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NY Times Endorses Open-Source Election Software

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the nice-to-inspect-the-goods-you-buy dept.

United States 297

jdauerbach writes "On its editorial page today, the New York Times called for election system reform, saying among other things that 'Congress should impose much more rigorous safeguards, including a requirement that all computer code be made public. It should require that all electronic machines produce a voter-verified paper trail.'"

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Are we sure... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615361)

The New York Times wasn't hacked?

Re:Are we sure... (0, Flamebait)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615460)

Must have been a left wing conspiracy and it was successful. And I thought they really believed that sh!t they printed...

Re:Are we sure... (4, Funny)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615574)

I'm a conservative, and I'm agreeing with the New York Times. The end of the world MUST be near.

Re:Are we sure... (1, Insightful)

websaber (578887) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615713)

I loathe to even discuss politics on this forum for fear of getting banned for life but I think there is a divergence for science oriented republican leaning members. They agree with republican principles except when it comes to open source. They see the beauty of the science of open source where as politically right people see it as anti business pseudo -communism (think bush not enthusiastically supporting the Microsoft lawsuit). I think that as they see it more as true democracy Republican will come around. Of course once that happens the New York Times will decide that open source must of really been evil.

Some thoughts (5, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615363)

While I don't disagree in the least with the spirit of the concept of making the system(s) open source, it should be noted that, contrary to popular belief, Diebold asserts that its systems have been scrutinized, including at a source code level, by independent authorities, and that there is also a paper record:

http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/375954 [securityfocus.com]

I don't know if the paper record is "voter verified", or what mechanism it uses, but there is apparently a paper record nonetheless.

Notwithstanding Diebold's CEO's extremely inappropriate campaign comments, I really do think they're trying to put out the best electronic voting systems they can, but are suffering from the same problems that any large, proprietary system suffers from when it languishes in the comfort of large government-guaranteed long-term contracts: namely, inattention to the details that need to be addressed, that sometimes get lost in not seeing the forest for the trees.

Perhaps opening the source to these critical systems and having it overseen by an independent election agency would be an idea worth considering...

One more thing... (2, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615389)

Perhaps opening the source to these critical systems and having it overseen by an independent election agency would be an idea worth considering...

And even then, there's nothing stopping Diebold, which has a lot of experience with hardened public computer terminals, from making the interface and infrastructure equipment that runs the code. Yes, they then lose the "lock in" that the proprietary software buys them, but if their other systems and hardware are that good, it won't be a problem. Heck, that kind of openness in the context of the election system code could even be a PR win for Diebold, as the problems become more and more public.

Re:One more thing... (5, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615482)

There should be no lock in /wrt vote processing.

The only thing I could imagine being ok to sell with respect to voting, is facilitation. But the act of vote counting MUST be transparent. As a result the US government MUST OWN the code that counts the votes. This can never be proprietary.

They can buy communication and data storage and data security products from diebold to protect the voting data and its transmission. But the vote processing portion must always be open for complete public scrutiny.

Re:Some thoughts (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615392)

The fact of the matter is that, in large part because of the CEO's comments, Diebold systems will always be suspect, and any election that a Republican wins using Diebold systems will be looked upon with suspicion.

Since the controversial company seems to favor the side that controls the entire government at this point, they have no real motivation to change things. Meaningful election reform won't happen until we have a split government. That is, when one party controls the presidency and the other party controls at least one of the houses of Congress.

Hopefully, in 2004 we can either bring in a Democratic president, and/or give the Democrats control of the Senate. The overall impact of getting away from the one-party-controls-all system we have at the moment will be a move back toward the center, where all the good compromising gets done. As it is now, we have one party pushing the country clear over to their side, with no meaningful compromise going on. No matter what party is in control, that sort of thing is bad for the country.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615410)

Hopefully, in 2004 we can either bring in a Democratic president, and/or give the Democrats control of the Senate. The overall impact of getting away from the one-party-controls-all system we have at the moment will be a move back toward the center, where all the good compromising gets done. As it is now, we have one party pushing the country clear over to their side, with no meaningful compromise going on. No matter what party is in control, that sort of thing is bad for the country.

Then I think what you meant to say is "Hopefully, in 2004 we can either bring in a Democratic president, or give the Democrats control of the Senate."

Right?

Re:Some thoughts (2, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615442)

Well, if they controlled both, but the Republicans would still control the House, you would still have a split system. I was just accounting for all possibilities that would lead to a split system.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615458)

Ah yes, indeed. When you said "Senate", I had "Congress" on the brain. But I do agree: split leadership forces compromise, and that's generally what leads to the best solutions to problems.

Re:Some thoughts (2, Insightful)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615519)

But I do agree: split leadership forces compromise, and that's generally what leads to the best solutions to problems.

Or, in the case of the federal government, gridlock - which is good for the people.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

eostrom (14923) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615443)

If the Democrats won the presidency and control of the Senate, the House would still be Republican. Works either way.

Re:Some thoughts (2, Informative)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615453)

Not to quibble too much, but on party controlling the Presidency and one of the houses of congress doesn't give it complete control over the executive and legislative branches of the government.

And with the Senate, anytime a party has more than 40 seats, it can be a major impedimate to getting legislation done (not that that's a bad thing!). A 51-49 majority in the Senate doesn't guarantee that you can do what you'd like either, although it's easier.

Re:Some thoughts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615477)

I believe it was the issue of Dr Dobbs journal for this month or was it last month, that had a snippet of Diebold's source code. The snippet was cryptic and made no sense. As someone who has 10yrs of experience in C and various languages, I had no idea what that function did granted it was just a snippet. But I dobut any small amount of people can reasonable grok what such a system does if the rest of the code were cryptic and lacking comment like that. With that said, a voting system is doing nothing more than counting numbers (addition no subtractions.) I see no reason why their code should be so cryptic, the code in say had nothing to do with GUI or other parts of the system, it was part of the "counting" code.

Diebold of course will always assert that their system has been verified. By who? If they are so certain and without worry, why then is it a big deal to open it up for all to see?

segmond

Re:Some thoughts (2, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615536)

Diebold of course will always assert that their system has been verified. By who? If they are so certain and without worry, why then is it a big deal to open it up for all to see?

Can't you make the same argument about Microsoft and Windows? You can certainly make arguments that Windows is critical to business in the United States; not as critical as something as fundamental as voting, but the only thing that will cause code to be opened is a mandate requiring it to be so; otherwise, "if they are so certain and without worry, why then is it a big deal to open it up for all to see" is just as weak an argument as "if you have nothing to hide, then why not submit to a search?"

Also, making an electronic voting system isn't as simple as everyone here on slashdot thinks it is. It's not just counting. I mean of course, yes, at the core, it's simply counting votes. But there are nuances and complexities that make this a gargantuan task, and to make something like this *reliable* is even more daunting. (And it seems they're not succeeding there, either, if the failures are any indication.)

It's just that your post seemed to imply or insinuate that Diebold was purposely obfuscating code for possibly nefarious reasons. Diebold is a company of 13,000 people. Heck, they could also "make" their ATMs skim cash if they wanted to. And ATMs are a critical part of our lives, too. You could probably look at some of the code and declare "it doesn't need to be that complex". Maybe, maybe not. Says who? You?

I do agree that the code should be opened, but no company should be forced to open its code. Conversely, what should happen is that such systems should REQUIRE open code, such that any companies who want to compete for the project would have to follow such guidelines. Remember, too, that part of the chastising that the system has gotten even with paper systems is the ridiculous amount of complexity and diversity of systems: one, unified, similar, simple system in every jurisdiction should be what's required. For this reason, it's often easiest, and sometimes even the best, to go with a single contractor.

But the code itself can, and should, still be subject to a rigorous level of scrutiny.

Re:Some thoughts (4, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615485)

IIRC, The paper record is per machine, not per vote. After the polls close, each machine prints out a record of the votes recorded on it. So therefore there is a way to double check that the tabulations from all the machines is correct, but not that the tabulation on any given machine is correct. Now granted this does make it harder to modify the final tally, but it is far from impossible.
It also doesn't address machines crashing, poor user interfaces etc.....

Re:Some thoughts (4, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615560)

The only safe paper trail is one that can be checked by the individual voters. If you are going to tamper with the electronic record so that every third vote for foo goes to bar then it is a trivial matter to make sure that the paper that you spit out at the end of the day matches the fiddled vote tallies.

That's why the only sane way to do electronic voting is to use whatever fancy dan front end you want, I couldn't care less, but at the end of the voting session you spit out a human verifiable paper receipt that is the official vote. This vote gets put in the ballot box and if anyone questions the integrity of the vote then you open the ballot boxes and count the votes by hand. In most cases the electronic count of the vote will be the one used. However, in cases where fraud is suspected there is a verifiable paper trail that can be followed.

This gives the voter a chance to read his ballot and make sure that his or her vote was cast correctly, and it makes it much more difficult to "hack" the vote.

Re:Some thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615512)

There is no way to verify that the code actually running on the machines is the same code "scrutinized" by these "independent authorities". In fact there have been many documented instances where uncertified last-minute updates or patches have been loaded onto these machines by Diebold and ESS techs in violation of the law. Who knows what these "patches" are really doing?

Printing a paper record of the total vote tally stored on the machine after the close of voting to compare to the machine total is pointless. This is like comparing the Print Preview in Word to the printed document. Of course they will match. The machine vote totals could be intentionally altered or accidentally corrupted by the time this printout is done. A meaningful paper trail must include a paper ballot printed for EACH VOTE AS IT IS CAST so that the voter can inspect it and verify that the paper ballot matches the buttons pressed. The paper ballot must then be deposited into a secure box for later comparison with the machine totals.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

vsprintf (579676) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615550)

Diebold asserts that its systems have been scrutinized, including at a source code level, by independent authorities

The companies that make the voting machines pay one of three companies to *test* and *certify* their machines. None of the companies are willing to say exactly what's involved, but one testing outfit indicated it includes drop-testing.

I don't know if the paper record is "voter verified", or what mechanism it uses, but there is apparently a paper record nonetheless.

There is no paper record for each individual vote. That is why Diebold is being sued in California - there is no way to do a manual recount as required by law. If you look at the wording of your linked article, all it says is that they print out the totals from each machine. That's not going to allow the totals to be verified.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615614)

One of the things revealed by the internal Diebold documents that were released some time ago is that Diebold employees repeatedly made changes to their software AFTER it had been "certified" and without notifying anyone outside of Diebold. So we know for a fact that the software actually used had NOT been subjected to independent scrutiny. In any case, both the documents and published studies of the system indicate that the system is not designed in a secure fashion and does not provide a reliable audit trail. Whatever scrutiny it may have had did not result in a secure system.

These are not public tests! (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615618)

> systems have been scrutinized, including at a source code level, by independent authorities

These machines are tested in secret and because of IP law and NDAs you will never know the results. [msn.com] The Australians have open source voting machines. Its not that hard to pull off, that is if you CARE about elections. Seems many in power see fraud as par for the course in the US. [google.com]

So, please excuse me for not trusting my one lousy vote to the CEO of some company which is more secretive with its machines than a 16 year old girl with her diary. Pardon me for taking his partisan comments ("I will deliver Ohio for Bush") as just that: an inapropriate partisan comment.

No conspiracy theories needed. If you keep things secret, someone will find a way to abuse them.

>and that there is also a paper record

Err, people want paper tickets they can verify and put in a box for recounts. Attaching a printer to a voting machine at the end of the day is hardly a "paper trail."

Re:Some thoughts (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615663)

I agree with you, but it may be more serious than you suggest.
While I don't disagree in the least with the spirit of the concept of making the system(s) open source, it should be noted that, contrary to popular belief, Diebold asserts that its systems have been scrutinized, including at a source code level, by independent authorities, and that there is also a paper record
Why not let independent authorities such as knowledgable voters scrutinize the source code?
I don't know if the paper record is "voter verified", or what mechanism it uses, but there is apparently a paper record nonetheless.
That a Diebold employee wanted to charge the state of Maryland "out the ying-yang" to add that functionality to their Diebold contract. Notwithstanding Diebold's CEO's extremely inappropriate campaign comments, I really do think they're trying to put out the best electronic voting systems they can Obviously, they are failing to be the best, but we're somehow incapable of seeing all the alternatives. Maryland spent over $13 per citizen to go with Diebold (and it will cost more in litigation). A province in Australia spent $0.38 per resident to use an open source system that has been widely acclaimed.

Fp! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615364)

Frost Pist, Biyatch

Nothing to see here... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615368)

Perhaps Slashdot needs a paper trail too... ("Nothing for you to see here" error...)

FP?

Who Cares About Newspaper Endorsements? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615373)

The NY Times is left-wing rag. It also endorsed Kerry for President, every other Democraft for Congress and Senate. It also called for abolition of the Electoral College.

It's editorial board is such a joke, it tows the liberal party line every time.

This shouldn't make it a slashdot story just because the times declared something.

What?? (4, Funny)

kahei (466208) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615395)


You're kidding! It endorsed an opposition candidate?? Are they even allowed to do that???

Re:What?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615467)

You're kidding! It endorsed an opposition candidate?? Are they even allowed to do that???

It's worse than that. The New York Times, together with the Washington Post, is the vanguard of the so-called liberal media. They sold their souls to the establishment years ago. They claim to endorse the opposition on their editorial pages. But in actual fact, pro-administration bias pervades every news story and column in their papers.

Why else do you think their polls show Bush even with Kerry, and sometimes even ahead? Does anyone actually know more than a few people who would even consider voting for Bush? A poll which truly reflects the opinion of the electorate would should Kerry poised for a historic landslide victory, by at least 80% to 20%.

But instead NYT and other rags shill for Bush and pave the way for Diebold to perpetrate the greatest fraud in history by making the ridiculous claim that the election is even close.

Re:What?? (1)

benna (614220) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615528)

I'm very very liberal but you lost be at the polling thing. Do you really think the polls are THAT biased? I guess you will see how wrong you are in a little over a week.

Re:What?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615535)

Are you retarded? Maybe if you live in the middle of an urban metropolis or in europe the margin is somewhere near 80-20, but not in the southern states or any rural areas. Do some travelling and start to understand the reasons why polls have to undergo such rigorous checks to ensure a REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE of the ENTIRE population before you rant about how out of five guys you met at a bar in NY four said Bush sucked.

Re:Who Cares About Newspaper Endorsements? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615478)

So, you're angry at the editorial board for doing it's job (being partisan?)
As for the electoral college... you believe that it should be possible for the winner to not be the canidate who recieved the majority vote?
About the story, it is significant because the NYT is a major newspaper that is finally coming out and announcing what people on /. have been saying for a long time: Paper trails are good.
P.S. Maybe you should check your spelling, it would make the right-wing hate that you spew easier to understand. ("The NYT *toes* the party line"... They don't drag it around!)

Re:Who Cares About Newspaper Endorsements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615659)

If you can't differentiate between "its" and "it's", you start with -100 IQ points in my book.

Yes... but (5, Interesting)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615375)

How do we know that the code that is actually on the machines we're voting with is the same as the public code? Even if the public code is compiled and built, then tested to see if it's the same binary instructions as what's going on the mass-produced machines, how do we know that each, individual machine that actually ends up at the voting booth won't be rigged? Who's to say that some dishonest, partisan fuck won't change it at the last minute?

I think Badnarik's solution is the best. Get rid of the official ballots and let everyone bring their own ballot with them so that they can vote for whoever they want, not whoever the ruling government wants to let them choose from. And naysays... believe it or not, but that system is probably less prone to corruption than what we have today.

Re:Yes... but (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615386)

You let anyone take a dump of the machine so they can go home and compare hashes of the compiled public code (done by multiple people).

Re:Yes... but (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615419)

I'm totally against this. There's nothing worse than going into the voting booth only to find that someone has taken a dump on the machine.

Re:Yes... but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615471)

How would you know that the source code/executable being dumped is the same code/executable the machine is operating with? It wouldn't be hard to have the machine report one thing (that matches the expected public hash), but operate using a completely different set of instructions. You're trusting the device to prove it's trustworthy: circular logic.

Also, when would this verification occur? In advance of the election? If so, what guarantee would a voter have that the machine's code hasn't been replaced between "the dump" and election day? If the verification happens on election day itself, it would be hard to expect people to drive to the polling place, retrieve the hash, drive back to their house, verify the hash, drive back to the polling place, and cast a vote (assuming they are satisfied with the hash comparison).

Re:Yes... but (3, Insightful)

npross (564046) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615509)

And how do you verify that the dump you just got from the machine was actually a dump of the code running on the machine and not just a dump from some backup partition made to look like the real thing?

It would be pretty hard to detect a spoof.

Re:Yes... but (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615554)

And how do you know you aren't just a brain in a jar being manipulated to believe you are a full human with voting rights?

Re:Yes... but (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615496)

md5sum or gpg signatures on the binaries.

Re:Yes... but (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615707)

md5sum or gpg signatures on the binaries


So, you go to your local polling place and run md5sum on all the voting machines, and md5sum prints out the checksums that you expected it to print out. Now what? How can you be sure that:

  1. md5sum hasn't been hacked to give the expected checksums, even for an altered binary?
  2. there isn't a bug or back door in the "golden source code" that nobody noticed? (such bugs can be very, very subtle)
  3. The compiler used to compile the "golden binaries" wasn't itself hacked [bell-labs.com] to silently insert a back door into the binaries as part of the compilation process?
  4. There isn't some hardware bug or sneaky microcode logic somewhere in the machine that might alter the way the software operates, so that even correct code does the wrong thing?
  5. Some other clever trick that nobody has even thought of yet isn't in place?

Sure, it sounds like paranoia, but you have to remember that electronic voting machines are likely to be with us for decades, and if there isn't complete transparency, sooner or later someone will be tempted to use the technology as an easy way to grab extra votes. Instead of trying to come up with ever more complicated ways to verify that the system isn't buggy or corrupted, why not just do the obvious thing and have the machine print out a paper ballot that the voter and/or election officials can hand-check when necessary? It's not like dot matrix printers are some sort of exotic, unproven technology...

Re:Yes... but (3, Insightful)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615503)

Badnarik's solution sounds like it rids us of the australian ballot. This bastion of privacy was established to prevent people from forcing votes one way or another, either through physical violence, buerocratic jobs, or the power of money. The ballots are public record once cast. They're supposed to be anonmymous, but anyone who wants to buy votes can find a strong path with Badnarik's solution.

I'm personally not so concerned with malicious tampering, although its entirely possible and feasible. I'm more worried about bugs, which seem to be the only constant in today's software.

Indeed the rules in place today do pander to the two party system, and there are some odd laws in various places. For example, no member of the Communist Party can be placed on the ballot in Kansas. This relic does little good; I'd be much more worried about candidates with secret ties to the Communists rather than a guy who's publicly Communist. Another ballot law in Kansas restricted parties with more than two words, like Natural Law Party, until the Natural Law Party. I can't recall the purpose of this law, but the good news is its gone.

Re:Yes... but (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615615)

Get rid of the official ballots and let everyone bring their own ballot with them so that they can vote for whoever they want, not whoever the ruling government wants to let them choose from.

You can always take the paper ballot that exists at every polling place and do a write in. Hence how Mikey Mouse always gets a few votes every election.

Can Congress do this? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615376)

I'm not convinced that Congress has the constitutional authority to make requirements on state elections like this. Perhaps if a state or county buys a voting system from another state it could come under the 'interstate commerce' clause, but that's a bit of a stretch, and prone to loopholes.

On the other hand, maybe they could claim they are implicitly granted this power under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment? Any other ideas?

Re:Can Congress do this? (3, Interesting)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615394)

Congress has sole authority over copyright. Thus, Congress could simply mandate that all e-voting software be in the public domain if used by any state government for elections.

Re:Can Congress do this? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615418)

my grandma isn't smart enough to use google, either. get it through your head; lunix sucks and will NEVER be ready for the desktop.

Re:Can Congress do this? (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615455)

Can I assume that your grandma is also your aunt?

Re:Can Congress do this? (1)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615665)


Actually, I think it is half-sister...

Re:Can Congress do this? (1)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615647)


Given that voting systems are bought with public money and that there really are not non-public markets for voting systems, it's pretty easy to argue that the software was directly paid for with public money and should be public domain. I'm pretty sure some government contracts already work this way...but I fear seeing what is actually in current voting systems' source code (if 'democrat' if rand() .25 stdout = /dev/null...).

Re:Can Congress do this? (1)

TrentL (761772) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615543)

Congress can always find clever ways to do what it wants. For example, it could offer to give the states money for election reform only if it's used for the approved systems. A state wouldn't *have* to use the preferred system, but if they didn't, they wouldn't get any money.

Re:Can Congress do this? (2, Interesting)

mcc (14761) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615613)

Congress lacks any authority over state-level elections.

However, it would appear they have some sort of authority over federal elections-- senators, house reps, president. The 2002 Help America Vote Act [fec.gov] placed a range of rules and restrictions on how a state may conduct its federal elections. None of these took direct effect, and all of these took the form of requiring the states to each independently pass some sort of legislation implementing the rules HAVA dictates. In many states this local legislation applies only to elections for federal offices, saying for example that you may cast a provisional ballot for president but not governor. This appears to satisfy HAVA.

I do not know on exactly what constitutional basis HAVA exists.

Yes. Read Bush vs Gore Decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615678)

I'm not convinced that Congress has the constitutional authority to make requirements on state elections like this

Read Bush v Gore, it's based on the equal protection clause.

power to the people (2, Interesting)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615387)

including open source software. If ever there was an arena crying out for inspection it's the voting process both in the US and worldwide. I for one welcome my open source voting software overlords.

Re:power to the people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615413)

to speak in everquest language:
Your attemp at karma whoring failed miserably! (-1)

Re:power to the people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615423)

RE: I for one welcome my open source voting software overlords.

me too, :^)

Unfortunately, too late anyway (4, Insightful)

targo (409974) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615390)

The coming election is probably one of the most important ones in the last few decades, and nothing can really be done to save it from abuses any more.
And after the vote is over, the topic will probably disappear from public consciousness anyway.

NYT Still Submitting Own Stories to Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615397)

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Nevada is ranked the best voter system (4, Interesting)

doormat (63648) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615398)

Despite the fact we have groups tearing up voter registration forms [reviewjournal.com] , the actual voting system [sequoiavote.com] is the best in the nation [reviewjournal.com] . It records your vote in three ways. First, electronically, second it prints who you vote for in plain english on a piece of paper viewed by the voter, and once the voter reviews this paper and accepts the choices, the votes are encoded into a 2D barcode printed after the list of votes, this barcode contains the list of votes for which offices.

Re:Nevada is ranked the best voter system (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615472)


Is that a surprise? That state that houses the Nevada Gaming Commission would have the most stringent requirements for electronic voting machines?

Re:Nevada is ranked the best voter system (1)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615620)

Despite the fact we have groups tearing up voter registration forms...

I wonder how easy it would be to make a case that destroying voter registrations is treason (the article says it is already a federal crime). Allow hangings for punishment. Televise the hangings.

BTW, I had to deny a mess of cookies at the reviewjournal site. Why is it that local newspaper and television station websites are always examples of the worst websites? Perhaps it is just a side effect of the quality of local journalism.

Practice What You Preach (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615399)

Slashdot has joined the crusade for open source voting, yet their own moderation is the most convoluted, opaque, unveriable system you can find. And that's not to mention the absolute control editors have with mod points.

Abuses have been rampant, especially with the addition of politics, the moderation has gone to hell.

How about the editors making their own system open-source?

Re:Practice What You Preach (1)

C_REZ (568254) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615638)

if the masses should feel abused then ultimately there will be a revolution. but it seems the severe standards that arise with the existing moderation system raises the bar on what is considered valuable and relevant. on the other hand if there are moderators with particular agendas then if u r in disagreement with them u could be a target for they unfair treatment.

Re:Practice What You Preach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615662)

Don't expect any progress on that front. The moderation system used to be a little more transparent than it is now, but the editors tightened it up in response to dissent like this post [slashdot.org] . You can read more about that post on k5 [kuro5hin.org] . The post was ultimately modded well over a thousand times, and the editors changed the system to report moderation in percentages, not number totals, as a response.

Not far enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615401)

Software for something as important as democracy cannot be allowed to be hoarded by commercial interests. It is therefore imperative for the future of this great nation that election software be Free software, under the terms of the GPL. Anything else would be a grave mistake.

Thoughts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615404)

OSVote2k 1.0.15b changelog
  • Fixed 'random vote addition' bug in joystick driver
  • Minor disk corruption problem with touchscreen connected and more than three candidates -- testing new voting engine
  • Various other fixes

In other words, I'll be voting absentee anyway. Pen and paper don't malfunction; who made the decision that it's more important to get the wrong results the day after we vote instead of getting the right results a week later?

Computer Code Be Made Public... (5, Insightful)

datastalker (775227) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615405)

...is not the same thing as Open Source. If you doubt me, Microsoft has made their code "public" with shared source. This doesn't mean that Joe Hacker will get a chance to look at it, just that someone outside the voting machine company will.

Granted, I'd prefer if it were truly open source, but I suspect that we're a bit of a ways away from GPL voting code.

Re:Computer Code Be Made Public... (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615523)

That's not making it public either - making it public means open to public scrutiny, which is to say anyone can look at it. You can do this without making it Open Source, which is to say, you have no rights to actually USE the code for anything, only to look at it.

Personally I think the solution is for the federal government to contract a GPL or BSD-licensed FOSS voting package which will run on ordinary PCs, under some FOSS operating system (it can be FreeDOS for all I care, as long as it's free, Free, and Open) and use that. It would be cheaper and ultimately more secure due to peer review than the diebold solution ever could be.

Re:Computer Code Be Made Public... (3, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615603)

I don't care if the code is public or not as long as the polling machine prints out a human verifiable ballot that counts as my official vote in case of suspected fraud. Heck, the actual software that does the polling can be top secret obfusticated C generated by an Intercal front end for all I care. As long as I can look down at my ballot when I am done voting and verify that the machine tallied my votes correctly I am perfectly happy.

Public availability of the source code doesn't guarantee that the polling machine that I am using is working correctly, or that it hasn't been tampered with. Hard-copy ballots that can be hand verified in case of suspected fraud guarantee that folks wishing to fix an election at least have to work at it.

The Times won't be listened to. (1)

zerdood (824300) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615407)

It has been proven once and will be proven again, open-source just doesn't catch on. The government is going to do what governments do, and that is go with the proprietary, expensive "solution."

Paper Trails Should be Mandatory (3, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615411)

It should require that all electronic machines produce a voter-verified paper trail.

Despite the inherent liberal bias of the "New York Times", the "Times" correctly asserts that all voting machines should leave a paper trail. Without a paper trail, we would have no way to verify the validity of the votes cast for a candidate. We also would have no way to identify tampering.

The issue with paper trails has been known in the academic community for a long time. Noted computer scientists from CMU, MIT, and other vanguards of American technology had signed a petition demanding that all voting machines leave a paper trial. The ACM finally officially committed to the cause recently (according to SlashDot). Now, the liberal print media has committed to the cause.

Perhaps, someone can explain why the Department of Defense is still allowing overseas military personnel to cast their ballots by Internet on servers without any paper trail.

Re:Paper Trails Should be Mandatory (0, Offtopic)

erichill (583191) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615522)

Ignoring for the moment the question of the existence of any real opposition media in this country...

If anything, the "liberal print media" should be expected to promote trustworthy voting methods during this election cycle. If the "conservatives" were out, they'd be pushing the same thing, not saying, "just trust us."

I guess the "liberal print media" is finally coming into line with all those conservatives in academia.

Re:Paper Trails Should be Mandatory (3, Insightful)

math major (756859) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615572)

Perhaps, someone can explain why the Department of Defense is still allowing overseas military personnel to cast their ballots by Internet on servers without any paper trail. Unless more people start demanding that their rights be protected, the government isn't going to have enough care to do anything for them. And many people in the military probably don't even know that their rights are being violated, since people with technical knowledge are less likely to be in the military. Even though the sketchiness of it all is pretty obvious to most of us, the average person trusts their voting system to be secure. It's up to us to inform people otherwise.

DoD Axes Internet Voting for Overseas Personnel (1)

reporter (666905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615651)

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense declared that it would terminate the plan to allow overseas personnel to cast their votes by Internet [af.mil] . We can thank John Hopkins University and UC-Berkeley for this decision; computer scientists from both universities explained how hostile agents (e.g. Chinese [geocities.com] , Iranians, etc.) could break into the voting system and tamper with the votes.

Re:Paper Trails Should be Mandatory (2, Interesting)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615643)

Perhaps, someone can explain why the Department of Defense is still allowing overseas military personnel to cast their ballots by Internet on servers without any paper trail.

Logistics, perhaps. As everybody knows, they're very busy these days, and, from their point of view, setting personnel aside to handle physical ballots is just extraneous bullsh*t. But, being a government entity, incompetence could also be a factor.

When would you trust the computer? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615645)

It should require that all electronic machines produce a voter-verified paper trail.

At what point would you trust the computer with out requiring a manual re-count of the paper ballots? The whole point of moving to an electronic system is to eliminate the entire hand count in the first place. With paper trails, people will sue to have them recounted at least once EVERY SINGLE TIME. And if you say that a machine can do the recount, then who is to say the machine that does the recount of the paper trail has not been rigged? The only way you can be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt would be to do a manual count of the paper trail every time, elimintating the entire point of electronic voting. Of course, we have done without paper trails on mechanical machines for years, yet no one seems to have mentioned that.

Re: Paper Trails Should be Mandatory (5, Insightful)

ClarkEvans (102211) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615668)

What is "Despite the inherent liberal bias" for? This issue has nothing to do with liberal or conservative viewpoints, although I might add that I've yet to see a conservative news source spend any serious time on election issues.

Also, I'd hardly call the Times "liberal", it's been pro-Bush for most of the Bush's administration and during the Clinton adminstration it attacked the sitting president on a daily basis - on the front page. Perhaps you are referring to Dowd or Krugman? These arn't part of the NY Times Editoral board, they are OP-ED contributors, pushing one position or the other, in the same manner as William Safire (Nixon's Speech Writer) and David Brooks are there to push so-called conservative positions. The NY Times is far less "liberal" than you think -- perhaps if you stopped listening to Rush Limbaugh for a while you might realize that news papers should be free to explore all sorts of positions, popular or not. A "liberal" news source would be the American Prospect.

NYT's Chief Editor Says, "'Times' is liberal." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615709)

Perhaps, the Indian bigot should read the statement by Daniel Okrent [nytimes.com] . He is the Editor in chief of the "Times". In an opinion piece in the "New York Times" in 2004 July, Daniel Okrent declared that the "Times" is deliberately slanted to be liberal.

Got that, Indian bigot?

public code /= open source (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615414)

Actually, contrary to the subject line of the original posting, the NYT isn't calling for open source code, only publically available code -- the two are obviously very different, and clarity is useful. (Many e-voting experts use the term "disclosed source".)

Slashdot humor (1)

bdesham (533897) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615426)

So this voting system will require your DNA to be on file with the Department of Homeland Security, right?

Er... Hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615430)

The NYTimes article doesn't say anything about Open Source. It doesn't even call for inspection of the source. The only thing that the article really says about electronic voting is that there should be a paper trail that can be verified later.

You're spinning what the NYTimes is saying.

(I would prefer an OSS voting system too, though)

Re:Er... Hang on... (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615497)

What about point 7:

Congress should impose much more rigorous safeguards, including a requirement that all computer code be made public.

Or did you miss that one?

Re:Er... Hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615515)

Or did you miss that one? oops... yes - I did. Still not open source as such but my bad.

People Still DON'T get it! (0, Troll)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615452)

Look people, using OSS over propriatary "black box" code is no answer to the REAL PROBLEM! To truly fix this broken election system, of ours we should use the ancient Babylonian system of CLAY TABLETS!

No hanging chads, unintelligeable markings or buggy software.
Besides, ever here of the Babylonians having such problems with THEIR ELECTIONS?? I thought not.

I've already developed an prototype using an 8' tall cardboard box, cookie cutters and a happy-cake oven. How much did this cost me? $42.95+shipping and handling. Eat that Diebold!

The real hidden agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615464)

New York Times just wants citizens to "register" before casting their votes. Someday there will even be a website devoted to bypassing the registration of voters.

I wonder if it has anything to do with Firefox (2, Interesting)

noamt (317240) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615468)

Could it be that Mozilla's plans to put on a large ad in the NY Times has caused the paper to be more open-source friendly/aware?

Confusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615476)

A company endorsing open source and President Bush at once?

I wonder how many Slashdotter's heads just blew the fuck up...

Re:Confusion! (0, Offtopic)

benna (614220) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615586)

ummm...I believe the times endorsed kerry.

Re:Confusion! (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615700)

A company endorsing open source and President Bush at once? I wonder how many Slashdotter's heads just blew the fuck up...

You know, you really have to break out of the "alternative reality" you live in. The Times endorsed Kerry.

sometimes low tech is best (4, Insightful)

myc (105406) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615563)

I really don't understand the infatuation with high tech voting. For something as critical as voting in a democratic election, I think the engineer's mantra KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) applies. Use paper ballots with the name and picture of the candidate in large print. Above their name, have a big checkbox, and indicate "Check here to vote for candidate". Count the number of ballots issued at each polling station, count the number of ballots that go into the box, and and count the number of ballots that come out of the box. Sure, it will take longer, but how hard is it to screw that up? It could be argued that using a simple enough ballot, anyone who fucks their ballot up is not "disenfranchised", they just fucked up, and it would rightfully be their own fault.

Re:sometimes low tech is best (5, Interesting)

Get Behind the Mule (61986) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615666)

I was going to post this very argument, and here you've said exactly what I wanted to say.

So instead of just saying me too, let me add my perspective as an American who now lives in Germany. The way they run elections here was a real revelation to me. After a lifetime in a culture that is fascinated with high-tech solutions, and where high-tech is uncritically assumed to be better, I was amazed to see that a simple solution was clearly superior.

Voters are handed a piece of paper with the names of the candidates. They take it behind a privacy barrier and mark an 'X' in circles next to their candidates' names. Then they fold up the paper, seal it in an envelope, and drop the envelope through a slit in a box. Then at 6 PM, the envelopes are dumped out of the box and the votes are counted and re-counted by hand. Anyone who wants to can witness the counting.

With this system, a fiasco such as Florida in 2000 (or in a number of states in 2004, as I predict) simply cannot happen. The are far fewer possibilities for error, and the credibility of the result is much greater.

The problem in the US is cultural. The very idea that a low-tech solution could be better simply doesn't cross our minds. For some things in life, we really are better off with more computers and machinery, but for elections, we should just dump them all on the trash heap, all they do is compound mistakes.

Re:sometimes low tech is best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615675)

Because like anything else in our society, there's precious little real work left to do anymore. So by making things as complex as possible, jobs are created for all those highly qualified people universities spew out every year.

Re:sometimes low tech is best (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615676)

Sure, it will take longer, but how hard is it to screw that up?

Umm... Lets se:.
A) Ballots get "switched" on the way to the counting place.
B) Ballots are put into the wrong piles for who the person voted for.
C) Ballots are "miscounted".
D) Ballots are "lost".
E) Ballots are erased and re-inked.
F) Your system forgot the write-in ballots which require someone to read anothers handwriting.

Paper ballots are actually much easier to screw around with than an electronic or mechanical system coded by an honest programer or designed by an honest engineer.

what does it matter? (0, Troll)

Chiisu (462604) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615579)

our votes don't count anyways....

paper trails considered harmful (5, Interesting)

coshx (687751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615589)

There are two kinds of paper trails. One is a readable ballot that must be submitted into the ballot box, and the other is a sort of receipt to let you know whom you voted for.

The first kind is acceptable, and I believe the open voting consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] has this idea correct: the machine should print out a barcode, that can then be verified by another scanning machine. This barcode must then be submitted into the ballot box.

The second kind is flawed for two reasons. First, there is no way to verify that what the computer printed is actually what's recorded on the bar code, or what has been submitted electronically. Second, and more importantly, it provides an easy way for proving whom you voted for. I could tell all of my employees to bring in their receipts, and those who vote for candidate A will receive benefits. Yes, this is illegal, but we shouldn't make it any easier.


what's a sig?

A nice Dutch comment on Diebold (2, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615602)

The rest of the world is not to impressed by Diebold either. A couple of Dutch jokers have put together this little thing on Diebold and voting (in Florida):

http://www.boomchicago.nl/Section/Latest-News/Boom ChicagoVotingMachine [boomchicago.nl]

Mirror: http://politiken.dk/media/wvx/3223.WVX [politiken.dk]

Let the Slashdot'ing begin ;-)

International observers are saying the same (4, Informative)

MSBob (307239) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615624)

International election observers noted several issues with the US election process this year. One of the criticisms in their report is electronic voting without any transparency or a paper trail. One of their recommendations was also to use open source code software for the voting machines. Here's the link [alertnet.org]

a good thing (2, Interesting)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615637)

I am a very liberal new yorker who gets the times every day at home. And if you read the technology section, in the thursday paper, you will quickly come to the conclusion that this most august of american journalistic institutions does not know its head from its elbow when it comes to comsumer electornics. ONe can only hope the editorial board is better informed.

a possible danger: shared source (2, Interesting)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615649)

I am afraid that even if the public pushes the opensourcing of the voting code, they will make it available under a "shared source" license a-la M$. That's better than closed source, but definitely is not enough. The general public might think it's enough, but it isn't since the code creators will continue to have exclusive rights over a piece of software that is of extreme importance to the society. The voting code must be available in the public domain or under a mini-license that could be compatible with all other common licenses like GPL, BSD, CC, CPL, et cetera. The Federal Government publishes its information in the public domain for the common good, why the voting code should be any different since it is intended to benefit the whole society? (whether this happens in practice or not is another story). The Federal Government should pay the code creators not just for the right to use the code but also for the transfer of copyright and then the code should become public domain (since everything coming out of federal agencies is publicdomain).

Re:a possible danger: shared source (2, Interesting)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615690)

I forgot to add this: Consider that in the future humans may live in space or other planets and they will definitely need some sort of device for the survival in an environment without oxygen. The oxygen-generator/provider/whatever will probably be a device controlled by a computer so it will need some sort of software. Would you accept exclusive copyright rights, possibly revocable, over a piece of software that is of extreme importance to your life? I hope not. Election/voting software is not very different: It is of extreme importance to the quality of life of millions of people and granting exclusive control of this code to some proprietors is a Bad Idea (tm). In my opinion any software code that is a public utility, like voting software, nuclear reactor control software, and life support software (example: in hospitals), need to be available in the public domain and stored in the Library of Congress, after the code developers have been paid by a federal agency or their employer.

One-Time IDs (4, Interesting)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 9 years ago | (#10615655)

One of the major problems with keeping track of voting records is that you don't want to give away too much information to the public on who voted what, while at the same time, keeping everything hidden will draw cries of foul play, tampering, et cetera. So here's an idea - one-time voter cards.

Lemme explain. They would be plastic cards, about the size of a credit card, with a random ID and password on them in print - long enough not to be memorized by passer-bys, but short enough to make it humanly possible to type later on. Also on the card is a magnetic strip - think something like a credit card. Now, when you show up at a voting center, they hand you one out of a pile - it's in a sealed envelope, so they haven't a clue as to which one they hand you. You go in the voting booth, slide your card through the machine, and vote. A paper trail is produced with your barcode and adjacent votes - but not anything that could be used to ID you later on - and you slide your card again. It registers your votes on the card, and you leave.

Now, the votes are tallied, and the results are given. However, the election isn't over yet. An open database is publically produced, with barcode/vote combinations, and the voters then mail their cards to be tallied and compared to the database. If the paper trail doesn't match up with the card count, something has gone wrong, and all votes without cards, cards without votes, are cast out.

I know this still has some flaws, but I'm curious as to what the Slashdot community thinks. One thing I was worried about is that in checking on your barcode, you may become ID'd in that manner - although compared to other methods, I think the chance of something like that, for example, through an encrypted channel online, is a lot less likely. Comments?

You call that an endorsement? Backed by NYT? LOL! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10615683)

In other news, John Kerry is endorsed by Jerry Springer. Talk about an endorsement. As if I needed yet another reason NOT to vote for Kerry. :)
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