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Microsoft, Unisys & Dell To Make New Voting System

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the well-duh dept.

News 463

About twenty million - alright, slight exaggeration, but a whole bunch of people sent the story about Microsoft, Dell and Unisys to build a new voting system. Microsoft will do the software, Dell the hardware, and Unisys will assemble the systems.

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"Microsoft will do the software..." (3)

radiashun (220050) | more than 13 years ago | (#512881)

do I have to even try to poke fun at that?

3 of a kind (5)

Xtacy (12950) | more than 13 years ago | (#512886)

heh thats all we need, ms to screw it up, dell to charge a fortune for the screwup and unisys to patent the screwup after everyone has been using it for many years

Re:"Microsoft will do the software..." (4)

Silverlock (36154) | more than 13 years ago | (#512889)

Does this mean that if we have Back Orifice, we get as many votes as we want?


"What are you doing?"

"Making damn sure Jello Biafra wins this one."


Bill Gates for President (2)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 13 years ago | (#512890)

Our next candidate for president will be Bill Gates. He will win by a landslide; Gore - 1 vote, Gates, 279,999,999 votes.

Soon, Gates will outlaw all free software (that is, software that's not made by Microsoft), all non-approved game systems (All systems but XBox), all non-approved hardware (non MS hardware), and all non MS lawyers.

Soon afterwards, it will be illegal to think of thinking of linking to a page which contains instructions on how to make a manual on how to make a piece of software which might possibly be able to decrypt an encrypted work.

Oops... how did that get in there... this is Microsoft for president, not the RIAA.

A sad time indeed.

Bah! (3)

Deluge (94014) | more than 13 years ago | (#512892)

C'mon, really. All this phenomenal expense, and for what? For a system which will have a million bugs (and it would anyway, even if MS wasn't involved, so shush) and which people will be apprehensive about using and which will cause an even BIGGER mess in case of a screwup, since you can't just manually examine an electronic vote.

It's been said in almost every one of the voting stories thus far - why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems. Ugh.


Online Voting... (3)

enneff (135842) | more than 13 years ago | (#512894)

I hope that when they try the online voting thing, they actually do it _right_. (a worthy goal for Microsoft)

The most obvious problems with online voting are identification and security. Voting in the United States is done via secret ballot, yet voters must first be identified. On the Web, once a visitor is identified, it is possible to track their movements and choices throughout the entire session.

Rather than pretending to not track this data, we should allow Web servers to behave as they already do and mask the identity of the user. PIN codes or site passwords, a la Amazon, are not a viable option as they are often written down and thus easily stolen, forgotten, or shared.

The best identification option may be the already present state driver's license or ID card. Many state cards currently have a magnetic strip that could be used to hold a voter registration ID. A better storage solution would be for states to use smart cards, like the new Visa and Amex Blue, as the basis of driver's licenses and IDs. The embedded chip could hold a variety of information, including e-commerce information, and would be read/writable. Along with helping the smart card industry gain about 250 million customers, the government will also need an equal number of smart card readers. These devices should be able to attach to computers, PDAs, cellphones, and Internet appliances.

The question is, can MS and co provide anywhere near this ideal?

EULA (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 13 years ago | (#512969)

2. OTHER LIMITATIONS: COPYRIGHT AND OTHER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. Title to all copyright and other intellectual property rights in and to the CONTENT, and any copies of the CONTENT, are owned by Microsoft Corporation and/or its suppliers.

The CONTENT is what you are voting for, it's owned by the MS.

Its makes sense (1)

Red Pointy Tail (127601) | more than 13 years ago | (#512973)

After the chaos in Florida, we need a company that is a no-nonsense, fair, has great integrity, no political connections, and most especially has a great history of making ultra-reliable and breathtakingly secure software.

Great choice, really ;)

My 3 favorite companies! (2)

IronChef (164482) | more than 13 years ago | (#512978)

I can't think of anything better than something made by Unisys, Dell and Microsoft, especially if it is part of the American political process. Heck, the only way this could get better is if we got DoubleClick involved! New for 2004: Microsoft DirectBallot.

But seriously, this is lunacy. I don't think that computerized voting is the way to go. Paper ballots have their place. It's a lot harder to make votes magically appear when they are represented on paper rather than bits. And one standard for voting makes some kind of security compromise easier... as screwy as it looks, having a variety of different machines making marks on paper makes an election harder to rig.

And please -- no comments about the last Presidential election, we've been there and done that.

Won't the voting machines use NT? (1)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 13 years ago | (#512980)

We had a problem in Florida this year, they couldn't count the votes properly. But imagine if the voting machines ran NT. "How many votes does Bush have? Um... between 0 and 9 billion?"

Question... (1)

homieman (304221) | more than 13 years ago | (#512985)

Here's my question:

Does this mean... (1)

KupekKupoppo (266229) | more than 13 years ago | (#512991)

...that in four years, at election time, we'll all be voting for the Blue Screen of Death? Oh, and while they're at it, why don't they make a Beowulf cluster of these. -k.

Once, just once... (5)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 13 years ago | (#512994)

Will they show us the freaking source? I think the point was exemplified by the battleship dead in the water, but I fear it may not have been taken to heart. Voting should be a completely transparent process with the sole exception of what goes on in the booth. I don't trust MicroSoft to even count right at this point. I want to make damn sure that nobody is going to work out a buffer overrun and move a few votes here and a few votes there and rig a close one. This needs to audited rigorously, and the source sounds like something that ought to be available at the least under the FOIA, and if the government can't get that right from MicroSoft, we shouldn't be using the software.

Great. (1)

RevRigel (90335) | more than 13 years ago | (#512996)

Now we can have Russian hackers decide the election for us, instead of the Supreme Court.

Schneier on voting systems (5)

tarka69 (159890) | more than 13 years ago | (#513011)

You might want to have a look at the Bruce Schneier (inventor of the Blowfish algo. and crypto pundit) on electronic voting systems [] .

Basically, he says they are a dangerous thing ...

The comforts you demanded are now mandatory -- Jello Biafra

From the Marketing Dept. (2)

Da Burbs (238249) | more than 13 years ago | (#513012)

New slogan: Who do you want to rule today?

Politicians have to love this... (1)

rich22 (156003) | more than 13 years ago | (#513016)

Since they have a Unisys frontend to Microsoft software and Dell hardware, buying new votes couldn't be any easier!!! If only somehow AOL were involved...

better run Linux (1)

Kenyon (4231) | more than 13 years ago | (#513023)

These machines better run Linux. If they run Microsoft software, they'll be crashing all the time and then... talk about recounts!

What if communist conspirators hax0r the voting boxes and Fidel Castro's tube-baby offspring is elected President of the United States?


Immortal words (2)

Mike Hicks (244) | more than 13 years ago | (#513024)

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson

``Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God''

Not worth the money (1)

drougie (36782) | more than 13 years ago | (#513025)

The odds of an election being this close again that the accuracy of the voting machines themselves are questioned are pretty slim.

Truth is, it really doesn't matter who beat whom by 150 votes out of 100 million. Just as long as we have an answer that appears accurate and unquestionable.

These three comopanies will no doubt come up with a better system (heck, anyone could), but it will cost tax payers TONS of money. Money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Besides, what are J. C. Watts and Jesse Jackson going to bitch about next election when our new state-of-the-art system leaves no question next time?

Re:3 of a kind (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 13 years ago | (#513033)

I prefer paper and a pencil. Reliable and more difficult to forge.

B.S.O.D.'s at the voting booth? (1)

M3shuggah (162909) | more than 13 years ago | (#513041)

Do I have to point out Microsoft's track record for being the most reliable system ever [] ? I might as well. :)

Re:Bah! (3)

Coulson (146956) | more than 13 years ago | (#513044)

This could go a long way towards reducing voting confusion (ala butterfly ballots). You could have a well-layed-out touch screen rather than being limited to the size of a paper ballot. Voting in an elderly county which has a lot of with people poor eyesight? Increase the font size.

At the end of the session, after people have picked their candidates, you can present the information to them again and ask them to verify that the choices are correct. No dimpled chads, no half-punched holes, no double votes. It won't eliminate problems, mistakes, or complaints entirely, but it allows options which are unavailable on paper.

So the system may be buggy at first: treat it as a critical systems project (life support, chemotherapy machines). The best part of all -- instant and accurate tallies, where the numbers stay the same no matter how many times you add up the votes!

it could be worse... (1)

madmancarman (100642) | more than 13 years ago | (#513047)

Borland/Inprise [] could be doing the software instead of Microsoft.

Imagine rooting your local ballot boxen!

What if (1)

elroyjenkins (221758) | more than 13 years ago | (#513049)

How would they go about punishing/sentencing someone that tampered with these voting boxes?

Would it be another Mitnick-type deal where they just lock you up right away and deal with you later?

There WILL be a flaw. It WILL be uncovered. It WILL be exploited, maybe numerous times. I WILL laugh.

That is, of course, only if it happens.

And the winner is .... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#513051)

General Protection Fault.

Republication? (1)

fwc (168330) | more than 13 years ago | (#513052)

I read this article with some interest, although I think the best part was at the bottom, in the copyright section...

...Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including...

Republication? Is that how come we have so many Republicans? I notice that they prohibit it, and since the press is usually considered Democratic, I can see why they wouldn't want it happening...

Yeah, I know, bad pun :)

big three -- not (2)

small_dick (127697) | more than 13 years ago | (#513069)

so what. companies develop things all the time, it doesn't mean anyone will buy or use it.

the paper machines are awfully cheap...and a lot of rural counties are poor and have elderly or non-technical people manning the voting stations.

personally, i think the study currently under progress at MIT and cernegie mellon (as i recall) will be more fruitful.

my opinion? just standardize the voting machines and ballot layout to the most accurate system in use. once that is done, come up with a validation system that the voter slides their ballot through.

such a validator should also print a slip. that way, the voter knows the ballot is punched properly, and they have a "grocery style" receipt showing what they voted for -- for instant review.

computers for voting is asinine, at least at this point in time.

Someone has to say this.... (4)

Stephen VanDahm (88206) | more than 13 years ago | (#513073)

OK, everyone knows that the only things that Microsoft makes well are joysticks and mice. So they should be doing the hardware. Dell ships computers with Linux preinstalled, so maybe they should be doing the software instead. As for Unisys, people who say "Democracy" and "Unisys" in the same sentence should be shot. Wait, did I just...damn....

Stephen C. VanDahm

How convenient (1)

jesseraf (230545) | more than 13 years ago | (#513076)

Does anyone else find this wierd? No one has really stated that a new voting system is needed (after Florida, I agree, we probably need one, but there is no gov't mandate whatsoever), and yet these huge multinationals are already making a new system.
Who's running the gov't? The people or the corporations?


Where do we place our bets... (2)

makaera (187078) | more than 13 years ago | (#513079)

I would be grateful if someone would tell me where to place bets on how long it will take to develop a hack for the system that allows vote manipulation. This seems almost inevitable if Microsoft is involved. I can imagine the headlines "Romanian Hacker Breaks into US Electronic Voting System" or "World Workers Party Wins Suspect Presidential Election." Imagine, fourteen year old IRC addicts and foreign citizens could also add their votes. This sounds great!!!

Re:Not worth the money (1)

Skeptopotamus (303674) | more than 13 years ago | (#513082)

Besides, what are J. C. Watts and Jesse Jackson going to bitch about next election when our new state-of-the-art system leaves no question next time?

There will always be questions..I can see it now, in 2004 people will be complaining that the technically disadvantaged (people who use Linux and such) couldn't vote because they couldn't work the new fangled computer voting system.

Re:GOOD IDEA!!! (1)

20,000_Microns_Under (302021) | more than 13 years ago | (#513083)

Hey Skepto, I see you on here a lot, and you seem pretty happy with MS software. I was just wondering, has Microsoft finally switched Hotmail over from BSD to Windows? Just curious. ;-)

Re:B.S.O.D.'s at the voting booth? (2)

spectecjr (31235) | more than 13 years ago | (#513085)

Do I have to point out Microsoft's track record for being the most reliable system ever? I might as well. :)

Hmmm... let's see:

It's a VXD which has crashed - which means it's a driver error, and probably not Microsoft's fault.

The airport in question is running Windows 95 or 98, which means (more than anything else you might read into it) that they're stupid for not running Windows NT.


Re:Once, just once... (2)

GeZ117 (162744) | more than 13 years ago | (#513087)

Well, it will just make cheating easier. The one who win will be the one who give Microsoft the biggest bucks. Eventually, the whole democratic system will be reimplaced by an auction stuff. There will be a private company who will deliver the presidence to the most generous candidate, and who will deliver its benefits to its shareholders. Something really transparent, indeed.

Re:"Microsoft will do the software..." (1)

radiashun (220050) | more than 13 years ago | (#513092)

Jello Biafra was the lead singer of the Dead Kennedy's. Jello is also a political activist and was an keynote H2K speaker [] .
Now I have a question for you... Ayn Rand (the name rings a bell...)

Re:Once, just once... (1)

enneff (135842) | more than 13 years ago | (#513108)

I was under the impression that the voting process as a whole, by default, should be public knowledge.

Does anyone actually have a reference on this?

Surely, to fall anywhere near a real democracy, the system should be open to public scrutiny.

"This needs to audited rigorously," you can say that again!

Re:GOOD IDEA!!! (1)

Skeptopotamus (303674) | more than 13 years ago | (#513113)

Yes, they have completed the switch.

Look on netcraft for verification.

To save you some time (if you decide to believe me), here is the basic information:

The site runs Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000 Windows 2000 users include Halcyon Software, BigCharts and Dell Microsoft-IIS is also being used by Intel, Halcyon Software and Rainbow Technologies

Re:Gooood Chance (2)

spectecjr (31235) | more than 13 years ago | (#513116)

It's a good chance for Russians to hack into the voting system with the same loophole hacked M$ before and elect a dumb president. - No recount!

Solution? Use framerelay, or any other switched ATM system.

Heck - use a modem to call a home system, instead of an internet connection, and use caller ID to make sure that only authorized systems even get the modem to pick up on the receiving end.


Yes! (5)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 13 years ago | (#513120)

This is so cool!
I need to go refresh my collection of rootkits.
I'll show George W. Bush that he's not the only one who can rig an election.

Open Source? (1)

Emmet Caulfield (267702) | more than 13 years ago | (#513123)

If ever there was an application which *must* be open source, this is it. This is a great opportunity for the open source community to "make the point" - if it's not open source it cannot be trusted.

In no way can 3 x MegaCorp be permitted to sell a proprietary solution to the public. The fact that they're doing it at all is a testament only to their arrogance.

The problem with electronic voting systems (2)

khaladan (445) | more than 13 years ago | (#513124)

There is a flaw with many proposed electronic voting systems. It is not a techical problem per se, it is a problem inherent in the design.

There are many voting systems. For example, punching a card of some sort that is later tallied by a group of people. I personally, for all of the problems with this system, trust it more than most electronic systems.

Why is that? The answer is that electronic systems are centralized. One could say that the other systems are too, but with an electronic voting system one person can serepitiously alter the results in a way that will be guarenteed to change the final count. In other systems, one person may miscount on purpose, but it is (usually) likely not to have any outcome on who is chosen as the winner.

On the other hand, one crafty person on the inside of an electronic tallying system could simply press a few buttons and automatically have every fifth vote for person X go to person Y.

Could it happen?

Conspiracy theory time!

Re:Bah! (2)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | more than 13 years ago | (#513140)

> - why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems

Not just Canada's. Actually, everywhere else in the world, they do it like that too. It's actually the US that is the exception, not the other way round.

The end of indecisive elections (1)

csbruce (39509) | more than 13 years ago | (#513142)

I predict a 102.9% Republican landslide in the next US election.

Unisys isn't up for the task... (1)

micantos (252195) | more than 13 years ago | (#513143)

I used to work for the company and believe me, their services arm isn't even remotely up for a challenge and is suspect at best... even for implimentation at a state level. They have had several contracts internationally for implementing voter systems but Unisys international personnel have always been superior to domestic employees. Plus, you don't even want to know about the skeletons in that companies closet... (Re: Problem contracts)

Besides, this is the same company that takes so much pride in handling golf scores for USGA... wow, some real complex calculation algorithms there. :)

Re:I will NOT vote on a "Microsoft Voting Machine" (1)

spectecjr (31235) | more than 13 years ago | (#513146)

If this system ever gets in place I not voting. Seriously, the voting system needs to be as simple as possible. If paper ballots ever get replaced with a computer that isn't 100% Open Source and Open Hardware and developed entirely by the government, I'm moving to Canada

I trust the government less to produce a system than I would Microsoft -- the government has a lot to gain from designing a system they can swing at the flip of a switch; Microsoft doesn't.


Microsoft, Unisys & eBay To Make New Voting System (1)

xixax (44677) | more than 13 years ago | (#513149)

A spokesman was reported to have said,

<i>"With eBay's advanced voting error correction technologies, I can confidantly say that we will never again see the kind of shambles we got in Florida when amateurs were allowed to mess with electing government."</i>


Re:better run Linux (1)

enneff (135842) | more than 13 years ago | (#513152)

Are you blind?

"Microsoft, Unisys & Dell To Make New Voting System"

Re:Great. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#513153)

The funny thing is that they might do a better job:-)

Re:Source Forge (1)

Skeptopotamus (303674) | more than 13 years ago | (#513154)

Just needs a kewl name

That seems to be the prevailing attitude for SourceForge projects...All you need is a cool name. Actually producing any code is optional.

SourceForge is like one big lump of unfinished (never to be finished) projects started by starry-eyed 16 year olds looking for net-cred.

More airport fun..... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#513156)

I, too, had an interesting experience with a computer at the airport. I was using Alaska Airlines' electronic check-in when the touch screen I was using stopped responding. I told the person at the ticket counter about it and she called a tech.

He came over and I said jokingly, "Ah, it's probably running Windows and just needs a reboot." I was totally joking but he kind of gave me the evil eye.

He popped the cover off of the screen and reached in back to push a button or something, when LO AND BEHOLD, what should appear on the screen but a blue background with something at the top which read, "Windows NT 4.0 SP3....."

I couldn't believe it! I was TOTALLY joking about the Windows/reboot commment, and it turns out I HIT THE FREAKING NAIL RIGHT SQUARE ON THE HEAD!!

I fail to see how that could have possibly been more rich! :)

Conflict of interest (2)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | more than 13 years ago | (#513178)

For this ridiculous project to be shot down, to things need to happen:
  1. G.W. Bush successfully shuts down the antitrust action against Microsoft.
  2. A couple of month from now, private recounts (which are possible under Florida's sunshine laws) prove beyond doubt that Gore was the actual winner.
  3. International outcry is big enough that Bush has to step down, and Gore immediately resurrects the antitrust actions.
This series of events will have shown unambiguously what far greater mess will happen if you allow an entity which has a vested interest in the outcome of an election, to design a voting system. And remember, with Microsoft's machine, there will be no manual recounts, all is electronic. So we wouldn't even know if any cheating went on.

Imagine a Beowulf... (1)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 13 years ago | (#513181)

...clusterfsck of them.

Imagining just one of them is bad enough. 'Scuse me whilst I go wash out my brain with soap and water.

Re:Open Source? (1)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#513184)

Absolutely right. This is an attempt by corporations to get paid to rig the election. Now they have to pay to get their puppet installed. With the new system one well planted back door and the bill gates candidate always wins.

20 mil? (1)

XO (250276) | more than 13 years ago | (#513186)

Twenty million people sent it in?!? I demand a recount!!!!!

Of course it can happen (3)

elroyjenkins (221758) | more than 13 years ago | (#513189)

If there is one single thing that I have learned about security is this... There is none.

If you want it safe, you dont want an electronic method like that. The more people involved, the more it (at least appears to) lessens the chance of seriously tainted results.

They shouldnt object to an open audit of the code, seeing how there isnt this huge demand for US Election Wizard 2.0, and they wouldnt have to worry about competitors.

I can honestly say that if I was involved in the project, and had access to the data in anyway, I would at the very least consider the idea of fixing the results.

A plea for sanity. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#513191)

Folks, this is your democracy. How about debating the pros and cons of electronic voting instead of taking cheap shots microsoft?

The Irony Of It All (1)

NetGyver (201322) | more than 13 years ago | (#513192)

I read this article completely and I decided to post. But no sooner I clicked "Reply To This" explorer crashed. *sighs* I'm not a Linux/*nix fan nor do I particularly love MS, I call them as I see 'em. Shouldn't the manufactures of lever style machines/paper ballots/etc. be doing the work in building a more modern voting system? With all the bad press MS is recieving these days, one cannot help to wonder what would happen to the voters once hanging chads are dissolved and hanging voting systems becomes the next buzzword for the media to use.

This past election was my first time voting and we used lever style machines, which wasn't too bad. Pull a lever by the name of the guy you want in the big chair and in the congress. Or if your feeling extra fastfood style american, one quick thrust of a lever of your party of choice. Not too bad IMHO.

But MICROSOFT? The same people whom the DOJ is opening a can of woopass on? The same people you read about who make NT/2000 patches like a bodily function? I *DON'T* hate Microsoft, But look at the proposing companies past before you decide who'll be making the software for the machines you'll someday use to put democracy in motion.

"A penny for my thoughts? This is my two cents. I got ripped off."

Swell... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#513193)

So it'll crash often and be easily compromised. 5 years later, Unisys will announce they have a patent on it and demand royalties from all voters. And to add insult to injury, the hardware will cost twice as much as it should, and the "Next Day" tech support will take 3 days to show up.

Great thinking, guys.

Re:B.S.O.D.'s at the voting booth? (2)

dinky (58716) | more than 13 years ago | (#513195)

Ineed it is a VXD, and as you can see it has a name too, VMM, or Virtual Memory Manager, which means it must have been written by Microsoft.

Re:Bah! (1)

glwillia (31211) | more than 13 years ago | (#513196)

> - why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems

Not just Canada's. Actually, everywhere else in the world, they do it like that too. It's actually the US that is the exception, not the other way round.

This seems to be a good indication of the US's penchant for exhibiting the NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. Other countries are also notorious for this (see France), but the US is one of the worst (maybe it just seems that way because I live here). For instance, how many Americans think Alan Shepard or John Glenn was the first man in space/orbit, and that Sally Ride was the first female in space? We could use other systems, but no, we have to develop our own expensive boondoggle for the sole sake of saying, "Look! We created our own system!"

Our tax dollars at work.. Grrr....

Re:Bah! (2)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 13 years ago | (#513197)

Why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems?

Perhaps because the US has approx. 260 millions residents, whereas Canada has less than 29 million (source: Canada [] )? You might be able to get away with that sort of system there. We're just a touch bigger.

BTW, did Nunavut ever get created? And who thinks up that sort of name? It's almost as silly as Dakota or Idaho, yet not as unimaginative as Washington.

Re:Bah! (5)

FFFish (7567) | more than 13 years ago | (#513198)

To elucidate on this point a bit further, Canada's system *works.* We might not like the results (and who does? Inevitably, a politician is elected. Seems a rather unfair consequence, really.), but it works.

Voting centres are set up most anywhere that there's adequate floor space: generally, gymnasiums and halls. A greeter asks to see your voter registration card, and then directs you to the appropriate tables; a wholly unnecessary step, because the tables are clearly marked with a pair of letters that indicate what range of names ("Aa"rdvark to "Bo"gart, etc) they're taking.

Being Canadian, you line up nice and neatly, and patiently await your turn to vote. Pushing ahead in the line, or making catcalls at a particularly slow voter, would be un-Canadian, and we'd all have to scowl at you and possibly mutter under our breath.

Once you get to your voting table, you're greeted by at least two, and perhaps three, volunteers. They're from opposing parties, to keep each other honest.

One of them takes your voter registration card and scratches your name from the master list. The other waits until that process is complete, and then tears a voter card from a booklet. You're then instructed, using the same words you heard given the previous voter, on how to clearly and properly mark the card. The volunteer pre-folds the card and hands it to you.

A short cardboard booth is set up at the end of the table. You can see over it, but no one can actually see what you're marking down. It's a little discomfiting; seems to me that last time, our booths completely hid us from sight.

The voting ballot has a black background. 1.25cm (that's half-inch, in obsolete terms) white strips line the page. In each strip, printed large, is the name of the candidate and their party affiliation. Directly beside the white strip, to the right, is a white circle.

The names are in alphabetical order, last name first, first name last. You place a mark across from the candidate you want to elect. Because each region elects only a single Member of Parliment, you only mark off one circle.

You fold the card, and fold over the retaining flap, so that the card doesn't flop over. You hand the card to the volunteer, who makes sure that the flap is secure, and then drops it into the vote box as you watch. I believe there's every chance that the volunteer asks if you marked off one, and only one, candidate.

And away you go, happy to have participated in a futile ceremony that will surely see no real changes made to the social, political or economic fabric of the country. No, I'm not bitter. Not at all.

After the polls close, the volunteers dump the votes out on the table and begin counting them. There's a paid overseer with a big bullwhip that makes sure they do the job quickly and correctly. Quite possibly, there are plenty of party representatives watching over the vote-counting process.

There are no pregnant, well-hung, dimpled chads. There's either a clear mark in one circle, or there's an invalid ballot. The count goes quickly. All the ballots go into a lockbox, for safeguarding.

I suspect that only the Australians have a better system, and that only because it seems that their elections office is self-supporting, because it does such a fine job that it contracts itself out to provincial, municipal, union and other votes.

The American system, on the other hand, is appallingly asinine.


if 'chad' screwed your chances ... (1)

shaunak (304231) | more than 13 years ago | (#513199)

The ideal alternative would be to have paper ballot. The voter marks a cross (or a /. if you're so inclined) on the idiot he wants to vote for. This can be hand counted, does not lead to ambeguities. Who knows, the supreme court may not understand the system long enough for the recount to be finished. Besides, you people don't have problems like booth capturing. Here in India, there are instances of voting booths being taken over (by bribery or by force) and all the available ballots being marked for the bastard indulging into it.

New OSS Project (2)

msodfjsalfhlskdhf (210858) | more than 13 years ago | (#513215)

This sounds like a perfect opportunity to show the government the benefits of viewing the source of a program they buy. We start up a oss voting system running on the same hardware as the setup in the article, perform a full openBSD security audit on it, and it'll be a hellofa lot more secure and stable than any closed source system (at least i would feel more comfortable about it). It would cut down on the costs on implementing the new system and stop the gov't from being dependant on ms for any security updates.

All things in life are subjective. At least that's what I think.

Just be sure to turn off AutoComplete! (1)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 13 years ago | (#513217)

I can just see it now... As soon as you make your selection for President, the rest of the ballot form auto-completes with that candidate-party's plank.

And the winner is... (1)

fortunetroll (303786) | more than 13 years ago | (#513221)

Major Security Flaw

On Monday mornings I am dedicated to the proposition that all men are created jerks. -- H. Allen Smith, "Let the Crabgrass Grow"

Re:GOOD IDEA!!! (1)

Silverlock (36154) | more than 13 years ago | (#513222)

> SOMETHING has to be done about chaos in our electoral process.

Definitely. For starters, let's get rid of the electoral college. IMHO, the main problem with our electoral process is that someone can win the popular vote and lose the election.

This idea of using computers to vote has so many problems I don't even know where to start. But, it is well-known (i thought) that any system that can be accessed by an authorized user can be broken into. Period.

We should try to fix the current system rather than blindly throwing technology at it. Something as important as the election process should be very, very simple, not full of cool 'features'.


Horsesh*t!! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#513225)

It's a VXD which has crashed - which means it's a driver error, and probably not Microsoft's fault.

I love it when you Windoze phreaks spew this crap when trying to defend Microsloth. You trying to tell me that there are no buggy drivers for Linux? If anything, the drivers are much buggier overall, since the moronic hardware companies refuse to release specs so people writing the drivers for Linux have to hack them the best they can.

And if you try to tell me that Linux isn't more stable, than I'd like to have some of what you're smoking, please. I use Winblows2000 at work on an Athlon 800 with 256mb and, while it's definitely way more stable than anything I've ever used from MS, I still have to reboot it every couple of weeks due to some weirdness with Explorer or whatever. Sure, that's no big deal really, but I almost never have to reboot my Linux boxes. In 4+ years of using Linux on several different computers, I've maybe had to reboot a total of 10 times or less due to an OS issue. I've almost reached that total already in just a few months using W2K on one machine.

It is Microsloth's fault for making an OS that is horribly unstable and insecure and trying to tell their hundreds of millions of users that it isn't. And even when they use NT, it still crashes. See my post in this thread with the subject "More airport fun...".

Re:"Microsoft will do the software..." (4) (249034) | more than 13 years ago | (#513226)

"It looks like you are trying to rig the election, do you need help?"

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (1)

gatesh8r (182908) | more than 13 years ago | (#513227)

OK, time to finally say that the voting process in the US has finally come upon a crisis... I'm sure to vote, you have to pay a royalty per vote, per election. Thus, if there are 13 positions available, you have to pay M$ 13 * x USD, where x is whatever M$ desires the royalty would be (Of course there will be shrink-wrapped package deals that would include President, Senator, Represenative, and state govenor, along with Internet Exploder and Lookout! Express), and of course, subscription-based services... gotta have that .NET you know!

Dell would only kiss M$ arse, as they do now...

Unisys OTOH... gotta pay them a royalty, too! Well, until they say that the ppl who develop for the system only has to pay the royalty and M$ buys them out ;)

Just a little chaos theroy :)

Re:phirst (1)

fortunetroll (303786) | more than 13 years ago | (#513228)

And if Slashdot ran the elections, who would win?
The Karma whores, the first-posters, the hot-grits trolls, the beowulf clusterers, Natalie Portman, or CmdrTaco?

On Monday mornings I am dedicated to the proposition that all men are created jerks. -- H. Allen Smith, "Let the Crabgrass Grow"

Re:Bah! (2)

FFFish (7567) | more than 13 years ago | (#513229)

(I might clarify that the vote-counting is done by representatives of opposing parties. They keep each other honest.)


The Software Should Be Open Source (1)

rhysweatherley (193588) | more than 13 years ago | (#513230)

The most important thing in elections is *trust*. The populace must trust that the outcome cannot be rigged one way or the other. If a black box is doing the counting, trust becomes harder.

In Queensland, Australia, we're going through a painful process whereby the electoral rolls were found to be corrupted by one of the political parties to skew pre-selection ballots. The public are (understandably) concerned that holding a fair election will be very difficult until the rolls are cleaned up. One can imagine the political mischief that would be possible with closed-source election software.

The software for running an election would seem to be ideal for the open source community to tackle, because its peer review process will implicitly find bugs and loopholes earlier rather than later.

The last thing we want is for a major security flaw to be found on election day, when it is too late to fix it.

Because there is an election happening somewhere in the world every other month, plenty of testing can be performed leading up to a major country election. The voting systems are different in different countries, but adding such flexibility won't be difficult. As an added bonus, poorer countries will be able to run computer-counted elections a lot cheaper than if they had to buy a commercial package.

Don't take the above as Microsoft-bashing: I believe that *no* commercial entity should be allowed to write the software. They simply don't have the peer review processes in place to ensure that the code is right for election day. We do.

Assumptions (1)

rwm311 (24383) | more than 13 years ago | (#513231)

People, nowhere in this entier blurb does it say that anybody is actually going to use the "voting system." Do they have leverage? Of course. Will people use it? I do not know. I think after this most recent election tempers were flaring, but they have calmed a little bit now and perhaps people will be willing to hear the pitfalls of electronic voting.

I voted in a computer this year in Morris County, NJ. It was just like the old pull-dial ones but you pushed buttons instead. Is this hackable? Probably not.

While I do think that the code should be auditied THOROUGLY I do not think there is need for as many flames as this article is drawing. Let them make the system. If local/county/state/federal governments start to use it then use your constituional right to yell at every elected official telling them that with the errors these might cause, they may not get elected :)


Paper and pencil ... (2)

Scrymarch (124063) | more than 13 years ago | (#513232)

... is still the best voting technology available. It provides reliability, traceability, flexibility and usability. And nations can hand-count the millions of ballots produced in one night, with a few more days being taken for close elections, postal votes, &c.

And the new president is .... (1)

scsirob (246572) | more than 13 years ago | (#513233)

... A guy called BSOD ?!?

antitrust trial relevence (1)

L3WKW4RM (228924) | more than 13 years ago | (#513234)

I guess it's not very likely then that the govt.
will take any more action against their good
friends at MS now. And with MS being the number
2 contributer to both parties, they were guaranteed
the deal regardless of which evil won.

Re:Online Voting... (1)

Canthus13 (266712) | more than 13 years ago | (#513235)

...And invite big brother right into our homes, no questions asked, would you like to peek into my closets? No thanks. We're tracked enough as it is. I, for one, don't want any more invasion of my privacy than there already is. And you can bet that most people who actually understand the underlying processes wouldn't want it either.

Re:"Microsoft will do the software..." (3)

fortunetroll (303786) | more than 13 years ago | (#513254)

Microsoft is well known for producing top of the line quality software and is well respected around the industry as well as unanimously praised in all forums as being the saviours of mankind and the leaders of the free world.

You better start believing it, boy... they run the elections.

On Monday mornings I am dedicated to the proposition that all men are created jerks. -- H. Allen Smith, "Let the Crabgrass Grow"

Political problems, *not* technical (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#513255)

While there were technical problems with the Florida ballot, to an outsider it seemed like the real problems were created by politics rather than lack of technology. It seemed like everyone involved in the process is either an elected official, or appointed on a partisan basis, from the county election officials to the supreme court judges. The idea of having elected officials actually *count* votes (as distinct from scrutineers, who are essential to a free and fair ballot) beggars belief.

It seems Americans as a group believe throwing money at technology can solve any problem. Sometimes it works spectacularly well. I doubt this is one of those times.

EULA? (1)

bellings (137948) | more than 13 years ago | (#513260)

Will I have to agree to a Microsoft End Use License Agreement before I vote?

improvement? (1)

NoSoup4You (256309) | more than 13 years ago | (#513262)

Now instead of old folks getting confused about their paper ballots and not punching the correct hole... We are going to spend a bunch of money to develop a system where they will just press the wrong button on a keyboard. I say bring back the lever system.

Re:Bah! (3)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#513264)

It has nothing to do with size. The Canadian system scales very well to Britain with twice the population. They too normally have the counts finished in one evening/night. It's because the counting occurs in parallel. It's the old divide and conquer approach.

DateLine 2016 (1)

Traverser (112588) | more than 13 years ago | (#513265)

Possible solution:

14 Nov 2016: The Microsoft Accounting agency has completed its review of the vote. Technical Wizard Bill Gates has reported that Steve Ballmer has won the election. VP Elect Michael Dell was with Bill Gates as he reported the results.
"This is the first election in history that was run by a private sector firm. And it has been a great sucess. It takes large companies to properly run a democracy" VP Elect said in a statement today.
Due to the cost analysis of required improvements, 26 states were not included in the count. "Some states did not wish to pay our licencing fees, deciding instead to perform their own election with unsupported open source software. This is unacceptable in a Democracy." reported a Unysis representative.
The tallying of the election returns occured in a bunker located under the former Netscape Headquarters.
In his celebration speech the president elect reported that we need to increase spending to $20 Billion dollars per year to prepare for the next election and provide better security. And make the next version more feature rich for the voters.

Re:Bah! (1)

bs (5114) | more than 13 years ago | (#513266)

BTW, did Nunavut ever get created?


And who thinks up that sort of name?


Re:Once, just once... (1)

fortunetroll (303786) | more than 13 years ago | (#513267)

It is already the case that money will buy you the Presidency. All Microsoft is doing is bringing this into the digital age: Imagine an on-line store where one can place bids on various public offices. I can't wait for the DDoS's on that one.

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. -- General Omar N. Bradley

Re:Once, just once... (1)

Canthus13 (266712) | more than 13 years ago | (#513268)

Easy way to fix that. Get rid of M$ and Open Source it. That way, anyone who can read (and understand)code can eyeball it for security holes, buffer overruns, and the like.

Your next president (1)

SparkyMartin (206236) | more than 13 years ago | (#513269)

Will be some guy called "Fatal Exception"

Re:Bah! (3)

FFFish (7567) | more than 13 years ago | (#513270)

The residents of Nunavut voted on the name "Bob," but the government told them that that name wasn't allowed. So, yes, now they're Nunavut, and, yes, they are "created."

It seems to me that the USA has an orderly system of schools, despite having ten times the population of Canada. Is there any reason the school gymnasium couldn't be used as a polling station for the immediate area?

You see, the key to success hasn't anything to do with size: it's to do with having the polling stations a reasonable size.

My town's main polling station had about a dozen tables set up. Even if *every* person in this town--including children--were to have voted at this station (but we had three), each table would have processed only 2500 people during the day. It'd take well under and hour-and-a-half to tally those votes.

The hand-counted ballots aren't a problem: the USA can do that.

The problem is with a godawful ballot design, voter registration irregularities, voters being hassled by The Man while heading to the polling station, ballots lockboxes being lost, etcetera, etcetera.

Fixing the ballots would be a first, and probably small, step in fixing the tragicomically broken US election system.


Re:Dell, Microsoft, and Unisys (1)

da5id (91814) | more than 13 years ago | (#513271)

Can someone let me know why exactly dell is so bad?
Well other than that fucking commercial this holiday season :) (actualy, I kinda liked it for the laughs)

I have used a few of their systems (servers and desktops) and they worked fine for me . . .

echo $email | sed s/[A-Z]//g | rot13

This will be fun (1)

sonofepson (239138) | more than 13 years ago | (#513272)

We saw what happened when lawers got ahold of paper ballots during a close election, just imagine what a field day they will have if the voting is done using computers. Many people don't trust computers to begin with, if this system ever gets used the media will have a field day.

At least it will be a fun ride.

Re:Bill Gates for President (1)

rupe (118491) | more than 13 years ago | (#513273)

Since you imply Gore voted for himself, presumably you have counted your vote for Gates...

Spaceflapjack (2)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 13 years ago | (#513295)

Electronic voting is no more "insecure" as paper ballot voting. It does however give people the chance of adding better scrutiny to vote counting. After the votes are tabulated by the county they ought to be sent to several independent counting firms under firm disclosure regulations. The hardware and software ought to be up for public audit and the machines built to higher security standards (C3 or higher) than the typical desktop workstation. Partisan politics really fucked up this recent election and distribution of the tallying functions ought to provide adequate redundancy. If a firm comes up with a different number than all the rest that county's ballots are then sent out to the rest of the firms so they can verify the descrepency. I'd rather have Wang GS doing the hardware and software than Dell, Unisys and Microsoft though.

Ensuring the Integrity of Electronic Voting (2)

RussP (247375) | more than 13 years ago | (#513298)

The integrity of electronic voting can be ensured only if the following precautions are taken:
  • always generate and use paper backup ballots
  • use open computer architecture and open-source software
  • prohibit online voting (except in exceptional circumstances)

Please see [] for critical information on alternative election methods.

Re:Clue? (1)

CrimsonHat (245444) | more than 13 years ago | (#513299)

Even if a ton of math guys have figured out that it "secure" to vote via the web, I think that it still a problem to check people off the list when they vote. I know that when I went and voted I showed my ID so that an old fogey could check my name off the list of all of the registered voters.

Are we propopsing that there should be a separate list for internet voters and regular voters? I don't see a way in which somebody could vote online and have their name checked off the list automatically. Even the best financial websites disclaim that they have a 5 minute lag. How bad would this lag be on voting day?

I don't think that the problem lies with the internet security at all, It's just a matter of the voting system to be able to adapt to the new process properly without fraud.

We saw enough bad stuff as it was this past election. I don't want the next one thrown out because of some hack.


Re:GOOD IDEA!!! (1)

Canthus13 (266712) | more than 13 years ago | (#513301)

Ah... That would explain why I (And others I know) Have been having so many problems with hotmail lately. (No... I'm not trolling. Seriously. Over the last 3 months, 6 people I know have had problems with their hotmail boxes... misdirected messages, corrupted passwords, whole folders disappearing, explorer crashing every time they try to check their hotmail.... I was wondering what happened to BSD/Apache that would cause that....)

Gotta say it... (2)

brianvan (42539) | more than 13 years ago | (#513302)

These three companies were chosen to do this? I want a recount!

Answer: An election.
Question: What if we had a Beowulf cluster of these...

... and, would they call it the Blue Screen of Manual Recount now?

Re:Once, just once... (2)

srichman (231122) | more than 13 years ago | (#513305)

Will they show us the freaking source?

Ballots aren't (generally) counted by hand now. They're counted by machines. Have you ever seen the source code of the machines that are counting those ballots? Me neither. Maybe we should have brought this up years ago.

But what about, for instance, the computers that our controlling our nation's missile defense system? Who knows what they're running? AIX, maybe? Have you seen to source to AIX? Me neither. What about all those Windows desktops on which government employees are viewing highly classified documents? Windows ain't open source, either.

So, ballot counting isn't really something to get your open source panties in a bunch over. Our government (and private sector, for that matter) entrusts critical, highly sensitive operations to closed source third party software everday. They don't get to see the source code. We don't get to see the source code. We all just have to deal with it and hope MS isn't getting mad kickbacks from the Chinese government's intelligence division.

Re:Online Voting... (1)

sith (15384) | more than 13 years ago | (#513306)

Online voting is a horrible, frightening idea. Not the geek security part of it though. The problem is that it allows people to vote from their homes, in private. Or, with their abusive husband hovering over them making sure they vote the right way. Or with paid goons forcing people to vote one way. As the system stands, once you're in the voter booth, your votes are private. They can't be associated with you, and nobody can force your hand. I'm totally ok with a nice clean touch screen based closed system at traditional locations. That would be cool. But theres a terrible mass of issues that arise when people are able to vote in their homes...
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