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Observer Pans Touchscreen Voting Test

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the oh-they're-only-votes dept.

United States 278

riversidevoter writes "I recently observed the Logic and Accuracy 'test' given to the touchscreen voting machines in Riverside CA. Riverside County uses voting machines and software from Sequoia Voting Systems. The voting kiosks do not produce a voter-verified paper trail. As a computer programmer familiar with software testing, I was really disappointed at what I saw." Read on for his critical observations of the demonstration.

riversidevoter continues: "WinEDS, the program that is used to count votes, was only tested in a pre-election mode. The software was not tested in the configuration that it would be in on election day.

In addition to that, people signed a form that said that they had verified the results of the test before the test had finished running. Mischelle Townsend, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, told Salon that the form that people signed was just an attendance form. But the form clearly states 'We the undersigned declare that we observed the process of logic and accuracy testing of voting equipment performed by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, as required by law and that all tests performed resulted in accurate voting of all units tested, including both touchscreen and absentee systems.'

You can see a copy of the Salon article here. You can see a copy of the form that people signed here.

I also believe that the observation group that witnessed the test was given a misleading description of Sequoia's system. For example, the fact that the votes are transferred from the DRE to a SQL Server database to be counted was never fully disclosed to all the members of the group.

Also, the sheer number of times that the phrase 'proprietary operating system' was used, among other things, helped to create the impression that Sequoia's system is not as reliant on Microsoft Windows as it really is.

I have created a website about this issue; please take a look at it.

On the website you can find my report on what happened that day (which outlines several problems I haven't mentioned in this posting) as well as some supporting documents. There is a letter and a note from Mischelle Townsend in which she mentions mailing the results to people or having the test results be picked up 'afterwards'...."

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278 comments

asddfsdfssdfaaas (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277342)

dfsdsfasdasdfsdfa'

Well. It's just as usefull as any other first post attempt

Maybe CA could have used these... (0, Troll)

skank (106609) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277356)

Nothing like a BSOD (from the proprietary OS) to keep the Governator from getting elected. May have helped them out a bit...

Re:Maybe CA could have used these... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277475)

OMFG! FAGGOT!

I'M NOT INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277504)

but I'M KNOWN to rock THE MICROPHONE

paging all ASCII rappers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277689)

you are needed at goatse.info [goatse.info] immediately. thank you.

Re:asddfsdfssdfaaas (0, Flamebait)

MrPegTHEpirate (717977) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277518)

Yarrr, be claimed ye scurvy lot... We be the PCFF pirates most feared in all the land... YAR!!!

Re:asddfsdfssdfaaas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277582)

Yeah those whores all love anal, fucking politician cocksuckers just need to get a dick out their ass and stop smoking that pole, i mean it's a serious issue here!!!

Unfortunate. (5, Insightful)

i_am_syco (694486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277343)

If they don't do it right on the first try, e-voting won't ever take off.

Re:Unfortunate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277487)

Is there really a right way to do it anyway ?

Re:Unfortunate. (0)

}}mons{{ (97347) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277533)

they designed it that way to ease rigging of results and count on the stupidity of the mases to ignore the flaw...

hell, f u tell joe public that its secure theyll swallow it. if u tell them 8s not, then he will say that your a conspiracy theorist...

remember VOTESCAM...

Re:Unfortunate. (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277570)

No, it's more unfortunate than that. It will take off, despite not being done the right way, because it costs less/looks good/is progress. The public won't realize it wasn't done right until something happens. If we're lucky it'll be small. More likely the small problems will be swept under the rug and the first clue the general public has about the problem is when a presidential election is hacked. And there won't be a backup.

Re:Unfortunate. (1)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277589)

A. Is that a bad thing? It's a lot harder to hack a piece of paper with a hand drawn X.

B. Don't be so sure. Granted, it's possible politics will keep e-voting out of the USA for quite some time, but if the system is good then other countries will adopt it. Granted, America has a poor track record when it comes to holding on to archaic systems (see: using Imperial over Metric, and still using Electoral Colleges).

Re:Unfortunate. (0)

}}mons{{ (97347) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277645)

electoral college is better...

mass voting sucks since it allows dumb people which usually outnumbers the smart ones to cast their vote...

its BAD really BAD...

Re:Unfortunate. (3, Informative)

craigtay (638170) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277840)

it might be hard to hack a piece of paper with a hand drawn X, but it is certainly not hard to pretend to be someone who died 50 years ago. This has happened before.. If they could make a secure E-voting machine (Which I doubt will happen for some time), it would be fantastic.

I vote first poost. (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277344)

i poo out my ass. such marvelous gas! i poo poo poo poo poo poo poo out my ass!

Re:I vote first poost. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277546)

You know, a lot of filthy bastards don't flush public toilets because I believe they're proud of their shits. I know I'm proud of a lot of mine. Long, wide, 1 solid piece. The thing is, whenever I see some slobs shit in the public toilet, I never understand how they can be proud of such a thing. Usually a couple small pieces, all fuzzy on the edges with who knows what. I would laugh at them if it wasn't so pathetic. I wish they could see my beautiful, firm perfectly arced log. But I'm not a filthy slob; I always flush.

Thanks for reading. This is the first time I've told anybody this.

+1 Insightful (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277659)

Who mods this down as flamebait? That's crazy.

I'm glad somebody has the courage to come out and talk about this. I'm not always so proud of my bowel movements, because there is a lot of variation depending on what I've been eating. But I understand the pride in a nicely formed fecal object. Beautiful, natural perfection.

And you're right, people who don't flush are still filthy slobs, nice fecal matter or no.

Oh Boy.... (5, Funny)

H8X55 (650339) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277349)

Just when you thought FloridaGate 2000 was out of everyone's mind, we bring you CaliforniaGate 2004: Rise of the Machines

Re:Oh Boy.... (3, Insightful)

toasted_calamari (670180) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277397)

The problem with electronic voting is that if there is another "floridagate" noone will ever know. I would have no problem with electronic voting if there was some paper trail and if the companies opened thier hardware and software for independent investigation. However, this is clearly not the case.

Re:Oh Boy.... (3, Funny)

acidrain69 (632468) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277544)

Don't blame florida, blame the country for sending it's parents/grandparents to retire here :)

Re:Oh Boy.... (1)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277790)

do you really trust people to make computer programs to count ballots, when people cant do it by hand.

it reminds me of the days back in high school, we werent allowed to use calculators till we proved that we could do it ourselves.

In other news... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277365)

People who used the new voting system are believed to have voted for an independent operating system, dispite the fact that the test was on a faux-presidential race.

According to this text Linux was voted into the White House. We suspect Apache will be selected as running mate, though rumors say Samba is also a consideration.

Civil Disobedience against DMCA and Diebold (5, Informative)

bstadil (7110) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277370)

Diebold is trying to hide [theinquirer.net]the problems behind their Voting Machines behind DMCA.

The Good students at have decided this will not stand. [swarthmore.edu]

Re:Civil Disobedience against DMCA and Diebold (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277552)

Read the diebold memos:
http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/

Search the diebold memos:
http://why-war.com/memos/cgi-bin/search.pl

MEMO EXCERPTS

"Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so miss [sic] managed."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200110/msg00002.html

"I have become increasingly concerned about the apparent lack of concern over the practice of writing contracts to provide products and services which do not exist and then attempting to build these items on an unreasonable timetable with no written plan, little to no time for testing, and minimal resources. It also seems to be an accepted practice to exaggerate our progress and functionality to our customers and ourselves then make excuses at delivery time when these products and services do not meet expectations."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200110/msg00001.html

"I feel that over the next year, if the current management team stays in place, the Global [Election Management System] working environment will continue to be a chaotic mess. Global management has and will be doing the best to keep their jobs at the expense of employees. Unrealistic goals will be placed on current employees, they will fail to achieve them. If Diebold wants to keep things the same for the time being, this will only compound an already dysfunctional company. Due to the lack of leadership, vision, and self-preserving nature of the current management, the future growth of this company will continue to stagnate until change comes."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200112/msg00007.html

"[T]he bugzilla historic data recovery process is complete. Some bugs were irrecoverably lost and they will have to be re-found and re-submitted, but overall the loss was relatively minor."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200207/msg00090.html

"28 of 114 or about 1 in 4 precincts called in this AM with either memory card issues "please re-insert", units that wouldn't take ballots - even after recycling power, or units that needed to be recycled. We reburned 7 memory cards, 4 of which we didn't need to, but they were far enough away that we didn't know what we'd find when we got there (bad rover communication)."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200003/msg00034.html

"If voting could really change things, it would be illegal."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200009/msg00109.html

"I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb"."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200101/msg00068.html

"[...] while reading some of Paranoid Bev's scribbling."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200302/msg00069.html

"Johnson County, KS will be doing Central Count for their mail in ballots. They will also be processing these ballots in advance of the closing of polls on election day. They would like to log into the Audit Log an entry for Previewing any Election Total Reports. They need this, to prove to the media, as well as, any candidates & lawyers, that they did not view or print any Election Results before the Polls closed. ***However, if there is a way that we can disable the reporting functionality, that would be even better.***" (emphasis added)
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/rcr.w3archive/200 202/msg00051.html

"4K Smart cards which had never been previously programmed are being recognized by the Card Manager as manager cards. When a virgin card from CardLogix is inserted into a Spyrus (have tried CM-0-2-9 and CM-1-1-1) the prompt "Upgrade Mgr Card?" is displayed. Pressing the ENTER key creates a valid manager card. This happens in Admin mode and Election mode."
source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/bugtrack.w3archiv e/200201/msg00025.html

LEARN MORE

http://www.why-war.com/features/2003/10/diebold. ht ml

How to help in 3 steps (3, Informative)

mykawhite (149348) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277700)

Diebold stories have been a constant presence on /. recently. Here's how to help:

1) The students engaging in this civil disobedience are meeting with the Dean of their college Wednesday, October 22nd at 4pm. We need you to email *nice* and *supportive* emails to rgross1 (at) swarthmore.edu and cc them to info (at) why-war.com *before* October 22nd at 4pm EST. Please help Dean Bob Gross understand the importance of this issue!

2) Download the entire memo archive:
http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists.tgz

3) Join the disobedience by hosting the memos

Re:Civil Disobedience against DMCA and Diebold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277859)

spin from the registra of voters
http://www.co.riverside.ca.us/election/ts/ vvpat/in dex.htm

Oh man... (4, Insightful)

goon america (536413) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277372)

People are so crippled by the more expensive == better heuristic they don't notice when the rug is being pulled out from under them. Electronic voting should be unconstitutional.

Re:Oh man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277633)

Electronic voting should be unconstitutional.

On what grounds?

If the software is tainted in this new all-electronic voting machine, then the company and its employees needs to be punished.

However, what does this have to do with electronic voting in general? Should we all pull of our wooden sabots and toss them into the machines?

Let's get control of ourselves here folks.

Re:Oh man... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277750)

No, he is completely correct. For every "problem" that electronic voting solves it brings ten more problems in baggage. It's not like we're talking about keeping computers out of the DMV or IRS or something. Rather this concerns a relatively infrequent governmental function (2-3 elections a year max) that really has to be absolutely transparent for us to trust it.

When you sit down and begin enumerating all of the potential problems with electronic voting, ones that are inherent and systemic and cannot be overcome no matter how much testing or oversight you have, it's clear that this is not a viable application of computer technology.

And this is under the best of circumstances. When you look at in the light of how it is being implemented in reality it is horrific. The level of opaqueness involved where people are getting sued for defamation and hacking for bringing legitimate problems to light, where statistical analyses suggest that serious abuses have already taken place in a number of counties, and where the cost that we are paying as taxpayers for this violation will only mount as the years go by.

The inability to distinguish when and where specific technologies are well applied makes you the opposite of a Luddite, and just as wrong as a Luddite would be.

Accuracy could be easily assured... (5, Interesting)

tizzyD (577098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277375)

First, after you vote, a 2-D bar code is printed. That code contains a record of your vote, with an encryption of the machine you voted at and your selected key. Nothing big, 4 digits. The critical part is the hardware key used on the machine.

A copy of this bar code is printed at the same time inside the system.

If there was an audit, randomly call people to determine their key. Although you could decrypt it, it's better than just leaving the votes lying around. Then, verify the accuracy.

Since I have a printed record at the time of the voting, I can use it to verify my votes. The local voting office could decrypt it, and then I can verify my votes.

Thoughts on this approach are very much welcome.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (1)

Clinoti (696723) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277422)

Makes too much sense, hence it is not applicable.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277696)

Doesn't make sense to me.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277536)

If you don't care about cutting all links between the voter and the vote, why not just hold a public vote?

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277577)

great ideas but you cannot ask voters who they voted for after the matter. One, it is a private vote, 2 all hell would break loose. I agree a receipt is needed in such a system of some form, but simply a receipt that says you voted. Another receipt is generated and put into a box as the paper proof of who you voted for so if it comes to that (the machines all die) they can open these locked vote boxes, similar to modern ballot boxes, and count the votes that way. Of course you would have to have someone standby to make sure each voter puts one and only one vote slip into the box. Votes would have serial numbers of course (to guarntee that vote is unique and from the proper location) and a host of other minor issues you would work out.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277799)

nah, the voting system produces a paper tape stream that goes directly into the box, cuting the voter out of the physical process, the code on the slip is scanned as it passes into the box and the value read FROM THE PHYSICAL SLIP is what is used to actually tally the votes.

An immediate lockdown of the machine and backup (with CRC checksums, or something to that effect) of the untallied vote and all tallied votes should occur if there is an error reading the code. Since the feed and scan are at a fixed rate you could basically eliminate all the normal need of rescanning that is required with normal barcode reading systems like those used in retail outlets. Of course the first thing the system does is verify it's internal and backup CRC's, if they conflict it rewinds the tape and rescans the physical vote records, then request that the last vote be resubmitted.

This way it's insured that:

No vote can possibly be counted without a paper equivelent going into the box.

Only the most recent vote would be lost in the event of a hardware failure, and 99% of hardware failures wouldn't result in even that one vote being lost. The data is verified using the checksum, ensuring nothing was corrupted.

If the database is corrupted the system will automatically recount the hard copy votes, still eliminating the need for handcounting.

The tapes can be produced in such a way that an overall recount still would not actually mean someone having to sit and physically count and interpret anything, All the tapes can be fed into readers which can process them in parallel.

Just the first thing that came to mind, I'm sure there would be a better way of handling this.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277630)

Why bother being so complicated? How about a simple paper roll in each machine. When you vote who you voted for gets printed to the paper. You can read it then. You hit 'confirm', it scrolls out of sight. If there is a recount, just pull out the rolls and count the votes.

The only way to track voters to individual votes would be to record which order the voters used it. In a normal situation that will be random, so it doesn't matter. Each voter can verify that their vote was correct, and there is a trail. Simple.

Re:Accuracy could be easily assured... (5, Insightful)

rhysweatherley (193588) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277632)

The accuracy problem cannot be fixed by voter receipts, since most voters will not know how to verify them. It can only be fixed by ensuring that the votes can be re-counted using some mechanism other than the computer that first recorded them.

Use the computer to help the voter prepare the ballot, print it out, and then have the voter hand carry it to the ballot box.

The computer can keep a running tally, but at the end of the day if the tally does not match a hand count of the box contents, then the ballot box is the only correct representation of the will of the voters.

It is easy to teach the average monkey to keep an eye on the ballot box for tampering, and to hand count the contents. Teaching the average monkey correct computer security skills is impossible, so that source of problems must be factored out.

Easy solution to this issue. (4, Funny)

darkonc (47285) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277380)

Let's just hold a vote to decide this issue and get it over with!

I'll supply the hardware.

The next revolution = voting. (4, Interesting)

Clinoti (696723) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277395)

I'm not a doomsayer or a OMG the world is ending yokel. But with more and more stories surfacing about the lacking credibility and accuracy of the 'new' school of voting....one can only come to see the outrage when people start to connect the idea (perhaps even falsely) that their votes are easily manipulated, miscounted, or simple footnotes catered to the wanted result.

This line: In addition to that, people signed a form that said that they had verified the results of the test before the test had finished running.

Scares the hell out of me.

Re:The next revolution = voting. (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277719)

"But with more and more stories surfacing about the lacking credibility and accuracy of the 'new' school of voting....one can only come to see the outrage when people start to connect the idea (perhaps even falsely) that their votes are easily manipulated, miscounted, or simple footnotes catered to the wanted result."

Wouldn't this imply that they had to vote in order to care about their votes being manipulated? I hope the electronic voting system gets to the point where you can do it remotely. I'm not sure how......but anything that would encourage more people to vote would be a good thing, as long as they were informed voters.

Way cool.. (5, Funny)

SoSueMe (263478) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277405)

I wish I could get user acceptance sign-off before I started testing.

Re:Way cool.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277513)

that would be awesome.

http://verifiedvoting.org (3, Informative)

horster (516139) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277408)

Pleas join an existing, legitimate effort at http://verifiedvoting.org -

This site, rather than coninually dispairing at the fact that there are problems with electronic voting, has concrete steps that average citizens can take to make change.

What would happen if you didn't sign the paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277409)

The "attendance" one?

Re:What would happen if you didn't sign the paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277594)

Your name would be on a list on John Ashcroft's desk the next morning, of course. You must be new here.

E-mail voter fraud is easy... (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277415)

...just ask any spammer. If you ever find out thier real identity. (Which is exactly my point.)

Get on with your lives (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277436)

What you all want to suggest is that some forces mysterious and unseen are programming these machines to rig elections. But you can't come out and say that, because you can not find a single shred of evidence that this has ever occurred. Seriously, you really sound like conspiracy wackos of the worst sort.

this is the most serious threat to America (5, Insightful)

treat (84622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277448)

This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. Most here realize that no computer voting system can be secure without serious efforts that are not even being hinted at here. Compromising the secrecy of the vote offers many ways to secure these sysetms. A more reasonable compromise would be a voter-verified paper ballot that is re-inserted into the machine.

Since the most basic steps to provide security are not provided here, it is clear that the intention is to make a system that has completely compromised the validity of US elections. For some reason the mainstream media has not taken note of how serious an issue this is. The people involved in the current electronic voting plans can not be trusted AT ALL. They either want to subvert the voting process themselves, or want to create a system that is easy to subvert at a vastly lower cost than current systems.

What can be done to raise awareness of this issue? How can people be convinved that we need elections that are not trivial to subvert? Is the American public so apathetic as to make this an impossible task? Are we completely doomed?

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277465)

You're right. This is much more serious than an Iranian nuke, or Korean nuke being sold to god-knows-who.

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277588)

I heard yo momma is buying AND selling Nukes.

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277607)

Actually, that's true.

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277654)

You're right. This is much more serious than an Iranian nuke, or Korean nuke being sold to god-knows-who.

You're an easily fooled sheep.
When they come for you, there won't be anyone left to say anything.

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (2, Funny)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277681)

This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. They either want to subvert the voting process themselves, or want to create a system that is easy to subvert at a vastly lower cost than current systems. I have just one question: Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll??? You conspiracy theorists make me sick. If you feel the system is insecure (and it is), that is one thing. Assuming people are deliberately trying to compromise the voting process is quite another. I'd laugh my ass off if these companies popped you with a libel lawsuit.

Re:this is the most serious threat to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277807)

IIRC, the USA has, in the past, joined with other countries to provide "International Observers" for elections in Darkest Africa and elsewhere.

Perhaps someone (maybe not the U.N.) should organise/organize International Observers for the upcoming US elections.

OMG that settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277450)

The Riverside, CA election is already rigged. Quick, call Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson. We'll have to wait until the actual election to see who is behind this.

Thanks for keeping this (1)

alfredo (18243) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277457)

issue alive.

Looks like someone else has joined the fight
Why-War? [why-war.com]

Re:Thanks for keeping this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277488)

yes, thanks for keeping this alive.

slashdot spot market:
SCOdex: 34.53 -2.53
OMGELECTIONSRIGGEDdex: 59.35 +9.67

Please, more paranoid election-rigging delusions. Let's go for 3 a day.

Why War? Why This Site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277728)

What do our voting methods have to do with the war against terror? I am in favor of going after terrorists using all necessary military action. I am also in favor of proper voting methods that are not corrupt.

This site is a joke. Here's an example: "After two years of the "war on terrorism," American victories are tenuous at best: Two destabalized countries, no culprits in hand, and a widely-shared feeling that the world is less safe than when we began."

Huh? Iraq is being rebuilt and will be better than before. It is already freer than before. All you read about in most news outlets is the skirmishes, because "if it bleeds, it leads!" You don't see the schools and hospitals being built, the Iraqis working with the coalition. With the other countries coming in now via the U.N., it will only improve.

As for "no culprits in hand." We have a shitload of culprits in hand. Do we need to pull out the deck of cards? What about some of the top al Qaeda that have been captured or killed?

No, we don't yet have the "big two" public enemies, but to then say "no culprits in hand" is the biggest crock of shit... it just makes me want to ignore everything on that site, because it's obvious they are completely biased.

You know what ... I'm sick of the left AND the right-biased media. What we need is a libertarian news source that will cut things right down the middle! LNN... Liberty News Network! I'll start it up once I make my first 10 million... seeya there.

Known OS to hackers (4, Insightful)

matchlight (609707) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277467)

Seriously, what OS isn't known to hackers/crackers? Fact is, the more obscure the OS the more interesting it becomes to crack.
The old question/answer "Why did you do it? Because it was there." tells the story of what will happen regardless of the OS chosen.
I'll admit that the script kidz may be able to hack-the-vote with a MS SQL server backend but I would hope that the network used (or whatever format of data transfer) would be a little more robust that a windows box in a DMZ.
But I'm sure that with a few days of coding it could be released from the bonds of M$... it is just SQL, right?

A piece of paper and a big X (5, Insightful)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277476)

Voting technology doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

Sure, it may take a few hours to count all the votes, but they're verifiably countable and recountable, and seem good enough for most of the other countries in the world. Why does there have to be an electronic solution to this non-problem?

Agreed (2, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277519)

Yep. Sure United States is larger than Canada or Australia, but 10x the people means 10x the vote counters.

Now, you can debate about whether it's better to use a pull-lever stamping system to write out the ballots, or just marking an X with a plain old pen. The advantage of some kind of a pull-lever system (or press button system) is that you won't get ballots which are unclear (just a printout) and you can have an internal counter on the machine to give you a reasonable idea if your hand-count is correct.

Fundamentally, though, all good systems I've seen are very close to the pen and paper hand counting.

Re:A piece of paper and a big X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277605)

Does a check-mark count also? How about just a dash? There has to be an electronic solution because apparently the elderly and blacks of Florida can not use a ballot that has been in use for decades.

Never implement a high-tech solution... (3, Insightful)

wagonlips (306377) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277709)

...when a low-tech one will suffice.

Or even: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Yeah, that's the one. Cards work good.

Re:A piece of paper and a big X (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277743)

"Sure, it may take a few hours to count all the votes,"

Two words: scan tron.

Re:A piece of paper and a big X (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277794)

This is similar to the new voting system in Indianapolis. They replaced the old system (which I believe was pretty similar to Florida's in the last election) with a scan tron type system. You pick up your ballot, fill it the circles, insert into the counting machine at the precinct, and it will tell you if you made any errors, and then your done.

The only issue is with the machine that is tabulating the results.

more info on the new system [indygov.org]

great video on how it works!! =] [indygov.org]

Why not paper ballots (1, Troll)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277497)

Sometimes the old way just works. There are lots of things like that in this world.

Some distrustful people still keep all their money hidden in a jar in the kitchen or under their mattress. Sure, they don't get interest, and sure, they don't have ultra-convenient access wherever they are. But you know what? They never have to worry about a bank error.

Re:Why not paper ballots (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277714)

...and you can get a nice look at a t-bone steak by sticking your head up a cow's ass, but i'd rather take the butcher's word for it.

Seriously (3, Insightful)

nate nice (672391) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277531)

Who is designing these systems? It shouldn't be that hard, seriously. It should be obvious what the design requirements are. In no particular order; Ease and clarity of use, secure and anonymous (as far as who voted for whom), the ability to record who was voted for in a non electronic medium and proof that a vote was registered and receipt to the voter in some form. Not to mention a backup system in case anything goes nutty. An obvious design would be to have all systems offline, when the voting times are over each station has a particular upload time assigned, they upload their data, it is checked for error and checked against their local data, if none of it differs, then all is well. The vote data should be encrypted on sight (inside the voting computer, before it is sent to the locol database) so there is no tampering locally and the keys should be known by the voting commission. They systems should be as fully automated as possible with well trained (and paid fairly) personal there to operate these machines. This is just off the top of my head, is it *that* hard to design these systems, really?

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277571)

Don't you get it? Can't you read between the lines? We can hardly make it any easier without actually coming out and saying it: the Republican party is obviously behind all of this. I mean think about it. Look at the debacle in Florida. Look how they beat that Senator in Georgia against all odds. They used electronic machines there, you know. Now look at this story-- the Republicans want California bad, and they can make their victory there somewhat believable now that there is a new Republican governor. It's the perfect cover. Think about it. Seriously.

Sometimes the best hiding place for fraud is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277532)

right out in the open.

If our financial business would never trust their/our money with this type of a system, why should we trust our Nation's seats of political power with the same?

Oh never mind... Hey - isn't Joe Millionaire on?

Eventually (5, Funny)

BigGez (692965) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277579)

Just think, eventually we'll all be getting pop-up ads telling us who to vote for, while we're in the booths!

Re:Eventually (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277702)

Is it still illegal electioneering if the pop-up server is housed at least 600 feet away from the nearest polling place?

Not to rain on your parade, but... (0)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277599)

...what are your qualifications to evaluate this system, other than, "a computer programmer familiar with software testing"? That's pretty vague.

Here's a drum you beat incessantly on your website (in bold even):
Whether or not you are a fan of Microsoft Windows, you have to ask yourself: If Sequoia says that Windows is well known and understood by hackers, why are they using it?

This is a total red herring. Are the computers connected to a publicly accessible network? Is there a keyboard or mouse present? Floppy disk/CD-ROM drive and power switch? Or are these hackers skilled at breaking into systems via proprietary software using only a touch screen? "Put 3 fingers in the upper left corner, hold your little finger in the center and then circle your thumb around the menu twice to add 10 votes for the democratic candidate. Circle your index finger twice to add votes for the republican candidate"

Since you're a computer programmer, tell us how this system is vulnerable to attack. You go on and on about Windows but the choice of OS alone doesn't make the system insecure. You must have seen something else to indicate the system is insecure. Perhaps you were thinking of hackers as shown in movies, who can get into any system regardless of interface in under 30 seconds.

Your shrill website contains little information. Much ado about nothing.

Re:Not to rain on your parade, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277839)

oh look more abuse of the overrated mod...slashdot's biggest problem

Re:Not to rain on your parade, but... (2, Insightful)

barista (587936) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277851)

I think the author is mainly concerned that this particluar system may be poorly designed. He states that it what he saw was a test in "pre-election" mode, which made it sound like more of a diagnostic test, rather than a production test. Really, would you buy a car without taking a test drive? You want to know it works before you take it home, right?

It isn't even necessarily the problem of crackers breaking into the system and tampering with the votes. you don't have to be connected to the Internet to be vulnerable to errors. Maybe you've been lucky and never gotten a BSOD.

Since this system apparently isn't well tested, there is nothing to indicate whether it will fail or not. As an alternative to remaining in the "ignorance-is-bliss" state, he seems to advocate more thorough independent testing, so we can be sure that the machines are capable of what the vendors say they are.

A method for electronic voting accountability (5, Interesting)

rednox (243124) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277641)

Here's an idea to make the process accountable, without requiring a mound of paper at the voting site.

  1. Vote at the machine
  2. The machine asks you for a PIN number.
  3. The machine concatenates your voter registration number with the person you voted for and your PIN number, and computes a SHA-1 hash of the result.
  4. The machine prints out your vote, your voter registration number, your chosen PIN and the hash on a reciept and gives it to you.

Later on, a text file is made publically accessible with a row for every vote. Each row would have only the hash and the person they voted for. The algorithm for computing the hash would also be published.

Anyone who is interested in confirming that their vote was properly recorded can look up their hash in the text file to make sure it lists the person they voted for.

Anyone who has a spreadsheet can do a recount.

Any third party with a bit of cryptography knowledge can write a web app for people to confirm that their hash was computed properly.

This method has the advantage of remaining completely anonymous and completely accountable.

Any thoughts?

I release this idea into the public domain.

Re:A method for electronic voting accountability (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277767)

Aren't voter registration numbers pretty anonymous already?

Re:A method for electronic voting accountability (1)

Alyeska (611286) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277784)

Sorry, this only allows for an *individual* to audit his or her own vote. It does not allow for the public to independently audit the physical records of the votes to see how they stack up to the tabulations.

Anonymous? Hell no... (4, Insightful)

BSDevil (301159) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277835)

This is what I love about these electronic voting discussions - people always come up with these solutions, and then ignore the fundamental principle of designing voting machines: it must not be possible, under any circumstances, for an outsider to verify your vote independently. Now, that sentence is worded poorly, so I'll give an example of the problem with this proposed system:

1. CREEP announces that they'll give $200 to anyone who votes for person X
2. Joe Public says "OK, I'm in"
3. Joe Public votes for X and remembers his PIN number
4. Joe Public goes to the local CREEP office and tells them their PIN, their VRN, and who they voted for
5. CREEP, using the freely-available hash function, creates their hash using the supplied information
6. CREEP then checks the list and sees if the vote was recorded
7. If yes, $200

Now replace "CREEP" above with "The Mafia" and "$200" with "the life of your family." Now you see the problem.

My proposed solution has always been the following:

-Vote on a computer (with a well-designed interface), which records votes and prints out a receipt with the name of the candidate and a simplified 2D barcode on it.
-Have a poster on the wall inside the boot saying "if you voted for X, your barcode should look like this"
-Deposit the recipt in the ballot box on the way out, as usual.

This allows us three counts: the machine, the barcodes, and the names. Any political party can request a count based on the barcodes, and if it's close they can get one based on the names on the ballots. As far as I can tell, this system is - at worst - no more prone to fraud than the current paper-based one. And you can't buy votes, since no personally-identifiable information is stored on the receipts (which voters can't keep anyways).

There's probably a logic gap in my solution: any suggestions?

Re:A method for electronic voting accountability (2, Informative)

wintermute3 (191382) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277846)

The paper printout had better be tied verifiably to the voting machine, too. Else, I vote one way, then go away and reprint my own 'receipt' with a different vote as a basis, then call up the media and say 'look - it doesn't verify!' to attack the process. The machine itself would have to have an embedded secret key and sign the vote too - that couldn't be spoofed so easily.

Paper and Risk Assessment... (3, Insightful)

Alyeska (611286) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277653)

Electronic voting without a paper trail is never going to be secure to my liking.

That physical record of a vote is a crucial piece of evidence -- if there are no physical records, that's one less thing for any "bad guys" to have to worry about. It's one less audit point for any corrupt party.

With the input and compilation of data all within the same system of computers now, corruption can happen at any step -- input, processing, reporting, or combination -- with no "independent" physical record to be audited that might expose the corrupt results. Imagine a zealot programmer hacks a kiosk and tells it to re-write the votes after confirming it with the voter. The number of voters on the register would match the number of votes cast, so this would be difficult to discover -- there would be no physical records, which can be re-tabulated independently of computers.

Elections are high security risks, historically. Paper is not inherently evil. Just because paperless systems are possible, doesn't mean they're preferable. The more physical evidence, the better, I say...

Re:Paper and Risk Assessment... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277691)

Okay, you have your election and give everybody a receipt. But I contest the election, because my candidate didn't win. So you know what I do? I fire up the printing presses and print a bazillion counterfeit voting machine receipts. There's nothing magical about a paper receipt, after all. Then I pay a bunch of niggers who can't be bothered to vote in the first place to take my forged receipts and send them in, take them in for inspection, whatever. What good does it do?

Re:Paper and Risk Assessment... (3, Insightful)

Alyeska (611286) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277752)

It's not a paper receipt in the hands of a voter that counts -- as a matter of fact, that *is* worthless.

It's a piece of evidence that has to be stored by a process and made retrievable to the public. If any step of the process is violated (say, by someone trying to tamper with or destroy the evidence of the votes themselves), it points to the responsible party. That's what a good process does.

Re:Paper and Risk Assessment... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277848)

You responded to an n-word troll, and you got modded up. Good job.

A vision of the future (1)

JaCKeL 1.0 (670980) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277695)

I see, I see ... I see a big screen that play the publicity of each candidat, blinking banners who are saying "Me, me, me, me" . I see people wishing that small pen and paper back.

Exit Polling (1)

barista (587936) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277712)

For many elections, there are people outside the polling place who want to find out how people voted for the exit polls. These responses aren't set in stone or official, but they are reported to the news media, so they can get an idea of how the election is going before the polls are closed and the votes are tallied.

Usually, I just decline to respond, but the more I think about it, the more I think it might be a good check system against the voting system. As an example, if the exit polls show someone is going to lose 30% to 70%, then the presumed "loser" comes up with 60% of the votes, there might be a reson to look further into it.

Yes, yes, I know that this is a very flawed idea. Exit polls are unofficial, and have a margin of error, and in the case of close elections (i.e. Florida 2000) they would be worthless, but if the difference between the exit polls and the actual voter data was larger than expected, then it would indicate possible voter fraud.

IMHO, it's going to take some lengthy court battles before we get electronic voting machines that are worth using. Sadly, that means it will probably be several years. Until then, I still plan on using absentee or write in ballots (IIRC, you can still write in someone's name, even if they are on the ballot - YMMV)

CNN (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277727)

Just let CNN pick the winner's for us. That's more fair than expecting niggers and senior citizens in Florida to figure out a ballot.

Isn't this what you wanted! (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277733)

After the 2000 Florida election, all of Slashdot was clamoring for electronic voting. Or at least it sounded that way. "It's so simple even a geek could use it," they said. "We need to move into the 21st century," they said. But the latest Slashdot meme seems to be that electronic voting is bad. Go make up your minds!

Re:Isn't this what you wanted! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277765)

I remember this. "Look at Brazil! They have pretty little pictures of the candidates!" So any illiterate nigger can vote.

Demand optical scan machines (2)

indros13 (531405) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277740)

I have no idea why there is so much fantasizing over touchscreen voting. I've seen studies suggesting that its accuracy is actually worse than other existing technologies (optical scan) and is no better than the infamous punch card ballots. To top it off, optical scan machines are cheaper and leave a lovely paper trail (called a ballot) stored right inside the machine.

Open Source Alternative? (1)

joshmoh (708871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277742)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but most of the suspicion and paranoia surrounding voting systems such as this is the development of a system by a private/commercial developer in a proprietary setting. The source code isn't published nightly, and hackers are generally discouraged, or kindly told to 'piss off' via legal threats.

Considering a replacement in voting tech would have to be secure, and developed with the goal of democratic results (rather than profits), this sounds like a perfect open source project. I don't know if anyone's working on this, but if you are, you've got my vote :) To put things in perspective, as long as I CAN'T see what information is transmitted when I vote against Bush, I'm not going to trust it. However, if I'm able to download the complete source for the system and check it out, I'd be more inclined to trust it (or help fix it). Has anyone heard of such a project? It would be wonderful to have an e-voting system that isn't an Orwellian nightmare ;)

And what better way to help spread the good word about free software (both) than to have the election system as a working example. There's something poetic about trusting American democracy to free software. :)

Nigger (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7277754)

Nigger 1niggernigger nigger2 nigger nigger nigger
Nigger 4nigger nig5ger nigge6r nigger nigger nigger
Nigger nigger7 nigger niggernigger nigger nigger
Nigger nigger nigger nig3ger nig2ger nigger 4nigger
Nigger nigger 8nigger nigger nig1ger nigger nigger
Nig0ger nigger nigger nigger 9nigger nigger nigger

Coon.

The purpose of electronic voting (2, Insightful)

clovis (4684) | more than 10 years ago | (#7277762)

is not accuracy, verifiability, safety, ease of use, or any such thing.

It has to do with recounts. The purpose is to have a system that will always give the same result after every recount. Recounts make people unhappy because the result is never the same, so people assume the the mistakes continue to exist and are in favor of the other guy. We want the voters to be happy.
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