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Doubting Electronic Voting

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the clickez-ici dept.

United States 485

twitter writes "The NYT is raising the alarm on electronic voting. After citing expert opinion on the need for a paper trail, they then quote election officials and vendors who dismiss that opinion as the ignorant work of dreamers. The reporter titles his article, 'To Register Doubts, Press Here' and seems less than convinced."

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485 comments

watttt (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963654)

ttt !!..`

Free mirror (4, Informative)

Bendy Chief (633679) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963658)

No reg, wheeeee....

The article [nytimes.com]

Bon appetit.

Re:Free mirror (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963747)

For those of you who read french, check out these pages:

http://www.ge.ch/chancellerie/e-government/e-vot in g.html

You will discover, that in some less meticulous countries, e-voting has already been a reality.

Thanks also to HP, which has earned a lot of taxpayers money for developing a closed-source voting system never to be used at a larger scale than a 1'000 soul commune....

Re:Free mirror (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963962)

You will discover, that in some less meticulous countries, e-voting has already been a reality.
La Suisse, moins méticuleuse que les Tas-Unis??? Êtes-vous déjà au moins allé aux Tas-Unis???

First! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963667)

Finally!

YOU FAIL IT!!!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963965)

Finally ???

sux

How will that work? (0, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963673)


Will random people get hanging chad cookies in their browsers?

Isn't this the same NYTimes that had fabricated (0, Flamebait)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963983)

stories.

Hmmmmm... integrity lost. Oh wait, you cannot lose what you don't have.

Right..... and all financial transactions online.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963678)

So perhaps they've never heard of printouts?

My bank doesn't seem to have a problem with me transferring thousands of dollars electronically, but this reporter is nervous about voting?

Re:Right..... and all financial transactions onlin (5, Funny)

Scaba (183684) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963883)

...but this reporter is nervous about voting?

He's nervous, beause with electronic voting, a paranoid, warmongering lunatic may be able to fix an election, get himself voted in, and start an aggressive campaign of pre-emptive...oh wait.

Yeah right (5, Interesting)

Ishin (671694) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963680)

We all saw what good a paper trail did in Florida in the 2000 USA presidential campaign. The problems run much deeper than just a paper trail in the USA. When people are cut off from voting by police roadblocks, and thousands of ballots are thrown away, or arranged in a confusing way to try to get people to vote for someone that they don't want to, there's more than just a paper trail problem.

Unfortunately, the US government runs its own elections, rather than a truely impartial third party.

Politics are a dangerous thing in America.

Re:Yeah right (4, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963721)

If you think politics in the United States is dangerous, check out the political situations in places like Ivory Coast. At least American citizens survive the voting process.

Re:Yeah right (3, Insightful)

Ishin (671694) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963741)

The main difference seems to actually just be that when someone disappears in the US of A no one knows what happened to them. Being a dissident in any country is dangerous. No less so since the new witch trials began. (all this terrorism stuff) And it gets more dangerously legal everyday with guys like Ashcroft at the country's 'justice' helm.

Get real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963795)

"No less so since the new witch trials began"

They have not begin, sorry. There are not even any plans to begin them.

"Being a dissident in any country is dangerous"

Except in the US, where it can make you rich and powerful. Just ask Michael Moore.

Re:Get real (3, Funny)

Flabby Boohoo (606425) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963881)

"Except in the US, where it can make you rich and powerful. Just ask Michael Moore."

I'm sorry, did you really mean cynical and fat? He certainly is NOT rich and powerful. Why else would he have hijacked the Oscars?

Re:Get real (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963934)

Your stupid aren't you? He is a multi-millionaire and has very influential powers. Maybe he's not powerful like your loved Neo, but being able to sway American opinion is just as great.

Re:Get real (1)

Flabby Boohoo (606425) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964064)

"your" right, I am the one that's stupid.

Anyone that I have talked to about Moore thinks he is a knucklehead, much less power to sway American opinion.

Re:Yeah right (1)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963860)


..dangerously legal everyday with guys like Ashcroft at the country's 'justice' helm.

Not to worry. In the long run the history books will treat Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Bush Jr. with the same disgust they do Joe McCarthy today.

No roadblocks, no votes thrown away. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963757)

"When people are cut off from voting by police roadblocks, and thousands of ballots are thrown away, or arranged in a confusing way to try to get people to vote for someone that they don't want to, there's more than just a paper trail problem."

Sorry, but the roadblocks thing is a persistent urban legend. If there was anything to it, Gore would have sued over it. He did not.

Ballots thrown out? The only ones tossed out were ballots WITHOUT VOTES.

Confusing arrangement? The Democrats arranged those ballots, and they only confused idiots who did not follow directions.

Re:No roadblocks, no votes thrown away. (-1, Offtopic)

Ishin (671694) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963831)

Sorry, but the roadblocks thing is a persistent urban legend.
I suppose that's fine to think, if thinking that sort of thing really helps you to sleep better at night.
First they came for the Jews.

But I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists.
But I didn't speak up because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists.
But I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics.
But I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me.
And by that time no one was left to speak up.

It matters what is true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963882)

"[Sorry, but the roadblocks thing is a persistent urban legend.]
I suppose that's fine to think, if thinking that sort of thing really helps you to sleep better at night."


Not my opinion or what I "think". It is actually what happened. Someone made up the roadblock story because they thought it would rile someone, and it sure did. Regardless of the fact that it is made up.

It is like the story about the first President Bush never having seen any supermarket scanner before.

First they came from the communists.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963969)

Let them come for the communists. They are genocidal monsters anyway.

This will save the others.

The Jews? The communists were quite anti-semitic (Stalin's Doctor's Plot, Soviet policy toward Israel and refuseniks, the Sandinista pogrom).

Trade unionists? That is one of the first things they do (ban independent unions). The dictator of Venezuela is trying at this time.

Catholics and protestants? The communist regimes typically commit many abuses of those who do not have the government's mandated religion.

---------

Let them come for the communists. They certainly will not "speak up" for anyone, except to speak up for mass murder of these other groups.

Re:No roadblocks, no votes thrown away. (4, Interesting)

Millennium (2451) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963999)

Where is the proof?

If it happened, then there will be proof of it. Even the CIA couldn't cover up a roadblock of that magnitude; there will be thousands of witnesses. A handful of witnesses is easy to fake, or to silence, but you can't do that in the numbers that such a "voter roadblock" would produce.

Show me anything more than a hanfdul, and I might be convinced. But the previous poster was correct: if these roadblocks had really occurred, there would have been more than enough evidence for Gore -or, if not him personally, any number of voter groups- to sue. He has not done so. That, I think, is the most telling thing about this.

Just because we don't accept accusations without proof doesn't make us blind followers of The Establishment. "Innocent until proven guilty" is the cornerstone of our legal system. So prove them guilty.

Re:Yeah right (5, Insightful)

Dr. Bent (533421) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963808)

Unfortunately, the US government runs its own elections, rather than a truely impartial third party.

"a truely impartial third party"? Like who? What organization is responsible enough to oversee the elections of the most powerful nation on Earth and yet has no opinion one way or another on how they should go.

There is no "impartial third party". The U.S. electoral process isn't perfect but handing it over to Deloitte and Touche, or the U.N. or any other supposedly 'impartial' body is just going to make it worse. The best way to keep it legit is just to make the counters accountable.

Another danger to American democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963848)

Another major danger to democracy in the U.S. is the Democrat Party pushing for changing the census from a count of real people to a situation where statisticians make things much less accurate and "make up" citizens by sampling or other trendy ways to fudge numbers.

This way, they can get rid of or increase citizens in Republican or Democratic voting districts by just making squiggles on paper in an office. No need to gerrymander even.

Re:Yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963989)

My preference would be the UN, but its not very popular in the USA...

How about pairing off with another country as a compromise? e.g., the USA and the UK oversees each other's elections.

Re:Yeah right (2, Funny)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963995)

"a truely impartial third party"? Like who? What organization is responsible enough to oversee the elections of the most powerful nation on Earth and yet has no opinion one way or another on how they should go.

The Stonecutters? Uh, wait, never mind...

Re:Yeah right (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963870)

Local state governments run elections not the US government.

The US government does NOT run elections (5, Informative)

YetAnotherAnonymousC (594097) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963912)

Unfortunately, the US government runs its own elections, rather than a truely impartial third party

An important point, though: the Federal government does NOT run any elections, period. Elections are the responsibility of the states. This was done on purpose so that the federal government could not rig elections for itself. Of course, as we've seen in practice, federal intrusion in state business has become so commonplace that federal action frequently affects state elections, from Federal voting rights acts to the 2000 presidential election. Of course, the ends could be said to justify the means for much of this federal interference. But there is a legitimate states' rights/federalism argument to be made against any federal interference in state elections.

Re:Yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963967)

I've heard that those things happened. Can you provide links or news paper citations (with dates)?

They didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5964015)

They did not happen. The citations you will typically find come from editorial/opinion (not news) sites like indymedia, which like to make stuff up.

The people who defend these lies will be quick to bring up a silly conspiracy theory about the fictions being "censored" from the public media.

Free mirror - karmawhore free edition (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963686)

No reg, wheeeee....

The Article [nytimes.com]

Bon appetit.

At least there's no chad ... (3, Insightful)

AlabamaMike (657318) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963691)

Doubting electronic voting? After the last presidential election, I doubt paper voting. At least with electronic voting there's no "assuming the intent of the voter." Oh yeah, and we'll never have to hear "hanging chad, pregnant chad, and dimpled chad."
A.M.
I got your chad right here ;)

Re:At least there's no chad ... (3, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963806)

After the last presidential election, I doubt paper voting.

The problem wasn't paper voting. It was using another computer technology: punched cards. Punched cards are designed for a machine to read and write. The last election demonstrated that they are not good for humans to write (uncleanly punched holes) or read (no visual feedback).

I see no reason to use any method other than marking a box with a pencil on a piece of paper. Use the KISS principle.

Re:At least there's no chad ... (1)

Shadowmist (57488) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963968)

In New Jersey, I thought our voting machines were antiquted, (they are) but it's even more simple than that. just pull down a lever under your choice and there's a slider for write-in votes. Then I saw what they used in Florida and got to know what primitive actually means.

Re:At least there's no chad ... (1)

Gleef (86) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964029)

Waffile Iron wrote:

I see no reason to use any method other than marking a box with a pencil on a piece of paper. Use the KISS principle.

That's what Canada does [elections.ca], and it seems to work well for them. They even count their paper ballots surprisingly quickly [commondreams.org]. Granted, the US has different voting requirements than Canada, but it seems to me that having fast and reliable pencil and paper ballot counting is a "simple" matter of having a well designed procedure in place and a good management system to ensure it's stuck to.

Re:At least there's no chad ... (5, Insightful)

toasted_calamari (670180) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963982)

At least with electronic voting there's no "assuming the intent of the voter." Oh yeah, and we'll never have to hear "hanging chad, pregnant chad, and dimpled chad."
Lets take a hypothetical situation: A new computer voting system is implemented. However, one of the towns in which it is set up configures the equipment improperly, the result being that the votes are recorded incorrectly. With a paper ballot, it is easy to see, just by looking at the ballot, whether the equipment is operating correctly. If a computer is used, you only see what the computer recorded, whether it is right or wrong. The problem I see is that you could have thousands of votes tallied incorrectly with noone ever finding out about it.

I do, however, see a computer solution that would be a hybrid of computer and paper ballots:
you walk up to the voting booth and vote on a screen. The results of your vote is printed on a thermal paper ballot. The ballot has a barcode that a computer can tally, as well as a human readable area stating who and what you voted for. you put this into a box, where the barcode is scanned and the ballot stored. The results of the scan are displayed so that you can see that the scan was correct. This system would allow you to tally votes by computer, but the ballots would be stored, so that they could be computer or hand tallyed later. Also, verification would be provided to the voter that his vote had been tallyed.

Doubts? (0, Offtopic)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963697)

'To Register Doubts, Press Here' and seems less than convinced."

Gee, given the recent controversy with the New York Times, that link will probably end up well clicked.

Seriously though, I have been a long time reader of the Grey Lady, and I hope these "issues" are resolved and they can get on with their history of quality, reliable reporting.

It's not about electronic vote casting. (5, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963698)

The best idea is not electronic vote casting, it's electronic counting. The most recent Toronto mayoral election used a ballot similar to those used in electronic test-scoring, where you use your HB pencil to fill in a blank. The votes were all counted within a couple of hours after the polls closed.

If you wanted to avoid confusing the easily confusable, you could have a touch-screen system that prints a paper ballot, with the blanks ideally positioned for the electronic counters. Efficiency and a paper trail.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (2, Insightful)

Bendy Chief (633679) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963743)

Well, if you're using an HB pencil, doesn't the old rule apply where you have to fill in the whole space? You might find, given the lack of voting prowess say, the people of Florida exhibit, that a lot of ballots get tossed aside just because of a minor mechanical error like that.

Of course, you could always have a human backup for those ones.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (1)

reidbold (55120) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963978)

If you can't fill in a bubble with a radius of 2mm, barring some sort of disability which could be taken account for, then it's your own damn fault.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (3, Interesting)

abbamouse (469716) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963836)

One of the problems uncovered in Florida after the whole election/chad fiasco was that even in counties with optical scanners, there were still significant overvotes and undervotes (spoiled ballots). What's even more interesting is that while the overall error rate was lower than that for punch ballots (no hanging chad to worry about), the errors were not party-neutral. It really did appear to be the case that those attempting to vote Democratic were worse at using the optical system. Electronic voting offers the prospect of error-checking and instant feedback while still keeping the vote secret. Of course, that doesn't mean we still don't have to worry about the technical and verification issues.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (3, Insightful)

CashCarSTAR (548853) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963890)

As someone who thought a lot about this BEFORE Florida 2000, I can tell you what the problem is/was.

It's rather simple. Well-to-do areas tend to have voting methods with less % of error than more poor-class areas. Why is this I do not know, although I suspect it has to do with local property value rates, similar to education.

There was a substantial difference in the methods of voting. What needs to be done, is that there needs to be one standard, that is both simple and reasonably verifiable. I go for the pen and paper ballot myself.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (2, Interesting)

abbamouse (469716) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963931)

You're correct -- wealthier counties were more likely to have optical scanners instead of punch ballots, and therefore they had lower rates of error. But that's not the whole story. Even in the optical counties, errors were still disproportionately made by Democrats. Of course, the only ones we're sure of are the overvotes (marking a candidate and then writing in that ticket as well, thus spoiling one's ballot). Moreover, Gore never asked for a recount of overvotes, only the undervotes. Perhaps the Dems had more first-time voters. In any case, these things aren't politically neutral -- different systems favor one party's voters over those of the other party.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (4, Interesting)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963946)

Here in NC, they have a way to fix that. When you turn your optical ballot in, they feed it through the scanner right then. The box will throw up a warning and reject the ballot if there's an overvote or other error reading the ballot, allowing the voter to make corrections.

If there's an undervote, it assumes you don't care about that contest.

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (1)

alanjstr (131045) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963838)

Just print the result when they vote. If they see an error, let the user correct the problem and print again, shredding the bad one.

Why is _paper_ necessary? (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963992)

I don't see why voting has to involve a slip of paper. Why not have a line of buckets, one for each candidate, and you drop a small token into one of the buckets (or more than one, depending on your electoral system). To preserve confidentiality there would need to be a slot through which you drop the token, to stop you reaching in and removing some or looking to see who's had the most votes so far. Then counting votes is just weighing the buckets (and checking for invalid tokens).

Re:Why is _paper_ necessary? (4, Funny)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964054)

And when you hear a token hit the bucket bottom with a hollow, bassy sound, you know the person just voted for the Communist party. Arrest him!

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964040)

Do you still have that couch-hocking buffoon running Toronto? He's a big reason I left.

He's stupid enough to call in the national guard because it snowed... Imagine that, snow in canada.

Who will save us from this mysterious white powdery substance?

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo body!!!

Re:It's not about electronic vote casting. (0, Redundant)

Surak (18578) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964051)

Several U.S. states already use electronic vote counting, including Michigan. The ballots are filled out exactly as described, much like a Scantron(tm). The twist is *you* are the one who inserts the ballot into the counting machine, so *you* know that your ballot got counted. The machine will immediately notify the poll administrator who's supervising you whether or not there was any kind of read error and inform you that you must darken in your lines better or erase stray marks, etc.

The mark of the beast is upon us! (-1, Troll)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963701)

The only way I can think of to make electronic voting work securely is to register every citizen, implant a chip under out skin that has an ID number, and use our fingerprint/retina for a pin. This would solve nearly every security problem out there, including voting. Plus no passwords to remember.

Publicaly appealing: no
Secure: Mostly
Big brother: Yes
Good way to get body parts forcibly removed: Yes
Satan (mark of beast): I think this would qualify

Re:The mark of the beast is upon us! (3, Interesting)

eXtro (258933) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963873)

Nice rant, I am sure it will be moderated up.

The same argument could be made for the status quo of voting. The only way to make manual voting secure is to register every citizen, tatoo them and require a drop of blood for DNA testing before they enter the voting booth.

Except that this doesn't really address security and neither does your rant. This assumes that the voters themselves will be trying to commit fraud. This happens. It's still nothing compared to the problems that happen when the government commits fraud. I'm not even referring to the normal allegations of miscounts in Florida.

  1. San Francisco Examiner [examiner.com]
  2. American Civil Libterties Union [aclu.org]
  3. Los Angeles Times (archived at globalechange.org, but I checked the article against LA Times' for-pay-archive) [globalexchange.org]

a href=

Saddam didn't use electronic voting (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963705)

That's right, Saddam used pieces of paper with a "Yes" box and a "No" box. You simply needed to check yes if you wanted to re-elect Saddam. Mr Hussein got over 99% of the vote. Clearly, his people wanted him there.

Re:Saddam didn't use electronic voting (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963731)

Check Yes: Happy confirmed position Saddam
Check No: Mad at you for voting against him Saddam

Remember, armed guards stood over them as they voted.

Sandinista elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963818)

"Remember, armed guards stood over them as they voted"

This is how the Sandinistas won their first election (after they sent goon squads to beat up would-be ballot opponents: they had armed terrorists "guarding" the polling places.). Yes, the vote counting was fair (which can be an unusual thing), but everything else was not.

They lost their 2nd election because revulsion at all their terrorism overcame the fear of the voters (and they were also buoyed up by the overthrow of the other Soviet colonial dictatorships in Europe which occured at the same time).

Re:Saddam didn't use electronic voting (1)

Ripplet (591094) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963814)

Yes, in fact, I believe in the last vote (actually a referendum on whether he should stay, hence the yes/no options), Saddam managed to swing the few floaters and scored 100%. Obviously he feels no need to further improve the voting process.

Re:Saddam didn't use electronic voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963867)

That's right, Saddam used pieces of paper with a "Yes" box and a "No" box. You simply needed to check yes if you wanted to re-elect Saddam. Mr Hussein got over 99% of the vote. Clearly, his people wanted him there.

but you translated the text wrong.....

your yes and no translated correctly but the text at the top read doe you want to elect that sadamm will not kill you?

Ballmer on Goats, "They're So Fine" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963707)

I just can't believe it.

When we did it... (2, Interesting)

dcs (42578) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963710)

Here, when we tested a new electronic voting machine that registered all votes in paper (and allowed you to see your vote "paper trail" through a small window), people found it MUCH worse than the system used in the previous election (and much of the rest of the country in that election).

Me, I think it was because the ads teaching people how to vote in the old machines were displayed nation-wide, *including* the places where the new system was used.

Whatever (2, Insightful)

the-dude-man (629634) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963717)

Whatever, as if it has to be a private company doing the polling, and whats to say the code does not send the data directly, encrypted to a key generated by the goverenment, to the government? In that event the data couldnt be tampered with.

I agree we need to take some precautions to safegaurd the electorial process...but that dosnt mean we cant use electronic means to poll. Just like there were concerns about the inital voting schemes, there are concerns about this one, but that dosnt mean we cant simply make desgin changes to ensure the integrety of the data. And since when has the government been MORE credible than the private sector? They have had just as many scandals, if not more.

In any event, the answer is to simply design in safegaurds....not go back to older ways just because your scared of technology...please

Greatest scam in history. (1, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963718)


History will eventually show electronic voting to be the most excellent means for subverting democracy ever invented.

Re:Greatest scam in history. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963773)

Actually, that distinction will be given to the permanent marker.

May seem wierd now, but with centuries of perspective I think it will all make sense.

Re:Greatest scam in history. (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963948)

History will eventually show electronic voting to be the most excellent means for subverting democracy ever invented.

Obviously you're not familiar with the history of democracy.

Democracy can survive corruption, fraud, graft, etc--hell, it seems to thrive on it, actually--

No, wait. Maybe you do know that, and "one voter one vote" and "everyone vote" count as subversions of democracy... yeah, that must be it...

bound for corruption (4, Informative)

meatbridge (443871) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963724)

it happened in florida in the 2000 elections. thousands of minority voters were deemed unqualified to vote because a corrupted registration system declared them to be felons. this occured because they shared a name with a felon others were barred having been convicted in the year 2009. if we can't get the registration right what chance do we have for the actual votes.

Top 5 reasons for Electronic Voting (3, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963740)

5. Two words: Digital chads

4. Chicago motto: "Log in early, and vote often"

3. In the Mayor Daley election, even dead OS's like BSD can vote.

2. You can now use Grokster and Kazaa to steal votes.

1. "I'm from Chicago. Give me two public keys".

Paper, what paper? (2, Insightful)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963761)

Here in New York, we use a mechanical switch voting booth. Why isn't that considered unreliable, too?

Bottom line (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963764)

A) Electronics hardware just isn't reliable enough. Especially when thrown to the whim of the public.

B) Software is even less reliable. Bug-free software is a near impossibility.

C) No system, hardware or software, is 100% secure. People could probably figure out ways to change votes remotely via electromagnetic pulses if they had to.

D) The human factor isn't completely eliminated. As long as humans have some role in the vote takin process, the results can fixed. Whether it be from software and hardware designers, hackers, or people mis-reporting the results.

E) Most people don't trust electronics, some people outright fear them. E.g. my grandfather refuses to use ATMs. What if this causes some people not to vote?

2 out of 3 CEO's Disparage Goat Sucking (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963769)

Microsoft Chairman, Steve Ballmer, was the third CEO, but could not be reached for comment.

Mechanical machines had problems also (3, Insightful)

asmithmd1 (239950) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963770)

If you are old enough to remember the all mechanical machines where you flipped small levers to vote and pulled a large arm to cast your vote. The votes were mechanically accumulated and would sometimes get stuck yielding results like 2273 votes for one canidate and 999 votes for the other. What can you do then?

Re:Mechanical machines had problems also (1)

Gleef (86) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963919)

Old enough to remember them? Here in New York State, we still use them!

Paper trail: the solution (3, Insightful)

cwernli (18353) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963772)

The two main points in electronic voting are:

  1. It's needed
  2. It'll be bug-ridden

The vendor's point of view (unsurprisingly) is that "bugginess" is only a hypothetical threat, and that it in real-life situations no glitches will occur.

This is very clearly horseshit. Every IT-implementation has bugs. Repeat: Every. The question is: how many of them can we tolerate ? If it comes down to a word-processor, or a webserver, or even telecom infrastructure: we can afford quite some. If it comes to medical facilities, nuclear plants, or, as in this case, political decisions, the threshold has to be a lot lower. You wouldn't want George W. Bush to have been elected by a bug, would you ?

The (currently feasible safeguard) solution of the paper trail sounds like an excellent solution:

a) the voter can immediately control if her vote was cast correctly
b) the same rule applies as with financial and legal records (where a paper trail has to be conserved)
c) the "black box" problem that is mentioned in the article is circumvented: the citizen doesn't have to understand how the e-voting booth works, but (see a) can control if her intentions match the outcome.

Re:Paper trail: the solution (0, Flamebait)

Gorm the DBA (581373) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963841)

You wouldn't want George W. Bush to have been elected by a bug, would you ?

Umm...he already was...by five cockroa...err...Supreme Court Justices. Apparently the only five votes that mattered.

Freedom in just a hair under two years!!!!!!

Re:Paper trail: the solution (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964053)

You wouldn't want George W. Bush to have been elected by a bug, would you?

But the Supreme Court is okay?

Burn!

Electronically Voting could have been handy for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963775)

Earlier this week, I had to vote on two local ballot question, selectmen and a state rep. (Braintree, Massachusetts)

Funny thing is, they ran out of state ballots, and we had to wait around an hour for new ones to be shipped from town hall.

While talking with the others waiting, it struck me odd as it's somehow contradictory how we are pressed to become more interactive with the community, yet at the same time moving towards measures that will reduce the interactivity.

You have to ask yourself, how many of your friends did you meet outside of a obligatory system of meeting, such as school, or work? The question may seem off topic, but what would it be like in a society without such meetings?

An obvious candidate for required open source (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963779)

OK, generally I'm not one of those "everything should be open source" voices, but I do think that this is one case where this type of software should be required by law to be open source. The ramifications of any type of fraud is way to high. But more importantly, I think that a separate agency should be involved in the archiving/building of the source. After all, just because someone says "download our source code X" doesn't mean that X is what is actually running. The source should be baselined and backed up on releases, as well as checksums produced and verified for the resulting binaries.

Why not this? (1)

betanerd (547811) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963782)

Require something that cant be falsified like retinal scanners eliminate security concerns. To eliminate privacy concerns, by law (or new amendment), all personal data should only be held until the results have been counted then irrecoverably destroyed.

Im sure there is a flaw that I am over looking (aside from the slippery slope argument), what is it?

Re:Why not this? (1)

Shadowmist (57488) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964007)

The flaw is that once personal data is collected, there is no assurance that it ever goes away.

Use electronics only to prevent errors (1)

Logic Bomb (122875) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963834)

I don't think anyone reading Slashdot needs enlightenment on the dangers of a completely electronic voting system. Limited use of electronics could do wonders for stopping problems in the recording of choices by voters and the counting of the results. Instead of using pencil and paper, or especially punch cards, electronic machines should be used to create a ballot that is then printed out for the voter to inspect and drop in a ballot box. These perfectly formatted ballots can then be quickly and accurately counted by a machine that doesn't have to account for double votes, incorrect votes, smudges, hanging chads, etc.

Anyone who says a purely electronic system is the best idea is either totally ignorant of its inherent problems or has money to gain from such a system's adoption.

So... (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963835)

So when is the article going to come out about the dangers of trusting electronic news websites? Don't we need to remain firmly fixed to a concrete paper trail for news, lest history itself become so malleable as to resemble Orwell's 1984?

Opening Arguments Please! *Ding ding ding* (3, Interesting)

curtisk (191737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963846)

Along with Dr. Dill, endorsers of the resolution include professors from Yale, M.I.T., Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, Bryn Mawr and Johns Hopkins, as well as industry experts from Apple, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Unisys. Dr. Mercuri has written substantially on electronic voting and is one of the group's most outspoken members. She worries that no electronic voting system has been certified to even the lowest level of federal government or international computer security standards, nor has any been required to comply with such.

VS.

"When you're dealing with computer scientists, they deal in a world of theoretics, and under that scenario anything is possible," Ms. Bonsall said. "If you probe a little further, the chance of these failures, the risk of that happening wide-scale in a national election is almost nil."

Paul Terwilliger, director of product development at Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic systems, said that while no one disputes the need for safeguards, complaints about machines like his company's were uninformed. "I think the concerns being raised are 100 percent valid," Mr. Terwilliger said. "However, they're being raised by people who have little idea about what actually goes on."

I think I'm going with the doubters on this one, not with the people selling it. I also like the quote(s) that question the fact of "how can we verify there's been no tampering? And "if its so secure why can't we look in it?"

And in regard to Ms. Bosnall's quote, we're not so much worried about wide-scale national failure as we are with tampering .....big difference.
America gets scarier by the day.

Re:Opening Arguments Please! *Ding ding ding* (1)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963985)

The day we adopt a closed-source electronic voting system is the day that US democracy, sick after decades of fighting the two cancers of corporate influence and voter apathy, is finally murdered in its hospital bed.

Will anyone outside Fort Slashdot notice?

Misgivings (3, Informative)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963869)

I'm definetly a techno-geek, but I'm also a pragmatist. Electronic voting isn't going to solve any more problems than it creates.

A bunch of my concerns that haven't been addressed in the media:
* The hardware and software are proprietary and not open to public review. My paper has a full page copy of the ballots before every election so the public can review it.

* Not accessible. How do people missing vision or limbs use them?

* How are the results audited? Do the electronic logs go into the public domain?

* Is the incredible expense and TCO of these machines justified? Paper ballots are practically free by comparison.

* What about absentee voting? What wacky "voting method of the future" can we come for that?

Brazil (5, Informative)

Gleef (86) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963879)

National Semiconductor and Unisys (two American companies) made a really good electronic voting system for Brazil [national.com], they've been using them since 1996. It has a tamper resistant paper trail, so it is completely auditable, unlike most of the systems described in the article. From what I've heard, the machines work quite well, and people are happy with them. (Please, if someone has actually voted with these, share your experiences)

I fail to see how having a paper trail with electronic voting is "dreaming", it strikes me more as "required", particularly if we want to consider our government democratic.

Re:Brazil (2, Informative)

Gauchito (657370) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964059)

And to those other posters who are afraid electronic voting will subvert the democratic process, a nine-fingered man who started on the bottom rung of society just managed to achieve the highest post in the land. He didn't need a Harvard education or a rich dad. Sure, he had to try and try again (and try, and try :) ), but when a man with his roots makes it to the presidency, you know democracy is alive and well.

Touch screens with printouts (5, Interesting)

dszd0g (127522) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963880)

Any opinions on the following:

When one goes to the polls, you do the signup sheet thing. They hand you a card with a barcode on it. The barcode is not tied to the voter in any way. Only the voter knows their number.

Of course some algorithm would be used to generate the numbers and they would have large gaps. A good algorithm should prevent people bringing their own cards and hiding them in their pants, right? Smart chips could be used if people want to be paranoid (that would get expensive).

You go to a machine, insert the card. You place your votes on a touch screen. The software confirms your votes. Then it prints the results onto the card.

If you look at the card and see a mistake or for whatever reason, you go back to the main desk. They swipe the barcode, which cancels the vote and hand you a new card. If someone starts swiping invalid numbers the front desk is notified.

One can then bring the card home. After the election you can enter the barcode and check to make sure the database matches what is printed on the card.

This last one is important to me, because I feel it adds some accountability. If someone can get enough people to hand over their cards after an election an audit should be possible.

I've been up all night so this probably has holes in it, but what do you think of the overall process?

One could take the barcode thing a little farther and when the voter pamphlets are handed out there is a barcode printed on them that one can bring to the polls to make it easier for them to find the voter's name. One would still be required to sign (this isn't really any security, I assume it is allows some legal protection). If the voter does not have the barcode they would be required to provide some form of identification. I don't flat out like requiring identification, but this provides a way out.

Casting of Risk (3, Insightful)

Effugas (2378) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963918)

It's pretty simple, really.

The threat model that the voting machine manufacturers want to work with is: "Given a particular system, how likely is it that it will get hacked?".

The real threat model is substantially different: "Given a particular system, how likely is it that it will be accused of having been hacked, and how damaging will that accusation be?" Much different scenario. Accusations, and the credibility they carry, are directly rebutted by evidence to the contrary. The simple availability of an irrevocable audit trail prevents challenges -- "they might be able to prove us wrong, so we better not challenge the results of the election."

No evidence, no risk of accusation, no credibility for the election.

None deserved, too.

Disclaimer: I _am_ a security engineer. This isn't a technical problem, it's a sociological one. Counting is easy.

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Research
http://www.doxpara.com

Paper is more tamper resistant. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963927)

Mr. Terwilliger said that Sequoia was willing to share its source code, provided viewers sign nondisclosure agreements. But he questioned the need for a paper-based audit trail. "What's so great about a piece of paper?'' he said. "I can tamper with a piece of paper with a pencil or pen. All I need is physical access and I can tamper with the election."

Why is he ignoring the obvious: Yes, but you can tamper with paper, but realistically, how long does it take you to modify even 1000 paper votes?

Now, how long does it take you to modify 1000 electronic votes? Or 1000000?

Printout (1, Insightful)

Cackmobile (182667) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963928)

I think a printout is whats needed. THe touch screen is only there to simplify choices for people so u don't get a mix up like in Florida. Its there to help illterates and others. Its not there to do the actual voting. If u had the touch screen which produced a printout, which the voter checks then puts into the ballot box. Then nothing can has to be stored on the computer. You could make each one stand alone and print onto special paper that changes each time. Of course nothing is perfect but its a start.

moron DOWting elections, & warning SCO users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963939)

that's right, if there even is an election, ucann bet your .asp it'll be as FUDged as placebo. it's all so georgewellian, don't you think?

as for you Godless corepirate stock markup felons; your last gasper/litigatorIE demise is just another example of what folks can do quite well without.

lookout bullow. run for your options, should you have any left? consult with yOUR creator often regarding matters of the heart/mind/wallet. that's the spirit.

Perhaps nVidias driver team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5963944)

...can create some sort of audit trail.

If Lady, If (1)

Irvu (248207) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963957)

"I think that any voting system, if it is programmed and used properly, can be very reliable," she added.

<rant>
I think that this, like many other issues, is something that we at /. need to comment on. For good or ill we are the pople who know just how hard it is to ensure that systems are always programmed and used *properly* especially when you users include every regestered voter in the U.S.

The fact that people feel more confident about them says nothing about how tamper-proof or accurate they really are. The fact that they are made by private companies means that they have economic interests behind them. Private companies have a tendency to care who does and does not win elections.

I think that it is incumbent upon us to speak out about this to the wider world beyond /. Even if we think that this is a good thing I think that it is time for some good old fashined letters to the editor.
</rant>

Poor article... (4, Insightful)

Goonie (8651) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963972)

This strikes me as a classic example of how "getting quotes from both sides" does not a fair and accurate article make.

The key points that opponents of electronic voting make are that a) there might be flaws in the system either by error or by design, b) that the machines cannot be easily inspected to check their operations, and c) that without a paper trail there is no way to check after the fact whether the votes were correctly counted or not.

The response from a voting machine manufacturer, however, is classic obfuscation:

"I think the concerns being raised are 100 percent valid," Mr. Terwilliger said. "However, they're being raised by people who have little idea about what actually goes on."

At this point, the question arises - why are these critics wrong? What are they not understanding about the system? Rather than following up on this point, though, the reporter takes a completely different, and totally irrelevant tack, discussing public confidence in the machines. So what? Lots of people probably think that Microsoft invented the Internet. It doesn't make it true. The only conclusion I can come to is that the journalist did not take the time to understand the issue properly, and just got quotes from "both sides" and that was good enough.

Do experts in other fields (if I may be so bold as to count myself an "expert" in it) get as frustrated with journalists, or is it just a particular problem with science and tech journalism?

Re:Poor article... (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964039)

Do experts in other fields (if I may be so bold as to count myself an "expert" in it) get as frustrated with journalists, or is it just a particular problem with science and tech journalism?

You are not alone. If you are still in college (or still facing starting it) by any chance, take a journalism course as a general ed elective. I did because I like writing and wanted to try something other than short stories. It was an eye opener about the sorts of people who major in journalism (by the end of the semester you know who's who). There was a large contingent of opinionated "crusader" types deeply steeped in ideology (which I personally rank as a mental illness).

Using the FOIA to view code? (4, Insightful)

Dan Crash (22904) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963976)

From the article:
Dr. Dill argued, however, that if voting machines were really secure, then voters would be able to see the insides of their "proprietary" technology. "If someone really has a tamper-resistant machine, they should tell you enough about how the machine works so you can assure yourself that the machine works," he said. "We don't know what the weaknesses are. We don't know who the people are that control that stuff."

Mr. Terwilliger said that Sequoia was willing to share its source code, provided viewers sign nondisclosure agreements.
So if I look at the code, I can't talk about it? Grrrreat.

I'd like to see someone file a Freedom of Information Act [epic.org] request to see the code. The FOIA applies to the following documents:

552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

(a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows:

(1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public--

(A) descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions;

(B) statements of the general course and method by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;

(C) rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations;

(D) substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general
applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and

(E) each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.
I know there are arguments against this, specifically that the code is the intellectual property of a private business, and that it is protected by both US Copyright laws and the Berne Convention, but I'd like to see the courts wrestle with this one just the same. Knowing how our votes are counted is one of the sacred founding principles of democracy, and personally, I think it trumps any other interests in this case.

Unfortunately, this has little to no chance of succeeding while Ashcroft is Attorney General, since he's declared an effective moratorium [alternet.org] on FOIA requests while he is in office.

NYT? (3, Interesting)

wolf- (54587) | more than 10 years ago | (#5963998)

Um, like the old grey lady has any credibility at this point.
Troll? No, legitimate comment on the credibility of a "source" of information.

Bartcop (3, Informative)

Rudeboy777 (214749) | more than 10 years ago | (#5964017)

For a glimpse into the potential repercussions of the Diebold e-voting machines used in the last federal election look here. [bartcop.com]

WARNING: This is really unsettling stuff and may cause you to lose (more) faith in the U.S. election system.

moron 2nd warning to SCO about threats (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5964071)

we've had several calls this a.m., from folks wondering if the systems we put in for them, would be subject to some sorte of legal consequence.

our reply: sure thing, we're working up a class action brief seeking compensation for difficulties encountered due to whoreabull Godless greed/fear based last gasper stock markup felon ?pr? FUDgePacking.

when in DOWt....
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