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Overheated Voting Machine Cast Its Own Votes

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the getting-the-machine-vote dept.

Your Rights Online 378

longacre writes in with the results of a report on voting machines that malfunctioned in NY during the 2010 mid-term elections. "Tests of a number of electronic voting machines that recorded shockingly high numbers of extra votes in the 2010 election show that overheating may have caused upwards of 30 percent of votes in some South Bronx voting precincts to go uncounted. WNYC first reported on the issue in December 2011, when it was found that tens of thousands of votes in the 2010 elections went uncounted because electronic voting machines counted more than one vote in a race. A review by the state Board of Election and the electronic voting machines’ manufacturer ES&S found that these 'over votes,' as they’re called, were due to a machine error. In the report issued by ES&S, when the machine used in the South Bronx overheated, ballots run during a test began coming back with errors."

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378 comments

Scrap them all (5, Insightful)

Fned (43219) | about 2 years ago | (#39949745)

It's clear we're just not ready for electronic voting. Let's stick to paper ballots and re-visit this idea in twenty years or so.

Re:Scrap them all (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#39949767)

It's clear that we hired the wrong people to build our electronic voting machines.
Instead of the guys who build ATMs, we should have hired the guys who build slot machines.

Re:Scrap them all (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949827)

Especially on the news that at least one bank, (Citizens) has been keeping money owed it's customers who make math mistakes tallying up their checks when they deposit them (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/citizens-bank-class-action-lawsuit_n_1498123.html). Funny how when you make a math mistake in YOUR favor they always catch it....

Re:Scrap them all (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949861)

No. We should have hired the guys who print money and other secure papers. Paper voting is superior in every way to electronic voting, except possibly price - and shouldn't we be willing to spend what is ultimately a pittance compared to what we spend on everything else to ensure one of the cornerstones of democracy is eroded away?

Re:Scrap them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950175)

Paper voting is superior in every way to electronic voting

Um...

Paper voting gives us things like Hanging Chads and people too dumb to follow the pointing arrow from the name to the box to check.

Electronic voting is 'mash your finger on the picture of the guy you wanna vote for'. Hard to screw up. (Not that the paper ballots were that difficult, either, come to think of it.)

Paper voting is 'here are some guesses.. I mean, Exit polls, while you wait for the 'official results'.'

Electronic voting is Instant results a few seconds ofter the polls close. (It's just adding up numbers. Computers are good at that!)

Re:Scrap them all (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39950267)

Paper voting means a physical verifiable record. As to hanging chads the issue is complex and poorly designed ballots.

As to the speed of counting ballots, so what? You have to wait a few hours, or on tight races, a few days. Sounds like a reasonable sacrifice for not having fucked up elections due to equipment failure.

Re:Scrap them all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950333)

Paper voting means a physical verifiable record.

So does Electronic voting- have the machine print a receipt. Actually, have it print two- one for the voter (which contains no identifying info, so they can't prove it's theirs, so they can't sell their vote), and one that spools up inside the machine and is kept for later verification.

Re:Scrap them all (5, Interesting)

yakatz (1176317) | about 2 years ago | (#39949863)

Except when slot machines are hacked, the developers usually keep it a secret so the casinos will not be investigated. (Mitnick, K (2005). The Art of Intrusion. [amazon.com])

Oh wait, the voting machine companies probably try to do that too.

Re:Scrap them all (5, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#39949979)

ATMs are incredibly reliable these days. The fact that these POS voting machines are built, in large part, by the same people who build ATMs indicates strongly that Occam's Razor beats Hanlon's (or Napoleon's) Razor here; malice, rather than stupidity or incompetence, is the simplest and most likely explanation.

Re:Scrap them all (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 2 years ago | (#39950265)

Or laziness and a problem of incentive. These companies get in a lot of trouble if their ATMs are hacked or broken into. They don't have to pay much if their voting machines screw up or are easily hackable.

Re:Scrap them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950363)

Plus, (in the U.S. at least) there is a 50-50 chance that the machines will be skewed in the direction you like.

Re:Scrap them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950215)

There's enough stories of absurd results in slot machines for me to disagree.

Re:Scrap them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949795)

Why not just change the machines? Brazil uses them for more than a decade, without any big problems.

Re:Scrap them all (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949841)

Why not just change the machines? Brazil uses them for more than a decade, without any big problems.

Either that or Brazil isn't as good at discovering there were problems after an election.

And before you get offended, I'm Brazilian. I'm also an electrical engineer and software developer, which means I don't trust voting machines, at least not voting machines without a paper receipt to be used for recounts. Which I know the Brazilian machines do not have.

Re:Scrap them all (-1)

fredprado (2569351) | about 2 years ago | (#39950115)

It is WAAAAY easier to alter the result of paper elections. It is far from being tamper proof and costs a lot more money and time. Brazilian or not, please refrain from spilling paranoia until you have at least a hint of evidence to justify that. Brazilian elections are clean and fast. Our politicians, on the other hand, are another story, but that is not very different from US or basically any country in the world...

Re:Scrap them all (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950213)

Your statement is unproveable because, as the previous poster said, you don't get a paper record of your vote. With paper, you can do a re-count of the actual ballot papers used to determine the result, you can do it any time you like. You HOPE Brazilian elections are clean, but you don't KNOW.

Re:Scrap them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950233)

But it's also waaaay easier to monitor pieces of paper than it is bits in memory.

Re:Scrap them all (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39950305)

Really? How is it easier to alter the result of a paper election? You have the ballots watched at all times, locked up when the polls close, it's damned hard to stuff. The problem in the States is, of course, that no one seems to have struck the bright idea that other democratic jurisdictions did decades ago that you don't let political parties run elections, ever. You create independent departments that are specifically non-partisan in nature to run your elections, instead of whatever Republican or Democrat jackass somehow lucked into basically overseeing the vote.

Re:Scrap them all (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#39950389)

You print out the results you want. Then swap them. It's not hard and has been done many times in the past (and present)

It was voting fraud (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950015)

It shows a cluster of voids in MULTIPLE voting cells in one area. That means

1) it was not random.
2) Multiple machines in multiple buildings all voided?? No, not overheating, you might pretend that this particular part of NY is hot,but different building have different heat characteristics.

That map is a clear voting fraud pattern, it suggests local tampering.

Get the Choicepoint data (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950117)

Added comment: Get the Choicepoint data, I bet it shows that section of New York votes strongly Democrat or strongly Republican, and it means that someone was trying to change the election by removing that cluster of votes.

Then go subpoena Choicepoint to find out who commissioned political affiliation data for those districts, and start prosecuting these voter frauds.

Re:Get the Choicepoint data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950193)

You first...

Re:Scrap them all (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#39950105)

There is a fundamental problem with elections in the US and many other places, regardless of electronic versus paper. The problem is that once the election is over it is OVER. There is no re-do if someone finds a mistake. In this case the cause of the mistake is discovered 18 months late and the next election cycle has begun! But even in a normal case in the US we have elections early in November and winning candidates take office in January. That leaves no time to invalidate results and hold a brand new election if something goes wrong. We don't have wiggle room like calling for early elections or rerunning them if there are problems. Generally when there are disputes they're not resolved until after it is too late, so we just cross our fingers and hope it doesn't happen again. The cases where a result is held off for more than a couple of weeks is very rare, and always because the counts are very very close. I've never heard of anything being delayed merely because someone thinks there were far more invalidated votes than are statistically expected (or because of evidence box stuffing for paper ballots). The election is a juggernaut and is not slowed down by inconveniences.

So how do you resolve problems like this. It's been 18 months, do you pull the elected officials from that district out of congress and have the state assign a pro-tem replacement? The governor of the state would just appoint whichever candidate belongs to the same party. But we've had 10 years of these problems without things substantially getting better.

Re:Scrap them all (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39950317)

Actually, in Canada, if you can demonstrate that the irregularities were high enough to have brought an election result into question a judge can order the election results vacated and a new election runs. I'd like to think that if 30% of the votes were lost that the *independent* (there's a keyword right there) election commission would go to a judge and ask exactly that, that the election results be vacated and a new election called. And Canada may find out soon, as evidence of robocall interference may call the results of at least a few ridings into question, which means even if it ends up being a year or more since the election, those results can be discarded and a new election fought.

Re: (4, Informative)

davide marney (231845) | about 2 years ago | (#39950409)

These WERE paper ballots. The thing most people don't realize is that machines are going to be used to count ballots. If the ballots are paper, those machines will be scanners, as in this case in the Bronx. No one is going to count every ballot by hand. Why? Because hand-counting is far more inaccurate than machine counting.

So, here's the thing: if you're going to use a machine to count anyway, it's better to use a machine with no moving parts because they have lower rates of failure. That's how the election officials in Brazil are doing it.

Also, it's worth nothing that according to the report only one machine in the entire district was malfunctioning, election officials were alerted during the vote, and the votes were not close enough for the voided over-votes to have made a difference.

In Soviet U.S., (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949747)

machines cast the voters.

John Connor (4, Funny)

cloudmaster (10662) | about 2 years ago | (#39949759)

I presume that the vote was cast for Skynet, or at least against some relative of John Connor?

Re:John Connor (4, Funny)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#39949873)

Nope, Bender. He already tried to win the DC School Board elections. But now we know he started in the Bronx!

Wrong Approach (3, Insightful)

sincewhen (640526) | about 2 years ago | (#39949777)

This reminds me of what I was thinking after yesterday's article about Java security problems.

I think society has taken the wrong approach to deploying computers. We execute untrusted code we receive from the internet. We build complex, computerised devices to perform a simple task.

I think that sometimes we should accept that less is more.

There is a new better tech for this! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949779)

I hear there is a new technology that doesn't rely on the increasingly unreliable power grid, buggy code, or downright crooked ceo's ( take that diebold)... and ballots generated can be counted more than once easily by a single person... I think it's called *paper ballots*.... hello? hello?

Re:There is a new better tech for this! (2)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#39950241)

And the debacle that was the 2000 election of GWB really showed the very best of Paper voting. And it's much easier to "lose" a boxful of voting slips.

Re:There is a new better tech for this! (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39950323)

The ballots were badly designed. That's like saying "The wheels fell off my Toyota Corolla, therefore all automobiles suck..."

Who, honestly, thinks e-voting is a good idea? (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#39949785)

Seriously, why the hell are people even trying these things? No permanent record of any kind, little to no public oversight of the process, and of course glitches and the possibility for "glitches" on a massive scale that can completely overturn the entire election process. At least with paper voting, cheating is a) moderately easy to catch and b) moderately difficult on a large scale. Mistakes can be corrected afterwards, by examining the paper trail. An e-voting machine? No trail, and a single alteration the code can allow anyone to change the result in absolutely any way they want, with almost zero possibility of detection, and with a single commands.

They are a terrible idea, and honestly any politician/bureaucrat who pushes them should be regarded with strong suspicion, if not of attempting downright fraud, then of bowing to special interests (i.e. the machine manufacturers). Possibly both. And, even if they are really clean of both the preceeding, then they are technologically stupid and shouldn't be trusted to make decisions about these kinds of things anyways.

Re:Who, honestly, thinks e-voting is a good idea? (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#39950167)

Elections in the US are messy. They were messy before these machines too. Essentially all the elections are run at the local level; not at the state but in each individual county and district. These election districts have very little funding and they're always being beat on to do better, have fewer errors, report results faster, reduce number of complaints, and save money. There is no national standard for how elections should be run, and not all states have standards either.

With the Bush v. Gore circus in Florida a lot of people panicked. Suddenly there was an urgent desire to upgrade the paper ballots even though almost nobody used systems similar to Florida's. At the national level some political pressure came to change things and there was even some funding. So in the madness of "omg fix it!" tons of districts purchased electronic voting machines with very little in the way of rigorous evaluation. But then the money dried up. In the absence of a national emergency things were back to the way they had always been. Problems cropping up here and there were disasterous enough to capture the nation's attention, these were just "glitches", and besides there was no money fix the machines or get new ones. Add to this that the elections were faster and recounts took seconds and no one had any incentive whatsoever to pull out the old dusty paper machines.

Re:Who, honestly, thinks e-voting is a good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950191)

Mistakes can be corrected afterwards, by examining the paper trail. An e-voting machine? No trail, and a single alteration the code can allow anyone to change the result in absolutely any way they want, with almost zero possibility of detection, and with a single commands.

So, have it print a receipt. There, problem solved.

Sheesh.

E-voting systems are ideal for open source (2)

Morgaine (4316) | about 2 years ago | (#39950269)

Not only is there massive interest in openness and transparency in the voting process, but there also a need for extremely thorough vetting of the software, its design, and its update lineage. All of these things make it an ideal application for public development under the open source model.

Because of the huge number of expert eyeballs that would be paying very close attention to this code, you can be beyond certain that it would rapidly become some of the most robust software on the planet, and employing the most secure cryptographic systems for security and privacy and anti-corruption devices known to us.

The only people guaranteed to hate this (apart from e-voting machine manufacturers) would be those who currently have backdoors into the proprietary software. They'll fight the idea tooth and nail.

Why So Many Problems? (3, Interesting)

semilemon (1024757) | about 2 years ago | (#39949809)

I'm not particularly knowledgeable on the subject, so I'm hoping someone here can provide some insight. Why do electronic voting systems seems to have so many problems? Yes, they obviously need to be designed for 100% accuracy, but computers and electronic equipment take care of so many other, more complicated operations like flying aircraft and recording financial transactions, all of which should be much more complex but require the same level of accuracy and precision as counting votes. Are voting machines really that bad, are news reports skewing my opinion of them, or am I just unaware of how many problems a paper ballot system has?

Re:Why So Many Problems? (4, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39949929)

Why do electronic voting systems seems to have so many problems?

I think the employ of Occam's Razor would be quite useful here. There is an un-holy appeal to any designer of such a machine to be able to artificially control the output. We already have the CEO of Diebold publicly promising to deliver votes [google.com] to George W. Bush, so any protestation of "naw, people who build these things are so trustworthy, nobody would ever actually think to rig an election by deliberately designing a machine to do so.

My very first thought when I read this rigamarole about how the software conveniently malfunctioned to create new votes was, "oh, my god, what a complete bullshit explanation. Overheating CPUs do not malfunction so specifically as to merely add valid data to the processes they are executing. They STOP WORKING COMPLETELY when they overheat, as anyone who has ever spent even a year working with them would know.

So, I'm calling bullshit immediately, and after being fed an incredibly stupid lie about why these machines generated extra votes, I'm inclined to believe the very fucking worst possible alternative explanation. Why else would someone make up such a fucking ridiculous fib?

Re:Why So Many Problems? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950097)

These machines were scanning PAPER ballots. The scanning mechanism probably malfunctioned in high heat. They scanned the same ballot without errors when cool and with errors (overvotes) when overheated.

This is the worse of both worlds. You don't get the immediate error checking of a true electronic voting machine and at the same time you discard valid ballots because "the computer said so".

Re:Why So Many Problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950113)

It does sound like it would be a useful feature. When you first turn on a machine to demo it it will produce all the correct results. However then when put into use: "After lunch [when the machine was idle for about an hour] almost every ballot was read incorrectly, in all orientations, even ballots that had read correctly just before lunch,” the ES&S report said.
Why would you ever recheck the machines to make sure they're working correctly after you already checked them when you started.

How would the extra heat cause an issue? Some optical sensor getting skewed readings?

Re:Why So Many Problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949983)

The government is just not interested in e-voting becoming reality. Because once you can vote electronically, it will lead unevitable to getting rid of all forms of indirect legislature, as people will be able to express their wishes directly, just by pressing a button on their computers. And that means that all the people who are now sitting in the congress and - supposedly - making decisions in your interest (but at least in your name) will not only lose all their power, but will not even get their paychecks. And that's what they obviously can't ever let happen.

Therefore they hire idiots to build e-voting machines - which will then obviously fail even the most basic tests -, or simply sabotage the tests so that no citizen will trust e-voting, and all the superflous burocrats and the so called "leaders" of the nation can keep their paychecks and power.

Re:Why So Many Problems? (1)

Mateorabi (108522) | about 2 years ago | (#39950025)

Because the companies building them put their engineering A-team on the ATMs. The B-team gets stuck with the product for governments. Because waaaay more money is on the line if they screw up an ATM. The banks that bought them will hold their feet to the fire. Unlike state elections officials.

Do you think NY state officials are going to ask for a refund to replace all the machines? Blacklist ES&S? At least demand a full code audit and proof that any replacement get properly tested to JDEC/IEEE/ISO/whatever environmental standard applies? Demand a quick and proper fix? Demand testing above and beyond mere consumer grade electronics? Demand the head of the responsible manager from the company that cut corners, either on cost or rushing to meet the hanging-chad hysteria, by failing to test the damn thing above room temp?

Or just quietly accept whatever pitiful "patch" is offered to them by the manufacturer that is as much fig leaf as actual fix? The head of elections in the state is probably the one responsible for choosing the product and the millions of taxpayer dollars to spend on the units; admitting fault would mean loosing face. And they can't be fired or thrown on their sword like a bank VP could be. So there is a huge incentive for the state to help the company spin this as only a minor incident not worthy of voter concerns.

Re:Why So Many Problems? (1)

flonker (526111) | about 2 years ago | (#39950051)

The problem is that voting systems are not held to the same standard as "life critical" software, as it would drive up the price considerably. For example, some systems even use MS Access on Windows! And they provide no means of detecting or correcting problems after they occur, as all votes are typically stored on a single hard drive, with no backup, or even redundancy. (Yes, that's right, a hard drive crash could wipe out thousands of votes with no hope of recovery.)

However, there are solutions which solve the problems without requiring some of the more exotic and expensive methods of providing reliability, such as printing paper ballots. For some inexplicable reason, voting machine companies have strongly resisted paper ballot systems.

I'm only scratching the surface, but it's enough to provide some insight into why so many people are rabidly against these voting machines.

Re:Why So Many Problems? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#39950271)

The election officials do not have the money or clout to demand high quality equipment. If there is a problem nothing bad happens anyway except for some embarrassment. No one dies, no one loses any money. If the officials go to the state and say "I don't trust these numbers, statistically there's a problem" they will be told "sorry, we don't have any money, see if you can get the manufacturer to fix the problems".

Software for election machines has the same lousy software that most corporations create. You just don't notice it as much elsewhere because the effects are minor. Software almost always is shipped before it's ready, ships with known bugs, is built by cheap labor, is overrated by the marketing department, and the customers don't realize they've been swindled until it's too late but they accept it because all the competitors are swindlers too. When you do see higher quality software it is because there's a market demand for quality, customers are smarter than average, there's regulatory issues involving your product, etc. Ie, an airline is going to demand in a contract with a software maker that the flight controls work as specified or else damages are paid, medical device makers have regular audits from many sources, etc.

A paper ballot has many problems too. You would not have even heard the term "hanging chad" if they worked perfectly. Counting paper ballots is very difficult. Even in an optical reader if you shove through a million ballots you will get a different count each time. Each time a ballot goes through a machine it gets damaged a little bit. Then you decide to have a manual recount and you have to decide whether a mark counts as a vote or not, and it takes a very long time. You also get ballot stuffing, or ballot boxes go missing, or the ballots weren't properly lined up in the machine, blind people can't use them without help, etc. All problems that electronic machines are supposed to solve.

Re:Why So Many Problems? (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#39950275)

The problems are because the software on these voting machine is cobbled together in a "make do" fashion (I mean, using MS ACCESS for a storage medium in a critical, widespread system?) to produce minimum functionality, with no security and no oversight, along with little-to-no hardware security. Paper ballots are easy to lose, difficult to handle in large number, and incredibly time-consuming to count.

Shouldn't this be illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949817)

"Actual votes don't matter so long as the person that appears to win does so" - Just about every facet of the US Government

OK Enough of this SHIT (4, Interesting)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39949837)

Paper and pen ballots.

ONLY.

And while we are at it, let's fix Voter Fraud with one simple tool: a freaking indelible inkwell at the desk where you pick up your ballot. That way, once you've picked up ONE ballot, you cast your ONE vote. People with purple fingers cannot pick up ballots.

Then we can toss all of this disenfranchising "voter ID" crap on the ashpile too. Our elections will guarantee that each person votes just once and every fucking vote is counted. No swinging chads. No overheating vote-generating machines (oh, and does that story smell like ripe bullshit to me -- yes it does!)?

Paper trail. Physically impossible to vote more than once..

Done.

One More Thing: (5, Interesting)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39949865)

Move Voting Day to Saturday. The only reason it was on Tuesday was to allow for travel time and to avoid the often-strictly observed Sabbath of the still quite Puritan colonial USA. Make it a Saturday, and make all businesses except essential service and emergency personnel close on that day period, so the people can take their time to vote.

There. That's the last one.

Re:One More Thing: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949961)

Move Voting Day to Saturday. The only reason it was on Tuesday was to allow for travel time and to avoid the often-strictly observed Sabbath of the still quite Puritan colonial USA. Make it a Saturday, and make all businesses except essential service and emergency personnel close on that day period, so the people can take their time to vote.

There. That's the last one.

Most of Saturday is the often-strictly observed Sabbath for a significant number of people. If the Christians don't observe Sabbath anymore why not make it Sunday?

Re:One More Thing: (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39950001)

Six of one, half dozen of another. I think since most people actually observe church service on Sunday, we would wan to vote on Saturday.

With apologies because as an Atheist I aactually have no clue what the fuck Sabbath means, and I assumed it meant the day you went to church or whatever, and in the US today, that day is Sunday.

Re:One More Thing: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950085)

Sabbath [wikipedia.org] is the day of rest. Presumably, it overlaps with religious services because it was a good time when everyone was expected to be not working. As I understand it, very few Christians recognize religious obligations relating to the Sabbath day (except attending church), but some Jews take it rather seriously, to the point of avoiding being in moving vehicles or using electricity all day.

Re:One More Thing: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39950237)

Christians observe the Sabbath on Sunday (most of the ones who do), but Jews do it on Saturday. It might seem awkward for an atheist to respect both days, but it has a great side effect, the two day weekend to respect both cultures. The atheist French Revolution tried to have only a one day weekend every 10 days. No wonder that thing failed.

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

cos(0) (455098) | about 2 years ago | (#39949973)

Cue rising sales of chemicals that remove ink...

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39950017)

It would need to be the kind of ink that you have to burn your skin to get off. What I mean by 'indelible.'

I know such inks must exist. Perhaps a henna tattoo, which I believe lasts about three weeks and is completely painless.

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

NoMaster (142776) | about 2 years ago | (#39950295)

Perhaps a henna tattoo, which I believe lasts about three weeks and is completely painless.

On the back of the hand, or on the forehead?

(No, I don't believe that shit, but some people do. Worst of all is that your country would pander to them and reject such an idea outright. Sane countries would tell them to fuck off and/or get a religious exemption from voting.)

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950129)

Those are all pen and paper systems. The only problem would be that nobody realized there was a problem, and they didn't just run the ballots through a functioning machine (the only problem then would be ballots which did have voter intent problems which the machine should have refused to accept, those voters likely would have some of those contents nullified, unless an election official decided the intent was clear). Unless NYC is a district that destroys ballots, you could likely go issue a FOIA request and get copies of the physical ballots (if nothing else, electronic copies, not sure about physical copies). In this case, the election officials should have caught the huge number of nullified votes. Along with the hardware problems, there should have been a secondary process which caught this also.

That system only has a touch screen to notify voters when an error is detected and give them an opportunity to modify the paper to clarify their intent. It displays all of the contents it feels have a problem and refuses to put the ballot in the ballot box. The state/city controls which behaviors reject ballots back to the voter, it appears NYC didn't reject overvotes back. Otherwise everybody would have walked out of that ballot box stating that the machine wouldn't accept their valid ballot.

If the physical machine has problems, it is reasonable difficult to write software that behaves correctly, but it should have some type of run time detection. I'm not sure if that model has a temperature sensor, but I won't be shocked to find out ES&S modifies the software to use it if there is one present. It has a lower power VIA chip in it if I remember correctly.

As to the one-vote-per-person system enforced by purple ink, that sounds better than most of the bullshit people propose.

In case it isn't obvious at one point, I worked on that codebase at one point, and on that machine.

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

Khith (608295) | about 2 years ago | (#39950155)

The problem is that voting machines are related to election fraud but not voter fraud. There doesn't seem to be a huge problem with voters hacking the machines to give more votes. It's the people who control the machines you have to worry about. Even if someone votes only a single time and there's no craziness like dead people voting, your approach of showing that someone's already voted won't solve the problem of election fraud.

Once those ballots are filled out and stored, SOMEONE has to count them. Remember, it's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes.

That said, I'd still much rather have a person counting votes instead of a machine. (I would have multiple people who don't all lean toward the same candidates\issues counting, while everything is recorded on video.) These voting machines have been proven in COURT to be easily hackable and can change thousands of votes in an instant. See here: Computer Programmer tells how voting process can be rigged. [url]

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about 2 years ago | (#39950157)

And who will prevent your purple finger people from voting more than once? And who those people from voting as much as they like? Paper as ANYTHING else is far from being tamper proof. One may argue that it is even easier to tamper with it than to tamper electronically if you know what you are doing. Your "paper trail" won't be of any use to you if it is tampered with from the start. In the end the problem is that people are corruptible and the whole process depend on them. You fix that making enough redundancies to minimize any tampering, be it on paper or electronically.

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39950207)

I always wonder where naive people like you come from. Do you really think that there is no way to commit ballot fraud with a pen and paper? Do you really think people didn't rig elections before computers came?

One election in the mid-1800s in San Francisco was won when someone imported an invertible ballot box with a false bottom from the east. No computers involved there. There are plenty of ways to cheat.

Yes, absolutely be against computer election fraud, but please stop being so naive. It's depressing.

Re:OK Enough of this SHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950221)

I can wash my hands, and vote a second time. Or show my right hand one time, and pretend to be left-handed and show my left hand the second time. Or put some sort of lotion or creme on my hands that makes the ink not set. Or...

Foolproof my ass.

Washington State has had the answer for years (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#39950297)

Vote by mail. It's that simple.

Anyone who wants to vote registers ahead of time with their address. Ballot gets mailed to each person weeks ahead of election day. They fill it out at their leisure, sign it, and mail it back in. Even better, people get pamphlets with their ballots explaining each issue (with explanations written by both the "for" and "against" sides, for fairness), so people actually understand what they're doing when voting on Referendum 1234.

Forget to mail it in early enough? No problem, just bring it to one of many public drop-offs on election day.

Don't have a permanent address, or forgot to register? Fill out the ballot in person at one of the drop-off spots. Lines are short because most people have already voted.

No need to worry about fraud, as each ballot contains unique markings to identify forgeries, and stealing ballots from enough mailboxes to make a difference is impossible without people catching on. Miscounts are reduced as well because the votes come in over a longer period, giving more time to get it right.

It's a great system, and I can see no reason not to make it nationwide. Scrap these electronic voting machines, scrap the mile-long lines at the polling places, and watch voter turnout skyrocket.

Excellence of public officials in action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949877)

From the article:

Board of Election Commissioner J.C. Polanco, a Republican from the Bronx, said the boards do a rigorous test of each machine, per state law, before deployment during an election and that the machine in question passed its tests on Election Day but will no longer be used.

“Commissioner [Naomi] Barrera, [the Democratic Bronx commissioner] and I pushed for the New York City board for us to get this machine replaced by ES&S and they have agreed to replace this machine immediately so the voters can rest assured that this machine will no longer be deployed,” Polanco said.

Norden said so far the machine in the Bronx was the only machine found to have this problem, but it’s also the only machine that’s been tested. The data that led the Brennan Center to discover the problem didn’t cover the entire city. While the South Bronx district was by far the most egregious problem area found, having virtually any over voting means there could be widespread issues.

...

Polanco said that the board is looking at implementing these recommendations, and, while “statistically speaking”, there was no way to guarantee something like what happened in the South Bronx could happen again, that he was confident the city’s electronic voting machines remain reliable.

“We don’t expect there to be another issue,” he said.
 

South Bronx (2)

mirix (1649853) | about 2 years ago | (#39949889)

Do you think they may have been testing 'flaws' in machines here?

This is an area where you can skew the votes 30-40% and not change the victor.

Anyway, you guys need to come join our wonderful 'write an X on paper' system. We get results the same night, too.

Re:South Bronx (1)

mirix (1649853) | about 2 years ago | (#39949947)

Guess I should add, in 2008, NYC's 16th district (in the south Bronx) gave Obama 95%.

The highest support in the country - to give you an idea of how much room for error there is.

Re:South Bronx (3, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#39950049)

Anyway, you guys need to come join our wonderful 'write an X on paper' system. We get results the same night, too.

We had mechanical voting booths [bing.com] in the Bronx and NY in general, but then had to change to electronic ones to comply with federal law [wm.edu]. (Stupid HAVA [fec.gov].)

Bloomberg called its first use on primary day 2010 a "royal screw-up". [latimes.com] I've voted with both old and new machines, and while both seemed to work well, who knows what bits flipped (or were flipped) between feed and count. Personally I think the change was as necessary as the impending invasion of internet TLDs (i.e. not at all).

At least they're making progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949953)

Used to be that elections in New York were decided by dead people's votes.

Now they're decided by live capacitors.

The Solution (2)

Mr Bubble (14652) | about 2 years ago | (#39949955)

First, I have to say that it is stunning that we can have ATM's that are largely error-free, but can't design a simple tabulation and reporting system. But, here is the solution. You don't rely on computer-collected data. You cross-check. Here's how: My proposal uses the computer terminal only as a means to record the vote on paper. There are definitely benefits to having an electronic front end on the voting process - maybe we can all agree on that - assuming that the front end is extremely simple and obvious to all users. In my world, you get your official ballot from the check-in people and insert it into the machine. You cast your vote and the machine prints both a machine readable code and the human-readable results of your voting on the one ballot. You remove your ballot and the machine dumps its memory. You place your ballot in the locked ballot box - just as we always have. The ballots are ran through some very basic ( and open source ) optical scanner and the results posted.

What this solves:

  • Has the benefit of an electronic screen with big, bright, reprogrammable choices in the required languages etc.
  • The voter verifies that their ballot is correct before they put it in the box.
  • A certain percentage of the ballots chosen randomly can and should be regularly hand-counted to insure accurate optical scanning. This and larger hand counts are easy because the ballots are easily read by humans and machine alike.
  • Very difficult to hack the system as optical scanners are open source and easily cross-checked for accuracy by people on the scene and by random or court-ordered recounts.
  • No danger of any centralized computer failure
  • A verifiable record of results
  • No hanging chads

Why can we not do this? Is it because people in power want a way to cheat? This isn't rocket science.

Re:The Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950293)

Just have the voting machine have a printer with a big huge roll of dual-layer receipt tape. When you finish your vote, it prints the receipt. The receipt stays under a glass window until you look at it and confirm one last time that it is right. Then one copy of the receipt comes out, and the other is spooled up inside the machine. The machine also sends the vote electronically to a server in a locked cage in the corner of the room.

When polls close, the server in the corner connects (by modem) to the town Server. It only needs to transmit a few numbers (Candidate 1- 1234 votes, candidate 2- 3456 votes, etc) so this takes literally a few seconds. Less than 5 minutes later, the Town servers call the County Server and transmit the data. Then the county servers call the State server, and they call the National server. 20-30 minutes after polls close, you have your Official Results (barring any recounts).

Need a recount? Pull the spools of 'journal tape' and feed them through a scanner. (They have barcodes as well as text.) Still not convinced? Have people bring back their receipts and compare them to the spool.

To eliminate vote selling, the receipts would only have the vote, the machine number, and the time to the nearest minute. With no way to link to vote to you.

Gangs of New York (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#39949971)

Boss Tweed: "Remember the first rule of politics. The ballots don't make the results, the counters make the results. The counters. Keep counting. "

LOL! "Cast it's own Vote". Suuuure it did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39949987)

Euphemism/Backstory for ballot box stuffing in 2012 USA election.

Well, they're not part of the process yet... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 2 years ago | (#39950009)

Until they get serious lobbying money. Also, look for the Super Pac: 01010101 01101110 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110011 01101111 01101110 01100001 01100010 01101100 01100101 00100000 01010011 01110101 01100010 01110011 01101001 01100100 01101001 01100101 01110011 00100000 01000110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01001101 01100001 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100101 01110011

This is a joke, right? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about 2 years ago | (#39950031)

How is it possible to build a computer in the 21st century that is incapable of storing and incrementing a handful of integers correctly? I mean, really, it's not a very difficult task when you get down to it. It's so easy even practical, reliable, mass-produced mechanical computers can do it.

Machines Not Tested (4, Informative)

Mr Bubble (14652) | about 2 years ago | (#39950041)

Norden said so far the machine in the Bronx was the only machine found to have this problem, but itâ(TM)s also the only machine thatâ(TM)s been tested.

God help us.

Re:Machines Not Tested (1)

Mateorabi (108522) | about 2 years ago | (#39950121)

I facepalmed at that too. Typical head-in-the-sand behavior. Of course election officials aren't going to want to go looking too too hard for evidence that they wasted millions of taxpayer dollars awarding the contract to someone who already had a track record of over-voting bugs. Nothing to see here, just a small hiccup, inconsequential, could never happen on a big scale, move along.

How much you want to bet that the "replaced machine" gets shoved in a dank basement, or recycled for scrap, rather than stripped down to every wire/line of code looking for the fault or design flaw? (Preferably by the engineer who designed it, who is being flogged the whole time.)

I also like how they emphasize that this wasn't a close district. That just made it easier to detect. It's not like the machines somehow "know" when they are in a 95% leaning district and then allow themselves to malfunction only then.

The game is rigged (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#39950079)

Might sound like conspiracy theorism, but we've seen black and white evidence. Maybe not in this case, but enough to make me not trust them. Any time a group of partisans can collect the machine tallies in a room by themselves and come out with different results, or more votes than voters show up in a district, that's all I need to know.

I've worked with computers for about 15 years now and I've never seen hardware glitches that magically only affect the most convenient values like that.

Truth is the people running New York are crooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950109)

The voting machines use old fashion resistive touch screens. These touch screens are designed to be operated within certain temperature and humidity. If they are subjected to extremes then they lose their calibration and sensitivity. When they lose sensitivity and calibrations then people have to press hard sometimes and will miss buttons on the touch screen.

After entering the votes and before casting the the votes voters are presented with their tallies so they can confirm what was entered what what they wanted. They can go back and change things at any time, but most people just ignore it and press 'yes yes yes'

The New York folks are trained to deal with these machines and know exactly what conditions they need to have to operate correctly. The idea that somehow the machine themselves are counting votes on their own is fucking bullshit.

  New York fucked up and they know it, but are pulling this shit because they don't want to pay for the machines and don't want to pay the labor.

I don't work for ESS, but I have dealt personally with New York in regards to voting and they have driven away all other voting companies with their bullshit. Nobody wants their money because this is the sort of shit they pull on a regular basis. If they worked for a private company and not the local government they would be convicted for fraud and be sued for evasion of contracts easily.

Bad, bad, bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950123)

Look, I'm sorry but computerized voting machines is the end of democracy in America. Both sides will cheat to no end and the integrity of the electoral process (what's left of it) will be destroyed. It's too easy to corrupt the system silently when it's computerized. It's bad in every way imaginable.

How bad can we tolerate? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#39950137)

The company owes the city, at minimum, a full refund for every machine they sold, because they all have to be scrapped.

But that doesn't go far enough. Since we're relying on them for a critical function, they need guarantees of correct count, after establishing basic ability to meet a minimum quality level.

1. They shouldn't be allowed to be bought at all unless the State qualifies them and it shouldn't be allowed to qualify them unless they can be shown to be more accurate under all circumstances than an audited hand count. Since the purpose of buying voting machines is in part to have more reliable elections, we should require a quality level well beyond what hand counting can meet. 4 PPM (4.5 sigma) would be a worthy criterion. Certainly, it has to be so low as to have almost no chance to turn the results of any election. Since most election results have a margin of more than 1% we could tolerate an error rate (count of undervotes plus count of overvotes divided by votes cast) of as high as 100 PPM.

2. Every election should be audited at a high enough rate to establish whether the machines have exceeded their minimum required error rate and to establish whether a penalty is required.

3. The manufacturer should be forced to post a large bond. Say, $10 per registered voter in the jurisdiction in which they are sold. The reason for this is that if the machines turn out to be unreliable in operation, you need to recover the penalty even though the manufacturer will probably be bankrupted. In 10 years, they get whatever money they didn't pay in penalties back and the warranty expires. They'd be penalized a substantial amount for every undervote and overvote and this would be paid first out of the bond and then out of profits and then they get priority for payment if the company goes into bankruptcy.

The perfect voting machine should be open. (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#39950211)

Here's how you do it.

  • A public monolithic and government-controlled repository for the code, so everyone can see it.
  • Patches to the tree accepted only after review by government-appointed programmer/team. So, rather like Firefox, for example, or the Linux kernel.
  • Voting machines then use the government-approved code only.
  • Voting machines are sealed boxes, with all external ports secured with lock and key.
  • Machines are connected to the central tallying machine at each location by hard-wired ethernet (behind said lock-and-key port).
  • A single "monitoring station" is with the adjudicator, which shows votes being cast successfully (but anonymously, so it shows "a vote has been placed in this booth", but not what that vote was), to ensure that people's votes are accepted successfully, that only one vote per person is accepted, and no votes are cast when there is nobody in the booth.
  • Every voter gets a printed record of their vote, each machine keeps a printed receipt for itself, as well as a digital copy of all the votes it has received, as well as submitting those votes to the central tallying machine in real-time, which also keeps a paper record, along with passing it's results to the central system in real-time over a secured link (SSL or something similar).
  • Each update is sent with a cryptographic signature, which is accepted if the signature matches correctly (and re-requested if they do not). The response is a count of all the votes received through that link thus far - If the amounts differ, there's fraud somewhere, and the system creates an alert.
  • Vote counts are displayed in real-time on a/several government-run public website(s) with feeds publicly available for news networks and the like.

Of course, it'll never happen, but one can dream.

I just don't understand (1)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | about 2 years ago | (#39950225)

I just don't understand. There's been a stream of voting machine stores on and off on slashdot for the last couple years.

We have netbanking. And ATMs. Both reliable. And used by the financial industry for gods sake.

We have ATMs all over the world. They seem to do fine, without any major issues. AND THEY HOLD AND DISPENSE CASH FOR GODS SAKE.

What is so special about designing and manufacturing voting machines ? Why does every voting machine ever built seem to have serious issues and allow you to put in fake votes, or miscount votes, or whatever?

Imagine if you could do this with an ATM, and get extra cash out and the ATM had no idea you did it?

What exactly is it about voting machines that makes it so hard compared to ATMs and every other electronic security device on the planet??! I just don't fucking get it, I'm sorry.

Re:I just don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950349)

You're acting like the misbehavior of the machines is a bug and not an intentional feature.

Voted the 2008 Presidential election:Protest Evote (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#39950227)

Electronic voting can be hacked rather easily, if not coded fraudulent to begin with. Even with oversight, this is the kind of thing that money can buy votes even easier than television ads telling the people what they want. Electronic voting makes me very upset to see our Democracy constantly eroding. If we're going to use e voting, we should at least have a paper trail that can be validated by each voter. I have a friend that is doing top of the line voting de-duplication and he sees fraud in them already, but no one wants to listen to him.

Slashdot knows how easy it is to hack these things , so why aren't we collectively protesting it? All a campaign needs to do is lose a couple grand to bribe hackers for a chance to get a 51/49% win. No one will ever be able to trace it to the politician, and he she might not know anything about it, just supporters doing. How do we bring national attention on electronic voting machines without actually hacking one as proof and going to jail?

Why... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 2 years ago | (#39950229)

Why is it that those who understand technology express grave concerns about the current status of electronic voting machines, yet those who wish to exploit technology have no concerns whatsoever about electronic voting machines?

Why even bother? (1)

andyring (100627) | about 2 years ago | (#39950247)

Here in good 'ol Lincoln, Nebraska, we use old fashioned No. 2 pencils and fill in the oval next to the name or ballot item. Until the Florida 2000 debacle, I had no idea there were even any other ways to cast ballots. I still fail to see why our method here shouldn't be the standard nationwide.

Change an election. Buy a fan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950345)

I'm trying not to laugh.

ATMs please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39950361)

So the voting machine cast extra ballots ? Anyone know where I can find an ATM made by the same company?

two arguments against electronic voting: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#39950377)

1. it's a black box, so joe blow doesn't trust it. he trusts paper and pencil. but a machine his vote goes into and out comes electoral sausage is not confidence building. you can feel and touch and trust paper. it is a known quantity. i'm talking about tactile, emotional trust here

the greatest strength democracy has is that it manufacture legitimacy: the government you have is the will of the people. anything that puts in doubt that the will of the people is being adequately expressed, creates illegitimacy and instability, thereby defeating democracy's greatest strength

2. it has more attack vectors. with paper ballots you can lose them, fake them, burn them, etc. but with electronic voting, you can do orders of magnitude more kinds of attacks. plus, with paper ballots you need an army of crooks to make a dent moving trucks full of papers around. good luck keeping that secret. with electronic voting, one well-placed hacker with 3.7 seconds can do untraceable damage on a much larger scale

of course all those paper ballots eventually get OCRed into a database, but at least you have that backup. yeah, electronic voting machines that print out a paper copy of the ballot on paper do the same, but now you are spending a shitload of money reinventing the wheel in a needlessly complicated rube goldberg way

the richest of societies and poorest of societies should all vote the same way: paper, pencil, box. is a marriage ceremony made better with electronic doodads? no. same with voting: it's sacred social compact, just like marriage, and the more simple it is, the better

technophiliacs like us here on slashdot sometimes turn to technology too much to solve problems. some problems just aren't solved better by throwing more complicated tech at them. some problems are about trust, vital trust, that should not be messed with, and should stay simple

don't mess with the vote: paper, pencil, box. anything more complicated is worse

Why.... (1)

zzottt (629458) | about 2 years ago | (#39950403)

Why cant these F'ing machines just keep a physical paper receipt that only the voter can see printing behind tamper proof glass? Each machine's receipt reals could be collected as an auditable record. The voter will know their vote counts. Win Win unless you
DONT want a fair election...

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