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Voting Isn't Easy, Even if Cheating Is

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the sobering-thought dept.


The Open Voting Foundation's disclsosure that only one switch need be flipped to allow the machine to boot from an unverified external flash drive instead of the built-in, verified EEPROM drew more than 600 comments; some of the most interesting ones are below, in today's Backslash story summary.Expressing a common sentiment, reader cmd finds nothing innocent about the inclusion of such a switch:

Diebold also builds automated teller machines (ATM), the definitive model for reliability and accountability.

The AccuVote machines are what they are, not due to poor design or unintentional mistake. They are the result of a deliberate intent to enable fraud on a massive scale. Viewed from this perspective, the AccuVote design is very good. The real problem comes when Diebold realizes that it needs to become better at obfuscation and makes it harder to detect the fraud.

"Electronic voting machines with no paper trail are an insult to democracy," writes pieterh. "That they come with switches to bypass even the dubious 'safeguards' provided is hardly a surprise."

Paper trails, of course, are only as good as the people guarding the paper; readers familar with more recent allegations of vote manipulation may be interested in the 1946 confrontation in Athens, Tennessee (pointed out by reader William J. Poser) between WWII veterans and the election officials.

Reader Soong, though, provides a conspiracy-free explanation for the presence of such a switch:

The ability to boot from different sources is a normal debugging feature, not in itself sinister. Should they have cleaned that up on the production model? Yeah, sure. But verifiability is ultimately a human concern anyway, not a tech one.

It all comes down to who you trust.

If you don't trust the polling place, make the voting machine tamper proof. But then you have to trust the guy who built the voting machine. You have to trust the guy who loaded the software on it at the factory or the elections office. You have to trust the guy who wrote the code. Even if you inspected the code, you have to trust him to give you a binary based on that and not pull a fast one. You have to trust his compiler to give him a binary without compiled in back doors. I feel like I probably haven't listed all the points where this voting machine chain of trust can break down.

Several readers pointed out that voters might better trust the machines as well as the process of electronic voting if regulation were more rigorous; as reader Animats puts it, "slot machine standards are much tighter":
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has technical standards for slot machines. They've had enough fraud over the years that they know what has to be done. Some highlights:
  • ... must resist forced illegal entry and must retain evidence of any entry until properly cleared or until a new play is initiated. A gaming device must have a protective cover over the circuit boards that contain programs and circuitry used in the random selection process and control of the gaming device, including any electrically alterable program storage media. The cover must be designed to permit installation of a security locking mechanism by the manufacturer or end user of the gaming device.
  • ... must exhibit total immunity to human body electrostatic discharges on all player-exposed areas. ...
  • A gaming device may exhibit temporary disruption when subjected to electrostatic discharges of 20,000 to 27,000 volts DC ... but must exhibit a capacity to recover and complete an interrupted play without loss or corruption of any stored or displayed information and without component failure. ...
  • Gaming device power supply filtering must be sufficient to prevent disruption of the device by repeated switching on and off of the AC power. ... must be impervious to influences from outside the device, including, but not limited to, electro-magnetic interference, electro-static interference, and radio frequency interference.
  • All gaming devices which have control programs residing in one or more Conventional ROM Devices must employ a mechanism approved by the chairman to verify control programs and data. The mechanism used must detect at least 99.99 percent of all possible media failures. If these programs and data are to operate out of volatile RAM, the program that loads the RAM must reside on and operate from a Conventional ROM Device.
  • All gaming devices having control programs or data stored on memory devices other than Conventional ROM Devices must:
    1. Employ a mechanism approved by the chairman which verifies that all control program components, including data and graphic information, are authentic copies of the approved components. The chairman may require tests to verify that components used by Nevada licensees are approved components. The verification mechanism must have an error rate of less than 1 in 10 to the 38th power and must prevent the execution of any control program component if any component is determined to be invalid. Any program component of the verification or initialization mechanism must be stored on a Conventional ROM Device that must be capable of being authenticated using a method approved by the chairman.
    2. Employ a mechanism approved by the chairman which tests unused or unallocated areas of any alterable media for unintended programs or data and tests the structure of the storage media for integrity. The mechanism must prevent further play of the gaming device if unexpected data or structural inconsistencies are found.
    3. Provide a mechanism for keeping a record, in a form approved by the chairman, anytime a control program component is added, removed, or altered on any alterable media. The record must contain a minimum of the last 10 modifications to the media and each record must contain the date and time of the action, identification of the component affected, the reason for the modification and any pertinent validation information.
    4. Provide, as a minimum, a two-stage mechanism for validating all program components on demand via a communication port and protocol approved by the chairman. The first stage of this mechanism must verify all control components. The second stage must be capable of completely authenticating all program components, including graphics and data components in a maximum of 20 minutes. The mechanism for extracting the authentication information must be stored on a Conventional ROM Device that must be capable of being authenticated by a method approved by the chairman.

Those standards cover the possibility of an "alternate program" in a slot machine, and provide a way to check for it, with logs and an external program check capability.

The Gaming Control Board of Nevada was asked to take a look at Diebold, and Nevada rejected Diebold equipment as a result.

Voting machines need tough standards like that. They don't have them.

Even if e-voting machines had a spec list that would pass at the Gaming Commission, Midnight Thunder is puzzled that tamper-proofing techniques aren't more evident on the Diebold machines:

Given taxi meters and electricity meters both have tamper seals, you would have thought that these would have visible tamper seals as well. If in doubt you could even have two tamper seals: one from Diebold and another from the voting commission, in order to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the state of the machine.

Several readers are for canning electronic voting for U.S. elections completely. Reader Iamthefallen wants to know

Has anyone answered the question regarding need for automated vote counting in a satisfactory way?

Seems to me that manual counting of votes would be vastly more secure as it would take a huge conspiracy to affect the result either way.

Counting a hundred million votes is hard, counting a thousand votes in a hundred thousand locations is easy.

Similarly, slofstra writes

Sorry, I have never seen the point of these machines. Paper ballots are auditable, user friendly, and if electronics is put into the reporting system, can be counted in a few minutes and submitted. Voting machine are a perfect example of a technology fetish at work. It would make an interesting case study to examine the economic and sociological reasons why we sometimes buy technology that we don't need, don't want and further, serves no useful purpose.

(Augmenting electronic voting machines with a paper record is a frequently raised idea; reader megaditto, for one, asks "Is it that hard to put a thermal printer behind a glass shield?" A similar system is required in Nevada voting machines already.)

Paper ballots and electronic ones aren't the only options, though; lever-based voting machines have dominated recent American national elections. Mark Walling writes

My district switched to electronic- from lever-based. in 2004, at 7:15 when I voted on lever machines, there was no line, and just about as many signatures in the book. In 2005, the line was out the door and around the corner at the same time. The person in front of me took 5 minutes to use the electronic machine. People knew how to use the old machines, and they were reliable. These new things take the old people forever to use, and then they complain that they were hard to read ...

Reader WillAffleckUW suggests skipping in-person voting completely; absentee voting is a good idea, he argues, not only in light of the flaws (demonstrated or alleged) in electronic voting methods, but because

absentee voters get a paper ballot that is not only delivered by a trusted source (the U.S. Post Office) who have a verified date/time stamp — and that the ballots can be audited, traced, and verified — now that is a reason to register permanent absentee.

Not so fast, says reader JDAustin:

I suggest you take a look at the research into the recent Washington state elections done by They verified close to a 20% error rate in absentee balloting. The signature verification on absentee balloting is no verification at all due to non-verification being done by those who count the ballots. Additionally, the USPS is not a trusted source, they are just another government bureaucracy. The ballots themselves cannot necessarily be traced nor verified — and even when the signatures are completely different, they are still counted. Due to the nature of voter rolls, duplicate ballots are sent out all the time due to slight variation in a person's name, and the duplicate ballots counts are not caught until after the final tally has been done and the election finished. Finally, mischievous government officials can always delay sending the military their ballots so those serving overseas do not have time to get their vote in on time. This actually happened in 2004 in Washington state.

Permanent absentee is not the solution. Neither is electronic voting.

The true solution takes elements of the recent Mexican election to prevent fraud (voter ID cards, thumb inking, precinct-based monitoring and tallying) and combine them with the best paper-based voting machine.

Many thanks to the readers (especially those quoted above) whose comments informed this discussion.

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Diebold lobbied slashdot... (3, Funny)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827278)

Nothing for you to see here. Please move along

That's exactly what Diebold wants you to think...

So which party/candidate would take advantage of this exploit first - the Democrats [] or the Republicans [uglyrepublicans] - both are ugly!

Re:Diebold lobbied slashdot... (4, Insightful)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827422)

Beyond the lines drawn for the public by the political parties, there are very few politicians that actually care about those ideals. Woe be it unto the citizen believer of his party that most of his elected officials are there to enact legislation on behalf of his beliefs; the vast majority will vote along party lines for the litmus-test issues (homosexual rights as people, abortion, etc.) as these issues do not affect the majority of elected officials. The majority of elected officials are very, very wealthy and therefore most laws do not affect them. Only flagrant disregard of the law will land a politician in jail, and in that respect, it's almost like crime: only the arrogant or idiotic find themselves in trouble, most of the time.

Every non-partisan issue, mostly those concerning government contracts, business/industry legislation, and the budget rarely fall on party lines. The lines they do fall on are unseen and concern large sums of money and lobbying groups.
Let me put it into the simplest terms: Washington is the evolutionary product of a pool of sharks that use camouflage and obfuscation as chief predatory tactics. Most everyone aside from those with political science majors and those who are very good with them will not have the slightest fucking clue as to 90% of what transpires on the grounds of the capitol. There is simply too much going on too often that is far too subtle for any investigative journalist to know what the fuck.

Diebold machines are kept with those flaws, I suspect, so that both parties can weed out anyone seen as too keenly idealistic, anyone that might upset the corruption so deeply in place that keeps so many people so wealthy, so happy.
On the other hand, one party might've been a bit to bold when they sensed they were losing power, and possibly overstepped the unspoken agreement of how far that fraud would go when during a certain election(s) for the highest office. Of course, the other party is left rather speechless and with no end to turn to, as it would mean a political suicide for all involved.

Just some creative articulation... of course.

Re:Diebold lobbied slashdot... (2, Funny)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827437)

  case 1: // republicans
  case 2: // democrats

  default: /* Losers */

  /* never give more than DEF_LOSERS votes, default 10% */
    if( sum_losers < DEF_LOSERS*( party[1] + party[2] + sum_losers ) ){
      party[vote]++; sum_losers++;
    } else {

      if(rand<0.5) {  // otherwise share the dangerous votes evenly between winners.
      } else {

Re:Diebold lobbied slashdot... (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827840)

Well, just look at what is happening in our area (south denver, where you and I live).
  • We have the republicans gerrymandering (of course, the democrats invented this back east).
  • The republicans pushed through that Colorado will be electronic, but then limited it to just 4 companies (all who push paperless, but support a paper; amazing since a company would make more profit off the paper than the machine).
  • Of course, Owens is good friends with O'Dell and a number of the districts elected to go with Diebold.
And now the democrats are in control of 2 of 3 parts of Colorado congress and likely to get the gov as well. So, will they take advantage of all the openings that the republicans have created (i.e. re=district to kill tancredo's joke of a district (my old one) and create their version of it)? Or will they do the right thing and create laws to avoid these set-ups. Perhaps re-do the constitition to say that a neutral group will suggest the map and congres will do an up-down vote; turn over to judge after 3 plans.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Ken Thompson for President (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827287)

I'd bet he would get plenty of votes! r_programmer) []

Re:Ken Thompson for President (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827357)

The first quote of his on the wikipedia page says, "When in doubt, use brute force." He certainly sounds qualified to me!

Re:Ken Thompson for President (3, Funny)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827421)

Countdown to ken thompson for president edit in wikipedia has started. I'm placing my bets on 10 minutes.

Mod that FUNNY! (3, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828058)

Ken Thompson for President

I'd bet he would get plenty of votes!


For those who aren't aware, Ken Thompson admitted to actually writing and installing a back door [] in the unix login program and the associated C compiler, as described in his 1983 Turing Award lecture.

This worked by having the compiler recognize what it's compiling and:
  - If compiling login, insert the back door.
  - If compiling a later version of itself, insert the compiler patch.
This has the advantage that, once you get it working, you can throw out the source code and it still propagates.

Re:Mod that FUNNY! (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828291)

'' For those who aren't aware, Ken Thompson admitted to actually writing and installing a back door in the unix login program and the associated C compiler, as described in his 1983 Turing Award lecture. ''

I checked it; fortunately the book with the Award Lectures from 1966 to 1985 is on my bookshelf, and the lecture in question, titled "Reflections on Trusting Trust" contains the code

    char* s;
        if (match (s, "pattern1")) {
            compile ("bug1");
        if (match (s, "pattern2")) {
            compile ("bug2");

I think this doesn't quite qualify as "actually writing and installing a backdoor".

Given the choice... (4, Funny)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827317)

...I'd rather scratch me 'X' on a piece of pay-pur!! Yaaaaarrrrrhhhhh!!!!

This message brough to you by the Pirate Party!

Re:Given the choice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827416)

The pirates dan't vote, matey; the captain decides. Now if ya happens ta be tha captain... tha decider, Arr, ya might be wantin' ta give them shipmates "elections" so-ta-say ta keep 'em singin' yer songs. Jes don't ye be considerin' them thar votes too strict-like.

Re:Given the choice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827679)

Well, I intend to vote against the Pirate Party using hundreds of thousands of copied voter slips. Remember, by coping votes, I'm not taking anything away from you, I'm just giving myself lots of votes. It's called sharing, and when I was a youngster (ten minutes ago) we were encouraged to do that.

Re:Given the choice... (2, Interesting)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827944)

...I'd rather scratch me 'X' on a piece of pay-pur!! Yaaaaarrrrrhhhhh!!!!

We don't talk like pirates in Canada eh...

That's all we do. X on a piece of paper. Simple. Even the old people can understand it. Call me a bit conservative, but unless there's a paper backup of my electronic vote, I want no part of it.

You laugh, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828258)

Especially when my vote probably isn't being counted, anyhow, I think I honestly *will* vote for the Pirate Party, even if I have to pencil in "Long John Silver" or something equally ridiculous on the ballot.

Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't vote (4, Insightful)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827319)

Again I say to the teeming masses of Slashdot: lever machines [] are the answer! They have been proven for almost 90 years! I know that many of us /.ers want a computer chip of some kind running Linux in absolutely everything, we need to learn that electronic is not always better.

Re:Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't v (2, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827366)

I have heard that it is geting hard to find parts for them.

Re:Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't v (2, Interesting)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827467)

Then build more! I bet that if a senior engineering class at Purdue (not even MIT) put their minds to the task they could build a mechanical voting machine that would not create the same level of controversy as Diebold's machines. There are not enough parts because people are not building them. Compared to the cost of computerization, building spare levers and new machines is dirt cheap.

Re:Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't v (2, Funny)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827433)

Well, if we let computers vote, they'll probably just re-elect Nixon [] .

Re:Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't v (1)

DarkDragonVKQ (881472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827495)

Nah, they would try to elect Blinky. (cookie for whoever can guess what webcomic I got that from).

Bullshit! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827569)

we need to learn that electronic is not always better.

I want RFID tags implaned in all of us so that, all we have to do is walk by our candidate, ballot, law, proposition, etc... to vote for it! They'll KNOW how all of us feel - real time, damnit!!

As a matter of fact, I want a chip in my brain that let's the politicians know what I'm thinking. Then, they'll really know what a bunch of jackasses that I think of ALL of them!!

HA! My CAPTCHA was 'indolent'. How appropriate!!!

Re:Deja vu, the feeling that computers shouldn't v (0, Offtopic)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827574)

Again I say to the teeming masses of Slashdot: lever machines are the answer!

Lever machines always steal my quarters, and rarely give me any back. Although at the end I feel raped, so I guess that lever machines DO support our kind of democracy!

Lever machines have been hacked, too. (3, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828144)

Again I say to the teeming masses of Slashdot: lever machines are the answer! They have been proven for almost 90 years!

And have been hacked for much of that time.

One hack consists of the election officials that set up the machine presetting the wheels for the guy you want to win to some additional number, and (if you think there will be a lot of votes) the guy you want to lose to the nines compliment of the number, then weakly gluing stickers with zeros on them over the counter wheels and locking the inner door.

The poll watchers see the zeros and lock the outer door. First vote for each candidate knocks the stickers off, and they fall to the bottom of the machine. (If no votes for the candidate, the sticker remains visible saying "0000".) You send one of your own guys in to make sure your guy gets at least one vote if necessary.

The outer door is unlocked and the numbers read. The inner door remains locked until opportunity for recount is over. The inner door is only unsealed and opened (probably by your guy WITHOUT poll watchers) when it's time to do maintainence and set it up for the next election, at which point he can sweep out the stickers.

Downside: If your guy dies, is fired, or moves on, or misses a sticker that gets caught in the guts of the machine, the fact that the scam had been used might be discovered by some opposition functionary (or honest worker) at a later time. Such stickers HAVE been discovered in lever-type voting machines.

well... (-1, Offtopic)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827337)

Pimpin ain't easy, but it's necessary.

Nice Ice Cube reference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827485)

Haven't heard that song in a while. Good stuff...

Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (3, Insightful)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827391)

C'mon, this is what got us into trouble last time. Remember hanging chads and butterfly ballots?

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827468)

The problem wasn't the paper ballots.... it was that voting was done by "machine" rather than letting people do their Xs by hand. There is also wayyyyyyyyy too many votes being cast together. Presedential vote should be separate from vote for the legislature, which should be separate from vote for the state legislature, which should be separate from vote for municipal functions. Putting an X in a box should be a valid option, and leaves no hanging chads. You DO need the verifiable paper trail (a printout will leave no paper chads by the way, but let the user verify the veracity of his/her vote), and a requirement for automatic recounts in ridings with narrow margins. And again you need to separate elections. Issues are different and do get lost in an all-you-can-vote orgy.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (4, Insightful)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827537)

That was a problem with punch ballots and bad design. There are no similar problems with scan-tron type paper ballots.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (1)

UltraAyla (828879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827934)

While that is mostly true, I disagree. Sometimes people don't properly fill in the bubble and votes may be missed by the machine. However, "voter intent" is much clearer when using optical scan voting than it was with punch cards, and could more easily be counted manually if need be.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (2, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827590)

There are more intelligent ways to mark a piece of paper than an easily detachable pre-punched hole.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (1, Flamebait)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827613)

What do you do for people who are, apparently, not able to understand a simple ballot? The losers will invent some new reason they lost, rather than their guy getting the least amount of votes.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (3, Insightful)

warith (121181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827657)

This is "insightful"? The problems you mention are both very easy to fix.

80% of the vote being counted electronically on insecure machines by Republican-supporting corporations with no paper trail... now THAT is dangerous, on a national scale.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (1)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827694)

Yeah but clearly "use paper ballots" isn't sufficient... but that is what many of the replies amount to, unfortunately.

Re:Don't answer with "use paper ballots"! (0)

houghi (78078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827893)

I remember that people where able to do a re-count and another re-count.

Perhaps the USofA needs some help from Congo and other countries so they understand what democracy and voting is.

Somehow it is not a TV show where you need the results at a certain time. Just take your time and count the paper. Worldwide countries are able to do this. Some are even "forced" to hold elections.

If you can't even uphold your own democratic process, don't enforce it upon others please.

Open Source (4, Insightful)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827395)

It should be obvious to anyone on this site that only open source code should be used in electronic voting machines. Undoubtedly, the most distinguished security researchers would all examine the code, and a very high confidence level could be achieved.

Re:Open Source (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827436)

But how will you know, the actual machine in front of you is running the software examined?

Come on, people get fooled by spyware and "phishing" e-mails every day — at their own computer. You expect anyone to detect a problem on a system, they see for a minute or two once in two years?

I really don't care, what kind of systems are used, as long as it is not the same system. And if it happens to be the same, I hope, there is not "central repository" of its results or anything. Because everything, that is centralized, also has a single "total failure" point...

Re:Open Source (4, Funny)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827522)

But how will you know, the actual machine in front of you is running the software examined?

Of course it will have a sha1 signature (eg, d46b82a7f4dad427760124c777c0b56fe642afbc) of the binary similar to a BSOD error message so that every grandmother will clearly know that the same code was used.

What did you think?!?

Sarcasm aside, I'm a fan of either paper or lever systems. Simple, reliable, accountable, proven, inexpensive, and hard to hack.

Re:Open Source (2, Interesting)

suwain_2 (260792) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827963)

I know you're kidding, but you bring up another good point.

I used to grapple with how you could 'prove' that a machine was running the 'right' code, and displaying some sort of signature was the obvious solution.

But really, how would I know whether the machine was running...

I can't think of a way to allow a potentially compromised machine to prove that it's running the 'right' software, unless I'm allowed to analyze the ROM/disk in my own computer. (Which wouldn't scale well if everyone tried this.)

The only real solution that I can think of is to have independent contractors verify the software the machines are running. (But then: can you trust the contractors?)

Re:Open Source (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827651)

it is a hardware issue, i agree the software should be OSS and open to peer review, but this Dibold machine can be booted off a USB Flash/Pin drive at the flip of a switch, which is a big vulnerability...

please help me on moderation! (1)

arachnoprobe (945081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827787)

Is that a) Insightfull b) Funny or c) Troll? Is there a "this-is-so-obviously-insightfull-that-it-is-funny "-button?

Wouldn't solve the problem (4, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827881)

Ultimately what this boils down to is a trust issue. If you do not have a physical record of your vote that is impervious to digital tampering, it does not matter how much security there is. With digital voting there will always be the perception that somebody could rig the vote.

In a democracy, the perception of vote fraud is almost as dangerous as the actuality of vote fraud. If we all go into the booth and we all come out convinced that we've had our say and that it counted for something, then even when we lose, we can feel we were a part of the system. If we go into a booth and don't even have that basic reassurance, why go into the booth at all? Why work to change the system if you have reasonable suspicion that the system has been rigged against you in the first place? People in that mindset will either drop out of the system entirely, or seek to voice their feelings through alternative means (violence, etc).

We've had two national elections in a row that were close and had an air of suspicion about them. There are countless anecdotes of votes getting switched on the computers, voting machines dissapearing overnight, etc. Even if there's not actual fraud going on, all of that adds up to a suspicion of the system itself. We can't afford to have that suspicion if we want to remain a democracy.

Too many hoops... (4, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827402)

After reading through some of these... it's very apparent that securing these machines is an uphill battle. Do we really want to double seal the machines, tamper-proof the ROMS and secure the machines against a 20,000 volt discharge? Why do we need to jump through all these hoops? it's insane.

Good old-fashioned paper is the solution. It's cheap, it ensures a paper audit trail, and it's counted in public by thousands of real people who witness the count.

Of course you knew that.

Paper is king (3, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827497)

I'm a data manager in disease research.

We use paper.

We could have gone to electronic forms with laptops, but there are a number of reasons we don't.

The primary one is user-readability, and verification of intent.

The second one is programming limitations on error checking - what is a permissable response? When dealing with human subjects - and likewise, human voters, one notices they don't always do what you want, but what they want.

Should we have electronic voting machines? Yes. For handicapped people, definitely. But, naturally, those should have a paper audit trail.

But most voting machines would do fine with optically-scanned human-readable paper ballots. In fact, what they don't want you to know is they are just as accurate as the electronic ones, in actual practice.

Now, does this mean the vote is accurate? No, because we're humans. Some people insist on voting for two candidates, or write in Donald Duck. Some people change their minds part way through.

Heck, when I vote, I sometimes decide at the polling place, as I'm voting.

Re:Too many hoops... (-1, Troll)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827552)

Because somehow when the vote doesn't turn out how they want it, the Democrats will say the Republicans somehow rigged the paper ballots too.

Re:Too many hoops... (4, Informative)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827775)

my my aren't we a troll

can you prove to me the 2004 election was fraud free? can you even support the statement that it was fraud free? Of course fucking not, even a cursory glance at Ohio will tell anyone who has a brain that we can never know if bush really was the honest winner of that state (not to mention several others) or not.

Why did they make up a fake terrorist threat claim on the last county to count it's votes (which prevented all observers from seeing the count)? We know it wasn't a real threat, and we know counting votes in secret like that is one of the fundmantal signs of a flawed election.

How about the ESS tech who, without authorization, accessed on of the voting machines used in voting between the voting and the "recount" (retabulating insecurable inauditable unreliable data tables doesn't constitute a recount).

Insecure elections is NOT a partisan issue, just like jerrymandering ISN'T a partisan issue. The last two national election cycles the insecurities in the voting system have merely happen to have been taken advantage by the republicans - there Is no gaurantee that the democrats wouldn't do that same thing, and I have no illusions that they are immune to the temptation.

Insecure balloting techniques, jerrymandering, etc should ALL be illegal. Jerrymandering is impossible in exactly ONE state in the nation: Iowa, where I happen to live. One state with only 5 house reps is the only state where you cannot jerrymander

Iowa /Maps/Map.gif []
Hawaii istricts-108.JPG []
(probably) Idaho istricts-108.JPG []
NH istricts-108.JPG []

Texas ssional_map.png []
California D_STATE8X11.JPG []
Florida /karin/images/congressionalmap.gif [] ?
Illinois istricts-108.JPG []

see the difference? Jerrymandering leads to complex districts most of the time, unjerrymandered districts are as geographically simple as possible.

rather obvious are they not? Jerrymandering is just another form of election fraud and both parties engage in it.

Public trust (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827964)

This might be a troll, but I think you've been unfairly moderated.

The problem with electronic voting is not inherently a party-specific problem, but rather one of trusting the system. Democracy is an institution which exists only because people believe in it. (Minor digression: this is sort of like money, which works because people agree that the pieces of paper and electronic bits represent stored value.) Right now, Republicans have the Presidency and both houses of Congress, so any lack of trust in voting is going to be concentrated on the Democrat side, but the source of distrust is bound to switch when the Democrats start winning some elections. (You can tell right here that I don't agree that there's election-rigging going on...)

The really dangerous thing about e-voting is not necessarily that it can be rigged, but that people believe it can and is being rigged. This belief is absolutely poisonous to democracy. In the U.S. it's pretty clear that e-voting has gotten off to a shitty start, and it's quite possible this means that it simply can't work, even if all the trust problems were magically solved tomorrow. Regaining public trust would take much longer.

Re:Too many hoops... (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827649)

I think going with the Gaming machine guidelines are a great idea - you could pull the One Armed Bandit, and after the wheels spin, up pop the candidates for that election - you hit the blinking button below the candidate of your choice, and spin again!

They could even have a sound effect from the old game show [] : "joker, Joker... JOKER!"

Re:Too many hoops... (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827738)

I don't think you'd have to add all of that to have a secure a voting machine, you just need to mix paper trails with electronic tallying.

Electronic tallying is useful because it can determine results fast. Very fast.

So you apply some basic measures so that it would actually take a seasoned hacker or someone on the inside to make changes. Next, add a basic printer. Something that uses ink, and is only black and white. Once a person is done voting, the machine prints a page for the voter to look over. If they are fine with what printed, they push a button to save results and exit that session, then turn the paper slip into one of the workers to put in a locked box. Those will be used in case someone wants a hand tally of the votes.

The best way for the print-out would probably be a mix of text and a punch card. You have three columns: Item, Choice, and Punch. Punch would how the punch-card location, Item would be the thing you're voting on, and Choice would be what the user chose, in plain text.

This way, even if someone is able to get in and rig both the machine and the puncher, the correct vote will still be held in the case of a hand vote, because the user will know if something is up and either alert the people working or try to do it again (assuming it was a fluke).

Of course, this is assuming that the user actually reads the print out. We all know how well that worked in Florida...

Re:Too many hoops... (4, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827816)

Electronic tallying is useful because it can determine results fast. Very fast.

I'd much rather have confidence in the results than a fast turnaround.

Besides, hand counts don't take that much longer. Canada gets their results overnight.

Re:Too many hoops... (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827986)

Canada has about 32 million people [] , and the US has almost 300 million [] .

I don't know what the turnouts are for Canada's elections, but assuming that the percentages are roughly the same between the two countries (quick googling puts both at about 60%), I'm not surprised that Canada can get comparatively fast results. Not that the U.S. can't get fast results if votes are tallied as they come in, but, all other things equal, human tallying is more error prone than computer tallying.

Re:Too many hoops... (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828090)

Canada has about 32 million people, and the US has almost 300 million.

Sure we have more people... but we would also have more people counting. If the same percentage of citizens count the ballots, the results come in at the same rate for both countries, regardless of population.

human tallying is more error prone than computer tallying.

Not necessarily. One error in a computer tally can lose thousands of votes. In addition, one corrupt person with access to a tabulator can change the results of an entire election.

When people count, it is in a room filled with other people. So, one corrupt person cannot change an election because he/she is being watched. In addition, the votes are counted two or three times by different individuals. If the counts don't match, they count again until they do match... kind of like error checking but with meat-based CPUs.

Again - it's more about the confidence in the results. When people count, there are many witnesses to the count and high confidence that the count was performed properly. When a computer counts, nobody witnesses the count, and no confidence.

Re:Too many hoops... (3, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828270)

Counting votes isn't a serial process. Counting can be done in Parallel. In fact it can be highly parallelized. In Canada, everybody from a certain neighbourhood goes to a nearby school or community centre to vote. Then when the polls close, each school/community centre counts their votes and reports their totals. All the votes can be counted independantly of what's going on at some other polling station. Some polling station even post their results before others are even closed. This system scales perfectly well. It can work for a population of 3000, 3,000,000, 30,000,000, or 300,000,000. So the time to count votes is not dependant on how many votes their are, but only how finely you distribute the counting load.

Couldn't the FOSS community (4, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827417)

Make some kind of open-source, secure voting system with an auditable paper trail? AFAICT, such a system would need:
  • A private, confidential paper receipt, for each vote, that has:
    • a voter-legible ballot that the voter verifies before leaving the vote,
    • a bar-code computer scannable version of the vote, and
    • some kind of code or a non-serial 'serial' number that will indicate any missing paper receipt, or blocks of paper reciepts. We don't want a true serial number so that the vote remains secret and no one can tell who voted for whom by the serial number. Perhaps hashes of hashes?
  • A secure, electronic, computer version of this receipt that has some kind of data integrity -- not just a tally of bits, but some binary sequence that has some kind of verifiable, tamper-evident integrity. Perhaps this digital ballot would have a hash stored in a seperate log.
This is just a preliminary brainstorm. Perhaps encoded into each vote's serial number would be a running tally? That would be one method of tamper-evidence -- by going through the votes, we should be able to tell where and when exactly the fraud happened. The tally should be consistent all the way through, and by the time the polls are closed, we have tallies for each booth.

Re:Couldn't the FOSS community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827472)

Of course the FOSS community could create a secure, robust piece of software to handle voting. But will they? What do you think? A lot of people in the community can't get past their egos enough to realize that arguing over a text editor or a GUI is pretty damn stupid, you really think a community like that will manage to produce something genuinely useful? Look around, there are more people talking about what FOSS could or might do than there are people actually doing it, and a lot of the great programmers I've come in contact with almost have more ego than they have skill, and that's saying a lot. But it's not very easy to work with someone like that.

Re:Couldn't the FOSS community (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827508)

You have some good idea, but a few flaws.

First all, forget the barcode. If a computer is printing it, it can print OCRable letters and just read it straight, with the added advantage that if something happens to the ballot, the text can be read by hand.

Second, I like your seral number idea, and there is actually a pretty eash and safe way to do that. Just print a 'box number' for each 'roll' or stack or whatever of unprinted ballots, and within each stack, number the ballots, but not in order. I.e., if a stack is 100 ballots, assign the numbers 00-99 randomly, before they are sent out. This keeps anyone from counting and saying 'You were the sixteenth person at that machine, and here is ballot number 16.'.

Then record that number in the voting machine. I.e., it knows who it printed on ballot 34028-09. Also, it should come up with a random number and print that on the ballot, and store that.

It's possible to combine computers and paper ballots and make a sense that is computerly unbreakable, or, at least, so hard to break that it is easier to pay election officials to let you physically use the machines more than once.

Re:Couldn't the FOSS community (1)

vincentj7 (842874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828103)

There is an open source voting project [] that appears to include some of your ideas.

You complain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827448)

Even if Diebold was completely open source and verified by the Pope to be cool...

What choice do you have in your elections, eh?

You better start coding your own eGoverment with links to online sites that offer Jobs ad search income with the aid of Google Ads. Stop thinking about this not-so-entertaining game they show you on TV. And when they come to you house to put you into a concentration camp your time to shine for 15 minutes has come (thanks to the NRA).

vote with (what's left in) yOUR wallet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827455)

now that the corepirate nazis can/do FUDge the 'elections'.

from previous post: many demand corepirate nazi execrable stop abusing US

we the peepoles?

how is it allowed? just like corn passing through a bird's butt eye gas.

all they (the felonious nazi execrable) want is... everything. at what cost to US?

lookout bullow.

for many of US, the only way out is up.

don't forget, for each of the creators' innocents harmed (in any way) there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/US as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi life0cidal glowbull warmongering execrable.

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the corepirate nazi life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

Re:vote with (what's left in) yOUR wallet (1)

GeffDE (712146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827560)

Now that's what I call a slashback! Nothing like having the same comments from the original article...

My plan for secure voting, and improving democracy (5, Insightful)

PhysicsPhil (880677) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827511)

So we know that Diebold is capable of producing secure ATM systems, and that money is the root of all evil in politics, and that we have insufficient voter turnout. So here's my plan for a foolproof voting system. :)

Each polling station will consist of one (1) secure Diebold ATM system, which is capable of accessing the bank accounts of the Republican and Democratic parties. Voters will walk into the voting booth, and withdraw $20 from the bank account of their favourite party. At the end of the election, the party that has received the most votes/withdrawals from their account wins. To cap it off, voters have a new incentive to participate in "the process."

Alternately, the system can be turned upside-down, and people remove money from the account of their least favourite party. Not only does one side win, but the other side is bankrupt!

Re:My plan for secure voting, and improving democr (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827700)

That is almost the system we have now. However, regardless of who you vote for, the money comes out of your account and into theirs. When our government didn't send that Alaskan piece of crap republican straight to jail for threatening to quit if his state didn't get Katrina relief funds so he could build the famous bridge to pretty much put it right out in the open. Some very simple changes to how federal dollars can be allocated would fix a great deal of our issues, allowing the states to have rights again. Unfortunately...all the Fed has to do is say "well...we will take money out of your state through federal taxes on your residents...but if you don't set the laws WE want you to set (speed limit, drinking age, etc) then we won't give you any of the money back!"

Our United States are no longer United States...We are very little more than Federally owned and operated States of America.

Re:My plan for secure voting, and improving democr (2, Informative)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827975)

"When our government didn't send that Alaskan piece of crap republican straight to jail for threatening to quit if his state didn't get Katrina relief funds so he could build the famous bridge to nowhere..."

Uh.. As much as I dislike Ted Stevens, he did not demand "Katrina relief funds", and the "bridge to nowhere" actually is the only thing connecting a tribal land to the 21st century (it being "nowhere" is a matter of opinion.)

nitpic (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827769)

The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

Re:nitpic (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827797)

Please don't ruin the Girls are absolutely evil [] equation.

Brilliant!! Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827909)

It also solves another issue: Annoying campaign ads. Candidates won't have much money to spend on campaigning if they need a full bank account for the election. Besides, the campaigns are all empty promises, groundless slanders and hot air. Let the media handle the campaigning. They pretty much do anyway.

I love rules like these (4, Funny)

Gannoc (210256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827518)

The verification mechanism must have an error rate of less than 1 in 10 to the 38th power


Because requiring an error rate of less than 1 in 10^39 is simply unreasonable to ask. ...and 1 in 10^37???? Well, jeez, might as well just build it out of matchsticks and glue if you're going to be THAT lax.

Re:I love rules like these (1)

gilroy (155262) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827606)

I'm pretty sure 1 in 1e38 has something to do with proton decay under certain GUTs...

Re:I love rules like these (1)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827690)

Interrestingly, the NUMBER datatype in Oracle has a maximum number of 38 digits....

Re:I love rules like these (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828021)

Also, ever looked at the maximum value of an IEEE single precision float? It's 3.40282347e+38.

It's just part of the bigger picture (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827520)

(Disclaimer: I'm a libertarian, not a supporter of either major party and arguably am as amused by the Dems as I am bitterly spiteful toward the Republicans)

There is a greater culture of voter fraud at work here. The Democrats in particular are quick to scream about voter fraud, voter disenfranchisement whenever an ID-less black person tries to vote and things like that, that go back well before Bush "stole the election." They even have been known to put in fraudulent votes in the names of dead people.

Both major parties are bad about this. The Republicans now have leverage that can allow them to kick the Democrats squarely in the pants for all of the years of having to fight uphill against democratic-lead voter fraud. They aren't going to give up on Diebold lightly.

As I have said before, I think that voter fraud by a normal voter should be a simple felony. Six months, permanent revocation of all voting rights, even with a pardon. However, any conspiracy should be legally classified as a conspiracy to overthrow an elected government because that is precisely what organized voter fraud is! It is trying to use the system to bring down an elected government.

Take a bunch of these Republicrats, especially a few rich and powerful ones, out and give them a firing squad for attempting to overthrow the United States government. That will put a dent into voter fraud like this.

Re:It's just part of the bigger picture (3, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827647)

I like it all, except for 'revocation of voting rights' for normal voting fraud.

I don't care if they are a felon, or a muderer, or a kiddnapper or anything else. They can be in jail on death row for all I care. They still get to vote, as long as they are an adult.

Otherwise we have created a way to create classes, 'true citizens' and 'partial citizens.' Which is an enabler of discrimination.

There is no good reason to deny votes to any possible voter. No matter what.

Re:It's just part of the bigger picture (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827869)

Did you know felons can't vote?

I do agree with you 100%.

Now, if companies caught in voter fraud could no longer donate to campaigns, we might be onto something!

Re:It's just part of the bigger picture (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828196)

Actually, I did know that. (Though I think it might depend on the state.)

I think it is a shame... (And why should only companies caught in voter fraud be disallowed from donating? One of the purposes of government in my view is to be the voice of people to companies.)

The rule of rapists and murders? (2, Interesting)

toupsie (88295) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827962)

I don't care if they are a felon, or a muderer, or a kiddnapper or anything else. They can be in jail on death row for all I care. They still get to vote, as long as they are an adult. Otherwise we have created a way to create classes, 'true citizens' and 'partial citizens.' Which is an enabler of discrimination.

This has the possibility of making certain districts in the US top heavy with incarcerated voters. A lot of prisons (federal, state and local) are grouped together in close proximity such as near Beaumont, Texas [] . We are already have enough "crooks" in Government. Let's not give their incarcerated peers the ability to make this situation even worse. Can you imagine the campaigning for these voters?

Re:The rule of rapists and murders? (2, Insightful)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828315)

Allowing criminals to vote is an important negative feedback mechanism against bad lawmakers.

One of the classic techniques for a minority to gain control over the law-making system
is to pass laws that prevent criminals from voting (why should criminals get to vote?),
then turn around and pass laws which they can use to disenfranchise the parts of the
society that might not go along with their legislative agenda.

Think about it: if your legal system basically seems common-sensical to the general
populace, then you're not going to have many criminals, and they shouldn't have much
of an effect in any given election (unless you've got a really controversial closely-divided

If the legislators are starting to run amuck, however, and are passing a lot of laws
which end up making a significant fraction of the populace criminals, then it's important
that the people being affected be able to "push back" against the legal system being
used to oppress them.

Unfortunately, many citizens seem to be content with the kneejerk "criminals
shouldn't be allowed to vote" reaction, and thus we end up with the situation where
more and more laws are passed, more and more citizens are disenfranchised, and
the people running the country represent the general population less and less.

Re:It's just part of the bigger picture (4, Informative)

jkauzlar (596349) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828148)

(Disclaimer: I'm a long-time libertarian candidate. You've never heard of me, but then neither has anybody else.)

First of all, regarding your statement, The Democrats in particular are quick to scream about voter fraud, voter disenfranchisement whenever an ID-less black person blah blah blah, the Democrats have long been the party to defend minority rights. If they weren't quick to scream about voter disenfranchisement they wouldn't be sticking to their platform. It's true that they have a personal interest for doing so, but you can't separate the fact into two separate agendas and treat the Democrats as though they're just scrounging for votes.

Second of all, Rep John Conyers (D-MI) wrote What Went Wrong In Ohio, describing mountains of evidence for vote tampering and voter disenfranchisement within the Ohio election system by ES&S, Diebold, and Secretary of the State of Ohio Kenneth Blackwell (election supervisor, who will be supervising his own election for governor this year; he was also the chair of Ohio's re-election campaign for GWB). Thousands of complaints were filed by Ohioans (Ohioese?) for the difficulty they'd found in trying to vote.

To say that both parties are guilty is a serious mistake. I really don't think there is a 'conspiracy' leading up to the Bush administration, but the Republicans, lets face it, have had a culture of corruption leading at least as far back as Eisenhower, McCarthy & J Edgar Hoover. Read the history books, or the nightly news.

Of course, that's not your entire point. How do you expect to get the government to produce and enforce a law regulating itself? As someone else had said, with an incumbancy rate so high (80-95%?), congress likes things just the way they are. And given the amount of well-documented evidence of vote tampering in Ohio in '04, the federal election officials obviously aren't going to lift a finger to investigate anything. Unless more people start asking questions instead of mockingly crying 'sure, a conspiracy! right!' everytime somebody criticises the gov't, there's not going to be a change. Corruption starts from money, the Republicans have the vast majority of corporate support, the corporations don't care about *you* only your money, yet these cowards, willfully standing up for the power to get robbed by corporate america, still stand up for the republicans when there's evidence of tampering with the election system.

So what's wrong with paper and hand counting? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827539)

Count sets of 250 ballots. Use some variant of double entry book keeping to prevent miscounting. Recount random sample to check for cheating.

biz=natch (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827566)

thEy're gone mac []

I'm from Chicago (4, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827578)

Voting is easy. Do it early and often.

Re:I'm from Chicago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828199)

It's funny here in the UK : If you're an University Student, you can both vote at your 'home' election (usually by post) and your 'term' election perfectly leagally.

How to fix this (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827580)

Go forth with the electronic machines, they're fine and we need to move forward eventually. However, there needs to be a paper trail. It's important enough that each vote be represented with an anonymous piece of paper that spits out of the back of each voting machine after each vote is counted.

Then, count the votes efficiently by downloading the results from each of the electronic machines. But make it easy for anyone to calculate a checksum from the stack of ballots by visually inspecting them, to make sure the checksum matches with the machine's electronic total result. And randomly check a subset of the machines even more carefully to make sure each machine's stack of ballots matches its internal count of votes *EXACTLY*. There's no need to check them all, as long as the checks are random. Anything less is inviting fraud.

Re:How to fix this (1)

Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828137)

First of all, why do we need to "move forward eventually"? What's the rush? There is no problem with taking a few days to hand count votes.
Secondly, if the paper coming out the back does not match what is in the machine which do you believe? They both came out of the same machine. Did the machine count wrong in the first place or did it just print wrong? How do we know the machine didn't print wrong numbers AND count wrong numbers?

Certifiability (1)

Soong (7225) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827591)

Clearly we need EAL7 certified open source voting machines.


We need hand counted paper ballots.

Let's vote on it. ;-)

Call me a cynic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827711)

I think a tamperproof voting machine would not be that hard to build. However no politician wants one. Be it that they want the possiblity to manipulate votes, or the excuse of manipulated votes to call for a revote. Their are too many foxes in the hen house. If independant companyies were allowed to build the voting machine, with watchdog agencies in charge, we wouldn't have a problem.

At the risk of being branded a Neo-Luddite... (1)

zorkmid (115464) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827730)

I'd much rather stick with plain "X" marks your choice paper ballots. I can stand waiting a couple of days to see which goon received the most votes.

Re:At the risk of being branded a Neo-Luddite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827907)

I'd much rather stick with plain "X" marks your choice paper ballots. I can stand waiting a couple of days to see which goon received the most votes.

But ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. cannot.

Re:At the risk of being branded a Neo-Luddite... (1)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827947)

Maybe that's the problem. ABC, CNN etc. want to tell you who won before the election is over.

Canada uses a manual method with 10% of voters (3, Informative)

metoc (224422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827765)

In Canada we count our ballots manually and generally have results in under two hours after polls close. The USA has more polling stations (with 10 times the population) but not necessarily more people per station. In practice, a manual counting system could be implemented with only a modest increase in people. It could probably pay for itself in time and resources saved not installing/testing/servicing voting machines, and the inevitable audit trail (does anyone still count handing chads)?.

Take a lesson from the casino industry (1, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827777)

Diebold should take a lesson from the casino industry. All the modern-day slot machines, video poker machines, etc. that you see in casinos undergo rigorous certifcation testing by the state gaming commissions. First of all, these games would never have the ability to boot from flash, secondary eprom, etc. like the voting machines can. Beyond that, they will lock themselves out if they detect any sort of tampering, from bad checksums when booting up to the device being physically opened. The only way to make the games operational again is to have somebody from the gaming commission come in and physically reset it using a private key of some sort. Sad that the money you throw away at casinos is considered more important than your vote....

Follow the money (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827828)

The most vtelling point by far is that standards for electronic slot machines are so much more stringant. The message waiting just below the surface is that the many various election commissions who should have the deepest possible respect for democracy place a much lower value on it than Vegas puts on a few thousand dollars.

Would you want to continue employing a night watchman who said (of your property) "It's just a bunch of crap, who cares?"

Considering the cost of these machines, I find it hard to believe that the issue is money (otherwise, they wouldn't buy them at all), so it has to be a combination of gagit-itus and a deep disrespect for democracy.

Vegas has proven that a higher standard is available. Given the number of voting machines out there, sufficient volume for economy of scale should be no issue.

clint curtis (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15827868)

You guys are missing the main meet of the story here..

Clint Curtis, (the man who testified to having rigged the software for the diebold machines at the behest of tom feeny, officially the most corrupt politian in office at the moment) [] []

the "suicide" of the investigator that followed up his allegations (warning some graphic images) [] []

It all fits together quite nicely, a little switch, a preprepared flash software inserted whilst the machines were 'sleeping over' at the republican officials houses. Noone can possibly see the difference 202389150&q=hacking+the+vote [] []

Yang Enterprises - curtises former employer, linked to feeney, and a chinese spying ring to boot. []

I dont see the problem (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15827926)

The voting machines can be assembled in a fool-proof unopenable casing at the main station, and returned to the main station after the elections.
And building physically tamper-proof packages is relatively easy.

Re:I dont see the problem (1)

hakr89 (719001) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828104)

Except that nothing is foolproof and nothing is unopenable.

Why not dual-count? (4, Interesting)

LinuxDon (925232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828011)

Isn't the most safe option to have 3 separate company's develop -one- machine?

- One company develops the casing and only uses old fashioned electronic push buttons.
- The other two other company's each develop a counter module which are both connected to the same buttons.

This way, the final results should match.
If they do not match, the device is broken, or one of the two company's are attempting fraud.
By keeping the push button system simple, the connections to the counter modules can easily be veryfied by looking at them.

If the whole thing would be sealed and shielded by a glass plate and the wires would be clearly marked, everyone could in theory check the correctness of the machine.

This way, for fraud to be commited, the three company's would have to work together which is more unlikely.
Also, it is possible to prevent the company's from getting in touch with eachother.

A very important point here is: Keep it stupid simple.

Re:Why not dual-count? (1)

Deathanatos (811514) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828279)

Mmmhmm. At least three companies made my computer. IBM made the hardware (some of it...), Microsoft the software, and some other people the various other parts. Yup, one machine, many companies. Does it work? Sort of. I experience a certain "voting fraud" every day.

Burning bridges from under Ring of Fire:-( (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828036)

Robert F Kennedy jr, Mike Papantonio & Matt Schultz filed suit earlier this month. If the government doesn't do so within the next 60 days they'll have right to can carry this forward on their own but that is dependent on the vulnerbabilites not being publically known.

They discussed this previously on their: show []

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Bobby, Mike and Matt Schultz, an attorney with Levin Papantonio, discuss their lawsuits against Diebold and the other electronic voting machine companies that helped the Republicans steal Ohio in 2004

Their radio show is carried on AAR [] .

Paper Ballots (3, Interesting)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828118)

So all you really need is for an electronic voting machine to generate a very clear unambiguous paper ballot which gets posted just like a traditional ballot - but without any hanging chads and with everything spelled out (ie: no mention of people you didn't vote for). If the voter doesn't agree with it, they throw it away and redo it... or feed it back into the machine to get another vote, to avoid potential overvotes. When they're happy with it, they walk it over to a sealed box and deposit it.

On the paper, they have a nice 2D barcode that has all of the votes encoded within it. However, it has a plain English description of those votes as well. Boxes can be opened after the election and very easily (and foolproofly) scanned, incredibly quickly. Some small percentage of them are also hand-counted (there shouldn't be much disagreement in reading the English printout) and the totals compared to the scan-counted totals. Any discrepency forces a full recount.

So its the best of both worlds. Fast scoring, full paper trail, and no significant chance of fraud. Where's the catch?

No simple solution (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828121)

Paper votes can easily be altered. Simply make sure the ballot boxes "go missing", or in the case of the Mexican election, simply don't provide ballot papers in the areas you don't want voting.

The best solution I can think of with electronic votes is to use some form of public key encryption with an authenticating block encryption mode. One half of the keys would be provided on a TOTALLY random basis along with the voter card. The decrypting keys would be kept in a tamper-proof computer that is designed to be write-only with the sole exception of the count at the end.

The voter comes along and enters their vote. The vote is encrypted with their key. As nobody (at this point) has the decryption key, or another copy of the encryption key, it is impossible for the vote to be altered. A copy could then be printed out for backup purposes and placed in a regular ballot box.

So far, doesn't sound much different from anyone else's electronic system, right? Except that we're not tallying yet. Well, read on. The votes are collected in their encrypted form and kept in some secure system OTHER than the one doing the counting. They are then fed into the counting machine. The counting machine knows what keys are allocated to a given precinct, so tests each potential key against each vote from that precinct. Once a key is used, it is deleted.

If a vote has no valid decryption key, the vote is invalid and is rejected. This will include duplicate votes (the key has been deleted) as well as votes for which no key has ever existed. The (still encrypted) vote would then be output as a reject.

The votes are kept seperate and tallied. The output will be the tallies, the votes that comprise that tally, and the grand totals involved. The grand totals should be the same, provided the counters are working correctly.

Now, what basic checks can we perform, using this sort of system? First, let us say there is a recount. The recount would be of the votes placed into the ballot box. There should be exactly one such ballot box vote that is not spoiled or a duplicate for each and every valid vote printed by the tallying machine and the totals should match exactly. There should ALSO be exactly one spoiled or bogus ballot paper for every rejected vote, although further comparison would be impossible as the rejects are encrypted and the spoiled ballots aren't.

Ok, how do we know the software is valid? Well, we know that the vote that the user put in the ballot box matched the one they entered in the computer, and we know that there's a 1:1 between the results in the box and the results in the computer, so we know that the computer has to be producing valid data.

Then what happens when there is a discrepency? With two sources, how do we know which is the one that has the valid data and which does not? The votes are encrypted in a way that is essentially tamper-proof, the ballot boxes are not. The only way to resolve this is to make the ballot boxes reasonably tamper-proof. I'd suggest a wooden or metallic ballot box that has a lid that can be attached with spring-loaded bolts, where the only way to open the box is to cut it open. You want unique non-sequential numbers on RFID tags, to ensure that boxes don't go missing anyway.

After all that, you will have a more honest system than you do at the moment. You might even discourage those who would cheat the system from even being a part of it. However, ultimately, politicians are professional liars and the extremely rich will always be power brokers. The best system in the world can't clean up the human race, it can only clean up one very small part of the feedback loop. Which is better than nothing, but should not be assumed to be everything.

Regarding the Athens confrontation in 1946... (1)

djan (121552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828176)

This is the perfect example of the reason for the Second Amendment. If the government had the ability to deny arms, corruption would have succeeded.

Call me paranoid... (1)

quizzicus (891184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828281)

...but I wouldn't be surprised if the powers that be were trying to enhance national security by removing the unpredictable voters from the process. Morality aside, public policy can be streamlined if you don't have to fear public backlash to a father-knows-best approach, and you can ensure that a capable successor will be in place to continue what you started.

Also, I never understood why there is so much resistance to having a paper trail. Are we worried about expense? Effectiveness? Too lazy to do manual recounts and want that option off the table? The Afghan man who sells me hot dogs out of a trailer has a paper trail, but I guess it's too advanced or expensive if it protects our right to self-determination.
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