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Diebold's Election Data Off-limits

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the who-needs-checks-and-balances dept.

Privacy 497

tommcb writes "The State of Alaska Division of Elections has denied a request by the Alaska Democratic Party for the raw file format used to tabulate voting results by citing that the data is in a proprietary format that is owned by Diebold. The ADP says 'The official vote results from the last general election are riddled with discrepancies and impossible for the public to make sense of'. The article contains some good quotes from Jim March of Black Box Voting: 'Copies of these kinds of files have been sitting on the Internet for over two years, with Diebold's knowledge.'"

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What is so proprietary (4, Funny)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551260)

About a 3 table schema in MS Access?!?!?!? It's not like competitors would *bother* to duplicate it...

Re:What is so proprietary (2, Funny)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551324)

You've got it all wrong. It is actually written in C, but uses a properiety \n\r\n record separator with various ASCII characters in between ;-)

Diebold's arguments are as good as SCO's.

Re:What is so proprietary (3, Funny)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551490)

This really isnt a Diebold problem...

It's ALASKA for god's sake. They would deny anything put forth by the alaska democratic party simply because it was put forth by democrats. They would probobly deny tax cuts and an increase in oil payments just so that they could push through a version with their name on it.

Re:What is so proprietary (5, Insightful)

Nurseman (161297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551329)

There has been so much chicken little, sky is falling hysteria about voting I think the public has become immune. Before you mod me troll, I think this is a scary thing. How anyone can say voting records are propriety data is just beyond comprehension to me. Electronic voting is scary, in all its forms. Unless it is open, I don't know how we can trust the result of ANY election. 2008 is looking more and more like 1984.

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

aztec rain god (827341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551473)

Whatever happened to using a pencil and a piece of paper with little bubbles you could fill in by the name of whomever you wanted to run things? Why must it all be so complicated?

Re:What is so proprietary (0, Flamebait)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551585)

2008 is looking more and more like 1984.

I don't know that there is a Republican around right now who could pull this [presidentelect.org] off.

Unless, of course, the Dems run another milquetoast like Mondale.

(The Dems are too afraid of people like Dean to let them run...and that's why they lose)

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

Freexe (717562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551343)

I can see a reason for 2 tables (Voter, Vote), but why would you need 3?

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

arootbeer (808234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551370)

it's not voter, vote (hopefully) it's vote, date, location

Re:What is so proprietary (3, Funny)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551374)

As a flag to determine who is committing Un-American Acts... Duh.

Re:What is so proprietary (3, Funny)

j-cloth (862412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551444)

$unamericanAct = ($vote != $rulingparty)
No need to add a separate table, it's just a little application logic.

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551485)

Alright You!

    Step away from the keyboard and leave the office and report to your nearest "Second City" Funny Bone Installation Clinic...

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551440)

State-County-Precinct, in a grandparent-parent-child relationship (there are many counties per state, many precincts per county). One of the big gripes about Diebold software is that it doesn't actually save individual votes lower than this- just Precinct Totals.

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

vandon (233276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551532)

From the article:
Diebold told the state it owns the format, which can't be released because it's a company secret.

What ever happened to free and OPEN elections?

Request (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551387)

Please tickle my anus with your nose.

Re:What is so proprietary (1)

evil_lonnie (627642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551525)

What is more surprising to me: Alaska has Democrats?

Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551285)

Obviously, computerized voting is a stupid, stupid idea. Whenever this sort of issue comes up, I find it breaks down into two camps: People who know shit about computers and people who don't. Electronic voting scares the first group, while the second group looks at it blankly and says shit like "Well, that's good 'cause computers don't make mistakes, right?"

Aside from that, blame is also richly deserved on the part of the State and Local morons who wrote their contracts with Diebold and other computer voting firms in such a way that they let them restrict access to this sort of vital information, as if verifying the results of an open election somehow isn't really all that important.

Gimme the connect-the-line ballots any day. At the very least, they'd be harder for the morons who deal with this sort of thing to fuck up.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551339)

No it breaks down into 3 groups. Those who know computers and are afraid, those who don't know computers and are afraid, and politicians.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551360)

Ah yes, but what about electronic voting with a paper trail, printed at the time of the vote. The voter then marks the paper to indicate that that vote is correct? Or even better, the ability to go back later on and see what your vote was, to ensure that it was not tampered with?

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551414)

Ah yes, but what about electronic voting with a paper trail, printed at the time of the vote. The voter then marks the paper to indicate that that vote is correct? Or even better, the ability to go back later on and see what your vote was, to ensure that it was not tampered with?

You can't allow people to check back on their vote -- it would allow people to sell their vote in a way that could be verified later.

As for the paper trail idea: Why make someone vote on a computer screen to produce a paper ballot? Keep It Simple, Stupid applies to methodologies and processes beyond programming and interfaces.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

bedroll (806612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551521)

You can't allow people to check back on their vote -- it would allow people to sell their vote in a way that could be verified later.

Right. That's why the voter shouldn't be able to verify it, but the voting officials should be able to.

As for the paper trail idea: Why make someone vote on a computer screen to produce a paper ballot? Keep It Simple, Stupid applies to methodologies and processes beyond programming and interfaces.

Wrong. Keep It Simple, Stupid applies to design, not requirements. The requirements that your machine must meet may be as complicated as they need to be in order to get the job done and do it right. In this case our entire voting system absolutely depends on the ability to verify that votes are tallied correctly. It is imperative that the votes are recorded correctly and that a recount can be performed if needed.

In this case there needs to be some way that a voter can verify that their vote was counted correctly, but not be able to take that outside of the polling location. Some solutions have already been thought up, such as printing a piece of paper that lines up to a key where the voter can verify that the paper matches their vote, and the paper would just be a few random boxes without the key. This allows for recounts and lets the voter verify their data, but it allows for an easy to use interface with no hanging chads.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

bedroll (806612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551541)

Right. That's why the voter shouldn't be able to verify it, but the voting officials should be able to.

Correction:
That's why the voter shouldn't be able to verify it after they leave the polling location, but the voting officials should be able to.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551685)

Why is this only an issue with electronic voting? When I vote, I go into a little cabinet, flip some switches and pull a big lever. I have no more way of knowing if my vote was recorded properly than electronic voting does. Why has no one ever made a fuss about these?

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (5, Insightful)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551398)

"Aside from that, blame is also richly deserved on the part of the State and Local morons who wrote their contracts with Diebold and other computer voting firms in such a way that they let them restrict access to this sort of vital information,"

I do not buy the story that the Government is powerless here. The local and state governments can easily obtain these records if they want to. The contracts do not matter much. First of all contracts that obscure voting results can be easily invalidated as against public policy. Secondly even if the contracts were valid, the government can easily break the contracts if they want to. They will be liable for damamges, but since Diebold would not sustain any losses from breaking of the contracts the damages would be only nominal.

So that is all bullshit. The Alaska officials who refuse to reveal the results do so out of their own motives and not because of some silly contracts.

One can easily figure out what these motives are.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (2, Interesting)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551601)

The contracts do not matter much. First of all contracts that obscure voting results can be easily invalidated as against public policy. Secondly even if the contracts were valid, the government can easily break the contracts if they want to. They will be liable for damamges, but since Diebold would not sustain any losses from breaking of the contracts the damages would be only nominal.

If Diebold copyrighted the database structure and registered the copyright with the LOC, actual damages will be of little concern as they could sue for $150,000 statutory damages per infringement of their copyright. So the damages would not be "nominal".

On the other hand, if the state cannot release the data, there is a question of whether the people could sue to overturn the election based on that as well as suing to have the use of the Diebold machines declared unconstitutional because of the prohibition on releasing the data.

I think it's in Diebold's best interest to back down on the copyright claim. If citizens nationwide sued to make the use of these machines unconstitutional, and got elections overturned, then the states could conceivably sue Diebold for selling them defective machines, recouping the cost of buying the machines, the cost of integrating them into their election systems, and the cost of re-running all elections that were overturned. And the defect would not be the machines themselves, but Diebold's IP stance on the software.

There's a genuine public interest in having the election system be as transparent as possible. That doesn't mean courts should force Diebold to remove the opacity they're injecting into the process. They're perfectly entitled to do that. But it does mean courts can force states and municipalities to stop using Diebold machines and overturn elections in which Diebold machines were used. In terms of an end-result that protects voters' rights, such court decisions would be the ideal outcome.

Greg

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551644)

Since when is a file format subject to copyright? It could, perhaps, be patented, but it isn't copyrightable and so the statutory damages for copyright infringement are not relevant.

Computerized voting is a great idea (5, Insightful)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551474)

Obviously, computerized voting is a stupid, stupid idea.

That's not obvious at all. Greater accessibility for the handicapped, more legible interfaces for long complicated ballots, the early detection and correction of "misvotes" and unintentional "undervotes", and the elimination of "hanging chads", stray marks and half-filled scan bubbles, etc. all make computerized voting a great idea.

What's a bad idea is storing the votes in computer memory. Computers have only one good mechanism for storing ballots in a failure-resistant, tamper-resistant fashion, and that's printer ink on paper. Touchscreen voting machines need to finish up your vote by printing it out on a paper ballot, prompting you to confirm or (with the help of a poll worker) destroy that paper, and finally directing you to the ballot box where the paper should be inserted to become part of the official count. If that was how electronic voting worked, I think even the computer-literate population would be thrilled.

Re:Computerized voting is a great idea (1)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551524)

I agree with your assessment. I should have been more specific in my original post -- I was referring to the sort of "computer voting" where the votes are stored in memory rather than in a physical form. Using computers as an aid to voting and a neutral error-checker isn't a bad idea at all once you reduct the inevitable technical issues to a minimum (hey! this thing's out of ink!).

Of course, there's always the segment of the population who'll mess up even the very simple process you've described (can you tell I've spent my morning conducting training?), but I suppose there's nothing to be done about that.

Re:Computerized voting is a great idea (2, Insightful)

Propagandhi (570791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551542)

I totally agree, and can only hope that the GP really meant that implementing poorly designed comuterized voting systems are a huge mistake. A well designed computer system (with some similarly well designed analog outputs for independent verification) could add levels of transparency totally impossible with a 100% dead-tree based system.

For instance, a system could be designed whereby every individual vote was published (names removed) in a simple format (*.txt?) as to allow each user to count the vote for themselves, as well as verify that their vote was cast correctly. A highly superior system for ensuring that an election is not a farce, compared to the blind faith we maintain in paper...

That said, Diebold's systems are certainly worse than paper. Leaving elections in the hands of private companies who seem to have little interest in maintaing any kind of democracy/republic gives me the willies..

Re:Computerized voting is a great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551674)

What do you mean "(names removed)"? Voting has to be anonymous, Skippy. If they're recording who I am along with my vote then I'm going to have to move to Bolivia where the new president is a coca farmer. At least I know for sure then that my leaders were bastards.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (2, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551530)

while the second group looks at it blankly and says shit like "Well, that's good 'cause computers don't make mistakes, right?"

In 2008 people in Florida will be whining "The ballot was too confusing, I didn't realize I was supposed to touch the NAME on the touch screen. Can we get the butterfly ballots back?" or in an alternate scenario: "The touch screen disciminates against us fatties. I meant to hit Republicrat but my fat finger pressed both Republicrat and independent so I want my vote back! I demand a recount!"

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551546)

I think electronic voting is ok. I think it needs to be FOSS. I think it needs to have a cryptographically provided verifiable paper audit trail. The piece of paper would contain a crypto signature for your vote data. It could prove that you voted, but not how you voted, without going to the records. At that point, it could be used to prove that your vote wasn't tampered with after being recorded, and using FOSS voting software would show that the software didn't tamper with it while you were casting your vote.

Re:Diebold's bad, but officials also to blame (1, Troll)

kesuki (321456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551598)

Obligitory quote:
"Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error. "

Access? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551286)

the access file is proprietary, sicne when?

Re:Access? (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551310)

It has always been proprietary.

MOTTO: DESTROY AMERICA! (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551306)

One "election" at a time.

Who wanted a copy? (3, Funny)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551311)

Give me a few minutes -- I'll have a .torrent for you.

Democratic country vs Dictator XYZ (0, Flamebait)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551313)

Democratic country to dictator: You rigged your elections! We will come and kick your ass.
Dictator: I did not rig the elections, I used the same Diebold machines as you did.
Democratic country: You use illegal technology! We will come and kick your ass.

Why do I even bother?

Re:Democratic country vs Dictator XYZ (0, Offtopic)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551498)

Hey man, not sure about your comment, but your wife's sketches are really good!

Who owns the data? (5, Insightful)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551315)

Who cares what format was used or that it is proprietary. If it's your data, you can do whatever you want with it, regardless of the format.
And since this is about elections, I would say the public owns the data. So hand it over.

Who owns the data?-Individual voters do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551394)

"I would say the public owns the data. So hand it over."

What are you? A politician? You don't "own" my vote. Just your own.

Re:Who owns the data?-Individual voters do. (1)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551567)

Dude, I didn't say that I own your vote. I didn't even said I own the data about the votes. I said the public owns the data, the American public.
What? you can only know who won, but not how many votes someone got. And if you do know the number of votes, then what does it matter if you also hand out the original file detailing that information? It is not like they know who voted for who, is it?
[rant]I am not an American, but I seem to be more concerned about goes on over there that most Americans. And do you know why? Because some idiot in Washington is controlling the second largest stockpile of nukes in the world. And now Chirac started threatening with nukes as well. Idiots ! I am more scared about the fools in Washington than that megalomaniac in North-Korea.
And Iran wants to stop selling oil in dollars and they either have nukes or soon will.

Do you know that Chinese saying: "May you live in interesting times"? What a curse that one can be at times.[/rant]

Re:Who owns the data? (1)

jeeperscats (882744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551427)

Obviously you have never worked with any type of technology contractor. You would also think that the contractor we hired to set up our new corporate accounting system would have given us the root passwords before they left....

Jim March and Gun Owners (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551318)

Jim March of Black Box Voting

Jim March is also active in trying to get a concealed weapons bill passed in California.

http://www.equalccw.com/ [equalccw.com]

http://thehighroad.org/member.php?u=396 [thehighroad.org]

Re:Jim March and Gun Owners (3, Informative)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551515)

So he's a libertarian. What's your point?

So much for copyrights (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551319)

Why yes, it is your original creation and you have a full right to protect it, but oh wait... you have to respect the rights of the person who wrote the format you are now using to store your work in.

This is why I as a libertarian despise the arguments in favor of strong IP law. They are trying to make ideas behave like physical property, and in doing so they create a society where no one has absolute ownership over their own work that they made with their own money. As I said, yes it is your creative work/data, but you cannot fully excercise that ownership because your property rights are trumped by another party's patent rights.

That sounds like sharecropping, not property rights to me. You might as well say that by buying a framed picture you implicitly signed an agreement to not using a competing frame-maker's product to store your pictures. Oh wait, that basically is the argument of the defenders of strong IP law. You didn't see the contract, it wasn't even mentioned, but by God you implicitly signed some ephemeral social contract allegedly brokered 200 years ago by our forefathers in some secret masonic temple lacking euclidian geometry hidden away from common knowledge. But this implicit contract, really is there... we swear.

Re:So much for copyrights (2, Interesting)

aeoo (568706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551563)

Instead of looking at it as rights trumping each other, why not see that the idea space cannot be split up at all? In other words, if you examine the context of your "own" mind, you can never be certain which thought is strictly yours and which one is not. Thoughts always arise in context and are meaningless without the context. Instead of saying that the thought dominates the context, or that context trumps the thought, why not just see it as one unbroken space?

That's a more advanced point of view than your "earlier rights trump the latter one", in my opinion.

The problem with trumping is that once you allow it, then there will be endless bickering on who comes first, etc. This will then spawn endless bureaucracies, legislations, and executive bodies made for enforcement -- precisely the kind of thing you as a "libertarian" should theoretically despise. If you want to eliminate bureaucracy and bs, then it's in your best interest to eliminate as much bickering as possible, and that includes bickering over rights too. The ideapshere is the most turbulent and fickle space there is, and designating any rights in that sphere, any rights whatsoever, will lead to an explosion in disagreements, and hence the need for governance will increase and not decrease.

It certainly adds credence... (4, Insightful)

JPyun (911266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551332)

...to Massachusets wanting to switch everything to open file formats. That way they don't get fucked by Diebold or MS.

am i missing something here? (2, Interesting)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551340)

Basically what they say is they want to give us a printout from the (electronic) file. They don't want to give us the file itself. It doesn't enable us to get to the bottom of what we need to know

It seems to me that election software is pretty simple. It's basically a list of candidates and the number of votes each one got. Or you could have a log file of the candidate that people voted for. How on earth can you make a proprietary format out of this? It's just a simple list! I don't get it.

Ya know, that's my question as well... (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551533)

Is tabulating and sorting votes really that complex of a task? It would seem that the greater challenge is to develop a simple and robust interface.

It almost seems you could whip up a Python script to do it as far as computation is concerned and store the results as a text file. Hard to imagine what kind of deep dark company proprietary secrets are being protected here.

Diebold nonsense (5, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551349)

The format isn't patented, I don't think, and isn't copyrightable, so the only legal protection it might have is trade secret. However, since the format is already out in the open, due both to revelation in other states and from the Diebold files posted on the net, it is no longer a trade secret and there is nothing that Diebold can complain about.

Furthermore, I don't see that anything actually prevents the State of Alaska from revealing the file format even if it is a trade secret. What can Diebold do about it? The State probably has sovereign immunity, and in any case, the secret is probably worth nothing so even if Diebold sued successfully they wouldn't get any damages to speak of.

Meanwhile here in Canada yet another election has been conducted without any problem using simple paper ballots. Just five lines with the names and parties of the candidates and a circle in which to draw an X. No need for voting machines, no possibility of confusion, minimal opportunity for fraud.

Re:Diebold nonsense (1)

Bush Pig (175019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551583)

We do things in much the same way in Australia. While you might not like the results of an election, you can be pretty sure it wasn't rigged, at least at the vote-counting level. (Rigging peoples' opinions, otoh, is another matter entirely.)

Re:Diebold nonsense (0, Troll)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551605)

Prior to 2000, we thought the same thing here in the U.S. as well..

if you think Australian elections can't be rigged, you're pretty naive.

Given enough resources, anything can (and likely will) be rigged.

Re:Diebold nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551656)

actually as long as you draw anything in the circle its valid. doesnt have to be an X. i personally just fill it in.

North Carolina (3, Interesting)

bombadillo (706765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551363)

Diebold also ran into problems with North Carolina. [arstechnica.com] North Carolina law requires voting machine makers turn over all their source code to the state for review. Code gets held in escrow all the time. So I don't buy their excuse. For some reason I get the feeling that Diebold is trying to cover up really bad and insecure code.

Re:North Carolina (1)

Saige (53303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551442)

I look at it like this - they couldn't put together a system like they have with just incompetent people in charge. And considering they do ATMs that are secure and have all the features people ask for in electronic voting machines, they've proven that they CAN do it right if they want to.

The fact that they didn't do it right implies, to me at least, that they didn't WANT to do it right.

But that's silly of me. What purpose would it solve to have voting machines that don't have paper trails and are hackable?

Re:North Carolina (1)

vandon (233276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551650)

And considering they do ATMs that are secure....

You also have banks and customers checking balances and statements all the time. If there was a requirement to have voter verified printed receipts that were put into a box after you voted so any recounts could use the printed receipt, I'm sure that Diebold voting machines would suddenly become as accurate and reliable as their ATM machines.

Re:North Carolina (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551526)

I think they're trying to cover up shennanigans as well.

Re:North Carolina (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551561)

They're not trying to cover up secure code, they're trying to cover up the fact they that fixed this last presidential "election."

voting rights? (5, Insightful)

phoenix42 (263805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551365)

Regardless of your political leanings, this seems like a pretty shady way of avoiding giving the public its voting records. It seems to me that we should not be allowing proprietary formats to be used in the voting process. When the rights of intellectual property and the rights of corporations usurp the rights of citizens to examine the voting record, I think that we enter dangerous territory and should ask some some serious questions about the way elections are held in our country. I'm all for using technology to make voting easier, but if it comes at the expense of accurate elections, I'd rather go back to paper and pen.

Cananda (1, Funny)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551369)

I'm so glad I live in Canada

Re:Cananda (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551412)

Even if i cannot spell it !

Oups.

Re:Cananda (1, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551453)

I'm so glad I live in Canada

Why is that? In 2003 Diebold bought a Canadian company called Global Election Systems, the #1 supplier in Canada of electronic voting machines.

  -Charles

Re:Cananda (1)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551479)

I'm so glad I live in Canada

Why is that? In 2003 Diebold bought a Canadian company called Global Election Systems, the #1 supplier in Canada of electronic voting machines.

...and yesterday, the Canadian election was won by the GOP's conservative brethren up north.

hmmmm....

Diebold: We don't just rig U.S. elections anymore!

Re:Cananda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551516)

Except we don't use voting machines in Canada.
Pencil and paper. Single X on a ballot.

Re:Cananda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551572)

actually it can be any mark, not just an X.

Re:Cananda (2, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551610)

Well, not really. To begin with, the Conservatives only got a little over a third of the seats in Parliament, meaning that they will form a minority government. Furthermore, the Senate (which is not elected) is dominated by Liberals. So, yes, the Conservatives will form the government, but they will not be able to do whatever they like.

Moreover, the issues in the election were largely not aligned with left-right divisions. In fact, there wasn't an awful lot of disagreement on policy at all. What this election was really about was disenchantment with the Liberals, partly because they have been in power for a long time and partly because of a number of scandals. The election was anti-Liberal, not pro-Conservative. Indeed, although the Conservatives gained seats, there was also a dramatic increase in the number of seats held by the New Democratic Party, which is socialist, roughly the equivalent of the Labour Party in some other countries.

There are also major differences between the Conservatives and the US Republican party. For example, they have explicitly stated that they have no interest whatever in banning abortion. On same-sex marriage they have not taken a stance on the issue itself but merely say that they will allow a free vote (meaning that MPs are not obligated to vote with their party). Their platform included reducing the sales tax, which is arguably a progressive move since the sales tax is regressive. So, yes, they are to the right of the other major parties, but they aren't the Republicans, thank goodness.

Re:Cananda (2, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551507)

Voting machines are not used in Canadian elections. If a Canadian company makes voting machines, it is benefitting from the foolishness of people elsewhere.

Re:Cananda (2, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551512)

Canadian electronic voting machines? That's odd. AFAIK, our elections are still done with a pencil and paper (at least, yesterday's general election was)

...and we can still manage to figure out who won that same night. *snicker*

Re:Cananda (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551539)

they are not used in federal elections, they have been use in some municipal elections.

Re:Cananda (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551669)

Have fun with your new government. I hear they want to cut taxes and raise spending. It worked great here!

But if the data had porno website searches in it (5, Funny)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551403)

If that data had porno website searches in it, you'd have the White House asking for it.

Re:But if the data had porno website searches in i (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551604)

If that data had porno website searches in it, you'd have the White House asking for it.

Only the Clinton White House. The Bush White House is opposed to sex. I think Clinton has all the adult websites book marked anyone. I true geeks President.

Cryptographically secure voting (3, Interesting)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551409)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a provably secure, open cryptography-supported way to make sure elections are fair and allow anyone to investigate fraud? I don't have time to search for the URLs at the moment, but there were several methods developed even before the 2000 presidential election in the U.S.

If I understood correctly, we could have a nationwide vote, everyone leaves with a piece of paper with a number printed on it, and can take that number home and verify that their vote was correctly counted on the internet (where public lists of votes are posted), while the whole system remained anonymous. It looked like election fraud could be completely eliminated.

There were more complex schemes with paired barcodes and filtered light or something, but that was the basic idea.

If such a scheme can be mathematically proven to be secure, why aren't we using it?

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (2, Interesting)

jeeperscats (882744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551496)

"If such a scheme can be mathematically proven to be secure, why aren't we using it?"

Because the only people who understand it are too busy posting about in on /. and the people who don't understand it are in office.

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551503)

Because this is obviously a power-grab leading up to a scenario with an Emperor-for-Life by 2008.

Now excuse me, I need to upgrade my tinfoil hat to a lead war-helm.

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551621)

"If I understood correctly, we could have a nationwide vote, everyone leaves with a piece of paper with a number printed on it, and can take that number home and verify that their vote was correctly counted on the internet (where public lists of votes are posted), while the whole system remained anonymous."

If your vote is linked to a piece of paper that is given to you, how is the vote anonymous? Maybe its not completely open, but it would still be bad because superiors can still demand to get your number to verify the vote - therefore undermining the anonymity of the vote. Or how about pay for vote scams?

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551641)

The idea was that this verification wouldn't actually reveal who you voted for, only that your vote had been recorded correctly.

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551687)

Then you didn't understand what I was saying.

How do you make sure that your vote was recorded correctly WHILE noone else can know what you voted for? There is only one method for that: the vote takes place at the designated place and no record of the vote gets out from there.

If you can check your vote on the net, even by just looking up a seemingly random number, whats stopping your boss from demanding that you give him the receipt so he can check the number himself? Or worse: Suppose someone wants to buy people's votes: he gives you $5 after every vote for party X, he only requires you to give him the receipt and that you voted for the "correct" party.

This kind of scenario shouldn't happen.

Re:Cryptographically secure voting (3, Insightful)

marvinglenn (195135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551673)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a provably secure, open cryptography-supported way to make sure elections are fair and allow anyone to investigate fraud? I don't have time to search for the URLs at the moment, but there were several methods developed even before the 2000 presidential election in the U.S.

Bruce Schneier described such a system in his book Applied Cryptography.

ISBN 0-471-59756-2 (1993 first ed. there're newer ones)

Solution: Make an X (4, Insightful)

Mantrid (250133) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551413)

I don't think voting is the sort of thing that should be automated; it's hard enough to make sure things are above board without blackboxing things.

We just voted yesterday in Canada - made an X in the appropriate box. Kind of hard to mess that up I've always thought. And even if it was an OSS voting machine, the general public and in fact most people would get nothing from that, not having the first clue of what the code meant.

I know the US is 10x the size, but you also presumably have 10x the people counting. And in any case, for one event every 4 years it seems reasonable. Heck we do it every 1.5 years it seems :)

This would help both Dem's and the Republicans - it'd be much easier to see who won so if the Dems should've won obviously this information would be useful. If the results were correct it would help the Republicans as this whole "illegimate president" thing could finally be done away with.

I know it's popular to bitch about the US elections and mock the US, but personally I'm impressed. The courts decided where appropriate, jurisdictions seemed to be respected, and rules followed etc. There was an orderly hand over of power. Do you think things would've gone as well in every country where the election was balanced on the finest of margins?

Plain old paper ballots would have made the whole affair as open as possible.

Re:Solution: Make an X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551488)

Voters in florida couldn't figure out how to use a simple punch card. They'll whine about putting an X into a box.

Re:Solution: Make an X (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551568)

Paper counts take lots of time. People like the speed and options that computer processing allows. And it's not an argument that EVERYONE should know the whole process inside and out. They should be ABLE to know it. There are a number of people who can't read who trust that voting works. I don't see why they wouldn't trust their neighborhood computer guy who decided to actually look at the code a bit.
And for the "illegitimate president thing". Did you know most of the argument was with the hanging chads, and how the paper ballots themselves were counted? Nothing whatsoever to do with the computers.

Re:Solution: Make an X (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551645)

Paper counts take lots of time.

No, they don't. Many, many other jurisdictions have paper counts and it gets done in a couple hours, max. I find it hard to believe that the rest of the world has a secret paper-counting technology that the USA can't duplicate.

Or, just have paper ballots that are machine readable like multiple-choice exam sheets. All the advantages of paper, with the benefits of machine counting.

Re:Solution: Make an X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551657)

I know the US is 10x the size, but you also presumably have 10x the people counting.

Yeah, but you have Americans counting, so, you know...

Lighten up; it's a joke! :-P

Re:Solution: Make an X (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551670)

Kind of hard to mess that up I've always thought.

You overestimate the stupidity of the lower end of the American voter. On the old systems, there were regularly cases where there would be two holes punched out or two marks made or other ridiculous errors.

Then you have the people running the election. If a guy doesn't mark the X straight and it looks more like a + or maybe a V, is that still counted as a vote? You might scoff, but that was basically the "hanging chad" argument in Florida: people thumping the rulebook and nitpicking the obvious for their benefit.

Open Government (5, Insightful)

PMuse (320639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551419)

The notion that any part of the law or the process of government can be owned is abominable.

From proprietary building codes to election mechanisms, we must demand that our system of government belongs to all of us, without restriction.

STOP TAKING BLACK BOX VOTING STORIES (0, Flamebait)

jeramybsmith (608791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551424)

Bev Harris is an acknowledged kook who used to do the Art Bell circuit but got promoted to legitmacy because her people are so effective at pushing these stories to media like Slashdot. Boom, she's an EFF award winner. The black box voting people are bigtime astro-turfers and they use willing sites like slashdot to make BBV seem more legitimate and draw in more marks. Read up on BBV: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboa rd.php?az=view_all&address=203x340188 [democratic...ground.com] Gee, could we get some stories about how communism is bad from the John Birch soceity while were at it?

Re:STOP TAKING BLACK BOX VOTING STORIES (2, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551469)

Sorry, but the information in this case comes from the Alaska Daily News, not from Black Box Voting or Bev Harris.

Re:STOP TAKING BLACK BOX VOTING STORIES (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551564)

Yeah, astrotufers are evil and unwanted when they don't fit in with our biases and agendas here!

Re:STOP TAKING BLACK BOX VOTING STORIES (1, Insightful)

SpaceCadetTrav (641261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551631)

I'm sorry, but linking to the Democratic Underground is not a good way to back up ANY post.

Re:STOP TAKING BLACK BOX VOTING STORIES (2, Informative)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551638)

This doesn't change any of the facts. There's no reason we should be denied the ability to audit our own voting process.

Oblig. Alaska comment (-1, Offtopic)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551439)

Ooh, that was cold.

If what they say is true... (3, Interesting)

f(x) is x (948082) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551456)

From the article:

For instance, district-by-district vote totals add up to 292,267 votes for President Bush, but his official total was only 190,889.

Election officials have an explanation. Early votes for statewide candidates were not recorded by House district but rather were tallied for each of the state's four election regions.

My observation:

If this is true, shouldn't 292267 minus 190889 be divisible by 3 (considering these votes were counted three extra times)?

The answer (101378) isn't...

Load shotgun, aim, amputate foot (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551458)

"The issue is that the (Democratic Party) is asking for a file format the state of Alaska uses but does not own."

I couldn't be more pleased with this.

Diebold, by refusing to release the data, shows what a boondoggle it is to allow public information to be locked up in proprietary format.

The State plays right into the Bush-Gore-2000 paranoia over ballot counting. They're not allowed to release the raw data, because of the mistake they made allowing a proprietary format to be used.

A transformation of the data (be it a printout, ASCII dump, spreadsheet, or whatever) is not sufficient. Any transformation process is likely to use the same (proprietary) algorithm that was used to generate the official results, which could have hidden errors. It also makes me wonder what else is in the format, perhaps data that shouldn't be there.

Yup, this is a positive development.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH (1, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551509)

We don't need to see their tabulation.

These aren't the chads you were looking for.

You can go about your business.

Move along...move along.

MS-Access table layout (3, Informative)

OWJones (11633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551552)

Diebold systems use Microsoft Access as the underlying file format for everything, including the audit logs. So it's not even that they're claiming the file format is theirs -- it obviously "belongs" to Microsoft -- they're claiming that the table layout they came up with for Access is theirs. Which could be interesting, given that if the state programmed the ballot layout themselves, it's possible that some of that table layout was generated by the Diebold program. So you've got one Diebold program generating a table layout for the MS-Access file format, and Diebold is claiming that generated table layout is theirs.

Brilliant!

-jdm

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14551668)

Who cares? It's Alaska

Unnecessary (1)

stlhawkeye (868951) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551679)

What's wrong with the old Iowa Test of Basic Skills football grid? Are pencils and ovals too much to ask of the American people? I hate to federalize things but how about a simple national format that defines what the minimum ballot must contain for all federal officers of the government. The states can elect their state officers however they want. If your state does it a dumb way you can move to one that doesn't. If you can find one, that is.

Although I'm not an evangelical open source advocate, I do think that open source software is the best choice for all computerization of matters of public record. Although ballots are "secret" in the sense that nobody knows who cast which one, they are ultimately a matter of public record, since we kinda have to know who got the most votes. All machination and digitalization with regards to public records (meaning data available to the public, they can store classified documents however they want, I don't care) should be required to be stored in open formats (not free, necessarily, but open in the sense that anybody can develop software to save, retrieve, view, and edit those records), and the software used by the government to manage those records should be open to public audit at a minimum.

And frankly, if Microsoft wanted to sign up for this deal and handle our voting machines, I'd be 100% in favor of it so long as they met these requirements.

But really ... when it comes to federal elections, the ungodly majority of people either pull the party handle or pick one of the two major candidates. Why on earth do we need billions invested in technology to run up a tally of how many people picked which of two options?

what was the point again ? (1)

tonigonenstein (912347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551683)

What advantage is electronic voting supposed to bring ? Don't we just do it... because we can ?

(Relative) No Brainer (3, Insightful)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#14551689)

So Diebold claims that their proprietary database format can't be released. The state has two choices. Release the data and defend themselves in a lawsuit or don't release the data and let a third party force Diebold to defend themselves in a lawsuit. Seems to me that the state of Alaska is letting the Democratic Party take the lead here - and I don't see a problem with it. Why waste taxpayer dollars and exposure to liability when a third party will foot the bill?

Besides, it gives good press to the Democratic Party and bad press to Diebold. As for the government, well, everybody hates the government already, right?

-h-
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