrammed it to run Pac-Man. As states move away from insecure electronic voting, there's a risk that discarded machines will clog our landfills. Fortunately, these results show that voting machines can be recycled to provide countless hours of entertainment."

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Game over, man (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300642)

And I, for one, welcome our new l33t haXor Congressmen and Presidents.

Re:Game over, man (0, Offtopic)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301626)

http://www.google.com/pacman/ [google.com]

Let the games (re)commence*.

*This post is in no way responsible for any and all loss of productivity caused by it's contents.

Who do we blame? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303500)

The Republicans or Democrats for the stupidity of rushing head-long into computerized voting? I knew it was a bad idea right from the start.

Re:Game over, man (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304752)

President Pac-Man has assured the nation that he is clamping down on voting machine fraud.

On A Voting Machine? (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300652)

Doesn't that mean we'll need an audit trail to verify a player's score?

Re:On A Voting Machine? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301020)

No, but it would be nice if we could deny the vote to those so mentally challenged that they can't successfully pass the first level...

"The computer ate the vote tally" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300712)

Someone had to say it first....

Re:"The computer ate the vote tally" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33300794)

so that's where all the chads went!

What would Namco say? (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300770)

From the article:

This project is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with Namco (the developer of Pac-Man) or Midway (the U.S. distributor).

Expect a cease and desist like this one [slashdot.org] in 3, 2, 1...

Re:What would Namco say? (2, Interesting)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300952)

Cease and desist what exactly? They aren't distributing anything other than a video. As a news item about re-purposing voting machines, fair use seems to be on their side concerning Pac-Man imagery appearing in the video.

Re:What would Namco say? (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301052)

If Namco doesn't like it they'll send the letter anyways. If if you're legally ok, is it worth hiring a lawyer to go to court and fight it? Namco (like most large companies) keeps one on staff, so sending him to court is just them using a paid for asset.

The sad truth is that in today's society, if a corporation says to stop doing something, it's usually smart to stop it. You can't afford to prove your innocence.

Re:What would Namco say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33301794)

And nobody does anything about it. What a fucked up society.

Re:What would Namco say? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302306)

And nobody does anything about it. What a fucked up society.

Really? And what would you do about it? Make it illegal for a company to sue someone who is infringing on their copyrights or trademarks? Make bootleg products legal?

Why would any company invest in hiring people and spending money to develop something if they have no recourse when someone can simply set up to sell bootlegs of the finished work with no consequences?

Sure, it's fun to hate lawyers. Until it's you being ripped off.

Re:What would Namco say? (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302578)

I'd make it a criminal offense to assert copyright violation where none exists.

Re:What would Namco say? (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303010)

To *knowingly* assert a copyright violation where none exists. Often they may think there is one, and only find out later that there isn't.

Re:What would Namco say? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303306)

Since a copyright lawyer SHOULD know copyright law, just make a pattern of errors in that regard be grounds for disbarment due to incompetence. If the lawyer doing it claims not to be a copyright lawyer, make it for malpractice since after the first time he should have realized he didn't know enough to practice in that area.

Re:What would Namco say? (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301234)

Cease and desist copying the Pac-Man program into RAM to run it on the emulator. That's what the retained lawyers that MBGMorden mentioned might say.

Re:What would Namco say? (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301692)

Section 117 of US copyright law allows for this.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/117.html [cornell.edu]

Unfortunately, I have to agree with a sibling post. It's too expensive to defend oneself against unjustified lawsuits.

Difficulty of staying 117 compliant (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301786)

Section 117 of US copyright law allows for this.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/117.html [cornell.edu]

Which a judge isn't likely to apply in your favor if you are working from a ROM that you downloaded from the Internet. As I understand 117, in order for a MAME ROM to be considered lawfully made, you have to desolder the ROM ICs from the authentic PCB and then dump each of them with an EPROM programmer. It's easier for Sega Genesis and Super NES software, for which a cartridge dumper [retrode.org] exists.

Re:Difficulty of staying 117 compliant (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302256)

On a Pac-Man PCB the ROMs are socketed so getting dumps is not at all difficult, especially for people capable of performing this hack. Since there is no evidence that the ROMs were downloaded and the burden of proof rests with Namco, I don't see a judge even allowing the case to proceed.

Split burden of proof (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302364)

A civil case is decided on a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, the burden of proof is split between the two parties. Once Namco can trivially prove that the game was copied and that infringing copies are widespread, it is up to the hackers to prove that this particular copy does not infringe by claiming affirmative defenses such as section 117.

Re:Split burden of proof (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303040)

It's not that cut and dry and you contradict yourself when you say the hackers have to prove anything. I think that was just a slip of the keyboard. Even in civil cases, the burden of persuasion usually rests with the plaintiff. However, "fair use" is an affirmative defense so the burden could shift to the defendant. If it did, the hackers have the original ROMs, are not redistributing copies of them, are not making "archival" copies (hardware ROMs are specifically not covered by section 117.a.2), and are plausibly engaged in research. Namco, meanwhile, has to make the case that they are being financially harmed by any of this. Can they possibly find a judge who will believe that?

Re:Split burden of proof (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303708)

Even in civil cases, the burden of persuasion usually rests with the plaintiff.

Assume the plaintiff has persuaded the judge that the audiovisual work embodied in the game was reproduced, that it was performed publicly, and that the reproduction and performance were not authorized by the plaintiff. As I understand it, it becomes the defendant's turn to persuade the judge that the reproduction and performance are permissible despite not having been authorized by the plaintiff. In this case, Halderman and Feldman admit that the work was performed publicly at the USENIX Security conference. They claim to "own the electronics from a real Pac-Man machine", but merely owning a lawfully made copy is not enough (UMG Recordings v. MP3.com); they'd have to prove that the particular copy on the PC was made by pulling the ROMs from their sockets and dumping them.

Namco, meanwhile, has to make the case that they are being financially harmed by any of this.

For one thing, 17 USC 504 provides for statutory damages even in cases where actual damages are zero. For another, Namco can always sue under use-it-or-lose-it trademark law in addition to copyright law.

Re:Split burden of proof (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304628)

The case you cite bares little resemblance to what we a talking about, and the rest is spurious at best. You say public performance, I say reasonable expectation of educational fair use exemption at a private conference. I also really doubt filing for dilution of trademark will get them anywhere. The hackers can easily show non-commercial, non-competing, non-confusing, nominative fair use.

Re:Split burden of proof (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33305086)

The hackers can easily show non-commercial, non-competing, non-confusing, nominative fair use.

You've made what appears to be a good case for the defense. But how would they come up with the money to pay a lawyer to make such a case before a judge?

Re:What would Namco say? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302728)

It's too expensive to defend oneself against unjustified lawsuits.

Then don't. The only winning move is not to play. Honestly, we get so riled up around here about fighting nuisance lawsuits that we forget that the best strategy is to just ignore them, let the other side get a hojillion dollar default judgement, wait for them to pass it on to a debt collection agency, then tell them that the "debt" is under dispute with the creditor. That's the last you'll ever hear about it.

Ultimately, it's cheaper to create a fake identity than to fight a lawsuit, even if you win.

just make a clone and call it vote eater! (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302584)

just make a clone and call it vote eater!

Atari v. Philips (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302736)

just make a clone

Namco owns a copyright on the physical appearance of the character Pac-Man. Namco and its then U.S. console partner Atari successfully sued a cloner in 1982 for copyright infringement ( Atari v. Philips [wikipedia.org] ). So if the player character of Vote Eater looks too much like a sphere with a lune [wikipedia.org] for a mouth, and if the chasing characters look too much like Bloo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends without a valid parodic reason [deviantart.com] , Namco would still have enough of a case to make the author of Vote Eater spend beaucoup bucks on legal representation.

Re:Atari v. Philips (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303284)

Should have made it the head of Al Gore, eating chads, being chased by lawyers draped in bedsheets. Pac-Chad.

wrong title (5, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300810)

"Corporate Dollars Reprogram Voters To Elect PACmen"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_action_committee [wikipedia.org]

You still on K5? (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303524)

I think we're still accepting refugees at Hulver's.

Re:wrong title (1)

trb (8509) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303756)

I was thinking Pac the Vote!

Repurpose them as educational systems (5, Interesting)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300824)

Reprogram them so they can go to work in schools as touchscreen systems for pre-k to 6th graders. They were built to take a beating so a bunch of kids could not put much of a hurt on them, right?

Re:Repurpose them as educational systems (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300932)

Pacman IS educational

Re:Repurpose them as educational systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33302814)

Pacman IS educational

Yes, a very important part of history!

This is terrible news (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33300868)

We don't need people in government going around chasing ghosts.

We need to do something about the threat from space invaders.

Close but not quite (4, Funny)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301208)

Actually I think we are in more danger from Asteroids than from Space Invaders.

Re:This is terrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33305196)

A++ for irony as pacman came to be because of space invaders. According to this very detailed explaination of pac-man http://home.comcast.net/~jpittman2/pacman/pacmandossier.html

The unprecedented success of Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 caused an industry-wide shift toward space-themed, shoot-'em-up games (as well as a national coin shortage in Japan). Game manufacturers scrambled to match Taito's success with space shooters of their own. Namco was quick to follow suit, assigning a team to start work on a Space Invaders clone at once. It was around this time that Toru Iwatani began thinking about designing a different kind of game. He felt the shoot-'em-up craze was destined to fade away like the paddle games before them. Rather than make another space shooter, Toru wanted to take his game design in a completely new direction that did not focus on violence or conflict, and would appeal to both male and female audiences.

In other news... (1)

sabre307 (451605) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300908)

I, for one, welcome our new pill eating ghost avoiding presidential candidate overlord!

Instead of pills (1)

charles xavier (1861908) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300930)

Does this pacman eat dangling chad?

This Reminds Me (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300950)

... got their hands on a machine called the Sequoia AVC Edge ... they reprogrammed it to run Pac-Man

April First is a long way off...

Re:This Reminds Me (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301266)

However, November 2nd is coming up!

But of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33300956)

You wouldn't want to run rigged elections on a machine that isn't Turing complete, would you?

At some point (4, Funny)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#33300972)

At some point you can't get away with calling yourself researchers. What next "Researchers strap fireworks to cat"

Re:At some point (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301188)

I'm guessing that the moniker of "Researcher" gives them a tiny bit of protection for being charged with tampering with a voting machine.

Re:At some point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33301724)

They basically got a 486 PC to play Pac-Man. Not exactly doctorate material.

Re:At some point (4, Funny)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301922)

Are you implying that Powered Feline Flight is not a respectable scientific publication?

Re:At some point (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304058)

Are you talking about "IEEE Proceedings of PFF", or "The Journal of PFF"?

Or the amateur science magazines "Flying Wildcats", "Kitty Flingers", or "Toast on Cats"?

Pac Man(ia) (1)

ArmchairGeneral (1244800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301130)

I always wondered if they'd find a use for those voting machines. Perhaps it's a plan to get more people out to vote, gotta use your own quarter though.

Pleading the 24th for free games? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301262)

gotta use your own quarter though.

But wouldn't a coin slot on a voting machine on U.S. soil violate the 24th Amendment [wikipedia.org] ?

"insecure electronic voting" (2, Interesting)

acid06 (917409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301520)

This is terribly biased.

Brazil has been using electronic voting country-wide for more than a decade and no party complains about its security - everyone considers them much more secure than the old and easy-to-tamper-with paper ballots.

I honestly don't understand why there is such bias against electronic voting on Slashdot since, in theory, it's a "nerd community".

Yes, e-voting, after a lot of effort can be compromised. Regular paper-ballot voting can be compromised by anyone, skilled or not, with not a lot of effort at all. Any voting system can be compromised. I don't honestly understand why the Slashdot community dislike e-voting that much.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (2, Interesting)

tolgyesi (1240062) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301812)

As far as I understand the problem with the typical US voting machine is that the vendors keep the actual algorithm secret and they do not produce paper trails. These machines were designed specifically for election fraud.

This is more obvious to the "nerd community" than to ordinary people.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33302092)

'The algorithm' ? Simple counting is a corporate secret in the US ?

I agree about the lack of a secure audit trail, and being electronic is it harder to reassure the average joe that nothing untoward has occurred.

Fixing audit trails and software transparency is a straightforward matter of producing sensible legislation. No-one is forcing makers of voting machines to sell in the USA. They choose to, and complying with the requirements is part of selling in that market.

Good law is not something the US is known for being a world-leader at. When staying in office requires election campaign funds, money equal power. It follows that the acquisition of money, rather than good law making becomes paramount, and the successful politicians are the ones most able to service their corporate pimps.

- Mark

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302924)

Simple counting algorithm? I'm sure it is, but it is probably buried in many 3GL abstraction layers and replicated in many different places in the code. The various wrappers around the algorithm used by the different suppliers is probably patented due to IP production requirements forced upon the software developers in an effort to justify too many layers of management.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33301864)

We know how easy it is to bypass the security on these things. On top of that some of the companies who are making these machines refuse to answer any basic questions, refuse to provide code to be checked, and explicitly say that their systems are perfect. Many of us simply do not trust people who have no sense of ethics and find it so easy to lie.

Any other questions?

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302098)

And the security on a voting slip is what exactly? If you have physical access to the PC innards, it's already compromised no matter what. If you have physical access to people's cast votes, they're compromised.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302712)

There are records of how many voters entered which are separate from the ballots. The vulnerability is if you can control both the count AND any possible recounts. If you can't, and you can't alter or replace the ballots en masse, and you can't control any judicial or regulatory review of the election (like, make them overlook a few thousand extra ballots or something), you can't steal the election.

Insecure electronic voting machines with no paper trail cut out a whole lot of middlemen. They don't make a secure process insecure, they make an insecure process MORE insecure.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303370)

The security for paper ballots is that you have volunteers from different political organizations keep eyes on everything that happens at the polls. Ballots are deposited by the voter into a locked box where it remains until the count, when there are literally dozens of eyes of different political interests observing the hand count. I'm pretty happy with that.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (2, Informative)

echnaton192 (1118591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301890)

The problem is, that you can't proof the result is correct.

They tried to use election machines in Germany for their cost-effectedness and in order to get the results faster.

The experts of the CCC (www.ccc.org) could show how easy it is to tamper with it.

The High Court used their expertise to state that while electronic voting machines are not per se forbidden, the only way they would be allowed is by making them as easy to proof as an old fashioned ballot box.

E.g. providing a print out so the voter could proof his vote was correctly counted. But this print out would have been able for a recount.

And that is were it begins to get funny: Every voter has the right to watch the process of the counting and the preparation and has the right to be able to SEE the votes are counted in a correct way. So you wait for the voting day to be over, wait for the electronic results and then - DEMAND a recount of the printouts.

The High Court stated that while every citizen has the right to see for himself that everything went OK, there is NO constitutional right for an early result.

The voting computers were put out of business.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33302114)

How can you prove the result is "correct" with paper ballets, you can recount the ballets, but you are still relying on people to be honest and for the original paper ballets to be the ones that are handed in.

I work for a company that produces slot machines and everything that a voting machine would have to accomplish is already being done in the slot machine field. These machines are powerhit tolerant (they can experience a loss of power without losing any important information), they maintain a very exhaustive history to satisfy any possible complaints, and they are built to be secure so people can't cheat the machines out of money. Yes a bug shows up every now and again, but it's on a very rare occurrence for the number of games produced.

The only thing that would make these machines "insecure" is if the people running the machines manually alter the results, and that can be done just as easily with any other voting format.

Use a pencil (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302284)

I agree that you can design a fancy computerised voting system, probably involving cryptographic technologies, that is at the same time anonymous, secure, auditable, and efficient. I even find the ideas behind such designs appeal to my hackers instincts.

But I oppose electronic voting, because the number of people who can audit such a system is so small. Placing the sanctity of democracy in the hands of a limited priesthood of technical experts is not democratic. You want a system that the maximum number of people can audit, which means paper ballots.

Yes, they are vulnerable to stuffing and corruption - but face it, if these things are happening, do you really think an electronic system won't also be manipulated to bias the results? The only difference is that the electronic system makes it MUCH easier to conceal, because it intrinsically reduces both the number of people involved collecting the votes and also the number of people who can successfully audit the vote.

Do democracy a favour. Use a pencil.

Re:Use a pencil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33302914)

Actually, I believe it is possible to make the results verifiable to anyone who feels like it. We just need a simple step to step guide for generating Hash values of a file that everyone can reference. The rest should be (fairly) common nonsensical. The thing is, this verification technique would sacrifice anonymity to a select group of powerful people (ie, those that run the elections will be able to identify your vote).

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

acid06 (917409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302442)

I'm not sure how it works everywhere else, but in Brazil voting is anonymous.

This means that on each paper-ballot there wasn't any sort of identifiable information associating the vote with the voter. So, a recount is moot, as you could just replace the original paper-ballots with whatever votes you want. The paper-ballot method is much more vulnerable to this kind of voting fraud, which used to happen in Brazil.

Now, what we have here is that each one of the voting machines produces a paper-trail at the end of the election with the total vote count for that individual machine. So, by aggregating all of the results anyone could do a manual vote count in parallel to the official one (which is only done electronically).

So, basically, the only way an electronic system can be compromised is if the central authority is corrupt itself. But if that were the case, the parties would also complain about it (we have several parties here, not just two).

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

LeepII (946831) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301918)

Well considering a computer programmer already testified before congress that he was asked to write a program that would steal votes from a Republican party member, and when he said he wouldn't the party member said "we will just find someone else", yes there is plenty of reason to be scared. Voter fraud isn't a "possibility" it is ongoing. The GSA already said it could not certify the 2000 election results because of abnormalities with the electronic voting machines.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302126)

nice citation you got there.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302656)

Pretty sure GP is referring to Clint Curtis accusing U.S. Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL) of asking him to create vote rigging software. It's all a bit nebulous. According to Seminole Chronicle he gave "sworn testimony to Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 presidential election involving touch-screen voting in Ohio".

Seminole Chronicle story:
http://www.seminolechronicle.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/12/16/41c2fdb042ea1 [seminolechronicle.com]

St. Pete Times coverage:
http://www.stpetersburgtimes.com/2005/04/09/State/Blogs_spin_tale_of_co.shtml [stpetersburgtimes.com]

Blog that originally broke the story with links to sworn affidavit [PDF] and additional muck raking:
http://www.bradblog.com/?page_id=3980 [bradblog.com]

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (2, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302144)

Yes, e-voting, after a lot of effort can be compromised. Regular paper-ballot voting can be compromised by anyone, skilled or not, with not a lot of effort at all. Any voting system can be compromised. I don't honestly understand why the Slashdot community dislike e-voting that much.

Paper-ballot voting can also be verified by anyone, skilled or not. That is one of the most important parts of an election: that virtually anyone can check on the process.

There are also no chances of accidental errors with paper-ballot voting, while bugs in electronic voting machines [blackboxvoting.org] are known to have caused votes to be lost in the past.

Furthermore, you're talking as if paper ballot voting is without any protection at all. At least in Belgium,

  • all political parties have the right to send a single witness to every voting location
  • on the morning of the election, at every voting location someone from the local overseeing committee (both appointed citizens and representatives from all political parties) draw a number from 1 to 9 (using basically a papers-in-a-hat principle), and then every ballot is stamped in the grid location corresponding to that number (mentally divide the ballot in a 3 by 3 grid, and number them from top-left to bottom-right). Any ballot with a stamp in a different location is discarded, and a copy of a "master ballot" with the stamp in the right location is part of the official report of the proceedings
  • the containers in which the ballots have to be deposited have to be clearly visible to all members of the overseeing committee at all times, and at the start of the election it is checked whether they are empty (and after that they are locked)
  • prior to the start of the voting, the number of available (blank) ballots is counted this is recorded
  • at the end, number of remaining blank ballots is counted and this is recorded, as well as the total number of people that voted
  • the cast votes are counted with all of the members of the overseeing committee present

There are more things, but in general every step is observed by a lot of different people with different interests, everyone can understand everything that happens and hence also verify that it happens correctly.

Compare that to a computer. Even the average Slashdotter probably has no idea how to start verifying that it works correctly, contains no bugs or backdoors, and that everything was recorded correctly.

Of course, there is a solution: perform electronic voting *with a paper trail*, so that you can always verify the outcome in case of doubt. But for some reason that's not very popular.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

chocolatetrumpet (73058) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302294)

Thank you.

I honestly don't understand why there is such bias against electronic voting on Slashdot since, in theory, it's a "nerd community".

We are biased because we are painfully aware how easy it is to manipulate digital electronic information systems. There is no "record of electrons" - it is always possible to alter information without a trace.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33302386)

Where I live, the process for voting is very similar to the description above. Several old ladies are now in jail because of vote tampering:

The ballots are partially covered by the voting booth apparatus which constrains the areas that can be marked. If there are any stray marks on a ballot, it means the ballot was marked outside of the voting booth. For 40 years, a group of women who volunteered to count ballots placed bits of pencil graphite under their finger nails. While counting, if a ballot was cast the "wrong" way, a quick and barely perceptible gesture with the hand would place a mark on the ballot and render it void. This tampering happened in full view of witnesses at counting tables staffed by representatives from all political parties. It took 40 years and some voluntary confessions to stop the practice.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Election_fraud "A more subtle, and easily achieved, method is to make it appear that the voter has spoiled their ballot thus rendering it invalid. Typically this would be done by adding an additional mark to the paper, making it appear that the voter has voted for more candidates than they were entitled to. It would be difficult to do this to a large number of papers without detection, but in a close election may prove decisive."

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302626)

I didn't claim it's impossible to commit fraud with paper ballots. But every single person having the capability to verify the process surely is better than only a chose few having that capability.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303170)

I'm not sure there's a great solution.

One of my college professors used to work (as a volunteer) Chicago elections. He claimed that sometimes, whole trucks full of paper ballots would mysteriously vanish.

(Cue Chicago-bashing.)

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

acid06 (917409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302596)

These methods you mention surely work for Belgium. When you've got a small country, with a relatively small population size, where vote coercion probably is a very minor issue (if a problem at all), it's much easier. The overhead of e-voting is probably not worth it.

However, consider a different situation, in which you have voting locations in extreme places such as the middle of the Amazon rainforest (and dropping the containers in the river is a real possibility), in a country of 5500+ cities spread throughout a hufe territory and in a lot of those cities some local authorities are more powerful than the police itself.

Suddenly, all these methods don't work. In the developed areas and large cities, these methods you described would work. In the most remote areas, however, e-voting was able to stop a lot of the election fraud which was going on.

The only risk we have is if the central voting authority itself is corrupt. But, in that case, some of the political parties would probably be aware (we have several political parties).

The voting machines produce an end-of-day paper-trail, aggregating the results. Individual paper-trails are actually forbidden by law, as that would make voting non-anonymous.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302972)

These methods you mention surely work for Belgium. When you've got a small country, with a relatively small population size, where vote coercion probably is a very minor issue (if a problem at all), it's much easier. The overhead of e-voting is probably not worth it.

Actually, about half of Belgium has voted electronically during the past elections. The process I described was for the part that still votes on paper, but there are plans to switch everyone to electronic voting.

However, consider a different situation, in which you have voting locations in extreme places such as the middle of the Amazon rainforest (and dropping the containers in the river is a real possibility), in a country of 5500+ cities spread throughout a hufe territory and in a lot of those cities some local authorities are more powerful than the police itself.

Suddenly, all these methods don't work. In the developed areas and large cities, these methods you described would work. In the most remote areas, however, e-voting was able to stop a lot of the election fraud which was going on.

According to the related Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page it indeed seems to have helped in Brazil, and I indeed assumed a properly working system of checks by society during the election process.

Anyway, I was just explaining why "there is such bias against electronic voting on Slashdot since, in theory, it's a "nerd community"." Most Slashdotters know that it's incredibly hard to write completely bug-free software, and I guess most of them come from places where it is possible to organise elections that are generally guaranteed to be fair by local authorities.

Of course, all of the scandals that have erupted since the introduction of electronic voting don't help (in Belgium we have also already had problems with voting machines registering more cast votes than registered voters in some cases).

Individual paper-trails are actually forbidden by law, as that would make voting non-anonymous.

An individual paper trail would not make the voting non-anonymous (in fact, as of the next election they plan to finally start doing that in Belgium). Such individually printed paper ballots would not contain any indication of who cast them, and they obviously would be deposited into a secure container at the voting office just like regular paper ballots (so they can be counted afterwards if necessary).

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

acid06 (917409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303086)

Actually, they're even considering eliminating or restricting access to the end-of-day paper trail here for the sake of anonimity. Each voter here goes to a predetermined voting location (so you can't go to any voting location as you please).

In city elections in small towns, some minor roles will require maybe a couple hundred votes to be elected. Let's say a politician has "bought" the votes of 50 people from one given voting location but he only gets 10 votes in that location. Or worse, let's say it's a smaller voting location and he paid maybe 5 voters but got 0 votes in a given location. He will know those people didn't vote for him and thus the anonimity of the vote (which is a constitutional right) has been partly violated.

It's a difficult issue to solve.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303070)

There are also no chances of accidental errors with paper-ballot voting

Excuse me sir, I have the 2000 Florida Presidential Election holding for you on line two.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302272)

It takes one or two programmers to corrupt in order to steal a nationwide election. Paper voting can be tampered but at a greater cost and a smaller effect.

With electronic voting you have to trust a black box. Would you accept to vote with paper ballots in a box that is opaque, that is not shown to be empty beforehand and that destroys its ballot after counting ? No ? Then you don't trust electronic voting.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302448)

"I don't honestly understand why the Slashdot community dislike e-voting that much."

Because we can't mod candidates we like and hate as Insightful or Flamebait. There's only this silly little "Yes" or "No" option.

Poor Security (1)

jdev (227251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302486)

The issue is poor security in electronic voting machines produced by the major US manufacturers. I don't think many Slashdotters are inherently opposed to voting machines. The problem is many of the voting machines used in US elections are poorly designed and don't take even basic security precautions.

Let's take Diebold for example. They ended up having to rename their voting machine subsidiary to Premier Election Solutions because it was tarnishing the name of their company and was making their ATM business look bad. A computer science researcher did a source code analysis of their product in 2004 and remarked "this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts." Another analysis concluded “the system, as implemented in policy, procedure, and technology, is at high risk of compromise."

It's a relatively simple process in some of these machines to reprogram them and change the outcome of an election. With that in mind, we need standards in place to ensure that people are not committing election fraud with e-voting machines. Until I can see independent studies on voting machine platforms that validate adequate security protocols, I'm going to remain skeptical about them.

For more information on security risks in e-voting machines, check out the Premier Election Solutions Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] . It's pretty eye opening.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

Chowderbags (847952) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303430)

Personally I don't mind it in principle, I just mind that in America we outsource everything to the lowest bidder (or biggest briber), and that it invariably produces broken results. Our current ballot system is broken, but it's at least likely that attempts to stuff the box can be found and traced. There's very little way to trace a paperless machine. Personally, I'd just prefer something akin to a scantron test. It's easy for both humans and machines to read (fill in a bubble, if you can't figure it out, you probably shouldn't vote), so we could run them through a machine for quick results and still hand count them if we need to.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33304002)

Claiming someone is biased often implies that the person does not have valid reasons for their beliefs.

Here are some valid reasons:
1) You cannot verify the machine is accurate. You have no way of truly knowing if what the machine claims is what the voters actually said.

2) Articles have shown examples of voting machines that were flawed and gave incorrect results when tested. These were production models that were supposed to work properly.

3) While not necessarily easy for all, articles and Slashdot have shown cases in which the machines were quickly (and relatively easily) 'hacked' by a couple knowledgeable people. Even if they were knowledgeable, the speed and ease of the hacks does not allow me to trust these machines.

4) Most voting machines are not open for testing and evaluation by third parties or the general public. While, this may provide some security, it doesn't allow 3rd parties to look for flaws or bugs. This means that if a bug exists, we may not know about it and the intended results may not be accurate. It also could means that if security flaws exist, then they could potentially be exploited without being fixed. This is unlikely because the people that attempt to exploit the flaws probably have not had access to the machines to learn about the flaws.... however the potential still exists.

My $0.02

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

xiong.chiamiov (871823) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304762)

The reason we complain so much about electronic voting systems is because all of the ones used in the U.S. are horribly insecure.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304878)

Yes, e-voting, after a lot of effort can be compromised. Regular paper-ballot voting can be compromised by anyone, skilled or not, with not a lot of effort at all.

You've got that backwards.

Tampering with paper ballot voting on a small scale is easy, but tampering on a small scale won't generally change election results. Tampering with paper ballots on a sufficiently large scale to control the outcome of an election -- and not getting caught! -- is much, much harder. Doing it on a large scale basically requires involving lots of people and the more people who know a secret the harder it is to keep.

Tampering with electronic voting is harder to do at all, but once accomplished many attacks on e-voting systems scale very well. Even better, if done right, the tampering is undetectable and requires only a very small number of people to be aware of it. With e-voting systems, a single individual in the right place -- and the place need not be anywhere near the election -- can change the outcome.

Re:"insecure electronic voting" (1)

acid06 (917409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33305056)

Large scale manipulation will be clearly detected in any sort of remotely democratic society - even in the US, you still have two parties (and several parties in the case of Brazil). If all parties agree that e-voting is a secure alternative, it's very likely it is indeed secure (they may hold stupid views and opinions but they're usually well-versed in political trickery).

Also, the biggest problem really is the small scale tampering and election fraud. In small cities, with maybe as few as a thousand voters, every vote counts. It's unlikely they would have the resources to break an e-voting system, while they can easily manipulate "manual" elections. A dozen votes are commonly the difference between being elected or not in these places.

Konami Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33301526)

What happens when you use the Konami Code on DRE voting machines? Do they start playing DOOM or anything like that?

In the upcoming election (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301530)

Vote for Blinky!

PAC-Man for President! (1)

timlev (1156755) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301636)

Although I'm not sure about his party affiliation ... libertarian?

Sign me up! (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 4 years ago | (#33301732)

So, how would one obtain a voting machine that's en route to the landfill?

Anyone with any experience know what sorts of departments to contact?

I would love a huge legal-sized touchscreen to play with.

Re:Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33304530)

As the person who bought the machine used for this demo, I can tell you it's both easy and hard. I bought that particular machine on www.govdeals.com, which is sort of the equivalent of eBay for governments to get rid of excess inventory. I've also bought voting machines on eBay. They don't come up very often, and sometimes it's not very user friendly - for example, there's only one listing right now, but it's for 717 (!) voting machines in Detroit (in-person pickup required), asking price $68,000. That's more than I'm willing to spend out of my pocket! There was another case where there were 500 or so machines in a bulk in Pennsylvania but they were unwilling to let me just buy 10 or 20 of them.

Note that in many cases, governments have no idea what the resale value is of a used voting machine - they think of it like selling a used car, not like selling a used computer (i.e., where the resale value drops by at least 50% a year, compounded). So making low-ball bids can sometimes work - I bought one machine where the asking price was $2500, and I got it for $100.

Shocking news! (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302034)

My person research has discovered that if you open a ballot box, it's entirely possible to bleach or otherwise erase votes and put in your own vote!

I trust all the major tech news sites will be carrying this shocking information that threatens the very foundations of democracy!

No? Oh wait, that's because you put tamper proof seals on ballot boxes just like you should put tamper proof seals on the cases for voting machines. Physical access to the voting computer innards/IO is basically the same as physicall access to people's cast votes.

Finally, voting machines can do something useful. (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302048)

All voting machines should be reprogrammed like this!

Can they program it to play Tetris too? at least then I wouldn’t have to pick the lesser of two evils when I go to the polling places.

Tetris 2 (kaboom) (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302262)

Can they program it to play Tetris too?

Tetris too? Only if you want the voting machine to explode [youtube.com] . But seriously, given that The Tetris Company can be just as litigious as Pac-Man owner Namco...

Re:Tetris 2 (kaboom) (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302654)

Sorry! I meant “a falling blocks game with Tetris-like gameplay,” of course.

It has a cut down 486 as the cpu? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302416)

It has a cut down 486 as the cpu?

stupid from start to finish (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33302854)

If all it has to do is something barely more complicated than a light switch, why is it running on a full computer? Why not have electronic switches that result on a vote being registered on paper or in a database or however they prefer but have the terminal not have any processing abilities at all. Just make it purely mechanical! I mean, if they could make a mechanical slot machine 50 years ago, I think they can make a mechanical machine to record votes.

Voter turn-out (1)

orgelspieler (865795) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303758)

I'm impressed that they've come up with such a great way to improve voter turn-out. This will certainly get the baby-boomers voting again, and if they can figure out how to get Halo or WoW on there, think of all the 18-25 year old men who will show up. How cool would it be if you could vote by blowing the head off of the NPC that looks like Sarah Palin?

more popular (1)

unigamer (901637) | more than 4 years ago | (#33303904)

It made Google even more popular maybe it will make err... voting even more popular.

Finally, idea to get people to get out and vote! (1)

Logaan (1769744) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304246)

Just imagine, the game starts, you eat a power pill and text appears on the screen "PLEASE VOTE FOR YOUR PREFERRED LOCAL COUNCILLOR".

Then a mug shot and name for each candidate appears at the top of the screen, Then you control PacMan to eat all the candidate ghosts until there is only one left. The one you don't eat gets your vote!

And then you go to the next level/vote on the next issue.

Brilliant!

Not there yet (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 4 years ago | (#33304928)

Re-programming voting machines ? Call me back when they have worked out how to re-program the politicians :-)

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